I had to work on preparing the obituary of Sidney Bernstein at one stage, when I was working at Granada, when he was not well. Immediately we were asked to go and interview people who had been key in his life. I had to read up a great deal about him and how the company had started. I was so impressed that this guy who I had never met, I had heard of him by reputation, had the vision to set up this company.
Again people will have told you, when the franchises were being meted out in the 1950s he had gone for the area of the country that had the highest population and the highest rainfall because he said ‘They’ll all be inside watching TV’. And he had called it Granada because it had a sunny ring to it and even though it was based in the rainy North West people would always think of sunshine when they saw the name. All of these things, which you would pay a fortune to go to Harvard Business School now to learn, he had got it.
Then I discovered in doing the obituary that he had this other layer to him; that he had been a beacon of hope for people who had been blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthy years. In fact one of the people I had to go and interview was Lauren Bacall in New York, who couldn’t get to the interview quick enough to tell me what a wonderful man he was and made a marvellous cocktail. Apparently Sidney Bernstein had helped her and her husband Humphrey Bogart during some really tough times during the McCarthy years.
A remarkable, remarkable man. Of course we made the obituary and then he revived, it wasn’t put out for another year. I think he died the very day I was told I was to become a producer on the programme, so I had mixed emotions.