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Archive for the ‘Famous Faces’ Category

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Patrick Swayze 1952-2009

Posted by Big Boo on September 17th, 2009

patrick swayzePatrick Swayze, star of films such as Dirty Dancing and Ghost, has passed away on September 14th 2009, aged 57. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2008, but despite chemotherapy the cancer spread to his liver and was therefore the cause of his death.

Swayze was born in Houston, Texas in 1952, the son of an engineering draftsman father and a choreographer mother. His mother was obviously a big influence on him as he enjoyed ballet and acting from a young age, eventually attending the Harkness Ballet and Joffrey ballet schools in New York.

His first job was as a dancer in the Walt Disney parades, but before long he was standing in as a replacement for the role of Danny in the Broadway production of Grease. His big break came in 1985 when he starred in the American Civil War mini series North and South, which he followed up with the seminal Dirty Dancing, playing the role of dance instructor Johnny Castle. Ironically this film was initially intended to have a brief theatrical release and then go straight to video, but it instead became a mega success, earning hundreds of millions of dollars and was the first film to sell a million copies on videotape!

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John Hughes 1950-2009

Posted by Big Boo on August 7th, 2009

john hughesI am sorry to have to report the death of John Hughes, one of the most successful film directors, producers and writers of the 1980’s.  He suffered a heart attack on 6th August 2009 whilst visiting his family in New York, and passed away at the age of just 59.

If you are unaware of who John Hughes is, chances are you will have heard of at least one of his films.  Some of his most memorable from the eighties are The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  Probably his biggest success came in 1990 with the release of smash hit Home Alone.

He was born in Lansing, Michigan and graduated from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois in 1968.  He was obviously very attached to this area as many of his films were either set or filmed there, although he often called the town involved Shermer, as Shermerville had been the first name for Northbrook.

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Michael Joseph Jackson 1958 – 2009

Posted by Big Boo on June 26th, 2009

Michael JacksonYou surely can’t have failed to have heard by now that pop legend Michael Jackson died of a heart attack yesterday afternoon, aged 50.  Whilst he may have courted controversy quite frequently there is no denying that he leaves a massive legacy to the music industry, and can be rightly compared to such legends as Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

Jackson was the seventh of nine children, and first shot to fame at the tender age of 11 with his brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Tito and Marlon as a member of The Jackson 5.  In 1971 he began his solo career but it was the eighties when he was at the height of his fame, with the release of albums such as Bad and Thriller, the latter of which is still the highest selling album of all time.

He was not only a great singer and songwriter but also a fantastic dancer.  His most often imitated dance step has to be the moonwalk, where he appeared to be walking forwards but moving backwards.

His eccentric behaviour earned him the nickname Wacko Jacko, and he is famous for having had a large amount of plastic surgery, most notably on his nose.  His skin colour had also lightened over the years, which many claimed was due to this surgery but was in fact due to a disease called Vitiligo.

His private life was drawn into question with the much publicised court trial for child molestation that was supposed to have occured at his home, the Neverland Ranch, which was more of an amusement park than a home with its fairground rides and roller coaster.  Jackson was acquitted of all charges.

His death comes just before he was due to perform a massive series of concerts at the O2 in London, which were set to begin in July and go on until 2010.

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Johnny Ball

Posted by Big Boo on June 12th, 2009

Johnny BallGood old madcap Johnny Ball. I can’t think of another childrens TV presenter who could manage to get kids so enthused about school work as he could. He would bound on to the screen with limitless energy, dashing about demonstrating scientific principals and relating historical tales all with a massive grin fixed firmly to his face. He was like a child in a sweet shop, who’d just be told they could eat anything they wanted.

Given the factual nature of his TV shows, you might expect Johnny Ball started his career as a teacher, but surprisingly enough he didn’t. Born in 1938 he became a Butlin’s Redcoat entertainer after spending his national service in the Royal Air Force. After leaving Butlin’s he became a comedian working the clubs in the North of England. His first break into television was on classic kids show Play School, but he also wrote material for shows such as Crackerjack.

However, it will always be for his highly entertaining (and, whisper it, educational) TV shows that he is best remembered. Starting in 1977 with Think of a Number on BBC1, Mr. Ball took various mathematical subjects and relayed them to and audience of teenagers via fun experiments, funny observations and dressing up as historical figures such as Isaac Newton, although all these famous people were imbibed with Johnny’s rattling delivery, but perhaps with an appropriate funny accent.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Keith Harris and Orville

Posted by Big Boo on May 12th, 2009

keith harris and orvilleYou just don’t seem to see many ventriloquists on TV any more, do you?  The main reason for this I suppose is the complete lack of variety TV shows, where you’d be entertained by a plethora of different acts including singers, comedians and magicians.  A really popular ventriloquist could even be given their own primetime TV show, but I think those days are well and truly gone!

So, if you were in charge of putting together a variety show line up in the 1980’s and you were after a ventriloquist, chances are you’d end up with Keith Harris.  Of course there were others, such as Ray Allen and Lord Charles, or Roger De Courcey and Nookie Bear, but they were more popular during the 1970’s.  Keith’s act tended to be a bit more child friendly (perhaps even too child friendly) so he was presumably often chosen as the safe bet.

Keith is best known for his puppet Orville, a green duck wearing a nappy who had a high pitched, screachy sort of voice.  As well as having moving eyes and beak, Orville could also flap his wings, although he was unable to fly, as we were too often reminded by the rather awful single “Orville’s Song“.  You know the one – I wish I could fly, right up to the sky, but I can’t.  You can.  I can’t.  Somehow this song made it to number four in the UK charts…

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Daley Thompson

Posted by Big Boo on April 22nd, 2009

daley thompsonThe early 1980’s were a golden time (pun intended) for UK athletics with many great athletes hailing from good old blighty winning gold medals at the Olympics and other sporting events.  One of the greatest was Daley Thompson, or Francis Morgan Oyodélé Thompson CBE to give him his full name and title.

Daley Thompson was born in London on 30th July 1958.  He represented the UK in the Decathlon, which consists of ten events – 100m, 400m and 1500m races, 110m hurdles, high jump, long jump, pole vault, discus, javelin and shot put.  As you can imagine in order to do well in the Decathlon you need to be incredibly dedicated as there’s an awful lot of training to do!

He was always instantly recognisable with his trademark moustache and wide grin, although his sense of humour sometimes got him into trouble when he made somewhat inappropriate remarks at times, such as asking Princess Anne if she would have his babies or wearing a T-Shirt with the slogan “Is the worlds second greatest athlete gay?“, an attack at one of his rival competitors.  He also famously whistled the national anthem whilst stood on the Olympic podium.

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Bolero – Torvill and Dean

Posted by Big Boo on March 10th, 2009

boleroValentine’s Day 1984 was a day that has gone down in ice skating history as being the one and only time that an ice dancing couple has ever managed to score a clean sweep of perfect 6.0 scores from all the judges. Who were that duo? Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of course, with their routine set to Bolero.

Torvill and Dean were a household name in the early 1980’s, as they were such a success on the ice that ice skating was rarely off our screens at the time. They had won just about every gold medal it was possible to win, but the big one was the Olympics, and it was for the 1984 Winter Olympics that they put their Bolero routine together. Dressed in flowing purple, the pair went on to receive not just perfect scores but a standing ovation from the crowd!

However, things aren’t quite as straight forward as they appear, as the routine could easily have been disqualified due to a technicality. An Olympic ice skating routine is only allowed to be four minutes in length, yet Bolero is a piece of music that is around 17 minutes long. Working with a composer Torvill and Dean managed to reduce the music to 4 minutes and 18 seconds, which was still too long, but cut the music any further and the feeling of the piece would have been lost.

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The Krankies

Posted by Big Boo on February 13th, 2009

the krankiesThe Krankies were a comedy double act who first appeared on the variety circuit in the late 1970’s.  They were so popular that during the 1980’s they were a mainstay of childrens television, with both their own tv shows and guest appearances on shows such as Crackerjack.

They were portrayed on stage as Wee Jimmy Krankie and his father, although in reality they were Scottish husband and wife Ian and Janette Tough.  Ian was the straight man to Janette’s cheeky schoolboy character, the whole act working so well because Janette was not very tall and so appeared childlike because of this.

The double act’s main catchphrase was Fan-Dabi-Dozi, which Jimmy Krankie would utter often during the course of their routines, much to the appreciation of the audience who would normally join in.  They did experiment with other catchphrases (see the video below where they use Hubba-Dubba-Doobie) but ultimately Fan-Dabi-Dozi was what most people will remember most.

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