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 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!…..
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. …..
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 (the Producer) 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 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 wasSteve Morrison. 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.