A donkey, Derek Hatton and Custer’s Last Stand!

Several things happened which would never have happened at the TV centre in Quay Street in Manchester. One I remember was when Shorty (Mike Short, GTV Producer) brought a flock of sheep (or a number of sheep) in. I can’t remember the nature of the story he was running but it caused no end of problems for me but I wasn’t concerned about my problems, I was concerned about Shorty getting his programme out. He also brought a donkey into the studio for a nativity insert into the evening news programme and it was a real “Ahhh!” moment because a little child sitting on top of the donkey, holding a plastic baby, and another child was leading the donkey and the 2 little kiddiewinkies sang some carols – it was a very lovely moment – and then the donkey crapped on the floor! Fortunately we had come to the commercial break and the stagehands refused to move the crap, saying it wasn’t in their contract! So I went down with one of the cleaning ladies whose name I can’t remember but she was a marvellous woman. She used to go and clean the gents and sometimes would surprise me (there was nothing between us, I should point out!) so I took this lovely cleaning lady into the studio. ‘I’m sorry, cleaning the studio is the stagehands’ job.’ I said, “Well, clean the crap up then.” ”No, no.’ So I got a shovel and shoved it to one side. The donkey had been led out and the little kiddiewinkies and the choir and the studio was being reset for an interview conducted by John Toker, I think. The table was moved into place with chairs each side and he was interviewing Derek Hatton who was then deputy leader of Liverpool Council and a very controversial character. And Derek was wheeled in from the Green Room ready for the resumption of the programme, sat down, Toker the other side, the interview began. I was watching on the monitor in my office and what I noticed was that first of all Toker surreptitiously looked at his shoe then Derek Hatton moved very slowly in his chair, crossed his legs so that he could afford himself a view of the sole of his shoe and then they looked at each other accusingly! It was one of the most hilarious moments I’ve seen and sadly it was probably never preserved for posterity!

The big one though, for Shorty and for me, I’d been out for lunch because part of my job was to do lunch. I did a lot of lunches with people, spreading the word and so on. And about 4 o’ clock, which is normally the time I returned from lunch, I turned the corner into Exchange Flags and stopped because it appeared that a North American Native Indian encampment had set itself up on the Flags outside my studio! They were dancing round a fire, whooping and banging tom-toms! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, several chaps on horses galloped in re-enacting Custer’s last stand!! I was transfixed. I just stood there watching it and then I saw the landlord’s representative (well, 2 of them actually) running towards the studio so I did what only a sensible manager would do – I turned on my heel and walked away to the nearest pub and had a few drinks, only returning to the studio at 6 o’ clock when all was peaceful so that’s what Shorty did to me!

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