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A Long Shot and a Short Interview.

Gold Coast theatre reviewer and commentator, Douglas Kennedy, has a new role conducting the Memoir Class for the Southport Branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A). U3A Southport welcomes all over 50s, retirees and seniors to join so their memoir stories cover many decades.

One of the class exercises is to produce a 400-600 word memoir on a different theme at each session to be read to the group.As he asked all members to take part in the exercise, Douglas thought it only fair that he also made a contribution.

In keeping with Eric Scott’s Absolute Theatre’s commitment to the world of arts and entertainment Douglas has agreed to make his memoirs in these areas available on an occasional basis.

There are jobs which are guaranteed to put you in the public domain. When the sun shines that’s okay, but when it rains it inevitably pours down in bucket loads. That reminds me of one of the most unfortunate encounters of my nearly 50 years as a print journalist.

It should have been a memorable occasion as it marked my first opportunity to interview a fully-fledged celebrity or, as we called them then, a household name.

But sadly, it was not only my debut as a show biz writer, but also the shortest interview in my largely happy career.

The occasion was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and myself, and a photographer called John, were tasked with putting together a neighbourhood colour piece on the 1977 knees-up.

The June party to mark the red letter day in the Queen’s reign was one of the most significant dates on the calendar in the catchment area of the pompously named Waltham Forest Guardian and Independent.

No one knew how to celebrate a major event quite like East Londoners.

Mr and Mrs High Street poured into the streets with drinks, such as bottles of beer, Babychams, soft drinks and all manner of home-made snacks neatly laid out on trestle tables covered with sparling white table clothes.

The council had also pulled out all the stops erecting a stage on vacant land and recruiting well-names from the telly to perform.

John and I arrived at one such landmark to catch the dying seconds of a routine featuring crowd favourite Norman Wisdom.

I had missed the act but had a chance to catch the favoured comic, known as Britain’s answer to Jerry Lewis, when his car stopped at the gate to the park on the way out.

I tapped on his back window and without a smidgeon of malicious waited to talk to my comic hero.

“Hello Mr Wisdom,” I said nervously. “ What did you give the fans today?”

And then foolishly added: “More or less what you have been doing for the last 25 years.”

The loveably jester didn’t answer, but simply gave me a look as if I was something rather unpleasant on the bottom of his shoe. The electric window slowly closed and I was destined to never meet Norman again.

In one short phrase I had crossed a line and possibly spoiled a funny man’s day.



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