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Only Fools' Christmas special tops TV charts
31 December 2002
Only Fools And Horses' Christmas special has received the highest ratings of 2002. It narrowly beat the second Christmas Day episode of EastEnders, with an audience of 16.3 million. But ratings for the BBC1 comedy were down on last year, when its 2001 festive edition attracted 21.34 million viewers.

The EastEnders episode in which Jamie Mitchell dies pulled in 16 million viewers, making it the second most watched programme of the year. And an episode of Coronation Street, in which Emily Bishop nearly dies at the hands of Richard Hillman, came in third place, with 15 million viewers.

Much of the top ten was dominated by the World Cup, but the top-rated drama of the year was Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. It came in at number eight, just beating ITV stalwart A Touch of Frost.


Street Tracy is love cheat
31 December 2002
Corrie's Tracy Barlow has been exposed as a liar and a love cheat, according to a national newspaper.

Tracy, played by Kate Ford, cheated on her husband - despite claiming she'd found him in bed with one of her friends. Tracy's lies and deceit are exposed by Ken and Deirdre as husband Robert Preston arrives on The Street, according to the Daily Star.

Rob, played by Julian Kay, explains that it was her who was caught cheating. But Tracy hasn't let that stop her getting her man over Christmas - she's already thrown her wedding ring onto the fire and has got together with Dev Alahan (Jimi Harkishin), just 12 months after he was sleeping with her screen mum Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride).


Actor wants Corrie killer to die
30 December 2002
The man behind Coronation Street's killer has said he wants to see his character killed off rather than him being sent to jail.

Brian Capron, who plays murderer Richard Hillman, wants Corrie's producers to kill him off or to let him mysteriously disappear - so he could return to seek revenge upon those who have crossed him. "I'd like to see him vanish without trace," Brian told Inside Soap magazine. "I'd love to see him die a flawed hero or disappear. But that's just a romantic notion."

Despite his dangerous role, Brian has had a warm reception from fans. "Most people's reaction is humorous despite Richard's psychopathic nature," he said. "They want to know what he is going to be up to next and whether he is going to get caught."

Brian's contract with the soap is set for the next seven months and his fate is yet to be decided by soap bosses.  



Les gets new lease of life after Janice's Batters-bye
29 December 2002
CORRIE layabout Les Battersby is to re-invent himself as a lovable romantic, I can reveal. The comical taxi driver (played by the brilliant BRUCE JONES) will have a complete personality change after divorcing wife Janice. OUT will go his lazy, beer-swilling gambling lifestyle. IN will come the smart, hard-working version.

And lazy Les will even net himself a new woman. My Weatherfield source reveals: "Janice (VICKY ENTWISTLE) wants a divorce and rather than hit the bottle as he did when she left him for Dennis Stringer, Les agrees to it and becomes a New Man. "He'll be a born-again romantic and an all-round Mr Nice Guy." Corrie fans had been hoping the comic couple would renew their stormy relationship ever since their drunken night of love last month. But soap bosses have decided to keep Janice with cop boyfriend Mike Hopwood (IAN GAIN).

All is not lost for Les, though. His new image works a treat and he's soon involved in a new romance. Bruce Jones tells me: "I can't give too much away, but we'll be seeing a different side of Les next year. "I'm looking forward to showing another side of his character. Fans have always wanted Les and Janice to get back together but it's not to be in 2003. But you can never say never."


TV rebel Katy's Corriecatures
29 December 2002 by Billy Sloan
ACTRESS Lucy-Jo Hudson has only been in Coronation Street a few months but she's already well acquainted with a host of famous faces. For she relaxes between takes on ITV's No.1 soap drawing caricatures of her favourite stars, from pop legend Madonna to Rowan Atkinson's rubber- faced creation Mr Bean.

Budding artist Lucy-Jo, 19 - who plays rebellious teenager Katy Nelson - has done great versions of actor Sean Bean, TV chef Ainsley Harriott, comedienne Jo Brand and Caroline Ahern's character Mrs Merton. Lucy-Jo, who began sketching at 13, said: "I've always loved drawing and my favourite style is caricatures. I'm not the kind of person who can knock one off in five minutes. They take hours to complete and are very detailed. "I began doing pictures of my family for birthdays and Christmases."

Lucy-Jo loves playing the mouthy daughter of the Street's new family. Unknown to most residents, they're living at No.6 as part of a police witness protection scheme. But Lucy-Jo hasn't yet sketched any of her fellow Corrie cast members. She said: "They're some of the most famous faces on TV so it would be great to draw characters such as Samia Ghadie, who plays Maria Sutherland, "We've become good mates and I'd love to do a caricature of her."


Julie's Countdown target
29 December 2002
CORRIE star JULIE HESMONDHALGH (Hayley Cropper) wants to go on Countdown because host Richard Whiteley "is so sexy". She adds: "I'd love to get him alone in dictionary corner"!"

Samia Ghadie
SEXY SAMIA GHADIE insists she's nothing like her character Maria: "She's a man-eater, so it's all high-heels, short skirts and plunging necklines. But I'm not a get-it-all-out girl at all."

Alan Halsall
ALAN HALSALL, Tyrone Dobbs in Corrie, says he gets stacks of saucy fan-mail from female admirers. "Sometimes they give me an address and ask me to pop round. But I just blush and send them a photo."


Killer reads eulogy at Maxine's funeral
29 December 2002
Corrie killer Richard Hillman is to read the service at his victim Maxine Peacock's funeral, according to newspaper reports. Richard, played by Brian Capron, bludgeons Maxine (Tracy Shaw) to death at the New Year, but attends the funeral in a bid to cover his tracks by showing fake concern. But when the emotions get too much for Maxine's grieving dad and he can't continue with a eulogy during the service, father-in-law Fred Elliott (John Savident) asks Richard to step up to the pulpit and to take over, according to the News of the World.

Much to the horror of Audrey Roberts - the only Corrie character who knows that Richard is the murderer - he waxes lyrical about Maxine's life and times, the paper reports. Audrey (Sue Nicholls) is unable to stand by and watch the killer's hypocrisy any longer and, in an episode to be screened in January, confronts him in front of the mourners.

Little is she believed though, as Richard reminds The Street's regulars that his mother-in-law's mind is playing tricks on her and Gail (Helen Worth) tells her mum that if she were a decent human being she would leave Richard alone. "This will be one of the most compelling episodes ever," an insider tells the paper. "In some ways even more dramatic than the murder because his actions are so sinister."


Corrie's Karen named Woman of the Year
29 December 2002
Suranne Jones, who plays The Street's Karen McDonald, has been named as woman of the year by a national newspaper. Karen, who joined the soap in 2000, has an ongoing feud with Geena (Jennifer James) and lives with Steve above Streetcars, but has her eyes on moving upmarket.

Known for taking risks - she married Steve (Simon Gregson) when they both refused to back out of a bet - she's recently met her match in Joe Carter (Jonathan Wrather), who fired her from Underworld. The People's Garry Bushell awarded his own "GAFTAS" - Garry's Awards for Televisual Achievement 2002 - to a host of celebrities who have appeared on our screens throughout the year. Along with Suranne, Corrie's Richard Hillman (Brian Capron) was named villain of the year because he is "so fiendish he managed to start an electric fire on a gas stove with spilt milk".

Corrie also scooped the GAFTA for the best soap death - but it wasn't one of Richard's victims. It was the Street's Dennis Stringer (Charles Dale): "`Shock him' said the nurse. But how could you shock a man who'd seen Janice Battersby naked?" Garry writes.

The worst soap comeback was also made by one of the Street's characters as Bet Gilroy (Julie Goodyear) returned, "looking like Lily Savage's gran," according to the newspaper.

The only other soap to be recognised by the GAFTAS was EastEnders, with Shane Richie being named the top soap newcomer for his role as the Queen Vic's new manager, Alfie Moon. The Walford soap also scooped the award for the top soap double act, none other than Patrick Trueman and Jim Branning (and John Bardon). The honeymoon of Jim and Dot (June Brown) was named as the funniest soap moment of 2002.


Tricky Dicky is a TV turn on
27 December 2002
Tricky Dicky Hillman may be the scourge of Coronation Street - but the viewers can't get enough of him. And murdering Dicky's devastating deeds have rocketed the Street to the top of a poll for the best soap moments of 2002. Telly magazine TV Soap voted Richard Hillman's plots to kill off his friends and neighbours one of the prime reasons for Corrie's rebirth, and why the Street is must-see TV again.

EastEnders came second in the poll, thanks mainly to Trevor Morgan's fiery exit and the death of hero fireman Tom Banks.

Emmerdale took third spot for its 30th anniversary episode.


Shared hair day for Julie and Becks
27 December 2002
It's a case of double trouble for Julie Hesmondhaigh, who plays sex swap Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, and Manchester United star David Beckham. Julie's fellow cast members and Beckham's team mates reckon the pair look like each other - and have started calling them by the other's name.

In the Street, Julie wears a short black bob. But in real life her chosen style is punky blonde spikes - exactly how Beckham likes to wear his hair. According to the Daily Star, Chris Bisson, who plays Vik Desai in the soap, revealed the nickname taunts. He said Manchester United players had seen Julie off screen and noticed how her hair resembled the England captain's latest style.


EastEnders "wins Christmas Day soap battle"
26 December 2002
Unofficial figures suggest that EastEnders won the Christmas Day soap ratings battle. Overall, EastEnders was the second biggest show of the day, according to unofficial overnight figures, with 16 million tuning in to the later edition to see the traditional seasonal misery. Among the grim treats for viewers was Jamie Mitchell's death.

Coronation Street - the most watched show at Christmas two years ago - was in third place with 13.3 million viewers while fellow ITV1 soap Emmerdale was in sixth position, attracting an audience of 10.3 million.

Only Fools And Horses was again the biggest show on the box, with 16.3 million tuning in to see Del Boy and Rodney's final scam - although it was down four million on the previous Christmas. The show pulled in 63% of viewers for the 90-minute special, screened at 9.40pm, and led the BBC's domination of TV viewing, which saw it take much of the top ten shows.

The Queen's Speech had the seventh biggest ratings with 9.3 million viewers if both ITV1 and BBC1 screenings are combined, reversing a trend for the figure to drop each year. The BBC has traditionally won the battle to grab viewers who are slumped in front of the festive TV. BBC1 pulled in 44.6% of viewers in peak time (6pm to 10.30pm) - down 6% on last year - compared with ITV1's 32.7%. And it had 38.8% of viewing for the whole day, against ITV1's 24.2%.

BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey said today: "I'm thrilled that viewers decided to spend Christmas with BBC1, but we don't measure our success in ratings alone. "It's about offering the best family Christmas in a rich and varied schedule with great British comedians and entertainers that viewers of all ages can enjoy together. Viewing figures will rise when video recordings are taken into account. 


Corrie plot reminds Sue of tragedy
23 December 2002
Sue Nicholls is currently stealing the show as grandmother Audrey Roberts, struggling to convince her family that she hasn't lost her mind in Coronation Street. But Sue has revealed that her startling performances are based on personal experiences. Her mother Dorothy succumbed to dementia after a series of strokes, and died last year aged 87.

In the soap Sue's character, Audrey Roberts, is desperate to prove her sanity after murderous son-in-law Richard Hillman sets her up to gain control of her savings. Sue admits that playing scenes where she attempts to convince her daughter and grandchildren that she hasn't lost her mind have been very testing. And she says that the plot has reminded her of just how desperate illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer's can be.

In the soap Richard Hillman, played by Brian Capron, has broken into Audrey's house to move her belongings, and has even set the place on fire in a bid to make it look as though Audrey was suffering the first signs of dementia.


Sexy? I bedded Dev in a pair of thermals
22 December 2002 by Steve Hendry
TRACY BARLOW is coming back to Coronation Street and the boys down Weatherfield way better watch out because she's not the dowdy, moody girl she used to be. The once truculent teenager has been replaced by a modern girl who is part minx, part man-eater. She's all grown up with a sexy new look, a feisty new attitude and a brand new face. And it belongs to actress Kate Ford, who arrives in Coronation Street on Christmas Day.

The 25-year-old takes her first steps down the hallowed cobbles wearing 6in stiletto heels - even if Kate admits she she could barely walk in them. "It's definitely a taste of Tracy," she said, with a smile. "Oh yes. Short skirts, high heels - they've got Tracy written all over them. "The first time I walked on the cobbles it was a bit uncomfortable because I had 6in heels on and it was difficult to walk. "I think Tracy is a bit of a femme fatale. She's really flirty, really out there and just wants to have a laugh with everybody. "She's more interested in making her own life in Coronation Street than coming back to fit in with anybody else's idea of what she should be."

Tracy turns up at the door of her mum Deirdre Rachid (Anne Kirkbride) and adopted dad Ken Barlow's (William Roache) house, having left her husband in London. She caught him in bed with his mistress but if Tracy's heart is broken, she doesn't waste any time putting it back together again... with a little help from the man who bedded her mum last Christmas - shopkeeper Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin).

Dev's double whammy comes to light when Deirdre catches them together in the stockroom of the corner shop. It might be great stuff for viewers but it was nerve-racking for Kate, who found herself filming the red hot scenes only a week after winning the role of Tracy. She said: "Both Annie Kirkbride and William Roache have been a huge help because they have been so welcoming. They understand how daunting it is to come into something which is such an institution. "The first time I came into the studios they both gave me a massive hug and have been nothing but encouraging ever since. "Jimmi is great to work with as well and he just puts you at ease. He's got a wicked sense of humour and I've been enjoying all the scenes - even the ones in bed. But I'm afraid it really wasn't that sexy. I had thermal long johns on underneath. "Annie hasn't given me any advice on going to bed with Dev but we all think it's a good storyline. "Deirdre's not happy at all but Tracy doesn't understand why until January, when it all comes out. But it's tradition in a way - the Barlows never have a good Christmas. "It sets up the way their relationship is going to go - and it's going to be sparky. "Tracy's still very close to Ken but she and Deirdre are going to have more of a love/hate relationship. "Tracy does things without thinking, that's her problem. So she ends up getting herself in trouble. But she likes it, in a way. It's not boring."

Now there's an understatement. Tracy Barlow may only be 25, but she has already been played by a record-breaking four actresses. First seen in 1977, Tracy - the daughter of Deirdre and Ray Langton (Ray Lewington) - was played by Christabel Finch until November 1983. The character wasn't seen again until July 1985 when Holly Chamarette took over. She played the role for nearly three years until she was replaced by the third and best-known Tracy, Dawn Acton, who has had the part on and off for 11 years. Between stints as Tracy, Dawn has been carving out a career for herself as a DJ and bringing up her son Thomas.

But Corrie producers weren't sure she was right for the new-look Tracy. They made her audition for the role - and she failed to get the part. Now Kate has the chance to make the role her own and she's up for challenge. "The character has changed quite a lot," she said. "So in a way I can make her my own character. She's still similar in some ways. She still likes her own way and she's not conventional. "I do remember Dawn playing Tracy but I didn't watch her again or ask for tapes. What I did do was ask for tapes of Ray Langton, Tracy's real father. "There are a lot of references in the programme to her being her father's daughter so I thought that would be useful."

Having been brought up in Manchester and the surrounding area, she reckons she was born to the part. Her family, who are still based in the area, are as delighted as she is about her role. "You could say I was a fan," said Kate, laughing. "I was born in Manchester then moved out of the city when I was 13 and I have been in London for the last six years. My mum and dad still stay up north and they are absolutely delighted, as you can imagine. "I couldn't believe it when I got the part. "I didn't think I had a good audition so I was amazed when they called me back for a screen test with Jimmi. "I was just ecstatic when I got the call to say I had the part but I was on a train from London to Brighton so I couldn't jump around as much as I would have liked. I have made up for it since though."

Kate started filming just a week after getting the news and is still coming to terms with walking down Weatherfield's main street. "It's really weird because I finish filming here and I walk round into my gran's and she's got Corrie on," she said. "It's a bit surreal at times. The houses aren't built to scale so everything's so much smaller than you expect and it's not as intimidating as you might expect - although the first time I walked in the Rovers was very scary. "I think because I've seen it a million times and it's an institution in itself. That was when I was really nervous."

Kate studied drama in Blackpool and London and although The Street is her biggest part to date, it's not her first taste of soap. She had a small part in - whisper it - Corrie's big rival EastEnders, when they filmed a Bianca and Ricky spin-off in Manchester. She played Sophie, best pal of Bianca (Patsy Palmer) in the North. She is also appeared in daytime soap Doctors and was starring opposite Keith Allen in the play Glastonbury when she got the part in Corrie. "It's not my first job but it's the nicest one I've had," she said. "I'm really delighted to get the part and it's the best job of my career so far, without a doubt. I'm just grateful that they have given me this chance. "It's not up to me to say how long I'll be here but I'm loving it, put it that way."

Being in Corrie will inevitably bring fame to Kate. She's been too busy to worry about it but is aware that come Boxing Day, she may have to don baseball cap and sunglasses to hide from fans. "I don't think it's really dawned on me and I don't think it will until I'm actually on screen," she said. "I think I'm looking forward to it. The rest of the cast are great. "They spoke to me, told me what it's like, getting stared at when you go shopping. "You lose your anonymity, I suppose. But if you're an actor, you kind of expect it. I think the key is you just don't let it affect you."

Single Kate is waiting for her ideal man to come along. Although the actress helped choose her costume she wouldn't be seen dead in Tracy's gear. She prefers combats and trainers to high heels and short skirts. And she wouldn't be up for a casual fling with the local shopkeeper. In fact, when she talks about boys, she suddenly gets all embarrassed. She said: "I'm single but looking for the perfect man. I'm looking for a lovely man. I'm not actively searching but if he walked in I would know. Physically, it would be someone who looks like Jude Law or Ioan Gruffud... God, I'm going red. I feel like a 10- year-old."


Tracy's undressed to thrill
22 December 2002
You'll soon be able to see Tracy Shaw as Corrie fans have never seen her - completely undressed to thrill! The super-sexy star is quitting the Street in the New Year to appear NAKED on stage. Tantalising Tracy, who put the Cor! in Corrie as man- eating hairdresser Maxine Peacock, will be altogether raunchier in The Blue Room.

The 29-year-old stunner will strip every night for 16 weeks for a romp in the kitchen with co-star Jason Connery. And it's obvious Tracy is in terrific shape for the role made famous by Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman in London.

A close pal told The People: "Tracy knows she's about to spark a thousand male fantasies. But she's taking the part very seriously and can't wait to get on stage." Tracy has been training for a Salsa exercise video and the friend said: "She wants to show off her shapely curves. She has matured from soap siren to a sexy, sophisticated woman."

Maxine has had her share of dramas in the ITV1 soap with hubby Ashley - actor Steven Arnold - and baby Joshua. But Tracy's new confidence and sensuality is down to her real-life marriage to TV producer Robert Ashworth, 30. The couple wed 18 months ago and Tracy, who once battled against anorexia, said: "Marrying Robert has made me so happy. "I started to look in the mirror and like my body. "I've put weight on to my boobs and my bottom - which Robert loves."

Tracy, who has starred in Coronation Street for seven years, will make a sensational exit in the New Year. It is believed that fans will see her killed by baddie Richard Hillman before her nationwide spring tour in The Blue Room starts in Cambridge on February 3. The former Rear of the Year girl said: "I've chosen to do it rather than panto." Maybe, but we bet your fans will still be looking behind you, Tracy!

Sally Lindsay
SALLY LINDSAY - Corrie barmaid Shelley Unwin - is "dead jealous" of JOHNNY BRIGGS (Mike Baldwin) because he's appeared in a Carry On film. Sally tells me: "I'm a huge fan of the Carry On movies. They're hilarious! I hope they come back again so I can star in one."

Alan Halsall
ALAN HALSALL, grease monkey Tyrone Dobbs in Corrie, claims he gets stacks of saucy fan mail from female admirers. Alan says: ""Sometimes they give me their addresses and ask me to pop round. But I just send them a signed photo."


She'll sink without Trace
22 December 2002 by Carole Malone
BECAUSE her talent for acting is on a par with Sooty's, Tracy Shaw has done what she always does when she needs a bit of publicity - she's taken her clothes off. Having made the unwise decision to quit Corrie after a row over money, Ms Shaw is realising it's a cold, hard world for actors who can't act. So last week she stripped for some saucy photos and dredged up a few so-called exclusives - "My coke hell" (which I suppose is a variation on "my anorexic hell" and "my love cheat hell) and "my Corrie death threat" which apparently looks at the time Jacqueline Pirie, alias Mike Baldwin's wife Linda, came up to her after something about her appeared in the papers and said "I'll kill you".

Knowing Ms Shaw's propensity to blab for cash, this seems a pretty understandable reaction on the part of Ms Pirie. No doubt Ms Shaw's "exclusives" will provide enough cash to pay for a few Christmas presents, which is probably just as well because I suspect in future acting jobs - other than those which involve getting her baps out - will be pretty thin on the ground.


Soap gossip
21 December 2002 by Tim Randall
NICE kennel girl turned slapper Maria discovers she's pregnant in Corrie next month - only problem is the father is John, Toyah's new bloke. Quite how she can be so sure is anyone's guess, the amount she's been at it of late.

Anyway, when John finds out he offers to pay for the abortion. Poor Toyah, meanwhile, is oblivious to the identity of the father, but knowing Fiz she won't be able to keep her gob shut about this for much longer.


Corrie facing roller-coaster year
20 December 2002
Several characters in Coronation Street are in for a roller-coaster 2003, say bosses at ITV's top soap. Kieran Roberts, the show's producer, told Inside Soap that the seeds are being sown for some huge stories in the New Year as it rating battle with EastEnders continues.

He said: "People are already aware that Georgia Taylor (Toyah Battersby) and Tracy Shaw (Maxine Peacock) are leaving in 2003, and the events that lead to them going are pretty stunning." He also promises that Street characters Shelley Unwin, played by Sally Lindsay, Peter Barlow (Chris Gasgoyne) and Lucy Richards (Katy Carmichael) are all in for a major upheaval.

Mr Roberts added: "Now we know that Julie Goodyear is available to come back as Bet Lynch for short-term appearances, we're on the lookout for ways to let that happen, but nothing has been confirmed yet." He hopes the gripping story-lines will help Coronation Street carry off with more awards next year.

Mr Roberts promises that murderous Richard Hillman (Brian Capron) will soon be looking for a new victim. He added: "Richard isn't finished yet and he is going to kill again. He's got 11 possible victims lined up - so a number of characters are in danger from his murderous intentions"


Spider legs it back to the Street
20 December 2002
SPIDER Nugent is making a sensational return to Coronation Street - two years after he left behind lover Toyah Battersby. And yesterday, the eco-warrior's dramatic reappearance sparked fears his aunt Emily Bishop may be killed off by serial killer Richard Hillman in the show's Christmas storyline.

Bosses are keeping Tricky Dicky's next victim a secret. But insiders say Spider played by actor Martin Hancock could be returning to the Street to attend a funeral - making his Aunty Em favourite to be killed. Hancock, who has been appearing in the Christmas pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk in Stockport, was spotted filming at Granada studios in Manchester. One insider said: "It could be Spider will be attending a funeral but nobody knows for sure. Everyone is gossiping about it."

Hancock first appeared in the Street in 1997 as the green, herbal cigarette smoking, didgeridoo owner. He won the heart of Toyah and the pair campaigned against a plan to build a concert bowl on the show's Red Rec. They also tried to save Theresa the turkey from becoming the Battersby's Christmas dinner - but failed when Les ran the bird over in his car.But Toyah refused to join vegan Spider - real name Geoffrey - when he made a spiritual journey to India.


Betrayal on the Street
19 December 2002
Coronation Street's Maria Sutherland is to betray her best friend Toyah Battersby (Georgia Taylor) and sleep with her man, John, played by Paul Warriner.

Samia Ghadie, who plays barmaid Maria in the soap, risks losing everything when a New Year's Eve kiss leads to a more intimate affair back at the flat she shares with Toyah and Fiz (Jennie McAlpine). " Maria realises for sure that John fancies her on New Year's Eve," Samia told Inside Soap magazine. "He's sitting really close to her in the Rovers and saying cheesy things to her like `Have you thought of being a model?' " Maria's flattered because she needs to hear things like this, especially after everything that happened with her last boyfriend, Vikram Desai. Her attraction to John is definitely growing so when they later share a New Year's Eve kiss, there's a moment between them."

Despite her every effort to resist the temptation, Maria succombs to his attentions. " She knows something is likely to happen between them if they're alone again," Samia told the magazine. "So, when Toyah later announces that she's going to Emily Bishop's to study, Maria does her best to persuade her to stay home so that there's no opportunity for anything to go on between her and John." But sure enough, Toyah goes off to study and John arrives, complete with a bottle of wine. As one thing leads to another and the pair end up in bed, flatmate Fiz returns to find them in a state of undress. She demands that Maria confesses to Toyah. " Maria's scared," Samia said. "She knows that Fiz is being loyal to Toyah and she does admire that, but she doesn't want to lose her friend."

Maria may end up alone if she doesn't be careful, Samia said. "However, I think that what's in store for Maria might make her change her ways..." But she did not confirm rumours in the Star on Sunday newspaper that the drunken fling leads to Maria becoming pregnant.


Corrie star's murderous alter ego
18 December 2002 by Hannah Wright
Richard Hillman is fast becoming one of Corrie's most infamous villains. With Christmas upon us and his finances in dire straits, he is gearing up to make another killing.
The question on everybody's lips is who will it be? Moneybags Emily Bishop is a hot favourite.

We talk to Brian Capron, the actor who plays the murderous conman, about his plans for Christmas and who Richard's next victim will be. " I'm afraid Richard doesn't let up over Christmas, far from it," he laughs. "In fact, the storyline hots up, he really wraps up the temperature." Richard faces financial ruin unless he can get his hands on some cash, and fast.

So who is Richard going to snuff out as the Christmas bells toll? " It could either be someone who knows something about Richard, perhaps Norris or Archie, or someone with a lot of money, like Emily, who took out an equity policy with him," says actor Capron. Whoever it is, the murder will seal a busy year for Richard, who left pal Duggie for dead, silenced his ex- wife Patricia for good, and wed Gail.

Brian can't remember a time when he's had an easy week. " I think I'm right in saying you usually have five weeks of a big storyline then it eases off before you get another one," he says. "But this has been relentless." His hard work has not gone unnoticed, however. He walked away with Best Villain at the Inside Soap Awards and was nominated Best Newcomer at The National Television Awards this year.

Capron says his alter ego, killer Richard Hillman, obviously has a clinical disorder. " I think it comes from his family background," says Brian. "I get the feeling of a very austere father who left home and left Richard to it. " When he told Gail about his mother's Alzheimer's, he was genuinely upset, it left a big hole and is why Gail and her family are so important to him. But his warped sense of logic is that he kills to provide for Gail."

Brian is looking forward to his own perfect Christmas present - two weeks at home with his family in Brighton. "I can't wait for it because I don't get home very often," he says. "Those Christmas weeks are incredibly precious to me now." Christmas Day will be a traditional family occasion with girlfriend Jacqueline Bucknell, their six- year-old son Louis, plus Brian's daughters Lucy, 27, and Ellen, 24.

And he plans to rub shoulders with pop star Midge Ure on New Year's Eve. " Jacqui (Brian's girlfriend) has known him since the new romantic movement years ago, when she was involved in the music business," said Brian, 53. " In fact, she went out with Martin Kemp for a while. Midge lives in Bath and has a lovely farmhouse and studio, and we often spend New Year's Eve there, or they come here."

Any spare time over the holiday period will be spent planning his wedding. Brian and Jacqui plan to marry next year, possibly at a villa in the Italian town of Positano. But before then, it's back to business as murderous Richard. "He has got to get his comeuppance," says Brian. "But I would also like to see him go out as a flawed hero, perhaps do something to absolve himself, like save David's life."


Soap bosses duel for supremacy
18 December 2002
The bosses of Britain's two top soaps have locked horns in a new ratings battle, according to reports. The Daily Star says that Corrie boss Kieran Roberts has already made taking the long-running Granada series to the top of the tree his New Year's resolution. But it observes that he'll face tough competition from EastEnders' boss Louise Berridge who as pledged to keep Albert Square top of the pile.

However, Corrie has its eyes on winning more awards after losing out to Albert Square in this year's Soap Awards, the paper says, and Roberts has already told Inside magazine that he plans to bring in some new powerful characters. The competiton can only be good news for Corrie fans, who can look forward to: Trouble for Peter Barlow, his fiancee Shelley and mistress Lucy Richards; More murder and mayhem courtesy of Richard Hillman and a return for Bet Lynch.

Meanwhile, EastEnders fans are expected to be served up a treat, with the Phil Mitchell/Lisa Fowler storyline taking centre stage and Alfie Moon (Shane Richie) revealing the darker side of his nature. And, aahh, the good news is Billy Mitchell and Little Mo will live happily ever after - well as happily as anyone can in Albert Square!

The battle looks set to hot up even more as Emmerdale attracted its biggest audience of the year on Monday night. The one-hour special show peaked with 12.1 million viewers and averaged more than eleven million (11.1m). WPC Angie Reynolds, played by Freya Copeland, was buried and Louise Appleton, played by Emily Symons, was involved in a sinister twist in the latest storyline which will lead to her killing her stalker. But the ITV soap is still behind both Corrie and EastEnders in the war for viewers, as they attracted 11.9 million and 11.8 million respectively on Monday.


Caring Corrie
18 December 2002
CORONATION Street favourites are starring in a series of TV ads to urge people not to feel lonely at Christmas. Sue Nicholls, Chris Bisson and Bruce Jones will promote the Careline service for people with festive stress.

Sue - who plays Audrey Roberts - said: "It's important they know a friendly voice is just a phone call away."

Ciaran returns
17 December 2002
Ciaran McCarthy, played by Keith Duffy, looks set to cause trouble in Coronation Street when he returns to give his blessing to Shelley Unwin and Peter Barlow. After leaving the show last time after Peter, played by Chris Gasgoyne, stopped partying with him in favour of spending time with Sally Lindsay's character Shelley, few Street regulars believe his return will be amicable - especially when he turns up at their engagement party unannounced.

But actor Keith Duffy has told All About Soap magazine that his character just wants to be back with his best friend and is willing to accept that Peter's now with Shelley. " He and Peter were close for so long, the two of them have been through a great deal together, and he really missed him when they fell out," he told the magazine. " Ciaran wants to bury the hatchet and make amends and if that means that he has to accept Peter's relationship with Shelley, then so be it. " The reason he caused problems before was actually nothing to do with not liking Shelley personally. It's just that for 15 years, him and Peter had been going out on the pull together, getting into fights together, and practically living in each other's pockets. When Peter found Shelley, all that stopped."

But he is given a cold reception at the party. " As soon as Ciaran walks in, it's obvious he's not welcome. As far as Peter's concerned, Ciaran has blown it - their friendship is over," he said.

Ciaran is set to stay in Weatherfield anyway, explained Keith. "He's a bit of a loner really and, without Peter, he hasn't got anyone. He just thinks he might as well stay because he has got nowhere else to go." He soon gets a job in the cafe and begins to make a life for himself in the Street, but he still won't give up on Peter, Keith added.


Corrie couple on the rocks
16 December 2002
Coronation Street's perennial warring couple Ken and Deirdre appear to be heading for trouble. The Daily Star reckons the pair's on-off romance is heading for the rocks - yet again - when Ken hears of his ex-wife's latest stab at having an affair.

Ken (William Roache) is devastated when he learns of her fling with Dev Alahan (Jimi Harkishin) last Christmas, the tabloid reports. Deirdrie (Anne Kirkbride) - now back sharing a bed with her ex - confesses all to Ken just as he is about to go into court to answer a charge of assaulting teenage yob Aiden Critchley.

Mild Ken had snapped when joyrider had left Sarah Platt for dead in Ken's crashed car. The bombshell confession rekindles Ken's memories of Deirdre's affair with Mike Baldwin and coincides with her daughter Tracey's return to the Street - and an affair with shopkeeper Dev - the paper says.


Eating disorder left Tracy close to death
16 December 2002
Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw has told how the slimming disease anorexia nervosa left her close to death, with a skeletal frame and thoughts of suicide. The disease struck when she was a drama student six years ago, and at her lowest point she dropped to five-and-half-stone and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

" I started dieting, copying other girls. It spiralled into anorexia", Tracy told the Daily Star. " I thought I was going mad. I remember standing on a bridge and considering throwing myself into a river". But now Tracy, who plays hairdresser Maxine in the soap, is in such good physical and mental shape that she has released an exercise video of her favourite way to slim.

Tracy Shaw admits to drug-taking past
15 December 2002
Tracy Shaw has become the latest Coronation Street star to admit to taking cocaine while working on the soap opera, according to a newspaper report. In an interview that coincides with her exit from the Street, the 29-year-old told the Sun: "I was wrapped up in being a socialite. I was trying to do what everybody else does because I was new to this business."

Shaw said she began dabbling with the drug while dating singer Darren Day, who spoke about his drug habit on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.The actress said: "At first I didn't realise Darren was doing it. He did a lot of it behind my back. " I did coke because Darren did it - and that was it really. I would never go back and it isn't a nice experience." The actress said farewell to the Coronation Street cast after seven years on the soap at her leaving party on Friday.

Other Corrie stars who have admitted to taking cocaine include Charlie Lawson, who played wife-beater Jim McDonald on the show. Shaw told the Sun that she never witnessed any other Coronation Street cast members taking the drug. A spokesperson from Coronation Street was not available for comment. Shaw told the newspaper that her eating disorders "resurfaced" during her drug-taking period. She has not touched the drug for six years, she added.


Corrie's Christmas kisses
15 December 2002
They do say that Christmas is a time for peace on Earth and goodwill to all men - but try telling that to the Street's Karen McDonald! Wherever the saucy factory girl goes, trouble and strife tend to follow. This Christmas, the fiesty sex bomb, played by raven-haired Suranne Jones, has to fight hard to keep her passion under wraps after a kiss under the mistletoe with boss Joe Carter.

Karen and Joe's relationship is a tetchy one - but behind their clashes is sizzling sexual chemisty. So far, nothing has happened between them - but what now? " Karen adores her husband Steve, but with Joe there's always been this lust/hate thing going on," says Suranne, 24. It's at the factory's Christmas party that passions begin to simmer. Suranne explains: "Joe's in a good mood because he's got a new order and Karen's happy because she's going on holiday and Joe's given her a day off. They drink in the Rovers and are in high spirits. Joe goes to find a taxi and Karen follows him to look for Steve. While they're by themselves, Karen - dressed in a silly hat with mistletoe - thanks Joe for letting her have a day off. The air is full of sexual tension and Joe, being a flirt, replies: `Give us a Christmas kiss and then we'll call it quits.'"

Viewers will be left wondering if this outwardly innocent kiss could develop into something more. Suranne's not saying, but admits: "Karen's life is certainly never dull.This will be her third Christmas in Weatherfield. For the first one she slept with Peter Barlow, and last Christmas she messed up the turkey dinner!"It doesn't look as if it will be any easier this year. Her and Steve's lives are put at risk when Vik embroils them in gambling debts. "The interesting thing is that Karen and Steve are brought closer together," says Suranne. "Instead of just blaming it all on Steve or bitching, Karen pulls together with him."

While it's been a tough year for Karen - she's been sacked twice, is worried sick about Steve and the warehouse robberies, has lost her dream house and she's broke - Suranne's own life has never been better. " It's been an amazing year for me," she grins. "I've got a new house, and my career's great. We do have one thing in common though - Karen adores her man Steve, and I adore mine."

Suranne's man is computer programmer Jim Phelan, 27, who she lives with in Cheshire. "I'm utterly in love with Jim and I hope we'll get married and have babies. But there's no rush. I'd never get hitched for a bet, like Karen." The couple, who've been together for two years, are dividing their Christmas time between her family in Oldham and his near Cheshire. "Jim and I plan to spend New Year being romantic and soppy, but we both feel that Christmas is a time for family. " That means we'll be eating two Christmas meals, so I'll be undoing my buttons and letting my belly hang out! I love those traditional treats - mulled wine, Baileys, mince pies and cream - so I'll have to get to the gym because one of my New Year's resolutions is to stick at 10st."

Christmas has always been a magical time for Suranne. " One of my earliest memories is leaving out my stocking with a glass of port and a mince pie for Santa. I remember the rush of real excitement when I woke up and realised the mince pie had a bite missing. " I'm still a big kid. I'll wake up at six and poor Jim will be telling me to go back to sleep!" The festivities will kick off at her Auntie Jean's house. "We have a rule in our family that you're allowed to open one early present on Christmas Eve. " Then, on Christmas morning we go to Mass, then it's a race back home to open the rest of the presents. And in the evening, of course, we'll all be sitting down together to watch the Corrie Christmas episode."


Having sex on the box gave me the giggles
12 December 2002 by Rachel Murphy
SHE is known to millions of Coronation Street fans as trouble-making teenage tearaway Candice Stowe.For three years, actress Nikki Sanderson has breathed fire and passion into the precocious schoolgirl - seducing an older man, bedding her boyfriend's big brother and vying with her best mate for the attentions of a local tearaway.At 18, Nikki has blossomed into a stunningly attractive young woman. And with her mischievous smile and brimming confidence it's easy to imagine she could give Candice a run for her money any day. She recently fuelled her sexy image by ditching her Weatherfield school uniform and posing in lacy lingerie on the cover of lads' magazine Loaded.

Not surprisingly, showbiz gossips have speculated about her love life, but the reality is a far cry from any of Candice's dangerous liaisons.Nikki has been dating clothes shop assistant manager Jamie Meakin, 23, for two years. They are totally devoted to each other and are talking of engagement. " Some people expect me to be a man-eater like Candice, but I'm not like her at all," says Nikki as she snuggles up to Jamie on a sofa at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester. " It's great playing such a bitch. I think it's a part of me that's locked away and I'd never, ever get out in real life. " I loved it when Candice cheated on her boyfriend with his big brother. I'd never do that in a million years, and it's great to be able to behave so badly and not get into trouble for it."

Nikki met Jamie on a night out in Manchester not long after she had joined the Street. He had spotted her once before in Bury, Greater Manchester, where she lives with her mum Judy and younger brother James, 16. But he hesitated to chat her up in case she thought he only fancied her because she was on TV.Luckily, when he saw her again in Manchester, Nikki noticed him and sent a friend over with her phone number. " The first time I saw Jamie I thought: 'You're kinda fit'," giggles Nikki. "He is exactly my type. I fancied everything about him and he's absolutely beautiful. " Both sets of our mates did a sort of 'My mate fancies your mate' thing and when we eventually got talking I also realised he was a nice, genuine lad. " One thing I can't stand is stuck-up, phoney people. I knew he didn't just fancy me because I was on telly. " Now we're best friends. We can talk about anything. He's really loving and caring and he shows me a lot of affection in public, which I love."

There's no doubt about that. When they posed for our photographs, Nikki and Jamie couldn't stop kissing and cuddling. And when you ask Jamie why he fell for her, he eyes her from top to toe adoringly. " I love her cute smile and she is totally gorgeous," he says. "Also she's got her feet firmly on the ground. Even if she made it in Hollywood she'd be exactly the same. " She's very affectionate with everybody and she thinks of other people before herself."

THEY are almost inseparable. He bought her a diamond-studded Gucci watch for her 18th birthday and she leaves him little notes and teddy bears on his pillow when he's had a long day at work. Even though they don't live together, they spend as much time as they can at each other's houses. One of Nikki's favourite treats is curling up in bed with Jamie and watching DVDs and eating sweets. They rarely go on nights out without each other - which came in very handy recently when there was a story that Nikki was dating Footballers' Wives star Gary Lucy and had been seen getting "pretty close" at a club. In fact Gary simply gave Nikki a peck on the cheek when he left with two mutual friends - Ryan Thomas, who plays Corrie's Jason Grimshaw, and Bruno Langley, who plays Candice's boyfriend Todd Grimshaw. Jamie was there, in any case.

He is a very laid-back character who is not fazed by Nikki's fame. This is the first time he has agreed to a photo-shoot with her. He has been described as a "mystery man" in the past, which he finds hilarious. It's just as well he can laugh about it. As a Corrie babe's boyfriend, he has had to watch her kissing another man on screen and being mobbed by fans in the street - not to mention posing for Loaded. He's also had to get used to rubbing shoulders with other cast members and attending celebrity parties. He shrugs: "At first I found it very daunting when Nikki was asked for autographs whenever we were out, but now I just step back and let her take the limelight. " When she was in Loaded I had mixed feelings. I remember thinking: 'This is not good - my friends are looking at my girlfriend in underwear.' The lads at work did take the mick a bit, but she's a beautiful girl and it boosted her profile, which is good for her career. I'd never hold her back." As for kissing her screen boyfriend Todd, when I next saw Bruno Langley I just said: 'Oy, you've been snoggin' my bird.' You have to have a laugh about it. " The most memorable showbiz moment was going to the Soap Awards and being faced with hundreds of photographers with flashes going off everywhere and people shouting: 'Over here!' I thought: 'What am I doing in the middle of all this? I should be on the other side of the barrier shouting and screaming like everyone else.'"

The first time Nikki met Jamie's mum, Sue, he warned her not to mention Corrie, but she couldn't help blurting out: "Ooh, you look fat on the telly." Now she is treated just like another member of his family - he has four younger brothers and two little sisters. Nikki and her mum and brother get on so well with them that they are all having Christmas dinner together. " It's like we're a married couple already," laughs Nikki. "But we're not planning to get married yet. It's the most serious relationship either of us has had. " We have spoken about marriage, but we don't even know what it's like to live together properly yet. We'll probably look for a house first and get engaged, but we both want to wait a while until we're really ready."

It's hard to believe that just a few years ago Nikki was still at school - and being bullied about her looks. " A few lads used to call me 'pig' because my nose turns up a bit at the end," she explains. " Acting was a way out. At drama school nobody cared what shape my nose was, and if I felt down I could be someone else for the day." Ironically, it's that upturned nose that now helps create some of Candice's bitchiest expressions." I was only 15 when I joined Corrie and it was a really lucky break," says Nikki. "The only telly jobs I'd had were modelling clothes on Granada Tonight and a part in Children's Ward. My mum always said there was a part out there that was made for me, and she was right."

Nikki started at Corrie the same day as Tina O'Brien, who plays Candice's friend Sarah Platt. They hit it off instantly and have been best friends ever since. They go out dancing together and support each other at work. Barbara Knox (Rita Sullivan) and William Roache (Ken Barlow) are among the senior cast members who have helped Nikki over the years. And she still feels privileged to work with them. She says: "I owe my success to my mum. My parents split up when I was two and my mum did a fantastic job of bringing me and my brother up on her own. " My dad's remarried and I've always been able to contact him whenever I wanted, but it's my mum who has been there day in and day out. " She's taught me to keep my feet on the ground. You have to stay being yourself in this job, because at the end of the day it's a job, albeit a very good job, and you can lose it very easily. " I'd love to go on and have a really glittering career, maybe doing films or singing and presenting. But what I've learned is that the most important thing about being successful is the power it gives you to be able to help other people. " At the moment I've got a fantastic job and a fantastic boyfriend, and I'm not taking either for granted."


Having sex on the box gave me the giggles
12 December 2002 by Thomas Quinn
LAUGHING during sex is the biggest insult you can bestow on a man. But Sarah Lancashire admits making the ultimate faux pas during sex scenes with Sons and Lovers co-star Hugo Speers. The former Corrie actress said she found it hard keeping a straight face while filming steamy romps for the two- part ITV drama, due to be screened next month. She said: "The out takes are hilarious. I'm a giggler, you see, so I lose it a lot. The thing is I don't do a lot of that kind of thing. And my feet can get a bit twitchy. " I get very embarrassed by it all, to be honest. So I tend to just giggle my way through. Hugo was fantastic, though, he just carried on as if absolutely nothing was happening."

The Full Monty star, who played a well-endowed stripper in the hit movie, could have been forgiven for feeling slightly miffed. But luckily he took it in his stride and saw the funny side too. He said: "I still call her wifey and she calls me hubby, so obviously the relationship we created was very profound. " But because this is DH Lawrence the role was very much one of can't talk, got to s**g."

Sarah plays Gertrude Morel, DH Lawrence's single-minded matriarch from the epic Sons And Lovers in a two- part dramatisation shown next month. The role called on her to age dramatically from a young bride to a woman in her fifties and sixties ravaged by poverty and bad luck throughout her whole life. And it also called on her to do what she rarely does on television - climb into bed with her co-star.

DH Lawrence's approach to bedroom matters was earthy, to say the least. And nothing is lost in this dramatisation regarding the way sex can bring both ecstasy and brutality. Sarah said it was her most demanding role to date. She explained: "The whole piece was difficult, it was emotionally difficult. " There is very little joy in Gertrude's life and there is also a great loneliness. And yet, despite all her troubles, she has a fantastic strength. " The director had very strong ideas about the character however, and I trusted him implicitly. Filming this drama was one of the best experiences of my career, the whole team working on it were very special. " More than anything I think it was important that at all times Gertrude had dignity. If that comes across, then as far as I'm concerned, it has worked."

For 38-year-old Sarah, however who is now expecting her third child - dignity went out the window when it came to the sex scenes. As for the scene in which his Walter beats his pregnant wife up, Speers is now nursing his own bruises. He said: "Doing that, I didn't hit her for real, but she hit me. You heard this almighty crack, and everyone behind the cameras winced. Sarah was great about it afterwards, she gave me a big hug and everything, but we had to do it 13 times. It hardly seems fair does it?"

TO Sarah, what fun there was to be had on set was only a minor distraction from the fact Gertrude is a part she'd felt compelled to play. Yet the novel had left her cold when she'd first read it at school. She recallled: "At 16 it had absolutely no impact on me whatsoever. Whoever put Sons and Lovers down as a GCSE text should have been shot. " How any child of 16 can be expected to understand the complexities of relationships, especially sons towards their mothers, I really don't know."

But as an older woman - and as a divorcee and a mother of two boys herself - she re- read the work and was able to understand for the first time the complex relationships the book concerned itself with. In 1985, she married Mancunian businessman Gary Hargreaves, the father of her two sons, Thomas, now 14, and Matthew, 12. They divorced in 1997 and last year the actress married BBC Head of Sport, Peter Salmon. The new relationship seems to have done her the world of good - she is currently six months pregnant with his child. She said: "This time the book, Sons and Lovers, had an enormous impact on me. I read it several times before we started shooting - to the point when the director was telling me, put the bloody book down."

Gertrude's plight is that she finds herself in an unhappy marriage. And as this is turn of 19th and 20th century Nottinghamshire, she is unable to simply get a divorce from mineworker Walter. Instead, she has to find what satisfaction she could out of her meagre existence struggling to get by on the little money a miner earned. So she transfers her affections to her sons - firstly William (James Murray) and then, on his premature death, to his younger brother Paul (Rockface star Rupert Evans).

Sarah herself knows what it is like to be in an unhappy relationship and how it might trap you. She talks openly about her first marriage break-up, admitting she had married too young.She said: "I got married only because I was pregnant. Simple as that. I am a very traditional girl and was horrified at the thought of having a child out of wedlock. " I didn't want a child of mine to be different or have fingers pointed." But she denies her affection for her own two sons helped her play the complex character of Gertrude.

A FIERCELY private person away from the cameras, she is aware of the parallels and is keen to keep her distance from them. She said: "Gertrude's obsessed with her children, I think that's the word for it. But I don't think being a mum myself had much influence really. " I have not yet reached the stage of my parenting life where I've had to deal with the issues Gertrude is dealing with here. " I certainly have a very good working relationship with Rupert. He is truly very special. " Actually, one of the hardest things was when I first met Rupert and James Murray, who were going to play my sons. " It was the first time it dawned on me that I'd got to that stage of my career when I could conceivably have grown-up children. " This is the first death I've done as well, so I think from here on in death roles are going to start happening a little more frequently. It's quite odd to think about, really."

Apart from playing older roles, Sons And Lovers marks a new departure of another sort for Lancashire. She will soon be seen in a one off drama, Beating Jesus, as a terminally ill woman having one last fling, and a series based on her recent legal thriller, Rose And Maloney. But Sarah is no longer working exclusively for ITV and some have claimed bosses dropped her because she was proving too expensive. The real reason for the move, she insists, is the desire to spread her wings after the birth of her child. She explained: "It was very much my decision not to renew the contract purely because I really felt I wanted more choice, in a sense. " I want to move further afield - not necessarily television, but also theatre. My deal was for 20 hours for ITV every two years, which you realise is a lot and I don't have a particular desire to do that much television any more. " I didn't feel I'd sold myself short with it at the time. I was the first female to be taken on exclusively, which I was rather pleased about. " In fact I was probably more pleased by that than I was about the deal itself. No, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity but I've done it now, and felt it was time to move on." A sentiment her screen alter ego Gertrude Morel would dearly have loved to share.

Sons and Lovers, ITV1, Sunday/MondayJanuary 12 and 13.


Soap star's attacker gets seven years
11 December 2002 by Helen Carter
A dangerous and violent former rent boy who stabbed a Coronation Street actor in the neck after they met in a bar in Manchester's gay village has been jailed for seven years, it emerged yesterday. Michael Smith, 30, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, was imprisoned in September for the attack on 62-year-old John Savident, who plays butcher Fred Elliott in the Granada soap opera. But reporting restrictions remained in place until yesterday when Smith, who has more than 60 convictions for offences including violent robberies and kidnap, was found guilty of other unrelated charges of robbery, theft and false imprisonment.

The week-long trial at Manchester crown court was told how Smith had convinced Mr Savident that he was a keen drama student when they met in Napoleon's bar after the actor made a personal appearance there for World Aids Day in November 2000. Once at the married star's flat, they continued talking for at least three hours until the early hours of the following day. Mr Savident told the court he had gone into his bedroom to charge his mobile phone and he was shoved face down on to his bed at knifepoint by Smith. He said: "I suddenly felt somebody come up behind me and whizz me round so I was face down on the bed and then I felt a prick on my throat. He said something like 'I bet you have never met a schizo before', which was really quite frightening."

Mr Savident lost two pints of blood in the attack, in which his neck was pierced twice. Smith, who had drunk beer and half a litre of vodka beforehand, demanded valuables and the keys to Mr Savident's classic Morgan sports car. When Smith went out to the garage the actor locked him out of the flat, then dialled 999. Despite fearing that he was dying, he pleaded with the emergency services operator to keep the story out of the newspapers. "I am John Savident. I play Fred Elliott in Coronation Street," he said. The actor fainted after police arrived at his home. He was released from Manchester royal infirmary after treatment for the neck wounds.

Jailing Smith for seven years, Judge Harold Singer said Mr Savident could have bled to death had the knife severed a major blood vessel. It emerged that Mr Savident, who used to be a police officer in Manchester, had been stabbed before - while trying to break up a fight when he was on the beat. He became a professional actor 20 years ago and has appeared in many stage productions and films, including A Clockwork Orange and Gandhi, before joining Coronation Street in 1994 as Fred Elliott. Smith was arrested by police in Canal Street on the day of the attack. His clothes were soaked in Mr Savident's blood. He was charged with wounding with intent to cause grievious bodily harm, and robbing Mr Savident of his wallet, keys, credit cards, cash, a silver money clip and jewellery and an invitation to the soap's 40th birthday party.

During the trial, Smith sacked his counsel and claimed he had acted in self-defence after Mr Savident made sexual advances towards him. But the actor said they had gone back to his flat so he could advise Smith on how to get into show business.

A Coronation Street spokeswoman said: "John was a victim of a violent crime which has left him traumatised. " He has endured a dreadful experience, but felt a huge responsibility to fulfil a civic obligation in giving evidence."


Man jailed for attack on Street star
11 December 2002
A man who stabbed Coronation Street star John Savident in the neck after meeting him in a gay bar has been jailed for seven years. Michael Smith, 30, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, was jailed in September, but reporting restrictions were only lifted on Tuesday after he was found guilty of an unrelated robbery. Mr Savident stars as butcher Fred Elliot in the soap.

Smith attacked Mr Savident in the early hours of 1 December 2000. Mr Savident met Smith in Manchester's Gay Village after making a personal appearance on the evening of 30 November, and invited him home to talk about the theatre. Michael Smith claimed he acted in self-defence Manchester Crown Court heard how the pair continued chatting into the early hours before Smith attacked Mr Savident in his bedroom. But Smith claimed that "discussions about the theatre" was a euphemism for sex. He said he had attacked Mr Savident in self-defence after he made advances towards him. He said to me something like, 'I bet you have never met a schizo before', which was really quite frightening

Mr Savident told the court that when he went into his bedroom to plug his mobile phone in to charge, he was shoved face down into his bed at knifepoint. " I was totally surprised," Mr Savident said. " I suddenly felt somebody come up behind me and whizz me round so I was face down on the bed and then I felt a prick on my throat." The actor added: "He said to me something like, 'I bet you have never met a schizo before', which was really quite frightening."

Smith demanded valuables and the keys to Mr Savident's classic Morgan sports car. Mr Savident's neck was pierced twice in a struggle. One of the wounds missed the main artery in Mr Savident's neck by less than an inch and sliced straight through a minor blood vessel. When Smith went to Mr Savident's garage, he locked his attacker out and called the emergency services. The actor passed out shortly after letting police into his home.

Smith was charged with wounding Mr Savident with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm and robbing him of his wallet, credit cards, a silver money clip and cash, a Jorge Jensen watch and ring, keys and an invitation to Coronation Street's 40th birthday party. He was found guilty after a week-long trial. Jailing Smith for seven years for the attack, Judge Harold Singer said Mr Savident could have bled to death had the knife severed a major blood vessel. He said: "This therefore was a nasty, callous infliction of injury and a nasty, callous robbery by the defendant on a man who, though large in build, is manifestly starting to lose his middle age into older age."

On Tuesday, Judge Gerard Humphries told Smith he could expect a "long term of custody" after a jury at the same court took just 30 minutes to convict him of robbery, theft and false imprisonment for an unrelated incident.

Coronation Street star's 999 call
Coronation Street star John Savident looked uncomfortable in the witness box as the tape of his 999 call was played in court. Mr Savident was giving evidence back in September at the trial of Michael Smith, the 30-year-old sentenced on Tuesday to seven years for stabbing the actor in his home.

Here are extracts from the 999 call played at Manchester Crown Court:

Operator: "You are through to the ambulance. Tell me your telephone number."
Mr Savident: "I've been stabbed. (Tells them phone number)"
Operator: "Where?"
Savident: "Rozel Square. That's M5. Near Granada studios.
Operator: "Where have you been stabbed, love?"
Savident: "I don't know but I'm dying."
Operator: "Where is the wound?"
Savident: "I don't know."
Operator: "Where is the pain?"
Savident:"In the neck. I am covered in blood."
Operator: "How old are you?"
Savident: "I'm 62 and I think he is coming back."
Operator: "The attacker?"
Savident: "Yes."
Operator: "Do you know the attacker?"
Savident: "No."
Operator: "When did this happen?"
Savident: "Ten minutes, quarter of an hour ago."
The Coronation Street star then begins mumbling as he gradually loses strength.
Savident: "I cannot see him. I am passing out. He has got all my keys."
Operator: "Stay on the phone to me."
Savident: "I know I have been stabbed in the neck."
Operator: "Is there anybody else with you?"
Savident: "No."
Operator: "Can you tell us if there is more than one wound?"
Savident: "No."
Operator: "You say there is a lot of blood?"
Savident: "Yeah."
Operator: "You think the attacker may be coming back?"
Savident: "Yeah."
Operator: "I'm going to stay on the phone."
Savident: "I have locked the door. He has got my keys but I have put the lock on... Chain type."
Operator: "What's your name?"
Savident: "John Savident. S-A-V-I-D-E-N-T. I can hear him. I think he is coming back."
Operator: "Stay on the phone with me, John."
Savident: "He is saying he is schizo. He said he is schizophrenic. He is trying to get in. He is trying to get in."
Operator: "Tell me if he gets into the room."
Savident: "He is trying to bang the door down."
Operator: "The police know all the details."
Savident: "He is here now. He is banging on the door and is trying to get in."
Operator: "You have locked the door, haven't you?"
Savident: "Yes, but it's not very good... He will kill me. He said he would. Yeah, he is here now."
Operator: "Is he in the flat?"
Savident: "I think he is."
Operator: "Stay on the phone."
Savident: "I will."
Savident: "What is important, you have got to keep this out of the papers.
Operator: "Right, don't worry about anything like that. Let's just take care of yourself, OK?"
Savident: "I'm John Savident."
Operator: "Sorry?"
Savident: "I'm John Savident, I play Fred Elliott in Coronation Street, so the Sun and the News of the World and all these people..."
Operator: "Right, well don't worry about that. We're going to worry about your health first of all. Try to keep your breath nice and even. The police know all the details and they are coming as soon as possible."
Savident: "I think he is giving up."
Operator: "You cannot hear him any more?"
(Pause. Savident can be heard mumbling. Mentions his car).
Operator: "Is there anything stuck in any of your wounds?"
Savident: "Just the knife."
Operator: "Is the knife stuck in the wound?"
Savident: "No. He has taken that."
Operator: "You say this happened about 15 minutes ago?"
Savident: "Longer than that."
Operator: "The police know all the details and are almost with you."
Savident: "What time is it?"
Operator: "It's ten to four in the morning."
(Pause. Savident mumbling).
Operator: "Are you lying on the floor?"
Savident: "At the moment, yes."
Operator: "What room are you in?"
Savident: "I'm in the front room."
Operator: "Have you been out tonight?"
Savident: "Yes.... charity function"
Operator: "Which charity?"
Savident: "Lesbian and Gay Foundation."
Operator: "Was it a good night?"
Savident: "I went to a club after that."
Operator: "Which club, because I know..."
Savident: "Napoleon's."
Operator: "Is this where you met this gentleman?"
Savident: "Friend of the owner."
Operator: "Just stay on the line."
(Knocking at the front door. Other voices can be heard outside).
Operator: "It sounded like a female voice, that. It might be a police woman."
Savident: "I wish they would identify themselves."
Operator: "The ambulance is almost with you. It is outside but they have to approach with caution. You are safe now."
Savident: "I can hear voices. I will open the door. If they identify themselves I will try to get the lock... Someone is banging at the door. Who is it?"
(Voices heard in the background).
Operator: "Don't worry, John. We will not go away."
Operator: "You heard the front door close?"
Savident: "Yeah."
Operator: "I have just told them to shout at the door. It was them knocking. Can you make it to the door, John?"
Savident: "I will do my best."
Operator: "Do you want the police to break in?"
Savident: "No. I will try to get to the door."
Operator: "Do not do it if you cannot do it."
(Savident asks if the police will come in through the French windows at the front of his flat).
Operator: "They will not come up a ladder."
(In background)
Savident: "Who's that?"
Answer: "The police"
Savident: "Be patient."
Voice: "Do you want us to force the door?"
Savident: "No. No. No."

(End of tape).


Gay bar thug jailed for knifing Fred Elliott
11 December 2002 by Richard Elias & Patrick Mulchrone
THE actor who plays Fred Elliott in Coronation Street was stabbed and robbed by a former rent boy he met in a gay bar. Knifeman Michael Smith was jailed for seven years for slashing John Savident on the neck and hands and threatening to cut his eye out. Married Savident denied defence claims that Smith stabbed him in self- defence after he touched the young man's private parts and propositioned him for gay sex. The star lost two pints of blood, and the knife missed the main blood vessel to his brain by less than an inch.

Smith, 30, was convicted in September of wounding Savident, 62, after going home with him. But the case could not be reported until yesterday because he was on trial for other attacks committed while on the run. Smith has 63 criminal convictions and a history of mental illness.

Bosses at Coronation Street said the case would not affect Savident's career. They described him as "the innocent victim of a violent crime".

What Corrie Fred told 999 operator
SOAP star John Savident begged a 999 operator to "keep this out of the papers" as he lay bleeding on his hall floor after being stabbed by a former rent boy. Coronation Street's Fred Elliott squirmed as a tape of the call was played at his attacker's trial. Jurors heard Savident tell the operator: "I've been stabbed ... I'm dying ... I can hardly talk ... in the neck ... I'm covered in blood." But then he composed himself and said: "What is important is, you've got to keep this out of the papers. " I'm John Savident and I play Fred Elliott in Coronation Street."

Married Savident, 62, was attacked and robbed at his Manchester flat after taking Michael Smith, 30, home from a gay club. Smith was jailed for seven years. He worked briefly as a gay prostitute in his teens. Prosecutors said it was a vicious, unprovoked assault. The defence claimed Smith struck out in fear after Savident molested him in the toilet.

The pair met on November 30 2000, after Savident made a personal appearance for an AIDS charity at a pub in the heart of the city's Gay Village. Dad-of-two Savident went on to nearby gay club Napoleon's, where the owner is an old friend. Smith approached him and said he was a drama student. They spoke about acting for three hours and had a number of drinks. Then Savident asked Smith if he would like to come home with him.

At Manchester Crown Court, defence counsel Susan Klonin said to Savident: "You picked up a total stranger in a gay bar and took him to your home at 2.30am." Savident replied: "He was invited and agreed to come. I've done that many times before." The pair went to Savident's £200,000 flat. He gave Smith a glass of beer and they carried on talking about the theatre and TV. Mr Holland said Smith went to the toilet, and Savident went to his bedroom to put his phone on charge. Smith got a serrated knife from the kitchen. Savident told the court: "I felt someone come up behind me and whiz me round. " I fell face down on the bed. I felt a prick in my throat and the blade pressed in."

Smith, a market trader, pinned Savident to the bed and asked: "Have you ever met a schizoid?" He demanded valuables, and the keys to Savident's Morgan sports car. As the pair struggled, Smith stabbed Savident twice in the neck, cutting an artery. Savident also suffered wounds to his hands as he tried to grab the knife. The knifeman left the room to look for Savident's car keys. He couldn't find them, so he held the knife to Savident's left eye and threatened to cut it out. Smith then left the flat, wedging the front door open on his way out. He took Savident's car and house keys, and an invitation to Coronation Street's 40th birthday party. He also stole a ring and money clip, gifts to the actor from his wife.

Weak from loss of blood, Savident managed to crawl into the hall, lock his door and dial 999. He told the operator he was dying. She feared he would black out, and said: "Try and stay with me John." Savident replied: "What is important is, you've got to keep this out of the papers. Operator: Don't worry about anything like that, let's just take care of yourself, OK? Savident passed out after letting police into the flat. He was taken to hospital with two half-inch wounds to his neck, cuts to his hands, and bruises and scratches on his face, but allowed home hours later.

Smith was arrested in the city centre. He was covered in blood and tests proved it was Savident's. In Smith's jacket were an invitation card, a packet of cigarettes and a watch, all belonging to the actor. Savident's wallet was found on a canal towpath, and the stolen car keys were in the ignition of the Morgan outside the flat. Smith's lawyer claimed that Savident went to the gay club looking for a young man to take home. Savident denied that. He insisted that despite his friendship with its owner, he did not know Napoleon's was the oldest gay club in the city.

The actor said he only invited Smith to his flat for "theatrical discussions". He denied Ms Klonin's suggestion that that was a polite way of saying "sex". Savident also denied not asking Smith's name. He insisted: "He did tell me but I forgot it." Miss Klonin replied: "You wouldn't need to know his name for a quick sexual interlude." Savident said sharply: "Not having been involved in any of those actions, I wouldn't know."

Miss Klonin claimed that when Smith was in the toilet, Savident came up behind him and touched his private parts. Savident replied: "No." The lawyer said Savident tried to stop Smith leaving, and the younger man panicked and grabbed the knife. Savident called that "nonsense".

Turning to the 999 call, Miss Klonin asked: "Even as you thought you were dying, you could envisage the papers having a field day? "You thought it would look extremely odd that you invited a total stranger you'd met in a gay bar at 2.30am back to your home." Savident replied: "Yes." Miss Klonin asked Savident: "You are not being frank with this jury, are you? You are intent upon covering up what really happened. " You are playing the role of a victim of a robbery for all it's worth." Savident said: "Playing a role, no. Victim of a robbery, yes."

Smith sacked Miss Klonin midway through the trial and refused to leave his cell for the latter half of the court case. He was convicted of wounding with intent, and robbery. Judge Harold Singer called it a "nasty and callous" crime. Smith was tried in September. But the case could not be reported until yesterday because of crimes he committed after attacking Savident.

When he first appeared in the Savident case, Smith escaped from court and went on the run. He picked up a young woman in a Birmingham pub, then robbed her and tied her up. Smith was caught in April after robbing a teenage courting couple at knifepoint near Rochdale. He stole their car but crashed it as he tried to escape. Smith was found guilty yesterday of the false imprisonment of a young woman, robbery and theft. He had earlier admitted aggravated vehicle-taking, assault, and two other counts of kidnap.

Smith, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester, had 63 previous convictions dating back to the age of 12. His offences included robbery, burglary and unlawful sex. Several of the crimes involved knives. Smith's mother June, a cleaner, blamed his record on sex abuse he suffered in care as a child. She admitted her son had been a rent boy but said he would not be in so much trouble if he had been given proper help for mental problems. Smith spent time in a psychiatric hospital with depression earlier this year but signed himself out.

Savident had been stabbed before, in his old career as a policeman in Manchester. He was at home in London with wife Rona last night.

He's a Corrie gem, I say, a Corrie gem by Francis Traynor, TV Editor
AS Fred Elliott, John Savident has provided most of the comic relief in Coronation Street for almost a decade. His first appearance came in 1994 as part of a Weatherfield delegation to their French twin town. At a black pudding contest, he tried to bribe the judges and nearly caused a diplomatic incident.

A year later, he was a Street regular and viewers were introduced to his butcher boy nephew Ashley - four years later, we'd discover that Ashley was actually Fred's son. Despite his girth and loudmouth manner, Fred proved himself quite the ladies man. He has wooed widows Rita Sullivan and Audrey Roberts, but has also had two failed marriages.

For the last seven months, however, Fred has taken a back seat and there were reports that he would be axed by Granada bosses. But a spokeswoman said yesterday: "As we have said, John is an innocent victim. " There is no question of him losing his job over this."


Deirdre set to be exposed
9 December 2002
Coronation Street's Deirdre Rachid, played by actress Anne Kirkbride, is to be exposed as a serial sexual adventurer, according to newspaper reports. Details of Deirdre's fling with shopkeeper Dev Alahan will slip out over the Christmas holiday after she finds out he is bedding her daughter Tracy - played by newcomer Kate Ford.

Her ex-husband and current partner Ken (William Roache) wonders why she's so upset, and the gory details come out, causing chaos, the Daily Star reports. Corrie fans will see the storyline unfold when Tracy returns to Weatherfield from her home in London after the break-up of her marriage to husband Robert.


Racy Shaw
9 December 2002
SEXY Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw's nude stage debut is proving to be a box office smash.

The actress, whose character Maxine will be killed off at Christmas, will star opposite Jason Connery in The Blue Room on a UK tour. The role was made famous by Nicole Kidman in a production in London's West End. Now there is a rush of bookings to see Tracy.


Ken's Christmas curse
9 December 2002 by Frances Traynor
NO ONE would be surprised if, come the festive season, Coronation Street's Ken Barlow preferred to hide away in a darkened room. After all, it may be the season of good will to all men, but this particular man never seems to have anything but bad will thrust upon him. No wonder Bill Roache, the actor who has played Ken for the last 42 years, calls it the Curse of the Barlows. He laughed: "It's amazing how many catastrophes have hit the Barlows at Christmas. We used to think that if something awful happened to the Barlows, then it would make everyone else feel better."

The first of those festive foul-ups at No.1 Coronation Street began in 1965 when Ken left his six- month-old twins Peter and Susan alone while he went to the Rovers for a pint. Wife Valerie returned to find the house ablaze when a piece of coal had fallen from the fire. Then there was the embarrassment of playing the trumpet - badly - in the Rovers' 1969 Christmas talent contest. Bill recalled: "I played Yellow Bird with Peter Adamson, who played Len Fairclough, on drums. I played really badly." Since then, the Christmas season hasn't got much better for poor Ken. Come December 25, he's had to battle arch-rival Mike Baldwin for Deirdre, been kicked out by Deirdre over his affair with Wendy Crozier and been broken- hearted by Alma choosing Mike over him.

Bill, 70, said: "He certainly had a bad run. Every year there seemed to be one scene showing revellers singing Auld Lang Syne in the Rovers. Then it would cut to Ken on the sofa, swigging whisky and pills."

CHRISTMAS 2002 promises to be as explosive as ever for Ken and Deirdre. Their quiet Christmas dinner together is wrecked when busybody Blanche decides she'd rather have turkey with them than with Emily, Archie and Audrey. Then the most surprise present of all turns up when Tracy, Deirdre's daughter from her first marriage, knocks on the door. Tracy has left her husband Robert in London and is hellbent on having fun in her old stomping ground of Weatherfield. She begins flirting with the available males before bedding cornershop boss Dev - not realising her mum had done exactly the same thing 12 months earlier.

Bill said: "Ken and Deirdre are thrilled to have Tracy back, despite the fact that she's left her husband. But by Boxing Day, she's jumped into bed with Dev Alahan and started a chain of events which will have dramatic consequences for the Barlows." There's no chance of Ken enjoying a quiet New Year, either, when he has to deal with the court case following his right hook on bad lad Aidan Critchley. The teenager had been taunting Ken in the classroom for months before nicking his car, crashing it and leaving Sarah Platt for dead.

The nation cheered Ken on as, at the end of his tether, he let fly as the sneering schoolboy showed no remorse. That October episode brought in Corrie's best viewing figures in more than a year, with almost 15 million tuning in. But the consequences have been severe for Ken. He was sacked for the punch and charged with assault. Now Aidan is back on the Street and the court case is on the horizon. Bill said: "It's a strong, topical story. Caning and smacking may have disappeared from our schools, but children still need to be taught discipline. "Ken's always been anti-violence. He gets a thrill out of helping young people learn and grow, but he was so incensed by Ade that he snapped."

As the only surviving member of the original cast, Bill has been around from day one when the very first episode of Corrie went out on December 9, 1960. That date is remembered with their annual Christmas bash, but the very first party was far different. Granada bosses, delighted that their new series was such an unexpected hit, sent champagne and sandwiches to the cast's Green Room. Bill said: "At Christmas 1960, the Street was only three weeks old and we were booked for a limited 11-week run. "But it took off immediately. It wasn't a soap, it was drama, breaking new ground. It was gritty and original."

By the time of the show's 40th birthday in 2000, the celebrations had grown ever more lavish, with Victoria Wood performing the cabaret at a huge bash. Bill recalled: "The celebrations have grown slowly year by year. We always mark the show's anniversary on December 9, so it becomes a kind of combined Christmas party as well."

Bill can pinpoint the moment that Coronation Street stopped being just a soap and became a cultural phenomenon. In 1983, he and Mike Baldwin were poised for a showdown over Deirdre. The nation held its breath as Ken slammed the door in Mike's face, telling him Deirdre was staying with him. That night the electronic scoreboard at a packed Old Trafford flashed a half- time message to 56,000 fans: "Ken and Deirdre reunited". Bill said: "That story changed the way the Press saw soaps. Now, of course, they are always front- page news."

Considering he has spent almost his entire working career on one show, Bill would be entitled to feel bored and a little fed-up with the character he is synonymous with. But with three wives and 23 girlfriends behind him, Ken Barlow hasn't given Bill much of a chance to get bored. Acting out dramatic scenes such as first wife Val's death by electrocution and that long- running feud with wideboy Baldwin have made him one of TV's most respected and admired actors.

He's also become the most unlikely of Lotharios with a steady succession of women, including Joanna Lumley, queueing up to be wooed by Weatherfield's answer to Casanova. In the early Seventies, Ken had remarried and enjoyed a stormy relationship with second wife Janet. Christmas naturally brought a row. Bill recalled: "I was suffering from flu and felt awful, and the script called for me to be absolutely furious and smash a wine bottle. "In fact, I did it with such force that I brought the bottle down on to a glass and it looked great."

Ken rarely does rage. Ever the nice guy, he even tutors Weatherfield's less well- read residents, from giving dippy Racquel French lessons, to teaching illiterate Tyrone to read and write. Bill said: "Ken is a caring man at heart. He's always wanted to give voice to the good side of human nature. After all these years, I still like him."

Maybe it's time the scriptwriters gave Weatherfield's nice guy a peaceful and happy Christmas for once.


Sue Nicholls
8 December 2002
SUE NICHOLLS - the Street's Audrey Roberts - is hooked on mail order shopping. Sue tells me: "The only thing Audrey and I have in common is a passion for clothes. The postman must deliver me a new wardrobe every month from catalogues. I also love silly gadgets."

Katy has a knees-up
CORRIE's LUCY-JO HUDSON looks like she's playing away - for Man Utd. She kicked off in black, red and white boots, plus sporty mini-skirt at the TV soap's festive bash. Lucy-Jo, who stars as Street tearaway Katy, even wore the captain's armband. Yule never walk alone, girl.


That's slop the way to do it, Sally
8 December 2002 by Ian Hyland
QUOTE of the decade down on Coronation Street. "You've sewn up the leg instead of the gusset," screamed Hayley just after new girl Ange made a mistake at the factory. Good job the surgeon didn't make the same mistake when Hayley had the op isn't it? That, and Janice Battersby admitting she never ever lets go of a jumbo sausage (thanks Janice, but we already guessed), just about lifted me from the gloom of Alex and Sally's "great" romance.

Sal called it dead right as they walked in Weatherfield's most deserted park when she admitted, "this is like those sloppy books my mum used to read". Although discussing your mum's "sloppies" is probably not the best of chat-up lines, Sal. Sample lines from Corrie's very own Mills & Boon: Sal: "Alex, don't make this any harder than it is." (stop sniggering at the back) Alex: "I don't know what it's called - love at first sight or head-over-heels" (how about "b*ll***s"?)

In fact, the most sensible thing either of them said was this from Alex: "So that's it. We just forget the last two weeks ever happened?" I think that's probably best for all concerned, Alex.


Sally's love life load of soft soap
8 December 2002
AS Sally got to grips with Alex on Coronation Street I was praying for Harry Enfield to burst in shouting: "Oi Alex, NO! You're only supposed to touch up her paintwork/strip the wallpaper/give her a lick of emulsion..." Once all Sal cared about were Rosie's beans. Now she's notching up 57 varieties of fellas: Kevin, Chris, Greg, Kevin, Dan, Martin, Kevin again, Alex...she could end up with more rings than Frodo Baggins.

But WHY would Sal fall heels-over-head in love with Alex overnight? He isn't handsome, or witty or even well-off. The man is Dan with Dulux. D-U-L-L. Alex's idea of a good time is a walk in the park. All he's got in his favour is that he isn't Kevin. Maybe that's enough. They say love is blind but what is Kevin's excuse? Sal looks so miserable she'd make an onion cry, and clueless Kev hasn't even noticed. He won't realise their relationship is in trouble until she suggests a threesome...and he's not in it.

They can't carry on at this pace, 'cos by the time Emily Bishop is bitch-slapping Rita for the love of Tyrone Dobbs no-one will be watching. The more soaps are on, the less they deliver.


A new £5.5m ‘home’ for Corrie
6 December 2002 by Simon Donohue
GRANADA has invested £5.5 million in increasing studio space for flagship soap opera Coronation Street. The new studio at the company's Manchester headquarters extends existing facilities available to the production. It also makes better use of facilities left redundant upon the closure of the Granada Studios Tour attraction. The investment is aimed at easing Granada's ability to both make Coronation Street cost effectively and to produce additional episodes - or "specials" - when they are requested by the ITV Network. Set wear and tear will also reduce as there will be more room available to allow them to remain standing on a permanent basis.

The studio development, originally the former Baker Street attraction at Granada Studios Tour, has been under construction for several months and features state of the art technology. The project will be completed by the end of December and the production team are expected to move into the new facilities straightaway. Recording will commence from the new building during January 2003.

Among the sets housed in the new facility are the home of Karen and Steve McDonald, Eileen Grimshaw's front room, the Battersby's des res and the home of Corrie's newest family, the Nelsons. The studio will also feature a generic production area, where the Street team will have the flexibility to create sets. In the past the production has travelled to locations in the Manchester area, such as police stations, interview rooms and hospital wards. Production will also continue on Coronation Street's tradition studio home, Stage One, and the Street itself.

Coronation Street producer Kieran Roberts (pictured above left) said: "This new studio facility is a very exciting development for Britain's number one programme. It will have a huge, positive impact on production but will also be of enormous benefit to our story and writing teams as the increased number of sets at our disposal will allow for much greater editorial freedom. This is a clear signal that Coronation Street goes from strength to strength and it's also a great example of Granada's commitment to production in the north west." 


Corrie gears up for Christmas of carnage and comedy
5 December 2002

Les Battersby will provide some comic relief in Coronation Street this Christmas amid the more dramatic storylines. Gatecrashing Underworld's Christmas party for the free booze, Les thinks he is in heaven surrounded by a factory full of drunken women. But the joke is on him when the riotous staff force him to model the lingerie firm's latest stock.

There is embarrassment for Jason Grimshaw too as he is forced to own up to his friends about his new job - dressed as an elf as one of Santa's helpers in the local department store.

Elsewhere, romance is on the cards as Deirdre's wayward daughter Tracy turns up halfway through the turkey and turns her attention to Weatherfield's men. But romance turns to mayhem when she ends up bedding her mother's own Christmas conquest of last year, Dev Alahan.

Elsewhere, there are more dramatic storylines as Richard Hillman attacks another unsuspecting resident in a bid to avoid bankruptcy. His intended victim is Emily Bishop, who is left on her own after a freak accident with a Christmas pudding, puts Norris in hospital.

Also, Vikram Desai decides to supplement his income by setting up a drug-running scheme. Meanwhile former Boyzone star Keith Duffy, alias rogue Ciaran, makes a timely appearance at Peter and Shelley's engagement party.

A Coronation Street spokeswoman said: "Christmas this year is all about what Coronation Street does best - a fantastic mix of high drama and classic comedy."


Corrie ruined my love life
5 December 2002 by Sally Morgan
As Coronation Street's flirty cabbie Vikram Desai, he's clocked up as many women as he has miles. Karen, Maxine, Leanne, Bobbi, Candice, Hazel and Maria - confident, cocky Vikram's charmed them all.

But away from Weatherfield, actor Chris Bisson's love life keeps stalling and is in urgent need of an MoT. "Since I joined the Street four years ago no relationship of mine has lasted more than three months," he admits. "The problem is that girls expect me to be direct and confident like Vik, but that's not me. "I'm quite shy, really, and hopeless at letting girls know how I feel. "Although I can chat women up, I always bottle out at the crucial moment. I suppose I'm soft like that. "Then, a year down the line, I discover that they secretly fancied me too and want to know why I never invited them out."

But the 27-year-old hopes to change his luck with women - by quitting the UK's longest running soap this month. Speaking exclusively about his time in the Street and his decision to quit, he says: "Leaving Corrie will give me time for a relationship. I've been working six-day weeks and until now have had no proper opportunity to start one."A lot of friends find this hard to believe. The other day I was sitting in the pub chatting to my mates from the cast when Sally Lindsay - who plays Shelley Unwin - asked me what I was going to do. "I replied that I might actually have a relationship, which made them all burst out laughing. Because my phone never stops ringing they'd assumed I wasn't short of girlfriends. "Yes, I do know a lot of women but they're just mates, I'm afraid."

During his time as Weatherfield's resident hunk, Chris has received sack loads of marriage proposals, suggestive letters and saucy underwear from fans - but he is surprisingly reserved. He recalls being too shy even to introduce himself to TV presenter Jenny Faulkner at the Daily Mirror's Pride Of Britain awards earlier this year. "I thought she was so pretty and natural, but I wouldn't have dared to ask her out," he says. "Then little Zoe Howard, whose younger sister Kirsty raises money for terminally-ill
children, wanted to know who I fancied so I told her the truth. "Suddenly Zoe made a bee-line for Jenny's table. But instead of blurting out what I'd said and embarrassing me, Zoe asked Jenny if she thought I was fit. "When Jenny replied that I was, Zoe rushed back to tell me." He adds: "Then I playfully mentioned that I fancied Claudia Schiffer, too, so Zoe started striding towards her table. "Luckily, Claudia made her exit before Zoe could reach her."

When Chris has found girlfriends, the relationships have crumbled under the pressure of his high-profile job. "One girl became very demanding and needed constant reassurance," he recalls. "She kept calling my mobile phone, which had to be switched off, while I was filming my Coronation Street scenes. "Later, she'd interrogate me about who I'd seen and spoken to. This became very frustrating and inevitably we broke up."

As a soap star Chris has also had to learn about having his love life played out in the gossip columns. He claims he has never got used to the interest, but some of his actions have brought attention to himself. One of the women he was been linked to was actress Charlie Brooks, who plays Janine in EastEnders. Though he insists they are just friends, he admits they did fool around as they left a party at London's trendy Met Bar after last year's National TV Awards. "Charlie and I are great mates, but you've seen the pictures. We got drunk that night and had a snog," he recalls. "The door staff had directed us to a Mercedes, which we assumed was a taxi. When we kissed in the back seat, the whole car suddenly lit up. "We soon realised why - we were surrounded by paparazzi. "When the driver dropped us off back at Charlie's, he told us his daughter was a big Corrie fan and asked if he could take a photo of us. "We expected to see a little instamatic but he pulled out this huge camera. That's when we realised he was a paparazzi posing as a taxi driver, so we grabbed our stuff, jumped out and ran."

Chris was also labelled a "love rat" for supposedly trying to two-time Suzanne Shaw from Hear'Say and Jessica Taylor from Liberty X. "Suzanne and I had a couple of drinks together in Manchester a few months ago and a lot of people jumped to the wrong conclusion that we were an item," he says."As for Jessica, I'd only seen her once - when we caught each other's eye across the crowded canteen at Granada studios. "I did an interview with a local radio station and was asked if I fancied her. I said 'Yes' for laugh and, to my surprise, the presenter rang her live on air and left her a message to tell her. "The next thing I knew, her record label had released a statement that I'd been ringing and texting her while she was on tour. It also said that she found this strange because she knew I was dating Suzanne. "But the whole story was a complete fabrication, a spin on the rivalry between Liberty X and Hear'Say to get the new Liberty X single to Number One and I was furious."

Chris leaves Coronation Street on December 18 in a dramatic storyline which is the climax of Vik's transformation from loveable rogue to an unscrupulous crook. He stoops to blackmail and theft and uses his unwitting friends to smuggle drugs to pay off his exorbitant gambling debts. Chris won't reveal exactly what happens, but the story does involve a big fight between Vik and his old mate, Steve McDonald, played by Simon Gregson. Chris says it will be compulsive viewing: "Put it this way, Vik ruins everyone's Christmas." He insists he has no regrets about his decision to quit and is relishing the prospect of new projects. "I realised in July this year that it was time for me to move on," he says. "That moment of clarity came to me when I was sipping a beer on the Via Veneto in Rome with my mate Steve Arnold, who plays Ashley Peacock. "I suddenly turned to him and said, 'Steve, I'm off'. He thought I meant I was going back to the hotel, but I explained that I was leaving Corrie. "Steve and the rest of the cast were shocked and didn't want me to go, but they understood my reasons. "Basically, I felt that Vik had run his course.There was nowhere for him to go as a character and after four fantastic years I wanted to leave on a high rather than milk it until I was pushed."

Chris hasn't finalised any new roles yet, but hasn't ruled out going to Coronation Street's ratings rival EastEnders, where he has good friends. Returning to the theatre is also a possibility for Chris, who starred in both the play and the film East Is East. "I miss sitting on the Duke of York balcony, watching everyone looking at your picture outside the theatre," he says. In East Is East Chris played the son of an Indian father and English mother, but he is actually half West Indian. "People look at me and at the parts I've played, and automatically assume I'm Asian," he reveals. "In fact I'm half West Indian on my dad Mickey's side."

Trinidad-born Mickey emigrated to Britain with nine members of his family in 1968. He settled in Manchester and got a job as a careers officer at the Job Centre where he met Chris's Roman Catholic mother, Sheila. The couple never married and when Chris was 11 they split up. Chris now has six half-brothers and sisters from his parents' subsequent relationships. "I knew my parents were going to break up," he says. "I'd heard the arguments, felt the tension, and realised it would be better for all of us for them to be apart. I lived with mum but cycled to my dad's down almost every day."

Shortly after his parents break up, Chris landed his first TV job on Children's Ward. From there he went to Salford University to read media studies and then on tour with the cast of the stage version of East Is East. The hit film of the theatre production and Coronation Street followed, making Chris a household name.

For the time being his challenge is finding a woman to share his life with. "I do want to settle down and have kids eventually," he says. "The problem is I haven't met the right girl yet. "I like strong, independent women - I need a woman who can take control." And, presumably, one who will make the first move.


Sarah: I won't be tied to TV
5 December 2002 by Nicola Methven
ACTRESS Sarah Lancashire has ended her "golden handcuffs" deal with ITV, and said she will never sign another.

Speaking for the first time about her decision not to renew the deal which made her the highest paid actress on British TV, she said she wanted to do less television dramas. The former Coronation Street regular signed the two-year, £1.3million contract in 2000 and has since starred in a string of dramas for the channel, including Seeing Red and The Cry. But yesterday she said the arrangement ended in October and she was free to work with different broadcasters. "It was my decision not to renew it, purely because I felt that I wanted more choice," she explained. "I'd like to work further afield, not just in television but in the theatre."

ITV drama chief Nick Elliott wants to stop the channel signing up stars on big money contracts. Robson Green's deal is now over and former EastEnder Ross Kemp's is due to expire next year.


Tracy Barlow returns to the Street and beds Dev
4 December 2002

The new Tracy Barlow is set to make a dramatic return to Coronation Street by jumping into bed with Dev Alahan. Tracy turns up in the Street on Christmas Day. She played by a different actress, newcomer Kate Ford, but she has become a man-eating temptress who slips between the sheets with Dev.

Having walked out on husband Robert and left him in London, Tracy barges in unannounced on the Barlows' Christmas dinner. But she soon turns her attentions to shop boss Dev and ends up in bed with him - unaware mum Deirdre did exactly the same thing this time last year. Dev initially has no idea of his new flame's identity but when he learns who she is Street fans will be left guessing how long his fling with Deirdre will remain a secret.

Tracy was formerly played by Dawn Acton, who was said to be "devastated" when she failed an audition to win back the part. Instead the role went to Mancunian Kate. Dressed in a leather top and boots, short skirt and fishnet tights, she vowed to spark the most sizzling scenes ever seen in Weatherfield: "Tracy's back on screen on December 25 and she spends no time moping over her failed marriage. "She's been bored in London and she's ready to let her hair down and have some fun. Tracy's a strong, feisty woman and I think at last Dev may have met his match."


Corrie's Sally torn between two men
3December 2002
The reunion of Corrie's golden couple Kevin and Sally Webster is thrown into confusion when Sally comes clean about her feelings for painter Alex Jordan. The seemingly perfect couple, played by Michael Le Vell and Sally Whittaker, split in 1997 when he had an affair, but plans to re-tie the knot for the sake of their daughters are now thrown into confusion by dishy decorator Alex who has made clear his feelings for Sally. Sally is torn between following her heart with Alex or her head and settling for a quiet family life with Kevin and so decides to tell Kevin about her dilemma.

"It comes totally out of the blue for Kevin," Michael tells Inside Soap Magazine. "It's completely unexpected." As the wedding draws near Alex makes one last-ditch attempt to get Sally to dump Kevin and chose him but Kevin uses his trump card and tells Sally that it will be devastating for their girls if she leaves.

Although ITV bosses are tight-lipped about her ultimate decision, Michael added: "I think what has happened will come back to haunt Kevin and Sally at some stage. "If they do get married then it's obviously not going to be for all the right reasons."


Fantastic journey
2 December 2002 by Nancy Banks-Smith
At No 13 Coronation Street (ITV1) Alex, the decorative decorator, has uncovered what Hilda Ogden used to call her muriel. This is the mother of all muriels, filling as it does a whole wall. Turquoise seas cream into foam under precipitous cliffs. Sailing boats bob about a bit. At any moment Ulysses could sail into view and ask directions from Shirley Valentine. Three flying ducks, one slightly disabled, seem to have flown.

All murals have latent erotic power - must I mention Pompeii - and this one more than most. Stan and Hilda were legendary lovers. Who can forget the orgies at the Ogdens? The pipes, the timbrels, the wild ecstasy? The steady stream of dodgy lodgers?

The mural has been throbbing away under the wallpaper for 15 years and has now burst out with cataclysmic power. Sally, who lives there, flings herself willy-nilly into the arms of Alex. Trembling together, they choose Pomona Green for the front room. Kevin, who thinks he's going to marry Sally in a week, complained last night that Alex is not the world's fastest worker. That's his opinion. Cover it up! Cover it up! You can't go wrong with a nice magnolia.


Corrie rat to jilt Shelley at the altar
1 December 2002
CHEATING bookie Peter Barlow will sensationally dump doting barmaid Shelley Unwin at the altar early next year, I can reveal. Viewers saw him propose to his busty girlfriend on Friday in a desperate bid to prove he loves her. And tonight he will finish with flirty florist floosie Lucy Jenkins.

But he will break Shelley's heart by starting up the affair again. My Weatherfield mole tells me: "Forget Richard Hillman, this storyline will make Peter the most hated man on TV. The scripts are electric and he sinks as low as a man can go by dumping her in the church and breaking Shelley's heart." Actor CHRIS GASCOYNE, who plays the dirty love rate, says: "I am prepared to be hated over this. Everybody loves Shelley and I break her heart."

Long-suffering Shelley, played by SALLY LINDSAY, will be choosing dresses and bridesmaids while Pete once more jumps into bed with the sexy flower flogger (KATY CARMICHAEL). Their fling will continue right up to the big day.

The relationship between the bookie and the barmaid has been stormy. They have rowed over his drinking, late nights, gambling and jealousy. They split after Peter accused her of sleeping with his best pal Ciaran McCarthy, played by former Boyzone star KEITH DUFFY. He returns to the Street next year, so will Shelley cry on his shoulder? It's odds-on that she will - but just don't place the bet with bookie Peter

I've had good sex with men...
1 December 2002

ACTRESS Amanda Barrie is doing something she's been unable to do before - looking an interviewer in the eye as she answers questions about her private life. The reason is that in her recently-published auto- biography she has publicly acknowleged being gay. It's a brave, honest and funny book, complete with an eccentric, pushy mother, drink, drugs, mental breakdown and even a seven-year threesome with her husband, actor Robin Hunter, and a female lover she calls Sally.

She didn't intend it to be so, but it has also been her liberation. "I really can't tell you how my life has changed. It's like magic. "I'd always had a horror of being found out. I think it's probably a generation thing and I couldn't pin down what the fear was - maybe that people would say, 'That's disgusting'. But I can now look people in the eye and do interviews, things I was afraid of before. "When I first went into Coronation Street as Alma, 14 years ago, I was 'shopped' by someone on the show, someone trying to sell my story. I was so badly hit by it I seriously thought it would be easier to kill myself than walk back into rehearsals. "The story didn't get out and I spent years editing my life. I never said 'we' did something this weekend, it was always 'I'. But over the years, I made friends with lovely people like Sue Nicholls and Helen Worth - they completely accepted me. But there's one person that I really feared who's still there. "I used to warn the younger kids joining the show to watch out for innocent questions about their partners until they'd worked out who to trust, because someone there sells these things." Coming out for 67-year-old Amanda - whose seductive milk-bath scene as Cleopatra in Carry On Cleo still appears on T-shirts - has been a big risk. "Everyone thinks it's OK to be gay in the theatre or TV but actually that's only for men. Look around and you see lots of gay men who are building a career on their sexuality - Graham Norton, Dale Winton, Julian Clary - but for women it's different. I even thought that if I wrote this book they wouldn't let me do panto in case I contaminated people. But I'm the genie in Aladdin in Birmingham at Christmas."

Sitting in her flat in the heart of London's Covent Garden, where she's lived since the Sixties, Amanda is relaxed and looks years younger than her age. She's currently appearing on TV in the prison drama Bad Girls and will star in pantomime from the end of this month. When her book first came out Amanda admits: "I was more worried about what Mr Kipps, my newsagent, thought than anything. But he's been absolutely fine and people keep coming up to me in the street and hugging me."

Amanda has had a number of important relationships with both men and women. The first was with Bernie, an older girl at her boarding school, St Anne's College, near Blackpool. She says it wasn't a schoolgirl crush but a powerful, emotional bond that she believes changed her life. Sadly, Bernie died when still very young and Amanda was devastated. "It was the level of relationship that you look for all your life. A best friend that you also go to bed with."

Amanda was sent to boarding school - from which she was expelled - after being kicked out of an earlier school. She found academic study difficult and was a bit of a brawler. She would launch into fights with fellow pupils and once, as a teenager, attacked her father's girlfriend. The feistiness could be put down, in part, to her adored mother, Connie, a formidable woman who pushed her on to the stage at three and never stopped pushing her from then on. Whatever Amanda needed to succeed Connie would get it for her - even if that involved shoplifting. "She could justify anything for me, so I had to stop saying what I liked or needed in front of her. She was unconditional in her support, and if I'd confessed to murder she'd simply have said, 'Quite right, I never liked them, now where shall we hide the body?'"

CONNIE would, Amanda thinks, have liked her daughter to be straight and to have given her grandchildren, but she accepted very early on that Amanda was different. "When I told her I thought I was gay she immediately said, 'Oh darling, I think I am too', which was such nonsense." Amanda's many relationships included singer Billy Fury and Crossroads actress Heather Chasen. She ended up marrying actor Robin Hunter in 1967. They remain married - "I'm hopeless with paperwork" - and Amanda speaks of him with huge affection. "There was real friendship between us, but it isn't the same depth as with a woman. I have had fulfilling sexual relationships with men but there was never the same emotional connection."

It was during their marriage that she began an affair with an actress she refers to as Sally, who then moved in with them and they all lived - and slept - together for seven years. "I don't think Robin felt threatened. He had a great sense of humour and our threesome was a very happy time. In fact, Sally came to see me the other day, but living a life that wasn't right for me made me physically ill."

Amanda suffered a mental breakdown and spent years in therapy as her emotional instability manifested itself in eating disorders and agoraphobia. It probably didn't help that she and Robin drank heavily and she took Purple Hearts. "To be honest, we didn't even think of them as drugs, it was just something everyone did," she says.

In her book Amanda also reveals a 15-year affair with a wealthy Spanish woman, but now she's in a relatively new relationship which she won't discuss. Coming out, she believes, is a private thing. "Should I have done it earlier? I don't think it would have been the same. Mind you, compared to all the stuff that's come out in other people's autobiographies, I don't know what I was so worried about. It seems like rather a homely tale."


Fallen Archie!
1 December 2002
MURDEROUS Richard Hillman will bump off Coronation Street undertaker Archie Shuttleworth as part of a shocking Christmas bloodbath, The People can reveal. Archie is pushed 200ft from a motorway bridge in the sensational storyline which producers have tried to keep under wraps. Two more favourites - 40-year Corrie veteran Emily Bishop and hairdresser Maxine Peacock - are also tipped to be murdered by dastardly Dick.

Archie meets his maker after accusing Hillman of trying to dupe mother-in-law Audrey Roberts out of her savings. Crazed Hillman (Brian Capron) chases Archie across Manchester and confronts him on the massive Barton Bridge linking the north and south of the city. When Archie (Roy Hudd) threatens to spill the beans to Street residents, cold-blooded Hillman hurls him off the M60 to his death.

Dozens of fans watched the dramatic scenes being filmed two weeks ago. One said: "They tried to keep people as far away as possible. But a few of us saw what happened and Richard Hillman makes sure Archie comes to a grisly end."The bridge is flanked by a sewage works so you could say Archie really does end up in the poo. Either that or he is up the creek without a paddle." Another fan added: "They were filming for three hours and though we didn't see everything, there is one certainty - Archie ends up a goner because of Richard Hillman." Actor Roy Hudd was only hired on a short-term contract and producers decided Archie would be the perfect victim for evil Hillman.

He later plans to kill Emily, played by 72-year-old Eileen Derbyshire, so he can inherit her house. But the commotion alerts crimper Maxine (Tracy Shaw), who also ends up being battered by the property tycoon. Hillman has already killed ex-wife Patricia and left business partner Duggie Ferguson to die on a building site.

A Corrie insider said: "Richard Hillman's plotting has proved one of the big ratings winners for the Street this year and his Christmas killing spree is set to have viewers on the edge of their seats. "He proves, once and for all, that he will stop at nothing to get what he wants."

Hillman will be written out in the New Year. Scriptwriters have filmed four storylines to stop details of his dramatic exit leaking out.


Sally drives Alex up the wallpaper
1 December 2002 by Ian Hyland
THERE must be some crazy fumes rising from Alex's paint in Coronation Street. How else do you explain the ludicrous love affair between the world's cleanest decorator and gorgeous Sally Webster? And just when Corrie had been doing so well.

Didn't reckon much to Sally's come-on down at the park either: "I'm about as supple as a brick." Oh I see - she said "subtle". They ended up snogging but I don't think Alex was impressed - by Friday he was telling Sal, "I think you'd be better getting someone else to finish the job."

Elsewhere, can someone explain Audrey's thinking in running away from Richard to the Lake District - ie where there's, um, lots of deep water?

No mystery in why the Street's newest resident Ange is scared of going out in public though. If I looked like Lisa Riley's big sister I would be, too.


Tracy bares all
1 December 2002 by Gary Bushell
CORRIE'S TRACY SHAW will bare all in her new play The Blue Room. It starts in Cambridge on February 3 and finishes in Salford on May 24.

Brian Capron
CORRIE villain BRIAN CAPRON, 53, who sparkles as evil Richard Hillman, tells me: "It's not just the public who hate my character. My wife can't stand Richard either. She thinks he's a nasty bit of work and can't wait for him to get his comeuppance."

Sally Lindsay
NEVER litter near SALLY LINDSAY, 33. She tells me: "Litterbugs make me so angry I chase after them and give them a piece of my mind. If I'm really furious I frog-march them to the nearest bin."


Corrie's Emily and Maxine hit in festive bloodbath
29 November 2002
Coronation Street's Richard - who's already tried to kill Audrey - will next attempt the double murder of two other central characters. In a special Christmas edition, Hillman beats Maxine to death and leaves Emily in a coma. Some of the scenes are said to be so shocking, producers are considering holding them until after the 9pm watershed.

The storyline will build over the coming weeks as Richard decides to bump off Emily to inherit her house. He plans the murder carefully - and tries to cover his tracks by framing joyriding schoolboy Aiden Critchley, says the Daily Record. The killing takes place when Emily, played by 72-year-old Eileen Derbyshire, is babysitting for Maxine's baby son Joshua. The Rovers Return is packed with regulars to celebrate Maxine's mum Doreen's 50th birthday and no one notices as Richard slips away. First, he drugs Aiden by giving him a bottle of spiked vodka. As he lies unconscious in the hardware store, Hillman takes off the teenager's trainers and hat and puts them on.

He breaks into Emily's house and batters her to the floor, but his plans go wrong when hairdresser Maxine walks in to check on the baby. In a panic, Hillman attacks her, leaving her dying in a pool of blood. He then casually makes a footprint in the garden with Aiden's trainers before returning to the hardware shop. He replaces Aiden's trainers and hat and leaves the murder weapon in the boy's hand. Soon after, Maxine's husband Ashley goes across the road and makes the grim discovery. The suspense will mount in the episodes that follow as Richard sweats it out over whether Emily will survive.

Maxine's murder comes after weeks of speculation about how actress Tracy Shaw will be written out of the soap. She is leaving the Street in the New Year.



Nurse swaps Weatherfield for East End
28 November 2002
Coronation Street home-wrecker Rebecca Hopkins is to swap Weatherfield for the EastEnd to play Walford's newest sex siren according to reports. Nurse Rebecca, played by Jill Halfpenny, was best known for her part in ripping up Gail and Martin Platt's marriage in the steamy Coronation Street storyline. Now the 27-year-old has been drafted onto the BBC soap to play Kate, Albert Square's busty beauty with a keen eye on hardman Phil Mitchell.

An EastEnders source told the Daily Star: "Jill will indeed be making her debut in our show over Christmas and in the New Year. "She's an accomplished actress and a very glamourous looker - it's about time Walford had some voluptuous eye-candy on show."

According to the report, Jill's new character will meet Phil (Steve McFadden) by the hospital bed of his second cousin Jamie (Jack Ryder) who is fatally injured in a road crash. She then turns up at the Vic to offer him a shoulder to cry on. Phil's mum Peggy (Barbara Windsor) seems delighted by Kate's attraction to her boy and encourages the romance.


This Christmas Tracy Shaw's going to be Pink
26 November 2002
Coronation Street's Tracy Shaw gets the party started on Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes this Christmas when she appears as chart star Pink. She wears a short blonde wig and black string vest as she displays a dose of the singer's trademark attitude.

The 29-year-old, who is soon to leave the soap, is one of five celebrities who appear in the ITV1 special. Caprice is Sixties icon Nancy Sinatra, Frank Skinner appears as American crooner Johnnie Ray, Kim Wilde is Carly Simon and Boy George is back for a second time as David Bowie.

Tracy said: "I wanted to do somebody who is completely different to me and I've had to work really hard on her stance and voice. "Pink is really punky and so I saw it as a challenge. She has just got such attitude. "The string vest and baggy pants that I wear on the show are very grungy, and made me feel more like her straight away."

Since recording the show, Tracy has become a fan of the US star and met her backstage at a recent gig in Manchester. She leaves the soap this Christmas after seven years as hairdresser Maxine Peacock.


Ex-Corrie babe goes native
26 November 2002
Former Coronation Street babe Angela Griffin is to swap her sexy screen image for a pair of wellies in her next role according to reports. The star, who played hairdresser Fiona Middleton in the ITV soap, will don shapeless tweeds for her part as a farm worker's wife in Down To Earth. She is joined in the drama by former Emmerdale and Casualty star Ian Kelsey who will play her husband, according to the Daily Star.

An insider told the newspaper: "The clothes she has to wear are nothing like as stylish as what we usually see her in." The show is to hit TV screens in the new year.


Soap stars in Loaded calendar
26 November 2002
Some of soap's sexiest characters have been transformed into 21st century foxes in a raunchy calendar for men's magazine Loaded. The calendar shows the TV temptresses recreating some of Hollywood's hottest scenes and paying homage to screen legends according to the Daily Star.

Emmerdale's Amy Nuttall, who plays Chloe Atkinson, poses twice: once as a Splash-style mermaid and also as a One Million Years BC cavegirl. EastEnders' Charlie Brooks (Janine Mitchell) also appears twice posing as Tarzan's Jane and painted gold in homage to 007's Goldfinger. Fellow Walford babe Lucy Speed (Natalie Evans) strikes a pose as the Attack Of The 50ft Woman and Coronation Street teaser Tina O'Brien (Sarah Platt) is Jane Fonda's sci-fi sexpot Barbarella. The scenes were selected from a survey of film favourites taken from 10,000 of Loaded's readers.

The calendar is free with the December issue of the magazine.


Sally doesn't fear the axe
26 November 2002
A starring role in Corrie sounds glamorous but the truth is not so nice, says Sally Lindsay. "We work six days a week and when you have a strong storyline you are doing a lot of scenes. Because I'm in the Rovers I have a lot to do. "You do 12-hour days and learn your lines for the next day. You get the knack of it. It's not like we're digging roads up for a living. When people first start they either sink or swim."

Unlike some actresses who land roles in soaps, Sally had a solid CV before she arrived in Coronation Street in April 2001. Getting the axe holds no fears for the former Fat Friends girl: "I'm not scared of it because when Shelley has come to the end of her life here I'm sure she and the producers will know. "There is lots of life left in her. It's pointless being afraid - that's all part of the job."

Away from Corrie, actress Sally is a real home girl. She lives in Manchester and that's where she's spending this Christmas. "Most of my Christmases are similar, my grandad is 82 and I'd hate to spend it abroad without him. "My family all live around Manchester and I have a job there so it's ideal. New Year's Eve is going to be special because me and seven of the cast are going to Dublin. But I can't tell you who they are," she teases.


Vik hatches drug plot
25 November 2002
Corrie wideboy Vikram Desai is reported to be planning to bring drugs back to Weatherfield after his holiday in Barbados. The hard-up character, played by Chris Bisson, owes a small fortune in gambling debts and takes sexy Marie Sutherland on a trip to the Caribbean holiday isle. He packs her case with cocaine before returning.

Vik turns to drug smuggling when hardman Damian Rodd (new Street actor Steve Ramsden) is called in to recoup his debts. Rodd says he'll accept payment in drugs - and the plot is hatched.

A Corrie insider is quoted as saying: "What happens to unsuspecting Maria is still in the hands of the scriptwriters. But this really is a bombshell plot."



Lonely Christmas for Corrie layabout
25 November 2002
Coronation Street layabout Les Battersby is to be left lonely this Christmas when wife Janice has a festive fling with a policeman, reports say. Les, played by Bruce Jones, has been desperate to woo back Janice but is distraught when he discovers her liaison with Weatherfield newcomer PC Mick Hopwood (Ian Gain).

An insider tells the Daily Star: "It's adding insult to injury because Les has spent his life dodging the coppers." Les spent last Christmas alone after Janice, played by Vicky Entwistle, walked out on him and moved in with biker Dennis Stringer. But he has been trying to win her back ever since Dennis's death in a car smash. Viewers will see Janice and her new lover introduced next month at a dinner party hosted by Mick's fellow cop Emma Watts (Angela Lonsdale).



Toffs fume over Corrie drugs slur
24 November 2002
CORONATION Street has outraged residents in a posh part of Sheffield - by dubbing them drugtakers. New arrival Tommy Nelson said in the ITV soap: "We're from Hunters Bar. It's full of crackheads."

Residents in the upmarket suburb are furious. Banker Paul Johnson, 23. said: "It's a disgrace." And Hallam MP Richard Allan said: "The script-writers have got it wrong. This is a nice place to live."

Sheffield-born Thomas Craig, 35, who plays Tommy, even pointed out the error. But he was told the reference was just a "red herring" in a plot to show up the Nelsons as liars.


Tracy's fans' let-gown on boobs
24 November 2002
CORRIE crimper Tracy Shaw has left her fans feeling flat - by denying having a boob job.Onlookers were stunned by her fabulous cleavage at a party for designer Vivienne Westwood in Manchester last week. But the 29-year-old star's husband revealed it was due to an uplifting basque by the fashion queen

Telly producer Robert Ashworth said: "You couldn't drag Tracy into a hospital unless it was for something really important. "Besides, she's perfect as she is."

Tracy is leaving Corrie in the New Year. And fans will soon be able to judge her figure for themselves - she will appear NUDE on stage in The Blue Room around the country.


Docs save tot
21 November 2002
FORMER Coronation Street star Denise Welch thanked doctors yesterday for saving her young son's life. Denise's 20-month old son Louis had an emergency operation at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, for a bowel condition.

The actress, who pulled out of appearing in Celebrity Big Brother to be at his side, said: "I cannot thank the hospital staff enough. They saved his life."


Corrie's Gail voted top soap mum
20 November 2002
Coronation Street's Gail Hillman has been voted top TV soap mum in a poll of parents. A third of those questioned said that if they had to let a famous mother from a soap look after their children for the day, four-times married Gail, played by Helen Worth, would be their number one choice. EastEnders' Pauline Fowler came second with 21% of the vote - but only 1% opted for Emmerdale's Cynthia Daggert.

The survey for Screenblock, a gadget that limits children's TV viewing time, polled 500 families. The pollsters said the results showed a gender gap - with more men opting for Pauline while their wives chose Gail, despite her marriage to a serial killer Richard.

Behavioural psychologist Gladeanna McMahon said: "The split in the voting shows that where men look for a strong, dependable figure to look after their kids, women would rather have their kids cared for by someone who they identify and empathise with. "Of the two women, Pauline is by far the least emotional. She's a strong, solid, dependable family woman who may be a bit of a battleaxe but has exactly the kind of qualities men look for in a mother. "Gail is softer in her approach and emotionally more vulnerable. Pauline's rule with a rod of iron may be too harsh for many mums and far more difficult to identify with."

Other TV soap mothers fared poorly, with Diane Murray (Brookside) scoring 4% and Kat Slater (EastEnders), Janice Battersby (Coronation Street) and Jessie Hilton (Brookside) polling 3% each.

A Coronation Street spokeswoman said: "Gail Hillman has certainly had good times and bad times over the years while being mum to Nick, Sarah and David. It's great that viewers can identify with her experiences of being a parent."


Lecher lecturer upsets Toyah
20 November 2002
Coronation Street's Toyah Battersby is set to be unlucky in love. She falls for her college lecturer but is devastated to learn that he only has eyes for her friend, Maria Sutherland (Samia Ghadie), the Daily Star reports.

Toyah (Georgia Taylor), who is quitting the top ITV soap in the New Year, really falls for lecturer John Arnley, played by Paul Warriner, but sows the seed of her own downfall when she introduces him to her barmaid flatmate, Maria.


Street ladies turn to modelling
20 November 2002
Four of Coronation Street's leading ladies have become models for a night to help Manchester-based designer Sharon Bowen promote her designs. Georgia Taylor, who plays Toyah Battersby, Samia Ghadie (Maria Sutherland), Shobna Gulati (Sunita Parekh) and Sally Lindsay (Shelley Unwin) flaunted the designer's collection at the Venice-themed charity catwalk show at Manchester's imposing town hall.

Sharon set up her Couture Studio seven years ago and made the fairytale wedding dress Gail Hillman (Helen Worth) wore to marry her villainous husband Richard (Brian Capron) in the hit show. The designer told Hello magazine: "The theme was Venezia to reflect my lifelong love affair with that magical city."  


Boyzone star returns to the Street
19 November 2002
Boyzone heart-throb Keith Duffy is reported to be returning to Coronation Street for the festive season. The singer, who plays womanising sailor Ciaran McCarthy, is set to cause uproar when he returns to Weatherfield in the middle of Shelley and Peter's engagement party.

Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne) kicked out Ciaran after he tried to seduce barmaid Shelley Unwin (Sally Lindsay). But soap bosses are so impressed by Duffy's portrayal of the character they want him back before Christmas, according to the Daily Mirror. A source told the newspaper: "Nobody is expecting him to return, least of all Shelley. "Shelley is very insecure and she is absolutely delighted that Peter has asked her to marry her. "They will hold a big engagement party in the Rovers and Shelley is as happy as she has ever been. She is actually putting it down to one of the happiest nights of her life - until the door opens and in walks Ciaran."

The report also claims that scriptwriters have Duffy's character lined up to become the romance interest for newcomer Tracy.  


Corrie fling becomes bitter love triangle
19 November 2002
CORONATION Street pals Toyah Battersby and Maria Sutherland will slug it out over a new Weatherfield hunk in a festive love triangle. The flatmates turn bitter rivals after Toyah starts a passionate affair with her lecturer. But after she takes him home, tutor John Arnley sets his sights on glamorous maneater Maria, played by Samia Ghadie. Even though she rejects John's advances, a love triangle develops, prompting a dramatic exit for actress Georgia Taylor's unlucky- in-love art student Toyah.

Actor Paul Warriner who appeared in the Street 12 years ago as Ben Williams, is said to be thrilled with his new part. A Street insider said: "Paul's role will really start off with a bang, and then a few twists."

Toyah had been rumoured to be local serial killer Richard Hillman's next victim. But Granada bosses decided she needed a fiery fling before she leaves in February. Last year, Georgia, 22, won best dramatic performance at the soap awards for a harrowing rape storyline in which she was brutally attacked by a student pal. After five years in the soap, Georgia said: "After that it's difficult to get any more dramatic. I felt there was nowhere for the character to go."


Four endings for Richard Hillman
19 November 2002
Coronation Street chiefs are to film four alternative storylines for murderous Richard Hillman's end in order to keep the real version a secret. Bosses are desperate to prevent details of the killer's final scenes being leaked to fans though insiders have revealed that Richard, played by Brian Capron, will kill once more.

The crooked financial adviser, who killed ex-wife Patricia and left business pal Duggie Ferguson to die in a burning building, is being written out next year. A source told the Daily Star: "We don't want viewers' enjoyment spoilt so we're coming up with four alternative endings. "We're determined his fate won't leak out beforehand."


Audrey has a bad hair die
19 November 2002
A BLINDING week in Coronation Street hinged on one brilliant dilemma. Yes, Richard Hillman is a cheating swindler, a callous murderer and, above all, a financial adviser. But on the other hand he is trying to murder Audrey Roberts. Tricky one. All things considered, you've got to feel sorry for Richard. Not only is he married to Gail, he's got Audrey as his mother-in-law, a double whammy - virtually a dictionary definition of Diminished Responsibility or Temporary Insanity. I mean, what choice does he have? He was bound to try to kill one of them (KILL GAIL), if only to save himself from being nagged to death - in stereo (KILL AUDREY).

A terrific episode on Sunday - exclusively featuring Gail and Richard plus Audrey and Archie - culminated in a (seemingly genuine) monologue from Richard, reminiscing about his mother's descent into Alzheimer's. "She was a genius," he grinned, eyes gleaming excitedly, as he built up to a wholly unprovoked attack on a Mirror columnist. "She always used to have Countdown on. Then I noticed she was using a pen and paper - that was the first sign. Gradually she used it more and more. Then there was a calculator. Then she started swearing at Carol Vorderman. Anything that went wrong anywhere in the world, it was Carol Vorderman's fault." Disgraceful.

Strangely enough, as someone who never seemed to have any purpose whatsoever beyond looking like an Afghan hound who'd had a bad experience with some rollers, it was when Audrey was under threat that she was at her best - almost likeable (I said almost). Hysterically shaking at the bars of an invisible cage, Audrey looked like some sort of orange baboon in a Camilla Parker Bowles wig. "He's trying to kill murh! He wants my munnerh!" she screeched dementedly in that distinctive accent of hers. "Get away, get away from him. He's a killuh." She calmed her nerves by making Archie ask her a series of questions and then counting backwards from 100 - though, as feats of mental alertness go, this was the sort of task that the likes of Kevin Webster would struggle with.

For reasons of his own, Archie asked Audrey the name of the Prime Minister's wife rather than more obvious questions such as: "As a hairdresser, why is your hair like that? Who does your hair? Why do you let them? How do they get it like that? Are you having some sort of mad competition with Gail?" and finally: "How do you get any trade?" She looks as if she has swept up the hair lying around on the salon floor at the end of a busy day and started wearing it all.

When Gail commented to Richard: "How can someone who looks so normal be so unhinged?" you couldn't help laughing. (Normal?! With hair like that?!) "You're not well. You can't help it!" Gail consoled her, presumably talking about Audrey's Alzheimer's but equally feasibly about her hair. When mother and daughter embraced - like two orange puddles of Ronseal, blurring into each other - it was like watching two winners at Crufts (circa 1974) mating. Gail lamented her mother's demise with great feeling. "A woman well loved," she sobbed. "Known in the community. A former councillor. Nobody's ever going to take her seriously again." (Or before.) "It's awful!" Richard agreed, possibly still thinking about Audrey's hair. "She's always been so bright. So full of life."

It was at this point it occurred to me that perhaps they were talking about another Audrey with Alzheimer's. I mean, hasn't Audrey been a senile old bat for decades? (Think back to when she convinced herself that Sergei, the lusty, erratically accented Russian sailor, was in love with her.) She does spend half her days giving corpses hairdos - and then there are the bodies at the funeral parlour.

Anyway, it was brilliant - almost as good as the moment last night when Sally met her next shag/the new man in her life. "Alex - I'm a doctor" (he lied), causing Sally's nipples to leap into life. She had "a bit of grit in her eye", apparently.

Proof, if proof were needed, that Coronation Street right now is gritty stuff.


Corrie saves old banger
18 November 2002
Granada bosses have saved an old banger from ruin by snapping it up for Coronation Street's frisky funeral director Archie Shuttleworth.

The K-reg 1972 green Rover was put on the market for £2,000 by owner Mike White from Stockport in Cheshire. Few people showed any interest and Mike was contemplating dropping the price until Granada rang saying the motor would be ideal for old charmer Archie.

According to the Daily Star, bosses now rent the banger from Mike who gets the use of a brand new Merc in return. Mike told the newspaper: "I'm more than happy with that."


Street gambler turns to drugs
18 November 2002
Coronation Street gambler Vikram Desai becomes a drug dealer to pay off his gambling debts, soap bosses have revealed. His disastrous run of bets on the horses have spiralled into crippling losses and bookies decide they've had enough. So Vikram, played by Chris Bisson, becomes a drug courier to save his skin.

According to the Daily Star, ring-leader Damian Rodd (Steve Ramsden) forces Vikram further into the drugs underworld leading to his downfall and exit from the soap in the New Year. An insider told the newspaper: "Vikram hasbeen laying one debt off against another at different bookies. "He reckons he's so smart that he can handle the drugs business, but he really hasn't the foggiest idea what he's getting involved in."


Stephen Arnold
17 November 2002
CORRIE star STEVEN ARNOLD is a romantic at heart. Steven, who plays hen-pecked Ashley Peacock, says: "I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy who always buys flowers and chocolates on the first date. As soon as I've fallen for someone that's it. I like to wine and dine them."

The Grimshaw family
THE Grimshaw family have an odd ritual before shooting their Corrie scenes. SUE CLEAVER, who plays feisty mum Eileen, reveals that she and her screen sons have a group hug before singing The Flinstones theme. She says: "We sing, 'Grimshaws, meet the Grimshaws'. We sound pretty good."


Terrific Sue
17 November 2002 by Gary Bushell
ISN'T Sue Nicholls terrific as Audrey Roberts? She's always been a silly, snobby woman, yet Sue makes us care about her. And that's despite having the worst barnet of any TV hairdresser ever (crimper, crimp thyself).

Let's hope twisted fire-starter Richard shuffles off with Shuttleworth soon. Bury him face down, Arch. So he can see where he's going.

Curly Watts
NO wonder Emma avoids carnal pleasure with Curly Watts, can you remember the last time he wasn't wearing that rotten brown jumper? He must hum like the F*t Club changing room.


Corrie star pulls out of Big Brother
14 November 2002
Former Coronation Street star Denise Welch has withdrawn from Celebrity Big Brother at the last minute after her baby son was rushed to hospital. Louis, aged 20 months, had a life-saving operation after his bowel became infected, cutting off his blood supply. As a result, he had to have a 20cm section of his bowel removed, according to reports in the Daily Star.

Denise, who played Rovers landlady Natalie Horrocks for four years in the hit soap, was due to join other celebrities, including Les Dennis, Goldie and Caprice for the fly-on-the-wall show which starts later this month. But Louis is expected to remain in hospital for the next two weeks, forcing Denise to pull out.

The star, who is married to Auf Wiedersehen Pet actor Tim Healy, told the paper: "[Big Brother] would have raised money for three children's charities I'm involved in, but obviously I couldn't contemplate going into the Big Brother house now this has happened. "I wish all the other housemates the best of luck."


Soap plots "make viewers sick"
13 November 2002
GP surgeries up and down the country are being swamped by patients with illnesses picked up from the TV, a survey shows. Doctors say media health stories and even soap storylines have left Joe Public with a bad case of "telly belly". Anything from Alma Halliwell's cancer battle to Tom Banks' brain tumour in soapland have left patients thinking they have symptoms. More than 90% of GPs questioned in the Norwich Union Healthcare study say media coverage of health issues affect their patients.

The spread of the small screen ailment has led to members of the public becoming more interested in their own health and stepping up efforts to prevent illness. However, doctors believe only about a quarter of patients who self-diagnose are right most of the time, two thirds occasionally, and one in ten hardly ever.

Tim Baker, commercial director of Norwich Union Healthcare, said: "TV health scares clearly put added pressure on GPs. "But overall I'm sure doctors welcome the population's growing interest in its own well-being. "It's much better than having patients who wait to get ill and then expect the doctor to do everything for them."

Health issues are regularly covered in the nation's favourite soaps, including former Coronation Street character Alma, played by Amanda Barrie, and former EastEnders' character Tom, played by Colm O'Maonlai.


New dawn for Street's Tracy
13 November 2002
Tracy Barlow is returning to Coronation Street - but she won't be played by Dawn Acton, the actress who portrayed her for more than 10 years. Acton last appeared as the sulky schoolkid in March 1999 when she turned her back on Weatherfield and married Robert Preston. The 25-year-old actress then left the soap to look after her baby son, Thomas.

Last week, Acton auditioned for the part which made her famous as an 11-year-old - and was said to be "devastated" when she failed to win the part. Instead, up-and-coming actress Kate Ford was to set heads turning when she turns up on the Street on Christmas Day. But whereas Tracy Barlow was a glum-faced teenager, Tracy Preston - as she is now called - is a sexy, sassy and opinionated man-eater.

And before the turkey has even cooled, Tracy, the daughter of Ray Langton and Deirdre, adopted by Ken Barlow in 1986, is between the sheets with Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin). Exactly a year since he bedded Tracy's mother, fans will be left guessing just how long he can keep his fling with Deirdre a secret.

A Coronation Street spokeswoman said Ford, fresh from London's Webber Douglas Academy but originally from north Lancashire, was "thrilled" to have landed the role. "She is very excited to have got the part. The character has changed substantially in the past four years and really hits the ground running. Kate is thrilled."


New Corrie family set to get tongues wagging
13 November 2002
A new family will set tongues wagging on Coronation Street after moving into Weatherfield hiding a dark secret. No sooner have the Nelsons first set foot on Corrie's cobbles than nosy neighbours are suspicious about what they have got to hide.

A spokeswoman for the show says it will be evident as soon as the family - parents Angela and Tommy, 16-year-old Katy and Craig, 12 - arrive that there is "more to them than meets the eye". "Everyone is going to be very suspicious straight away, their story does not add up," she said. The rumour mill will be fuelled by the family's hostility towards the police, Tommy's reluctance to sup a pint in the Rovers and a family feud.

The Nelsons - Weatherfield's first new family since the rowdy Battersbys hit TV screens with a bang five years ago - are moving into Matt Ramsden's old house, next door to the Platts and the Peacocks. Angela, played by Kathryn Hunt - who recently starred in ITV drama Fat Friends - will get a job in the factory while Tommy (Thomas Craig) will start working in the garage.


Brian: 'Playing evil Richard haunts me'
12 November 2002 by Jonathan Donald
The actor who plays evil Corrie killer Richard Hillman has told how shooting this week's scenes gave him nightmares. Brian Capron told ITV1's This Morning: "I haven't had a nightmare for years but the other night I had such a bad dream it took me 15 minutes to snap out of it. "My fiance Jacqueline woke me up and I was screaming. I dreamt there was a witch coming through the door to me." Richard has been trying to bump off his mother-in-law Audrey this week.

A four-handed episode of Corrie being shown on Sunday will see evil Richard revealing his dark past. "I was worn out after it," said Brian. "I had a three-and-a-half page monologue about his mother dying of Alzheimer's. "It's powerful stuff, the way he describes what it's like when they lose their soul, their uniqueness. We shot it twice and Audrey (actress Sue Nicholls) loses the plot."

Brian, 55, is confident his evil character is here to stay. "He is a character who will build and build," he said. "He's not going to weaken off, we don't want him to." Richard is desperate to kill his Audrey so he can get his hands on her money. "The bit where he took the batteries out of her smoke alarm was the cruellest thing he's done so far," said Brian.


Vicky's maid plans
10 November 2002
PLANS for Coronation Street star Vicky Entwistle's wedding to prop man Andy Chapman are going hilariously awry. As the big day on December 15 nears, Vicky, who plays Janice Battersby, is already on her third chief bridesmaid.

The first, an unknown actress, pulled out because she'd at last landed an acting job on the said date. Step forward former co-star Denise Welch, aka Natalie, who was recruited to be chief yucky frock wearer. But the pair soon had a huge falling-out, culminating in Vicky firing her from the role.

Now the post has gone to former Corrie girl Gaynor Faye, who is even-tempered enough not to spark a World War Three explosion from the bride-to-be. "Vicky has a right temper and felt Denise wasn't up for the job so has got Gaynor to do it instead," said a source. "It's hard to keep up with all this chopping and changing."

Vicky has also asked each guest to donate £15 to charity instead of wedding gifts. Generous from someone getting £50,000 from OK! magazine for rights to the nuptials.


Emily set for chop
8 November 2002
Veteran Corrie actress Eileen Derbyshire, who plays Emily Bishop in the long-running ITV soap, is set to become murderer Richard Hillman's next victim.

According to a report in the News of the World, Trick Dicky will kill the character at Christmas as he becomes increasingly desperate to raise cash for his ailing business.

Actress Eileen, 72 - one of the soap's longest-serving stars - has indicated to Granada bosses that she is finding their four-day week schedule gruelling. Now insiders say she's looking forward to her exit and a rest. The details of how she dies are yet to be finalised, according to the paper's source.


Street star targets joyriders
8 November 2002
A Coronation Street star has thrown her weight behind a campaign against joyriding in Northern Ireland. Tina O'Brien, who plays Sarah Platt in the ITV1 soap opera, spoke out against car theft and reckless driving after being contacted by the Families Bereaved Through Car Crime group.

In the show, her character was seriously injured when a stolen car driven by her boyfriend Aidan was involved in a crash. In a statement issued by Granada Television in support of the anti-joyriding campaign, the star said stealing cars and driving dangerously "wrecks people's lives". "We hope the programme conveyed this important message," she said. "As viewers will see, the repercussions of Aidan's actions will continue to affect all involved for months to come."

Tommy Holland, a spokesman for the Belfast-based group for people who have lost relatives through joyriding incidents, thanked Coronation Street producers for their speedy response and Ms O'Brien for her support. "We commend the researchers, who we feel have done a tremendous job portraying a joyriding incident and its after-effects involving many characters and families in Coronation Street," he said. "We feel the storyline will give viewers a small taste of what it has been like for us in the reality of joyriding incidents and the potential pain and sorrow it can bring to any family." Mr Holland said he believed the storyline could create awareness of the dangers of this form of car crime.


Corrie has soap's biggest hero
8 November 2002
Coronation Street legend Vera Duckworth has been named as soap's biggest hero in a new poll. The character, played by Elizabeth Dawn, was given the distinction after donating a kidney to save her secret grandson. Giving Vera a five-heart rating, the survey by Soaplife magazine remarked: "When Andrea Clayton turned up at Vera's saying her and Terry's son Paul needed a kidney transplant you knew terrible Terry was not going to be the hero. Saving the day was left to brave Vera."

Emmerdale's Jack Sugden, played by Clive Hornby, and EastEnders fireman Tom Banks (Colm O'Maonlai) shared the number two slot. Jack was nominated for taking the rap after his estranged wife Sarah was killed in a fire started by adopted son Andy as part of an insurance scam.

And Tom plucked Little Mo Morgan from the jaws of death after Trevor set the house on fire.


Denise goes belly up!
8 November 2002
Former Corrie barmaid Denise Welch, who played Natalie Horrocks in the top ITV soap, is set to make a TV comeback - as a bellydancer. The actress donned a sequined outfit and trained for hours to prepare for her role in a BBC special called Turkish Delight, according to a report in the Daily Star.

And in one sizzling scene, the paper reckons, her bra top breaks. However, she manages to preserve her modesty as she performs in front of 10 rugby players for the one-hour show.


Soap stars pose for new calendar
6 November 2002
A host of soap stars have clubbed together to pose for a revealing new year calendar. EastEnders Lucy Speed, who plays Natalie Evans, and Charlie Brooks (Janine Butcher) both appear in the publication which recreates classic movie scenes.

Lucy pays tribute to Albert Square co-star Barbara Windsor, mimicking the famous pose in Carry on Camping where she clutches her boobs. And Charlie features twice: first as Tarzan's Jane swinging from a vine and then painted gold in homage to the Bond character Goldfinger.

According to the Daily Star Nikki Sanderson, Coronation Street's Candice Stowe, also appears in the famous Ursula Andress pose made legendary in the shore scene from Bond movie Dr No.

The calendar was created for lad's magazine Loaded and is available in shops.


Stars release fitness videos
5 November 2002
Two former soap stars have gone straight to video to release their own fitness workouts and help fans lose weight this coming new year. Tracy Shaw, who stars as dizzy hairdresser Maxine Peacock in Coronation Street, and Patsy Palmer, who played Bianca Butcher in EastEnders, have each recorded exercise routines to help fans beat the bulge.

Tracy's Salsacise for Hips and Thighs hits the shelves on Boxing Day just as viewers are likely to be recovering from Christmas over-indulgence and is a combination of salsa and aerobics. "It's brilliant for tightening your bum," Tracy tells Inside Soap magazine, "everyone tells me that mine's looking firmer."

Patsy's workout is a dance routine set to Ibiza's most popular tunes.


Bride Sally's web of lies
4 November 2002
SALLY Webster's Coronation Street marriage looks set to hit the skids for the second time. But this time, it's before she leaves the register office. She confesses to her fling with decorator Alex Jordan before ex-husband Kevin can say "I do" once again. And Alex turns up at the ceremony to let everyone know what has happened as Sally considers running off.

Sally Whittaker, who plays Sally, added: "The timing's awful for Sally - she's met her soulmate just as she's about to get re- married for the sake of her children. "She cares for Kevin but romance doesn't come into it at all. Alex is all the things Kevin's not."

Michael Le Vell, who plays Kevin, said: "It has taken Kevin a long time to get Sally back. He doesn't want to lose her again." The couple married for the first time in 1986.


Corrie murder plot with fiery start
4 November 2002
Coronation Street hitman Richard Hillman is to attempt murder to solve his financial worries. The lethal financial adviser, played by Brian Capron, braves an arson attack on his forgetful mother-in-law Audrey (Sue Nicholls) in order to get his hands on the £250,000 she has left to his doting wife Gail (Helen Worth).

"Richard doesn't dislike Audrey, but he's desperate to get his finances back on track," Brian tells Soaplife magazine. He adds: "Richard's an opportunist and completely ruthless. He'll go as far as he needs to."

But the plan fails when Archie (Roy Hudd) and Steve (Simon Gregson) spot the fire and rush to Audrey's rescue. Viewers are left wondering whether Richard will get away with murder.


Teed off Denise
3 November 2002
FORMER Corrie star DENISE WELCH looks in an El of a mood after becoming a golf widow during a family holiday in Spain. Denise, 44, who played Rovers landlady Natalie Barnes, appeared to be in a world of her own as she carried 18-month-old son Louis across a street in the Costa del Sol.

Things appeared tense after her Auf Widersehen Pet star hubby TIM HEALY, 50, spent most of his time on the greens. Denise did manage to soak up some sun on their hotel balcony. But even then she clearly wasn't in a holiday mood. The couple, who wed in 1988, have admitted marriage problems in the past. Perhaps they need a golf-free break!

Sally Lindsey
SALLY LINDSEY, wonderful as Corrie's bubbly barmaid Shelley Unwin, tells me: "I could have a body like Posh Spice, but I don't want to do 200 press-ups before I go to bed and 300 sit-ups when I wake up. I've chosen my's square."


Ken the Avenger
3 November 2002 by Ian Hyland
OVER at Coronation Street and Ken Barlow has dispensed with more than 40 years of principles in the time it takes Deirdre to say "why don't you be a man for once?" Thing is, I reckon Deirdre may have unleashed a monster. Following his smiting of Ade Critchley, how long before Ken turns into a fully fledged vigilante? Especially if he watched Death Wish on Friday night. God help Weatherfield's punk-ass kids and no-good hoods if Dev's plans for an amusement arcade go ahead. I mean, if Ken can break Ade's nose with the slightest backhand flick who knows what he's capable of once he's fully tooled up?

Elsewhere, other questions. How come brain surgery turned Sarah Lou's hair orange? How come the street was suddenly heaving when Roy began picketing Dev's shop? And what does the fact that I thought the funniest thing on telly all week was Kirk asking Archie "is it true that dead people fart?" say about me?


Corrie barmaid pours a mean pint
31 October 2002
ROVERS barmaid Sally Lindsay made a splash when radio DJ Joel Ross heckled her at a kids' charity bash - by tipping a pint of water over him. The 27-year-old star, who plays Corrie's Shelley Unwin, was doing an impromptu stand- up routine when Joel started spraying water at her and shouting: "Get back to the Rovers, chuck."

So Sally - who used to do stand-up before Corrie - behaved just like her feisty character. She stormed over to Joel and drenched him with the water.

One onlooker said: "He got a bit too much into the spirit of things."


Soaps to go to blazes in November
31 October 2002 by Derek Robbins
Is an arsonist on the loose in the land of soaps? That's the burning question to be answered, with all five main soaps featuring blazes in November. The first hot storyline comes this Friday in EastEnders when baddie Trevor Morgan (Alex Ferns) and sick fireman Tom (Colm O'Maonlai) go up in smoke at the Slater house. Fires also feature heavily in Corrie, Emmerdale, Brookie and Hollyoaks.

There's a firestarter's feast on November 11 with a blaze in Emmerdale and then a Corrie fire. First Cafe Hope nearly burns down because of a faulty deep-fat fryer while Viv and Steph are boozing. Then in Corrie, killer Richard spikes mother-in-law Audrey's drinks and torches her home.

Soap bosses insist that it's an accident that fires figure in them. An Emmerdale spokeswoman said: "It's just a coincidence." A Corrie spokeswoman added: "It must be because of Bonfire Night."

Flames also dominate in Brookie where there's a huge explosion when a police helicopter crashes on November 30 and a bonfire party gets out of hand in Hollyoaks on November 5.


Streets ahead
30 October 2002
Ken Barlow's attack on teen tearaway Ade Critchley won 14.8 million viewers for ITV1 soap Coronation Street on Monday - three times the audience watching BBC1


Star pleads for alternative ending
30 October 2002
Tracy Shaw is devastated to learn that her Coronation Street character is to be killed off. Soap insiders claim that the star, who plays dizzy hairdresser Maxine Peacock, is asking bosses to reconsider her ending. She hopes they will leave the door open for the odd special appearance, according to reports in Now magazine.

Tracy announced her retirement from the show last month after seven years on set. She said she wanted to "spread [her] wings and move on" and was "relishing the prospect of new challenges".


Street star shaken by quakes
28 October 2002
Coronation Street actress Tracy Shaw admits she was frightened by the 40 earthquakes that rocked Manchester in five days. Tracy, who lives near the area, felt the latest tremor which measured 3.1 on the Richter Scale.

The star, who plays dizzy hairdresser Maxine Peacock, told the Daily Star: "It was quite scary really but at least our chimney pot didn't fall off."

Tracy is due to leave the Coronation Street set after seven years in order to "spread her wings and move on".


Sex bomb Sally's new man
27 October 2002
THIS is the moment when Corrie mum Sally Webster becomes smitten with dishy new decorator Alex Jordan. And it happens just days after she agrees to remarry her ex Kevin. Fans will be shocked as mum-of-two Sally (SALLY WHITTAKER) puts the wedding in doubt by seducing Alex, played by SIMON LENNIGAN. A Street insider said: "Sally is totally bowled over and fans will be left wondering how it all pans out."

So Sarah Platt... Splatt! by Gary Bushell
Poor Sarah.They say she might end up a vegetable now. Just like Kirk.

I was more troubled by her neuro-surgeon, Robert. He had a huge head and no shoulders so he looked like a walking Pez dispenser. It was as if someone had transplanted his bonce on to the wrong body. He probably has Made in Royston Vasey stamped across his buttocks.

Great crash, mind. And that joy-ride was thrilling. Going downhill and with a stiff tailwind Ade must have got Ken Barlow's J-reg Citroen up to nigh on 35mph.

Angela Lonsdale
CORRIE cop ANGELA LONSDALE is rated by real-life WPCs. Angela, who plays Emma Watts, says: "Just after I joined the show I met a few policewomen who said they'd check every episode and would be in touch if I got it wrong. I've heard nothing so I must be doing OK."

Lucy's a bloomin' beauty by Gary Bushell
WHAT is up with Peter Barlow? The Corrie bookie keeps sneaking off from live-in lover Shelley to enjoy a spot of heavy betting with fruity florist Lucy (Katy Carmichael, pictured with him left). Is he nuts? Shelley looks like Les Dawson in drag, Lucy is a blooming beauty. Why not just sack Shelley and let Lucy fiddle with your greenfly to her heart's content?

Gaynor Faye
GAYNOR FAYE claps every time she gets into a car because of an electric shocks phobia.


Corrie fights fire with fire
27 October 2002
Coronation Street is to hit-back in its ratings war with EastEnders by staging a house fire. Fans of the BBC1 soap will see the Slaters house go up in flames later this week.

Now Coronation Street has decided to feature a similar storyline involving Audrey Roberts. Richard Hillman will set fire to her home in an attempt to kill Audrey. But she will survive when Steve McDonald breaks into the house and saves her.

According to the News Of The World, Richard will make another attempt on Audrey's life when he laces her tea with drugs.


Crazy Gail is such a silly goose
27 October 2002
OVER at Coronation Street and Sarah Lou is lying in her hospital bed surrounded by drips... Gail, Richard, Todd.

Seriously though, that death bed drew some great performances. Gail almost took the honours but a wonderful display of moodswinging from Helen Worth was spoilt by a decision to chase up a back alley after Ade Critchley. She ran like a duck with its legs tied together. That left the way clear for Jack P. Shepherd to clean up as Sarah's little brother David. Even I cried when he told her he loved her. Todd missed the plot with "you'll have lost weight when you come round, that'll please yer," while Ken Barlow declared "I feel so useless". Sorry Ken, I'm gonna need more clues.

Elsewhere Dev won the award for services to selective memory by telling Curly: "I conduct my business in the correct manner. What I don't do is argue the toss in pubs." That's Dev, who just two weeks ago was brawling in the Rovers with Joe Carter. Then Shell's Angel Maria discovered life can be harsh when Deirdre told her: "You remind me of me when I was your age." That's just cruel. Not to mention impossible.


Romeo Barlow heads for love trouble
25 October 2002
Coronation Street's latest Romeo, Peter Barlow, is heading for trouble as he two-times Rover's Return landlady Shelley Unwin.

Barlow, played by Chris Gascoyne, is having an illicit relationship with beautiful florist Lucy Richards, played by Katy Carmichael. But their shenanigans will be exposed after Peter tells Shelley (Sally Lindsay) he is going to the Chepstow races for the weekend - but neighbour Sally Webster innocently passes Shelley a message from the hotel he and Lucy are staying in.

"Peter is renowned for his quick wits and gift of the gab," an ITV1 source tells the Daily Star. "But he will have to be at the top of his game to wriggle out of this one. Shelley has always believed she is the love of his life."


Corrie's Tina finds a place to wake up with Bruno
24 October 2002 by Jan Disley
CORRIE actress Tina O'Brien may be fighting for her life as Sarah Platt in the soap but things are all sweetness and light off-screen. Tina has moved in with co-star - and real-life boyfriend - Bruno Langley. The couple, both 19, were spotted leaving the terrace house they are renting in Salford, Greater Manchester. And they couldn't hide their happiness as they climbed into Tina's sporty Peugeot.

It's all far cry from Tina's on-screen predicament as gymslip mum Sarah. In her scariest storyline ever she lies in a coma after her badboy lover Ade Critchley (Dean Ashton) leaves her trapped unconscious in a stolen car.

Tina and Bruno's affair is going strong - even if they don't like to talk about it. "I like to keep things to myself about my relationship," Tina has said. "We're under the spotlight more than most people anyway and I'd hate us to spill the beans about absolutely everything. "It's no secret - everybody at work knows we are a couple."


Corrie return for Tracy Barlow
23 October 2002
Coronation Street's Tracy Barlow is making a return to the street as a serial man-eater. A show spokesman says the new Tracy will be sexy, sassy and opinionated. She will make a beeline for womanising bookie Peter Barlow, her own stepbrother, before moving on to former sailor Ciaran McCarthy and knicker factory boss Joe Carter.

Tracy returns home to Weatherfield at Christmas after turning to mum Deirdre when her marriage breaks down. The daughter of Ray Langton and Deirdre, Tracy was adopted by Ken Barlow in 1986. She last appeared in the soap in March 1999 - when she left the Street after marrying Robert Preston at Weatherfield Register Office.

The character was last played by Dawn Acton, 25, who left the soap to look after her baby son Thomas. A Coronation Street spokesman said: "We are looking at other actresses because the character has changed so much - she's going to be explosive." The actress comes to the street just as its most famous current man-eater, Tracy Shaw, who plays hairdresser, Maxine Peacock, leaves the soap.


The road to ruin
22 October 2002 by Nancy Banks-Smith
There's a lot of sorrow in the world. Bit of luck, then, that it's confined to one street.

Last night in Coronation Street (ITV1), Sarah Platt was critically injured while joyriding with her boyfriend. In the great pie chart of life's misery, Sarah has already had a double helping of apple tart with extra custard. Her father was murdered, her mother is married to a murderer, and she is the 15-year-old mother of a baby who, judging from her expression, would rather be in Indonesia. Being kidnapped when only hours old probably unsettled the child.

To bring you up to speed, Sarah is strangely attracted to Aid, a gangling lad who has recently taken to joyriding in Ken Barlow's car. Which, as he cruelly pointed out, had two air fresheners and a plastic-covered atlas. Ken was astounded to receive the speeding tickets ("I've never broken the speed limit in my life"). Deirdre said acidly that he might be more exciting if he had. Now read on.

It's a small world, as well as full of sorrow, and who should turn up at the scene of the crash but Emma, the Coronation Street copper ("Hang on, I know this car, it belongs to my neighbour! And I know this girl, she lives across the road"). I was surprised, as Sarah was rushed into neurosurgery, not to see Martin Platt, her stepfather, standing by with his clipboard. Martin is the only nurse at Weatherfield General who is trained to speak. He was there with the encouraging word when Samir gave a kidney to his stepdaughter and Vera gave a kidney to her grandson. (There are hardly enough kidneys left in Coronation Street for a decent Ulster fry.)

Sarah is now in the customary coma. "Could she have brain damage, doctor?" "We haven't ruled that out." Look here, anyone I catch sniggering will be kept in after class.


Ken loses temper with bad-boy Aidan
21 October 2002
Ken Barlow is set to finally lose his temper with teenage tear-away Aidan Critchley in Coronation Street. He punches the school bad-boy in the classroom in front of other pupils, leaving him with a bloody nose and himself in a state of shock over his actions.

The punch comes after joyrider Aidan stole his teacher's car and crashed it leaving his girlfriend, Sarah Louise Platt, fighting for her life in hospital. The usually quiet Ken confesses his actions to the head teacher and is immediately suspended from his job. Police officers later turn up at his house in Coronation Street and he's taken to the police station and charged with assault.

Viewers can expect a courtroom drama to follow when Ken faces the consequences of his actions. The scenes feature in next Monday's episode of the ITV1 show.

Bully for Barlow
21 October 2002
CORONATION Street star William Roache has claimed his character's attack on a pupil is a blow against bullies. Teacher Ken Barlow breaks tearaway Ade Critchley's nose after the teenager steals and crashes his car, leaving classmate Sarah in a coma.

Soap veteran Roache, 70, said: "Ninety per cent of the UK population are going to say, `Brilliant, well done for smacking him'."


End of the road for Maxine?
20 October 2002
SOAP siren Tracy Shaw could be written out of Coronation Street for ever. Tracy's dizzy blonde hairdresser character Maxine could be the next target of evil killer Richard Hillman, played by Brian Capron.

Bumping her off by a canal is one of four possible endings devised for Maxine after Tracy fell out with Street bosses when they refused to double her £90,000-a-year salary. Until now, it was assumed that Maxine would leave the Street in a plot-line that would leave the way open for Tracy's eventual return.

Last night a Street spokeswoman would not confirm or deny that Maxine may be murdered. "There are all sorts of rumours flying around about exactly who Richard Hillman kills," she said. "All I can say is that the person playing the character who is killed already knows about it... and it is not necessarily someone who is leaving the Street."


Smoker Tracy's pin cure for baby
20 October 2002
CORRIE star Tracy Shaw leaves an acupunture clinic in her bid to quit smoking - so she can have a baby. Tracy, 29, is desperate to start a family with hubby Robert Ashworth. And she has turned to the alternative treatment after trying THREE TIMES this year to kick her 10-a-day habit, without success.

A pal said: "Tracy wants to be fit and healthy so that she stands a better chance of conceiving. "The odds are already stacked against her because of the damage she has done to her body from years of anorexia. "Now she knows the only way she'll have a family is if she quits smoking and eats well."

Tracy - who is quitting her role as hairdresser Maxine Peacock in the ITV soap next year - visits the AcuMedic clinic near the Manchester studios in her lunch hours. She has been smoking since her teens. Tracy's first bid to quit was in last January - and she got so desperate for a cig on a flight, she ended up FIGHTING with TV producer Robert, 29.

Her friend said: "We all know how much she wants to have a baby, so hope it'll be a big enough incentive for her to give up smoking forever."

Ken's car by Gary Bushell
ADE keeps nicking Ken's car on Corrie. I'd just like to know where he parks it.


Woo's that girl, Tracy?
20 October 2002 by Ian Hyland
MILD panic when I tuned into Coronation Street on Monday to see Emily and Norris settling down for a night in. "Would you like to let Mr Woo out for five minutes or shall I?" said Emily. I can't tell you how relieved I was to discover Mr Woo was actually a pet dog, not a pet name for Norris's trouser monster.

But someone should have warned Tracy Shaw that wearing her hair down in the same week a shitzu turned up in Weatherfield was perhaps not the best way to avoid lookalike hunters.

Elsewhere the highlight of the week was almost Peter Barlow's marvellous manoeuvring out of a tight spot when Shelley quizzed him about that florist who looks like Esther McVey. But he was beaten by an even more splendid sight: Shell's angel Maria behind the bar at the Rovers. Fred reckoned that the takings would be up as soon as Maria flashed that smile of hers. And the ratings, Fred.

Rovers Return
COMEBACK Of The Week - Mark Eden. Excellent in BBC1's wasted-in-daytime soap Doctors on Thursday. Alan Bradley lives.


Sun Hill cops lesbian PC
19 October 2002 by Derek Robbins
New Bill recruit Jane Danson, who plays lesbian cop PC Gemma Osbourne, says it was "nerve-racking" filming gay kissing scenes for the ITV1 police drama. Ex-Corrie star Jane, 23, who joins the cast on October 23, had to pucker up passionately with another actress on her debut. She says: "It was just as nerve-racking as kissing a guy. But I was very nervous as I didn't know the other woman at all."

However, her gay kissing scenes "aren't explicit", she says. Jane says: "It couldn't be too graphic as it's shown before the 9pm watershed and that's why you won't see my character in any bedroom scenes either. "She is very upfront about her sexuality and tells everyone at Sun Hill that she's gay. But first and foremost she wants to be a good cop. She just happens to be gay."

Jane doesn't know what viewers' reaction will be to the lesbian kiss. There were a flood of complaints when another gay kiss between Sgt Gilmore and PC Luke Ashton was shown in the summer. She says: "It's hard to gauge but I think it will generate a lot of interest. It reflects the fact that there are lesbians who are in the police. But we don't ram the issue down people's throats."

Jane's character arrives at The Bill this week in dramatic circumstances. Supt Tom Chandler (Steven Hartley) has killed himself and his pregnant wife DS Debbie McAllister has been rushed to hospital. Gemma is quickly out on the beat and finds an abandoned baby. Later, hard man PC Des Taviner (Paul Usher) takes a shine to the sexy new PC but is taken aback when she reveals that she is a lesbian.

Car chases have formed a large part of Jane's filming in The Bill. She enthuses: "I joined the show in May and I have done a lot of driving and chucking the car around at quite high speeds. A stunt double has been doing the more dangerous stuff. "My character Gemma is a traffic cop so I've been out on the motorway with real police drivers to build up my confidence. It's taken a lot of concentration because of the cameras all over the car."

Jane's boyfriend Robert Beck has recently joined her on The Bill to film three episodes to be screened in 2003. She's been dating Robert, 32, who played Peter Harrison in Brookie and Gavin Ferris in Emmerdale, since they met at an awards bash three and a half years ago. She says: "I'm not in any of his episodes so we haven't done any filming together. It's nice to have him around. He's a man at a house where there has been a disturbance."

The role of PC Osbourne isn't the first time Jane has appeared in The Bill. She says: "It was about 10 years ago and I was a runaway who was gang-raped. It was a sensitive story." Jane first shot to fame as Leanne Battersby in Corrie in 1997 and she left in 2000 to join hospital drama A&E as nurse Samantha Docherty. She says: "Leanne went travelling to get over her drug habit so I guess she could always return one day."


TV soaps 'help family harmony'
17 October 2002
Soap operas help parents broach difficult issues with their children and help families support each other, a survey has suggested. Dramatic storylines about family crises can help young people understand family life, according to the National Family and Parenting Institute (NFPI). But most parents also believe that families on shows like EastEnders and Coronation Street bear little resemblance to those in real life. And 80% of parents surveyed said too much sex, violence, infidelity and alcohol abuse meant soaps did not portray the family in a positive light.

Coronation Street contained the most broken families and single people, according to the survey. EastEnders was filled with scenes of "serious" conflict, which often led to physical violence. The two soaps are the most popular shows on UK television, pulling combined audiences of 25 million - almost half the UK population.

"Parents do not bring up their children in isolation, and the media has a huge effect on what they feel, believe and fear," NFPI chief executive Mary MacLeod said. "This is the first time that British soaps have been looked at from the perspective of the family and asking what the portrayal of family life is saying to parents and children." Two out of three parents said soaps helped children understand family life, while 60% said they helped families support each other.

The NFPI study looked at four soap operas - EastEnders, Coronation Street, Brookside and The Archers. It found that children were usually in the background or referred to as burdens or worries. It also said no show gave a sense of cultural diversity despite the presence of characters from ethnic minorities. People with disabilities and gay men were under-represented and lesbians and bisexuals were ignored, it found. The findings came six months after another survey raised concerns about the effects of storylines on vulnerable viewers.


Dark secret for new Corrie family
17 October 2002
A family-of-four with a dark secret are set to move into television's most famous street next month. The Nelsons will be the first new family to move into Coronation Street since the rowdy Battersbys hit screens with a bang five years ago. Producers promise the "working-class family shrouded in mystery" will set Street tongues wagging when they appear for the first time on November 13.

Angela and Tommy Nelson and their two children, 16-year-old Katy and 12-year-old Craig, will be moving into Dr Matt Ramsden's old house at number six, becoming the new neighbours of the Platts and the Peacocks. Mother Angela (played by Kathryn Hunt who recently starred in ITV drama Fat Friends) will get a job in the factory while her on-screen partner Tommy (played by Thomas Craig) will start working in the garage. Hunt said: "It's a surreal experience to be working on the show. I've been a huge fan since I was 18. It will be interesting to see what viewers make of the Nelsons and their dark secret."

Nosy neighbours will be annoyed at not being able to crack the family's secret and their curiosity will be fuelled by their hostility towards the police, a family feud and Tommy's reluctance to go for a pint in the Rovers, producers said.

Lucy-Jo Hudson, 18, who plays Katy, agreed with her co-star Richard Fleeshman, 14, who plays her on-screen brother Craig, that they have landed their dream role. "I still can't believe I'm here on Coronation Street, I'm a bit star-struck really. But everyone's lovely here and so down to earth, I'm loving it. Katy's a great character to play, she's a bit of a cow actually. She knows how to get her own way and she twists her dad round her little finger," she added.

Producer Kieran Roberts said: "We are very excited about the arrival of the Nelsons on Coronation Street, not just because of their intriguing and dramatic family history but also because the four superb actors who play the Nelsons are going to be a tremendous addition to the cast."


Granada staff threaten strike action
17 October 2002
Granada TV staff are voting on whether to strike over pay - but bosses at the company say programmes will not be affected. Members of broadcast union, Bectu, are balloting on industrial action after rejecting a 2% pay offer made by Granada.

According to the union, Granada Manchester and Liverpool, LWT, Yorkshire TV, Tyne Tees TV, Border and Meridian will be affected if action is approved when the ballot closes on 25 November. But Granada bosses say the move is "nothing new" and that it is "par for the course" whenever a new pay deal is proposed.

A spokesman said the £2.6bn ($4bn) merger agreed last week between television giants Granada and Carlton would also be unaffected. "Staff are not unhappy about anything," said the spokesman. "This kind of ballot happens all the time." Under the terms of the merger, Granada will own just over two-thirds of the combined business.

Bectu members are concerned that Granada's regional offices could suffer as part of the deal. They are also unhappy at changes proposed as part of the pay offer, including an end to final salary pension schemes for new employees and cuts in sick pay for staff with fewer than eight years' service. Union members say full pension entitlements will still be on offer to senior executives who might be hired in the future.

ITV unions have written to Granada and Carlton, demanding guarantees on jobs and regional programming. "Without assurances we will be opposing the consolidation," said Bectu's assistant general secretary Gerry Morrissey. "Staff feel they are not being listened to."

Granada and Carlton's finances have been hit by the costs of propping up their loss-making digital terrestrial service ITV Digital, which collapsed in May this year. The companies said the merger would eventually lead to savings of £55m a year.


Granada and Carlton agree merger
16 October 2002
The two big independent television companies Granada and Carlton have agreed to merge. Under the terms of the deal, thrashed out last week, Granada will own two thirds of the combined business.

Granada's boss Charles Allen will become chief executive of the new company. And Carlton's founder Michael Green will become chairman. "One ITV has been a vision long in the making," said Mr Green. "One company, with one management and one focus can now set its sights firmly on beating the opposition and giving viewers and advertisers what they want."

But advertisers have yet to be convinced. When Granada and Carlton announced last week that they were in advanced merger talks, advertisers said they were worried that the new company would be able to force up prices for TV airtime. Channel 4, which is reported to be considering sweeping staff cuts, is also opposed to the merger because it would create too big a rival.

Granada and Carlton have suffered from a downturn in advertising revenue during the economic slowdown, and their television ratings have been under pressure. The two broadcasters' finances have also been hit by the costs of propping up their loss-making digital terrestrial service ITV Digital, which collapsed in May this year. A combination of the two broadcasters would have to be approved by the UK competition authorities.


Corrie's Sarah fights for life
16 October 2002
Coronation Street fans will see single mother Sarah Platt lapse into a coma following a car smash. The teenager, battered and bruised from a joyriding experience, will be fighting for her life in hospital. Viewers will see the crash on October 21 in a Corrie double-bill. A spokeswoman for the show said: "Her life will be hanging in the balance."

Sarah (Tina O'Brien) is left in a coma after taking a ride with street rebel Ade Critchley - played by Dean Ashton - in teacher Ken Barlow's car. But after the accident, Ade flees the scene leaving Sarah critically ill in the wreckage. Gail Hillman will be seen keeping a vigil by her daughter's hospital bedside.

The spokeswoman added: "As time goes by, Gail becomes acutely aware there's no certainty that Sarah will come round and is forced to contemplate the possibility of losing her daughter." Ade is also forced to make a desperate plea to Sarah's friend Candice (Nikki Sanderson) not to contact police to say he was the driver of the stolen car.


Maria called to the Bar
13 October 2002
STUNNING actress SAMIA GHADIE is all set to become a new barmaid in Corrie's Rovers Return.

As sexy Maria Sutherland, she's been a crimper in Audrey's salon. But from November she'll be pulling pints. She'll be the 34th barmaid in the Street and replaces Geena (JENNIFER JAMES).

Simon Gregson
CORRIE star SIMON GREGSON has been telling me about his morning-after cure. Simon, who plays bad boy Steve McDonald, says: "For a really bad hangover I always have a sausage and mustard toasted sandwich, washed down with a pint of Bovril." I think I'd prefer the hangover, Steve.

Duffy back to get his leg-Rover!
GOOD news, girls, Boyzone hunk KEITH DUFFY is coming back to Coronation Street. And this time, I can reveal, his character Ciaran WILL bed Rovers barmaid Shelley Unwin.

When he first appeared in the summer he tried and failed to seduce Shelley (SALLY LINDSAY), the girlfriend of his best friend Peter Barlow. But when the ex-sailor returns to Weatherfield next month, busty Shelley is easier pickings. For she is set to find out about Peter's steamy affair with foxy florist Lucy - and dumps him for good. My Corrie insider tells me: "Shelley was outraged when Ciaran tried it on with her before because she really loved Peter. But when she's a single girl again she finds the hunky seaman a much sexier proposition."

Ironically, it was Peter (CHRIS GASCOYNE) who accused innocent Shelley of having an affair when Ciaran was first in the soap. Now it's his infidelity which wrecks their love. Peter met Lucy after popping into the local flower shop to buy a bouquet for long-suffering Shelley, who has had to put up with his mood swings, drinking, gambling and jealousy. The affair comes to light when Shelley catches them snogging outside their flat.

Ex-Boyzone star Keith, back on a three-month contract, says: "I had a fantastic time on the show earlier this year and always hoped Ciaran would return and sweep Shelley off her feet." But the insider adds: "Ciaran will have the women of Weatherfield eating out of his hand - so don't expect him to stay faithful for long."


So, Diddy or didn't he then Julie?
13 October 2002 by Ian Hyland
MOST staggering revelation in The Truth About Julie Goodyear (C5, Sunday) was that she once offered to perform a back seat sex act on David "Diddy" Hamilton. Sadly David was too much of a gent to say whether he accepted. Or if that's how he got his nickname.

Almost as staggering was the news that Julie was pretty tasty when she was younger. I wouldn't go as far as to say she was a cracker but, er, you would have. But this show threw up more mysteries than truths. Biggest of these was how the hell GMTV's soap expert Richard Arnold could possibly remember watching Julie's first appearance in Coronation Street in 1966. That would make him at least 40 now - anything you want to tell us Dickie?

Elsewhere Julie was at her best performing to the crowd. I for one am not going to criticise a woman who can go into her local butcher's and tell him she likes her meat well hung. Reminded me of the time I popped into my local haberdasher's to see whether I could get felt there. But my favourite story was that Julie's boobs were christened Newton & Ridley. Sadly, rather like Newton, they appear to have since discovered gravity.


Run for your life, Audrey
11 October 2002 by Nicola Methven, TV Editor
THIS is the chilling moment Coronation Street hairdresser Audrey Roberts runs for her life after being lured to a secluded spot by her evil son-in-law Tricky Dicky, who has already killed twice. Great-grandmother Audrey flees after Richard Hillman takes her to a canal bank and launches an attack, leaving her with a nasty gash on her forehead. Audrey, played by actress Sue Nicholls, finally manages to get away from the slippery salesman, who is desperate to inherit her money.

Richard - actor Brian Capron - has been conducting a twisted campaign to convince his mother-in-law that she is losing her marbles. She recently changed her will to leave her £250,000 fortune to daughter Gail and her husband Richard. He has already chillingly declared: "Where there's a will there's a way."

Now Corrie bosses are to take things a stage further as Audrey finally realises that her son-in-law is not all that he seems. In scenes to be screened next month, viewers will see Richard arguing with Audrey perilously close to the edge of the canal. After the confrontation she tears up some steps, chased by Richard, screaming "Save me!" A couple walking their dog block Richard's path and terrified Audrey is able to make it to the bridge.

Corrie chiefs have already revealed that Richard will kill again before Christmas...and poor Audrey is the hot favourite.


Lucy's dreams of a hair-net
11 October 2002
Coronation Street's newest star says she dreams of playing one of its oldest. Katy Carmichael, who plays florist Lucy Jenkins says she would love to have played Street legend Hilda Ogden - the Street gossip brought to life by actress Jean Alexander.

Katy, whose arrival on the show has already left its mark on Peter Barlow (Chris Gasgoyne) and his girlfriend Shelley Unwin (Sally Lindsay), says she is thrilled to have landed a part in such a well-known show. She told Soaplife magazine: "I'd love to have played Hilda Ogden in the Street, she was just classic comedy. "In fact I would have loved to be in Corrie from the very beginning. "Maybe I'll come back into the show when I'm older with a big hair-do a fag and a hair-net."

Katy's character Lucy met Peter when he was buying flowers for Shelley in her shop but before long it was Lucy who was on the receiving end of his romantic gestures.


Granada and Carlton in merger talks
11 October 2002
The two big independent television companies Granada and Carlton have announced that they are in advanced merger talks. If the deal were to go ahead, Granada would own two thirds of the combined business.

Granada's boss Charles Allen would become chief executive of the new company. And Carlton's founder Michael Green would become chairman. Mr Green, chairman of Carlton, said: "A single ITV is within sight. Granada's Charles Allen would run the merged firm "In a rapidly changing broadcast industry we need to combine to compete effectively. "Delay is not in the interest of viewers, advertisers, stakeholders or the future of British broadcasting."

Both companies have suffered from a downturn in advertising revenue, and their television ratings have been under pressure. The two broadcasters' finances have also been hit by the costs of propping up their loss-making digital terrestrial service ITV Digital, which collapsed in May this year. A combination between the two broadcasters would have to be approved by the UK competition authorities. And the two companies warned on Friday that "there can be no assurance" that they will reach a final agreement.

A previous merger attempt between the two companies came unstuck in February this year. But news that the tie-up could be on again cheered City investors, with Granada shares climbing 10% to 73.24p in early trade, and Carlton jumping nearly 12% to 126.5p.


Ex-star savages Street storyline
10 October 2002
Ex-Coronation Street star Amanda Barrie has attacked the award-winning storyline in which her character Alma Halliwell died of cervical cancer. Amanda, who says she received numerous emotional letters from sufferers, branded the storyline "little more than a cynical attempt to win viewers, regardless of the consequences." She also claimed that by the time she left last year communication problems made the atmosphere on set "like working on the Mary Celeste".

In her memoirs, which are being published in the Daily Mail, she said: "What made me so angry was the unrealistic speed of Alma's demise which seemed to fly in the face of medical reality. "It was impossible for me to accept that anyone could be told they have cancer and die within six weeks without having any symptoms worth mentioning."

She attributed her decision to quit to what she saw as falling standards. "I'd had enough of seeing the Coronation Street I adored so cynically betrayed - its poor little heart torn out," she said. She also attacked the decision to increase the number of episodes to four a week. But she did admit: "Despite its faults, it seems the story actually made women more aware of the condition."


Tipping The Velvet is art - says 'Duggie'
9 October 2002 by Jonathan Donald
Former Corrie star John Bowe hopes audiences will see BBC2's controversial Tipping The Velvet as a work of art. Bowe, 52, best-known as Duggie on the Street, plays a music hall manager in the period production. Graphic lesbian sex scenes played out by stars including actress Keeley Hawes and Anna Chancellor have sparked headlines.

But Bowe said: "I think it's a fantastic piece of art." And he describes it as a classic love story. "It's an age-old story of A falling in love with B," the star, who plays Walter Bliss, told GMTV. "B goes off with someone else and A goes into a self-destructive phase before finding happiness with C. "It just happens to be about two girls." Kitty (Hawes) finally marries Walter after dabbling in Victorian London's lesbian scene.

Bowe is fiercely proud of the controversial drama. He said: "I think people will swim in the sumptuous quality of this programme."

It's Bowe's first TV outing since Duggie died in Corrie earlier this year. The businessman was left for dead by evil Richard Hillman (Brian Capron) after falling down some stairs. Bowe joked: "Is he dead? I might step out of the shower one day."


Screen love sparks real-life romance
9 October 2002
Coronation Street babe Samia Ghadie has admitted that her on-screen passion with pop heart-throb Adam Rickitt spilled over into real life. Fans were glued to their screens when US-based Adam returned to his old role as Coronation Street's Nick Tilsley for a brief spell which saw him pair off with Samia's character Maria Sutherland. The steamy relationship was the cue for innocent Maria's transformation into the Street's newest sex-bomb.

She told Hello! magazine: "We are really, really good friends and yes, we did see each other for a bit while we were just finishing the filming. "But he is in LA at the moment and it's ridiculous to expect to start a relationship while he's on the other side of the world, but we speak all the time on the phone."

Samia says that her love scenes have been receiving something of a mixed reception at home with her parents. "I do have to hide behind magazines with my dad but my mum just says `you go girl'," she said. "My scenes with Adam were a bit raunchy and they even had to edit them."


Geena's sadness at leaving the Street
8 October 2002
Departing Coronation Street star Jennifer James has told of her shock on hearing that she was to be written out of the show. Jennifer, who plays barmaid Geena Gregory, was told that her contract would not be renewed because of storyline considerations. But for Jennifer, whose husband Lee Boardman also used to star in Coronation Street as Jez Quigley, what was most upsetting was the thought of how much she would miss her friends on set.

She told Hello! magazine: "My initial reaction was one of shock, obviously, because it was so out of the blue. "I hadn't suspected a thing. But more than anything I felt upset at the thought of not seeing my friends there. "You're there such long hours, sometimes 15 a day - people become like your family, I couldn't believe I was going to be cut off from them."


My seven years of three-in-a-bed love
8 October 2002 by Steven Ventura
CORRIE favourite Amanda Barrie has confessed to being a drug-pushing bisexual raver who enjoyed three- in-a-bed romps. Best known as Alma Halliwell, the 67-year-old has opened her heart in a shocking new autobiography. She tells of seven years of lesbian affairs and kinky threesomes she enjoyed with her husband Robin Hunter. And the Street favourite also recalls the time she was asked to seduce a young, virgin Prince Charles.

But the stories which will stun her legion of fans are those of her saucy, secret sex sessions with other women. She says: "I was 35 and had never slept with a woman before, but part of me had always been expecting it to happen." ' It' came when the Lancashire lass bedded a woman at the Covent Garden flat she shared with Hunter. The actress said: "I found sex with her more erotic and satisfying than I ever had with any of the many men there had been in my life - including my husband." Amanda wed actor Robin Hunter in 1967. He reacted to his wife's gay romp confession by inviting her lover to move in and share the marital bed. The threesome would live together for seven years. The actress says: "I will leave the details of the sex which took place between the three of us to your imagination. Suffice it to say that it was very interesting indeed."

Amanda's first brush with her hidden sexuality came at boarding school where she met a girl five years her senior. She recalls: "Nothing wildly sexual took place between us. There wasn't any writhing around in bed, just a tremendous amount of kissing." Born in 1935 as Shirley Anne Temple, Amanda Barrie was on stage from the age of three. A decade later, after a battle with dyslexia, she left home in Ashton- under-Lyne to join the Theatre Girls Club in London's Soho. She once said: "No 13 year old could survive in London in those days, but I was very well protected. "All the local prostitutes would look out for us and make sure we got home safely."

The chorus girl, who rubbed shoulders with fellow dancer and future soap rival Barbara Windsor, kept her sexual feelings to herself. She says: "Over the next few years, things began to fall into a familiar pattern. All too often when I was in a show, I would find myself wildly attracted to the leading lady. "Instead of facing up to it, I'd go into total denial. My solution was to jump into bed with the leading man instead."

Amanda went on to command many parts in West End productions before appearing in the notorious Carry On movies during the Sixties. It was around this time uppercrust actor James Robertson Justice made an astounding proposal to the actress. Justice, known for his royal connections, claimed he had been chosen by Buckingham Palace to help launch the young Windsor males into their future lives. Amanda recalls: "He informed me `We have had a lot of discussions about who might be suitable for Prince Charles and we agree that it could be you. "We don't really want people who are experienced, but on the other hand, they obviously have to know the ropes'." She adds: "I politely declined. I just had this awful image of the Queen saying to me at breakfast the next day `So, Amanda, how was it?'"

The swinging Sixties continued for the actress, who by this time had started to experiment with drugs. She said: "I was even a pusher for a while. I knew a lovely man who had a chemist's shop in Charing Cross Road. "He used to give me the things by the boxload." More gay flings followed, as well as an affair with Britain's first king of pop, Billy Fury.

But apart from the secret of her sexuality, Amanda hid something else from the public - her true age. Until two years ago, the Corrie star always maintained she was born in 1939. Even her wedding certificate shows the bride as still in her 20s, when in fact she was nearly 32. The actress left the Street recently after becoming a regular in 1989 as Alma Sedgewick. She suffered retinal damage in her left eye some years earlier but her health improved and she still performs in panto occasionally. She has recently been romantically linked with former tennis player Marie Jose Pascual Ventural. The soap queen adds: "There are many people like me who cannot be labelled in terms of their sexuality. "For me, some people are just more all right - in bed and out of it - than others and it doesn't matter if they are male or female."

Amanda Barrie's autobiography, It's Not A Rehearsal, published by Headline, is out on October 21.


Corrie Liz to stage comeback
7 October 2002
CORONATION Street favourite Liz McDonald is set to return to Weatherfield with all guns blazing. Actress Beverley Callard says she is giving in to pleas from fans and will make her street comeback next year. Viewers can expect fireworks as Liz has a heated confrontation with her dreadful daughter-in-law Karen.

Beverley said: "I need to go back for a bit to sort out that awful woman who married Liz's son, Steve." "It was clear that Liz didn't like her daughter-in-law. "They've met off-screen but never on screen, so it will be great TV when they do - the sparks could really fly. But I'll only go back if Liz comes out on top. It'll even be worth wearing Liz's dreadful mini- skirts again, which I vowed I'd never do. "I have a good relationship with the producers. "I went about it the right way when I decided to leave in 1998 after 10 years. I told them and no-one else."

Bev told of the wide appeal of Corrie: "It's surprising how often I'm recognised. "Coronation Street is shown around the world and when I'm on holiday, I'm stopped by Germans, Dutch and Canadians. They all say, `We wish you'd go back to Corrie' so now I am."

The actress is appearing for the next fortnight at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in Mum's The Word, a comedy about parenting. She added: "It's such an amazing feeling to make people laugh. I couldn't do that in Corrie. That's part of the reason I left."

Meanwhile, actor Chris Gascoyne has pulled out of Corrie after being hit by pneumonia. The 34-year-old actor - who plays womaniser Pete Barlow - was taken ill with a bronchial infection but his condition worsened. He is now being nursed at home by his actress girlfriend Caroline Harding. A Granada spokeswoman said: "We are very concerned for Chris. We wish him well and hope he has a speedy recovery."


Street regular: Please murder me
7 October 2002
Actor Brian Capron says at least one Coronation Street star has asked for their character to be murdered by his evil onscreen alter-ego Richard Hillman. Coronation Street bosses have revealed that Richard, who bludgeoned his ex-wife to death with a shovel, will kill again and say his victim will be one of 11 possible characters. Brian says that although he has an idea who will be Richard's next victim, the final script has not been written and viewers will be kept guessing until the deed is done.

But at least one star has actually asked to be on the receiving end of his killer instincts. He told The Sun: "Georgia Taylor, who plays Toyah Battersby, even asked the producer if she could be Hillman's next victim. "There's a certain kudos becoming his next victim. But as the plot develops so does the list of potential victims and viewers will be left guessing all the way."

Bookmakers Blue Square are offering odds of 8/1 that Georgia, who is already due to leave the show, will be chosen but the current favourite is nosey Archie Shuttleworth (Roy Hudd) at 9/4.


Butcher Fred faces chop
6 October 2002
Coronation Street's butcher will soon be hanging up his apron for good, according to reports. Fred Elliot, played by 64-year-old John Savident, faces the night of the long knives within five months, the Daily Star claims. A TV executive told the paper: "There have been discussions about what to do with John's character. Although some people disagreed, in this day and age the idea of a butcher holding sausages in his hand on prime-time television is too much to believe."

The character of Fred was brought in to replace Reg Holdsworth and inject a dose of humour into the soap. The paper says Savident is on a list of actors threatened with a cull. Veteran Corrie star Barbara Knox, who has played Rita Sullivan since 1964, could also be on the hit list. She has already said she would leave if The Street goes five nights a week because she finds the work schedule too punishing, the Star says.


Tracy Shaw: It started as a raunchy sex romp...
6 October 2002
BY January 2000, Tracy Shaw was established as the wild girl of soap. We told last week how her fantasies had been played out in private, but her romances ended in public heartache. She was alone and unfulfilled. Playing Coronation Street's sexy Maxine had won her millions of male admirers but in real life she was unable to stick with one man. Here, in our adaptation of an explosive new book, Shaw Thing by AMANDA CABLE, we tell how Tracy, now 29 and about to leave the Street, finally found lasting love and lust...

IT was supposed to be a quiet night in with a girlfriend. Tracy had it all planned - a bottle of wine, food and maybe watch a video together. But within hours she was FLIRTING wildly over the phone with a total stranger... and then ROMPING with him as they hungrily explored each other's bodies. But lust with a stranger went on to become lasting love and one, which to this day, Tracy credits with saving her life after years of battling anorexia. She says: "He made me the happiest woman in the world and I started to like my body."

TV producer Robert Ashworth, 29, came into her life one drunken, flirty February night. Tracy recalled: "Before I met him, I'd got to the stage where I didn't want to go out any more. I'd just spend Saturday night in front of the TV. "Robert and I met over the phone. I had a friend round, and we'd had a bottle of wine. She rang Robert, who was a friend of hers, and while she went to the loo I took the phone to say hello. We were on the phone for two hours, and then I said 'This is silly', and invited him over. "I couldn't wait for him to arrive, because we'd clicked. And as soon as I saw him, I fancied him like mad. He's tall, blonde and blue-eyed. We sat on the floor, talking, really excited. "My friend conveniently went to bed - and I was a very naughty girl that first night. I'm not usually like that. "Do you know what did it? He held my chin on the first kiss. It was so romantic and gentle. We haven't been apart since. I moved in with him within three months and never looked back. Life has been brilliant ever since."

After meeting Robert in February 2000, Tracy claimed she was finally able to put the doubts and heartache of failed relationships behind her. "I was cynical about men but as soon as I met Rob, I knew instantly that I could trust him. He said he could have proposed to me that first night - and I probably would have accepted." Instead, Robert proposed during a champagne marathon at a luxury holiday hotel five months later. She recalled: "We were in a restaurant in Dubai, and at one stage I tapped Robert's leg and thought I felt a ring box in his pocket. But it took him two bottles of champagne before he had the guts to do it. When he was down on bended knee, I got teary before managing to say yes."

The couple married at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool, in June last year. Tracy wore a stunning ivory silk dress - and a saucy designer g-string underneath. Almost instantly, she started to shun the showbusiness parties she once loved - and threw herself instead into married life. She said: "I love being a wife - calling myself Mrs Ashworth. I do need a lot of love and reassurance and I'm lucky to get that from Rob. "It's why my confidence has grown and I feel secure. I don't need to live the celebrity lifestyle any more. He's my man, the one I'm sticking with and I'd rather be home with him than out on the town. "Robert is my rock - the person I rely upon to keep me calm. I'm different from the Tracy I was three or four years ago. My life was full of turmoil because my emotions were all over the place. But since I met my husband I feel completely fulfilled."

Tracy claims the only thing lacking in her life is a baby - but says she and Robert are making love as much as possible to make that dream come true. "We can't expect too much too soon, but we did spend the first week of our honeymoon holed up in our hotel. We didn't come out at all, and besides, it got dark early so there wasn't much to do other than trying to make a baby."

Tracy admitted that the anorexia she has battled for years may have affected her fertility. When she was in her worst grips of the slimming disease she went down to five-and-a-half stone and was confined to a psychiatric ward. She said: "For too many years I put my body through a lot of stress. I'm sure I'm not the only woman to worry about not getting pregnant. "Marrying Robert made me so happy. I started to look in the mirror and like my body. I've put weight on my boobs and my bottom which Robert loves and I feel more womanly and curvy. But I'll only feel truly complete when I have a baby. "I could never cheat on him. I take my marriage vows very seriously and I don't even want to cheat. No one could be a better snogger than Robert! "One of the reasons our relationship works is because we can discuss everything. If I'm having a nightmare with stress he calms me down and I can do the same for him."

The couple keep the passion going by exchanging saucy text messages. And even a public row on board an airplane failed to dampen her spirits. She admitted: "We're very passionate and do row sometimes - but it is fun making up! We're more likely to be nibbling and nuzzling each other than rowing. "I never thought I'd be happy with a man. I've been cheated on, dumped and betrayed, but I've learned from that. "I don't regret a single thing about my past - and now I'm beaming."

Shaw Thing by Amanda Cable is to be published by Blake Publishing.

Longing to join Mile High Club
MAKING love has always been at the front of Tracy's mind - and she has made no secret of her search for sexual thrills. She admitted: "I do have fantasies. I think sex on a train sounds exciting. And I'd like to try the Mile High Club, too. "My biggest aphrodisiac is white wine - it makes me feel utterly horny. My idea of a perfect day is lazing in my flat with a gorgeous man. We'd drink wine, watch French Kiss with Meg Ryan and make love every hour on the hour. Bliss. "If I'm going out I always wear my best underwear - an all-in-one bodice with suspenders. "But to feel sexy, you have to be comfortable, so I relax with my Calvin Klein sport underwear. "I also love the just fallen out of bed look when I'm walking around my flat in a man's baggy - -shirt or shirt. It's suggestive without looking as if I've made a massive effort."


Corrie Gail: We saved a baby elephant... with tigers' help
6 October 2002
TEARS well up in Coronation Street star Helen Worth's eyes at the end of a 5,000-mile journey and a jumbo love affair that's lasted over 40 years. Nothing but nothing is going to stop her giving Radha a cuddle. As Gail Platt she may have been cheated and lied to in the Street by her murderous husband Richard Hillman. But this is a raw animal passion.

Ever since she was three, Helen has been totally in love with elephants and little orphan Radha is in need of an awful lot of love. His very survival is a miracle as his mother was shot dead after being caught up in a gun battle between rebel Tamil Tigers and government troops in Sri Lanka. Yet the guerrillas were so touched by the sight of two-day-old Radha trying to suckle milk from his dead mother that they decided to do all they could to save him.

Risking arrest by government troops, they drove 60 miles through the night to deliver Radha to a state-run wildlife sanctuary at Pandalagana. Then day and night he was fed on a diet of highly concentrated baby milk until he was well enough to be moved 150 miles to the Udawalawe National Park where Helen travelled to see him. Now three weeks old he is only 2ft 4in tall and weighs around 80lbs, less than half the weight of an elephant of his age. But he's making up for lost time fast.

"It's amazing that Radha has been through so much in his short life," says Helen. "If the Tamil Tiger forces had not rescued him when they did, Radha would have died. It just shows how animals can also be the victims of human conflicts. "Anyone would be moved to tears by the story of how Radha got here."

One of 52-year-old Helen's first childhood memories was riding on a giant mechanical elephant in a park in Leeds where she grew up. "In my mind I always see it as a real elephant," she says. "Even as a very small child I was captivated by their majesty and grace. "Ever since then I have always wanted to see them in their natural habitat."

Hopefully Radha will be returned to the wild in the next three years. Yet his survival and those of hundreds of other baby elephants is now at risk due to a cash crisis at the centre - the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka. And it is to help launch an urgent fund-raising operation that Helen, an ambassador for the Born Free Foundation, travelled to Udawalawe.

The Born Free campaign, backed by the Sunday Mirror and GMTV, will help pay the weekly milk and medicine bills as well as covering the cost of a state-of-the-art intensive care unit, equipped with the latest ultrasound and X-ray equipment. It will allow staff to diagnose and treat elephants more quickly and potentially save many lives. Udawalawe has cared for 47 elephants since it was opened in 1995 and since then 16 have been successfully reintroduced into the wild.

At the centre Radha is cared for by vet Dr Suhadha Jayawardana, 31, who regularly works 14-hour shifts, for just £70 a month.He says: "When I was astudent at university I was never particularly interested in elephants. "But once I began this job they've become a passion. My wife jokes that I love them more than her. But this job has taken over my life. "When Radha first arrived we did not believe he'd survive, but we are now very confident that he will. "His weight is still a concern but we are feeding him every three hours to build up his strength. "It will be at least a year before his trunk is strong enough to drink through." Dr Jayawardana adds: "The story of how Radha was rescued is truly amazing. I have never before come across a case of an elephant being rescued by rebel fighters.""

Helen, who was flown out by Kuoni, says: "Radha is still one of the lucky ones. "We desperately need new facilities here to make sure that we can save as many orphan elephants as possible. "The centre really is a lifeline. It is the only place in Sri Lanka where these orphans can get the treatment and help they need to go back to the wild."

TO make a donation to the Born Free appeal call the hotline on 08707 272 723 or send a cheque or postal order to the Born Free Foundation, 3 Grove House, Foundry Lane, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13.


Amanda reveals sexual secrets
6 October 2002
Corrie star Amanda Barrie, who played cancer victim Alma on the Street, has spoken of her bisexual past. Amanda, who is set to release her autobiography, tells the Daily Mail that she kept her sexuality secret from the world and her ITV bosses because she feared losing her job. She also says she was afraid that people would judge her if she told any work colleagues, although she was confident enough to tell her two "dearest friends" from the soap, Helen Worth and Sue Nicholls, who play Gail and Audrey.

She later goes on to admit that she was a virgin until the age of 21 until she slept with a married choreographer. Although she is attracted to men, Amanda says she is emotionally drawn to women and could fall in love with anyone - for her it's the personality that counts most. Amanda also says that in her late twenties while she was making a film with legendary actor James Robertson Justice - a good friend of hers - he told her that the royal family was looking for "an older courtesan" to teach Prince Charles about sex. She ended up turning down the proposition, although she says she regrets it now.


Bet it's fun in the sun Julie
6 October 2002
CORONATION Street legend JULIE GOODYEAR was looking blooming lovely as she soaked up the sunshine in the garden of her luxury Lancashire farmhouse. And as the star relaxed with a beer and a fag, one onlooker said: "She still looked in character as Bet Lynch because she used the same long-tip cigarette holder."

Julie, 60, quit after her comeback earlier this year, complaining of exhaustion. But the source said: "You wouldn't think she had anything to worry about. She didn't looked stressed or tired and was having a whale of a time." Granada had hoped to boost flagging ratings by luring her back to play Rovers landlady Bet. But Julie was signed off work with exhaustion after completing just six episodes. And she announced she would not be returning for the forseeable future, although Granada has left the door open for cameo appearances.

Whether she'd want to is another matter. After all, the Rovers Return has nothing on her luxury home... JULIE is the subject of a Channel 5 documentary, tonight at 9pm.

Brian Capron
CORRIE'S evil Richard, BRIAN CAPRON, had everyone dying with laughter when he identified ex-wife Patricia's body and quipped: "Yes, it's JULIE GOODYEAR."

Simon Gregson
CORRIE star SIMON GREGSON says the soap was always "like a religion" as he grew up. Simon, who plays Steve McDonald, tells me: "My family never missed an episode. To this day when I hear the theme music at the end, I automatically think it must be bedtime."

Kelly Wenham
AT the Inside Soap awards KELLY WENHAM was all over Corrie's JONATHAN WRATHER (Joe Carter). But he resisted her charms - and left on his own.

Corrie "no fun" storms Julie
CORONATION Steet's Julie Goodyear blames the soap's falling ratings on depressing plots replacing the comedy. Julie, 60, who briefly returned to Weatherfield in June, says viewers are fed up with dull, serious storylines in the show. And she has begged bosses to "put some fun" into her future guest appearances. Julie says in TV Times: "Everybody enjoys a laugh...we don't always want to turn on and see sex, violence and crime."


A gay old time with laugh-a-minute Les
6 October 2002 by Ian Hyland
THAT old comedy magic returned to Coronation Street last week with Les and Kirk masquerading as a gay couple. Top marks to the scriptwriters, Bruce Jones (Les) and the cruelly under-used Andrew Whyment (Kirk) for skilfully avoiding sliding into over-the-top panto. "Les, Les, we can pull it off," announced an excited Kirk on Wednesday. Nice idea, Kirk. But I don't think you have to go that far just yet.

Of course, it goes without saying that the only "rears" Les has ever been in are "arrears". And that's what necessitated this latest scam. He'd already fallen behind with his rent and now the council were asking questions about his illegal lodger Kirk. So in order to convince the council not to evict him he decided that Kirk - already his rent boy, you could say - should pose as his lover. This led to all kinds of welcome slapstick and banter as the pair tried to prepare for the visit of the council's HO (Housing Officer).

Out came the Village People and Barbra Streisand albums and in came clean living and tea from a pot. "You can be mother," said Les, which I guess made him the daddy - bad luck Kirk, mate. All they needed now was a genuine-looking fag hag to complete the look. Fiz duly arrived. But there was a nasty shock when the HO arrived - it was a woman.

Believing it would be harder to convince a woman he was gay, Les crumbled. It didn't help when they told her they first met at The Rovers. The only mincer that've ever been in there are Fred and Ashley. When Janice turned up on Les's doorstep his misery was compounded. No change there then. She promptly blew it for him.

Which reminds me, Peter Barlow was up to no good last week with Lucy the florist. They met for a drink and it wasn't long before he was back at her place where one thing led to another, although given the sign on her gate that was hardly surprising: "Deliveries For Lucy The Florist's Front Entrance." The innuendo continued once Peter was inside. Seeing her hat from Peru, he noted she was "well travelled". Then he launched into a lecture about the Navy, explaining the difference between Skimmers and Deepers. Basically, it was all about men working "on top" and "down below" - you get the picture.

Nothing wrong with a bit of smut, of course. But soap morality decrees that Peter won't get away with it and I think Lucy may have given us a little clue when she said: "I had to leave college for personal reasons." In other words, Peter... STALKER! Good idea. Can't beat the old stalker storyline.

But before Corrie bosses go thinking the revival is complete can we just talk about the Geena/Joe/Dev triangle? It got really silly last week with Geena offering herself to Dev in order to get Joe off, so to speak. And it was made all the more absurd by the fact that Dev's battered face and black eye seemed to have healed in record time.

And another thing. Was I the only viewer a little saddened when Richard went to identify Patricia's body at the morgue? I had it odds-on that we'd see a blonde wig and a flash of leopard skin. Oh but hang on, I forgot: Bet Gilroy's coming back next year, isn't she?


I love a laugh - funny girl Fiona
6 October 2002
Comedienne and former soap star Fiona Allen has revealed her darker side and the love of life's wild excesses. The 36-year-old star of Channel 4's award-winning Smack the Pony, who once played Mike Baldwin's former blackmailing mistress, said the one thing she strove for more than anything else was a good laugh. She said her friends call her Satan because of her fun-loving and told the Mail On Sunday's You magazine: "I'm always looking for the laugh in any situation. It's like a compulsion."

And the wife of Michael Parkinson junior said she was also planning a large family after discovering the wonders of motherhood. The TV funny woman, who briefly played scheming Julia Stone taking on Baldwin in Coronation Street, has a 21-month-old daughter, Honey Carillo, with her television producer husband. And she added: "Motherhood is so much more than I expected it to be. We have such fun at the park - I look at my watch and three hours have somehow gone by. I think I'll have a few more."

Allen grew up in Bury, Greater Manchester, but now lives in west London. She was planning a one-off of Smack the Pony, had a role in the new BBC police drama In Deep, and had a second series of Happiness out next year.


Simon Holden meets Richard Capron...
5 October 2002 by Simon Holden

He has the key to Audrey's house and her salon. And it's only a matter of time before he convinces her she is going senile...

"Tricky" Dickie Hillman also holds the key to Corrie's future. Reports of its demise have been exaggerated, says actor Brian Capron, but there is no doubt that evil Richard has shored things up in Weatherfield... a bit of concrete always helps. Brian, 53, has just signed a six-month extension on his contract and could be in the soap until 2004.

TV Plus met him at a recent awards bash in London. "I'll be going on quite a while yet. I don't know if I'm going to get caught. Maybe they'll put me on a prison ship. The big storyline is who I'm going to kill next. It could be any one of 11 people."

Brian has just collected the Best Actor title at the Inside Soap Awards and is delighted to have beaten EastEnders' Alex Ferns (equally unhinged Trevor) to the title. "It's the first time I've beaten him," he says. "I'm thrilled actually because he has been fantastic, I'll be watching his future career with great interest. We are very different types of villains."

Like many villains, Hillman hides his lunacy under a smooth veneer. "Most people find Richard reasonably humorous at the moment. But it's about to get a bit darker. "People have been asking me 'when are you going to kill Gail?' But I can't say what happens. "People are very nice and very excited to know when I'm going to get caught. They can't believe I've got away with it so far. "The thing about Richard is that there are several sides to him and so many different things to play. He can be really hard and then he shows a warm side to the family. He is just your ordinary run-of-the-mill schizophrenic psychopath."

Last week turf accountants opened a book on who Richard's next victim is to be. His first victim was Patricia, his wife, who was clobbered with a spade. She is now supporting some new flats. So who else is on his hitlist? "Norris, Rita, Audrey, my darling wife and Jack and Vera. In fact all the people I've had dealings with. "The victim is in for something more interesting than concrete. Funnily enough Georgia asked to be killed by me because she is leaving anyway. They refused. She said 'I really want you to kill me'."

Brian is genuinely surprised by the attention his character is getting. "I never expected the character to be such a success and I thought perhaps I'd be in for a year," he tells TV Plus. "The writing I get is fabulous, you can't ask for more. I get the heavy stuff and then the sincere stuff with Gail and the family. The dark humour gives the character some redemption, he isn't just totally horrible. "We have a four-handed episode coming up soon with fantastic monologues that are beautifully written. "A four-hander is quite rare for Corrie. It's between Archie, Gail, Audrey and myself. Audrey will go through 360 degrees as a character and it will be a fantastic episode for her, a tour de force. "I hope Richard can rise to the occasion in his own special way. He'll talk about his background and his mother. "We've done a read-through because we want to sort out any inconsistencies in the script early on. Normally it's very hard to change the scripts. "Hopefully the awards we picked up this week are just the start of the rebirth of Coronation Street. We're not far out in the ratings but it is really going somewhere now. It's in safe hands now."


Street showed me UK life - Sunita
4 October 2002
Shobna Gulati, who plays Coronation Street babe Sunita, says the show was one of the first things she watched after arriving in Britain from India. Shobna, whose family moved to Oldham, Greater Manchester, in the 1960s, was encouraged to watch the soap by her father who said it would be a good way to learn about her new home.

Now she is in the show she says her role as Sunita Parekh can help break down cultural barriers. "What you see with Sunita is an easy cultural crossover," she told the Daily Mirror. "You see her as any young woman who might have a crush on her boss. "It's an everyday story and nothing to do with the fact that she's Asian, yet she still knows about Indian music and she'll wear trendy traditional Indian dress and a bindi."


Nurses learn language of the Street
3 October 2002
Nurses from the Philippines working in the North West of England are to watch Coronation Street to help them understand local patients. The nurses, who speak excellent American English, are being drafted in to tackle shortages at Macclesfield Hospital. They are being encouraged to watch the Manchester soap both to teach them some of the local expressions and to help bridge the cultural divide between their home and the area. The nurses are also undergoing an induction course as they start work in a new environment.

A Coronation Street spokesperson said: "We think it's great if it's going to make people feel more at home in the North West." But the nurses will be relieved to hear that their patients might not be quite like Jack or Vera Duckworth. The spokesperson said: "I wouldn't say it's a true representation of the North West at all, it is a bit of a caricature at times but the viewers know that. "It's partly to do with the way it has developed over the years"


Street star returns after heart op
2 October 2002
Coronation Street actor Bill Tarmey has returned to the show after having open heart surgery, and said it was "fantastic" to be back. Tarmey, who plays Jack Duckworth in the ITV1 soap, said he was glad to be among his friends after undergoing a heart by-pass and having a pacemaker fitted in June.

The actor spent three months recuperating after complications following the surgery. He was moved out of intensive care a day earlier than expected after initially responding well. But he was later moved back into the intensive care unit at the Alexandra Hospital in Greater Manchester after a reported minor heart attack.

The 61-year-old former builder has become a fixture on the Street after 24 years playing the workshy husband of Vera Duckworth, played by Liz Dawn. His return comes days after he and Dawn were honoured with an outstanding achievement award at the Inside Soap Awards.

Tarmey has a long history of heart problems, suffering a massive heart attack in 1976 and bypass surgery 10 years later. He said viewers had deluged him with goodwill messages after the latest operation. "I had so many cards and letters that it took me two full days to read them all when I got home from hospital," he said. "It's fantastic to be back doing a job I love, surrounded by people I love."
The cast and crew welcomed him back with open arms, he added. "It was funny when I first walked on set because I was suddenly really nervous and I wondered if I could do it again," he said. "But once the cameras were rolling everything was great."

Tarmey was not involved in any major storylines before the surgery, so writing him out did not cause scriptwriters any major problems. He is an ardent fundraiser for heart disease charities. But the performer is also a heavy smoker and refuses to give up. His character on the Street has also endured a triple heart-bypass after suffering angina.


Street landmark wins stamp of approval
2 October 2002
A postbox which appears on Coronation Street is to star in the Royal Mail's latest issue of stamps. The pillar box, which is outside the Corner Shop, is seen by millions of viewers during the ITV soap each week. As one of the country's most famous red letter boxes, it will be used to promote on the new stamp intended to celebrate the 150th anniversary of pillar boxes.

The Street's Norris Cole, played by Malcolm Hebden, has been showing off giant versions of the Pillar To Post stamp next to the famous box. Five stamps, featuring examples of historic pillar boxes dating from 1857 to 1980, go on sale at post offices from October 8.

Novelist Anthony Trollope introduced roadside pillar boxes to Britain in 1852 after a trip to the Channel Islands inspired him.


We never Shaw her
2 October 2002
SOAP star Tracy Shaw neglected the anorexia charity she founded, workers claimed yesterday. Coronation Street's Maxine claimed the Tracy Shaw Foundation was "hard work" when she announced last week that she was winding it up. But yesterday, workers for the charity said they were stunned because the 29- year-old actress had not been to a meeting for more than a year. They are now trying to thrash out the future of the charity - which raised money for research into anorexia and bulimia.

Fellow trustee Professor Pat Hartley, 68, said : "I don't know why Tracy said she could not cope with the workload, as she has not been to a charity meeting since August 2001. "She is very difficult to get hold of, she has become so busy at work, I think. "I have been trying to contact Tracy since the news broke on Friday but she hasn't got back to me. I was disappointed with her."

Former anorexia sufferer Tracy set up the charity three years ago after meeting a young girl who was within days of dying from the condition. Last week, she said: "Running the charity has been hard work and solicitors and accountants cost money. I haven't got enough people helping me out and it's a full-time job running a charity." But Prof Hartley, an expert on eating disorders, said she was frustrated by Tracy's comments, adding: "She did donate quite a lot of money. In fact, most of the money raised was by Tracy. But she didn't do any administration and didn't pay for the management fees."


Bad year for Street's Julie
2 October 2002
Actress Julie Goodyear has told how the stress of filming schedules on her short-lived return to Coronation Street left her disorientated. And she says that the knives were out as soon as she announced she was going back to Weatherfield and, eventually, constant criticism forced her out.

Goodyear, 60, told TV Times magazine that she was now planning to make a series of guest appearances as her well-loved character Bet Lynch on the show in the future. The star, who as brassy Bet was one of the Street's best-loved characters, was forced to quit filming after suffering exhaustion shortly after she began filming. She said this was compounded by the upset she felt at suggestions that she was a prima donna and was demanding a big pay rise. "Had it been a fight in a ring, they'd have had me up against the ropes so many times that the ref would have stopped the fight, but it went on and on - it as relentless," she moaned.

Goodyear felt the pressure because of the long hours on set and a reduction in the rehearsal time she had been used to seven years earlier. After three months back with the show she had managed to film just a fortnight's worth of shows. "Although I was back into a familiar situation, it was like I'd hit the deck running at 100 miles an hour," she said. "Very quickly I began to lose my sleep pattern and I didn't even know what scene I was in because it's all shot out of sequence."


Goodyear: 'the guns were out for me' and Coronation Street
1 October 2002 by Joh n Plunkett
Coronation Street veteran Julie Goodyear told today of how filming on her short-lived return to the soap left her disoriented. She said the knives were out as soon as she announced she was going back to Weatherfield and constant criticism forced her out.

Goodyear, 60, told TV Times she was now planning to make a series of guest appearances on the soap. The star, who as brassy Bet Lynch was one of the Street's best-loved characters, was forced to quit after suffering exhaustion shortly after she began filming. "It was almost tangible. I could smell it. The guns were out for the show and for me," said Goodyear.

She was upset by suggestions she was a primadonna who had demanded a big pay rise. "Had it been a fight in a ring, they'd have had me up against the ropes so many times the ref would have stopped the fight, but it went on and on - it was relentless," she said. "You begin to feel like some sort of criminal and you're constantly trying to remind yourself that you haven't harmed anybody. But the longer it goes on the worse it becomes. "It turned into a vicious cycle and I couldn't get well as quickly as I wanted to."

The long hours on set - and the fact the amount of rehearsal time had been cut since since she last worked on the show, seven years ago - piled the pressure on Goodyear. After three months back with the soap Goodyear had managed to film just a fortnight's worth of shows. "Although I was back into a familiar situation, it was like I'd hit the deck running at 100 miles an hour," she said. "Very quickly I began to lose my sleep pattern and I didn't even know what scene I was in because it's all shot out of sequence."


Award for first couple of soap
1 October 2002
Long-serving Coronation Street couple Jack and Vera Duckworth have received a special honour at the Inside Soap awards. Bill Tarmey and Elizabeth Dawn scooped the Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition of more than two decades service on the show. Holding their glass trophies aloft they proclaimed: "We're going to need a lot of Windowlene for these."

The couple, who have been a cornerstone of the soap, remembered one particular episode which is close to their hearts. Tarmey said: "There was one where Jack was laid down pretending that his leg was poorly and Vera just walked in and hit him with a 2lb frozen steak. "After the third time of shooting it, I kind of liked it."

Other Coronation Street characters lifting awards at the ceremony included Malcolm Hebden (Norris Cole) for funniest character. The best bitch award went to Coronation Street's Karen McDonald (played by Suranne Jones). The Street's own serial killer Richard Hillman (Brian Capron) fought off tough competition from EastEnders wife-beater Trevor Morgan (Alex Ferns) to lift the best bad boy award. Meanwhile, Tracy Shaw, who is poised to hang up her clippers as the Street's hairdresser Maxine Peacock, won the best dressed soap star award.


No extra episode for Albert Square
1 October 2002
The executive producer of EastEnders, Louise Berridge, has ruled out airing the soap five nights a week for the foreseeable future. In a frank interview with she says the cast and crew are still adapting to the transition to four episodes a week. "Until we're happy with four, I don't think we should even think about doing five," she says.

The addition of a Friday night episode in August last year put the show head-to-head with ITV1 rival Coronation Street, increasing the stakes in their ongoing ratings battle . The Street has recently fought back with a series of high-profile double episodes, but Berridge says that an extra helping of EastEnders could pit quantity against quality. "We're working very hard to make the transition to four episodes a week attainable, while keeping the quality high," she says. "I don't think we've reached a stage where that's natural or easy."

However, she does promise fans that there will be more of the show's popular specials such as the Manchester-based reunion of Ricky and Bianca Butcher (Sid Owen and Patsy Palmer).


Beeb soap scoops top prizes
1 October 2002 by Julia Kuttner
EASTENDERS topped the poll at the Inside Soap awards last night. And the star of the show was Little Mo, who arrived in a tartan mini skirt. Actress Kacey Ainsworth, won Best Actress, while Scot Alex Ferns, who plays her abusive husband Trevor, won best actor.

Kacey said: "I'm wearing the mini skirt in honour of Alex. "It's probably the last time we'll be going to an event together and what better way to honour him than wear something with a Scottish flavour. "I don't know what tartan it is but I loved this skirt the moment I saw it and I hope Alex will too." Last night marked the end of the on-screen relationship between Little Mo and Trevor.

EastEnders won a host of awards, including the top honour, Best British Soap. Kacey was almost upstaged by Brookside newcomer Liz Avis, who arrived in a stunning outfit. She's been tipped to be soap's new Tracy Shaw. And she revealed last night: "If people are saying that, then I'm really flattered." Liz, 18, who plays Laura Stevens, revealed she needed to use a whole roll of sticky tape to keep her dress together for the night.

Coronation Street's Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn - Jack and Vera - picked up the Outstanding Achievement Award. The bickering double act have been loved by the public for decades. Bill claimed: "It's because we don't have any sex in our marriage that we get on so well. "Liz and I are just two ordinary people doing an extra-ordinary job."


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