Thursday, 27 August 2009

Crossroads - the Drama Of A Soap Opera - By Dorothy Hobson - 1980s

Sara has written with an enquiry:

The book, Crossroads The Drama Of A Soap Opera was published in 1982, and Dorothy Hobson was obviously at the studios in 1981 because she was there when Noele Gordon was sacked. But books like "Cultural Closure - The Arts In The 1970s", edited by Bart Moore Gilbert, claim that her interviews with the female viewers were all done in the late 1970s (or so Stuart Laing says). Is this so?

Piffle and bunk. Crossroads emerged as a popular show with female viewers when Dorothy Hobson began conducting interviews in the late 1970s, but her Crossroads-relevant interviews took place in 1981, as story-lines from 1980 and 1981 are mentioned by the interviewees - as was the character Kate Loring (arrived in 1981), and the Brownlows (the family did not arrive until late 1979).

Ms Hobson first gained access to the Crossroads studios in the late spring of 1981 - according to her book. I quote:

In the event it was not until the late spring of 1981 that I managed to gain access to Crossroads, and the period when I was watching the production and viewing with the audience coincided with the period before Noele Gordon was sacked from the company.

So, from the horse's mouth, there you have it - Ms Hobson gained access to the studios in the late spring of 1981, and then began watching the production of the show and viewing it with the audience.

Many things (in general) written about the 1970s are actually about the 1960s and 1980s. I don't know why. I sometimes think it happens too often to simply be mistakes! It's as though the '70s must be hyped!

And on the same theme...

Gary Arnold asks:

Crossroads 2003 and Beyond claims that the show went into colour in 1970 -

"The programme goes into colour enabling Meg’s dresses to be seen in all their floral glory."

But I thought it was 1969?

Yes, it was 1969 (sigh). See what I mean?


Friday, 21 August 2009

Some 1982 Crossroads Cliffhangers...



Thank you, YouTube! Included here are Jill Harvey (Jane Rossington) attempting to intervene in some marital strife between Barbara (Sue Lloyd) and David Hunter (Ronald Allen), the tragic death of Arthur Brownlow (Peter Hill), and the agonising story of whether or not Kate Hamilton (Frances White) had killed casino owner Tony Moran (John Laurimore).

1980: Rosemary: "David... Say You Love Meee... SAY IT!!"

We all remember the shooting of JR Ewing in 1980 - it shook soap fans across the world. But, at the Crossroads Motel, David Hunter's ex-wife, Rosemary (played by Janet Hargreaves), was the first soap character of 1980 to pull a trigger. It shook... er... several soap fans across England.

Motel owner Meg Mortimer (Noele Gordon) was about to announce the engagement of her business partner David Hunter to novelist Barbara Brady at a party to celebrate the occasion. Rosemary, in the past known for her neurotic tendencies, had begun to behave strangely.

American psychiatrist, Lloyd Munroe (Alan Gifford), an old friend of Meg's, told Rosemary off, pointing out to her that she'd been: "...threatening me - and David and Barbara - with threats of suicide."

Lloyd was doing his best to help, but was trying to convince Rosemary that she didn't love David, she actually hated him, really the right thing to do?

Particularly as it seemed that Rosemary may have stolen a gun, and Lloyd was fully aware of that fact?

Everybody, including Rosemary's daughter-in-law Diane Hunter (Sue Hanson), was in a state of high tension and the night of David and Barbara's engagement party saw an anxious discussion in the reception area at the motel.

Old favourite Tish Hope (Joy Andrews) was larding it up behind the reception desk, and tried to speak sense to Rosemary, but Rosemary hung up on her.

Something horrible was about to happen.

Rosemary left the engagement party before Meg made the happy announcement. David (Ronald Allen) and Barbara (Sue Lloyd) were overjoyed, but there was an underlying anxiety about Rosemary.


Rosemary gave waitress Glenda Brownlow (Lynette McMorrough) a note for David - requesting his presence in the motel office...

When he arrived she asked him to say that he loved her, and turned quite sarky when he refused...

Suddenly, Rosemary pulled out A GUN!!

"David... say it... tell me you love me... SAY IT!" she whined menacingly. When he refused, she shot him.

Of course, all was well. David was discovered by Meg and made a full recovery, Rosemary underwent psychiatric treatment and was never seen again, and that was that.

According to legend, the reason for David's somewhat informal attire at his engagement party had its roots in a behind-the-scenes mishap. When Janet Hargreaves first pulled the trigger of the gun, it didn't go off. But Ronald Allen had already broken the bag of stage blood, ruining the suit he was wearing.

It seems that the Crossroads wardrobe allowance could not run to another suit!

Acorn Antiques

Most people I knew took it for granted that Acorn Antiques' Mrs Overall was based on Crossroads' Mavis Hooper in the 1980s. The resemblance immediately had us laughing.

1985 gave us Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and I woz very happy indeed. Victoria's way of highlighting the daft things people come out with ("my Yale's under my Wincey Willis"), the quirkiness of life, the humdrumness of life, and on one memorable occasion (The Swimmer) the sadness of life, went down an absolute treat with me.

Acorn Antiques was a spoof soap opera, seen on As Seen On TV, and based largely on Crossroads. Its characters and situations held appeal for Crossroads fans past and present.

I well remembered Tish Hope (Joy Andrews) and Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) larding it up behind the motel reception desk (Tish first joined Meg there in the late 1960s, and last appeared in 1980. Poor Meg, of course, was finally smoked out in November 1981). Miss Babs and Miss Berta, the proprietors of Acorn Antiques, contained echoes of these characters - well, at least in their managerial roles and dress sense!

Mr Clifford was David Hunter; Trixie was a mixture of peril-stricken Jill Richardson and devious Iris Scott.

In a recent BBC interview, Victoria Wood was asked:

"So, was Mrs Overall based on Noele Gordon from Crossroads?"

She replied:

"No, if it was based on anyone, it was based on Amy Turtle or Mrs Mack from Take The High Road. It was a homage to Crossroads but also to a terrible radio series called Waggoners' Walk which was on then."

But back in the 1980s I heard no comparisons being made between Mrs O and Mrs Turtle or Mrs O and Mrs Mack. Mrs Overall's position as char at the antiques shop may have been based on Amy's old job at the motel, and her name, like Mrs Mack's, was certainly suggestive of an item of clothing, but the character's physical appearance, voice and mannerisms were immediately evocative of Charmian Eyre's Mavis Hooper, the miserable King's Oak boarding house keeper from 1981 to 1985.

She even wore the same type of overall!

As Crossroads moved upmarket in real life, so did Acorn Antiques. As with the motel saga, verticle blinds appeared in the Acorn Antiques opening sequence (they didn't work) and a new health and leisure centre (with sun beds) was built at the shop.

Acorn Antiques also drew inspiration from EastEnders, with Miss Babs apparently warbling a song called Anyone Can Break A Vase, which was (in fiction) released on vinyl. Unfortunately, we never got to hear it!

Anyone Can Break A Vase. I'd love to hear this track!

1981: The Sacking Of Noele Gordon, The Departure Of Meg Mortimer...

The Sun, June 18, 1981.

In her role as spokeswoman for Crossroads, Noele Gordon was absolutely tireless in her defence of the series against the crudities and jibes of an unkind press. In June 1981, Margaret Forwood, Sun TV critic, was on the attack after Noele had favourably compared Crossroads with Coronation Street...

"Coronation Street is drama while Crossroads is real," said dear, deluded Noele Gordon the other day.

Who was she trying to kid?

In their latest bid to oust the invincible Coronation Street as telly's top soap opera, the brains behind Crossroads have knocked down poor old Benny and left him covered in blood and about to be blinded.

That should have knocked his hat off at long last!

Benny, you will recall, is the illiterate local simpleton befriended by beauty queen, unmarried mother and occasional waitress Miss Diane.

He was about to be married a couple of melodramas back but his fiancee was knocked off her bicycle and killed while on her way to a clandestine assignation with her gypsy lover on the morning of the wedding.

Then he offered to wed reclusive plastic surgery patient Alison who had been left in the lurch by former international terrorist-turned-record producer Chris Hunter.

But she had a miscarriage and decided to become a nun instead.

Real, Noele darling?

Noele Gordon after news of her sacking from Crossroads was made public.

Whatever people thought of Noele Gordon and Crossroads, there was no doubt that the two went together like bacon and eggs - and had done since the very first episode way back in November 1964.

The announcement that Noele had been sacked from the show exploded upon the media on 22 June 1981. And Crossroads fans were stunned.

The "Save Our Meg" campaign - the Sun, June 24 1981.

Crossroads boss Jack Barton yesterday faced the cast of the TV soap opera for the first time since the Big Sacking Shock.

He saw them for a 20-minute crisis meeting folowing the surprise dismissal of Noele Gordon, the show's top star for the last 17 years.

Mr Barton, the programme's producer, left ATV's studios in Birmingham refusing to comment on the talks or the decision to scrap Noele's role as motel owner Meg Mortimer.

But it is understood that the meeting was called to assure other members of the cast that their jobs were safe.

Rumours have swept showbiz that Noele's departure was only the first of many from the much-loved series.

Noele was in tears before he arrived. But she left smiling, with co-star Tony Adams, 41, who plays Adam Chance in the series.

And later it was confirmed that she had been asked to play the mother of stripper Gipsy Rose Lee in a stage show opening in November at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre...

Sunday Mirror, June 28, 1981:

Sacked Crossroads star Noele Gordon made a dramatic eleventh-hour plea to ATV boss Lord Lew Grade to save her job.

She asked if there was any way she could carry on for a further six months with a new contract.

But Lord Grade was unable to help. He said yesterday that he had put Noele's request to ATV's Director of Programmes, Charles Denton.

It was Mr Denton's decision to sack Noele, who plays the motel matriarch, Meg Richardson.

Lord Grade said: "Noele's agent asked if there was any way for her to carry on.

"I asked Charles Denton if it would be possible to consider it. His reply was the he didn't want to change his plans, and that it would be nice to start the next season with something new and exciting.

"I just put the point to Charles. I didn't ask him to reconsider.

"I am not allowed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority to interfere in any programmes."

Lord Grade also revealed that Noele had had a massive change of heart about Crossroads.

"About a year ago, Noele came to me to say that she wanted to leave the programme, but I persuaded her to stay," he said.

"She is a very sweet person, and has worked very hard for Crossroads and ATV. But I do not know whether she has any future role in the network."

Mr Denton, 43, said that since Noele's sacking he had received hundreds of protest letters from fans, among them two death threats.

One, he claimed, came from the Birmingham chapter of the Hell's Angels. "I really didn't know there were such Crossroads fanatics," he said...

Daily Mirror, 19 October, 1981:

Meg Richardson and her Crossroads crew were all at sea yesterday as yet another version of her departure from the TV soap opera was filmed.

Meg, played by actress Noele Gordon, waved a fond farewell to her screen daughter Jill, played by Jane Rossington, from the stern of the liner QE2.

The storyline of the scene, filmed at Southampton, has Meg quitting her motel and emigrating to Australia.

But it is only one of seven possible endings which have been recorded.

These include a fire which guts the motel, and some scenes have shown a funeral.
The actual ending is being kept a big secret.

No one except producer Jack Barton knows the answer - and even he's not sure.

"I shall be deciding which ending to use on the day the programme is screened," he said.

Daily Mirror, October 27, 1981:

Crossroads star Noele Gordon pleaded for her life yesterday. She wants a happy ending when she is written out of the TV soap opera next month.

So far the veteran star of the serial has filmed five endings - four tragic and one happy.

They include losing her life in a motel fire, taking an overdose of pills and a graveyard scene.

The one that will be finally used is ATV's best kept secret.

But Noele is hoping her TV bosses will use the happy one where she sails off into the sunset on the QE2.

She said: "During the QE2 scene the sun started to shine, the flag flapped at the right time and it all looked very pretty. That is the way I want to go."

Noele started rehearsals yesterday for a leading role in the £250,000 musical Gypsy which opens at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre in December.

But she is still bitter.

She said: "After twenty-six bloody hard years with ATV, for someone to say to me 'All good things must come to an end and we don't want you any more' - well, I didn't like that."

The Sun, 5/11/1981. The article, by Baz Bamigboye, read:

Crossroads mania swept the nation last night after the TV motel went up in flames with boss Meg Mortimer apparently inside.

Hundreds of weeping viewers jammed ITV switchboards demanding to know Meg's fate.

And some became so wrapped up in the drama that they phoned hospitals to ask about her injuries.

It was a nerve-wracking episode for the TV audience. First they saw Meg - played by Noele Gordon - apparently taking a drug overdose. Then came the fire.

From ATV, the company that makes the long-running series, the message to distraught viewers was: "Keep viewing."

Fans were promised that Meg's fate would be revealed in next Wednesday's show. An executive said: "That is the crunch episode, and people should watch it."

The Sun has already revealed that last night's episode would not be the end of Meg.

And we can now reveal that Sam Hurst, the painter in the series - played by Brian Badcoe - died in the motel blaze after rushing in and trying to rescue Meg.

Producer Jack Barton said: "In the run-up, fans have been led to believe that Sam was going to start the fire, but that is wrong."

In last night's episode, viewers saw Meg Mortimer walk into her room and put some pills on the table, along with a note to her daughter Jill (Jane Rossington).

At the last minute, as the motel staff were enjoying a bonfire-night party outside, Jill glanced around to see the motel in flames. She screamed: "Mum! Oh my God!"

The ending was the signal for viewers to seize their phones.

An ATV spokesman said: "There have been hundreds of calls at ITV stations around the country."

He added that the "whole nation had gone wild" about Meg - whose sacking from Crossroads caused an outcry.

An ATV switchboard operator said: "We've had scores of people crying down the phone, making no sense at all."

Crossroads addict Mrs Lynda Belcher, of Great Shefford, Berks, said: "I wish they hadn't left us in suspense. It's terrible that they are writing Meg out of the series."

The Sun, November 12, 1981.

The QE2 ending was used and Meg sailed away, unaware that the motel was in ashes.

Opposition leader Michael Foot is inspired by the blaze at the motel in this Franklin cartoon, November 5, 1981.

Daily Mirror, August 19, 1983.

A brief return to Crossroads for Noele Gordon...

Meg Mortimer toasts the bride and groom in a TV scene that Crossroads fans thought might never happen.

Meg, boss of the Crossroads Motel for 18 years, was written out of the soap opera two years ago.

Now, in a new episode, she is reunited with her TV daughter Jill who is honeymooning in Venice with husband Adam Chance.

Meg, played by actress Noele Gordon, is making two guest appearances in Crossroads. But she admits there are no plans for a permanent return.

In 1985, Phillip Bowman took over as Crossroads producer from Jack Barton and planned to bring Meg Mortimer back as what he called a "permanent occasional" character. Plans were well advanced when Noele Gordon, afflicted with cancer, died.

Christmas 1980...

Sir Billy Butlin died in 1980, and Butlin's introduced us to a new catchphrase: "Butlin it Once and You'll do it Again". On YouTube, I've found a clip of the Christmas 1980 episode of Crossroads, complete with commercial break.

At the motel, Meg was having a disco, and at the Brownlows' Arthur set the table cloth on fire (?!). The new Butlin's commercial, complete with the "Butlin it Once and You'll do it Again" ditty lights up the break, together with an advertisement for an indigestion remedy featuring a Space Invaders style turkey.

1980 was a different planet.

1982: Heather Chasen As Valerie Pollard...

1982 - a new arrival at the Crossroads Motel...

In the wake of Noele Gordon's departure from the
Crossroads serial, Jack Barton, Producer, made it plain that the show couldn't revolve around a single character in the future.

And so, at the motel, we had Barbara (Sue Lloyd) and David Hunter (Ronald Allen) running things with Jill Harvey (Jane Rossington) and Adam Chance (Tony Adams). Not a particularly cosy set-up as David and Adam did not get along, and David could not shake off his suspicions that Adam's interest in Jill was not entirely honourable.

The closest we came to a Meg-style linchpin in this new set-up was Barbara - but she had other fish to fry, like writing best selling novels, and refused to be tied totally to the motel.

Elsewhere, we had the Brownlows - lovable, motherly Kath (Pamela Vezey), grumpy Arthur (Peter Hill), frumpy Glenda (Lynette McMorrough) and her newish husband, Kevin Banks (David Moran) - the couple had married in 1981.

The not-so-cosy boarding house belonging to Mavis Hooper (Charmian Eyre) had been introduced in 1981- Mrs Overall, who was first seen in Acorn Antiques in 1985, was Mavis's "lookey likey".

With waitress Diane Hunter (Susan Hanson) cleaner and kitchen help Doris Luke (Kathy Staff) and the Crossroads Garage staff - including Sharon Metcalfe (Carolyn Jones), Benny Hawkins (Paul Henry) and Joe MacDonald (Carl Andrews), the motel marched on post-Meg.

And then came a stroke of genius on the part of the writers and production team.

Businessman J Henry Pollard (Michael Turner) had first appeared in the Crossroads saga in 1980, along with his daughter, Miranda (Claire Faulconbridge).

In April 1982, we finally got to meet Mrs Pollard. Mrs Valerie Pollard, J Henry's wife, who apparently loathed him dearly and had been forced to travel from her home in Bermuda to England when J Henry suddenly cut her funding.

Val, played by the very excellent Heather Chasen, enjoyed the good life - luxurious accommodation, travel-on-a-whim, wonderful food, lots of beach romeos...

And then, suddenly, there she was trapped at the Crossroads Motel, where she would stay, her ever-loving hubby informed her, and become a good and loving wife.

Otherwise, J Henry would divorce her and she could rest assured that, with his best lawyers on the case, she wouldn't be getting any wonderful divorce settlement. She would get nothing.

Valerie hit back - and hit back hard, seducing and bedding Adam Chance on his boat. Jill was devastated and Adam left the motel.

What a bitch was Valerie...

But she wasn't only a bitch. Languid and witty, she was also capable of good deeds...

And, of course, under the veneer of vehement dislike, she actually cared for J Henry very much indeed...

And he cared for her.

With daughter Miranda on-and-off the scene, the Pollards were a complicated family. J Henry was not keen on showing his feelings, Valerie could be devious and Miranda was often headstrong and immature.


But they livened up Crossroads no end! I hadn't been particularly impressed by the father/daughter J Henry/Miranda set-up we'd been treated to (on occasion, the characters were not permanent regulars) since 1980. But with Val on the scene from 1982 onwards, the Pollard "thing" really got some zing!

And, with her huge wardrobe of swish clothes, plus her tendency to toy with the peanuts and her "Pussyfoot Special" at the bar, Valerie was a very stylish person indeed.

Although the character only appeared (intermittently) from 1982-1985, the memory lingers...


From the Sun - £10 telly-view reader's letter, 29/5/1982:

Heather Chasen has brought a refreshing touch of good acting to "Crossroads".

Her haughty but not over-acted Valerie Pollard makes the show worth watching for a change.

Mrs DL, Norfolk.

Time warp back to 1982 and view Valerie's arrival at Crossroads below.

1984: Model Knits At Crossroads

It was the King's Oak fashion event of the decade when, in 1984, a well-known knitwear company used Crossroads Motel staff and management to model their latest ultra-fashionable designs for a new pattern book. Mr David Hunter (Ronald Allen) and his wife Barbara (Sue Lloyd), pictured above, last made the local news in 1980 when Mr Hunter was shot in the motel office by his deranged ex-wife, Rosemary.

Sid Hooper (Stan Stennett) and Joe "Mac" MacDonald (Carl Andrews) work together in the motel garage. Mac likes Sid's sleeveless cardigan but isn't too sure about the pink shirt. Sid can't wait to get down to The Running Stag to show off his exciting new look.

Here's catering manager Paul Ross (Sandor Elès), known to the staff as "Mr Paul", who arrived at the motel in 1982 to act as a spy for one of the directors. A real "one for the ladies", Mr Paul could be described as an "un-spot changing leopard".

"Oh darling, that pullover is so you!" trills Mrs Jill Chance (Jane Rossington), one of the motel's directors.

"The woman gets daffier by the day," mutters her husband Adam (Tony Adams). "Fortunately, this should be great publicity for the motel and the knitwear people are paying us on top of that. Not a bad day's work..."

Glenda Banks (Lynette McMorrough), motel waitress, was thrilled with the rustic jumper: "I think this really suits me - can't wait for Kevin to see it!"

"Ooh, it does suit you, Glen, it's ever so nice - just the thing for the winter evenings." - Kath Brownlow (Pamela Vezey), motel housekeeper, and Glenda's mother.

"Quite right, Kath, it's turning right parky out - I said to Benny, 'Time you 'ad a new 'at, my lad'..." - Doris Luke (Kathy Staff), motel cleaner.


Bringing back Motel memories - the YouTube 1983 cliffhangers selection...

Benny Does The Birdie Dance...

1980 provided some real treats for all the family...

When Benny wasn't working at the Crossroads Motel Garage, nipping into the Tiswas studio next door, fetching a spanner and vanishing for months on end, or appearing in panto, he was making records like this.

It was all too, too tragic.

Paul Henry recalled a story about the 1982 Falklands War in a 1990s Crossroads anniversary TV programme. UK armed forces had apparently nicknamed the Falkland Islanders "Bennys". When Top Brass got to hear about it, an order went out that this offensive practise must stop immediately.

So, the soldiers re-nicknamed the Islanders "Stills".

When one of the soldiers was asked why, he replied, "Because they're still Bennys!"

Charming, what?!




Christmas 1981 - and Benny joins in that year's big dance craze at the Staff Christmas Party. Yep, It's The Birdie Dance...



Poor old Benny - after all his past traumas, the 1980s were turning weird on him. First there were the bizarre glimmerings of ESP, then a more down-to-earth encounter with a King's Oak hooligan, and finally the death of his elderly landlady, Mrs Price in 1983. And Benny KNEW something was going to happen before she died. Now, with Benny alone in the old guest house, the strange noises begin - and then the lights go out...

According to legend, Benny, who was last spotted on-screen just before Christmas 1987 and then never seen or mentioned again (the show ended in April 1988), finally disappeared up a Christmas tree.