At about the beginning of October 2008, I found a Talking Point called Have You Ever Met Anyone Famous?
So I decided to put on my thinking cap trying to remember on the ones from when I was only about three or four years old (to start with).
When I was about three or four, I lived in a village called Golbourne, in Lancashire, less than a mile from the Haydock racecourse. As people do when they are young, I had a special mate; his father worked the signal box to the spur of the racecourse. On the days of the Saturday races his mother would take us to a level crossing near the signal box, and as the train slowed so the course gates could be opened farther down the spur, we would be lifted into the caboose at the end, and go with the punters into the course.
Being young, we wouldn't have been allowed to go to the main course, so we were in a booth and could see everything. Over the afternoon, many men in (what I saw as fancy-coloured clothes)
came in or past the door, and gave us things like pop, ice cream and
crisps. They will no doubt have been some of the famous jockeys of the
Not sure of the date, but around the end of 1959 into 1960, a workmate had a father who was the backstage hand at the Alhambra theatre, and some nights, me and the mate would go to the back of the stage and near the dressing rooms, and we would get to see and meet the stars that were there.
I remember meeting Ken Dodd; he gave me a signed
autograph and one of his tickling sticks for my mother, and my older
sister Annie ended up with them.
Also Billy Dainty, little Jimmy Clitheroe and others I can't bring to
mind. There were ballet dancers and others I can't remember now.
In January 1964, my uncle worked at the uni as a doorman, and as a spare job he would be a night bouncer/security at the now derelict Gaumont cinema, which also had a large stage.
One night in January my uncle was on the
inside, looking after the main area for Shirley Bassey; he managed to
sneak me in, round the back, to meet the wonderful lady. It was only for a few minutes as the main boss spotted me, and it was near the time for the place to open the doors for all to leave.
Also near the end of 1964, I was helping to put up an amateur wrestling ring, for the local second-hand dealer on the end of my street; my main job was to set the tannoy and speakers up.
One day we had to set the ring and things; the event was cancelled, so the boss picked me and the other lads up and took us to a big night at a wrestling do. I remember, that Jim Breaks, Masambula, Shirley Crabtree (who became known as Big
Daddy), Les Kellett, Alan Denison and a few more were there, and we were introduced to them all. Not all were on the bill that night, it was more like a Yorkshire night. In 1966, it was about 20 December, I went to the ice rink for the first time, it was the Christmas works outing. I had never even tried ice skates on, but by the time the interval was on I was on the ice and skating. I got talking to the man who was boss of the speed skaters and the spotlights, and he asked me if I wanted to operate the spot, as the Christmas specials nights were coming along, and they needed someone to be the left-side spotlight operator, so I took on the job.
My first 'gig' if you can call it that, was on 25 December, 1966 followed by one on Boxing Day, and then again for the New Year's Eve gala. 5 January 1967 was the first anniversary of the opening of the ice rink, so from 5 to 7 January that year there were special nights,
and on 20 January as well.
On 31 March, we had 'The Swinging Blue Jeans'. I would have met
them so we could arrange the lights set-up for the songs they were to
sing. (I also remember in this period the Alan Price Set, but as the 't' and 'a' newspaper rolls are parts missing, I couldn't find the clipping.)
Thursday, 6 April 1967, is a night I won't forget: there were top
champion skaters and the South African pair ex-champions.
The reason why I remember Rafe and Eli Caldicott in particular is that during their session my arc spot jammed and the beam was too high, and the lady was in the air and couldn't avoid the full beam.
She went down heavily, and I turned the spot off, and ran along the side corridor to get to the dressing room to apologise. She was already in the room, and bouncers wouldn't let me see her, so, with the door ajar, I said sorry. She said it was OK, and I had to get back to face the music.
It turned out a piece of carbon had lodged in the universal joint. I freed it and carried on till the end of the night.
I didn't get the sack, as it wasn't my fault, but at about 20 April I
had to give up with the spot; I got a day job and was to tired to do the night and weekends at the ice rink.
At about the end of the 1960s, I was living in Leicester, and I had a second job, glass-collecting in a working men's club, on Fleet Street. The club was also the one that was used for a week or two, for the acts to appear before all the working men's club bosses, to see them and then pick the ones they wanted for the clubs for the year. Hundreds did their auditions and could have been famous in the future.
While still in Leicester, one day on the way to my day job at the British Steam Specialists, I went into my usual café, about 8am, and apart from me there were eight lads, all talking about their 'show' that weekend, and hoping it could be the start of the joining of two groups. I said something like, 'Hope it works out', as they were leaving. One of them said 'Thanks mate'. The owner said, 'They have no chance, eight in a group, with a crazy name like Showdadydady'. The owner got the name wrong, as months later, I saw them on 'Top of the Pops' as Showaddywaddy. It was about 1973-74.
What makes me mad to remember all the ones I met is, I only got a few autographs (now gone). I could have been rich.
For photos of the ads for the events (with kind permission of Mr Peter Orme, Bradford Telegraph and Argus) see my photo album.