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:


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.