Monday, 20 October 2014

He grabbed my arm, but not as hard as Michael Parkinson

On Saturday the 5th of January 1974 a strange thing happened.  From a small cupboard in the studio that had previously bought the world Crossroads, two men tried desperately, and often failed, to do continuity between all of the normal Saturday morning selection of kids cartoons and suchlike - it was never meant to be much of anything (And there are some that'd say that that's exactly what happened) But the six-year-old Dandy was a devoted fan even if his parents weren't.

The men were Mr John Asher and a certain Mr Christopher John 'Old Strawhead' Tarrant (OBE, but not at the time) and the show was TISWAS.

Now you've all heard of TISWAS, well you will have done if you're based in the UK and happen to be of a 'certain age'.  For those of you who haven't, go and have a look on YouTube. What started as a mostly improvised bit of experimental segue-ing turned, over the next eight years into a world-beating, childhood-transforming, new-star-making slice of television that was to be the template for pretty much every 'anarchic' kids TV program that came after it. (OK, the last series was a bit pants, but that was why it was the last series I'm guessing)

Without TISWAS there'd literally be no SM:TV or Dick n' Dom - And I leave it to you guys to decide whether the world would have been a better place if that had happened.

It introduced the younger generation to more 'traditionally mature' performers like Frank Carson, Norman Collier and... Erm... Bernard Manning?

And, it launched the career of recent (at the time) New-Faces winner Lenworth 'Lenny' Henry. Who, along with his parody of newsreader Trevor MacDonald (the brilliant Trevor MacDoughnut) managed to sail his way through segments that would be considered almost illegally racist today with backdrops of african scenery including a native dwelling bearing a sign 'This is a mud hut' - It was a simpler time, before political correctness and the Belgians stamping all over everthing that makes Britain great.

There was also a pre-Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy - Still called Sylveste at this time in his career.

It's at about this point, you should be thinking to yourselves "But why is he going on about a kids program that was cancelled before most of us were born?"

Well, I'll tell you.

Yesterday, (or the 19th of October 2014 - If you're not reading this today (which is the 20th October 2014)) there was an event held in Birmingham to celebrate the 40th Birthday of TISWAS, and I was lucky enough to blag a ticket.  It was organised, as I understand it, by the great minds behind the two major TISWAS groups on Facebook TISWAS Online and TISWAS and Saturday Mornings on ITV, and it took place in the upstairs room of the Apres Bar in Summer Row (Which is a cracking venue for this type of thing as both the gents and ladies toilets open onto the dance floor, handy for filling buckets of water)

Here's a picture of us all trying to figure out how stairs work
(C) TISWAS Online
Should you know the true identity of your humble blogger, you will have no difficult in picking him out by his lovely lumberjack shirt and the shine coming from the top of his head.

So, what was it like?

Well, it was hot... So hot in fact that I spent most of my time out on the terrace with the filthy smokers (Which in fairness are exactly the sort of people that TISWAS should be attracting).  And everyone started off being very reserved.  John Gorman was there when we arrived.

John Gorman and 'A Fan'

And we had a couple of beers - To keep up with the 70's theme, the bar sold Tuborg Lager, that took me straight back to the days where waking up in a ditch with the taste of stagnant water and jubblies in my mouth was a common occurance.  We missed the entrance of Bob Carolgees, Chris Tarrant and Sally James as we were taking in the bracing Birminghamshire air on the verandah busily trying to be too cool for school.  But we heard the cheers, and they really were deafening, there were a lot of card carrying superfans there, for some of them it was the third or even fourth time that they'd crawled of of their parents basement and blinked into the bright sunlight. (This is not true, 99% of the people there were great, friendly people who were as normal as you or I, the organisers had seen to that.)

(Well, you anyway.)


There were some unexpected faces there too...

From Left to right: An unconfirmed shoulder, Lee Bannister, Ian 'Sludge' Lees, Rebecca Drury (Professional Compost Corner flower and partner of...) Matt Lewis (The little fellah that sang 'Bright-Eyes' dressed as a rabbit, who is now a fireman I think someone said), Chris Tarrant, Bob Carolgees, Sally James, John Gorman and Den Hegarty.

Some more beer was drunk (as I was being detained at British Rail's pleasure, so it seemed only right.) and the flanning started.  Now, if you're a 'flan' virgin, it's effectively the same as that comedy staple, the custard pie, or just a paper plate covered in eye-stinging-to-the-point-of-blindness shaving foam which caused a lot of people to spend the rest of the day looking like this:

My good friend and fish inquisitor @jamaallamaa
You'd have thought this was about as low as things could get?  Well no... Not really.  We were treated to fan renditions of popular TISWAS staples, The Dying Fly (A dance where you lie on the floor and wave your extremities in the air), and The Bucket of Water Song (Where you get wet, very, very, wet) and after another pint or so, it was time to wobble my way back to the half-complete New Street Station to stare in confusion at the Departure boards until one of the Rail staff helped me to my train.

It was a great day, one that I'll remember for a long, long time... Unless I go to near one of those magnets that you get at a scrapyard, then the plate in my head goes hot and I have to re-learn the words to 'Grandma we love you' all over again.

Thanks to the organisers for giving me the opportunity of getting innapropriately close to Sally James and for being able to tell Den Hegarty that he used to scare the poop out of me when I was a kid. (I also had a chat with David McKellar about who used to forget their lines most often.)

These were some of the reprobates that enabled my tomfoolery:

Marc Neun, Pete Thomas, Toby Riding & a couple of other people
If you see them in the street, you should shower them with money, flowers and assorted luxury food items (But be careful because at least one of them is a vegetarian)

P.S. Hastogs, the people who produce all the Chimping Dandy merch also produced all the commemorative T-Shirts for the day

P.P.S. The title of today's post is just something I over-heard from one of the other 'Guests'... Or at least I'm fairly sure that's what she said...

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