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Archive for the ‘Famous Faces’ Category

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Whitney Houston 1963-2012

Posted by Big Boo on February 13th, 2012

Whitney HoustonIt came as quite a shock when I happened to read this morning that Whitney Houston had died. I think because I saw it on a Google Alert e-mail my first reaction was “it must be a hoax” but no, a brief search seemed to reveal that it most definitely wasn’t.

At the time of writing this the cause of her death is still not known, but it is for sure that she was discovered in her hotel room in the Beverley Hilton, where she had been staying before being due to sing at a pre-Grammy awards party.

Whitney Houston was born in New Jersey in 1963. The daughter of John Houston, an entertainment executive, and Cissy Houston, a noted Gospel singer, her upbringing meant that becoming an entertainer was probably always very likely. Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick were her cousins, and Arethra Franklin was her Godmother, so singing was kind of in her blood.

She started her singing career when she used to get up on stage and sing in some of the nightclubs that her mother worked at. In 1977, at the tender age of 14, she became a backing singer for the Michael Zager Band, and the following year she featured as a backing singer on Chaka Khan’s hit I’m Every Woman, a song that Whitney herself would become noted for in later life.

The years that followed saw her mixing singing with modelling work, until in 1985 she got her own solo recording contract and her first album, title simply Whitney Houston, was released. Featuring such hits as The Greatest Love of All, How Will I Know and Saving All My Love For You, the album shot Whitney to stardom.

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Bob Holness 1928-2012

Posted by Big Boo on January 9th, 2012

Bob HolnessIt is with great sadness that I must mourn the passing of another TV legend from my youth. Bob Holness, the genial host of Eighties teens quiz Blockbusters passed away peacefully in his sleep on 6th January 2012, aged 83.

I confess that before Blockbusters came along I don’t think I had ever heard of Bob Holness, but both him and the show for which he is best known soon became firm favourites in our household, with everybody in the family joining in with the quiz whilst we were having our evening meal.

Whilst Bob Holness was probably best known to many for TV quiz shows, being the host on Blockbusters, a revival of the word panel game Call My Bluff and indeed his first appearance on British TV on the show Take A Letter (don’t worry if you’ve not heard of this one, it was on in the early Sixties) his career spanned almost 60 years with the main stay of his career being in radio presenting.

Holness was born in South Africa in 1928, although his family moved to the UK when he was a child and this is where he was educated. In the Fifties he returned to South Africa and in 1955 became a radio presenter. In 1956 he became the second actor to ever portray James Bond when he recorded a radio version of Moonraker, voicing the secret agent.

Bob was also the subject of an urban myth that claimed he had played the saxophone on Gerry Rafferty’s hit Baker Street. Not one to disappoint Bob used to play along with this myth and also embellish it, as he would also lay claim to being the lead guitarist on a song called Layla by Derek and the Dominoes.

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Mark Hall 1937-2011

Posted by Big Boo on November 21st, 2011

Mark HallMark Hall, one half of animation legends Cosgrove Hall, has died of cancer at the age of 74. If you do not immediately recognise his name, I have no doubt that you will have heard and have fond memories of one of the many animated characters he help developed.

If you ever enjoyed watching Chorlton and the Wheelies, Jamie and the Magic Torch, Count Duckula, Alias the Jester, Cockleshell Bay and of course, DangerMouse, then you have seen some of the output from Cosgrove Hall, the company formed by Mark Hall and Brian Cosgrove.

Mark Hall and Brian Cosgrove first joined forces in 1969 to create the company Stop Frame Productions, but when this company failed Cosgrove Hall was born from its ashes, with their first big hit programme being Chorlton and the Wheelies, one of my personal all time favourite shows from when I was very little.

Whilst they certainly enjoyed success with many of their early kids shows, arguably the most popular character they created was DangerMouse. The “greatest secret agent in the world” was an instant hint with kids and adults alike, and the cartoon has now been shown in more than 80 different countries, which must give a certain other famous cartoon mouse a good run for his money.

Sadly Cosgrove Hall went into liquidation in 2009, after the company had ended up becoming a part of ITV, who basically had very little interest in keeping the company alive it would seem. However, the company name doesn’t quite end there, as Mark and Brian recently joined forces with Francis Fitzpatrick, the creator of a more recent childrens TV hit called Jakers, to form Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick, who are in the process of creating new kids TV shows called Pip! and The Herogliffix.

Both Mark Hall and Brian Cosgrove have more than made their mark in the world of animation, and their names more than deserve to be up there with the likes of Walt Disney, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

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Roy Skelton 1931-2011

Posted by Big Boo on June 10th, 2011

Roy SkeltonThis might be logged under my Famous Faces category but really Famous Voices would be more apt. You probably won’t recognise the face of Roy Skelton, and possibly not even his name, but he was the voice of two of the most famous British television puppets of all time. Roy Skelton was both Zippy and George from Rainbow.

Sadly, Roy Skelton has passed away. He suffered a stroke and died at his home in Brighton on June 8th 2011.

Whilst best known for being Zippy and George, a fact which boggles me given the arguments these two puppets sometimes had with each other, and Roy did it all in one go, switching between the voices as necessary, he was also a big contributor to Doctor Who, providing voices for the Daleks, Cybermen and (if you’re a real Doctor Who fan) the Krotons (nope, my Who knowledge isn’t sufficient for them either, you need to go back to Patrick Troughton for them).

I’ll leave you with a little video clip which shows what might have happened had Roy Skelton left the house one morning with his Rainbow hat on, but was actually off to provide voices for Doctor Who…

Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Metal Mickey

Posted by Big Boo on May 18th, 2011

Metal MickeyMost will probably best remember Metal Mickey from his early Saturday evening ITV sitcom, but this wasn’t Metal Mickey’s first television appearance. He first appeared on UK screens as part of the presenting crew along with Bill Oddie and a very young Susan Tully (later to appear in Grange Hill and then of course EastEnders) on saturday morning kids show Saturday Banana in the late Seventies.

If you’ve never heard of Saturday Banana then I will forgive you. It was aired at the same time as Tiswas, and which ITV region you lived in dictated whether you got to see Tiswas or Banana. I lived in the Southern television reason (as it was back then) so we got Saturday Banana and initially missed out on Tiswas.

Anyway, that explanation out of the way, on to Metal Mickey himself. Mickey was a robot, based on that iconic design from the 1950’s of what a robot should look like, which was basically a big silver humanoid decked out with flashing lights. In real life he was little more than a radio controlled thing whose mouth would move when his creator, Johnny Edward, spoke into a microphone to provide Mickey’s voice.

On TV though, Mickey was the kind of characters most kids loved to watch. Cool to look at, and a bit cheeky with some of the things he would say to other people. Aside from Saturday Banana, Metal Mickey was often seen on other TV shows as a special guest, and it was his appearance on an episode of Jim’ll Fix It that eventually led to him getting his own TV show.

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Elisabeth Sladen 1946-2011

Posted by Big Boo on April 21st, 2011

Elisabeth SladenIt is with a degree of shock that I’m writing this, as when I first read that Elisabeth Sladen had died of cancer I thought I must have been reading it wrong. How could this possibly be the case when The Sarah Jane Adventures has just won an award for best Children’s drama at the Royal Television Society Awards.

But true it sadly is. One of Doctor Who’s best loved assistants (perhaps even the best loved), when Elisabeth Sladen reprised her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the rebooted Doctor Who it was almost as if she had just travelled forward in time in the TARDIS herself. She looked almost exactly how you remembered her looking back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, and certainly not like a woman in her Sixties!

Elisabeth first appeared as Sarah Jane in 1973, alongside Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, when previous assistant Jo Grant (Katy Manning) decided to leave the series. Sarah Jane Smith was an uncompromising journalist who gave the Doctor a good run for his money, putting him in his place on occasion.

Amazingly she was only on Doctor Who for three years, leaving in 1976 with Tom Baker now playing the timelord. This apparently made front page news, something which was usual reserved for the regenerating Doctor. I guess it feels like she was on the show for so much longer partly because they made a lot more episodes per season back then, but also because she was such a good assistant.

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Basil Brush

Posted by Big Boo on February 2nd, 2011

Basil BrushBasil Brush, the fox puppet with the incredibly bushy tail, rather posh sounding accent and Boom Boom! catchphrase, has been on our screens since the early 1960’s. Originally created by Peter Firmin, who was also half of the brains behind such classic shows as Bagpuss and The Clangers, Basil first appeared on a children’s show called The Three Scampies, but found popularity when he appeared on magician David Nixon’s show.

This led to Basil getting his own show in 1968, unsurprisingly titled The Basil Brush Show, which ran for 12 years until 1980. This show saw Basil joined by a number of different actors who played the straight role, and who Basil always referred to by putting Mister before their first name. The first of these was Mr. Rodney, who was Rodney Bewes, one of the Likely Lads from the BBC sitcom. He was followed by Derek Fowlds (more recently to be seen in Heartbeat) then Roy North, Howard Williams and finally Billy Boyle.

Personally I only have vague memories of the Basil Brush show now, though I definitely remember watching it and trying to impersonate his incredibly long laughs, which usually followed Basil saying something derogatory to his human stooge.

The first part of the Eighties saw Basil Brush become teacher, when he appeared on the ITV schools programme Let’s Read with Basil Brush. If I was ever off ill from school I would tend to lie on the sofa watching these programmes, and used to particularly enjoy watching Basil, even though I had already got passed the reading level that the programme was aimed at.

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Bernard Matthews 1930-2010

Posted by Big Boo on November 29th, 2010

Bernard MatthewsBernard Matthews, the turkey farmer who was seemingly never off our TV screens in the 80s (on the adverts anyway) has passed away. He died on November 25th 2010, aged 80, which if he had been an American would have been a very ironic date to die, given that it was the date for Thanksgiving Day this year.

Appearing in most of the television adverts for his company during the Eighties, Bernard Matthews was a bit of icon for the decade, appearing normally in a tweed jacket and always uttering his much repeated catchphrase, Bootiful. He has been credited with making turkey a more affordable meat for the average family, both in terms of whole frozen turkeys and in processed forms such as Turkey Burgers, Drummers and the dreaded (by Jamie Oliver at least) Turkey Twizzler.

The seeds of his turkey empire were sown back in the late 1940s, when he bought an incubator and some turkey eggs and set about trying to start a turkey farm in his mother-in-laws garden. Ultimately this failed, but in 1950 he tried again in his spare time, whilst working as an insurance clerk. This time things went better, and he soon bought the run down Great Witchingham Hall, and used most of the rooms of the great house to raise (and slaughter) the turkeys!

Whilst Bernard may not have appeared in his companies TV adverts for many years now, somehow you still expect to turn on the TV and see him grinning back at you. One thing is for sure though, I think it’s unlikely that the word “Bootiful” will be getting removed from the packaging for some time to come.