Saturday, 26 February 2005

My Life in Politics ROFLOL!

I have never been a political animal - I admit to having had a carefree, frivolous youth. Then came marriage and children, I was told I was wasting my vote by not voting for anyone - so I voted Liberal - simply because they were the smallest of the ‘Big Three‘ and I voted just to even things up a little. So one may well wonder how I managed to become secretary to my local Conservative Party lol! Yes - the V.I.P. at the meeting I was supposed to be attending when I decided to see Gene instead, was John Major! He wasn’t PM then, in fact he was merely running for election as our local MP, but a much admired and Very Important Person locally.

It all happened by accident. I’d just moved to this village and didn’t know anyone. I was walking down the High Street one Saturday when I noticed a sign at the gateway of a large house advertizing a Garden Party taking place that afternoon. A good place to meet the locals, I thought, my children were out with their friends, so I left a note telling them where I was going and to join me there later on. For some reason I drove there in my old banger - although it was only walking distance - my old Ford Estate was not a pretty sight - rust having taken over from most of the original blue paint, but it was very reliable :-/

As I turned into the parking area, I noticed a very smart navy blue Volvo Estate following me in, I was so hoping it wouldn’t park right next to mine - but it did - sigh......

The driver and I emerged from our cars at the same time - a tall, slim young man with large horn rimmed specs that really suited his round, pleasant face. He gave me a friendly smile, and I made a rueful remark about our two cars looking like the beauty and the beast. "Well, it goes, doesn’t it?" he asked cheerily. I agreed that it did indeed, and was extremely reliable. "That’s all you need, then" he responded. We walked across the car park together, and up the long path to the house, chatting and laughing as though we’d known each other for ages, and that is precisely the impression we were giving to those who came to greet us as we entered the garden. The owner of the house brought us both cups of tea, a chair was brought out - ostensibly for the male guest, but he offered it to me. We continued to make small talk, and someone came to offer us a plate of buttered scones. I thought how nice and friendly everyone was being, eventually he was coaxed away by the other ladies, who, understandably wanted some attention from this nice, and rather attractive, young man.

Others came to talk to me, only afterwards did I realise that they were trying to find out the connection between myself and the young man who they referred to as ?John?. I thought that they were simply being extra friendly to a newcomer to the village. There was fun and games to be had in the garden, one such game was knocking tin cans off a wall by throwing bean bags at them - the prize was a large, fresh chicken, for the highest score of the day. When I went to take my turn at this game, John stood at my shoulder encouraging me with gusto, he frowned comically when I failed to beat the current highest score - which turned out to be his. "Have another go" he pleaded "I need someone to beat my score - I?d feel guilty taking home someone?s Sunday lunch!" I paid my 5p and made another attempt to beat his score, but without success. John?s score remained the highest for most of the afternoon, when my children arrived, immediately John encouraged them to have a go at beating his score - maybe this attention to my kids also gave observers the impression that John was a family friend, when all he wanted was for someone to beat his score, lol. My daughter didn?t manage it, but to his obvious relief, my son did. I could almost taste that lovely plump roasted chicken - then, darn it, right at the last minute someone beat my son?s score :-(

Many people came to chat to me during the afternoon, but only one of them asked me the pertinent question - how did I know John? It had eventually dawned on me that ?John? was somebody special - he was the successor to our local MP Lord Renton, who was retiring, and this garden party was in aid of the Conservative Party funds. I told him honestly, that we had met in the car park......... I think my ?popularity? took a bit of a dive as soon as this information was circulated, but I had already been asked if I would like to join their next meeting, and, purely in the interest of taking part in the village community, I accepted.

During that meeting, I was elected onto the committee and assigned a job to help in the campaign to get John Major elected as our local MP. I have to admit that some of it was great fun, I got invited to some of the grandest houses in the village and took part in social events that I wouldn?t otherwise have done, also, I got to like John Major, and came to loathe with a vengeance all the horrible things that were said about him when he became Prime Minister - never was there a person who was LESS ?grey? than him. Perhaps he was just too nice, too ordinary - the press couldn?t find anything wrong with him so they had to make it up.

I can?t say that I enjoyed the committee meetings very much, I got the impression that there was very little ?love in the room? - plenty of spite though.........when the long serving secretary became ill, I found myself elected to the job - ha ha ha - I?d never taken minutes in my life, I didn?t know what sort of thing to write down. I was told that I should write everything down unless it was agreed by all that it was ?off the record?. It seems there had been some controversy in the past about what should and should not be written down, and was advised to read back through the book of minutes to find out what had gone before - it made for very interesting reading lol! As it turned out, John was elected by the biggest majority of any other MP in the Country and his rise up the ranks was meteoric!

John was not slow to show his gratitude and we all got personal letters of thanks from him. We were euphoric over the wonderful result, but, job done, I did not want to remain on the committee. Then I read in the local paper that a wonderful working forge in a nearby village was up for sale - the blacksmith was retiring, it was highly likely that a developer would buy it, demolish the forge and build on the land. A few locals decided that this wonderful landmark should be preserved - and I agreed, we set up an action group to try to raise the £20,000 that the Blacksmith was asking. He liked the idea of keeping the forge going and was happy to give the Group the first chance of purchase.

We met in each other homes to draw up a plan of action - which meant writing to anyone who we thought might be able to help. I wrote to Maggie Thatcher - no reply - but she did use something I said in my letter in one of her speeches - just coincidence of course ;-) also Prince Charles - his office responded with good advice, and John Major, who replied by return of post and promised to do all he could to help us in our cause and offered to become our President if we thought it might help. As members of our Group were of differing political persuasions, I wasn?t sure what the response might be - when I read out John?s letter, they almost jumped on me "I hope you?ve written back accepting" was the delighted response. I told them I hadn?t, as I wasn?t sure it was what they wanted. I was told to write back without delay - they thought having our local MP as our President was an enormous boost to our cause. So followed a flurry of letters and telephone calls - John was very supportive, and responded to every letter by return of post.

We arranged for him to visit the forge to publicise our cause, along came photographers and news reporters too. We had lots of photos taken with John and I had a ?blink and you?ll miss it? moment on local TV, pictured with John.

Despite our valiant attempt to save the forge - we could not raise enough money to buy it, and after a year, the Blacksmith was becoming anxious. There was a developer waiting to snap up the property and we could no longer expect the blacksmith to wait for his money. We did get the council to put certain provisos on the development ie - the forge must be developed and not demolished - hah! The developer simply put up impenetrable fencing all around the property so that no one could see that he was doing just what he liked. Consequently, there was nothing left of the original forge.

I just love local history, and the whole Group were deeply saddened to have lost our cause - I was even inspired to write a poem lol! Which perhaps may have done some good. Someone in New Zealand thought it summed up what was happening out there and asked if he could send it to the local newspaper to make his point.

Here it is:

Reach out and touch me before I am gone

I?m here all around you - in brick and in stone

I?m cobwebs in attics - dust on the stair

Friendships forgotten - but not beyond repair

I?m fine architecture - our heritage unique

Quaint cottage and forge - now empty and bleak

I?m rich threads once woven into a glorious tapestry

of people and places - lost in memory

Reach out - hold on fast

Don?t lose me forever

For I am your past

Thursday, 24 February 2005

Especially for Sylvia!

Not that I want to make you jealous Sylvia lol!


We'll Meet Again?

O.k Sylvia, you made me think of more recent memories, so I’m going to fast forward 30 years or so into the 1990's.

I heard on local radio that Gene was coming to the Corn Exchange in Cambridge - I hadn’t seen Gene for about 30 years - too busy with marriage, bringing up the children, working - the usual things. I just had to go. I got a letter off to Gene that hopefully he would pick up as soon as he arrived at the theatre, telling him that I was coming to see the show and reminding him of those far off days and enclosing copies of the photos I’d taken of him all those years ago, and bringing him up to date with my life. But when I rang the theatre I was told that there were hardly any seats left, there were a few seats available for Thursday. The problem was, I had a rather important meeting Thursday evening - one that I dare not miss, a VIP was going to be there and I was expected to attend (hee hee - this is a story in itself lol!) Then I got a reply from Gene asking me to send some recent photos of myself and my family and to let him know which show I would be attending. My friend told me to skip the meeting and go to see Gene - so I had to be really, really ill - couldn’t possibly attend lol! When I rang the theatre again, I was told that the only seats left were ‘restricted viewing’, I said I’d take whatever they had. In the meantime, I sent Gene a recent photo of me and my family, and said I’d be there Thursday evening.

Our seats turned out to be right up in the ‘gods’ and behind a pillar - at least one of them was. We decided that one of us would sit behind the pillar during the first half of the show then change seats for the second half. It was great to see Gene singing on stage again, and see such a full theatre - Gene still had the fans eating out of his hand! I saw the first half of the show then moved behind the pillar so that my friend could see the second half - this was the bit where he read out letters and sang requests. He’d also added a new bit - now he was handing out presents and bouquets to the ladies in the audience - all sat in the first few front rows It had become obvious from the banter between Gene and the audience that a large group of his fans followed him around and block booked all the best seats at the front of the stage. Husbands were asking Gene to present wives with bouquets for birthdays, wedding anniversaries etc. At one point, Gene put his hand in his pocket and drew out something that he kept hidden in the palm of his hand, he mentioned a lady?s name and asked her to come to the front of the stage as he had a present to give her from her husband. He handed her a key, telling her that the present was a brand new car!

Then he started to read out letters he?d received - as soon as I heard him say " There?s someone out in the audience tonight who I haven?t seen for a very long time......" My heart began to beat so loudly I thought the whole audience could hear it. Gene went on to tell everyone about our days at Stratters and I prayed he wouldn?t go on about my attempt to dress up as a student to fool him - it had been such a sad attempt, I still cringed at the memory of it. Fortunately he didn?t, but he did want to know where I was seated in the theatre - I stayed hidden behind the pillar, but he shaded his eyes, looking at every part of the audience asking again for me to make myself known, at that point my friend waved his arms around to get Gene?s attention and yelled "she?s here!" Of course everyone turned round to look at us - I mean how embarrassing is that? Well - it was going to get a heck of a lot more embarrassing! Gene insisted that I came down to the stage to see him, he said he had something for me. It was an awful long way down to that stage, but I didn?t have a lot of choice, the usherette came to the end of the row and I had to get up and squeeze past all the others on my row before making the descent down two flights of stairs - there was an usherette at the top of each one to show me the way down, then another one at the back of the theatre motioning me to take that long walk through the auditorium to the stage, walking down that slope in high heels with my knees like jelly was difficult enough, but apparently I wasn?t make the journey fast enough as the drummer started to play a brisk march in an attempt to get me to quicken my steps lol!

Gene beckoned me up onto the stage, he told me I hadn?t changed a bit - yeah right! I was now in my fifties and he hadn?t seen me since I was in my twenties! I couldn?t be sure that he really remembered me, after all, he must have met a million trillion girls from all over the world in the last 30 years - I was just one of them. He gave me a kiss on both cheeks then motioned for me to do the same, he gave me a quick hug and whispered " Just like old times eh?" I had to concede that perhaps he DID remember me after all, maybe the photos had triggered a few distant memories. He returned the photographs to me, asking if I would send him copies, these were copies, but never mind, it was a reason to write to him again ;-)

The local newspaper got wind of this incident and came to interview me lol! It turned out that the mother of the young reporter was a big Gene Pitney fan, and wanted to know all I knew about him!

Then more recently, someone I knew was involved in a nostalgia radio show for BBC Radio, and he asked me if I was still in touch with any of the pop stars* from the old days as he wanted them to be interviewed for this program. I found Gene via his website and he agreed immediately to take part. His friend Dave, who ran the website was interested in how I knew Gene, and I gave him a brief run down and emailed the photos I?d promised to send Gene a few years earlier. "My, what a cute couple you make" was his response, after he?d received them lol!

A while ago, I saw in my monthly magazine that they were looking for stories about kindly deeds by famous people, I immediately thought about Gene and his kindness to those three young fans. I wrote to the magazine with my story and sent the photo I?d taken of Gene at my switchboard. I didn?t hear anymore and forgot all about it, until one day, about a year later, I was flicking through the magazine when suddenly I saw this very familiar photograph - they had finally got around to printing my story!

*I I decided to try to track down Craig Douglas for this programme, but couldn?t find anything on the web that might lead me to him. The next person who I thought might be willing to take part was Dave Berry (Little Things, The Crying Game) who was from my home town and who I knew very well, I?d started his first fan club for him. We had met up again when he too, had come to do a gig nearby, after a break of far too many years, and had stayed in touch, so I was able to contact him without any trouble, he was also able to tell me how to get in touch with Craig. It took a few missed phone calls, but eventually I found a message from Craig on my answer phone, it was really great talking to him after all these years, and he too, was happy to take part in the radio programme - job done lol!

Sunday, 20 February 2005

Messing around with photos

My scanner has been out of commission for so long that now I'm working overtime on it - I'd quite forgotten what fun uploading and editing photos can be.  So here's some I've been playing around with.


Saturday, 19 February 2005

A Strange Romance lol!

On one of Gene’s visits to Stratters, he brought a young friend with him. Francis was on sabbatical from his studies as a psychiatrist, and came from Gene’s home town. It must have been quite a holiday for this quiet, bespectacled young man, touring with Gene. As he was a friend of Gene’s, I would smile politely and say hello whenever I saw him, but he kept very much in the back ground, whenever Gene came in the switch room to say hello/goodbye and give me a friendly kiss on the cheek, Francis would wait outside. He came and went quietly, and to be honest, I barely noticed him. Except that Gene would use him to wind me up, they had rooms next to each other, but were forever in each other’s rooms and were determined that I shouldn’t know which one of them I was speaking to - between them, they had me tied up in knots!

Gene invited me to one of his shows just outside of London and the three of us travelled down together. It was rather nice being sandwiched between these two nice young men, I found that Francis had the same cookie humour as Gene and we got to know each other a lot better on that short journey. Francis and I watched the show from the side of the stage, we stood companionably in the wings, enjoying the feel-good factor that Gene always generated in his audience. Gene came to join us in his dressing room during the interval before leaving us alone together, to go and sign autographs. I was wearing a woollen coat that I’d knitted myself, and Francis said how much he liked it, he said other nice things too before Gene came back. Francis told Gene that I’d knitted my coat and immediately he asked if I’d knit him a sweater! Francis looked a bit put out - "Aw, I was going to ask her that" he complained..

We went back to the wings to watch Gene in the second half of the show, after a while I realised that Francis seemed to be standing very, very close to me - you might say ‘invading my air space’. I turned to look at him and found him staring down at me - he wasn’t wearing the ‘Michael Caine’ horn-rimmed specs and as I gazed up at him, realised that he was actually quite a handsome guy and then something very strange happened - I felt my heart pounding like a drum, it was one of those ‘sudden realisation’ moments, we stood like that for a while, until we realised that Gene was coming off stage. Francis held my arm tightly as we made our way back to the dressing room. Gene must have felt the electricity crackling between us because hetook one look at us and decided he was going to sign a few more autographs. Francis and I used the opportunity to - er hum - get to know each other a bit better ;-)

Francis held my hand very tightly on the way back to London, and Gene was holding the other one, but in much more casual manner lol! They dropped me off at Ashley Court, Gene gave me a friendly kiss goodnight, but Francis got out of the car and walked me to the door of Ashley Court and gave me a passionate goodnight kiss. I went to bed that night feeling rather baffled by this unforeseen turn of events. I was on the late shift the next day, and hadn?t been in the switchroom long before Francis popped his head round the door, seeing that I was alone, he came in and shut the door. He sat on the chair next to me, with a look on his face that was asking had last night really happened? He kissed me - just to check, I think, then feeling more confident, kissed me again. He said it was such a shame that we had only got together now as Gene?s tour of the UK was at an end and they were both about to go back home, but he asked me if I would go with them to the airport to see them off.

On the day they were due to depart I met them at the hotel, there was also another young lady there who was going to drive us all to the airport, I thought I detected a slight sense of surprise when she saw that I was included in the party. Gene introduced us, telling me that she was the wife of Gerry Bron, his record producer (Gerry Bron was also the brother of actress Eleanor Bron). I wished that Francis and I could have spent a little time alone, but it wasn?t going to happen. When it was time to catch their flight, Gene gave me a big hug and a kiss, then led Mrs Bron away so as to give Francis and I just a small moment in which to say goodbye - bearing in mind that the others were only a few feet away lol! - we gave each other a big hug and a nice long kiss, Francis made me promise to write to him, saying he?d write as soon as he got home.

On the journey back from the airport, Mrs. Bron asked me how well I knew the boys, I told her that I?d known Gene for a while but I had only just met Francis. She told me not to get too attached to either of them as they were both in steady relationships and Gene was even on the point of getting engaged. This information didn?t bother me too much, I doubted I would ever see Francis again - it had to have been the quickest flash in the pan ?romance? on record! I re-assured her that we were just friends. And I was happy to be just be friends with Gene, admittedly we had a touchy-feely relationship, but Gene?s girlfriend had no reason for concern!

In fact I was the one who wrote as soon as I got home - and Francis replied quite quickly, I enjoyed his letters, they showed a different side to the quiet young man I?d barely got to know. He wrote in a confident, amusing style, and I wished I?d been able to get to know that side of him. Inevitably of course, our letters became few and far between until they dried up altogether, but I still saw Gene when he came to England and I would ask him to remember me to Francis if he should see him again, as he was now back at University.

But Gene?s friends weren?t always so nice - I always found it odd that he should be such good friends with the Rolling Stones when their attitude was in complete contrast to Gene?s....

Next ....The Rolling Stones and a strange metamorphosis........

Monday, 14 February 2005

Gene's Amazing Generosity

As I have already mentioned, Gene always had time for his fans - if anyone has ever been to one his concerts - you’ll know what I mean. His concerts are like a private party for friends - there is such a rapport between Gene and the audience. Some fans will travel from town to town, trying to attend as many of his concerts as possible. There is a genuine admiration and respect for Gene, and as I got to know him, I could understand why.

I never could understand why celebs stayed at Stratters, it was large and ideally located on Oxford Street, but hardly the last word in luxury. Gene was a millionaire and could afford to stay at the best hotels and yet he chose Stratters, and for the most part, even stayed in the smallest room - the one we kept in reserve for staff who had to stay overnight. Gene had a permanent booking at Stratters, and no matter how busy London might be - there were occasions when every hotel in London would be filled to the rafters, but there would always be a room for Gene at Stratters - even if it was the smallest lol! Eventually I discovered that Stratters had a contract with The Frankly Boyd Agency, a show biz Agency that made all the arrangement for visiting celebs. So it wasn’t really a case of any of them choosing to stay at Stratters, they were booked in there by the Agency, of course they could leave if they didn’t like it - but Gene just happened to like staying here. He was basically just an ordinary guy - so an ordinary hotel just suited him fine.

Amongst the other celebs who stayed at Stratters were film star Dean Stockwell - nice but slightly weird lol! American pop singer Johnny Thunder - lovely guy, The Rolling Stones - more of them later >:( grrrrr. As already mentioned - the gorgeously yummy Richard Beymer, Freddy Cannon - American pop star and Wes Farrell - song writer, Wes was a great looking guy and really nice, Freddie was a loud mouthed big head - the absolute antithesis to Gene, Little Richard - lovely well-mannered guy. Johnny Burnette - American pop singer, David Whitfield- famous UK singer of the 50's, Ketty Lester (her classic hit ‘Lover Letters Straight From the Heart’ always a great favourite of mine), Big Dee Irwin, Del Shannon. And when I first went to work at Stratters - almost all the contestants for the Eurovision Song Contest, which was being held in GB that year. There would be a constant stream of others popping in to see whichever celeb was staying at Stratters. Craig told me that he?d popped in to see Freddie Cannon in the early hours of the morning (best time to miss me Craig lol!) And apparently Mike Hurst DID pop in to see Gene, but not whilst I was on duty - we never did meet up again.

What could have been the ground floor frontage on Oxford Street to Stratters, was, in fact, taken up by Dolcis shoe shop, the entrance to the hotel was down a narrow side street, so I often wondered how the fans ever found it, or indeed, how they found out that Gene was in town, as he often came privately on business. But no sooner was he in town than fans would gather outside the hotel, hoping to catch him as he came and went. On one occasion, three young fans turned up one weekend, but Gene was away for the day, the fans came and went throughout the day, as no one could be sure when he would be back. When the weather turned bad, Mitch, the Head Porter, invited them to sit in the hotel, but as soon as it cleared up, they were shoo-ed out again. Gene finally arrived back at midnight, and the fans were still there! I?d left a note for Gene telling him about them and asking if he would leave signed photos that I could pass on, assuming they would be back the next day. The nightporter told Gene that the fans had been waiting for him all day, so Gene had them put up in the hotel for the night - at his own expense, and made sure they had everything they needed.

I heard all about this when I came in to work the next morning. Gene came to see me later and told me that he had arranged for the three to see his concert that evening, and would I ?chaperone? them. I was delighted to do this, I was touched by how overwhelmed the three fans were by it all and was pleased to act as ?mother? lol!

We travelled by coach down to the theatre and went back stage to see Gene in his dressing room. The fans were taken to seats right in front of the stage and I watched the show from the wings, where I was also able to keep an eye on them. It was the first Gene Pitney Concert I had been to, and it was quite a revelation. In between singing, Gene would sit on a high stool in the middle of the stage and read out letters he?d been sent by the fans, there would be squeaks of joy as the name of someone in the audience was mentioned. He?d ask them to identify themselves, then he?d speak directly to that person. There?d be a question and answer session and he?d also sing requests. Gene genuinely held his fans in great regard.

During the interval we all chatted in Gene?s dressing room, and the three fans came round to see him after the show. Then we all caught the coach back to London, the thee fans clutching large signed photographs of Gene, and taking home wonderful memories of their favourite pop star. A Star indeed, Gene. Mwah!

Saturday, 12 February 2005

Info on Gene Pitney

Gene Pitney was born on 17th February 1941 (his 64th birthday is next Thursday!)

He wrote his first recording "I Wanna Love My Life away" which entered the US Top Forty.

He has also written other artist’s biggest hits:-

The Christals - He’s A Rebel

Bobby Vee’s - Rubber Ball

Ricky Nelson’s Hello Mary Lou

He is remembered mostly for his recording of Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa, perhaps because it was his first UK Top Ten hit.

But other singles which reached higher placings in the UK Charts are:

I’m Gonna Be Strong - 1964 - No. 2

Looking Through the Eyes of Love - 1965 - No.3

Backstage - 1966 - No. 4

Nobody Need Your Love - 1966 - No. 2

He has had 5 million selling singles worldwide.

Url to Gene’s website where you can listen to all of his music

Thursday, 10 February 2005

The Way We Were - Gene Pitney


I’m so glad to have found some fellow Gene Pitney fans, as after telling you how I first met him, all kinds of great memories have come flooding back which I would love to share with you.

Gene had a really wacky sense of humour, and there was never a dull moment when he was staying at Stratters. He loved those silly ‘electric plumb’ jokes that circulated during the Sixties - unfortunately I can’t remember any, so if anyone else can - I’d love to hear them again. Gene’s way of telling a joke cracked me up as much as the joke itself. He’d start out by saying "Freda, I wonder if you could tell me something?" " Yes?" I’d respond, all eager to be able to help him in some way, " How can you tell when there’s been an elephant in the fridge?" barely stifled laughter as his question sinks in. " I don’t know Gene, how CAN you tell when there’s been an elephant in the fridge?" " He left his footprints in the butter - ba boom!" Oh yes, the old ones are the best - but these silly jokes were quite new then, and it was great to get a reaction from someone who’d never heard them before - and Gene professed to know ‘em all - so began the search to find a joke he didn’t know. Gene also loved to play tricks on me, for instance, he would ring in from outside the hotel and, disguising his voice, ask to speak to Gene Pitney, when I’d say he was out and could I take a message, he’d proceed to give me this long and convoluted message that didn’t make any sense, then, speaking in his normal voice, he’d say " Now you will make sure I get that message, won’t you Freda!" He got one over on me so many times that finally I decided it was major payback time, and I enlisted my friend Jenny to come up with something really good.

I made quite a few new friends, thanks to Gene. There was one young man called Dennis, who came to interview Gene for his local newspaper, Dennis was on the fringe of the entertainment world, in that he was Entertainments Officer for Lewisham Town Hall, part-time DJ and wrote a music column for a local paper. We spoke several times on the phone when he rang Gene, then one day he came in to see Gene and popped his head round the door of the switchroom to say hello. We became good friends after that, and sometimes went out socially - well, you can’t turn down an invite to the Lord Mayor’s Ball, can you? Anyway, I told Dennis about our plan to play a prank on Gene, and he wanted to be part of it, which turned out to be quite useful inthe circumstances, as Dennis was one of those rare young people who had a car. Knowing how accommodating Gene was with his fans - he never refused to see or speak to any of them who rang or waited outside the hotel for him, I knew he wouldn?t refuse to do an interview. Gene was in Oxford for a few days, so we arranged that Jenny should ring him at his hotel and ask if he would agree to give an interview to one of the students for their University Rag. Of course he agreed. The plan was for me to dress up as student lol - or at least our idea of how a university student might look - although I think we may have overdone it a tad :-/

Jenny?s brother lent me his duffle coat, which was about 2 sizes too big, Dennis came up with an outsize pair of dark glasses, which concealed most of my face - good , we thought. Jenny lent me her black leather ?John Lennon? cap (remember those?) to hide all my hair, but it wasn?t really capacious enough and it seemed to sit on top of my head, there was no way I could keep my long fringe inside it. Finally I wore my black leather boots and my shiny black ski pants. Originally, we?d hoped to disguise my gender, as Jenny had just said ?a student called ?Kim?, would be interviewing him, but that became too difficult. A rare sight I must have looked, so just as well Jenny and I didn?t have to go by train!

We couldn?t set out until Jenny and Dennis had finished work, and then it took ages to get there as we kept getting lost, we arrived at the theatre just as the show was ending. It didn?t seem as though there would be any chance of getting through the stagedoor, there were hoards of screaming fans blocking our way. Dennis, brave man, fought his way through and somehow managed to get in the stage door. As luck would have it, the ?roadie? for Gene?s show turned out to be an old school mate of Dennis?s, and he came out with Dennis to help fight our way through the fans. It was pretty nasty, I can tell you - giving birth? Pulling teeth? Sticking pins in my eyes? Far less scary than taking on Gene?s fans! Because I was dressed so strangely, the fans got the impression that I must be ?somebody?? and tried to snatch at my hat and glasses - I was never so grateful to get through the crack that the stage doorman allowed us to slip through. He slammed the door shut against the fans who hammered on it demanding to be let in too.

Stuart, the roadie, didn?t have a clue what was going on, he led us to Gene? dressing room and I heard him saying to Gene, "my mate Dennis has come to see you and he?s got a strange German bird with him". Strange German bird!!! Strange, perhaps, but German? Lol! I confess to feeling rather foolish standing there, in Gene?s dressing room, he was sitting down, but jumped up and came to peer at me, in an instant he?d whipped off my cap and glasses and declared that he?s known it was me a straight away - oh poo :-(

He said that I?d have to get up very early in the morning if I wanted to fool him - but didn?t think I?d ever succeed! For once Gene wasn?t going to sign autographs at the stage door - a wise decision - instead, we all went out of the main entrance of the theatre, just as if we were part of the audience, and walked down the street to Gene?s hotel which was close by. Only a few fans followed us and recognised Gene. We went into his hotel and thankfully the fans stayed outside. We sat in the enormous lounge, Mike Hurst of The Springfields, joined us, on the other side of the lounge sat Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. Gene called over to ?Chilla? as he called her, to come and join us but the group decided to stay on their side of the lounge. We had coffee and sandwiches and a jolly good laugh, both Gene and Mike said how much they liked my shiny black ski pants and wanted me to stand on the coffee table so that they could get a better view of them lol! Needless to say, I declined. It was 2.30 am before we finally said we had to go, poor Dennis had to drive all the way back and get up for work in the morning, as did Jenny - only I was going to get a lie-in. Mike and Gene came with us to where Dennis had parked the car, they both gave Jenny and I quite passionate kisses - Dennis had to do with a hand shake Lol! Mike said he would be popping into Stratters to see Gene and would pop in to see me too, and that perhaps we could go out some time. Well, Mike was tall, dark and handsome - why not?

next - Gene's amazing generosity

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

The Way We Were - After the Holiday

I’ve now Received two tickets for the Holiday Reunion Dinner Dance. Assuming mum would want to come I rang her to let her know that it will be on Saturday October 5th, she says she will be away that weekend on a mini-holiday break - restrained whoop of joy lol - she says I could always take Eugen - gosh - hadn’t thought of that!! I lost no time in asking him if he would like to go - never one to give a straight answer, he says he’ll let me know, but says it sounds like fun.

Yay - Eugen IS coming to the dinner dance with me!

We had a lovely time, Eugen looked gorgeous in the smart suit he wore when we went on our disastrous date. I felt very proud with this smart handsome man on my arm, and the fact that he could converse with the Granbichler family in their own language. We had a typical Austrian meal of Vienna schnitzel, which I enjoyed, it was only when I discovered some years later how veal was produced that put me off ever eating it again :-(

Eugen came back to Ashley Court afterwards for coffee and I showed him my holiday photographs, eventually he said it was time to go and he bent down to give me a goodnight kiss.........He finally left at 2.30am..........His kisses may have become more ardent - and all the more enjoyable - but it never went beyond that.

As an eighteen year old, I had a great pash on British Pop Star - Craig Douglas. Back in the late Fifties - early Sixties, Craig had great chart success - his two most popular hits were ‘Only Sixteen’ and ‘Teenager in Love’. I became his fan club secretary for the North of England and of course, met him many times. We met up again shortly after I went to work in London, his manager’s offices were just a short distance away from Ashley Court, as was Craig’s flat, so we often met by chance. Just a few days after the Dinner Dance, Craig was appearing in a pop show to which I had tickets, and I asked Eugen if he would like to go with me. I’d spoken often of Craig, and Eugen was curious enough to want to meet him, so he was happy to come with me - on the promise that I would introduce him to Craig. I noted in my diary that it was a most enjoyable show - but not who else was on the bill with Craig :-(

I knew that the performers all went to The Sherlock, a pub near the theatre, so that’s where we made for after the show. And sure enough, Craig came in whilst we were at the bar ordering our drinks, I turned round to say hullo, and to give him his due, Craig was always friendly and polite - even though he must often have thought "my god - that female is everywhere!" I introduced him to Eugen, and seeing them both together, suddenly realised just how much alike they were......

Eugen was very pleased to have met him and intended telling is family about the meeting - apparently Craig was very popular in Switzerland too! Afterwards, Eugen and I went back to Ashley Court for coffee and another smoochy evening lol!

There will be so many changes during the coming months - events took us all by surprise, and I look back now and smile at how things turned out. I?ve concentrated mainly on anything to do with Eugen - after all, he was the cynosure of my life - but there were parallel events which I feel I must go into, to make more sense of what happens next.

In my first job at The Grand Hotel, in Sheffield, I met Lorna - my fellow lift girl, we became firm friends and would spend as much time together socially as working on opposite shifts allowed! We also lived two bus rides away from each other - a total journey of about 11/2 to 2hrs - but it didn?t bother us too much. Lorna had been to see a film called Town Without Pity, and couldn?t wait to tell me about the sound track, she?d gone out the very next day and bought the record of Gene Pitney singing the title track and she wanted me to go over and listen to it - the long journey was worth it - we played it over and over again lol! We also like the photo on the sleeve of the dark haired young singer........

When I first went to work at Stratters, and mentioned that I liked Gene Pitney - I was still buying his records - the Head Porter said nonchalantly - "oh he stays here quite a lot", Yeah right! I thought, did he really think I was going to fall for that? Then one day I went into work to be greeted by the porter with - "well he?s here". I hadn?t a clue what he was talking about - my head was always full of Eugen and I assumed he was referring to him. My fellow telephonist, Dottie, told me that there were some Americans in who were making a lot of phone calls, but they were really nice and kept apologising for keeping the telephonists so busy. She was right - the phone calls came thick and fast, and I loved their American drawl and the way they called us ?ma?am? and said please and thank you at the beginning and end of every sentence! I asked Eugen who they were - it sounded so funny hearing him trying to say ?Gene Pitney? in his lovely Swiss accent. I didn?t believe him - it was obvious he was in on the joke - even if he didn?t quite understand it!

But as I was on my way up to the ladies on the mezzanine floor, I met a young man coming down who was the spitting image of the dark haired young man on the cover of my record of Town Without Pity. It was indeed Gene Pitney! I was surprised to find that the porters, just for a change, weren?t winding me up, never at a loss for words, I said hullo, and told him about the ?joke?. "Ah - so you?re the young lady that we?ve been keeping so busy", he smiled apologetically - believe me - we became friends in an instant! After that first meeting, he rang down often just to chat to me and often popped his head around the switchroom door to say hello or goodbye. He came to stay often at Stratters and our friendship developed in leaps and bounds, I was proud that he trusted me to do things for him, he?d often ring in with messages for me to pass onto his friends and business associates. And he would pop into the switch room to tell me of his itinerary for that particular visit. Gene was a very astute business man as well as a pop singer and was often in London on business, as well as when he was here touring or appearing on TV shows. He was the most unaffected young man I?d ever met, considering he was a big American Pop Star, and was rapidly becoming very big over here. He told me on one of his visits that he was here to promote his latest record ?24 Hours from Tulsa?, and he sang it over the phone to me. I loved everything that Gene sang because he had such a unique voice, and said yes of course it is going to be a big hit and it was, it is probably the one that everyone remembers him for, although it only went to number 5 in the charts and he had hits that went higher than that, which people don?t seem to remember so well. The trouble was, it became so well played over the years that it is now far from being my favourite track!

The proof that Gene really was an exceptionally nice guy, was that even the porters liked him - and as a rule of thumb - they refused to like anybody!

Next - Time to say goodbye...............

Sunday, 6 February 2005

more of Holiday

I've added a bit more to my Holiday journal as well as a few photos, cross with myself that I can't find the one taken with the border guards - and so many photos to search through lol!  Think I may actually have some in colour too!

Saturday, 5 February 2005

Photos added to my journals

At last - got my scanner sorted out and added photos to some of my old journals - not too expert at this and have found that I've added the same one twice in the Rye journal - can't  see a way of deleting just one photo - can anyone help please?