Sunday, 23 September 2018

CROSSROADS INSULT - BADGE!


I'D RATHER WATCH CROSSROADS THAN NOTTS. COUNTY

Throughout the run of the series, Crossroads was often seen as a joke by TV critics, despite the enormous affection that it was held in by the viewers. It is very easy today to forget that Crossroads was regularly watched by numbers exceeding 13 million viewers.

We’ve all heard the digs about performances that were more wooden than the cardboard scenery – although I’m yet to be convinced that Crossroads was more guilty for having wobbly walls than any other programme of the time – Yet sadly for Crossroads, it was “mud” that stuck.

And with this in mind, I come to the reason for making this post – Another recent ebay purchase that demonstrates the ridicule that the series so often received….

“I’d rather watch Crossroads than Notts. County” badge.

Now I don’t think this is an ‘official’ piece of merchandise, although I could be wrong. It is engraved red plastic – and therefore is likely to have been a “Nottingham Forest” supporter’s badge.

Midlands football fans are fiercely loyal to their clubs - and suggesting that watching Crossroads is preferable to watching a County match would indeed have been an insult! I don't really understand the complexities of Midlands football club rivalry - but there is an interesting article about it HERE.

There really isn’t much else to say about this, but it did get me thinking about other instances of Crossroads being insulted  - or used as an insult over the years…

It can take sixteen episodes of Crossroads. (If you can.) - Radio Rentals

There is of course the famous “Radio Rentals” advert for a long player video recorder – “It can take sixteen episodes of Crossroads – (if you can)” – and recently I found the following old postcard for sale on ebay, suggesting that “blonde” women were the main viewers of Soap Operas.

Bliey Lady - Don't you ever watch Crossroads? - Postcard

“Blimey lady - Don’t you watch Crossroads!!”
“Course I do officer – and Coronation Street!”

How rude! Still - it could be worse I suppose - I could be an Eldorado fan.*


* I am actually an Eldorado fan too....

Thursday, 20 September 2018

UNIFORM BADGE - FROM WHEN?


A CROSSROADS MOTEL UNIFORM BADGE - BUT FROM WHEN?

I love this item. It recently came up for sale on ebay and it is exactly the sort of thing that fits in really well with my collection. In actual fact the seller had two available -a clean one, and this "used" looking one. Sadly I missed out on the clean one, but this is great and I have to say really makes me smile.

Well it does now. You see, it took absolutely ages to find in the series. The ebay seller was the husband of someone that used to work in the wardrobe department at ATV / Central Television during the 1970s and 1980's and therefore the provenance of the item is excellent.

In fact I happened to be watching an episode the other day when the lady in question's name came up in the credits. However, because there was a fairly long time-span involved I had to watch many episodes to try to find out exactly where (and when) the badge was from.

The ebay listing said it was a waitress badge - but after reviewing many, many, many episodes, I decided that it was not actually one of these.

As a side note, you can find an oustanding page about Crossroads branding on the CAS official site HERE - and I highly recommend it for trivia buffs.

Anyway, a few examples of 'similar' badges can be seen throughout the series - here are one or two...





As you can see - all similar, but either the wrong colour, or the wrong size.

In the end I had to call in expert help and I consulted Mike Garrett at the Crossroads Appreciation Society - almost instantly - he said that it looked like the badge worn by Patrick Jordan as Mr. Darby in the 1985/1986 episodes.

A quick YouTube search revealed that he was absolutely right...

Mr Darby and Roy wearing matching badges...
Mr Darby and Daniel Freeman
Daniel gets his own badge - white on black - a 1970's one?

A close-up from a publicity still of Patrick Jordan showing the correct colour combination.


So there you go - a great addition to the collection - an original costume item from the 1980's. My thanks to Mike at CAS - and it just goes to show that there is always someone more knowledgeable than yourself!

On a side note - if any ATV or Central staff members have anything in their colletion, please do get in touch!

Saturday, 28 July 2018

MEG'S COFFEE TABLE - REPLICA


Coffee table replica - in the recreated sitting room
...and the original version in 1979



REPRODUCTION DROP LEAF SOFA TABLE

I have just bought a coffee table. I’ve been looking for one for a while. It’s not quite the same as Meg’s, but it’s not far off. You’d actually be surprised how much variation there is in this sort of thing – the claw feet, the lyre supports, the colour of the leather top, the size of the leaves, the shape of the drawer handles…..

But this is not just a coffee table. It’s a Crossroads coffee table – and I am about to argue that it is perhaps the most important piece of furniture in the whole series. Well I would – wouldn’t I?

Actually – to be more specific – I have just bought a drop-leaf, reproduction, leather-top sofa table. It was actually the second table to grace the middle of Meg’s sitting room – the first was more of a wine table, but essentially they both served the same purpose.

Earliest surviving sitting room scene - Teacup in position.

Sadly, the earliest surviving episode (126) doesn’t feature any scenes set in the sitting room, but episode 496 does. It is holding Andy’s cup of tea (with saucer of course…) Now you might think that being somewhere to place a cup of tea or a glass of sherry is actually the whole point of a coffee table, and I suppose it is, but in the world of Crossroads it is so much more. You see, having the cup of tea on the table gives Andy a reason to be in the sitting room, sitting down, when he should be out looking for Ruth. As much as it gives him a reason to be there, it gives Meg a reason to sit beside him in a rather beautifully framed shot from the fireplace....

Table now used for storing heavy books - the full "weight" of the law?

Around 500 episodes later, Meg is facing prosecution for knocking Vince Parker off his bike. The coffee table then holds weighty volumes of legal looking books, whilst her lawyer sits at the bureau. Instantly Meg’s sitting room has become his office without the need to build an expensive set. The cheeky fellow even makes a telephone call!

Slightly off the mark

The next image shows another good reason for having the coffee table – it allows people to sit in a semi-circle in the most contrived manner you can imagine – without it looking too awkward. Ideal for the large and cumbersome video cameras of the 1960’s and 1970’s as it allows the director to get an establishing shot with all the characters inside the confines of the three-walled set. In some situations it allows four or five characters to be in the same shot throughout an entire scene. Since there is a coffee table, the excuse of a having a hot drink gives them a reason to sit together. I also love the blue tape marks on the floor that are supposed to show where the feet of the table should be – either Meg is slightly OCD about where her furniture goes or the director was determined to get exactly the right shot!

Later, following Sandy’s accident, the coffee table provided him with an appropriately positioned surface to place drinks / work / read etc.  that could be easily reached from the wheelchair. It also allowed other actors to be at the same “level” so that the cameras could get a decent two-shot. David and Sandy are in two almost identical positions in the images below, but at least the inclusion of a chess-board / tea tray gives them a reason to be sitting there.

Bold as brass - Amy Turtle thinks she owns the place!

Throughout the series, the coffee table allowed the characters to engage in various activities within the walls of Meg’s Sitting Room – whether that be flower arranging, playing chess, drinking, reading, wrapping presents, looking at photographs… The list goes on…

It doesn’t matter that many of the people using the room aren’t Meg or her immediate family – the set was so large, that versatility had to be key.

Those pesky magazines - only there to be tidied!
One of my favourite bits of “business” is when the vicar is coming to speak with Meg and Hugh before their wedding; Meg hurries about tidying hitherto unseen magazines from the table and plumping cushions. Bliss.



The later “sofa table” was also useful as it could act as a mini-desk when the office set wasn’t required. The problem with the bureau is that the person working at it has to turn around to interact with other actors, whereas the small table meant that they could face each other.

Mugs not cups and saucers.... and only two.
Have you noticed that there is always an extra cup on the tea tray whenever a character drops in half way through a scene? The fact that they can be offered a drink from the tray means that the action can stay in one place. I find it quite amusing that in one scene Mrs Cunningham and Sandy are enjoying mugs of tea. You just know that nobody else is going to be offered a drink.

Episode 2451 - second surviving appearance of the table
So back to my table – it is similar to the one that appears some time between March and December 1975. The first surviving scenes I can find are in episode 2450. It last appears in 3573 in February 1982 with the retirement of the Sitting Room set.

Almost the last appearance from February 1982
Do I like it? Erm.... sort of. Do I need it?.... no - and don't get me started on the lovely red glass ashtray...

Sunday, 22 April 2018

RED MG MAESTRO



A RED MG-MAESTRO - NOT DRIVEN BY DAVID HUNTER

In 1985 a strange thing happened. Crossroads got its first ever title sequence. Up until this point, a photo-caption or simply the first scene with a superimposed "CROSSROADS", accompanied by the first few notes of the theme tune would be all that drew viewers into the events in the Midlands motel.

But then, in March 1985, (Wednesday 6th - Episode 4046 to be precise) - the red MG Maestro titles happened, and all of a sudden the programme was going up-market.

For a long time there were rumours that Ronnie Allen (David Hunter) was the mystery driver of the car but I remember this being  dismissed on an episode of Central News (or some regional programme).

I'm not really a "car" person, but there is something iconic about the shots of this car driving through the Midlands countryside that really caught my imagination.

Sometimes a full size Maestro comes up for sale on ebay and I am tempted - but only for a little while - after all, this particular model would now be well over 30 years old and I have the feeling that it would take a lot of work to keep it looking pristine.

And so I decided to buy a model Maestro for my collection.... And this proved to be quite tricky as there doesn't seem to be that many out there. Eventually I did come across this - a red Scalextric car (complete with metallic pickup things) - that is apparently a limited edition.

When I got it, the wheels were gold and there was no black detailing - the inside was green and there was no number plate. I have added one or two bits to make it look the part and I am pleased with the result - even if I have probably upset the Scalextric collectors out there.

Anyway - I like it a lot - and who knows - if I win the lottery - maybe one day I'll get a full size one!

Red MG Maestro (Scalextric version)

As featured in the Crossroads titles sequence 1985-1987
Find out more about the route taken by the car HERE

Sunday, 1 April 2018

AMY TURTLE - SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW


Okay, I admit it. I don’t really want to talk about this book at all – NOT the contents anyway.

Look at that cover. There she is – AMY TURTLE!

Michael Aspel once described Amy Turtle / Ann George as the “Queen Mum” of the Midlands – and do you know what? He was probably right.

Chris Tarrant, in the same programme, recalled how during personal appearances, the crowds would go wild for Amy Turtle. Quite simply – she was one of the biggest stars of the show – and one of the most recognisable faces on TV during the 1970’s.

And then she wasn’t.

In 1976, after 11 years on the show, Ann George was dropped. It is said that there were backstage fall-outs with Noele Gordon, rumours that Nolly was unhappy about Ann getting married in 1975 – the same year as Meg and Hugh. There is talk of a fall-out over some jewellery, and it is true that when Ann married, hardly anyone from the cast attended.

Of course, die-hard fans know that in 1987, Ann made a brief return to the show, as a cleaner for Tommy Lancaster, and once more, Amy’s Brummie voice rang out in the motel – albeit very briefly.

It was great to see Amy reunited with Jill, and also surprising to hear her talk about Meg dying. I don’t know whether this was the first mention that Meg was no longer alive (following  Noele’s death in 1985) – but it was a sad reminder of days-gone-by. It was also lovely that Tommy Lancaster and Nicola Freeman got to make a brief link to the past.

But back to Ann – a lady of many talents – It is said that she was a hugely accomplished singer in her younger days – Poor Ann is often derided in the media and by comics for her supposed habit of forgetting the script.

In Danny Baker’s “TV Heroes” programme, he makes fun of the fact that Ann George repeats a line said by the cast member before her – “And our villas in the South of France” is a famous catchphrase used by fans of the programme – but the truth is – Ann was word-perfect in the scene – she is entirely correct. It really IS the previous line that is wrong.

Mike Garrett  at the Crossroads Appreciation Society unearthed the script that proves this very fact.

Amy Turtle: And our villas in the south of France
Even ITV Central have been known to show a clip where Amy, deep in thought, doesn’t respond to questions asked by Faye Mansfield – but the truth is, this is part of the characterisation – not an example of the actress forgetting her lines. Amy had just been shouted at by Meg and Hugh. She was devastated.

Ann George was brilliant at comedy - Of this there can be no doubt. The scenes of her nearly giving the game away about a surprise party for Meg are genius. When she gets drunk with Miss Tatum it is hilarious  – worthy of “Best Comedy Performance” in any Soap Awards.

BUT – the scenes of Amy being arrested following her absent minded shoplifting are stunning. They are harrowing , heartfelt and genuinely moving. In short they would beat any “Best Dramatic Performance”  - hands down.

A lot has been said about Amy Turtle and Ann George over the years – but for me – this book  -“Something Old, Something New” sums it up perfectly. If you still believe the old nonsense about Ann – it’s time for something new…

Ann George was a big star

 ...Oh - if you're interested, I've never read the book!

And now some links....

Amy Turtle Returns to Crossroads (1987)  - YouTube
Amy is Arrested for Shoplifting - YouTube  - near the end of the episode

Monday, 26 March 2018

SUE NICHOLLS - WHERE WILL YOU BE?



SOAP STAR TO POP STAR

Looking back, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the soap-star takeover of the pop-charts began in the 1980’s with the likes of Kylie and Jason – however the truth is really a little closer to home…

In 1968, motel waitress Marilyn Gates (aka actress, Sue Nicholls) was involved in a storyline where the character appeared in a night-club sequence singing “Where Will You Be” – an easy listening piece – penned by composer, Tony Hatch and his then wife, Jackie Trent.

According to the NME (dated 29-06-68), the song was recorded on June 8th 1968 at 10:45am and was rising steadily in the charts. It eventually peaked at Number 17.

Of course, this wasn’t the first record to be released with a connection to the show, with actor, Ian Paterson having released a collection of music as “Andy from the Television Series, Crossroads” in 1966.

Following the success of the record, Sue decided to leave Crossroads, and the role of Marilyn was recast.

Sue was reunited with Tony Hatch in 1996 on an edition of “This Is Your Life” celebrating her life and career, where he promised to pen her a follow-up single – which has (so far) failed to materialise. Of course, Sue is much more well known today as Audrey Roberts in Coronation Street – a role which she has played since 1979 – so don’t be surprised if one day, Audrey is seen doing a “turn” in the Rovers…

There are several different versions of the 7 inch single that are almost continually available on ebay, if you fancy a listen – and it is currently available on YouTube.

The sheet music to the song was also released and is fairly easy to come by.


Sue Nicholls as Marilyn Gates in Crossroads

Sue Nicholls in NME - Dated 29/06/68