I'll Give Old Corrie Some Street Cred
January 27, 1997
There's been talk of a St Valentine's Day massacre down at the Rovers Return. And new C.S supremo Brian Parks is the man they've fingered for the crime. But Park himself insists there'll be no blood-letting in TV's longest running soap.
"I'm not planning a slaughter," says the Scots-born producer as he gazes out of the window of his third-floor office. He's looking down on the Street's soundstage and cocks an imaginary rifle:"I can pick off unruly members of the crew from here," he jokes. On the other hand, on Brian's first morning on the job 10 days ago, it was revealed that dopey Derek - actor Peter Baldwin - was to be axed after 21 years on the Street.
It was a decision that sent shock waves through the show's cast. "Let's just say the first week was a baptism of fire," admits Brian, 41, with a smile."But such decisions have to be taken to create space and give the show some oxygen. Some characters have run their course. This has nothing to do with Peter's abilities as an actor. He had gone as far as he could with Derek. When you're a comedy character it's naturally confining." Brian, has been handed the job of ensuring the Street's survival into the next century, but he knows a few noses may have to be put out of joint. The problem of a show with such culture and tradition is that there may not be the ability to shift gear as quickly as you'd like," he explains. "I'm sympathetic to those who jealously gaurd Corrie, but I'm not over reverential. If things need to change I will make those changes. I want it to be pacier and slightly less cosy. But there will be no mass clearout of characters."
Plan A is to give senior cast members less predictable lives. Take Ken Barlow (actor William Roache). "That man is a walking sexual revolution," says Brain, "twenty-three girlfriends, wives galore. He's had an indecent number of women for someone so mild-mannered. But we don't have to go down the same road again. There is new life ahead for Ken and Deirdre or Mike and Alma. Other characters like Betty Williams or Alf and Audrey are essintial ingredients. They're like the big clock on the mantlepiece."
Yet Brian knows that nobody is bigger than the show. Julie Goodyear quit after a quarter of a century on the Street. "Loads of people were meant to turn off when Bet left," say Brian. "It never happened though." "For every person that liked her there was another who said she had become a caricature."
Plan B is to bring in some young people, though Brian is quick to point out that, contrary to rumour, the Street will not become a northern version of EE. "It's only common sense to bring them on," he says, "though not at the expense of older characters. You can't throw releatively inexperienced actors in at the deep end with a big, tough story-line. Of course, certain memebers of the younger cast are ripe and ready - Tina Hobley, who plays Samantha, and the McDonald twins. I have to think about where the Street will be in five years time. The future is obviously the younger characters. But I want to bring the generations more together on the Steet. Stories tend to be confined to pockets of sixtysomehings or the younger ones. I want more crossover."
Brain rejects charges the the Street is too much like a sitcom to be taken seriously. "Nobody genuinly believes EE or CS accurately reflects life. Brookside is unrelentingly gloomy and completely unbeleivable. EE shoehorns issues into story-lines. The Street has had its share of sensationalism - Ernie Bishop being shot, the Rovers fire, the train crash on the viaduct. But Corrie reflects the humour of real life better than all its rivals," he says.
Brian, whose favourite all time character is Ena Sharples, knows he'll have to fight his corner. But this is a man who once refused a British ambassador's request to leave a war-torn Beirut while making a documentry on Islamic funamentalists. "John McCarthy was kidnapped only a couple of days later," he recalls.
Brian's current task is to reassure the cast his only important ambition is to make sure the Street is Britain's top soap in ten-years time. "There's always uncertainty especially with actors and their human fragilities. But I'm not going to change things for the sake of it. I'm a nice chap really......."
Street scratchcard addict Joyce is killed off
January 28, 1997 by Tony Brooks
A SICKENING car crash marks the grisly exit of Rovers Return cleaner and scratch card addict Joyce Smedley from Coronation Street.
Joyce, played by Anita Carey, is mown down and killed by a car driven by the Street's Tony Horrocks (Lee Warburton). She is the first victim of new producer Brian Park's bid to halt a ratings slump
Joyce will he seen running after her dog Scamper as Tony - Kevin Webster's garage partner - rounds a bend. He takes his eye off the road as he changes a cassette and she is hurled over the bonnet before landing on her head with a sickening crack. Stuntgirl Helen Caldwell stood in for Anita as the scene was filmed beside Salford University, Gtr Manchester. A stuntman was at the wheel of the Peugot 205. The sequence is expected to be shown at the end of next month.
Anita was said to be "deeply disappointed" at getting the bullet but a Street source said: She is pleased with the manner of her killing off. The scene is very spectacular and guarantees skyhigh viewing figures"
Pictures: BRIAN WILLIAMSON
Gal Marches Street's Kev Into Bed
January 29, 1997
SEXY Soldier Soldier star Denise Welch has been recruited to put some oomph into Coronation Street. Her first mission is to quick-march mechanic Kevin Webster into bed.
Blonde Dernise, 37, is the latest secret weapon to boost the Street's sagging viewing figures. But she's a bit worried about sagging herself - and plans to have a boob job to make the ratings swell.
She stuffs socks in her Wonderbra and is awaiting an operation to boost her boobs from 32A to 32C. Denise will soon be involved in steamy manoeuvres with grease monkey Kevin - (Michael Le Veil), whose marriage to Sally (Sally Whittaker) looks rocky. She played officer's wife Marsha Stubbs in the Army series. In real life she is married to Tim Healey - Dennis in Auf Wiedersehen Pet and binman Foxy in Common as Muck. She will turn up in Weatherfield as Natalie, mother of Kevin's partner Tony Horcocks (Lee Warburton).
After arriving to comfort Tony, who is devastated after knocking
down and killing Rovers Return cleaner Joyce Smedley (Anita Carey),
she gets Kevin in her sights. Tony walks out of the Street, blaming
himself for Joyce's death. Mum is left to handle his neglected
business affairs - and starts one with Kevin. New Street supreme
Brian Park thinks Denise is a natural successor to Julie Goodyear
(Bet Gifroy) and the late Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner). A Granada
TV source said: "Her fling with Kevin will get everyone talking."
Bryan Mosley rushed to Hospital
4 February 1997
Heaveyweight CS actor Bryan Mosley was in hospital last night after a second suspected heart attack. The 16 stone star, who has played former shop owner Alf Roberts for 35 years , collapsed at home and was rushed to a cardiac unit.
Relatives of 65-year old Bryan have been trying to persued him to slow down, or even quit his role in the four times a week soap. Four years ago he Street's favourite suffered a massive coronary. And 12 months ago he was in hospital for two nights after feeling unwell while filming.
Bryan was recovering from his latest scare in a new £1 million unit at Bradford, Royal Infirmary. The star, who is having heart tests, helped raise funds for special equipment there. He lives in nearby Shipley and his family, including his wife Sheila are with him.
A hospital spokesman said his condition was 'comfortable'. In the Street, Bryan's character has faced the problems of growing older. After a car crash, Alf's doctor refused to approve renewal of his driving licence.
Bryan, who has diabetes, was rumoured to be facing the axe, like Peter Baldwin (Derek Wilton), in the ratings war against Eastenders. But Bryan's future was assured by show bosses.
A Street spokeman said he had seemed 'in good health' and had lost weight. He added:"We want to see him back filming and wish him well."
Corry On Sacking
6 February 1997
CS beauty Eve Steele has been dumped from the show. Eve, who plays supermarket deputy manager Anne Malone, said last night she was stunned bt the news. She was hoping her part would become permanent. The 25-year old is the second star to be axed from the soap this week. The Mirror revealed yesterday that Geoff Hinsliff - Don Brennan - is also on the way out.
Eve leaves the TV series after 18 months, when her character gets boss Curly Watts the sack on St Valentine's Day. She has been plauging Curly and plotting revenge since he spurned her after a kiss at a Christmas party when she said she loved him. The hate campaign ends with ambitious Anne, who has been after Curly's job, accusing him of being a sex pest.
But the storyline came as a bombshell to the actress, who fears being ditched from the show will leave her struggling to make ends meet. Eve said:"When I first read the scripts I thought 'she's totally lost it, it's the beginning of the end'. I nagged my bosses for weeks to tell me if this meant I was out. When they eventually gave me the bad news I was really shaken. The hardest thing is going to be losing the security of the past 18 months. For the first time I've been able to pay for some driving lessons, buy a car and get a mortgage on a flat. Now I'll just have to make sure I'm not evicted for non-payment."
A Street insider said:" The way the plot was going there was just no way that Eve could stay on the show. Her character Anne is not the kind of person who could just pop up lter and have a quiet pint in the Rovers." Last year, Street bosses were rocked when it was revealed that Eve had been a £2000 a year heroin addict when she was 19. The former punk rocker was hooked on the drug for 18 months while living in Manchester's notorious Moss side. But she beat her addiction after a 3-week stay at a drug rehabilitation unit.
Eve said of the period:"I've done a lot of things I shouldn't have and I've had to feel bad enough to want to stop. Eventually I did." Now totally free of drugs, she added:" people have said I fell in with the wrong crowd, but it wasn't like that. I'm not a helpless thing. I've always made my own decisions."
8 & 15 February 1997 Tina Baker's Soap Diary
Duggie Brown, the brother of Lynne Perrie, aka Poison Ivy, will pop up in the Street on February 14. He plays the owner of Liz's pub, and, if all goes well, he may get a regular role on the show which shot Lynne to fame. Duggie, like his sister, is a veteran of the clubs - both as a singer and a comic. He also appeared in Brookside as Ron Dixon's love rival and has a role in Last of the Summer Wine.
The rumours are the Tricia will go into labour on Valentine's Day, Don will kidnap Alma and then be involved in a horrific car crash, and Ken will have to fight to save his job. Moreover, on his release gangster Fraser will start an affair with Liz and Terry Duckworth will return to give Vera and Jack some more grief. Phew!
A few weeks ago some critics had written off the soap, so it just shows that new broom producer Brian Park has livened thigs up.
Let's here it for Roy Cropper, played by David Neilson, who is the latest in a long line of soap losers. Ever since Benny in Crossroads, the British public have take sad characters like Roy to their hearts. US soaps rarely have such people, because they only want sex gods. So Roy, together with EastEnders' Nigel and Robbie, Emmerdale's Sam and Butch, and, to a certain extent, Brookside's Sinbad, adds a touch of comic pathos to soap plots.
Peter Baldwin, due to be killed off as Derek, may take consolation from Stephen Hancock, cruelly culled as Ernie Bishop in 1977, that there is life after soap. Stephen recently popped up in the long-running radio soap, The Archers, and is also starring in a TV play for Granada on February 13. We've not seen much of Derek recently but a couple of weeks ago he muttered the word "allotment" - and we all know what happened to Arthur Fowler.
No-one knows whether The Street is coming or going! The latest news is that Anne "Fatal Attraction" Malone is to be axed along with Don , Derek, Tony and Joyce.
Good news is that former Emmerdale heart-throb, Matthew Marsden (bad boy Danny Wier) will move into The Street. He starred in the ITV soap Island, set in Jersey, and he was "the man who turned down a date with Madonna". His appointment in The Street may well snare a few younger viewers.
When Lou Carpenter was ousted from Neighbours, actor Tom Oliver received hundreds of letters of support. By popular demand, he was reinstated. Peter Baldwin is probably hoping for the same level of commitment from his supporters. Corrie fans have already collected 1,000 signatures on their petition and I could add hundreds from my postbag to that. But I doubt it will be enough to stop "new broom" producer Brian Park continuing his clear-out.
Keep your eyes on the Rovers' regulars over the next couple of weeks - a distinguished guest is to drop in. Sir Cliff Richard is due to follow in Take That Robbie's footsteps - remember his surprise appearance in the Vic? Sir Cliff has been a life-long fan of The Street and loved his visit. So watch out for that smiley face, with a beard grown for his stage play Heathcliffe, in the crowd.
Tina Hobley, who plays Ice Maiden Samantha, is looking for a home together with her boyfriend, Steve. Her mum and current flatmate have been warning Steve that Tina is compulsively messy! "She steps out of her clothes and leaves them on the floor and she never washes up," says her best mate, Lydia. I'm sure that millions of male fans wouldn't care if she never lifted a finger - as long as she stepped out of her clothes.
9 February 1997
Sexy Street temptress Angie Freeman is coming back to the soap for good and she again has her sights set on Curly Watts. Actress Deborah McAndrew, 29 , made a brief return before Christmas. But her reapppearance after a break of nearly four years went down so well with fans that producers have given her a long-term contract. The fashion designer is to be plunged into a series of sizzling stotylines with the rekindling of her affair with old flame Curly.
Street Life's Too Tough, Blasts Rita
9 February 1997
C.S. star Brabar Knox has blasted the soap's bosses for screening the show four times a week. The veteran actress, who plays Rita Sullivan, says the tough work schedule means the cast have no time to rehearse. An she revealed that recording sessions at the ailing soap were often 'a little hairy' because of the burden of the extra episode.
Barbara, 61, said:" It's a lot tougher. We don't get anytime to rehearse any more. We go straight into filming without time to go through lines with the rest of the cast. You have to think on your feet and it gets a bit hairy sometimes with the long scenes. I personally miss the the practise. It was during rehearsals that I used to come up with my most inventive things." "Thelma Barlow (who plays Mavis Wilton) would come up with our more creative ideas when we were practising together. It's left to us to find the time to run through things - sometimes in the corridor on the way to the studio, or quickly in the Green room."
"When we are out on location the only time we get to rehearse is in the back of a cab in te early hours of the morning on the way there." And she added:" I do find things more difficuly now but we are all professionals and the quality doesn't suffer."
Barbara's amazing attack on Granada chiefs follows widespread fears among the cast that Street supremo Brian Park has drawn up a hit list of stars he wants axed. Producers have worked hard to keep dissenting voices at bay. They are desperate for the fourth episode to be a success as they try to steal back ground lost to EastEnders in the ratings war.
But, as the recently crowned Queen of the Street, Barbara is in a more powerful position to speak out and her outburst is bound to spark fury at Granada. It is not the first time Barbara, who celebrates 25 years in the soap next month has blasted the show that turned her into a huge star. Only a year ago she branded certain episodes 'rubbish' and condemmed some scenes as 'little more than a Carry On farce'.
But her pivotal role on the show was demonstarted last year when she won the power battle for the dressing room vacated by Julie Goodyear. The room, use by the former Queen of the Street, before she quit as landlady of the Rovers', Bet Gilroy, is the `royal box' in the soap's Manchester studio It is the most coveted and comfortable dressing area and the nearest to the rehearsals. Street veterans William Roache (Ken Barlow), Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth) and Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) looked likely candidates but it was Barbara who finally came up trumps.
Eva Says 'NO" To Rovers Return
9 February 1997
Sexy ex-Street star Eva Pope, who as Tanya the man-eating barmaid stole Des from Raquel, will never set foot in the Rovers again.
Granada bosses have been begging her to come back after she stormed out with Bet Gilroy's trucker lover Charlie three years ago. But her answer has always been No. She said:" I quit because I didn`t want to be typecast. And I was never anything like Tanya. Not a bit. I've never had a lot of casual affairs." She also turned down the chance to front Channels 4`s Big Breakfast.
"Now I'm looking forward to bigger and better things," she said. That might include stripping for the cameras, said Eva, 29 who has a one year old daughter, Elise. "It's often assumed that a woman who's given birth just wants to hide her body for the rest of her life," she added. "But having a baby has totally changed my perspective. Now I woud be prepared to take my clothes off if the role demanded it."
"There I was as Tanya , the ultimate sexpot, but there was no way I would go nude. Even when viewers saw me between the sheets with Des. I kept my clothes on all the time." Eva, who makes a guest appearnce in ITV drama Peak Practice on Tuesday, married graphic designer Laurence Lassalle last year, when she found out she was pregnant.
"We had been friends before we became girlfrind and boyfriend and planned to get married at some stage," she said. "I've had to put my career on hold for a bit. But it wasn't such a bad thing because it meant I could put some space between Tanya and whatever I did next."
Baker's soap diary
21 February 1997
Tricia's just given birth on screen but her alter ego Tracy Brabin is not expecting her baby for a few months.
Meanwhile Sally Whittaker - Sally Webster - is looking forward to the birth of her second child. Sally has been given three months maternity leave and the rumour is Kev will have a fling with his partner Tony's mum, played by Denise Welch. This will come as a shock to viewers because Sal and Kev are a rarity in soapland - a happily married couple.
Even in Bet Lynch's tartiest days you never saw what she got up to behind closed bedroom doors during her dozens of affairs. But the new-look Street of the '90s has a higher raunch rating particularly between Liz McDonald and gangland boss Fraser Henderson. Bev Callard, who plays the temptress, says the sex scenes won't be explicit but we will see bare shoulders, and there'll be a shower scene as well as a bed scene and plenty of snogging.
Neighbours from hell rock Rovers
23 February 1997
A family from hell will invade CS as the soap cuts up rough. Regulars at the Rovers Return are horrified when a gruff newcomer with a jailbird wife and two tearaway teenage sons moves into Weatherfield.
Even loudmouths Jacka and Vera Duckworth are lost for words when they discover the man's other half is behind bars for shoplifting.
New-broom producer Brian park is axing four cast favourites, including dopey Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin) and Don Brennan (Geoff Hinsliff). It's all part of a brutal shakeup sparked by a soap ratings war. The Street has been criticised for being too boring compared with the gritty, real-life drama of BBC rival Eastenders.
But a Corrie insider said:"This new family are real neighbours from hell. It's a taste of things to come from Park, who thinks the troublemakers will bring in the viewers. He doesn't like the softly softly approach and wants to replace the cosy scenes of days gone by with some really hard-hitting storylines. Park is on the lookout for younger members of the cast and the new one parent family will give writers more scope for action and dialogue. The last new guns in the Street were the McDonald twins - but that that was a few years ago. They were always getting into trouble, providing lots of laughs and action."
"The new family will have a big impact on everyone. A second shock is in tstore for the locals when the writers introduce mum by releasing her from jail." "This is the last time Albert Square takes on Weatherfield and wins the ratings battle. Viewers are going to be pleasantly suprised by some of the new twists in the plots."
Baker's soap diary
7 & 14 March 1997
Former Soldier, Soldier star Denise Welch admits her first day on The Street was as terrifying as her first day at school. "I had to try hard not to call the stars by their character names," she says. "I'm now excited about filming my first Rovers scene. As Tony's mum she has already met Kev, and a sexy storyline beckons when she returns in a few weeks. "The media want me to be the new Elsie Tanner," she laughs.
Anne Barfield is the woman responsible for Alma's trademark turned up collars, Raquel's high heels and Wonderbra, Rita's sequins and Bet's leopardskin creations. As Corrie's costume designer she admits she has a great job. "I get paid to shop," she jokes. Anne's team discusses a character's image with scriptwriters and actors. Though they haven't decided on Sam's definitive look yet, they promise you won't ever see Percy in a shell suit.
What will Corrie's Roy and Tony be doing next month that will put Nigel from EastEnders to shame? Running the London Marathon of course! On screen, Nigel was too late to enter the world famous race, but in real-life David Neilson (Roy) and Lee Warburton (Tony) are competing on April 13. David's managed a run of 14 miles so far and admitted he felt "terrible" afterwards.
The siege at the McDonald's house may have been controversial but it wasn't the first time a gunman has held someone hostage on the Street.
Years ago sweet Minnie Caldwell was held at gunpoint by her lodger Joe Donelli, an American GI who owed Steve Tanner money in gambling debts. After breaking Steve's neck and holding Minnie hostage, he turned the gun on himself. And they say the recent violence is a new thing!
Brian Park, Corrie's new producer, has denied rumours of a massacre on the Street and assures fans that 95% of the show will stay the same. He says his new post is 'the most important job in TV' and his secret weapon to stay atop the ratings is humour: 'We do it more effectively than any comparable soap,' he says. But some fans are rebelling against Brian: thousands have signed a "Save Our Derek" petition.
Gaynor Faye, who's put in some great performances as grieving Judy Mallett has no problems with pestering fans. "I never get hassle from the public, probably because of Judy. They're frightened I'll give them a mouthful," she laughs. Gaynor rehearsed some of the scenes after the death of her on-screen mum Joyce with her real mum, Band of Gold writer Kay Mellor. Kay and Gaynor, who are close, ended up in tears.
Annie Wilkie Miller is production manager on the Corrie set and runs it with military precision. She arranges the filming schedules and budgets and says one of the most difficult shoots to arrange was the day at the races when Jack fell off a horse. 'We couldn't film at a real race meeting so we had to persuade owners to let their horses run pretend races,' she explains.
Street Star's Road rage End
17 March 1997
CS Derek Wilton is set to die in a dramatic road rage clash. Peter Baldwin, who plays him, filmed his final scenes yesterday where Derek has a heart attack at the wheel.
An insider said of the story to be shown next month:" We think it will be unmissable. It's just so sad that Peter's biggest moment is his last for C.S."
On the day he dies, Derek is at the end of his tether from pressure at work and trying to get to his wife's Mavis's birthday party. "His boss brings in a dynamic new kid who is set to climb the executive ladder at a very fast rate," said an insider. "That gives him nightmares and stress builds up. He will be seen trying to clinch a big deal. Then, as he is dashing home, he gets into a terrifying road rage incident. He falls victim to a guy driving a flash 4X4 who scares the living daylights out of him."
"He will be driving a few inches away from Derek's car, flashing his lights and looking like he's ready to attack the poor soul. Finally Derek suffers a heart attack." Peter, 58, is the first to go in a purge of older characters by new producer Brian Park.