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R.I.P Carla Lane

One of my friends told me last week that not only was it tragic that we’ve lost some big name stars before we’ve even reached the first half of 2016, but we’ve lost those who made up our generation; people who we grew up with, so even though we never met them, it feels as though we know them which makes us feel that loss so much more.

Today TV writer, Carla Lane, the lady responsible for Bless This House, Butterflies, and one I still remember, The Mistress, has gone on to join a very talented bunch in the sky. I grew up watching Bread, while my mother loved The Liver Birds.

I very much doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t watched something written by Carla Lane. She will be missed…

TV writer Carla Lane

TV writer Carla Lane

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Diane Charlemagne: The Voice Of A Generation

 

 

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Back in the day I was a massive fan of urban music: rap; ragga; jungle; hip hop; swing beat; rnb… But as any kid growing up in the 1990s will tell you, one of the most popular musical genres was dance. Dance music was absolutely everywhere. You couldn’t escape it. I wouldn’t say I was a massive fan of dance but I certainly didn’t mind it and there were some pretty good tracks out at the time. I’d go as far as to say that this genre of music has had quite an impact on me as I do equate dance with growing up in the nineties. I just have to hear a song I haven’t heard in years and it brings back awesome memories of my teen years: watching Top Of The Pops with my family; listening to the UK Chart Top 40 on a Sunday afternoon; collecting the lyrics of the numerous dance songs – among others –  in Smash Hits magazine; hanging out with my friends; choreographing steps to go along with the videos on MTV; parties; secondary school; GCSEs; sixth form… until now, I had no idea that dance featured so heavily in the soundtrack to my youth.

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Until a few hours ago, that is,  when I heard about the sad passing of singer Diane Charlemagne who was a major part of Urban Cookie Collective. The Manchester-born vocalist lost her brave battle with cancer yesterday at the age of fifty one. Diane was a big name on the dance scene and over the years, aside from working with Urban Cookie Collective, collaborated with a whole host of artists, such as Moby, D:Ream, Goldie and 52nd Street among many others. The music world is understandably deeply saddened by Diane’s death and tributes have poured in from artists including Beverley Knight, Goldie, and Moby.

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One of Urban Cookie Collective’s most famous songs to which Diane lent her fantastically distinctive vocals, apart from Feels Like Heaven,  is the anthemic The Key The Secret from 1993. I remember this so well and have memories of my younger sister singing and dancing to this whenever it came on. Diane vocals featured on tracks at a time when many of my peers were starting to explore clubland and get a taste of growing up and independence. The Key The Secret is as popular today as it was more than twenty years ago. A real club classic.

This amazingly talented lady will live in in her music. Rest in peace, Diane.

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Anne Kirkbride: Goodbye To A TV Legend

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The country is still reeling from the shock death of Coronation Street legend Anne Kirkbride this week from cancer. The sixty year old actress had graced our screens for more than forty years as Deirdre Barlow and many of us have grown up with this iconic character.

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Last weekend, I read an article in which Anne was considering extending her leave from the top Manchester soap due to exhaustion. She had made her last Corrie appearance  last October, and it was even hinted that Anne was growing tired of playing Deirdre. So the next day when I read the first part of a  headline in which William Roach, who played Anne’s on-screen husband Ken Barlow, talking about Coronation Street having lost a legend, for a split second I assumed that Anne had quit the role that had made her a household name. I then went on to learn the incredibly sad news that Anne had passed away. The news had come as a great shock, not only to viewers but to many of the Oldham-born actress’s co-stars, as very few knew that she was ill. At the time of her death very little was revealed regarding the details of her illness.

Deirdre and Ken marry for the first time

Deirdre and Ken marry for the first time

 

My earliest memories of Coronation Street also include my earliest memories of Deirdre. My mum was a huge Corrie fan and back then, the nation was gripped by the Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle. I was obviously too young to understand what was going on but I did know that the lady called Deirdre had been very naughty. She’d done something bad with a man called Mike and now her husband Ken was very angry with both of them. I even remember the incredibly touching moment when Deirdre revealed that she didn’t want to leave Ken for Mike or go to live with her mother – and Ken forgave her and took her back. Years later when I was a little older, I thought that Deirdre probably should have chosen Mike as he was more exciting but what did I know? It would never have worked with Mike, and Deirdre without Ken is like fish without chips!

Those glasses!

Those glasses!

 

And over the years, Deirdre definitely became on of my favourite characters. She was a good mum to her daughter Tracy – well maybe a little too good as Tracy could have done with a slap from time to time – and I really did enjoy Deirdre’s scenes with her mother, Blanche. I even understood that Ken and Deirdre belonged together and was very angry with Ken when he cheated on Deirdre with that awful Wendy Crozier (even though Deirdre had been unfaithful first!) I was also very disappointed when Ken had a child with Denise Osbourne and in Deirdre’s marriage to Samir Raschid as I felt that this was hindering Ken and Deirdre’s inevitable reunion. But reunite they did, and the nation went crazy when the Barlows remarried in 2005 – a wedding that attracted more viewers than Prince Charles’s wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The wedding that attracted 12 million viewers

The wedding that attracted 12 million viewers

 

Anne also met her real-life husband on the show, actor David Beckett, when he appeared in Coronation Street playing Dave Barton in 1990. Love blossomed for him and Anne and the couple went on to marry in 1992. In an industry where marriages are not known to last, David has been described as a devoted husband who was with Anne until the very end. Anne had previously said of her beloved husband:

  “It’s thanks to Corrie that I met my wonderful David. I wouldn’t be without him. He adores me and I adore him. What else do you need?”

Anne marries co-star David Beckett

Anne marries co-star David Beckett

The popularity of Deirdre Barlow is testament to Anne Kirkbride’s talent as an actress and her ability to breathe life into a character that has gone on to become a British television icon. After news of Anne’s death broke, tributes came flooding in from fans and the world of entertainment including Anne’s colleagues who regarded her as a much-loved friend. Her co-stars were so devastated by her loss that filming had to be cancelled for a day. A few days later at the National Television Awards, William Roache paid an emotional tribute to his friend and colleague to whom he had shared such a close working relationship, causing many people present, especially the Coronation Street cast and crew, to become quite tearful.

Deirdre Barlow was known for her husky voice, and at one time, overly permed hair. But as we all know, Deirdre’s trademark were of course those oversize glasses that she was never without. Along with those facial expressions that Deirdre used to pull whenever she got upset, and the words “Tracy love,” which seem to have become her catchphrase, Deirdre Barlow was an impressionists dream come true. But far from being the butt of jokes, Deirdre Barlow has become one of television’s most enduring characters, and Anne Kirkbride one of our best-loved actresses. She was part of our family entertainment for so long. Coronation Street will never be the same without her.

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Rest in peace, Anne xx

 

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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Lynda Bellingham: A Real Class Act

 

Like most of the nation, I am shocked and saddened by the sad news that the lovely Lynda Bellingham has lost her battle against cancer. Even though the sixty-six year old had announced just a couple of weeks ago that she was in the terminal stages of the illness and had made the brave decision to stop having chemotherapy treatment, nobody expected her to slip away so quickly. The Canadian-born actress passed away last Sunday in the arms of her beloved husband Michael Pattemore – who she affectionately nicknamed Mr. Spain. Lynda had recently announced that her dearest wish was to have just one last Christmas with her husband and her sons, Michael and Robert, and it’s heart-breaking that her final wish won’t be fulfilled.

As expected, tributes came flooding in from the world of showbiz. Lynda had had an extensive TV and stage career and had worked and become friends with many well known people in the entertainment industry. Her colleagues from Loose Women, where she had been a panellist,  opened up Monday’s show with a tribute to their dear friend which saw Colleen Nolan become tearful though she did her best to keep it together, as the Loose Women team wanted it to be a celebration of Lynda’s extraordinary life, and they even admitted that Lynda would just want them to ‘get on with it.’

Members of the public took  to social media to express their sadness at the loss of the much-loved star. It goes to show that whether you knew her or not, Lynda made a big impact on everyone. Actress and presenter, Nadia Sawalha, said that Lynda loved the fame aspect of her job and liked the fact that she was appreciated the public, but she never milked her celebrity status, and behaved with the grace and class that we love her for. Indeed many of today’s so-called celebrities – many of whom are famous for being famous – could learn a thing or two from her.

Like many people of my generation, I first saw Lynda when she appeared as the mum in the series of OXO commercials which began in the 1980s and ran for sixteen years. She was apparently chosen from thousands of actresses who auditioned for the part, and I don’t think any of us could ever imagine that role being played by anyone other than Lynda. Despite epitomizing the perfect mother in those ads – warm, wholesome, content at being at the heart of the family, and bringing everyone together with delicious home cooking – her Loose Women co-presenters revealed that she hated people telling her that they wanted her to be their ‘Mum’ and she was concerned that she’d only ever be remembered for those OXO ads. Although she played matriarchal roles on many occasions, the real-life Lynda was far from ‘mumsy.’ As well as being incredibly beautiful, Lynda came across as energetic, vivacious, opinionated, feisty and very funny, and that’s something that came through in many of the parts she played.

So while, yes, us kids of the eighties will think of her as the OXO mum – a role that gave Lynda a platform to become one of our best-known actresses – we also remember the other work she’s famous for including BBC’s All Creatures Great And Small, At Home With The Braithwaites, Martin Chuzzelwit, Doctor Who, Angels, Couples , The Sweeny, theatre production of Calendar Girls and even The Bill, where she played villainess, Irene Radford – a role as far removed from the OXO mum as you can get. And the list most definitely goes on! And let’s not forget that Lynda was also an accomplished broadcaster, author and columnist. But one of Lynda’s roles which is most memorable for me was that of Faith Grayshot, the character she played in ITV’s nineties sit-com Second Thoughts; a divorced  mother of two teens who embarks on a new romance. There are some real laugh out loud moments in Second Thoughts, and although the character of Faith Grayshot isn’t that much of a departure from the OXO mum, she’s a little edgier and feistier, and tries to put her own needs first occasionally. When Second Thoughts ended, Lynda starred in the spin-off Faith In The Future which saw Faith start the next phase of her life as a single woman.

Lynda had started acting long before I was born, and she was on our screens right up until she passed away. I’ve grown up watching her and I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t on the telly or giving an interview in a magazine. There really are no words to describe her loss – a loss that is felt the hardest by her family and friends. Even though we will remember her for her talent, mesmerising screen presence and her generous smile, the tributes and lovely things that have been said about her in the last couple of days prove that her greatest roles were the one that wasn’t scripted  – and that’s the roles of wife. mother and friend.

 

Lynda Bellingham, you will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Goodbye Gran: Edna Doré Passes Away At 92

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She may have been ninety two years old but it was still a shock to hear about the sad passing of actress Edna Doré  who died peacefully in her sleep just before Easter. Those who knew the Kent-born actress have revealed that she was as tough and as fun as the characters she was known for playing, and to her audience, she gave the impression who would live forever. And through her vast amount of acting work on stage, screen and radio, she will.

In Open All Hours

In Open All Hours

Born Edna Lillian Gorring,  Doré entered the world of showbiz as a dancer in the 1940s. After a long and successful career in theatre, she then turned to television acting in 1960 while still continuing to act in theatre. Over the years the actress had roles in many well known TV shows such as The Liver Birds, Tenko, Terry and June, Open All Hours, The Bill, Casualty, A Year In Provence, Love Hurts, Eyes Down, and Gavin and Stacey. And that’s not even a fraction of the talented actress’s work!

In Eastenders with Pat Coombs

In Eastenders with Pat Coombs

 

However for many, Doré  will always be best known for her role in Eastenders as Mo Butcher, Frank Butcher’s battle-axe mother who really knew how to put the fear of God into her family. This was the first time I’d seen Doré on screen and she played Mo from 1988 until 1990 and funnily enough, she’d trained to be an actress along with the late Anna Wing, who played the legendary Lou Beale. A harsh, bad tempered, old lady with an intense hatred for her daughter-in-law, Pat, not to mention a dislike for her grandson Ricky’s Asian girlfriend, Shireen, Mo was initially not a likeable character.

Even though I was only a little girl at the time, I knew that Mo was not a nice lady, and she was often horrid to Pat – I remember Mo once giving Pat a whack across her face. However, after a while, Mo started to soften a little; she was less sharp although she never lost her toughness. She was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and went to live with her daughter, thus marking Doré’s departure  from the show. The character eventually died off-screen in 1992. It was a storyline for which Doré received acclaim and prior to this, she had also played another character suffering from Alzheimer’s, Mrs. Bender in Mike Leigh’s 1988 film, High Hopes.

As Eastenders' Mo Butcher

As Eastenders’ Mo Butcher

 

Doré went on to star in other films including Nil By Mouth, Tube Tales, Weak At Denise and All Or Nothing and also acted in radio, performing in a number of plays, one of which, Bringing Eddie Home by John Peacock featured ex-EastEnders actors Bill Treacher, Tilly Vosburgh, Todd Carty and Joe Absolom. It seems as though there wasn’t anything that this talented lady couldn’t do.

 

One of her roles which I don’t think is spoken of enough, is her role as Gran in the 1980s BBC comedy series Streets Apart, written by Adrienne Conway. Once again Doré played a tough-talking, no-nonsense lady who did as she pleased but was definitely more likeable than Mo Butcher. Gran raised her granddaughter Sylvia from the time she was a little girl, and even though Sylvia went on to become a huge success as a literary agent and moved a world away from her East End roots, the two characters have a very special bond, despite the differences, which is lovely to see. In fact, it is these very differences between Gran and Sylvia which created a lot of the humour in the show: Gran is very feisty and direct with absolutely no heirs and graces and her antics often annoy or embarrass Sylvia. To most people, Edna Doré will always be Mo Butcher, But to me, she will also always be Gran from Streets Apart. And if ever I’m fortunate to be a gran, I know exactly what kind of gran I’d like to be – a very mischievous one with a great sense of fun!

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Her personal life seemed to be as successful as her professional life. Doré married  the actor, stage director and writer Alexander Doré in 1946 and they remained married until Alexander’s death in 2002 – a feat virtually unheard of in today’s showbiz world. The marriage produced a son, Michael and Edna later became a grandmother of four.

A young Edna Dore

A young Edna Dore

Edna Doré’s agent, Belinda Wright paid tribute to the actress, saying, “I’d known her for more than 30 years and she was a wonderful actress and great fun.”

Paul O’Grady, her co-star in BBC sit-com Eyes Down, also paid tribute, describing Doré as “a remarkable lady” and “a bundle of fun.”

“We got sent home from rehearsals one day for laughing,” began Paul, “I won’t tell you why but Edna said: ‘In my 70 years in the business, I’ve never been sent out of rehearsals’.

“She had a remarkable career. She might be gone but she’s not forgotten by me. I had a ball with Edna, what a laugh she was.”

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Those of us who were not fortunate to have met her can believe that because her sense of fun came through in many of the roles she played. What a lovely way in which to remember her.

Rest in peace, Edna.

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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Video

Why Everyone Needs An Uncle Phil

It’s been almost three weeks and I still cannot get my head around the sad passing of James Avery at the age of 68. The actor who passed away on New Year’s Eve in California due to complications from open heart surgery has been acting since 1980 and has had roles in a lot of my childhood faves including Beauty And The Beast, Jake And The Fatman, The Dukes Of Hazard, Cagney and Lacey, The Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The A-Team, Moonlighting and Dallas. And that’s just a fraction of his long acting career. In addition to all this, he also provided the voice for Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Planet of The Turtleoids; was an accomplished poet and served in Vietnam. But what the Virginia Native is most well-known for – especially here in the UK – is his role as tough but loveable attorney (and later judge) Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.

Avery played the patriarch in the popular nineties sit-com where his gruff manner often brought him into conflict with his family, especially his nephew Will, played by Will Smith who has been sent by his worried mother to live with the Banks family after Will got into a fight. He was tough and straight-talking and never put up with any nonsense from anyone. Who could forget the number of times Will’s friend, Jazz was comically thrown out of the house by Uncle Phil for being cheeky? Or the way Uncle Phil dealt with the officer on duty after he and Will were wrongfully arrested and put in a cell on Thanksgiving? Or how he took on the hustlers at the pool hall? That was Uncle Phil – he could put the fear of God into anyone.

But underneath that tough exterior was a real family man who loved his wife and kids including his wayward nephew. He was fiercely protective of them all and was determined that his children made good use of the opportunities that were available to them and make something of their lives rather than grow up to be over-privileged, spoilt rich kids.

 

Philip Banks was the example of the kind of father/uncle every man should be. He wasn’t afraid to discipline his children, teaching them right from wrong but he was fair and loving when he needed to be. Despite being born into a life full of privileges, he encouraged them to be independent, to stand on their own two feet and to have ambition. Even though the kids got themselves into scrapes a number of times – scrapes Philip often had to rescue them from – there wasn’t the slightest sign of addiction, rehab visits, dysfunctional relationships or scandal – a sure sign that he was doing something right. It’s no wonder that the character of Philip Banks ranked number 34 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” [20 June 2004 issue]. Although personally, I think he should have ranked much higher. James Avery is quoted as having said, “I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.” In a world where people have made their iPads and notebooks their very best friends, Avery reminds us that it’s human contact that is important. He’s also quoted as saying, “Monetary success is not success. Career success is not success. Life, someone that loves you, giving to others, doing something that makes you feel complete and full. That is success. And it isn’t dependent on anyone else.” I think it would be fair to say that a lot of James Avery went into the character of Philip Banks.

Naturally I have fond memories of watching The Fresh Prince. During the 1990s it used to be on in the evenings on a weekday and I’d much rather be watching The Fresh Prince than doing my homework. Who cares if I got told off and had to complete homework in detention? All the kids at school would be talking about it and rapping the lyrics to the theme tune – there was no way I was missing out on all of that. It was one of the most popular shows of the decade and something that I used to watch with my siblings. I was so disappointed when the series eventually ended but to this day I’m so glad that it featured as part of my childhood memories and made it’s mark in my era.

Even after The Fresh Prince ended, Avery continued to work steadily as a voice over artist and made appearances in shows such as My Wife and Kids, Grey’s Anatomy, Star Trek: Enterprise, NYPD Blue, That 70s Show and Charmed. Avery often played characters in the legal or some other high level professional field and he will forever be remembered for his towering stature, beard and booming voice.

Of course tributes came in thick and fast for the actor – who is survived by his mother, wife Barbara and stepson Kevin – after news of his death broke. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince, took to Facebook to say:

“The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened to say that James Avery has passed. Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed.”

Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith also paid tribute to the man she had the honour of working with on The Fresh Prince:

“We have lost yet another friend. James Avery who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince has passed. Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James.”

Avery’s on-screen daughter, Tatiana Ali stated that Avery would “always be a part of me,” while supermodel Tyra Banks who also starred in The Fresh Prince remembered how warm Avery was to her on-set.

But the most poignant tribute came from Will Smith who summed up perfectly what everyone felt:

“Some of my greatest lessons in acting, living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace.”

An actor who will be sorely missed… and he will forever be everyone’s Uncle Phil.

 

Rest in peace, James Avery. Thanks for the memories.

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Felix Dexter: A Life Full Of Laughs

Felix Dexter

Felix Dexter

I was shocked and saddened to hear that comedy genius, Felix Dexter, had lost his battle against cancer at the age of 52 earlier this month. Felix played a huge part in my teenage years when he shot to fame as part of the multi-cultural comedy sketch show The Real McCoy back in the 1990s. It was something that all my friends at school used to watch during weekday evenings and we would laugh about it at school the next day.

With the cast of The Real McCoy

With the cast of The Real McCoy

Felix created a series of hilarious characters of which at least one would appear in an episode every week. There was the nightclub doorman who was dating a “white babe;” Douglas, the Patois speaking lawyer; Nathaniel, the Nigerian accountancy student; Samuel, the retired ticket collector; ‘Owl, the widower who thought life was better in the 1950s… and that’s not even a fraction of Felix’s memorable comedy skits. I also remember his one-off show that was shown by the BBC entitled It’s Felix, in which Felix played a number of his famous characters. I was watching it with my family on a Friday evening and goodness knows what the neighbours thought with all the non-stop howling that was filtering through the walls!

Nathaniel, one of Felix's best-loved characters

Nathaniel, one of Felix’s best-loved characters

Felix Dexter wasn’t just a comedian; the St. Kitts-born star was also a versatile actor having appeared in Absolutely Fabulous, Bellamy, The Fast Show, The Bill, Casualty, Jonathan Creek, Crapston Villas… and the list goes on. Felix can still currently be seen on screen in BBC comedy, Citizen Khan. Despite his many acting roles and undeniable talent, it his ability to make us laugh and his skill of being able to observe people and create realistic and funny characters for which he will be best remembered. What’s amazing is that entertainment wasn’t Felix’s original career choice as he had trained and worked as a barrister. However his true calling was in performance and it’s fantastic that he realized that and was able to fulfil his ambitions. Going back to a time when political correctness was more over the top than it is now, it’s amazing that Felix was fearless enough to play on racial stereotypes – and get plenty of laughs.

Lawyer Douglas

Lawyer Douglas

Unfortunately, the laughter stopped on 18th October when Felix took his last breath. tributes came in from the world of entertainment. Those who knew him said that he wasn’t just an extremely funny man but he was incredibly warm, kind and generous. To his fans, he’ll be remembered as a comedy legend; for those who knew him, he has left behind memories of a truly remarkable man.

In Citizen Khan

In Citizen Khan

Felix – we’ll miss you. Thanks for the years of entertainment and laughter. I hope you’re making them laugh in Heaven.

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