Interviewed by Judith Jones, October 2015.
Can you tell me when and how you came to work for Granada?
1966, and I had been at Tyne Tees Television for three years before that. And I got married to this bloody idiot, and I thought, “I’ve got to go, got to go.” And there, we just did farming programmes and news and children’s programmes. “Go where there’s proper make-up!” So I just wrote to Tyne Tees, and it happened that my life has been dead lucky all the way along. That day, one of the make-up girls had handed her notice in, so I got a job there, and as I said, married this bloody idiot, and after three years I thought, “I’m going to go to Manchester.” So I came to Manchester and it’s been great ever since, right from the word go.
So you joined as a make-up artist?
A bit less. Make-up assistant, I think.
So how many of you were there?
About 10 or 11, I think.
What programmes did you work on?
All drama, then. I mean, I worked on drama right through until I did stars in their eyes. Because it was sort of a prestige things – the kids did all the little stuff, and we older ones did the drama.
What would be involved in working on a drama?
Well, you get the first script, and you read the script like a story – I think that was the pink script, wasn’t it? – and then you got the… blue script? No – the first one was the white script, then the pink script came, then you got the blue script, which was the final one, and then you wrote down – they do it on a computer now, I believe – every scene, you know, what was going on in every scene, the date, probably the weather if it was outside, and you broke it down like that. And if they needed wigs and things you took them down to London to get wigs – well, they were probably already in London – and it was prep like that for about three or four weeks first. Principally, it was the PAs we worked with at that stage. I always thought that the PAs were never appreciated, because they were the fountain of all the knowledge on the programme!
How would you link in with the PAs?
Well, you would get addresses from them for all the actors, and phone numbers and what we were doing on what day… we didn’t do budgets with them, we did budgets with the producer, but we were told, “This is the budget.” But I never had a problem with budgets.
So when you would meet the actors?
At the read-through.
And assess what they needed?
Yes. In those days we used to use a room behind the Taxi Café in Brixton and we would all sit around… it was funny because the actors used to be so nervous that they would greet you like a long-lost lover. I used to think, “For God’s sake! You’ve only met me once before!” “How are you, dahling? How lovely to see you!” and all that crap. Haha. And then you would arrange, when they were free, to take them to wigs and things. Sometimes they needed prosthetics, but not very often. Yes, that’s how it went.
And if you were doing a period drama, was there ever any research involved?
Oh, yes – always.
How would you go about that?
Well, you would just look through books and things. This was before computers, you know. And you would also talk to the producer and the director and ask them what they wanted, and we worked very closely with the costume people too.
So I presume there was a team of make-up artists.
There was the person who was the principal, and then you would have all your assistants, and you’d worked it out, how many assistants you’d need. Generally it was only two, but when you had a big crowd of extras… I used to work it out that you’d need 10 extras to one make-up artist, because you’d only have an hour. But if it was something that they needed their hair cutting… do you remember A Family At War? Because they all had to have their hair cut dead short. In those days, it was the 70s and their hair was down here, and I used to love that because we used to argue with them like mad, because they wouldn’t have their hair cut! “Tuck it under my hat,” they’d say. I’d say, “You’ll look stupid like that.” Who cares!
What would you do about continuity?
Well, at the beginning, of course, there were no Polaroid cameras, so we used to draw little pictures – sort of her hair is hanging here… – and then we went onto Polaroid cameras – and what a godsend they were! But I believe now that they use a proper camera and put it on the computer, I think that’s what they do. And write notes and things. And make a big note of the weather. You know, if it was very windy… I was watching something last night, and it was terribly windy – it was an American thing – and then it cut to them in the car and their hair was perfect. Well, you couldn’t do that – you would have to do it better than that, you would have to mess their hair up.
So as make-up artists, you presumably worked very long days?
Oh, my God! That was one of the reasons I was going to go, the hours. They were terribly long hours. But if it’s a terrible job, and you hate it… while you’re there it’s great. You’d be knackered at the end of the day, but it didn’t matter! I would moan and say, “I’m so tired!” but you knew that tomorrow you would feel better.
Did people talk to you like they would to a hairdresser?
No – absolutely not! because they would have what they wanted. Many, many years ago, I think it was the late 60s, we did a thing called The Caesars (corr), and every one of those women had all the false eyelashes on, all the backcombed hair – I mean, I’m criticising myself here – all the backcombed hair, all the thick make-up… and they looked beautiful. But when you watched the programme, they looked ridiculous! But it’s what they wanted. I learned after that, you don’t do that. You don’t let them have their own way.
So what programmes do you particularly remember?
Well, I loved Stars in Their Eyes, it was a make-up artist’s dream to do that. I did that for the whole lot, I forget how much that… I got a BAFTA for that.
Why did you enjoy that so much?
Because it was perfect. If you were doing Doris Day, I would just look at their face and go, “I’ll do that and I’ll do that and I’ll do that, I’ll get a wig and do that…” It was dead easy. It was lovely! And I had a cracking team too. And I had a bloke called (Ramack Dim? 8:53), who lived in France actually, but all his family lived in Salford, and he was a brilliant hairdresser. I used to just chuck him a wig and say, “50s!” and he would do it. He was cracking. It was lovely to do it. And the people who were on it, all the contestants, were all so excited, you know? It was lovely. I hated doing the celebrity ones though – what a pain in the arse they were!
Why was that?
Because they were so frightened that they would make a fool of themselves!
What was your most successful transformation?
I don’t know… I suppose the one I got the BAFTA for – but I can’t remember what it was!
You seem to have come into Granada at quite a senior level.
Oh, no! it’s just everyone left who was above me, that’s all. It was never anything talent-wise. And it ended up that I was sort of the senior one there. In the make-up room we had a boss… and that was just because everybody above me had left. There were always about 10 or 11 of us, and we used to bring a freelance in if we needed more. Did you ever go into the make-up room? We had these kitchen cupboard things down the middle, and we had to have more make-up space in there, so they put… you know those people who had a table at the end and they lift it up – we had two of those, one at each end, because we needed extra people. I used to love it when it was busy like that.
So when you started it was black and white. Did that make a difference?
Oh! My God, did it not. In black and white, we used to use a hell of a lot of make-up on everybody – men as well! And beard shadows were not allowed to show, so we used to put thick pan-stick all over there so you couldn’t see the beard shadow, so that meant that up here was darker than there. If they had white hair, we couldn’t let that go on, so we would spray it with dark spray on the top so it wouldn’t reflect the light… we used to use a lipstick on men – 722, it was called. And we had an awful lot of tests when we were going into colour, and everybody was panicking like mad – but there was no need because you just made them look as you see them. But colour was dead exciting. I’ll tell you what, though – when Coronation Street went into colour, I thought it was terrible. I thought, “It should be a dingy black and white,” but everyone loved the colour, so it stayed.
I imagine you also had to do special effects.
Oh, yes – the blood and guts! I’m frightened of anything medical! I hated doing all the blood and guts, but we did it.
Did you have to do any special training for that?
No – it was just all part of your training.
For PAs, you would have a senior PA who mentored you. Was that the same in make-up?
Yes. But you learnt on the job – you had to learn on the job there. I remember at Tyne Tees, I was taught things that they’d done in the 20s, I think, because the make-up artist there had worked for… I think it was ATV in London. It was ATV, wasn’t it? Yes. when they first started. And she taught us. But – having said that, she also taught me little tricks that the make-up artists at Granada didn’t even think about that were real old theatrical tricks. You know, little things.
What kind of things?
Well, for instance, you know actors used to put a little red dot in the corner there, and paint in there white, paint there very pale, so it made their eyes look bright. Lots of fiddly little things like that, that when I used to teach the kids when they came in, they would say, “Oh, I didn’t know that!”
What would make a good make-up artist?
They’ve got to be friendly. Friendly and cheerful. Some of them used to come in and they had fallen out with their boyfriends or whatever, and I used to think, “Shut up! You can’t be like that in here!” You’ve got to be cheerful.
So did you see it as part of your role to reassure nervous actors?
Yes. I wasn’t very good at it! I wasn’t very sympathetic. I used to think, “I’m going home soon… I’ve been sweating over moaning bloody actors all day!” but no, they were all right. And you had your favourites. I loved Doris Speed in Coronation Street, I always used to make her up, I loved her. I loved Jeremy Brett – I did Sherlock Holmes too – and the man who’s the old granddad in Emmerdale now… I forget their names.
And you were telling me earlier about University Challenge with Bamber Gascoigne.
Yes, that was in black and white when we first started. I’ll tell you what was funny with that. You’d go up to the foyer… it’s not the foyer now, is it? They’ve done something funny with it. The front door, where they all came in, they’d all be sitting and standing, you could fly out of there with the smell of pot. They were all away with the fairies! But the minute they came into the studio they had calmed down. In those days it was very heavy pancake make-up because they were nearly always spotty as hell! I remember when Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie – was he on the same team? I can’t remember – I remember when they came in, and they were so tall, much taller than the other students, who were all weedy little things.
Did that change – did the students get healthier?
They did! They got a lot healthier when they started eating their greens, and they didn’t like the spots like they used to have.
And what was Bamber like?
Oh, he was lovely, yes.
What was Granada like to work for?
From the word go they were smashing, absolutely smashing. I remember my boss was Michael… big tall fella, very handsome. Mike Scott. When I first started he was there. But yes, everybody was really nice. And I really do think that everybody enjoyed it so much – that’s why they were nice. If you’re working in a grotty place, then you’re going to be miserable sods, aren’t you? But everybody seemed to enjoy it as much.
And how did Granada treat employees? Why was it fun?
Because they took what you said as you knew what you were doing – they didn’t question it. I don’t remember them ever questioning why you had done something. Do you remember Alan Grint? Little feller, handsome feller. I think he was a cameraman at first then he became a director. He said to me once – I met him in the corridor – and he said, “What’s happening?” and I said, “I’m going to be doing such and such a thing,” and he said, “Oh, I’m glad! I’m doing that.” And he said, “I like it when you do it because you’re quick.” And I thought, “That’s not why you should be pleased!” But that’s what he liked.
And do you think part of the enjoyment was the social side as well?
Oh, my God, was it! I mean, there were parties like you wouldn’t believe. I remember after every drama, and they used to have a wrap party, and they used to go to the Bull’s Head on the Salford side of the river, then we used to go to… it was a club somewhere.
Oh, yes! Do you remember Glockles?
Glockles. You used to go up to town or somewhere, and on the way back you would call in at the film exchange and you’d get a solid glass, a strong one, about that big, with a paper lid on, of wine, and they called them Glockles. We used to take them into make-up all afternoon and have a Glockle.
So what were the parties like?
They were fantastic, just great. I worked on This Morning in Liverpool with Judy and Richard, and Mike Parkinson was in because he’d written a book about cricket, and he turned out to be a right shit, actually. And Judy heard me talking to him, and we were having a laugh, and we were saying, “Do you remember such and such a party?” and she said, “Oh! Come on the programme with Mike!” And I thought, “He’s not going to like that – he’s selling his book!” Anyway, he was furious and he was really unpleasant. And anyway, a few days later I had to go and pick up my son from boarding school, and all the kids were out of the window… Mike Parkinson, at the end of this, said, “I bet you’ve flattened some grass, in your time.” And I went to school and these kids were all shouting out of the window, “Oooh, Mrs Wood’s flattened some grass in her time.” And if I’d have had Mike Parkinson there, I’d have kicked his head in! but anyway, that doesn’t matter.
And is it quite sociable on location as well?
Oh, yes! Always. Because you very rarely finished after six o’clock, so you were able to go to your (??21:23) all tarted up, and we all went for a meal together – it was lovely.
So it was like a family.
It was! And we used to stay in lovely hotels.
Did you ever have any contact with Denis Forman or the Bernsteins?
Yes. yes. I remember one night… we used to do What the Papers Say live at about 11pm, and I was sitting in the make-up room, waiting for whoever was doing What the Papers Say, and Bernstein came in. And he used to wear an overall, you know? I think it was to make him look less obvious, though nobody else in the building wore an overall. I think it was a brown one he used to wear. And he came in the make-u room and looked around, and the lights were all on, and he said, “Why are all the lights on in here?” I said, “Because I’m working in here.” He said, “There’s too many lights on!” and he switched them all off, and I was left with my one little mirror light, and I thought, “That electrician’s a cheeky bugger,” and I realised it was him, saving electricity!
Did you ever meet Denis Forman?
What kind of impression did he have on you?
He was nice, he was very nice. You see, all of them were nice to you. I don’t know what they did in the boardroom, whether they were bawling and shouting at each other, I don’t know, but they were always very nice to us.
And the canteen…
Oh! It was lovely, the canteen. Has anybody mentioned Elsie? Oh, she was lovely. She used to give you whatever you wanted, and she was queen of the salads. And she used to make the salads all very pretty and all that. And there’d be a bloody great big queue behind you while she made your salad. It was lovely, I loved the canteen, and you all had your own little bit to sit in. We always sat in the bigger room, the first two tables together, so the eight of us could get on, and the cameramen used to sit at the back, the stage crews all used to go in that first room… you were in a sort of… that’s your chair, you stay there.
And when you were filming, did you work quite closely with the camera men?
Wen it was my husband, yes! No… only just because it was matey, that’s all. But I chased my husband! Haha!
So there was more than just a social side.
Presumably, in make-up, a bit like being a PA, most of them were women.
We did have one man, and do you know who that was? David Myers. But he only came in when we were busy. I used to love him coming in, because he was so funny! You know the Hairy Bikers? Him. And he was bald at the time, his hair had all fallen out. He was very talented.
And do you think that was a problem? Did you ever have any challenges being a woman?
No, no… and he liked it because we all used to make a fuss of him.
Tell me about when you left Granada.
It was 1997. They had offered this big pile of money, redundancy pay. You two have never been offered that, have you? You did? You never took it. Oh, you did? That was when you went? Ah!
So before then, did you feel that Granada was changing as a company?
Yes, because that feller… Gerry Robinson had taken over, and it all became about money.
How did that affect your job?
It didn’t affect me. The only way it used to affect me was, if you got in early, you used to be able to get into the back car park, and then used to have to go over the bridge, you know, where they do now, there… and when we came back, when we came into Granada, you used to have to duck under… you know that little car park behind? And I hated that, I felt as though I was suddenly being kicked out. I didn’t like that.
And do you think the kind of programmes they were making changed?
Not to me, they didn’t make any difference to me.
Did you work on Brideshead?
I helped on Brideshead, but I was never the boss of it.
What was that like?
Well, I can say this because the girl in charge of it lives in Australia now! It wasn’t like I would have done it; I would have done it… I’m not talking about the actual make-up, I mean the attitude to it. She took it very seriously and it was very heavy going… you’re not there to be heavy-going! It’s only a bloody telly programme, isn’t it? No, she did it very heavily. I went to Australia – my son lives there – and I went to her house, and she had all these pictures along the hallway of Brideshead and her. I’d never do that! You know, you just don’t do that. You don’t take it that seriously.
So do you think it made a difference that Granada was in Manchester?
Well, it did to me, yes. I sued to wonder though, when I used to go to work, I used to think… you know Alderley Edge, where that company… the chemical company… Astra Zeneca… I used to think, “I wonder why Granada didn’t come here?” because there was so much room there, you could spread out, and it was easy to get the train to Macclesfield or Wilmslow, and the turns could come in happily, but they picked the centre of Manchester.
How do you think Granada differed from Tyne Tees?
Oh, it was much more grown up. Much more grown up. It was so little, Tyne Tees, everything about it was little. We used to do farming programmes – which I loved, going out to the farms – and children’s programmes, and they were all little… and Granada was suddenly this big WOW – not international, but national – where Tyne Tees was all local.
Did you do the local programmes with presenters like Bob Greaves?
Oh, yes! oh, I loved Tony Wilson. Oh, I was sad when he died.
Why did you love Tony?
Because he was just right. Do you know what I mean? He was right. He was just ordinary really, I liked him a lot. And I loved Bob Greaves. It’s so sad, isn’t it, when they’re all dying around you. I had awful indigestion in the night, and I thought, “Oh, God, I’m next!” I did, I liked him. I used to do the news when they were in that studio by the back door, Studio 4 it was called, it’s not a studio now, is it? What is it now?
I don’t know.
Oh! I know what it is, it’s the reception! Yes. We used to do little things like that, but we also did the big drama.
Which did you prefer?
The big dramas. I used to love doing that. I was trying to think last night, when I first got there, there was a programme called The Man in Room 17 (corr). That was a private detective, if I remember rightly, and it was all the old actors.
Stars in Your Eyes must have been fun.
Oh, I loved it! I loved every minute.
Were you there from the beginning?
I was. I didn’t do the very first series because I was on the staff then, and the girl who had done the first series was freelance, so that’s expensive, so they wanted shut of a freelance – I mean, not that girl, they just wanted shut of a freelance. So I was there, so they gave it to me. The only thing that was difficult was Jane Macnaught (corr)– do you remember her? She was difficult. She was a right grumpy git, wasn’t she?
So they’d come to you with a list of contestants, and it would be up to you to see what you could do?
Right at the beginning, when they lined them all up to come for an audition, I used to go to the auditions, which I used to feel a phoney about, because I don’t know anything about music or whether people can sing or not. And at first, we used to do it at the Midland Hotel, in a big room upstairs, and then they brought it down to Granada, in a room somewhere upstairs, and then they brought it down to the music room, and we used to do them there. Oh, God, they were funny! I remember one feller came in and they said, “Who are you going to be?” oh, who was it? The American feller with the white hair and white beard, and he used to sing something about a stream… Islands in the Stream! (Kenny Rogers?) So this family had white hair and a white beard, and he said, “Excuse me a minute, I’ll just go out and I’ll come back.” And he’d stuck cotton wool all over his face! And we just laughed and laughed. And he said, “I haven’t got a false beard, but I suppose you’ll get me one.” But he looked so funny. And another feller came in and he said he was going to be Fred Astaire. And we said, “But Fred Astaire was a dancer!” “Oh, yes – but I’ll sing as well.” So he pranced around the room, and we were killing ourselves [laughing] because he was trying to tap [dance] on the carpet, and he came back, and he’d broken his leg! Another time, when we were in the Midland Hotel, this girl came in and she was going to be Tina Turner, and she was absolutely engrossed in this, and she wandered off up the room, and we were all going, “Where’s she going?” and she obviously realised she should be with us, and she came back, and you know the way Tina Turner thrusts her stomach out? She did that, and I thought, “Please God, don’t let her do that to me!” Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my face straight if she did that, and she did! So you try for their sake not to laugh or anything, and you clap and say, “Oh, that was great!” when it was terrible. But I used to love those auditions.
So presumably there were people who could maybe sing like the person they wanted to, but there was no way you could ever make them up?
I never, never said that – there was always something you could do. I mean, even if they don’t look like them, if they were singing like them it didn’t matter really, so I always used to write my notes what we could do for them. It was irrelevant really, because at first, Jane Macnaught said, “Write notes about their singing,” and I thought, “I can’t! I don’t know if they’re good or bad.” So I just used to write notes about what we were going to do to them.
And I read somewhere that the wigs were quite expensive.
Very, very expensive! Then – and it’s 12 years ago now – they were about £1,000 each. So there would be a lot more now. And do you know what Granada did? I used to have these great big trunks about that big, not as high as that, and I used to keep the wigs in the boxes in these trunks, and I had about eight trunks like that – and Granada sold the whole lot to a crummy old company up in the… near Preston, I think. And there was thousands of pounds worth of wigs in there. They should have held them somewhere! There must have been room somewhere to put them.
Could you reuse wigs?
Course you can! I used to use them again a lot. I was furious! It was nothing to do with me, I had left by then, but I thought, “What a stupid thing to do.”
Just not realising the value.
And that was the programme you won the BAFTA for. Tell me what that was like.
Well, I never thought for one minute a programme like that would get it. I don’t mean because of me, but I just didn’t think – it was always dramas that got it. I was sitting in the audience, next to me, on the aisle seat was… little feller, very important.
Steve Morrison. That’s right. He was sitting there, and on my other side was a lovely sound feller from Yorkshire television, and I was chatting to him and Steve Morrison – though it was difficult with Steve Morrison because he was so important – and when they said my name, I could not believe it! And there was a pile of people from Granada up in the gallery in this theatre in Nottingham, and they were all cheering, and I thought, “That’s lovely! That’s been worth every second.” Yes, it was lovely. And I got three of those plastic things with the gold face on… Royal Television Society, yes.
And what was that for?
Stars, they were all for Stars. They were fun, getting those, they were in a hotel… it was a posh hotel in London, I can’t remember which one. What you did with those was you sent in a tape of the work you had done on that series, and to me that was saying, “Look at me! Aren’t I clever?” And I thought, “I can’t do this again,” after the third one, and Jane Macnaught said, “Aren’t you going to send another one?” I said, “No – that’s enough, that.”
Is that what you’re most proud of?
No. Well, not proud, I just loved it.
Is there a programme where you think, “That’s where I did my best work?”
Yes, and it was on… do you remember Shelley Rohde?
She did a little programme called Live From Two (corr), and it was Studio 2 at two o’clock in the afternoon, and there was a woman came in, a guest, and she was being Edith Piaf. And she had a wig of her own, and it was terrible – I thought, “I can do better than that.” So I went rooting – not in my box, because I didn’t have those then, it was before that – and I found a man’s toupee, and I thought, “That’ll do.” So I put that on her, and it looked great! And I thought, “There you are – that’s when you’re a make-up artist, when you can dig something out like that.” And she looked so good, I was really pleased. Nobody noticed, nobody cared, but I really enjoyed doing that, I felt so good about doing that.
So did he make-up you used echo the current trends? Did you have to keep up to date with women’s magazines and things like that?
No. We did, because it was all about vanity, the whole job.
So something extreme, like the way Twiggy used to wear make-up.
The young ones used to do that, but I didn’t. I remember when, going back to… the little good-looking dark one who was a cameraman once. What did I say his name was? We went to a party, and his wife… it was suddenly fashionable to have coloured make-up, and she came in with green make-up, and I thought, “Only a director’s wife can do that.”
I know… there was somebody on the athletics the other day wearing blue lipstick.
You see, you’re shocked about that, but in the 60s and 70s, that was quite commonplace.
What, to wear blue lipstick?
Yes – because they wanted to be different.
What about… did you ever make up people like Laurence Olivier?
Yes, a lot! Because he did a series, you know, called Play of the Year (unverified), and it was when he was very old, and I think he had run out of money, or he was running out of it, and he wanted to leave his family – this was the rumour, I don’t know whether it was true or not – so the brother in law, David Plowright, put these plays up for him to choose play of the year, and I think we did about six or eight with them, and – oh! – he was away with the fairies then. When we did King Lear… oh, it was lovely, I really enjoyed that, but we had… you know Sue Wilde’s ex-husband, who was very quiet and nice, and all the time there was noise going on in the studio; I had never been in such a noisy, ill-disciplined studio. But anyway, it worked, and nobody seemed to mind. But we had a scene, this scene that was supposed to be the King’s house, all wood and straw and whatever, and these big digs, these big Irish wolfhounds wandering around the set, and they were all on horses or standing about… and we all called him ‘Sir’ all the time, and Sir was sitting on this horse, and it was fidgeting about, and it farted! They were all… it just so happened that the extras were all local, and they were all Liverpool comedians, and Sir’s horse farted and he turned round and said, “Sorry about that, lads!” And he turned around and said, “Yer all right, Larry lad! We thought it was the ‘orse!” And one night at the end of it, his dresser – who used to wait on him hand and foot – took him to his dressing room to help him with his bath. He said to him, “I’m going up to Granada next week to do a play.” And Peter Dobbs said, “Well, you’re here, Sir, now. This is it.” “Oh, no – I’m going up next week to do another play!” it was sad, really.
Did you ever make up politicians, like Mrs Thatcher?
Oh, God! Yes. Do you know, we never, ever got tips. Which is the nature of the game, isn’t it? But I went to Blackpool, and it was the year after the Brighton bombing – you wouldn’t believe the security to get in there! I was met outside by two policemen, taken up the drive, and I had to go through like an airport thing, I went in there, then I went into the reception, two more policemen, who sat with me, and then a girl came over, a woman policemen, and I said to her, “Are any of these policemen armed?” And she patted herself, and she had a gun down her thing. And then I said, “I’ll have to go to the toilet,” and she said, “I’ll come with you.” I said, “No, I know where it is, I’ve been here before! You don’t need to.” And she said, “I’ve got to come with you.” And she stood outside the toilet door while I was having a pee, and she banged her foot on the door all the time just to let me know she wasn’t going anywhere! And then somebody came over to me and said, “We’re ready for you now,” so I went to the lift, she came with me to the lift, and anther policeman came with me and up the lift into this little back room, it was really grotty, and I said, “Isn’t this grotty for Margaret Thatcher?” and they said, “Oh, yes – you should see her bedroom, it’s even grottier.” But they had to do that in order to hide where she was. And the whole time I was making her up, there was a helicopter going around the hotel like that. And she’d asked for a certain hairdresser in Blackpool, and when this hairdresser came in, she – I can’t remember the girl’s name – she said, “Hello, so-and-so, how are you? How are the children?” And I thought, “My God, when did she last see her?” And I was chatting to her, and at the end she gave us both a fiver – and that had never, ever happened before or happened again. Actually, she was very nice. Very hairy down there, all soft hair. And I knew she liked Clinique make-up, so I took a kit of Clinique and I gave her the wrong base, I gave her one that was greasy, because I thought, “She’s old, she’ll need the greasy.” And when I got home, she was doing the speech then, and she was running. She was sweating so much, it was all running, and I thought, “Oh, no – I’m going to be beheaded, I know it!”
So did different people have different brands that they liked?
Yes. They made sure you knew from the beginning, but it’s a load of nonsense because it’s all basically the same, isn’t it?
So somebody would have told you, “Mrs Thatcher likes Clinique.”?
No, I forget how I knew about that.
Are there any other famous people that you remember?
I once went up to… what’s his name, that little bald feller, Conservative, with the Yorkshire accent.
William Hague. He was in the make-up room, and I was about to make him up, and I said, “Do you know what? I’ve done six prime ministers.” And he said, “I’m not prime minister.” And I was so embarrassed, I said, “Oh, you will be, I know you will be!” And George Brown – do remember him? What a pain in the arse he was – we had all these wigs set out for a play, beautifully done, I can’t remember what it was for, and he came on and pulled the first wig, and they have pins all round the lace, and he tore all the lace, and he put this wig on, and I bollocked him. I said, “These wigs are all set and done, ready for the play!” And he said, “I was only messing.” I said, “Well, you shouldn’t do that.” He was a pain in the arse.
I suppose sometimes, people in the public eye who wear wigs, but we wouldn’t know.
You can tell! Oh, my God, can you tell?!
What are the signs?
On the plays – they’re not like this now, they’ve improved so much – around here, they have a very fine net around there, and sometimes they look as if they’ve got far too much hair. You can tell.
Did you do Barbara Castle?
Yes, didn’t I say that before?
Yes – but we didn’t record it!
Oh! Well, I was making up Barbara Castle once, and I was very pregnant, and I was standing behind her chair, and then suddenly – whoosh! – this baby turned inside me, and I went all wobbly because it was such a shock, you know, it sort of took the wind out of my sails. And she went on chatting, and I thought, “I can’t tell her, because she doesn’t look as though she’d understand anyway.”
Did Barbara Castle have to come in early to have her hair done?
Yes. Haha! Yes, she did because she liked a lot of make up; she liked to look glamorous. Do you know who was difficult once, and she was difficult with the researchers? Anne Robinson. She came in, she was doing What the Papers Say, when we used to pre-record it in the afternoon, and this researcher brought her in, and a few minutes later the floor manager came in and said, “You’ve only got a couple of minutes.” And she went bloody mad! Because she didn’t have a long make-up turn. She wasn’t nice.
So presumably you worked with a lot of glamorous people.
We had… I didn’t actually put her make-up on, but I was watching her have it done, Sophia Loren came in, and she had a big ladder in her tights, and people kept saying to her, “Did you know you’ve got a ladder in your tights?” And she obviously was really pissed off with this and she just went, “What can I do? What can I do?”
Was she beautiful without make-up?
She was stunning. Wore a wig. (??49:56)
She came in, yes. She was a big friend of the Bernsteins, you know. And she was going up there to be made up, and she was horrible from the minute she walked in. From the feller on the desk, everybody she came across she was horrible to. Once again, I wasn’t making her up, but I remember watching it and thinking, “You bitch.” I’ll tell you who was lovely… little feller… “Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs Robinson?”
Oh – Dustin Hoffman.
Dustin Hoffman. He was lovely. I made him up.
Because you, as a make-up artist, would get an insight into people that other wouldn’t normally see.
Yes, but people like that… you’re with them only for a few minutes, and they’re nice then, because you can destroy them! One flick of your brush and you can destroy them! I remember doing Cliff Richard and he was lovely. And I thought, “Yes, because you’re grateful.”
Oh, she was there, she did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I didn’t do her, no.
What about some of the Coronation Street people? Pat Phoenix?
Oh! Yes. I did her a few times. It’s funny, because the make-up she had was left over from the 50s. I don’t mean the pots that we had, but the way she had it was left over from the 50s.
Is that what she wanted?
Yes. She was a handful! And most of the time she was half asleep anyway.
Well, she didn’t come into make-up anyway, she never had make-up. She just used to wear that hair net. Several of them didn’t have it. The one that played Hilda Ogden, she didn’t have any make-up. A lot of them didn’t have any.
They wouldn’t do that now, would they?
I used to love doing Coronation Street when it was black and white – it was so old-fashioned, everything they did! They never went outside to do Coronation Street, everything was inside, and if they wanted the street… the set was, the big houses, and then they went down like that. So if you were standing at this end, and if you looked down, it was all in proportion to these little houses at the end. But if they walked all the way down they became giants in front of the houses! I remember once, it was a scene outside – and it was so old-fashioned, the way they did it – they had rain. The rain machines. Do you remember them? And it was a big, round drum, and they turned the handle, and the stagehand did it the wrong way around! And the water was shooting up, the rain was all shooting up! And I remember one of the designers accidentally put the Rovers stairs in the wrong way around. There were so many mistakes! But nobody bothered.
So were you on set all the time when you were doing the make-up?
When you were in charge of the make-up you used to go in the box – what do they call it now, the gallery? – and you’d be up there while your assistant would be on the floor, powdering off or whatever. But you’d have written all the notes and things that were necessary.
So you’d still have to make detailed notes?
Oh, yes. I mean, you did it just as an ordinary drama. I remember once doing a drama, and it was Mike Newell, and – I can’t remember what the play was – and we used to get £12 a year for studio shoes. Did you get those? Did you? Oh, it must have just been the studio people. You used to get £12 and you had to get very soft shoes to wear in the studio for walking about – and I had been very naughty that day and Id gone in high heels because I knew I was in the box, so it didn’t matter. An something went wrong with one of the make-ups, I don’t know what it was. And you know in Studio 12, those stairs come down, and there’s a little platform and then down again? I tripped! These heels got caught in the thing and I went right down the stairs, and I went upside down, and I was half way out of the stairs, and I heard… Mike Newell was working through a loud speaker – he wasn’t doing it through the earphone – and I heard him shout, “Christ! The fucking make-up girl’s broken her fucking neck!” I was like, “never mind that! Get me out of this position!” And I had long-leggity panty girdle on, Spanx they call them now, and I was trying… because it was mini skirts, I was trying to pull my skirt down over my long-leggity panty girdle! It was my own fault. I shouldn’t have done that.
Did you do prosthetics?
I never did them myself, because I wasn’t good enough, so I used to get them made, but they were never any good. You have to have such talent and expertise to make those, and to put them on… I did an actor who was supposed to be… the one who was impeached in America?
Nixon. And you know his nose was a bit bulbous with a dimple there? Oh, it was awful – it didn’t work at all. But nobody said anything, they just… oh, we won’t use it.
Can you remember any musicians that you made up, that had come in to do shows with (Johnny ?? 0:11) or anything like that?
Well, whenever there was an orchestra in we always used to make them up, because they were nearly all old men and they nearly all had bald heads. So you’d make notes – trombonist, bald – and you make all these notes ready for them to be done. And when we went in for the run-through, none of them had bald heads because all of them put toupees on to go on the telly! That used to make me laugh, all these fellers sat there with their awful cheap toupees on. I know what I never said – my favourite programme ever was The Comedians. Do you remember that? I loved that programme.
So who… Frank Carson?
Frank Carson, yes. I was in Blackpool once, and I can’t remember what we were doing. I remember that Sue Powell… no… Jane Powell… girl that looks Indian, does presenting… and she and I were standing, chatting, and this man walked up to me and said, “What do you think of those?” And I said, “How are you?” and he said, “Never mind that, what do you think of those? £12,000, they cost!” And off he went. And it was Frank Carson! What was the name of the comedian from Liverpool who was a big, fat pudding and dead miserable?
I don’t know. I’m trying to think about Liverpool comedians. Jimmy Tarbuck?
No, no – not famous like him.
I don’t know.
One of the shows we did, it was funny because… you know they used to do… some of it was a bit blue, and they knew some of that was going to get cut out. And the audience got in a load of nuns! And all these nuns were in the audience, and I went in for something, and I looked out into the audience and I thought, “What the hell have they done that for?” And the comedians came in, and they’d obviously been told to keep it down a bit, and these nuns were sitting there! It was ridiculous, having nuns sitting in on a show like that.
Did you ever do any pop groups?
Yes, we used to do a lot of pop stuff. They were all right, they were naughty boys, most of them. What’s the lot who used to wear the tartan?
Bay City Rollers.
Yes, we had them. And that one who used to wear a lot of make-up who was killed in a car.
Yes, we had him. I tell you what we did do, we did – my memory is getting shot to pieces! – The Hit Man and Her. Pete Waterman and Michaela Strachan.
Were the Beatles and the Stones before your time?
Just as I got there, they had just finished a Beatles programme. There was a dance sequence where they had these… I don’t know why the make-up artists did it, but they had these awful, naff, blonde wigs that the dancers had had. I mean, you wouldn’t put them on anybody! And we had those for a while. There were several things I’d just missed.
Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard?
No, I didn’t do that. I couldn’t be bothered with all the music stuff, even when I used to do Stars, I used to watch it at home and I’d turn the sound down when the music came on!