2 April 1999
WEATHERFIELD wide boy Mike Baldwin has been named undisputed "Corrie Casanova".
Mike - actor Johnny Briggs - was handed the title by the programme's own official magazine as he embarks on a torrid extra-marital fling with sales rep Julia Stone. Researchers insist there's one MAJOR difference between Mike, and his arch-rival Ken Barlow. Academic Ken may have had more girlfriends but businessman Mike has had more bed partners!
Last night a Street source said: "Giving the title to
mucky Mike, instead of kinky Ken, could start a real debate among
fans. It's another aspect to the Baldwin-Barlow rivalry. "
The show's official mag observed: "He's driven by success
in business and success with women."
a boot put out
7 April 1999
TV'S most wanted fugitive was tracked down by the Daily Star yesterday -- and looked weary with life on the run. Coronation Street's Kevin Webster hasn't been seen on screen for a month since losing custody of his two daughters. Millions of viewers have wondered where Kev has vanished to -- but we can reveal he's been secretly putting the boot in with his mates.
Soccer-mad actor Michael Le Vell, 36, took four weeks out from Britain's top soap to welcome home his new baby son Finley, brother to three-year-old Amelia. And clearly the strain of sleepless nights took its toll when Mike slipped on his footie kit for a run-out with pals like Brookside's Philip "Tinhead" Oliver and Paul Byatt (Mike Dixon) at a celebrity match in Manchester. In fact, Mike looked so rubber-legged and tired that he had to be substituted in the second half.
Rovers returns to American television
7 April 1999
The delights of Betty's hot pot and pints of bitter are to be introduced to TV viewers in the United States after a deal to broadcast Coronation Street was sealed by station chiefs. The soap is to be broadcast from the autumn by the cable and satellite company Trio, which screens critically acclaimed films and quality dramas. The show has been sold to more than 35 countries, and is regularly screened in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Estonia. Broadcasts begin in Poland next month.
Although the top-rating show began 38 years ago, American viewers will miss much of the Street's history by picking up the plot in 1994. They will see barmaid Tania begin her torrid affair with love rat Des Barnes behind the back of his girlfriend Raquel. The new audience will have to get to grips with the character's accents unaided - there will be no subtitles to help them out.
A spokeswoman for Granada Media International, which distributes the show, said: "We're quietly confident that they'll be able to master the accents."
Trio vice president of programming Kristine Layfield said: "We expect our subscribers to join the millions of loyal worldwide Coronation Street addicts."
John Norman of Granada Media International, which tied up the
deal, said: "Coronation Street has a huge appeal as it deals
with all the human emotions that are the same the world over such
as love, jealousy, betrayal and ambition. "The details of
people's lives may be different but they can relate to the overall
themes." The show was aired in the US during the early Seventies
on a few local stations, but has been off air since then.
Memorial service to pay tribute to Street legend Bryan
7 April 1999
Soap stars and fans are set to rub shoulders at a memorial service for former Coronation Street favourite Bryan Mosley. The tribute to the actor - who played Alf Roberts for 37 years - will be held next Tuesday at Salford Cathedral, Greater Manchester, which can hold 1,100 people. Filming at Coronation Street's Granada Television studios in Manchester will stop for the afternoon to allow cast and crew members to pay tribute to Bryan, who died in February aged 67. The actor suffered a heart attack, just weeks after making his last appearance in the top-rated soap.
Memorials will include a poem read by Sue Nicholls, who plays Alf's widow Audrey. William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow and is the soap's longest serving cast member, Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Bishop) and actress Julie Goodyear - former favourite Bet Gilroy - will be among the other Street names speaking or giving readings. Actor Frank Finlay, comedians Ken Dodd and Bobby Ball and Chris Gidney - author of the recently published Bryan Mosley biography Street Life - who were all close friends of the father-of-six, will also attend. A letter from pop star Sir Cliff Richard, another friend of Bryan's and like the actor a committed Christian, will be read out.
Mr Mosley's son-in-law John Lambert, who organised the service with Street archivist Darren Little, said: 'I think Bryan would have absolutely revelled in it - the opportunity to meet all the people he worked with and loved over the years. 'He would have felt so honoured - I don't think people like him appreciate just how famous they are - and we hope he'll be there in spirit. 'We're very honoured so many people, and not just from the Street, want to partake.'
broadcaster to screen soap specials
8 April 1999
One-off specials of top-rated soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale are to be screened first by digital broadcaster ONdigital. The company announced the move as it disclosed it had recruited 110,000 subscribers.
ONdigital will also be first to show four Gladiators specials - six months before ITV screens them on analogue - as well as concerts by Pavarotti and girl band All Saints.
In one of the 90-minute Emmerdale specials, to be screened in September, the notorious Dingle clan will come face to face with former Corrie favourite Reg Holdsworth. It will be released on video later this year. The Coronation Street special is being produced exclusively for the broadcaster and will be screened next Easter, marking the show's 40th anniversary. In one of the Gladiators specials, the show's resident warriors will face each other, rather than the public, for the first time.
The company announced its subscriber levels in a round-up of its progress since going on air more than four months ago. Chief executive Stephen Grabiner pointed out that after a similar period on air Sky's digital service had picked up 120,000 new subscribers but said that ONdigital has only a 70% coverage of households at present.
If Mike were a friend of mine asking advice about whether
to sleep with Julia I would say: You lucky bugger
10 April 1999
IT was only a matter of time before temptation put the twinkle back in Mike Baldwin's roving eye. After seven years of faithful marriage to Alma, Coronation Street's notorious charmer just can't resist seductive sales rep Julia Stone. But no sooner does he bed her than he is made to regret his lapse when incriminating photographs and a blackmail letter land on his doormat. The words "tears" and "end in" immediately spring to mind, but actor Johnny Briggs - who has played Mike for 23 years - could not be more delighted with his dramatic new storyline.
For him, the latest twist in Mike's life is a more than welcome chance to show he hasn't lost his legendary touch with the ladies. "I'm not ready for my zimmer frame just yet," says 63-year-old Johnny, grinning widely. "In fact when we filmed our love scene together the director said to me 'Johnny can you do it again please'. "I said 'What was wrong with it?' and he said 'You were a bit too passionate'. "So we did it again, only this time I didn't move around so much."
And what did actress Fiona Allen, who plays Julia Stone, make of all this unleashed passion? "She wasn't complaining at all. Mind you, she was flat on her back at the time," laughs Johnny. "It's great Mike's going back to being Jack the lad again, even though he's knocking on a bit now. It was either this or start him on Viagra. "I don't think Mike will ever change."
But when Mike beds Julia, it marks the start of a nightmare - the kind Mike Baldwin has never experienced. When she first made her interest clear, he wasn't that bothered, but as she becomes more and more persistent he is intrigued. Their first attempt at infidelity was foiled when Alma unexpectedly turned up at a function, just as Julia is going to get the keys to a hotel room for their tryst. In Friday's episode, Mike and Julia finally get together. But it isn't long before a brown envelope containing pictures secretly taken of the couple in the throes of lovemaking arrives by post along with a blackmail demand.
Weatherfield's knicker factory boss is soon dipping into company funds to pay off Julia rather than let Alma, played by Amanda Barrie, find out he has cheated on her. "I think this is the first time Mike has been the prey and not the hunter," says Johnny, whose racy character has been married three times and bedded nine women during his years on the Street. "He gets himself into a terrible fix, milking the company and having to tell his wife. "Some people will think that I've finally got my comeuppance, but hopefully my fans will think 'How will he get out of this?' He's never been in a situation like this before and he's completely flummoxed - although I don't think there will be too much sympathy for him."
With his roguish smile and easy laid-back charm, it is easy to mistake Johnny for Mike Baldwin - one of the longest-serving characters in Coronation Street. Even his children get the two mixed up - when it suits them of course. "One of them said to me the other day, 'Dad can we go on a skiing holiday?' and I said 'No I can't afford it, my pockets aren't a bottomless pit you know'," he says. "And he said, 'But you've got the factory!'.
I even get four or five letters a week from people asking me for a job. I had one from a 33-year-old man who sent me his CV with a letter which said: 'I've noticed you've been looking a bit tired and have been a bit tetchy lately. I think you need an assistant manager.' "Some people really believe our lives are one and the same. When I had a jeans factory I'd have people writing to me saying 'I'm a bit broke at the moment, can you spare me a pair of jeans.' "I get sent cases of scotch and boxes of cigars and I can't stand them, it's Mike who likes them not me. "There are no similarities between us apart from the fact we both like cats."
And although they share a passion for women, Johnny describes his wife of 22 years, Christine, as the love of his life. "I don't think I would have got married again if I hadn't met Christine. I am a loner," says Johnny, who spends most of the week in Manchester when filming, He travels home to Stourbridge in the West Midlands at weekends.
Johnny sees himself first and foremost as a family man and talks proudly of his daughters Jenny, 20, and Stephanie, 16, and sons Michael, 18, and Anthony, nine. Unlike Mike, Johnny says he is immune to the charms of women who would like to seduce him because of his star status. "If women are very persistent I say: 'Look I don't want to be rude, but I've got better at home' and that really is a put-down," he says. "I generally find that's enough. Or if I'm with a pal I'll say: 'This is getting a bit too much here, can you do something about it.'"
But he understands why apparently happily-married men like Mike do stray. "It's to do with age, it's the male menopause and the male menopause is anything that gets you in trouble with the wife," he says. Men may say 'no, no, no' but sometimes the temptation just proves too much. "That is what has happened to Mike. It's just one of those things. Why do men do it? Why did Adam and Eve eat the apple? "I think any married man who has an affair feels guilt. It may only be for a minute, but there's bound to be the feeling 'I'm a bit of a rat I shouldn't have done that'. Mike thinks he's having a one-night fling. He doesn't lead her on. "He tells her: 'You do realise that I am a married man and you do also realise that when you wake up in the morning I will still be a married man'. So he has warned her. "I think women are still tempted to sleep with a married man, probably in the hope he will eventually leave his wife. "But I would say that in 75 per cent of cases that never happens. "If Mike were a friend of mine asking my advice about whether he should sleep with Julia I would say: 'You lucky bugger'. "I wouldn't try to put him off, everyone has their own life to lead and I don't think you should interfere in anyone else's life. However if it was a son of mine, I might, because that's family. I don't think Mike's been looking around, but this has been forced on him and he thinks 'I might as well'.
Johnny is not surprised that women are attracted to Mike Baldwin and men long to be like him. "Women are always coming up to me and saying: 'Ooh, you are an idol of my husband, he'd like to be just like you'," he says. "I think there are a lot of guys out there who would like to be like him. And women find him attractive because he has power, money and a certain amount of charm and he's quite straightforward really, he calls a spade a spade. "Every Valentine's Day I get about half a dozen cards for Mike, which shows he isn't past it yet. There is always a slight air of danger when he's about, everyone wonders what he is going to do next. "My wife Christine finds Mike a bit of rogue, but she thinks he is interesting because of that. "But all women have got their own things that turn them on. "I'll see someone on television and say 'Cor, he's a good-looking bloke isn't he?' and she'll say 'I don't think so' and then someone who I think is naff will come on and she'll go 'Ooh, isn't he lovely?'."
So does she secretly wish her husband was a bit more like his alter ego? "She likes Mike, but she much prefers me," he says, with a distinctively Baldwin-like twinkle in his eye.
Coronation Weep as odd couple tie knot
11 April 1999
The Coronation Street loudmouth ruins Roy and Hayley's big day - but they still tie the knot, the Sunday people can reveal. Hayley flees the church in tears after lousy Les objects to the wedding because she is a transsexual. But she and Roy later exchange rings in a moving private ceremony.
A Corrie insider said: "Every Street story has to have a happy ending and this is no exception. "Viewers will see some touching scenes in which Roy and Hayley agree that bigots like Les can't be allowed to get in the way of their happiness. "The couple decide to exchange rings in a touching private ceremony where they dedicate their lives to one another."
The dramatic wedding scenes will have Street viewers on the edge of their seats when they are shown on April 21 and 23. Hayley, played by Julie Hesmondhaigh, looks every inch the blushing bride in a cream satin dress until Les wrecks her day.
There are further shocks as Mike Baldwin uses the occasion to take his clothes rep girlfriend to a country hotel for the night. But his plans are messed up too when he finds old flame Deirdre has also booked in with ex-husband Ken.
13 April 1999
SKINT Coronation Street star Bill Roache may have to sell his daughter's beloved show ponies. Bankrupt Bill, who plays Corrie veteran Ken Barlow, has promised talented rider Verity, 17, he will fight to hang onto them. But the highly-bred animals are costing him £400 a week to stable, plus travel and show entrance fees. Despite his massive £165,000-a year Street salary, 66-year-old Bill went bankrupt after two disastrous court cases. He's run up legal bills of £300,000, and creditors have rejected his plan to pay off his debts. A source said: "The ponies going would break Verity's heart."
Exit For Soap Heart-Throb
13 April 1999
Coronation Street heart-throb Adam Rickitt is set to leave the soap after viewers see a dramatic showdown with his screen father-in-law, loudmouth Les Battersby. Les - actor Bruce Jones - confronts Nick Tilsley, played by 20-year-old Rickitt, in the Rovers Return after finding that his daughter-in-law's miscarriage was really an abortion.
The scenes in which Nick breaks down and stepfather Martin Platt has to prevent Les attacking him will be seen on Friday. Next week, fans will see Nick for the last time as he leaves alone for Canada to take up his Uncle Stephen's offer of a house while he completes his studies.
Rickitt is leaving the soap to pursue a pop career. There are no plans for him to return, but a spokeswoman for the show said: "The door has been left open."
Smiles for our Alf
14 April 1999
CORONATION Street stars smiled through their sadness yesterday as they paid tribute to Bryan Mosley, the soap's Alf Roberts. Famous TV faces joined Bryan's family at a service in memory of the actor who played Britain's best loved grocer.
They were all still sorrowful over Bryan's death at 67 from a heart attack two months ago. But, recalling his sense of fun, they turned the event at Salford cathedral into a joyful celebration of his life.
Less than a mile away, production of the Street had been halted at Granada TV's studios, where Bryan worked for the past 27 years. And cast and crew joined a congregation of more than 300.
Bryan's wife Norma, who has six children and six grand-children, was moved close to tears by the turnout. Soap colleagues filing into the pews included Barbara Knox, Betty Driver, Anne Kirkbride, Thelma Barlow, Helen Worth, Sally Whittaker, Tracey Bennett, Charlie Lawson and Geoff Hinsliff.
Bill Roache, the Street's Ken Barlow, recalled how he and Bryan would often collapse in laughter at rehearsals. "Bryan was a very funny man,'' Bill said. Sue Nicholls - Bryan's screen wife Audrey - revealed that they used to joke together over goods they bought through mail-order catalogues. Comic Bobby Ball fondly remembered how devout Bryan had encouraged him when he was ridiculed over his new-found Christian faith.
And comedy legend Ken Dodd raised laughs when he said of his long-time friend: "Bryan loved coming to church and will be delighted to see all these actors, entertainers and agents he had managed to pull into church on a Tuesday afternoon during licensing hours."
Comic Syd Little read out a short tribute from pop singer Sir Cliff Richard. Julie Goodyear, a former Street favourite as Bet Gilroy, read Henry Scott Holland's All Is Well, with its opening line: "Death is nothing at all.'' And the service ended with a brass band playing marches. It was a rousing send-off.
but by no means boring
14 April 1999
Bill Roache sued The Sun to prove he wasn't dull. Then he sued his lawyers. Now it's left him penniless. Fiachra Gibbons on the life of Coronation Street's most colourful star
When Bill Roache hands over his chequebook to the Official Receiver today, he can at least rely on one man to understand what he is going through. The broad shoulder on which he will doubtless seek comfort belongs to his neighbour, friend and fellow self-styled 'victim' of the 'ludicrous libel laws', Neil Hamilton. When the former MP for Tatton faced his own personal Calvary in the days after his humiliating defeat to Martin Bell at the last general election, Roache was one of the very few visitors to Hamilton's home in the Old Rectory at Alderley Edge. Now Roache is on the ropes, having bankrupted himself to prove he was not boring (and more disastrously sued the lawyers who advised him) it is to Hamilton he will look for support.
Roache, 66, gambled and lost big time on the damages he thought he would be awarded after the Sun branded him 'Boring Ken Barlow' and claimed he was hated by his Coronation Street co-stars. Although a jury found in Roache's favour in 1991, they only awarded him £50,000, the same amount the paper had offered to settle out of court. By the rules of libel, Roache was adjudged to have wasted the court's time and was thus responsible for his own £120,000 costs. Had the jury given him even £5 more, Roache might still be a wealthy man. Devastated, he sued his solicitors, Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners, claiming he had been given bad advice. The High Court thought differently, and so his legal bills grew and grew. To make matters worse, a face-saving board game called Libel that Roache dreamt up failed spectacularly, dealing a mortal blow to his company, MAMBI (Me And My Big Ideas).
Hamilton may have lost his seat and his reputation, after his own brief appearance in the libel courts over the Guardian's allegations that he had accepted 'cash for questions', but he still has his home. Roache may not be so lucky. He is said to now owe £300,000, precisely the figure his cottage was put on the market for last year. So far there have been no takers. The cost has not just been financial. Roache lost four pints of blood when an ulcer burst under the strain - and his wife Sara, his second and 20 years his junior, went temporarily blind after a severe migraine.
The Roaches, like the Hamiltons, were pillars of the NCNR, the North Cheshire Nouveau Riche, the free-spending, ostentatious cluster of pop, soap and football stars who live in and around Wilmslow. David Beckham and Posh Spice are the latest celebrity arrivals. There is a strong bond between Bill and Neil, a local Tory told us. 'Bill Roache stuck by him and the party when others disappeared. He drove him around in his car and canvassed with him. He is a very fine man. We could do with more like him.' Hamilton's wife Christine, author of the Bumper Book Of British Battleaxes, was fiercely protective of Roache yesterday. 'Neil has no comment to make on his friend and certainly not to someone who is working for the anti-Christ,' she said. 'We don't talk to the Guardian.' Roache's comfortable life of celebrity golf tournaments and Conservative Party fund-raisers caved in on the morning of November 1, 1990. He had just taken his daughter Verity, then 10, and five-year-old William to school when he opened his copy of the Sun. And there, in screaming capital letters, was the headline: 'Boring Ken Barlow Was Girl-Crazy Stud.' 'I felt extremely distressed,' he later told the jury. 'I could not believe those words had been written, that they had raked into my past. I broke out in a sweat.' As he drove to Granada Studios in Manchester, where Coronation Street is shot, he began to feel sick: 'I bolted straight into my dressing room and didn't want to see anybody. They were saying that I was not doing my job, that I was a joke to the storyline writers, which is not true... ' Even though Coronation Street's finest, including screen arch-enemy Mike Baldwin, sung his praises in court, Roache had been cut to the core.
Although he insists he is proud of his place in the Guinness Book Of Records as the world's longest serving soap star, there were times when this dubious distinction weighed on him. His autobiography, Ken Barlow And Me, reveals a complex man with loftier ambitions and a curiously spiritual side. A man, in fact, not unlike Ken Barlow. Like Ken, who despite his airs and his university education remains stuck in the street of his birth, Roache got stuck in his first major role. Even his own father sometimes slipped and called him Ken. It was this confusion between character and actor which gave the Sun story its special, almost comic, frisson.
Bill has become Ken, and Ken Bill. As he says himself, gamely trying to join in the joke: 'If people find someone who has had 23 girlfriends and three wives boring, that's fine by me.' One of his girlfriends was the novelist Beryl Bainbridge, then a Coronation Street actress. Being laughed at is not a pleasant experience for someone who takes life as seriously as Roache. In what he calls his 'search for truth' he has dabbled in Druidism, donned white robes at Stonehenge, and experimented with extrasensory perception and Buddhism.
He has had more than his fair share of tragedy, too. His daughter Edwina died from a viral infection when she was 18 months. 'You feel acutely responsible for the death of a child,' he said, 'doubly guilty because you have let the child down in some way.' It was her death which confirmed his belief in reincarnation. He seems to have passed the mantle of spiritual searcher to Linus, his film star son from his first marriage (of Priest and Wings Of Desire fame), who has been associated with several fringe cults.
Roache's 13-year marriage to his first wife, Anna Cropper, which ended after his affair with the late Coronation Street grande dame Pat Phoenix, gets less than 400 words in his autobiography: 'I am not proud of myself. I'm very close to Linus now, but unfortunately I don't see my oldest daughter [Vanya]. She has drifted off in another direction. I would rather not talk about past unhappiness because I have such a happy family now.' His children, his pets and his golf have been his consolation as his troubles have mounted. Last year, however, his beloved labrador, Harvey, had to be put down after it killed a neighbour's Yorkshire terrier. Ironically, golf proved Roache's undoing at a crucial juncture in his libel case. Asked by his lawyers whether they should settle out of court, his wife told him he 'was a gambler in golf and that he should go for his shots'. He did and lost.
Roache will now have to survive on a small allowance. The £166,000 a year he earns from Coronation Street will go into a trust. He will not be able to hold a bank account for at least three years unless he gets special dispensation from the Receiver. But even in his darkest hour, there is a glimmer of hope. The Guardian has learned that Roache is in the running for a possible Soap Awards special achievement prize, along with Brookside's Phil Redmond and Coronation Street creator Tony Warren. 'I have to admit, we weren't filled with enthusiasm when his name at first came up,' said one of the judges. 'But now this has happened, maybe he deserves it.' A spokeswoman for the Soap Awards remained coy, but said: 'Bill Roache is a good actor. Not many people know that.'
Hats off to Alf as town pays tribute
18 April 1999
A statue of Alf Roberts doffing his trademark pork-pie hat is to be put up as a memorial to Coronation Street star Bryan Mosley. Fans in his home town of Shipley, West Yorkshire, are hoping to raise around £15,000 for the project.
Tony Miller, Lord Mayor of Bradford, said last night: "Bryan lived, breathed - and shopped - in Shipley. "It would be wonderful to have a lasting memorial to him." Actress Sue Nicholls, who played Alf's wife Audrey in the soap, is already said to have pledged her support.
Bryan, 67, died of a heart attack only six weeks after 20 million viewers saw his alter-ego Alf die on screen on New Year's Eve. Over 300 mourners attended a memorial service held for him in Salford Cathedral this week, including most of the cast of Coronation Street. Granada Studios shut down production of the soap to allow friends and colleagues to pay tribute.
Ken and the crook
18 April 1999
BROKE Coronation Street star Bill Roache has teamed up with a convicted fraudster in a desperate bid to clear his £300,000 debts - by becoming a pop star! Bill, 66, is so hungry for cash he is releasing a rap version of the raunchy Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin classic Je T'Aime.
The elderly heart-throb, who has played dull Ken Barlow in the soap since 1960, is even reduced to humiliating night club appearances where he does "bump 'n' grind" shows with young dancing girls to the tune Danse L'Amour. But the ex-jailbird behind the embarrasing pop plan said: "I've convinced him that a pop career is a way to sort out his troubles." And Ken said: "I really enjoy it. It's not just a song or dance but a whole lifestyle thing - dress, music, everything."
Bill, whose troubles began when he sued a newspaper for calling him boring, has already begun a nightclub tour of Britain to promote his new career. The pensioner pop star drew wild screams and guffaws of laughter from 900 revellers at his first gig in the Goldiggers club in Chippenham, Wilts, when he appeared on stage with two gyrating girl dancers. But we can reveal that the man the actor has gone into business with is Muhammed Naviede, who has been to prison for fraud and has been disqualified as a company director.
In 1991, the Arrows finance group, of which Naviede was a director, collapsed owing more than £100 million. The Cheshire-based company was chased for cash by 20 banks and other creditors. Then in 1995 he was jailed for nine years at the Old Bailey after a six-month trial for a £45 million business scam. The sentence was later reduced to six on appeal and he has since qualified for early release.
The court heard how Naviede used money borrowed by his firm to finance a lavish lifestyle when he mixed with a host of famous showbiz stars. He was found guilty of making false statements and obtaining property and services by deception. But despite Naviede's shady past, twice-married, father-of-four Bill has remained a long-time pal and even visited him regularly in jail.
Naviede, 45, boasted: "He's a natural on stage. You only had to be there to see how much Bill enjoyed himself. "We go back many, many years - maybe 20 or even more. He's one of my best friends. "Bill was brilliant to me when I was in prison, coming to see me many times. "Now I want to pay him back for his support by making sure his pop career takes off." Naviede, of Hale, Cheshire, said: "I see this as a new start for both Bill and myself. We've both been through some very hard times."
Bill won £50,000 libel damages when he sued the newspaper that dubbed him boring. But it all went wrong when he sued his lawyers for not winning him enough. Despite his £165,000-a-year salary for playing the longest-running character by one actor on TV he had to declare himself bankrupt.
Naviede scoffed at the boring tag - Je T'Aime's lyrics actively describe a woman and man's joy as they make love. It was No 1 in 1969 despite being banned by the BBC. And fans who catch Bill's live club act have been amazed at his transformation. Surrounded by the gorgeous female dancers he raps seductively. Naviede bragged: "His performance will leave people in no doubt that his Coronation Street character ends once the cameras are off. "Je T'Aime was one of the sexiest songs ever made. And my Bill - he's a very good-looking guy too!"
19 April 1999 by John Mahoney
CORONATION Street's long-suffering Alma Baldwin is rehearsing her most harrowing scenes - facing up to a breast cancer scare. Viewers will see devastated Alma, played by Amanda Barrie, struggle to come to terms with the trauma of discovering a lump - just like Peggy Mitchell in rival soap EastEnders. Corrie writers came up with the storyline last year, and have not simply mirrored the Albert Square plot.
Viewers have just seen Alma's cheating hubby Mike slip between the sheets with scheming fashion girl Julia Stone. They will eventually see his world fall apart when Alma reveals her cancer torment, just as he is handing over £10,000 blackmail money to Julia. An insider said: "He loves Alma and feels terrible for being unfaithful while she's been in hell."
happiest day's of Hayley's life
19 April 1999 by Liz Murphy
Roy would have settled for a quiet ceremony, just the two of them. But Hayley has talked him into the works - a glorious dress and smart morning suits, a church packed with friends and a full-blown reception.
So, as she stands at home wearing the ivory gown she's spent days stitching until it's perfect, does Hayley feel her dream is about to come true? 'It's a shame it's not a legal wedding', says Julie Hesmondhalgh, the actress who won the role of Coronation Street's first transsexual character and has transformed her into a woman the fans adore. 'That would have been the best thing for her. Afterwards, they still won't have the rights in law that an ordinary married couple would have. But she wanted the ceremony to show everyone how much she loves Roy and she wanted a dress and all the works. So it's 95 per cent of a dream come true for her'.
But, as with all soap weddings, the dream doesn't come true without a few tears first. In Roy and Hayley's case, the Street scriptwriters have written them a whole week of ups and downs. It begins when Roy - whose normal tipple is orange juice - gets really drunk on his stag night. Meanwhile, Hayley, who's making dresses for her two bridesmaids Toyah and Sarah Louise, is worried that she'll have to settle for a less splendid wedding gown than she's imagined - until the factory girls step in. But the major spanner in the works comes on the wedding day itself - Wednesday, April 21 - when Les Battersby makes trouble. 'Les has disliked Hayley from the start and has banned Toyah from being a bridesmaid,' says Julie. 'He also phones the press and tells them two blokes are getting married. The press arrive at the church and hassle the vicar. It becomes clear that the wedding can't go ahead. As you can imagine Hayley is very upset'.
So does this mean that after all the heartache they've been through to get to this day, Roy and Hayley will be robbed of their chance of happiness? 'People have been asking me for a year: "When are you two going to get married?" July says in her thick Lancashire accent. 'I keep saying, we can't because it's not legal!'
The initial controversy over the introduction of a transsexual into one of the country's favourite soaps has now been completely overshadowed by a national love for the character. Even transsexuals have taken Hayley to their hearts. 'The transsexual community was critical of Coronation Street for hiring a woman to play Hayley rather than a man,' says Julie. 'But the community does recognise that public opinion has shifted because they've got to know and like the character and want Roy and Hayley - and by association other transsexuals - to be happy'.
So, when a motion was passed in Parliament recently congratulating Coronation Street for creating Hayley and asking for a change in the law so that transsexuals can marry, Julie was thrilled. 'I thought it was great. And I've been asked to be the patron of the pressure group Press for Change.'
In real life, Julie's an exuberant 28-year-old, witty and full of fun. So what's it like playing a shy frumpy thirtysomething woman who was once a man? 'Hayley's a woman as far as I'm concerned,' says Julie. 'If I had to play Hayley as a man playing a woman it would be too complicated. I can't imagine having that operation. It's in the costume and the wig and acting with David, who's so brilliant as Roy. When he transforms himself, it transforms me'.
David Neilson, who plays the dithering Roy, is relieved too, at the way the relationship has been handled and accepted. 'It's brilliant the way people have gone with it. The public is more tolerant than you'd expect. Most people in the country want them to be together. If Roy went off now with a "real" woman I'd probably have things thrown at me in the street! It's not about the issues, it's about the people. The public realises that these two people were very lonely and together they're not. It wouldn't matter who or what they were'
So, as Roy prepares for the biggest day in his life, what's on his mind? Does he hanker after the old days when it was just him, his anorak and his nylon shopping bag? 'Sometimes he wants it to be secure like he had it once,' admits David. 'He'd been on his own for donkey's years and made his own boundaries. It's exciting, but there's trepidation as well.' And does he feel pressurised into this huge public show of affection by Hayley's natural enthusiasm? 'No. It was Roy that proposed,' says David. 'He wants to make a public commitment. But I don't think he likes being the centre of attention.'
So what does the future hold for them? Children, perhaps? 'Not biological, of course, but fostering maybe,' says Julie. 'Hayley would make a lovely mum. Roy would make a great dad in his own way. I can imagine him coping with a spotty adolescent!'
While the scriptwriters ponder their fate, Julie, who's single, is looking forward to being a TV bride - and she's not the only one. 'My mum's really excited about the wedding. Both my parents are chuffed about it. I'm sure they're glad it's on screen rather than in real life, so they won't have to pay for it!' 'I'm looking forward to the ceremony and looking lovingly into Roy's eyes. I'm an old hand at that. That and flouncing out of the cafe. I've done it so many times.'
Julie got a real thrill out of Hayley's dress. 'It's a traditional ivory. It's simple but very tasteful - quite an improvement for her.' So, when she becomes the new Mrs Cropper, will Hayley pack away her trusty red anorak in favour of a more stylish look? 'I get letters about the anorak,' she reveals. 'A charity shop sent me a new one the other week. But I think the anorak has got to stay - it's an institution!'
23 April 1999 Exclusive by John Mahoney
COCKY Coronation Street Casanova Mike Baldwin is to start paying a heavy price for his adulterous one-night romp. A blackmail letter sent to his factory office spells out the precise cost of his night of passion with sexy fashion girl Julia Stone. The demand from scheming vixen Julia is for £10,000 ... or she'll destroy the love cheat's marriage by revealing all to unsuspecting wife Alma.
Even if he coughs up the cash, bed-hopping Baldwin knows the hefty sum could send his business spiralling into debt. And there's an added torment - as the Daily Star revealed this week - he feels unable to break Alma's heart by coming clean after she tells him that she fears she has breast cancer.
Viewers tonight will see the blockbuster blackmail storyline unfold and, in coming weeks, watch as scared Baldwin - actor Johnny Briggs - is brought to his knees. But fans will have weeks to wait before learning whether Julia, played by Fiona Allen, gets away with her outrageous plot. "It's gripping stuff, really edge-of-your seat stuff," said a Street source yesterday. "Mike shouldn't have slept about behind his wife's back, everyone knows that. But Julia made all the running and really seduced him. He was obviously flattered because, at his age, it's not a bad compliment when a sexy young girl starts making the right signals towards you. "But boy is he paying the price, big-style. It's great TV and the viewers will be kept in suspense for quite a while."
The Daily Star revealed how Fiona became the 23rd notch on Baldwin's bedpost during his 23 years in the Granada soap.
Could Return' in Coronation Street Spin-Offs
24 April 1999
Coronation Street makers are planning a new series of "soap bubble" spin-offs. Granada is holding talks which could mark the return of much loved stars such as Julie Goodyear and Ken Morley in a series of specials which will run alongside the hit soap's storyline.
A spokeswoman said plans were at an early stage and no cast list or specific plot details had been agreed on. But programme makers hope to build on the success of earlier spin-off videos Viva Las Vegas and The Cruise which sold 750,000 copies. "We are in the very early stages at the moment. We can promise viewers it will not affect their normal enjoyment of the programme," she said.
One idea is to use the slot recently vacated by News at Ten, although final scheduling decisions would be made by network centre. But Granada could show them on digital TV - only available to audiences with a special decoder - and then release them on video.
Dirty Greg's back !
25 April 1999
Coronation Street cad Greg Kelly is exposed by the Sunday People today as the most evil man in British soap. For we can reveal that HE is the schemer behind the sensational plot to blackmail Mike Baldwin.
Violent conman Greg shocked viewers in the New Year after attacking his ex-love Sally Webster. But next month he is back - with a storyline which will make him the most hated character in soap history. The get-rich scheme by Greg, played by Stephen Billington, threatens to destroy factory boss Mike (Johnny Briggs). And he will be seen using the cash he extorts to wreak violent revenge on Sally.
Greg, it will emerge, is the man who convinced his lover Julia Stone (Fiona Allen) to bed ageing Mike, while he takes photos of their steamy romp through the bedroom window. The prints could ruin Mike's marriage to doting Alma. And they could have been worse! The original scenes were judged too raunchy for a family show and had to be re-shot. Mike - who crossed swords with Greg over a business deal - has already received copies of his sex session, as Street fans saw on Friday. Now Julia, egged on by Greg, will demand £10,000 from Mike to hand over the negatives. And as Mike desperately tries to find the cash he is hit by a new scare. Wife Alma tells him she may have breast cancer.
An insider said: "Forget Free Deirdre and the conman who landed her in jail. Greg is pure evil and will be much, much worse. "He's angry at Mike because he tried to crush his business plans and wants revenge. He's already cost Sally her marriage and almost her children. But he's back for more." Actress Sally Whittaker, who plays the battling mum, said: "It's the last thing she needs. Whatevever she does there always seems to be more bad luck around the corner.
Are They Famous? - Adam Rickitt
25 April 1999
Coronation Street's Nick Tilsley; brought in 14 months ago to replace an earlier Nick Tilsley thought to lack sex appeal. Did the job: now a lust icon for teens. Smash Hits readers' poll TV Actor of the Year and number six in the Sun's Top 100 Hunks league, Adam has just screened his last episode of the soap, now wants a singing career and has signed a recording contract for a reputed £200,000.
Pubescent girl. Baby angel. Fresh-faced hero of anti-spot-cream advert. Does 500 sit-ups a day to maintain his six-pack.
Bit of rough (not)
Had never watched Coronation Street when he first turned up on set. Went to public school, got four A-levels, Daddy a merchant banker. The perfect choice to portray a greasy-spoon-reared Weatherfield bad boy, then.
How to get ahead in showbiz
A hunk of raw talent, Adam landed the Street role after a few acting workshops. 'I don't deny that it had a lot to do with my looks,' says the realistic lad. 'The casting director told me it was my potential they went for rather than my experience.' Now record company bosses are supposed to have enlisted Boyzone's Ronan Keating to give him a crash course in singing.
Down, girls, down! Dishy Adam has been celibate for months. And he prefers older women. The grab-a-granny, 20, once had a girlfriend who was 'not far off 35' - phwoar! However, he is a sloppy old romantic at heart. 'If I found my soulmate tomorrow I'd have no problems getting married,' he says. Form an orderly queue.
Adam's shock confessions
'You could be a sack of potatoes on TV and you'd still get a sex following,' he says of those sad cases who post him explicit letters. Tell that to Les Battersby.
Soap to pop can be done; after all, Martine McCutcheon has just blasted to number one in the charts. But Matthew Marsden and Tracy Shaw also tried the same pop thing. Matthew who? Tracy who? Well, quite.
Sarah: My heart isn't in it
30 April 1999
Homesick star quits show TV favourite Sarah Lancashire has sensationally quit top ITV drama Where The Heart Is. Show bosses tried desperately to keep Sarah, who plays the much-loved character, community nurse Ruth Goddard. But the actress famous as Coronation Street barmaid Raquel rejected offers of more money. She insisted she was leaving the Sunday night hit, which attracts 12 million viewers.
Blonde Sarah, 33, is fed up with being apart from her family while filming in West Yorkshire. She has already signed up for a new ITV drama called The Factory, which starts shooting in a few weeks' time.
Sarah tearfully bowed out from Where The Heart Is after filming for the current run finished several weeks ago. The news is a blow for the series, co-starring Pam Ferris as Peggy Snow and set in quiet Skelthwaite. It is currently TV's third most successful show after Coronation Street and EastEnders. An ITV insider said: "Sarah made up her mind she wanted to move on to do something else. "No matter how much they tried to persuade her - and they really did - she was having none of it. "She was sick of being away from home and her children. She also didn't want to end up being in the show for as long as she was in the Street, for fear of getting stale."
Lancashire-born Sarah is a single mum to sons Thomas, 11 and Matthew, eight, since splitting with husband Gary Hargreaves. She lives in upmarket Bowdon, Cheshire. Producers were so worried about the effect of her departure on ratings that they banned her from the recent press launch, in case she let the news slip. ITV feared that if they didn't offer her another meaty project they would lose her to a rival channel. So Sarah has top billing in The Factory, a flagship project for the Millennium.
30 April 1999
As stars of film and television line up to get on stage, fans of Coronation Street are in for a treat even rarer that Nicole Kidman in "The Blue Room" or Cate Blanchett in "Plenty". For the adorable Thelma Barlow, who played Mavis for 26 years, is to star in Alan Bennett's "Enjoy" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse at the end of next month.
"We start rehearsing next week," Miss Barlow tells me. "it's very exciting that it's Alan Bennett, and that it's at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I've always thought 'Gosh, I'd like to work there'. There's not much difference between stage acting and television. Acting is acting is acting and it's always terrifying beforehand."
Miss Barlow has encouragement for the likes of Blanchett and Kidman. "It's great if they want that breadth of experience. I think if someone is an actor then whatever challenge comes along they'll meet it, and they'll find out soon enough whether live theatre is for them."
Does she miss the Street? "I haven't missed it that much. I was tearful on the day I left, but I still see my friends and I watch it."
Rovers and out for broody Judy
2 May 1999
Coronation Street favourite Gaynor Faye is quitting the soap that has won her millions of fans. Gaynor, who plays broody mum-of-two Judy Mallett, plans to find new roles and spend more time with her boyfriend. Scriptwriters are lining up a "sensational" storyline for her dramatic exit later this year.
A Street insider revealed last night: "It's been rumoured before that Gaynor would be on her way. But this time it's for real. "She has loved her time in the soap and will always be grateful for the break she was given. "But she now wants to do something a bit more heavyweight."
Gaynor, 27-year-old daughter of Band of Gold creator Kay Mellor, decided the show wasn't giving her enough time with her restaurant boss lover Aaron Cowlrich, 32. She will leave when her £90,000-a-year deal runs out in October. Her departure is a huge blow to Granada bosses. It will also leave scriptwriters with the problem of what to do with hubby Gary, played by Ian Mercer. The pair have become firm favourites as a hard-up couple struggling to bring up twins.
Yorkshire lass Gaynor joined the cast three years ago and made a huge impact as sexy, brash Judy. She was so excited she called her role "the part of a lifetime." Her character has been involved in some of the strongest plots seen on the Street this decade. Viewers were gripped by Judy's desperate struggle to conceive. She and Gary paid teenager Zoe Tattersall £2,000 to carry their child. Their happiness turned to heartache when Zoe decided to keep the baby, which later died. But they found joy when Judy gave birth to twins on Christmas Day.
Granada bosses are now deciding whether to kill her off or leave the door open for a return. This could pave the way for a sizzling affair which would leave Gary heartbroken. Gaynor, who lives with Aaron in Leeds, gets up at 6am every day to drive to the Manchester studios. A friend said: "She's made some great pals in the cast and will miss them." Last night she was abroad and unavailable for comment.
Tracy puts 'em in Peter Panic
2 May 1999
Corrie stunner Tracy Shaw has thrown soap bosses into a spin after asking for time off to get her hooks into a major new role - as Peter Pan. Her request means a big scheduling headache for Granada chiefs, who have called a crisis meeting to decide whether she can be released from the Street. Tracy, who plays crimper Maxine, wants three months off so she can take the lead in the lavish musical, to be staged at Manchester's Palace Theatre this Christmas.
A friend said: "It will leave a bitter taste if they say no. Tracy has really set her heart on doing this show."
One-off returns for Reg and Bet
2 May 1999
A STRING of ex-Street stars are being lined up for a dramatic return to the small screen. Granada bosses have drawn up a list of eight - headed by Julie Goodyear and Ken Morley - for a Corrie spin-off series this autumn. The plots will portray the lives of former favourite characters since leaving Weatherfield. Julie, who played Bet Lynch, and Ken - randy rotter Reg Holdsworth - both left four years ago.
Viewers last saw tearful Bet disappearing in a cab and Reg fleeing to Lowestoft after cheating on wife Maureen. The pair are expected to land £30,000 deals if they come back. Alec Gilroy and Vicky McDonald could also appear. Storylines will feature existing characters like Steve McDonald, played by Simon Gregson. One plan is for him to visit Brighton where Alec - Roy Barraclough - and Vicky - Chloe Newsome - are running a bar. Another plot could involve ex-Bettabuy's boss Reg working in a French hypermarket.
Plans are being drawn up to screen the episodes in hour-long specials in ITV's 10pm-11pm slot, available since News At Ten was moved. A Granada spokeswoman confirmed: "The project is evolving." A Street insider said: "We are really excited by this idea and the viewers will love it."
The rat's revenge
2 May 1999
THE Rat is back - and this exclusive preview of tomorrow night's
Coronation Street proves he's as evil as ever. In a sensational
plot twist, villainous Greg Kelly is revealed as the mastermind
behind the plot to blackmail factory boss Mike Baldwin.
Greg, played by actor Stephen Billington, was last seen in the Street three months ago - after savagely beating up Sally Webster. He left Weatherfield with a grudge against former bosss Mike .and now he's getting his revenge. Tomorrow, viewers will find out that it was Greg who set up the honey-trap which led married Mike into bed with sexy sales rep Julia Stone (Fiona Allen). And it was Greg who sent letters demanding £10,000 for incriminating pictures. "It's great to be back on the Street," said Stephen, 32. "Believe it or not, Greg is a great favourite with the audiences."
During his three-month break, Stephen has been in the sci-fi series Highlander - playing another baddie. "That's what I like about acting," he said. "You can be the kind of person you could never be in real life."
gets a rival
3 May 1999 by John Mahoney
TELLY bosses are poised to grant a licence to a second pub in Coronation Street - The Flying Horse. And it could mean Bar Wars for the boozer which has been whispered about as a rival to the Rovers for years and seen from the inside a handful of times.
Millions have heard crafty Jack Duckworth chicken out of confrontations
with nagging wife Vera by announcing: "I'm going down the
Horse." Now Street chiefs plotting the soap's storylines
into the Millennium fancy opening the Flying Horse all hours,
with its own landlord and regulars.
The Daily Star has been told is NOT their plan to introduce more characters - senior executives say there are already enough familiar faces - but an extra watering hole would naturally pull in new young faces, and might eventually lead to another possible clearout of stars deemed past their sell-by date.
A highly-placed Street source said: "The idea of opening up the Flying Horse is a good one. "Storylines would be limitless as regulars could flit from one pub to the next and you could have great rivalry between the two boozers."
Yesterday at the real-life Flying Horse in Blackley, Manchester, landlord Simon Allen, 28, said: "We've got regulars who look as though they've just come off Coronation Street. I've been saying for ages they should open a Flying Horse like ours."
Protest Terror of Street Star Sally
3 May 1999
CORONATION Street star Sally Whittaker told yesterday of her terror as her car was attacked by "green" protesters. One girl ripped off her windscreen wiper as hordes of Reclaim The Roads demonstrators blocked traffic, screamed abuse and damaged cars. "I was so frightened," said Sally, who plays Sally Webster in the TV soap. "I just sat there so shocked I couldn't move."
Sally, 35, was among hundreds of drivers trapped by the demo
in Manchester city centre as she left Granada's studios. The protest
against traffic pollution began peacefully but descended into
chaos after police stepped in to dismantle a public address system.
About 1,000 protesters scaled bridges and blocked main roads.
Several cars were damaged and up to 10 police were hurt. Nine
people were arrested.
Mum-of-two Sally said: "They were really aggressive. One girl walked up and gave me a hard stare, then yanked my windscreen wiper off and threw it to the ground. "There was a young girl next to me in an open topped car and they pulled off both her windscreen wipers and were kicking other cars. "There were hundreds of them milling around shouting. It was terrifying."
Sally, who lives in Bowdon, Cheshire, added: "Finally the crowds thinned and I was able to drive off - but it left me very shaken. I was just grateful I didn't have the children with me. "Later I discovered it had been an environmental protest. I was stunned - what a way to go about things. It left me horrified."
Look who's turned up to spoil our hols
7 May 1999
CORONATION Street's battling neighbours are taking their troubles on tour. The madcap Battersbys - loudmouth Les, wife Janice and troubled teenager Toyah - are set to take their summer break alongside arch enemies the Platts. The Street stars are filming eight episodes of the soap at a caravan park in Conway, North Wales.
Granada TV bosses reckon the laugh-a-minute storylines will be some of the best in the programme's history. "There are some vintage scenes that will give viewers a really good laugh," said a production source. Actor Bruce Jones, who plays layabout Les, said: "We've had great fun filming here. They should call it Carry On Coronation Street because it's been that funny."
The Battersbys descend on the park to deliberately ruin the summer holiday for the Platt family, Sally Webster and her two girls. A Street spokesman said: "Janice says if the snooty Platts can go to a posh caravan park then they can. "They set off looking like the Clampett family from the Beverley Hillbillies - it's just hilarious."
7 May 1999
FORMER Coronation Street Casanova Phil Middlemiss has lost his latest love, gorgeous actress Alison King. Stunning Ali, 26,has packed her suitcases and quit the cosy love-nest she shared with the star who played Corrie's bed-hopping bookie Des Barnes. The news of the split comes just days after the Daily Star exclusively revealed how Street beauty Tracy Shaw has found a new man.
Phil, 36, now remains alone in his Manchester apartment while sexy Alison spends her time in London. Their four-year fling started hitting the rocks earlier this year when Romeo Phil was caught red-handed allegedly snogging a blonde fan who fell for him while he was playing Buttons in panto in Newcastle upon Tyne. After being nabbed, Phil - killed off as dirty Des Barnes by Street bosses last year - admitted he would have some serious explaining to do to the girl he was planing to marry next summer.
Last night Ali, who has just completed a new series of TV soccer drama Dream Team, told the Daily Star: "It's not a case of us splitting up, so much as just not living together any more. "Nothing is final, it's just that we are not together at the moment. We are going through a difficult patch. "Because of my work commitments in London, we haven't been seeing each other even at weekends much."
Besotted Phil is believed to be desperate to win back the love of his life who he once credited for taming his wild womanising ways. The Geordie actor, who also has a flat in Newcastle, is desperate to land more TV and stage work and would be happy moving to London if he thought his chances were better. But pals reckon switching to the capital would not mean the door was still open for him to put his relationship with Alison back on track.
Ali was very much liked by Phil's retired builder dad Alexander and mum June, who live on the outskirts of Hartlepool, Cleveland. "He is and always will be my best friend," said Alison last night. "I'm not to going to go into any detail with you about events which have occurred in either of our lives."
Millions of soap fans saw Des Barnes murdered by drugs gangsters, included the son of his screen landlady wife Natalie, played by Denise Welch. He insisted he didn't mind being killed off so he could pursue other projects including writing a screen play about racecourse con men with his best friend, Minder star Gary Webster. "He was very close to Alison and made it clear she was the true girl for him," said a friend yesterday. "But there has been a lot of water under the bridge, and basically, they hardly see each other any more. "It's really sad. But her career is really taking off and she is a busy lady."
Last night pals blamed Phil's heartache on two jinxes . . . the curses of leaving Coronation Street and also Hello! magazine. Since quitting as Des he has landed just one major role playing Buttons in panto - and has struggled to keep the work rolling in. Like so many others who have chanced their arm, he discovered it is not always the shrewdest move to leave Britain's top TV show. And he was recently pictured with Alison at the showbiz wedding of Anthea Turner's sister Wendy, who married Phil's best mate Gary Webster.
Minder star Gary and Phil used to live together and shared a rampant bachelor boy lifestyle, who became dubbed Britain's most eligible bachelors. "Before Phil met Alison there were plenty of girls on the scene. It was really a case of love 'em and leave 'em," revealed a friend. "But those wild days stopped when Phil got serious with Alison and he became a changed man."
Ali now shares a house just outside Watford, Hertfordshire, with Dream Team co-star Emma Gilmour, 21, who plays Kelly James in the satellite show.
goes to the seaside
7 May 1999
Coronation Street fans are set to see the troubled Platt family take a seaside break - only to be plunged into a holiday from hell. Programme-makers Granada moved filming to the countryside and beaches of North Wales for a week to record the ratings-boosting plot.
Gail, Martin, Sally Webster and their children will be show arriving for what they hope will be an idyllic caravan holiday. But the peace is shattered when a broken down campervan arrives carrying their sworn enemies - the loudmouthed Battersbys. The two families have been at war since Les, played by Bruce Jones, lost nurse Martin (Sean Wilson) his job with a bogus negligence claim. Then layabout Les blamed Gail's son Nick for forcing an abortion on his wife, the Battersbys' daughter Leanne, before fleeing to his uncle in Canada.
Gail and Martin load up the buckets and spades and sun-tan lotion and leave behind the cobbles of Weatherfield for their much-needed break with children David and Sarah Louise and invite Sally Webster and her children. But a few days later Les Battersby arrives with wife Janice and daughter Toyah to turn their holiday into a nightmare. The resulting scenes will be shown over eight episodes starting at the end of May. The cast and 40 production staff moved into a caravan park in the hills above Conwy for a week.
I haven't had a boyfriend for so long...
All they want to talk about is the Street
8 May 1999
The Rovers new barmaid Leanne on how fame has hit her love life is a surprisingly wistful pronouncement from the pretty 20-year-old with a sackload of fan mail and the world at her feet. "It would be nice to be taken out on a few dates," says Coronation Street actress Jane Danson. "I never even seem to get to that stage with men these days."
Jane, who starts behind the bar of the Rovers next Wednesday, is experiencing the flip-side of fame. Her character Leanne Tilsley may be throwing herself into the dating game with gusto after the break-up of her marriage, but Jane admits her own dealings with the opposite sex are rather less pushy. "I haven't had a boyfriend for ages. Maybe it's my own fault. When people do come up and start chatting, they tend to want to talk about Coronation Street. "Then I can never be sure if they want to know me or Leanne, so the barriers go up. It happens every time. "I'm not as confident as Leanne in that area."
Yet in the flesh, Jane is much more attractive than her TV alter ego. Where Leanne - a Battersby to the core - is brash, cocky and outspoken, Jane is polite, accommodating and well-mannered. And she possesses a healthy dose of insecurity. It is two years since she landed her dream job on the soap, fresh from her first small-screen roles in GBH and The Grand.
But she quickly learned that having your face recognised in every household in the land isn't all it's cracked up to be. "I wouldn't change my job for the world," she says. "But it is hard sometimes and you do have to make sacrifices. "Things have been very tough recently. The abortion storyline - where Leanne had to decide whether to get rid of her baby - was emotionally draining, and physically demanding. "In acting terms, it was unbeatable. But on a personal level, something has to give. "At busy times like this, it seems that all I do is go to work, sleep, learn lines, work, sleep, learn lines. There's not much room for anything else. "Obviously, your personal life suffers. It doesn't help that I can be quite insecure. I'm suspicious about people. Maybe they do genuinely like me - but once they utter those words 'Coronation Street', I put up those barriers. I can't help it."
She jokes about how her friends deliberately avoid mentioning the "L" word: "Everyone else thinks I am Leanne. But they know I want to get away from it, to switch off at the end of the day. They don't envy my job at all. Most say they wouldn't do it because it is so restrictive. "We'll, you can't go out and get bladdered, can you? You'd never hear the end of it."
The desire not to be swamped by her screen character explains Jane's preoccupation with her new haircut - a shorter, sleeker bob which gives her a touch of sophistication. "It's wonderful being able to have a haircut I want. I just can't tell you," she beams. The haircut has finally been authorised by studio bosses. And not before time, reckons Jane. "People don't think of it but when you play a role, you can't just go and get a trendy cut or stick a colour in your hair. It gets to you sometimes. "During the abortion stuff, I couldn't even get my roots done. It looked a sight. I was desperate - yet they wouldn't let me do anything about it. "They were right, of course. Leanne was worrying about whether to have an abortion. Hair colour would have been the last thing on her mind. "When everyone is thinking about the character, you can feel a bit lost. You end up saying: 'Now Leanne is sorted, can I please have my hair cut?'"
Not that the new look is exclusively Jane's, of course. Happily for the TV bosses, it coincides with a new chapter in Leanne's life. Post-abortion, post-marriage, she is now embarking on a belated rebellious stage - much to Jane's delight. "For a bit she did go quiet and cosy. Now she's out having fun again," she says. "She's dating a few people. She's getting into a bit of trouble. And she's much more like the old Leanne - a bit mouthy, cheeky and streetwise. "She also walks out of her job at the Kabin and starts behind the bar in the Rovers, which is a dream for me. "I've been learning to pull pints - it has been hilarious."
Jane's certainly made her mark on the soap - although when she arrived on set two years ago, she was "absolutely terrified". "I didn't know what I was doing. As an actress in a new role, you have no idea of knowing if you are playing something the right way. "I'd finish and get straight on the phone to my mum. I'd be in a right state and she would calm me down. She still does. "What was worse was that none of the viewers actually liked the character. I didn't even like her myself! "Thankfully, Leanne now has another side to her, so it's easier to feel I'm doing something right."
Leanne's abortion certainly touched a nerve - it brought a stream of nasty letters. For Jane, more used to requests for signed photos, they came as a shock. "Weird is the only word I can use to describe it," she says. "I couldn't believe the lengths some people would go to. They obviously really thought I had been pregnant and had got rid of a baby. "And they weren't too happy about that. I couldn't quite believe people were actually saying these things to me. It was a controversial storyline and I did expect a bit of flak. Thankfully, the vast majority of the letters were supportive and referred to my acting rather than me personally. "Of course, I was grateful to get such a wonderful storyline - it had everything you could possibly ask for as an actress, the whole gamut of emotions. "But now it's nice to have a bit of light-hearted fun with Leanne. "It's a bit of a breather after all that crying. I used to come home completely drained."
Home for Jane is a recently-bought semi in Bury, Lancashire, just round the corner from her parents. The novelty of being a home-owner at the age of 20 hasn't quite worn off yet. "Sometimes I catch myself looking at curtains or something and have to giggle," she says. "I can't quite believe it. Most of my friends are at college and here I am with a house and a car. I know I'm incredibly lucky. "But the best bit is I can still pop round to mum and dad's for my tea."
Most avenues of conversation with Jane Danson come back to her mum and dad. The solid family background - mum Lynn is a care worker; dad Jack a builder - has kept her feet firmly on the ground. She laughs uproariously at any suggestion she might change her lifestyle now that fame has come calling: "I've got a house and a car, but that's about it. "I certainly don't go in for expensive clothes or designer labels. "I can't understand these people who will spend £600 on a suit when you can get a nice one for a fraction of that."
She is equally unlikely to get swept up in the glitz and glamour of the London luvvie scene. "Oh Lord, no! It's not me at all. I lived in London for six months and I couldn't wait to get back up here at weekends. I don't like it one little bit. Everybody running up escalators, pushing on the Tube. It scares me. I can do only a couple of days there at a time. "Here in Lancashire I am happy. I live 20 minutes from work and my parents are just around the corner. That is really important to me. "They're there if I need them and I'm there if they need me. Few things in life are as important as that."
Jane speaks from experience. Last year her only brother Paul nearly died after an accident left him with multiple fractures and a collapsed lung. "We've always been a close family but that sort of experience really makes you think about the big things," she says. "It makes me so grateful that my family are there for me, as I am for them. "Maybe that's why I'm not really that bothered about not having a boyfriend. "Whatever happens, I'm sensible enough to know that I don't really need one. "I've always got my mum and dad."
By 'Eck Gail! Is That Your Nicky?
9 May 1999
GAIL TILSLEY will go oop t'wall when she finds out. Because, by 'eck, that's definitely her little lad Nicky posing in skimpy Nick-ers all over a gay magazine. In one candid shot Weatherfield wonderboy Nicky lies on a bed in the briefest of briefs showing off his sensational six-pack. Oooh er...what will Les Battersby say?
Other pictures reveal him stretched out on a duvet and a bathroom floor - his unzipped jeans showing his black undies. The outrageous shots are bound to cause a few giggles in the bar down at the Rovers. But don't worry, our Gail, this is not part of a new plot-line following on from Nicky's nude poses for his college art class. This is for real.
Actor Adam Rickitt posed for the saucy photos in Attitude magazine after he quit playing Nicky in the soap last month. And Adam's millions of teenage girl fans needn't fear that he has gone t'other way. Adam, 20, has a big gay following but he only posed for the shots to publicise his new career as a pop star. The Cheshire-born hunk recently admitted he has now gone 18 months without sex and that he hadn't had a serious girlfriend for two years.
One friend said: "Adam just loves attention, really. As everyone knows, he has millions and millions of female fans from his time in Coronation Street. "But Adam is just as happy knowing that he is popular with gay men, too. "He doesn't have a problem with this sort thing. What would upset him most is if nobody cared who he was."
The star was snapped up in a £200,000 five-album deal by Polydor Records to launch his pop career. His debut single I Breathe Again is out on June 14. Breathe? we're panting, Adam!
12 May 1999
SOAP siren Jacqui Pirie's telly dream of a Corrie sex romp is coming true - with sleaze-ball Mike Baldwin. The sizzler, who plays bolshie factory girl Linda Sykes, is set to slide between the sheets with casanova boss Mike. Lusty Linda will become notch number 24 on cheating Baldwin's Weatherfield bedpost as spurned wife Alma heads for the divorce court.
Scots babe Jacqui has just been briefed on her first Corrie fling. She exclusively told the Star way back in December: "I've not had too much to do so far, but I'm told they've got some interesting things in store for Linda. "I'm looking forward to a big snog on screen with someone."
That someone will be Baldwin, played by 61-year-old Johnny Briggs, who decides he may as well grab what he can as he sees his whole world crumble. And nobody is happier with the sex-and-scandal storyline than Jacqui, who first hit soap screens spicing up Emmerdale as man-mad Tina Dingle. "She thinks it's fabulous she's about to become one of Baldwin's conquests," revealed a Street insider.
And actress Jacqui, who joined TV's top show as a factory girl last year, told a friend: "Becoming one of Baldwin's women guarantees a place in Coronation Street history. "It doesn't get much better than that. "If a girl is going to have a fling on screen, it may as well be with Baldwin."
Street's Johnny on drink-drive charge
14 May 1999
CORONATION Street star Johnny Briggs has been charged with drink-driving after being stopped by police on a motorway. The 63-year-old - factory boss Mike Baldwin in the hit ITV soap - will appear in court next month. He was not available for comment yesterday. But Granada TV last night pledged to stand by him. A spokesman said: "This is a personal matter for Johnny. We are aware of what has happened and it will not affect his work here."
Johnny was stopped last month while driving his S-reg Mercedes on the northbound section of the M6 near Hilton, Staffs. He will appear at Cannock court on June 2. If convicted he faces a certain ban which would cause him massive problems. He and wife Christine live in a luxury house near Stourbridge, in the West Midlands. But the star also has a flat near the Granada studios in Manchester and commutes by car between his two addresses.
Father of six Johnny is no stranger to real life crises. His wayward daughter from his first marriage, 34-year-old Karen, was arrested in a drugs swoop early last year. Karen was released without charge but the incident caused a breakdown in their relationship. Told of her arrest at his hideaway home in Florida, Johnny said: "This is a bombshell." He later added: "I've had it with Karen."
A few months earlier, the keen golfer enraged women players by branding them "cockroaches". He accused them of not knowing the rules, having no idea of etiquette and said they should play at "women only" courses. Women golfers hit back by calling him a "chauvinistic pig."
Johnny - the man women viewers love to hate - joined the Street cast in 1976, planning to stay just three months. Two years ago Johnny celebrated 50 years in showbiz after starting as a boy opera singer. But he desperately tries to keep his acting and private lives apart.
14 May 1999 by John Mahoney
THIS is the moment twisted Greg Kelly sparks a siege after taking his ex-lover hostage at her Coronation Street home. Blackmailer Greg wants revenge on Sally Webster, for turning against him, and on Mike Baldwin for driving him out of business. As Sally's daughters Sophie and Rosie do art in the next room, viewers will tonight see Kelly barge into Sal's home, grab the phone and call Mike Baldwin over the road. He demands another £10,000 from the romeo factory boss or Baldwin's wife Alma will be shown sordid colour snaps of him romping with sexy fashion girl Julia Stone. Over a tension-packed 48 hours, armed cops surround the house.
But is crackpot Kelly - actor Stephen Billington - psycho enough to harm Sally and the girls? "He's beaten up Sal before, and realises he's nothing to lose, " said an insider. "He knows cops are outside, so he may as well hold out to the finish."
Fans will see the siege continue on Sunday in an episode entirely devoted to the gripping drama. Kelly sends out Sally to try to collect the blackmail loot, fearing a trap. But she sees estranged hubby Kevin, Michael Le Vell, heading for her house and doubles back, knowing he mustn't discover she's left the kids inside. But mechanic Kev tries to kick the door in when Rosie yells out that Greg's inside. The source said: "Viewers will be on the edge of their seats ."
Wins Race For Soap Honours
16 May 1999
Rivals Coronation Street and EastEnders were neck-and-neck in the race for the honours at a soaps-only award ceremony, taking five gongs each. But it was Granada's tales of life in Weatherfield which took the top accolade at Carlton TV's British Soap Awards 1999, by being chosen Best Soap by TV viewers.
Soapland's longest-serving star William Roache, who plays the Street's Ken Barlow, won a standing ovation as he was presented with a Special Achievement award, which he modestly attributed to "old age". He told guests: "I think this is really an award for falling to pieces before your eyes over 38 years. "Old age is really the reason why I've got it. All I've had to do is learn the lines, turn up on time and keep doing it for 38 years."
He dedicated the award to his wife and children and vowed he would remain a fixture on the Street well into the next millennium. "The heart is still strong with a pulse like a cannon, I'd like to think I'll be eligible for this award in another 20 years."
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott presented the award for Best Soap with a jokey reference to his soaking at the Brit Awards in 1998. "I was a little apprehensive, I had to make sure Chumbawamba weren't here. I didn't know whether to put on a dinner suit or a wetsuit."
Best Actor and Actress awards both went to Walford, with Ross Kemp - EastEnders hard man Grant Mitchell - and his on-screen mum Barbara Windsor taking the honours at the event in London.
17 May 1999
RIVALS Coronation Street and EastEnders took five gongs a piece at a soaps-only awards ceremony lasy night. Life in Weatherfield, though, just edged out the Walford saga in the neck-and-neck race because the Granada show was chosen Best Soap by viewers.
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott presented the trophy, with a joke about his soaking at the Brit Awards in 1998. "I had to make sure Chum-bawamba weren't here," he said. "I didn't know whether to put on a dinner jacket or a wetsuit."
But the longest-serving star in any series William Roache - who plays the Street's Ken Barlow - won the biggest ovation at Carlton TV's British Soap Awards 1999 as he was presented with a Special Achie-vement award . . . which he modestly attributed to "old age". He told guests: "I think this is really for falling to pieces before your eyes over 38 years. "Old age is the reason I've got it. All I've had to do is learn the lines, turn up on time and keep doing it for 38 years." He dedicated the award to his wife and children and vowed he would remain a fixture on the Street into the next millennium: "The heart is still strong. I'd like to think I'll be eligible for this award in another 20 years."
Best Actor and Actress awards both went to EastEnders. Ross Kemp - hard man Grant Mitchell - and his screen mum Barbara Windsor took the honours at the London event. And co-star Tamzin Outhwaite, who plays Melanie Healy, was voted soap's Sexiest Female. She quipped: "I didn't realise working in that shop was so sexy . . . but it seems to be working for me with Ian Beale."
ITV's Emmerdale took two titles. But there was nothing for Channel 4's ailing Brookside, whose viewing figures have plummeted in recent months.
Soap awards in full
Best Comedy Performance: John Savident (Fred Elliott), Coronation Street
Best Dramatic Performance: Kelvin Fletcher (Andy Hopwood), Emmerdale
Villain of the Year: Stephen Billington (Greg Kelly), Coronation Street
Best Storyline :Martine McCutcheon for Tiffany's discovery of her husband's affair with her mother in EastEnders
Best On-screen Partnership: David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh (Roy and Hayley Cropper), Coronation Street
Sexiest Female: Tamzin Outhwaite (Melanie Healy), EastEnders
Sexiest Male :Michael Greco (Beppe di Marco), EastEnders
Best Exit: Claire King (Kim Tate), Emmerdale
Best Foreign Soap: Home And Away
Best Actor: Ross Kemp (Grant Mitchell), EastEnders
Best Actress: Barbara Windsor (Peggy Butcher), EastEnders
Best British Soap: Coronation Street
Special achievement award: Bill Roache (Ken Barlow) Coronation Street
Channel 4 Teletext
(page 412) ... Talks to Julie Hesmondhalgh
18 May 1999
Since her controversial arrival as the soap world's first transsexual, Coronation Street viewers have grown to love Hayley Patterson. This is something which particularly pleases actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who brought anorak-wearing Hayley to our screens last January. "I'm sensitive about Hayley in that I want people to know that I take the position she's in seriously," she says.
Getting the part of transsexual Hayley Patterson in Coronation Street was a dream come true for Julie. "When I first got called up for the interview I was convinced it was for a part as a factory girl," says Julie, who speaks in the same broad Lancashire accent as her on-screen character. "I arrived with red lippy on - quite glamorous really. I had a giggle about that when they told me about Hayley."
Sporting a cropped, bleached-blonde hairstyle, Julie's upbeat image is a far cry from frumpy transsexual Hayley. The 29-year-old actress, who lives in south London, admits she didn't know anything about transsexuals when she was offered the part. "I rushed straight into an alternative bookshop in Manchester and asked them for all their books on transsexuals,"
Despite her gruelling schedule as transsexual Hayley, actress Julie is in training for a charity hike through Peru next May. "My parents are keen walkers and it's something I enjoy, but I've never done anything quite like Peru," says Julie, who's walking in aid of Scope. "I'm going to have to start training soon, but I ran for a bus this morning so that's a start," she laughs.
Julie was starring in Much Ado About Nothing in Manchester when she was spotted or the part of transsexual Hayley in Coronation Street. The actress, who originally wanted to be a social worker, is currently studying for an Open University degree in social sciences. "It's something I've always been into, and I wanted to keep my mind busy during takes," she says.
Actress Julie says she has had a good response from the public for her portrayal of transsexual Hayley. "At first I think people thought it was a sensitive subject for Corrie to deal with," says Julie, who has become good friends with the transsexual who is permenantly on set to offer advice. "It's raised awareness. People say they've had to explain what a transsexual is to their grandmother."
19 May 1999 Exclusive by John Mahoney
CORONATION STREET chiefs fear thousands of childless couples could be upset by a controversial new saga. So they are going to extraordinary lengths to get every detail right in the story of how sex-swap Hayley Patterson and Roy Cropper can adopt a child. Executives have insisted: "This has to be spot-on. We must not cause any alarm."
Researchers spoke to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, wanting every detail on whether, in real life, there could be an adoption by unmarried Hayley and Roy, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh and David Nielsen. And they were reassured that Hayley, born a fella, would not be rejected out of hand because of her sex change.
Street bosses were told the Cropper kid should be a child unfazed by the odd situation, unaffected by bullying or teasing. Millions of TV fans have seen the couple's unsuccessful bid to become legally married. Instead they have had their relationship blessed by a woman cleric. Last night a Street source said: "No childless couples looking to adopt or foster are to be offended."
Old Rovers Return
19 May 1999
THESE three Corrie renegades have teamed up again for a rough 'n' tumble telly comedy special about a 70s soccer team. Roy Barraclough pulled pints and legs as Rovers' publican Alec Gilroy, Glenn Hugill wowed hairdresser Fiona as cop Alan McKenna, and Phil Middlemiss broke hearts as love rat Des Barnes. Now the trio are in the laugh-a-minute line-up in Bostock's Cup, about a Third Division club with more flares than flair.
Hollyoaks beauty Davinia Murphy, Drop The Dead Donkey's Neil Pearson and comic Nick Hancock also appear in the tale full of fun, footie . . . and very dodgy haircuts.
Corrie's Reg back - in Emmerdale
23 May 1999
CORONATION Street runaway Reg Holdsworth is to pop up over the Pennines - in Emmerdale.
TV bosses have signed Reg - actor Ken Morley -for a 90-minute Emmerdale video special in which he'll clash with the Dingle clan. Ken quit Corrie in 1995 when dippy supermarket boss Reg ran away with wealthy Yvonne Bannister.
Comedy highlights of his four years in the Street included his vain attempts to seduce Rita Fairclough and trying to disguise his age with a wig. TV bosses reckon Ken would pull in a huge sale for the spin-off in September.
25 May 1999 by John Mahoney
CORONATION Street will become Carry On Camping - as bosses try to put the fun back into Britain's top soap. Viewers told producers Corrie had become far too serious. Fans were getting depressed with heavy story-lines, like Mike Baldwin's blackmail, Leanne Battersby's abortion dilemma, and sex-swap Hayley Patterson's bid to wed Roy Cropper. So writers were ordered to lighten up the scripts to try to put the smile back on fans' faces.
The laughs will start when the Platts and Websters head to Wales for a relaxing break on a caravan park. They are horrified to discover loudmouth Les Battersby and his feuding family are about to join them. And to make it worse for them, Les - actor Bruce Jones - somehow lands the job as camp entertainer.
Then in a script which would have done Carry On proud, Les's missus falls for the camp's randy owner - unaware her daughter Toyah fancies him too. And when Les collapses with a suspected heart attack he is saved by Martin Platt - who just a few months ago lost his nursing job because of Les. "The show lightens up in Wales on this holiday, and provides loads of laughs," said a source.
Corrie star Sarah in £1M drama
28 May 1999
TV favourite Sarah Lancashire is to play a Good Samaritan supermum in a £1.25million ITV film. Sarah, 34, who starred as barmaid Raquel in Coronation Street, will start shooting Seeing Red about former actress Coral Atkins in June.
Coral was 33 and at the peak of her career starring in 1970s drama series A Family at War when she quit and set up a home for troubled children. She decided to leave TV after opening a fete at a Manchester children's home. There she saw a little girl screaming and scratching the walls until her fingers bled. Coral recalled: "I took a deep breath, picked up the telephone, called the Granada press office and declared to the world in general that I, Our Sheila from A Family at War, was opening a home for disturbed children."
Former Take That singer Jason Orange or actor Neil Morrissey may play her assistant. ITV drama boss Nick Elliott said: "Coral was an extraordinary woman who fought for those children. It's a great story."
We're not all Taffys you know !
29 May 1999
CORONATION STREET came under fire last night for portraying all Welsh people as "Taffys". Street bosses have received scores of complaints from people in North Wales on a storyline which stereotypes the Welsh. Viewers from the area say scenes - set in a caravan park in Conwy - use extras with South Wales accents.
The controversial plot sees uncouth Les Battersby - played by Bruce Jones - arrive at a Welsh caravan site and repeatedly call the site manager and his son "Taffy". "It's stereotypical and it's wrong," said Street fan Alun Lees from Conwy. "We are not Taffs. Taffs are in South Wales. We are Gogs." Another viewer , Sian Hughes from Abergele, said: "The accents were forced. They tried to make everyone sound like they were from the valleys." Nathan Richards from Colwyn Bay said the scenes made Welsh people look stupid. "One of them kept saying 'look you'. It really wound me up," he said.
There were fears the show could damage tourism in North Wales. Councillor Christine Jones, chairman of Conwy's tourism and leisure committee, said: "While I welcome the free publicity for our region, it's somewhat marred by the South Wales accents. But Janice Troop, a spokesman for Coronation Street, insisted actor Richard Harrington, who plays the caravan attendant, and his on-screen father were both Welsh born and bred.
She said: "The two characters on the caravan site are both from South Wales. "They moved to the north to find work. That's why they have stronger accents. "As for Les everyone knows he is a notorious bigot. He's hardly politically correct.Viewers should know by now not to take him seriously. "If he was a character with more credibility who called the Welsh Taffs then maybe these criticims would have some basis. "People know not to behave like Les. They have to take him with a pinch of salt."
2 June 1999 Exclusive by Jerry Lawton
CORONATION Street stunner Tracy Shaw has sacrificed her REAL lovelife for the SOAP romance of the year. She's split from boyfriend Alex Moskovitch so she can concentrate on filming her biggest-ever plotline her marriage to former butcher boy Ashley Peacock.
Tracy, 25, decided she could no longer divide her time between her shooting schedule in Manchester and Alex, 21, in London. But the end of her affair with the £16,000-a-year Habitat manager was NOT a shock to his ex Lucy Sutcliffe. The 20-year-old secretary the schoolpal sweetheart he ditched for Tracy said: "I can't say I'm surprised it hasn't lasted. They were from different worlds."
Pals say Tracy and Alex "reluctantly" agreed the best way forward was to end their month-long romance. A friend of Tracy said: "It has been upsetting for both of them. "They were both keen to try to make it work. "But Tracy was already finding it difficult dividing her time between Manchester and London. "When she discovered she was about to be involved in her biggest plotline ever and all the extra work that will entail she knew she had to commit herself 100 per cent to the role. "She's finished a real-life relationship to have a fantasy one on the screen - and I'm sure the irony is not lost on her or Alex."
Meanwhile, pretty Lucy is still nursing the hurt she felt when she opened the Daily Star last month to see her one and only boyfriend strolling in the sunshine with Tracy. Until then Lucy, who'd dated Alex since they were 16, thought they'd spend their lives together. She'd suspected he was seeing someone else when he told her to move into the spare room of his ex-council flat in Battersea. She went back to Huddersfield, West Yorks, - but heard a girl giggling in the background when she phoned him. He later admitted he was seeing someone else but didn't say who it was. Now Lucy is "determined" to get on with her life without him.
The new romance between Tracy's character bed-hopping hairdresser Maxine Heavey and Ashley (Steven Arnold) should be a blockbuster. An insider said: "It's an unlikely union between a girl who's had more than her fair share of partners and a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve a bit. "It will be the soap wedding of the Millennium."
test for Curly
2 June 1999 by John Mahoney
BOOZE-BATTLING Coronation Street star Kevin Kennedy has survived the biggest test of his fight to stay off alcohol - Manchester City's dramatic play-off win.
City fan Kev was a bag of nerves as he watched their Division Two play-off final at Wembley on Sunday. But Kev, who plays Curly Watts in Corrie, calmed himself with nothing stronger than cola. Twice he left his seat in the posh Olympic Gallery to get more drink - and twice came back with pints of Coca-Cola. Even so, the tension clearly showed on the face of City-mad Kevin as his side came back from 2-0 down with less than a minute to go - then won on penalties.
Kev was reduced to puffing away non-stop on his cigs while his wife Clare - who calls him Curly - had to keep massaging his back. It was an amazing test for the actor, who has been treated for alcoholism twice in the past 10 months. After checking out of his first rehab unit, when asked whether he would be going to watch City, Kev joked: "It's because of them I'm in this mess in the first place."
Shocked, shamed, shattered, sorry
3 June 1999
Corrie's Johnny Briggs gets drink-driving ban
A SNEEZE has cost Coronation Street star Johnny Briggs his driving licence. For it made him swerve in his blue Mercedes convertible. And police in a patrol car spotted it. They followed as he drove slowly along the fast lane of a motorway. And when they stopped the 63-year-old actor they smelled booze on his breath.
Yesterday the wheeler-dealer TV tough guy was said to be "shattered" and "very shocked and contrite" as he admitted drink driving. His lawyer said he "apologised profusely". And magistrates in Cannock, Staffs, were told that in real life he was nothing like his soap character Mike Baldwin who is often seen with a glass of whisky in his hand. Being arrested and charged had caused Briggs great distress and shame and he was said to have been taught "a very frightening lesson". After being banned from driving for 14 months the shamed actor agreed to take part in a Government approved "drink impaired drivers" course. If he passes the six-week course, three months will be cut from his driving ban.
The court heard he was stopped and breath-tested on the M6 in Staffordshire on April 24 while on his way to Granada's Manchester studios from his home in the West Midlands. The test showed 60 units of alcohol. The limit is 35. Briggs told police: "I don't understand it. I have only had a glass of wine at lunchtime." His lawyer Nathan Marks told the court Briggs had sneezed and swerved slightly. He didn't think he was driving abnormally or erratically. After his arrest he sat in a police station learning his Street lines. Two hours after being stopped police decided he was fit to drive again.
Wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie, Briggs sat upright in court as his lawyer told magistrates the star had not intended to drive to Manchester that Saturday evening. He spent the day at home with his wife and four children and had drunk wine at lunchtime. But because he was due on set at 6.55 next morning - "and no one dares to be late" - his wife Christine had suggested it would be more sensible to leave that evening and learn his script at his flat in Manchester. The lawyer added: "He wishes he could turn the clock back. "It has taught him a very frightening lesson and caused him great distress and shame." "He is by nature a law abiding citizen. If he had had an inkling there was excess alcohol in his system he would not have driven."
As well as the driving ban Briggs was fined £1,440 with £40 costs. He refused to comment as he left the court to be driven back to Manchester.
Street star mad about ace Yorke
6 June 1999
THE boyfriend of Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw dumped her because he's convinced she's got a crush on soccer ace Dwight Yorke. Store manager Alex Moscovitch revealed that the actress began calling him by the Manchester United star's name.
Alex, 20, said: "I couldn't believe it when she suddenly started saying, 'Look here, Dwight'. "I said to her 'What did you just call me?' and she looked all embarrassed and tried to cover up her blunder. "But for me that was it. I've had my suspicions about them for a long time. "This says it all, though. One minute she's telling me she loves me and the next she's calling me Dwight."
Alex, a £25,000-a-year Habitat manager in Chelsea, South-West London, added: "During the argument she called me Dwight about four times. How could she do that if she didn't know him well? "I just said to her that it was over and I didn't want to see her any more. She was shocked and very upset. "He's a £6 million-a-year footballer, Tracy's a Coronation Street star and I'm a Habitat floor manager. What chance have I got to compete if he wants her?"
Alex, who had been dating Tracy for seven weeks, went on: "He used to bombard her with calls every day, but she never admitted they were from him. "On one occasion, I was at her place and she received this call. It was obviously from him. "Tracy was giving one-word answers and talking quietly, then she hung up. I challenged her and she denied it was Dwight. "But about half-an-hour later I finally got it out of her that it was him. They speak on the phone together a hell of a lot."
Alex met Tracy, 25, when they were introduced through one of her friends. Although she lives in Manchester and he in London, the couple regularly travelled to see each other. On a recent shopping trip in Manchester with Alex, Tracy said: "I've never felt happier but it's early days."
The romance seemed to be going well - until the bust-up over 27-year-old Dwight. Alex said: "I was honest with her and told her everything about myself and I hoped she'd be the same with me. "My friends and family have all said the same - just split from her and walk away. "That's what I'm doing and I've no regrets because I'm convinced I've done the right thing."
He added: "Tracy's a lovely girl and was a good lover, there's no doubt about that. "I have memories of her that I will treasure forever. She's a lovely person." Alex had helped mend Tracy's heart after her broken engagement to TV hunk Darren Day. She recently took a holiday in the Seychelles with mum Ann, 46, to get away from the pressures, as exclusively pictured in the Sunday People last week.
Alex added: "Tracy was pretty tearful when we split, but it was all going a bit wrong towards the end, anyway. I wish I had proof she was dating Dwight Yorke but I don't." Yorke told the Sunday People: "What can I say? I suppose I'm unforgettable."
Street stars come back to life in soap bubble spin-offs
6 June 1999
The makers of Coronation Street are to screen a series of special spin-offs based around Britain's best-loved show. The "soap bubbles" are to be screened later this year as a lucrative extra from regular Street episodes. Favourites Julie Goodyear and Ken Morley have already been booked to appear in the shows - which may become a regular addition to the programme schedules.
The pair will appear alongside former star regulars Roy Barraclough (Alec Gilroy) and Chloe Newsome (Vicky) as well as current cast members Steve Gregson and Ian Mercer, who play Steve McDonald and Gary Mallett. Plans were made to include Reg Holdsworth's screen wife Maureen, but were shelved after the show producers encountered difficulties.
Scriptwriters have already completed the plot - which involves Steve McDonald driving to the South Coast to deliver a lorryload of Alec's furniture. After Steve and Gary meet up with Vicky and Alec at their bar, the group embark on a booze cruise to Calais where they bump into Morley's character Reg Holdsworth in a cross-Channel supermarket. During their travels they also run into Roy's estranged wife Bet, which marks a stunning comeback for Julie less than five years after her emotional farewell from the Rover's Return.
Viewers of the main soap will see Steve and his labourer Gary Mallett set off to Brighton, but must watch the later show to find out what happens. A Granada spokesman said filming on the first one-off will begin shortly, before a decision is made on how many subsequent specials will be written. He said: "We are still in the very early stages of the production process and as yet no decision has been made about the future of the shows. We must wait to see if there will be the potential to continue these runs."
The show is set to be screened in the autumn and could run across three different nights. ITV programme controllers are currently considering the best slot in which to run the bubbles. A Street source said the former regulars would only appear in the spin-offs - and that there were no plans for them to return to the main show.
7 June 1999 by John Mahoney
LOVE is in the air as Coronation Street goes all Mills and Boon with a happy HAT-TRICK of marriage proposals. Romance is blossoming all over Weatherfield as Rovers Return regulars announce three engagements.
And the love bug bites so quickly that viewers of Britain's top soap will see the big question being asked three times in the space of three months. But fans will be kept in suspense wondering if everyone is a winner. Mechanic Kevin Webster tells factory girl Alison Wakefield - actress Naomi Radcliffe - he wants to make an honest woman of her. But Kev, played by Michael Le Vell, knows that ex-wife Sally could erupt in a jealous rage if she knows there's no chance of them reuniting.
Butcher Fred Elliott decides it's time ask widowed Audrey Roberts: "Will you marry me, Audrey, I say, will you marry me?" Lonely Fred - actor John Savident - has long admired Cllr Roberts from afar and knows Audrey, played by Sue Nicholls, is missing a companion since husband Alf died at a New Year's Eve party.
And man-hungry hairdresser Maxine Heavey says "I do" when kind-hearted Ashley Peacock - played by Stephen Arnold - promises to look after her for the rest of her days. Maxine - sexy Tracy Shaw - is thrilled at the prospect of slipping into a white gown for a Corrie wedding.
Tessa tells TV soaps to stub it out
13 June 1999
CORONATION Street's Les Battersby will have cadged his last few pounds to buy a packet of cigarettes, while chain-smoking Dot Cotton of EastEnders will end up in a cancer ward - if the Government gets its way. Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell has launched a campaign to get programme-makers to stub out smoking on the soaps. And when they do show characters with a cigarette hanging from their lips, she wants the soaps to stress the risks. Ms Jowell said special care was needed with shows like Coronation Street and EastEnders, which are shown before the 9pm watershed when children could be watching.
"Ministers believe the depiction of smoking on television should support, not undermine the Government's message on smoking," a Whitehall spokesman said. "Smoking is a serious public health problem and we want to get that message across, particularly to youngsters. "Ministers will be meeting broadcasters to ask them to help."
Famous on-screen smokers include EastEnders battleaxe Pat Evans, and Coronation Street's cigar-puffing Mike Baldwin. But it's not only the older characters in soaps who light up when they are under pressure. In Friday night's Coronation Street, when the stakes in a card game were rising, Andy McDonald lit up a fat cigar.
Swindon South MP Julia Drown has written to TV companies asking them to ban all smoking on screen - accept in documentaries highlighting the dangers. She said: "Maybe Dot Cotton could end up on a cancer ward to show just how agonising it can be to die from smoking. "Smoking is not cool, it kills."
Question Time for Street Bill
16 June 1999
TORY-voting Coronation Street star Bill Roache is to appear on BBC1's Question Time tomorrow. The actor, Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, will join Labour's Gerald Kaufman and Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride, among others, on the political show.
Roache, 67, was spokesman for disgraced Tory MP Neil Hamilton during the last general election. Mr Hamilton eventually lost his Tatton seat in Cheshire to former war reporter Martin Bell over sleaze allegations. A BBC spokesman said Roache, who has been in the Street since it started 38 years ago, was one of a few politically active soap stars. He added: "Question Time always looks for a mix of people. We don't just want politicians."
Other celebrities who have appeared on the popular debate show include Jim Davidson, comedian Eddie Izzard and pop singer Paul Heaton.
22 June 1999 by John Mahoney
CORONATION STREET chiefs are preparing to put Leanne Tilsley on the game. As money troubles worsen, Nick Tilsley's estranged wife - played by Jane Danson - gets a job as an escort girl. Troubled Leanne is already dabbling in the cut-throat world of casino gambling, but she gets sucked into seedy underworld circles and takes the sleazy job. And she finds an easy way to pay off her debts, flashing those flirty come-to-bed eyes at wealthy well-heeled businessmen.
Last night a Street insider said: "We are not actually talking about prostitution in its starkest sense because that would not work in Coronation Street. "Leanne becomes increasingly disillusioned with life without Nick, played by Adam Rickitt. Then, when one of her new contacts mentions the possibility of escort work, she jumps at it, without realising the hidden implications that she is expected to have sex with her clients."
The source said programme bosses wanted to turn Leanne into a modern version of former Street favourite Elsie Tanner. He said: "Like Elsie, she can enjoy playing the part of the scarlet woman, who will be wined, dined, and romanced by older men." As sensational screen action unfolds, Leanne will get shock news from Nick in Canada, saying that he's met someone else and wants to be free to marry. The insider said: "The prospect of a divorce sends her into even wilder ways. "She wants cash to enjoy all the good things in life. If it means romancing sugar daddies to achieve that, then she will do it."
Boring Ken Barlow signed up as an escort with Alec Gilroy's Golden Years dating agency 18 months ago. But he quit when one of his dates wanted sex.
Soap rogue returns
23 June 1999
CORONATION Street badboy Terry Duckworth is making a dramatic comeback. Actor Nigel Pivaro has signed a new deal with Granada TV and will be back on the Street from August 13.
No-good Terry returns after learning his dad Jack has heart problems. But if fans think he has turned over a new leaf, they will be disappointed. A Street insider said: "He thinks that with Jack unwell there's a chance to make some easy money." Terry's return is a boost for actor Nigel Pivaro, 38, who has received mixed reviews on the provincial theatre circuit.
28 June 1999
FORMER Coronation Street pin-up Adam Rickitt narrowly escaped serious injury yesterday when a smoke bomb was thrown at him during a pop concert. The soap idol turned singing star was performing in front of 50,000 screaming fans when the incendiary landed on the stage. Adam, who played Nick Tilsley in Corrie, and his backing dancers fled as thick smoke billowed across the stage at Brighton's Preston Park. Two young men were later arrested by police.
Adam then returned to the stage and wowed the audience at radio station Southern FM's Party in the Park concert by belting out his chart-topping hit Breathe Again. Fan Kelly Shepherd, 14, of Hove, said: "He could have been badly hurt if it had hit him. "He's a true star and carried on afterwards as if nothing had happened. I'm sure he didn't want to let the fans down." Also appearing at the free gig were Steps, Dina Carroll, 21st Century Girls and Mark Morrison.
Fred Feast dies
28 June 1999
Actor Fred Feast, who played cellarman Fred Gee at the Rover's Return on Coronation Street for a more than a decade, has died aged 69. He died in a Bridlington hospital on Friday after a long illness, his wife Kathleen said from their Scarborough home. Cast members paid tribute to the glum-faced actor who was Annie Walker's foil behind the Rover's bar for 13 years.
"Fred was always full of life. He enjoyed life to the full," said Bill Roache, who plays Ken Barlow. "Even though I hadn't seen him for some time, I can still feel the loss." Liz Dawn, who plays current Rovers' landlady Vera Duckworth, said: "I visited him in hospital a while ago and wanted to visit him again, but unfortunately he was not well enough. It is very sad." Meg Johnson, who plays Eunice, his wife of just six months in 1981, said: "He was a joy to work with. The scenes we did were hilarious. "Although I haven't seen Fred for some time, it is terribly sad that he is no longer with us."
His most recent role was as pigeon-fancying Arthur in hit British film Little Voice, which was set in Scarborough. Mr Feast left the top-rating Granada soap in 1984 because of overwork and stress, and months later found he had cancer of the throat. But the character was only finally killed off in January this year, when his on-screen ex-wife Eunice, disclosed his death. He was cleared of the cancer after an operation and six years of treatment, and his last illness involved major abdominal surgery. Fred was a great character who gave many fans of the show great amusement throughout the seventies and early eighties.
Sally joins campaign
30 June 1999
CORONATION Street's battered wife Sally Webster will today launch a new Government drive to stamp out domestic violence. Mum-of-two Sally, played by Sally Whittaker, will link up with ministers to promote the first-ever Government report into the problem. She will be joined by real-life victim Karen Newman, who was stabbed 56 times by her brother-in-law.
The report into violence against women, Living With Fear, draws on around 80 cases where women have been subject to vicious attacks. Many of them have suffered at the hands of partners or husbands. The report is intended to be a blueprint for the future and includes plans to increase support for women's groups and protect women in the justice system.