Monday, 30 May 2011

Stranger than People: They Change by Night

One of the most popular posts on this blog was a while ago now when I mentioned the old 'Stranger than People' hardcover annual from 1968 - this annual kept me occupied in some rainy playtimes at school and was one of the major inspirations for my work on Fortean Times. A pleasant gentleman e-mailed me a while ago asking to purchase it off me...well I'm afraid I'd better hang on to it, but for all the fans of this old annual here's a random page of art from it on werewolves. And assuming that Young World Productions or their heirs don't slap me with a cease and desist notice I'll continue to occasionally upload some of the images from it.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fleeting Encounters with the Rich and Famous - (or hey, hey - he's a Monkee)

The Metro Newspaper ran a story this week about how in the 1980's Micky Dolenz lived in Nottinghamshire at a place called Winthorpe Hall near Newark. Looking back, it all seems a little unlikely, but yes he did indeed live in Nottinghamshire and I used to see him quite a lot. Newark was the nearest town to where I grew up and the venue for my parents weekly shop. So it was, that me, or practically anybody could run into Micky in the Iceland frozen food store...I recall him as unshaven (well it was a Saturday) and generally wearing khaki shorts. I also don't recall anyone seeming to recognize him...more on that later... or hassle him for an autograph or anything. If he wanted anonymity he's found the perfect environment. Nobody in Newark was expecting to see a guy off TV so nobody did. I recognized him, of course, but as a shy kid I'd never have spoken to him. Had I had some fit of courage and tried too I expect my parents would've shouted me back. I didn't think of him as an actor more as a musician but I guess I could've in some alternate world told him I was interested in becoming an actor (true at the time) and he could've directed me to the workshop for child actors at the Central TV Studios (where he worked) and by now I'd be Dr Who..but nah, didn't happen. Was never going to either. The last time I saw him I was probably in my late teens. My parents were buying me the final stereo of my teenage years; it even had a remote control - and Micky was there. Right there in Curry's/Dixons in Newark playing a synth. Still no one recognized him. I didn't even know that he played keyboards...wasn't he the drummer?

Later, my Dad (who worked as a construction contracts manager) was working at the Central TV Studios. He was on a break in the cafeteria. He carried his tray to a nearby table and sat down next to someone he vaguely recognized...well he ought to know his face after all those near misses in the Iceland store..."So how's it going? Are you working on the studio extension?" Nope, didn't recognize 'im.

Micky, a fellow shopper from 1980's Newark salutes you.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Masks of Terror (or another ad I spent too much time looking at as a kid...)

Back in 1971, Kellogg's Corn Flakes packets had masks of Star Trek characters printed on the back. Through the miracle of my mother's bulk buying I managed to get all of them (except possibly the Klingon). Mother dearest threaded white elastic from her sewing box and out I went into the street to play to hand out the masks to friend/neighbours/whoever would wear them and play Trek with me. I remember I handed the Sulu mask to a boy called Gavin who was riding a bicycle - he rammed the eye-holes of the mask onto his handlebars to enlarge them so he could see better where he was cycling...oh well I guess he had a is tricky to steer with limited vision. Finally, I had handed out all the masks; saving the Kirk one for myself (natch!). We ran around like idiots for a while then I spotted a neighbour's kid that I often played with at that time ('friend would be overstating it). Let's call him 'Little Jonny' - So we all ran towards him boisterously shouting - I guess Gavin was still on the bike - and, er Little Jonny had no idea who we were and ran away in terror. I'd never seen anyone so frightened. In fact, he went to get his Dad. By this time we had raised the masks and his Dad was saying, "You see it's just, Martin and Gavin (and Ichabod or whoever). I think he was still too shaken to play with us that evening. So, it makes me think, I was probably six years old and that was in what was then just an oversize village - now a small town - yet I was playing out in the street unsupervised like an old hand. I don't let my daughter play out and she is now 9. I guess it really is a different world.

After the masks I recall cereal boxes with a diarama on the back and transfers to stick on it. Tiny Klingons for faraway and big Klingons and Enterprise crew for closeup to establish scale. I recall affixing the tiniest Klingons nearest the front giving the whole thing a weird Land of the Giants feel to it.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Tightrope - 625 Line Event

Spent a fascinating day at the 625 Line Cult TV event in Derby on Saturday at the QUAD media centre. Not so much a cinema as a sensory deprivation there from 9:30 am until the late afternoon without any real sense of time passing in the outside world. Watched the first episode of Richard Carpenter's Catweazle - I met Carpenter when he was promoting Robin of Sherwood in Sherwood Forest in 1984 and, to be honest, Robin Hood and Dick Turpin were certainly more my thing than Catweazle but I certainly watched it as a toddler; probably without really understanding it. Geoffrey Bayldon as Catweazle is both creepy and physically repulsive (!) and I'd have run a mile if I'd found the time-travelling weirdo hiding in my barn. It was fascinating to learn from the programme notes that Bayldon had turned down the role of Doctor Who. But once again...didn't really 'get' the concept of Catweazle. The organisers of the 625 Line event obviously had grandiose plans to have pretend commercial breaks between the ad caps for Catweazle - rather scuppered by the inexperienced projectionist who seemed to think that "end of Part 1" meant the end of the show. So yeah, I did see Catweazle episode 1 but with a big gap between the two parts in a 'mop up' session in the afternoon. The Phantom projectionist struck again during "Soldier and Me" - a show I've never heard of before a sort of 'grim up north children's spy thriller' and not particularly good - and part 2 of this show two was relegated to the afternoon too.

And talking of the afternoon, we had to sit through a couple of Avengers episodes before getting to the highlight of the whole day; an episode of the long unseen but legendary Children's TV show Tightrope introduced by star Spencer Banks, who is perhaps best remembered as Simon from Timeslip. Tightrope is really one of my earliest TV viewing memories - I recall an episode where someone is drugged - I think with a truth drug - and not even knowing what the word 'drugged' meant but finding it incredibly menacing. I've always identified perhaps most strongly with fictional characters with the same firstname as me (Martin Brody, Marty McFly) but I supsect this started with Tightrope's central character Martin Clifford - as played by Banks. Tightrope currently only exists as B&W telerecordings but was released by Network DVD earlier this year. Tightrope's other incarnation was as a comic strip in my favourite British comic TV Action. During one of the events all to brief breaks fans (that's me!) were able to get his autograph...I've whined before about people who are not famous charging for whine here. Spencer Banks' cult status would enable him to charge what he likes and I for one would've happily put some money into his pocket but, obviously too much the gent, he was happily signing programmes and Tightrope memorabilia (a pity that Tightrope DVDs were not on sale) - the only charge was if you wanted to buy a picture for him to sign. Anyways, I got him to sign the Tightrope page of a TV Action comic. Actually the same page was on display behind him as he signed by amazing'll see that he has signed it from 'Martin'!