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Friday, 26 September 2008

Wickered

I came across my old autograph album when I was straightening the study a couple of weeks ago. Back when I was a child I used to study the end credits of my favourite shows and write to the stars at the addresses of the TV studios.

It's not a huge collection. Getting autographs was a very hit and miss affair in those days. Now it’s an entire industry with a lot of fakery involved. But back then you sent your letter and then maybe you’d hear back six months later or maybe you wouldn’t.

My first was Roger Moore, a lovely colour postcard with a genuine signature. It’s got the spit smear where I tested it because I couldn’t quite believe it was real.

Others followed. Flicking through the album now, it's like a mosaic of my dream life at the time. Richard Bradford, Patrick Troughton, Marshall Thompson, Steve Forrest, Lawrence Payne and Roger Foss from Sexton Blake. Christopher Lee. A lovely picture and a typed postcard from Peter Cushing, and a super 8 x 10 and a personal letter from Callan star Edward Woodward.

Callan was possibly the finest popular TV drama of its era, and one of the least well-remembered because it was made on tape, not film. What survives of the show is really just archive material, below what's generally considered to be commercial quality. I know there was a movie, but that isn't the same. Callan nailed the intimacy of the TV medium.

Years later a friend of mine was producing a film in which Woodward was appearing, and I asked if he would do me a favour and pass along a signed copy of Down River with a little note, along the lines of “you won’t remember this, but years ago...” And I think I even included a photocopy of his original letter to me.

My basic message was, “You showed me how a public figure ought to behave, and I’ve tried to follow your example” And I signed the book “To Edward Woodward, still my hero”.

Got another note back from him, saying how delighted he was.

And, you know? I was eleven years old all over again.

8 comments:

Lee Goldberg said...

Callan was an amazing series that doesn't get the recognition or acclaim it deserves in the UK or here in the states.

Stephen Gallagher said...

How did you get to know about it, Lee? I didn't think that taped British drama of the 60s got much (if any) exposure in the US. One of the later colour seasons has been released on DVD but what survives of the earlier, definitive monochrome seasons remains unreleased (unless you count that guy who bootlegs expensive copies on eBay).

Caroline said...

Hey, Steve, what an amazing autograph collection. As you know, I know a little about autographs, and, believe me, you've got some valuable ones there - Pat Troughton, Chris Lee, Peter Cushing - wow!

If you ever want to sell the album, make sure it gets valued by a proper dealer or sold at auction - none of that eBay nonsense as you'll get little for it there. Too many fakes around nowadays for anyone to sell genuine autographs on eBay.

But if you can get that "eleven years old again" feeling, I reckon you'll be hanging on to it anyway! :-)
Caroline Callaghan

Gail Renard said...

Honestly, Stephen, we're identical twins separated at birth. In my humble collection, I also have a letter and photo from Patrick Macnee (in his Avengers days) who taught me a great lesson, "If you have to write, you will." He was right.

I was proud that most BBC series I wrote had photos to send to kids who wrote in... and I was appalled when the BBC stopped, as part of their cost cutting exercises. Who can put a price on an 11 year old, or anyone, learning that some of their dreams can come true?

Good Dog said...

i think that says something about the starts of yesteryear - if that's not an impolite way of describing them.

With the various filming encounters I've had, actors who first made it big in the 1960s or 1970s came across as well balanced and courteous folk, with their heads screwed on and in touch with the world. They were great in front of the camera and very interesting folk to talk with afterwards.

Then we worked with actresses who appeared on screen in the 80s and 90s and... they were pretty nightmarish, like Norma Desmonds in waiting.

Shame really.

wcdixon said...

That's so cool.

Jay said...

What a strange coincidence! I've just ordered and received the first four of the five Callan novels James Mitchell wrote, and here you are talking about the show! Sorry not to see you at FantasyCon this year, by the way.

Stephen Gallagher said...

I'd every intention of making it to Fantasycon, but I was wrapping up hours 12 and 13 of Crusoe to start shooting on the following Tuesday, which left me with no wriggle room at all. So my absence was entirely unavoidable and essentially involuntary.

So we swing our sights to 2009...