Friday, 25 November 2011

Hunting for Bungle & Zippy with Doctor Who & James Bond

That's a helluva confused title for a blog post I'm sure you agree, but if you can come up with a better one after reading this then be my guest. To wind up the 'entertainment' things for a while and move onto more serious stuff I'm going to cover two separate things in my life that I did for TV as both are interesting for different reasons.

Back when I was 15 years old I was all over newspapers and TV as an escape artist, maybe the one thing I have fond memories of was when I was asked to do the old ITV primetime show 'what's my line'. It turned out to be the 2nd from last episode that Eamon Andrews ever did before he died. That name won't mean a helluva lot to many younger readers, but back in the day the guy was one of the big names of TV.

Having been asked to be on the show and having just finished my exams (the old 'O' levels), I had to travel down all expenses paid with my mam acting as chaperone (which may sound dull, but my mam is anything but a dull person). They really pulled the stops out , probably as it was just before my 16th birthday and it was business class all the way, chauffer driven limo and 5 star hotel. these were the days when TV companies had a shit load more money than they do now. When variety was king and 'reality TV' hadn't reared its ugly head and wiped out all before the altar of Simon Cowell.

The limo drive from kings cross was amazing for a young lad who had never been to London before (which was ironic as I'd been us about everywhere else lol). So on entering Thames Television it was crazy to see the other shows on the board being filmed in other studios. What caught my eye was the kids TV show Rainbow (this is back in the Zippy and George days before Bungle changed his voice). It's a show I've always had a soft spot for and I made the decision to try and get to see that studio if possible.

So I asked the assistant director who seemed to follow my mam and me around like a lost lamb if I could..the answer was a most emphatic NO!!!! The reason being that as the 'stars' couldn't be allowed to see the people on the show in advance in case they worked out what each person did it was not allowed. I was gutted. Back then they took this sort of thing very seriously not like today.

During the 1st rehearsal (minus 'stars') to check the angles they'd need for my escape there was a rather funny (to me) conversation. I was used to people assuming coz I wasn't an adult that somehow it'd be something 'easy' or that I'd be escaping using a key or something behind a big screen. (This was how 99% of escape artists did things back then...the screen I mean.) I have to admit that I had a bit of fun with that wound people up mercilessly many times. But not on this occasion as it was important.

Director: So Wayne do you need a screen or something to hide behind while you escape?

Me: no in the middle of the floor in front of the desks will be just fine.

Director: but wont people see you using a key?> cameras can zoom in quite close you know, its not like a stage.

Me: Honestly don't worry about it, I'll be picking the locks in front of people so they can see what I'll be doing (this was sort of my trademark back then)

Director: You can't show people how to pick a lock! We'll get taken of the air!

Me: I seriously doubt it as it's not like eating a biscuit ya know!

Directior: can you show me then and if I can copy it you'll have to use a screen.

(so after 5 mins of getting 3 extra pairs of hand cuffs from my bag back we are again both locked in 3 pairs of police regulation handcuffs and a long thick chain locked with 4 lever Hiatt padlock......)

Director: Do you have a spare lock pick for me then? (laughing and starting to take the piss a bit)

Me: no as I'm not using lock picks...

Director: but you said....

Me: I'm going to use a hair pin instead. (Americans: a bobby pin)

Now at this point Mr. Director bloke looked a big stressed as I'm guessing he thought I'd fuck it up lol.

Me: just say go when your ready...

on the word 'Go' from one of the floor crew I stuck the hair pin in my mouth and picked all 4 locks in about 10 seconds. Needless to say the director was stuck and I was allowed to do it in full view (which was a 1st for british TV by the way). he did ask one thing...if I could slow down a bit as 10 seconds was too fast. This is the 1st time I've admitted this but I slowed it down to the 30 seconds seen on the program. Although people thought that was amazingly fast next to the 3 mins other escape artists were taking.

Just before the show we all had to go to Eammon Andrews dressing room and have a chat 9adn sit in his rather nifty dentists chair). Turns out he was shit at putting handcuffs on and managed to trap the skin on my wrist badly on the show. (Which was why I covered my wrist with one hand afterwards, as the blood would have been a bit obvious otherwise lol.)

All day my mam and me had been talking to this nice secretarial type woman. imagine our show when as we were watching in the green room them finish what would be Eammon Andres last show when it turned out she was a stripper and stripped down to a Basque and panties! now I was your normal red blooded male and from that moment I never left her side lol. Funnily enough my mother was fine about all that as she knows what I was like back then.

So me and this woman(who for the life of me name I can't remember) decided to go AWOL and try and find Zippy and George and the Rainbow set. After creeping out we went roud corridors getting lost and maybe would have found it eventually if it had not been for literally bumping into Ernie Wise coming out of a lift on his way to the green room to meet the other people who had been on what's my line (he was on the panel..and no he didn't wear a wig...I asked and he let me pull on his hair to prove it lol). So we never did find them.... although Ernie wise was a fascinating man and spent a good 2 hours talking to my mother and me, when I never forgot. He took time to talk to people, real old school.

So me and this stripper who was still in the Basque she stripped down to on the show, sat till about midnight in the hotel bar chatting. Now I didn't have a chance, I was only 15 after all, but I thought all my birthdays had come at once!. But it didn't stop me absconding once my other was asleep and going on a taxi drive and walk about in the early hours with her. No nothing happened before you ask, but you could say she did manage to colour my views of women for a decade or so lol. (We'll go more into that at a later date.) Not many 15 year old lads get to have those experiences. Magic times......

While the most boring extra work I'd ever done, 'Our Friends in the North' was the most interesting in one way...the cast most of who were unknowns at the time. So I have happy memories of having a cuppa with a pre Doctor who (by a good few years)Christopher Ecclestone (quiet bloke didn't say much), a pre james bond Daniel Craig ( an even quieter bloke who insisted on remaining in character at all times on set) and the one big 'star' Malcolm MacDowell. That guy spent more time than he should have with the extras as I quote 'The crew and cast don't talk much and were boring to be around.' I wish I could remember more of what he talked to us all about, but my brain sort of stuck at the stuff he talked about Clockwork Orange. He explained the story behind it being pulled (like most people I'd believed it had been banned, not pulled as it actually had due to copy cat crimes.) What it was like to go into that part and the public reaction afterwards and the odd things people had said to him if they saw him in the street. One thing I can say is he has the same shoe size as me as there were no more left in costume in my size so they put his on me as he wasn't in the scenes I was.

Next time... 'rebel without a clue'

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