Saturday, 25 October 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 22: Daniel Freeman

Yuppie Daniel endured much at the motel - Growler and Mrs Tardebigge included.

Daniel, played with great skill by Philip Goodhew, was basically a selfish little swine.

He was the son of the late Herbie Freeman and the step-son of Nicola. He had a twin sister, Joanna.

And he had obviously been spoilt rotten.

What mattered to Daniel was Daniel.

He first turned up at the motel after the sell-out to MIH in 1985, and caused Nicola much angst - by calling her "Queen of the Bunny Girls" one night in the Rally Bar whilst in a drunken rage - and by telling Jill Chance that Nicola and Adam were having an affair.

What a ratbag!

But Daniel had been denied access to his heritage - a very large sum of money indeed - as one of the dying acts of his father, who loved the boy dearly, but knew him well. Daniel was not very mature for his age. And he wouldn't get the dosh until he was thirty. 

And because of this, Daniel was not a happy bunny.

He fell for Tracey Hobbs whilst he was working at the new motel leisure centre, and was shattered to discover that she was Nicola's long lost daughter.

He told Nicola exactly what he thought of her. And, judging by what he said, it seemed that a fair amount of jealousy went into the mix when it came to his feelings towards his stepmother. When Nicola had originally entered Herbie Freeman's life, Daniel had obviously sensed competition for his father's affection - and resented it.

And, even after his father's death, he still resented her. He told Nicola that Herbie had always loved his own mother much more than he had loved her.

Not that Daniel had it all his own way.

For a start, working at the leisure centre and clashing with Adam Chance were not exactly what Daniel was used to. And then there was sharing a staff chalet - first with barman Barry Hart and then with chumpish Charlie Mycroft.

Charlie was particularly difficult. Daniel thought he should have carte blanche to "entertain" ladies in the chalet whenever he chose - all night if he wanted. Surely, Charlie should make himself absent on such occasions? But with Charlie's toy dog, "Growler", guarding Charlie's pillow and Charlie being a clean living "early to bed early to rise" type of chappie, Daniel grew increasingly fed up. At one point, he plotted with his girlfriend, Fiona, and deposited "Growler" in the leisure centre swimming pool. Of course, Charlie was horrified, but fortunately "Growler" recovered.

Daniel later left Crossroads, but returned in April 1988 - a yuppie in the making. "Even my car phone's got its own Filofax!" he chortled.

And he definitely had the last smirk over Adam when it turned out he was representing the Three Crowns company, Jill and Adam's competition for buying Crossroads.

A joy to dislike - that was Daniel. But his story wasn't without some depth and he didn't have all the luck with the ladies. Mrs Tardebigge, the cleaner, who first appeared at the motel in late 1986, thought Daniel adorable and wasted no opportunity to demonstrate that fact.

Poor lad...

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 23: Carlos Rafael


Carlos often landed in the soup in the 1960s...

Carlos Rafael, played by Anthony Morton, arrived at the Crossroads Motel as chef soon after the series began, prompting Vi  Blundell, acting cook, to walk out in a huff. Meg Richardson had ordered an English chef from an agency, but there was some mix-up, and in walked fiery, Spanish Carlos.

He was the very first of the temperamental Crossroads chefs, and started a trend.

Carlos was basically a kind hearted man, but his temper could be explosive - and he could be very impulsive and not terribly clever at times. But, as the saying goes, every pan has its lid, and Carlos was soon followed to England by his lovely, gentle wife, Josefina, who also worked in the kitchen, and as a waitress. She served as a calming influence - to some extent, anyway!

Carlos was fiery, no doubt about that, and threw a terrific strop at the drop of a hat (remember Sandy Richardson embedding a biro in the wedding cake Carlos was preparing?!), but his boss, Meg Richardson, could quell him at times, and on one memorable occasion chased him from reception into the kitchen!

Carlos was noted for his comic story-lines, being chased by a bull was one of them, and so it came as a shock when he returned to Spain - I can't remember why but seem to recall him becoming a bit spiritual after a story about a haunted tree in the motel grounds. He was killed trying to rescue some children from a fire whilst in his homeland.

His was a sad loss - what a character! 

The death of Carlos also marked the beginning of a regrettable trend which peppered Crossroads' history in the 1970s and 1980s: the writing out of popular long-term characters when the actors who played them did not actually want to leave. Think Zeph Gladstone. Think John Bentley. Think Edward Clayton. Think Sue Lloyd. Think Ronald Allen. 

Noele Gordon in her autobiography, My Life At Crossroads, stated that staff in a motel were always changing and viewers would get bored always seeing the same faces on-screen.

She did not adopt this view in 1981, however, when Meg Mortimer sailed away on the QE2...


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Our Top 50 Crossroads Characters - 24: Sid Hooper


I didn't much care for Sid Hooper when he first arrived in 1982. But he soon became an all-time favourite character.

Good old Sid Hooper, played by Stan Stennett, started off in 1982 as possibly bad old Sid Hooper. He arrived in King's Oak, landed on estranged wife Mavis's doorstep, and also landed himself a job at the Crossroads Garage as foreman. Sid was a funny mechanic - obviously a bit on the vain side, he used barrier cream to protect his hands. It quickly became evident that he was not a terribly nice geezer - he had a weakness for gambling on the gee gees, and for other women - including Rose Scott, Iris's tarty mother.

Rose, for once, put her daughter's interests first and did not succumb, and Sid was soon dispatched. His arrival as garage foreman had enraged Joe MacDonald, who had been promised the job. It was all a misunderstanding, but Joe threatened to bring in the Race Relations Board. It took some fancy footwork from new garage owner Reg Lamont to remove Sid and give Joe his rightful job. He bought off some of Sid's gambling debts on condition that Sid left the garage. Sid did - and skipped the district for a while.

He returned when Mavis went into hospital, got a job as a mechanic back at the garage, stopped using barrier cream on his hands, and promptly led Benny Hawkins into bad ways, introducing him to the evils of gambling. Diane, of course, quickly moved in to ensure that Sid paid Benny back the money he had lost on the nags.

But Sid had meant no harm - and was becoming likeable. He had a genuine soft spot for Benny, and we viewers really began to warm to Sid.

Sid was basically a bit of a dreamer, but his dreams of romance, sun-kissed beaches and untold wealth never came to anything. Sad, really. Taking up jogging in 1984 did not give him a more youthful and appealing physique. And when he sold used cars at the garage in 1985, the police soon came calling.

In 1984, Sid faced the prospect of losing Mavis to that bounder Cecil Beecher-Blount. Mavis was sick of Sid and, on reaching sixty, decided to divorce him. Then Cecil sunk his hooks into her. Sid helped to save Mave from a fate worse than himself and Mavis stayed with him, telling him on her deathbed in 1985 that she had always loved him.

Sid was devastated by her loss. 

In 1986, the dreadful Ivy Meacher sunk her hooks into Sid. They married and left King's Oak.

Poor Sid!

It was a sad end for yet another of those Crossroads characters who had the tang of utter believability, and who would have made a good boozing company down at the Running Stag.

But definitely not for providing hot tips on the gee gees...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 25: Beverley Grice

Moaning Beverley Grice featured in the Crossroads saga from 1987-1988. She hated King's Oak, hated her new school, hated her school uniform, but liked the winter - "When everything's dead!"

In its final stages, Crossroads, or Crossroads, Kings Oak, as it became, altered a great deal.

Loved it?

Hated it?

Well, I liked it, and one of my favourite ingredients in the new village brew was the addition of younger characters like Jason and Beverley Grice. Life at kids/teens level was suddenly seen in the saga, and I think it worked extremely well.

Beverley Grice, played by Karen Murden, was a typical working class teenage girl of the late 1980s. She was stroppy. She had terrible hair. She wished she had a more glamorous name. She hated school. She liked spending ages on the phone to her friends.

The Grice family were not terribly happy anyway. Mother Margaret was hardworking and strove for a better future for the family with the village shop. Lazy Dad Ray pulled Margaret back and swilled beer and scoffed Pot Noodles and lounged on the settee as much as possible. Bev's brother, Jason, was heavily into annoying his sister, listening to his personal stereo and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Beverley hated moving to King's Oak and worried about fitting in at her new school. When she met slightly posher Sara Briggs, she lied to her, telling her that her name was "Chloe". 

Beverley was furious when Jason said that Chloe was the name of a smelly old dog belonging to a previous neighbour of the family and denied it, saying the dog was called called "Woofer".

No, said Jason, their grandmother had called the dog "Woofer", but its real name was Chloe.

After this was verified by Margaret, Beverley stormed out of the room.

Oh, those days of teenage tantrums!

Romantically, Beverley was very immature. She originally dated grocer's son Ranjit, then posh Jamie Maddingham, but dropped Jamie like a hot brick when Ranjit offered her a nice engagement ring.

It's unlikely the engagement would have lasted had the serial continued. And pity poor Ranjit if it had!

The character of Beverley was brilliantly acted and observed. She was, for me, one of the best characters of the William Smethurst innovations, which included other personal favourites such as Mrs Tardebigge, Tommy "Bomber" Lancaster and Charlie Mycroft.



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 26: Marian Owen

 Marian Owen, kindness personified in King's Oak, from 1978 to 1985.

Marian Owen, played by Margaret John intermittently from 1978 to 1985, would be much higher on our Top 50 Favourites list had she been around a bit more and had some story-lines of her own. As it is, she was a lovely character, a great favourite of ours, and her contributions to the well-being of other King's Oak locals was heartwarming.

Marian first appeared in 1978 as the receptionist at the group practice in King's Oak. A childless widow, Marian was a wonderful friend to have around in a crisis.

In 1980, the character developed a family - nephew Kevin, sister Sally and brother-in-law Oliver Banks. She also had two nieces.

A big year for Marian was 1983, as her nephew's wife, Glenda, had a test tube baby, and sister Sally's marriage went on the rocks. Marian was there, advising, comforting, and, on one occasion, giving Kevin a piece of her mind when he was rude to his mother-in-law, Kath Brownlow.

But still Marian had no stories of her own. We knew she was a member of the local amateur dramatics society, but that was never explored. The character simply seemed content to be around for others, radiating warmth and concern.

She was able to empathise and sympathise with Kath Brownlow when Kath was widowed  in 1982. The death of Marian's own husband before the character entered the series had obviously affected her deeply. But, well balanced as she was, Marian had grieved and then got on with her life. There was never a hint of depression or self pity.

Margaret John was fabulous in the role, and probably the reason why Marian remains in our memories to this day.

In 1985, Kath met Stephen Fellowes, a former housemaster at son-in-law's Kevin old school. Marian was around to advise and listen as the relationship developed.

Her final appearance was at Stephen and Kath's wedding.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Our Top 50 Crossroads Characters - 27: Sharon Metcalfe



Sharon Metcalfe, 1983. She began as a secretary at the motel garage in the late 1970s, but went on to run the place in the early 1980s.

Sharon Metcalfe, played by Carolyn Jones, became the secretary at the motel garage in 1977 and quickly proved that nice girls DO.

A modern girl (as Sheena Easton was to sing in 1980), that was Sharon.

She was also a competent businesswoman and, as her role in Crossroads developed in the early-1980s, took on the running of the garage. How's that for Women's Lib?

Sharon was a multifaceted character. It says much for Carolyn Jones's performances that Sharon emerged as believable and as somebody we viewers could care about.

Let's take a look at Miss Metcalfe...

Firstly, Sharon was kind hearted. She was a great friend to have, and looked out for her friends. In 1982, when Sid Hooper used rent money from Mavis's boarding house to pay-off gambling debts he'd caused Benny to accrue and had had to pay back at Diane's insistence, Sharon came to Sid's rescue with an advance on his wages. In 1983, Sharon told Mr Paul where to get off in no uncertain terms when he was giving Diane grief.

We never knew anything about Sharon's background. No old friends or relatives came to visit her, and she never mentioned any. A rolling stone gathers no moss...

Sharon liked the opposite sex. She was looking for love, but her one night stand with the dreadful Jim Baines was clearly not part of that. She probably just felt sorry for him. Her romances were not particularly chaste by Crossroads standards on-screen. She loved and lost Victor Lee, manager of the garage, and, in 1980, took up with his bad boy brother, Eddie. I remember a scene with Eddie and Sharon in Di's flat that seemed rather sexy (again by Crossroads standards) and which my old Aunt Lou denounced as "disgusting!" She'd never said that about ex-tart Vera Downend.

Having taken a break from the garage, Sharon returned in late 1981 and promptly put Adam Chance in his place by smacking his face.

In 1982, Sharon rejected the advances of nice villain Reg Lamont. He installed her as manageress of the garage, which he bought, and Sharon set out to prove that she could do the job and make it successful for him.

And she did.

Meanwhile, Sharon had started dating Reg's son, police officer Ashley Lamont, but she dropped him in disgust when he snared his father and brought him to account for his villainy.

Sharon reckoned that Reg had never actually hurt anybody, and was horrified by Ashley's cold and heartless attitude.

In 1983, Sharon fell for Kevin Banks's father, Oliver. He was rather older than her and made all the running, but Sharon professed to love him.

This caused ructions - with Kath Brownlow and, briefly, her daughter Glenda, telling Sharon exactly what they thought of her. "Look at all the men she's had!" said Glenda, who later repented.

Sharon's relationship with Oliver broke up, causing her much hurt.

And then the character changed direction and gave us another surprise. In 1983, she became friendly with single parent Denise Paget and her Downs Syndrome daughter, Nina, and then launched herself into a brand new career in care work.

Perhaps, at last, rolling stone Sharon had found her niche in life... 

Sadly, the character's work was now away from the motel and its garage and, as she was no longer flat sharing with Diane Hunter, we no longer saw her in the show.

She was missed and is fondly remembered.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Our Top 50 Crossroads Characters - 28: Joe MacDonald

A signed photo card from the early 1980s.

Joe, played by Carl Andrews, was a mechanic at the Crossroads Garage from 1978 to 1982, then foreman/manager from 1982 to its closure midway through the decade.

Joe was known to his friends and colleagues as "Mac".

A nice, easygoing bloke, and a friend to many, Joe's first big mistake was marrying Trina Jameson. Trina was beautiful, sure. But she was also given to being restless, discontented and slightly neurotic. Of course, Joe knew none of this at the time of the wedding! In 1982, Joe, Trina and their baby son, Ben, moved into the house next door to the Brownlow family.

And ignorant old Arthur, feeling his lifestyle was under threat, didn't like that at all.

Joe stated on one occasion that the difference between himself and Trina was that she saw herself as black, identifying with a perceived black community, and he didn't see himself that way. Joe was an English guy from Moseley who just happened to be black.

Joe wasn't stupid - he was aware that racism existed (indeed, when Adam Chance gave the job of garage foreman to Sid Hooper in 1982, despite the fact it had been promised to Joe, he was all set to contact the Race Relations Board), but Joe saw himself as a part of the wider community, not some insular section of it, dictated by colour.

Arthur, however, saw himself as white and English (Joe, he "reasoned" couldn't be English and black) and the MacDonalds were not part of his vision for a "cosy", all-white neighbourhood.

Joe decided to join Arthur's bowls club, and white middle aged hackles rose all round. Arthur was horrified, particularly as Joe turned out to be pretty good at the game.

Trina, meanwhile, was distressed by the failure of her plan to start a playgroup at the house, and an anonymous letter, and was also making trouble between Kevin and Glenda. The reappearance of an ex-lover of hers further complicated matters, and the situation culminated with Arthur joining a racist residents' group and knuckle dragging yobbos causing a fire at the MacDonalds' house.

Trina left, taking Ben with her. Joe was devastated, and Arthur faced the truth regarding the horrendous folly of his ways.

This story-line was interestingly written, and Joe was left to reflect that the racist element in the neighbourhood was not the only reason for Trina's departure.

He had to sell the house, lodging for a while with the Brownlows, then at Mavis Hooper's boarding house.

He never really recovered from the break-up of his marriage, and although he was attracted to Paul Ross's daughter, Lisa Walters, he never really pursued that.

In 1985, Joe found himself in trouble with Alice Daintry, wife of the awful Veron Daintry, who had a big contract with the garage. Alice accused Joe of coming on to her (the opposite was true) to cover her tracks when her not-so-loving husband became suspicious, and Joe faced a tough time when Vernon insisted Adam Chance sack him.

But Sid Hooper and Adam came to Joe's aid, as did motel cleaner Lorraine Baker, telling Joe to cry "racism!" if Adam attempted to lay him off, and things turned out OK in the end, although the garage soon sailed into financial difficulties and headed down the tubes.

Joe was yet another of those male Crossroads characters you could have enjoyed a pint with in the local boozer.

I missed him when the Crossroads Garage closed and he left the show. 

And, yes, the swanky new leisure centre was more interesting than the old garage - and topical (they were all the rage in the mid-1980s as the yuppie "fit for business, fit for life" ethos took hold) - but I couldn't help wondering how "Mac" was getting on...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Return To Crossroads Site...


Ronald Allen ( who played David Hunter) and Sue Lloyd (Barbara Hunter at the motel) on a 1984 magazine cover, celebrating twenty years of Crossroads. When Sue Lloyd's character (then Barbara Brady) first appeared in 1979, she was a stranger in King's Oak, working as a housekeeper, and worried her employer - who thought she might be out to poison him! She wasn't, of course, and in 1980 married David. The pair were a popular feature of the series, until they were were written out in 1985.

Jeannine Hochet's Crossroads fan site is a truly wonderful resource, featuring various newspaper and magazine articles, and, incredibly, a diary she kept of events at the Crossroads Motel from 1974 to 1985.

Jeannine's idol was Ronald Allen who played David Hunter, business partner of Meg Richardson/Mortimer, and she faithfully jotted down the story lines of each episode until Mr H left King's Oak in 1985.

As many of the episodes have now been wiped - and most are not available commercially - the diary makes a wonderful read, taking you back to the '70s days of Sid Vicious, Vera Downend, John Travolta and the Winter of Discontent, and the '80s days of Adam and the Ants, Valerie Pollard, the Thompson Twins and the arrival of the yuppie.

Do take a look - it's a dream come true for all Crossroads fans:

http://jhochet.tripod.com/index.html 






Saturday, 9 August 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 29: J Henry Pollard



J Henry tells Val his plans for her in 1982. This was Valerie's debut scene in the series. J Henry had first appeared in 1980.

I was never sure what the "J" stood for in J Henry Pollard, the millionaire businessman who first breezed into the Crossroads Motel in 1980 and was a frequent visitor (and a shareholder from 1982 onwards) until midway through the decade.

J Henry, played by Michael Turner, had not got where he was by being soft hearted. When David Hunter offered to sell him the motel in 1981, J Henry made it plain he expected Mr H to honour the offer. When it fell through, J Henry threatened to take legal action, though soon confessed to Meg Mortimer that he had no intention of carrying out his threat.

There was a human side to the man.

In 1982, he turned up again - stating that the motel must make good on its offer to let him have any new shares in the company. This caused complications as a Mr Malik was already in-line for the new share issue, but J Henry soon sorted that.

Just why was he so interested in a little motel in the Midlands, an international businessman like him?

It soon became plain that one of the reasons J Henry wanted a stake in the place was so he could imprison his faithless wife Valerie there.

Valerie, of course, forced away from her exotic beaches and "pneumatic" (J Henry's word) young men, was not going to take that lying down, and wreaked havoc.

J Henry was keen to install Paul Ross at the motel, ostensibly as restaurant manager, but really as his spy.

And that little move wreaked havoc too, finally rather blowing up in J Henry's face.

J's "dickie heart" helped bring about a reconciliation between himself and Valerie, and they left together, returning late in the year.

After a family set-to about an anonymous letter Valerie sent to Miranda in 1983, Valerie sadly told her daughter that she thought J Henry was the only member of their little family who knew how to love - and she didn't mean sleeping around. 

Although J Henry and Valerie clearly had deep feelings for each other, their marriage gusted back onto the rocks in 1984 and divorce was in the offing.

A surprising character was J Henry - the hard-nosed millionaire businessman could occasionally be very kind - even sensitive. He championed Iris Scott against the rest of the motel board of directors in 1984 when she was refused a job, and developed a paternalistic affection for the girl. His anger at the board was, no doubt, part fuelled by an old score - the fact that Adam Chance had bedded Valerie in 1982.

But mixed in with J Henry's desire for revenge were his genuine feelings of concern for Iris.

He also contributed to some humorous scenarios - several conversations with Valerie, encounters with David Hunter, and the Councillor Berry complications were particularly appreciated by our good selves. 

A memorable and interesting character, J Henry and his family kept the motel buzzing with gossip and intrigue in the early to mid-1980s.

Fondly remembered.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 30: Jason Grice



In 1987, Crossroads introduced a young character called Jason Grice, played by Simon Lowe. Jason was about eleven or twelve and in the past such child characters had rarely featured in story-lines, or, if they had, were usually played by older actors or stilted "extra" types, just wheeled on for a few minutes of airtime.

But in 1987 we got to view life in King's Oak from a kid's point of view. Jason was a cynical little geezer - not surprising with a boozing layabout father like Ray and a moaning sister like Beverley (AKA Chloe). Life seldom seemed to surprise him. His family had moved to King's Oak to run the village stores - an enterprising ambition of Jason's mother, Margaret. Jason didn't really help much. His main contribution to the day-to-day running (or should that be ruining?) of the shop was nicking crisps.

But can you imagine the temptation of having a shop full of such temptations on tap?

Jason was happiest plugged into his Walkman or playing Dungeons And Dragons, it seemed. He was bored by Daniel Freeman and Fiona Harding canoodling outside the parish church, scornful of his father's "saucy" videos, and loved annoying his older sister. The sparring between Jason and Beverley was brilliant. So true of many siblings. Jason hated his new school - they didn't even do computer studies until the fourth year!

In early 1988, Jason fell into the river whilst fishing, giving his family a terrible fright. What else he got up to was sadly never known as the show ended in the April of that year.

Jason was an excellent representation of working class 1980s youth, and Simon Lowe's portrayal was inspired.

Such a shame the show didn't continue. The Growing Pains of Jason Grice would have been an excellent ingredient for the continuing saga of King's Oak.

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 31: Mrs Vi Blundell



We're fond of old grouse soap characters. Where would our soaps be without their Martha Longhursts, Percy Sugdens and Mrs Blundells? 

Mrs Blundell? you ask. Ah, yes, Mrs Vi Blundell we reply.

Mrs B was played by Peggy Aitchison and appeared in the very first episode of Crossroads back in November 1964. She was cook at that point, and marched out in a huff when Meg Richardson employed Carlos Rafael in her place.

This was not the last time the motel saw Mrs Blundell though - she was in and out of the place, helping out in the kitchen, until the early 1970s. She formed an unholy alliance with Amy Turtle against the oh-so-particular Mr Booth at one point, and generally soaked up and dispensed gossip (and also dispensed grumbles) with aplomb. 

She disappeared from the series as the '70's got underway, but Peggy Aitchison returned briefly in the mid-1980s as Lily Boone, a friend of Nicola Freeman.

What a shame Mrs Blundell had not been resurrected, I thought at the time.

Wonderful character - and such a great pal for Amy!


Sunday, 3 August 2014

1987: Mrs Tardebigge - Lucky For Some...


Elsie Kelly auditioned for the role of new character Mrs Tardebigge in late 1986. The character was created by incoming producer William Smethurst. Ms Kelly is nowadays better known for the Benidorm TV series.

Whilst poor Nicola Freeman faced harsh realities - Adam Chance had been plotting, showing a report on the motel by a MIH accountant that was highly critical of her to Tommy "Bomber" Lancaster, and Sam Benson, her married lover, had suddenly announced he wanted to leave his wife and legitimise their relationship, Mrs Tardebigge discovered her 'oover had sucked up a fifty pence piece!

Finders, keepers!

Lucky for some, eh, lover? as Mrs T might have said...

Charlie Mycroft And Growler Meet Debbie Lancaster



Further to Tim's recent e-mail regarding Growler, Charlie Mycroft's mascot toy Scottie dog (well, we think that's what he was!), the guardian of his pillow, we've found this 1987 screen cap of the aforementioned loveable canine.

So, there you are, Tim - Growler - just for you!

Of course, Debbie Lancaster, AKA "Debbie Dreadful", was a bit taken aback by Growler. She met him on her very first visit to the motel, and much preferred Daniel Freeman.

There's no accounting for taste.


Monday, 28 July 2014

What Did Charlie's "Growler" Look Like?



So, here we are at the reception desk with a hugely shoulder-padded Jill and a "Growler" loving Charlie, and it's time to catch up on a few e-mails...

Tim writes:

I loved your post on Charlie Mycroft. I was brought up on the Archers in the 1980's and was a great fan of Graham Seed. My mother never watched Crossroads and as it was pre-web days, I never knew Mr Seed featured in that programme. What did his toy dog "Growler" look like?

What a question, Tim! I have some episodes featuring said "Growler" somewhere. He was a small, black toy dog if I remember rightly. I'll try and get some screen caps up at some point - but there might be some footage on YouTube - do check. I was very happy to include Mr Mycroft in my Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters listings. If only the show had continued!

Monica writes:

I'm puzzled about Chris Hunter. David Hunter wasn't his biological father, was he?

No, Tina, he wasn't. This all came out in the early '80s when Iris Scott took some cassettes from Lloyd Munroe's cottage, thinking they contained music, then discovered they were tapes of Rosemary Hunter's therapy sessions with Lloyd. In 1984, Iris used the information to try and blackmail Jill and Adam Chance into keeping her boyfriend Gary in employment at Chimneys. This led Jill to say: "You really are a bitch, Iris!" Although aware of the facts regarding Chris's true parentage, David always regarded him as his son anyway.


Chris Hunter, played by Stephen Hoye.

And finally, from "Tish" (?!).

Loving the blog. Any chance of a mention of a certain Mrs Hope in your Top 50?

Ah, keep viewing, Tish!




Sunday, 27 July 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 32: Josefina Rafael



Josefina, played by Gillian Betts, was the wife of Crossroads chef, Carlos, in the 1960s. Both were Spanish. Josefina arrived in England after Carlos began work at the motel. Whilst Carlos was good hearted but fiery, Josefina was a warm and calming influence - and an optimist. She was a good friend to many of her fellow motel staff members, and a nice presence around the motel kitchen and dining room.

Carlos led her into several memorable scrapes.

But she loved him anyway.

Josefina's nephew, Peppi Costa, briefly added his culinary expertise to the motel kitchen staff, but, on returning to Spain for a holiday, was called up by the army.

1969 was a terrible year for Josefina: Carlos died in a fire after returning to Spain and she lost the baby she was carrying (I'm not quite sure of the order the tragic events took).

Poor Josefina! I can't remember her intended destination, but within a year or so she had left King's Oak - hopefully to rebuild her life and eventually find new happiness. 


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cast Axings In The 1960s And 1970s...

Much has been written about the axing of cast members and popular characters from Crossroads in the 1980s.

It's not surprising.

But what does surprise me is the fact that so little is written about the axings of cast members and popular characters in the 1960s and 1970s.

Of course, there were not nearly so many, but still it is odd that Crossroads was chopping popular characters well before the 1980s began.

Sometimes there seemed to be reasons. Sometimes not.

Noele Gordon took the view that in a real motel staff and guests were always changing, and I suppose she was right, but with some of the characters it didn't quite wash. One, for instance, was the motel's chef, happy in a sought-after senior position. Another ran the motel's hairdressing salon.

And anyway Crossroads was not a real motel. I have heard of no other soap with the tendency to write out the viewers' favourite characters in this way.

The first popular character to be axed was Anthony Morton, who played the motel's original temperamental chef Carlos Rafael in the 1960s.

Carlos was killed off, and Anthony Morton sent Crossroads producer Reg Watson a mourning card, with "Wish you were here" written on it.

Other less high profile Crossroads folk got the chop before and after Carlos, but the next biggie to go was Amy Turtle, motel cleaner, kitchen hand and gossip, played by Ann George.

I have to say that Amy, on-screen from 1965 to early 1976, was more popular with my mother and aunts, and many other women in my neighbourhood, than Meg Richardson!

Her axing came after reported difficulties between herself and leading lady Noele Gordon.

Ann was invited back to make a few guest appearances as Amy in 1987.

In 1977, "tart with a heart" Vera Downend, played by Zeph Gladstone, was chopped.

Introduced by the (then) producer Reg Watson in the early 1970s, Vera was a charming character and a great favourite of mine. Her love-life was a disaster, but she was always around to provide sympathy and a listening ear to those in trouble. At the time, her leaving was a puzzle - did she decide to go, or was she dropped? In her 1988 book, Soap Box, TV journalist Hilary Kingsley revealed that Zeph had been dropped.

In 1975, Meg married her long-term suitor Hugh Mortimer (John Bentley). After a short period of married bliss, the character was dispatched to Australia on a "big business deal" and then, in 1978, killed off - dying of a heart attack whilst in the custody of international terrorists.

Hugh was very popular with viewers, and his wedding to Meg had been a tremendous spectacle, greatly enjoyed.

As if his departure wasn't enough, we suddenly learned that Hugh was not such a great businessman. He was in serious debt at the time of his death. Meg had to sell off motel shares, thus ceasing to be a majority shareholder, to pay off those debts.

Edward Clayton as Stan Harvey was part of the family at the Motel - he'd married Meg's daughter, Jill, and was one of the show's dependable and likeable characters - part of its stability. He was dispatched around the same time as Hugh Mortimer.

And like Hugh, the character was presented in rather an unsympathetic light upon his departure.

It was all a great shame.

And I still find it a puzzle.

As for me personally, I particularly missed Zeph Gladstone as Vera Downend.

Vera had become like an old pal through many evenings of me munching my dinner, whilst watching her endure the ups and downs of life on her boat and at the motel salon.

So, when next you are reading about the Crossroads cast axings of the 1980s, spare a little thought for those who were given the chop years before.

The axings I've outlined here did absolutely nothing for the show, and were as puzzling and downright distressing as any made later.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 2010 - UPDATED JULY 2014

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Was Crossroads Renamed "Crossroads Motel" In 1985?

Doris: "Well, I know it's called Crossroads, but I'd no idea it's a motel!"

Sandie writes:

I keep reading some slightly dubious stuff about Crossroads being renamed "Crossroads Motel" in the mid-1980s. I don't recall this. Was it?

It's a little confusing, but I don't think so, Sandie, not officially, not at the time.

In the show's new mid-1980s opening credits, the words "Crossroads Motel" were displayed across some fashionable vertical boardroom blinds. I think this was just for effect - a fancy new logo for the motel - but you can see how the confusion has arisen in more recent years, especially as many of the show's keenest modern day fans were small children back in the 1980s - or not even born - and the show's opening credits did end with the words Crossroads Motel!

Episodes from the 1970s and early 1980s would sometimes begin with a view of the motel sign - but we viewers never thought that episode was called Crossroads Motel Bar Restaurant Swimming Pool Open To Non Residents.

I don't recollect the show's producers announcing a name change (or rather extension) in 1985, and we viewers certainly did not from then on refer to the show as "Crossroads Motel". The emphasis was on the word Crossroads.

The 1985 opening titles were the first set of proper opening titles the show had ever had, so perhaps the designers decided to make a real splash. The 1980s had been greeted with a small change to the closing credits - the yellow on black lettering was changed to white on orange, apparently in an attempt to "brighten up" the show. The 1985 closing boardroom blinds were actually quite a sophisticated effect at the time.

The show did later formally extend its name, becoming Crossroads, King's Oak in 1987, however, this fact was formally announced by the producer - and clearly incorporated into the opening titles.

Whilst the first half of the 1980s had been as common as muck, the yuppie era was well and truly  getting into its stride in 1985. It's doubtful whether Mrs Tardebigge, who became the motel cleaner in late 1986, ever gave the blinds more than a flick of her feather duster.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 33: Charlie Mycroft


1987: Charlie faces the joyful prospect of becoming Assistant General Manager at Crossroads - there's only one drawback: first he must go on the Red Ox training scheme...

Charlie Mycroft, played by Graham Seed, arrived at the Crossroads Motel in late 1986. Apparently one of Major International Hotels' star staff members, when the news broke that the motel was being sold to Tommy "Bomber" Lancaster, Charlie expected another placement to quickly arrive. But it didn't. "Bomber" liked Charlie and thought the ex-public schoolboy would add a touch of class to his establishment, so Charlie ended up staying on.

He was something of a buffoon, and the despair of his staff chalet mate - that up and coming yuppie-type Daniel Freeman. When Growler, Charlie's childhood companion toy dog, which guarded his pillow constantly, disappeared and was found in the swimming pool at the motel's new leisure centre, Charlie suspected Daniel and his girlfriend, Fiona, of doing the dastardly dunking. And he was right.

Daniel was not an easy chalet mate to have, and expected Charlie to absent himself whenever he wanted to entertain a lady there.

Despite his naivety and not-exactly-high intelligence levels, Charlie was a kind hearted soul and could be very charming, winning many friends amongst the motel staff. He and Benny Hawkins enjoyed reading their comics together in the staff room, and Charlie did his very best to find Benny's dog, Moses, when he went missing in 1987. He was an "absolute whizz" at organising activities for residents.

When last seen in 1988, romance for Charlie was blossoming with Crossroads secretary Anne-Marie Wade.

Charlie bore similarities to the character of Nigel Pargetter, who had first appeared in BBC Radio 4's The Archers serial in 1983. This was hardly surprising as Crossroads producer William Smethurst had created both characters and they were played by the same actor. Charlie's great kindness, trusting nature and not-exactly-high IQ make him an absolute must for a place in our Top 50 listing.

Charlie could quite easily have been a silly, unbelievable character, but Graham Seed played him with such integrity that I quickly found myself entering Charlie's world and liking him tremendously. Charlie was such a "people person" - so concerned for all those around him. He was even deeply moved when daft teenager Beverley Grice got engaged to her boyfriend Ranjit - although she only did it for the glamour of the situation, which included the thrill of wearing the ring!

I would have counted myself blessed to have had Charlie as a pal.

The spirit of true friendship was strong in late 1980s Crossroads. What a shame 21st Century soaps cannot make the same boast.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Characters - 34: Carole Sands


Carole has a mug of tea and misses Kevin...

Think of groundbreaking soap females donning greasy overalls and becoming garage mechanics and the first character who comes to mind might be Charlene Mitchell/Robinson, played by Kylie Minogue, in the Australian Neighbours serial during the mid-to-late 1980s. But, in the early 1980s, Crossroads got there first with a young woman called Carole Sands, played by Jo-Anne Good.

Carole made her Crossroads debut in late 1981. She became housekeeper to David and Barbara Hunter. Carole was a poor, working class girl - looking after her widowed father and siblings. She was a bit of a political activist, again something of a first for Crossroads, and activated Barbara's social conscience, and, to some degree, David's.

Carole fell in love with married Kevin Banks. It was a very pure and innocent relationship, no sex involved, but there was no doubt her feelings ran deep - and he reciprocated. Arthur and Kath Brownlow became concerned as Kevin was influenced by Carole's political fervour, and they were sceptical about her view that the government was allowing unemployment to rise to bring inflation down. This was a contentious view advanced by some people in the real world at the time, and was something of a surprise as Crossroads had never featured politics in this way before.

Carole was something of a breath of fresh air.

In early 1982, she persuaded Kevin to join her on a march for jobs in King's Oak. Unfortunately, Kev's wife, Glenda, suspecting nothing, opted to join them. The march turned into a mini-riot - local villains wanting to settle a score with a local police officer had infiltrated it - and Carole accidentally ended up in hospital - courtesy of PC Ashley Lamont.

Lamont called at the hospital to apologise and to explain what had happened on the march, but Carole mocked him, telling him that the police should go after real villains, after all, Eddie Lee was serving time for a crime he hadn't committed...

Barbara had confided the story of Eddie Lee, which had served as inspiration for one of her novels, to Carole. Carole had promised to keep it secret, but Lamont had irked her - and so...

The situation caused some complications for Barbara, but things looked up for Carole when she landed a job at the Crossroads Garage. Sharon Metcalfe, previously secretary there, had progressed to manager, and she took Carole on. The way now lay open to Carole becoming a mechanic. 

Kevin tore himself away from Carole and went to work away for a while to save his marriage. Carole was broken hearted. Later story-lines saw her coping with her father Ken being manager at the garage and his subsequent accident and brother Colin, who was dallying with Diane Hunter.

I'm not sure how Carole ended up. But I'm sure she's out there coping somewhere. And, no doubt, a fully qualified mechanic of many years standing by now.

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 35: Mr Lovejoy

 Mr Lovejoy: "Really, Mr Booth! This consomm√© has all the flavour of dish water..."

Just slightly in front of Mr Booth in our popularity stakes is his fellow chef Mr Lovejoy, played by William Avenell. Mr L was known as Gerald by hardly anybody. He was a very correct man, very formal, and it was a surprise to learn after his arrival at Crossroads in the late 1960s that he had a somewhat turbulent and colourful past, which had resulted in a change of surname - from Brandon to Lovejoy. He also had a daughter, Tessa,  who married motel manager Nick Van Doren. The couple bought a hotel together, and asked Mr Lovejoy to invest in it and work with them there as chef. But Mr Lovejoy, who had been a shareholder in the Crossroads Motel since the late '60s, felt that his first loyalty was to Meg Richardson. He advanced Nick and Tessa the money they needed, but remained at the motel.

His relationship with fellow Crossroads chef Bernard Booth was all that it should be, both were highly professional, but there were some very long-winded exchanges between the two, along the lines of: 

Mr Booth: "Mr Lovejoy! I can assure you I know perfectly well how to prepare a Spanish omelette!"

Mr Lovejoy: "Then why not do so, Mr Booth? Your current method will lead to a finished omelette that has the consistency of shoe leather, and very little flavour..."

Mr Booth: "Mr Lovejoy, I really must protest..."

And so on. And on. And on. You get the picture!

Sadly, none of these exchanges seem to have survived the mass wiping of Crossroads episodes, but I remember them fondly.

I'm not sure how Mr Lovejoy finally left the motel. Did he have a closing storyline? If anybody remembers, I'd be interested to know. William Avenell died in 1976.

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 36: Mr Booth



 A favourite King's Oak pairing: Crossroads chefs Mr Lovejoy and Mr Booth.

Mr Booth, Bernard to close friends only (and Shughie McFee), played by David Lawton, arrived at the Crossroads Motel in 1969 to fill in after a slip-up over a temporary chef who did not arrive. Mr Booth took over the kitchen and made such a good job of it he stayed on. He also ran an escort and employment agency.

Prissy and particular, Mr Booth was the perfect foil for established chef Mr Lovejoy. I thoroughly enjoyed their whitterings to each other about the correct way to prepare various dishes and run a kitchen in the early 1970s. Mr Booth was interested in the notion of ESP (extra sensory perception) and fancied himself as an amateur Sherlock Holmes.

Mr Booth was a bit of a bungler and his boss, Meg Richardson, would react with a wince whenever he assured her: "Leave it to me, Mrs Richardson!"

Underneath his starchy exterior, Mr B was actually a kind and caring man. He left the motel for a while, but returned at the end of the decade, married to a young woman called Helen. The marriage was not happy and complicated by Helen's behaviour, but the couple finally patched things up and Helen became pregnant. 

It was hard to imagine Mr Booth as a family man, but he left the motel in 1979 to be with Helen who was enduring a difficult pregnancy, and the best wishes of dedicated viewers (like me) went with him.

As Mr Booth was a permanent recurring character, often absent from the screen for fairly long periods of time, David Lawton had a favourite excuse he'd invented to cover each absence: "If anybody needs me, I'll be in the storeroom," Mr Booth would say. Legend has it that the poor man once spent six months in there! 

David Lawton died in 1979. 

Our Top 50 Favourite Characters - 37: Stan Harvey



 Stan Harvey and Jill Richardson discuss their future in 1971.

Working class Stan Harvey, played by Edward Clayton, the son of pigeon loving Wilf and elocutionist/hairdresser Sheila back in the 1970s, was a surprising suitor for posh young Jill Richardson, but the two fell deeply in love and married. Jill was keen for Stan to get on in life, and an interest in the motel garage proved lucrative.

The Harveys' daughter, Sarah-Jane, further cemented the couple's happiness, as did a move into a large, comfortable house called Chimneys. Those were good days.

In 1977, Stan spent some time on business in Germany and it was during his absence that Jill had an affair with her step-brother, Anthony Mortimer. She became pregnant, and the situation pushed her marriage onto the rocks and eventually destroyed it. Stan ended up with custody of Sarah-Jane, and married a German woman. 

At this time, Stan was made out to be a bit of an insensitive git in the Crossroads scripts. It was suggested that Jill had only drifted into Anthony's arms because of Stan's dedication to getting on in business and that she'd been neglected by him. But in at least one existing episode from the early-to-mid 1970s, Jill is seen pushing a resisting Stan on to succeed in business, so the later story-line seems simply an attempt to vilify the character as he was being written out, and the production team obviously wanted the viewers to sympathise with Jill.

Jill was still in love with Stan deep down. She tearfully confessed this to him on the phone at Christmas 1980. Stan hung up. There was no going back.

A couple of years later, Stan, his wife, and Sarah-Jane left England to live in Germany. He returned briefly to the motel in 1985, a happy man, seemingly with no regrets.

Stan was another of those Crossroads characters, like Vince Parker, who would probably have been good company for a pint down the local. He had that all important aura of believability - a nice, everyday bloke. He grounded Jill - who could be more than a little topsy-turvy when left to her own devices - and the couple seemed to work well together.

I was sorry when the character was written out. But if he hadn't been then Jill's marriage to Adam Chance in the 1980s would not have happened, so every cloud...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters: 38 - Walter Soper - "Uncle Wally"

Kath Brownlow tried to look pleased when Walter Soper turned up for his second visit.

Played by the late great comedian Max Wall, Walter Soper, known to Glenda and Kevin Banks as "Uncle Wally", was a cousin of Arthur Brownlow who turned up in King's Oak in late 1982, apparently to "pay his respects" to Arthur's widow Kath and her daughter Glenda. Perhaps that was part of the reason for his visit - who knew with Uncle Wally, but another motive quickly became apparent: he wanted a long-term cosy billet with three square meals a day, and the odd drop of booze.

Kath actually enjoyed Uncle Wally's company, but Glenda and her hubby Kevin most certainly did not. They wanted him out and made no bones about it. Uncle Wally dreamt up a cock-and-bull story about having loaned Arthur some money years before which had never been paid back. The hint was that perhaps he was owed at least a little hospitality because of it. He spent many a pleasant evening with Kath, reminiscing about Arthur and watching wonderful films on the telly - like The Beast of Clapham Junction. His stay stretched on into 1983.

Finally, a job as a car park attendant threatened Uncle Wally's idyllic existence (well, it would have been idyllic if hadn't been for Glenda and Kevin) and he beat a hasty retreat. Before he left, he told Kath that he'd made up the tale about Arthur and the loan. Knowing Arthur as she did, Kath was already well aware of that fact.

With Uncle Wally gone, Kath sailed close to a nervous breakdown as the impact of Arthur's death and the resulting loneliness finally hit her. But Glenda and Kevin were able to advance their plans for a test tube baby, and Glenda actually was pregnant when Uncle Wally turned up again later in 1983.

Of course, he was the same as ever. But this time other accommodation was soon found for him at Mavis Hooper's boarding house, and she was most sympathetic about his bad back, suggesting brown paper on it and a hot iron run over that for pain relief.

Finally, Uncle Wally succumbed to the inevitable evils of work when a job as night watchman at the Crossroads Motel was offered to him. He made it plain that he expected certain conditions, but then acquiesced. He was finally beaten, it seemed.

I'm not sure what happened to Uncle Wally after that. Or even if he appeared again. Perhaps he changed his mind about the job and scarpered? In 1984, Mavis Hooper simply mentioned in passing that he had "moved on". 

I liked the character. It was all a little sad really. Uncle Wally may have been a bit of a pain but, lacking any descendents, he had nobody to look after him in his old age (not that kids and grandkids are any guarantee - far from it!) and he really wasn't asking for a lot.

Mind you, he was a bit of a pain in the neck.

Still, as he was played by Max Wall, I couldn't help liking him!