Monday, 5 December 2016

Attic Foray No.3

I did think of calling this Attic Foray No.2 Part 2, but a bit pedantic, even if the majority of stuff in this article came from my previous incursion into the dark and slightly dusty hole that is my attic. There has been another incursion though, as Miss Franny raised an eyebrow at me and mentioned it was now December and could I bring "the tree" down... The tree and boxes of adornments was duly brought down with a couple of other bits which will be included below. Then I spent a day on Sunday playing 78 rpm records before moving the record player to make way for said tree, which turns out to be too big to sit on top of the table that the record player sat on so now I'm tasked with buying a new tree...

I did mention last time that I'd brought down a folder or two containing cuttings from magazines such as TV and photography magazines. These would have been destined for pasting into scrapbooks, but they obviously never made it that far. Which is good because some of the pages had interesting things on what I obviously thought of at the time as the reverse side. Here's Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as agents Mulder and Scully from the excellent The X-Files TV series of the 1990s.

One of the reverse side lucky finds - how many remember the witty goldfish adverts of the satellite channel Bravo?

Friends was another of those TV series that we watched pretty much from the beginning right through its full ten-year stretch. A remarkable achievement made possible by some very witty scripts and one or two rather attractive main players... Bits I still can remember now, not having watched it for ages, are Joey and Chandler's duck and chicken, Ross and Monica's occasional throwbacks to their childhood antics - Monica banging her wrists together twice to the obvious enragement of Ross was a brilliant moment - and Rachel's... er... Rachel's... well alright... Jennifer Aniston...!

This was a reminder of a somewhat obscure series - Models Inc. which was a glossy 90210-style look at the lives of photographic models, photographers and make-up artists who worked for the agency known as Models Inc. Linda Gray, fairly fresh from playing Sue-Ellen in Dallas was the agency's boss lady.

Xena Warrior Princess. To this day I've not watched a single episode. It was on the back of another pic.

He was one of TV's most loved comics and yet, such is the fickle way of time, there will now be people who watched him avidly who will look at this photo and say "I never liked him, he was creepy..." Benny Hill was a brilliant comedian in an era before political correctness.

Very occasionally and well before 3D TVs came along, the BBC would show a 3D film and would give away red and green tinted cardboard spectacles with the week's Radio Times. This shows an American audience reacting to the 3D effect of something flying at them out of the screen.

Amongst the forgotten things lying in my attic were the three volumes of J.R.R. Tolkein's ground-breaking novel Lord of The Rings. This is the 1979 paperback edition from Unwin. Ages since I read them, but the films of Peter Jackson were so good, that a re-watch might suffice! I still have tons of reading material that has not been previously read!

Far too many of my collection of photography magazines from the 1980s and 90s have been chucked away. All I have managed to find are one or two books and a few assorted pages torn from them, either photos I liked or articles that were interesting enough to read again or refer to for techniques. I was a professional photographer for a few years at the start of my working life and spent much of the 1980s freelancing to various magazines both in the UK and abroad.

Whilst topless shots did feature in photography magazines from time to time, their glamour supplements or issues had far more of this type of image than anything more blatant. Ah, the days of studio lighting and backdrops... Though the closest I ever got to exotic locations was doing an advertising shoot for the local Odeon who were showing a retro 1950s sci-fi programme. The location was the exterior of the said Odeon...

And I found a box of half a dozen VHS tapes... I don't believe I'll bother finding a player to watch them on...

Friday, 2 December 2016

Attic Foray No.2

Somewhere around six weeks ago I published the first in an occasional series about stuff from my attic. I knew from that first adventure up through the Trapdoor of Wonderment (thank Heavens it didn't turn out to be the half-feared Trapdoor of Wasps' Nest...) that there was enough rubbish - whoops, sorry - enough memorabilia up there to warrant many more articles and much more excitement. So here is the long (well... six weeks...) anticipated second foray! This time I came back down the loft ladder with a couple of folders of ephemera and scrap books and many magazine pages torn from the likes of TV magazines, photography magazines and other assorted geeky stuff...

These days we all have digital cameras - either lumped in with a phone (why do we still call them that because it seems to be the least thing we use them for...?) or a digital SLR or anything in-between. It costs absolutely nothing, once the camera is in our possession, to take photos and the resulting lack of discipline or selective photography has flooded the world with images. My first item in this article is a film envelope from York Photo Labs. Dating only from around 1996-1998 it's purpose was for mailing your exposed film (i.e. one that you had already run through your camera) to the laboratory that would process the film and then print the photos from it. You would eventually receive back 24 or 36 photos which probably would take a couple of weeks.

The cost of standard prints which were six inches by four inches in size was £2.55 for a 24 exposure film or £3.55 for a 36 exposure film. So roughly 10 pence per photo subject to 20 years of inflation. It doesn't sound an awful lot, but I know at least one person who takes a couple of thousand during a week's holiday and a few others who take lots of photos every single day. If your photography was to add a cost of an extra £200 to your holiday (should we double that for 20 years' inflation?) I bet you would start to think a bit harder about shooting everything you saw!

During the 1980s I was a regular contributor to The Lancashire Magazine and during research for one article had visited the factory of TVR the sports car manufacturers whose factory was a mere ten minutes walk from my home. In 1994 they sent me a brochure of their cars, presumably coming across my name in a random sort through of their contacts lists. This is the 1994 TVR Chimaera.

This rather spiffing form of transport came with a choice of three different engines from four to five litres, but I feel it would be stingy to go for anything less that the top of the range so the 5.0 litre version rolled out of the factory with your name on it for just £32,995.00. Given the price of cars these days it sounds a bargain... It's the details of the specifications that remind us how car manufacturing has advanced since those days. Although they came as standard equipment, the company thought these sufficiently drool-worthy to mention specifically: alloy wheels, electric windows (!! when did you last have to wind down a car window with a little lever winder on the door?), removeable radio cassette, central locking and alarm system. Both power assisted steering and air conditioning were optional extras for extra cost at this point. I'd still have liked one though...

Theatre programs, flyers and souvenirs rarely include the year and this is no exception. Trevor Payne's wonderful show That'll Be The Day had started out in 1987 and had been going for over ten years by the time of this programme which I guess dates from 1998 or 1999. We started going to see this show every opportunity we got from the early days in the late 1980s and it was refreshed with new songs and every now and then some new personnel so that it was never too predictable or familiar. With comedy routines and lots of costume changes it was an absolute joy to watch.

Well, look at that! An issue of Film Review from outside my main buying period of 1977 to 1980. I had a bit of a crush on Barbara Carrera if truth be known and this could be why I bought this particular issue. One of only two issues outside the four years collection. The other earlier one features Ingrid Pitt...!

The official 114 page souvenir of Episode 1 of Star Wars, The Phantom Menace. It has photos galore, interviews with the stars, adverts for enough promotional tie-in toys, garments and gizmos to fill your entire mansion (a mere house would not be big enough...) On the downside of course is Jar Jar Binks...

The Complete James Bond Poster Collection. Well... it's complete up to and including Tomorrow Never Dies. So dating from 1997/98 at a guess - as does pretty much most of the things in the folder. It's probably been almost that long since they saw the light of day to be honest... Measuring a generous 12 x 9 inches this presumably came free with a magazine, possibly Empire but I stand ready to be corrected. Each poster has an inset photo of the relevant film's main Bond Girl.

A souvenir booklet for Manchester Museum. This particular establishment was just up the road from my college, the John Dalton College in Manchester, then part of Manchester Polytechnic. I'd tell you all about my course, but I dropped out, like... man...

The Borgias. This was a BBC production from 1981 and is the first of a whole heap of cuttings from TV magazines. It dates from 1981 - the series starred Adolfo Celi in the lead role of Rodrigo Borgia and his heavy accent caused the BBC to be inundated with complaints. The series was never repeated hence, this was chopped from the Radio Times in 1981, 35 years ago! Adolfo Celi is perhaps more fondly remembered as the villain in the fourth James Bond outing: Thunderball.

Mary Stavin was crowned Miss World in 1977. Later linked with the irrepressible George Best and appeared in a few films too.

Lastly for this time, I'm not sure when this dates from, but it probably came from a TV magazine again and as far as I remember it's a long time since Cliff Richard with Richard O'Sullivan and Melvyn Hayes were on TV in the film Wonderful Life.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Trip To Bury Market

Yesterday we had a day out to Bury Market. It's a long, long (very long) time since we last went to Bury and the size of the market there takes the occasional or new visitor a bit by surprise. It is huge! There are rows and rows of market stalls selling everything from sweets to food of every kind and from material and sewing thread to gowns and evening wear. If you are looking for cheap entertainment items there are stalls with both new and second hand books and DVDs. Hidden amongst all these rows of delights are small, sometimes tiny cafes with a few tables where people sit cheerfully (or sometimes a little bit morosely...) nursing a mug of coffee or something to eat.

There's a meat and fish market hall that has to be seen to be believed. I had no camera with me of course - I refuse to treat my phone as a camera, it takes bloody awful photos and I hold a camera more steadily if it's jammed against my eye... So I waited until I got home and then looked for a photo on t'internet and got the coloured pencils out.

The meat and fish stalls looked wonderful and there was little smell which tells me that the fish was very fresh and had been properly looked after on stands that were well maintained and cleaned. There were other foodstuffs too that made me think of school days and had my mouth watering.

Manchester tart. Not the sort with high heels and caked-on make-up masking advancing years ("Fancy an 'orrible time, dearie?")... I put this photo on my FaceBook page last night and immediately people were drooling all over their keyboards in the rush to comment. Moya Gleave in New Zealand was the first to describe it for those southerners who had hitherto doubted its very existence. "It's a pie....Almond shortbread with raspberry jam, custard, coconut & cherries."

The cherry should be a little more prominent... We went to do the weekly shop once back in Blackpool and Miss Franny placed it in a bag under what she thought was a bag containing two iced buns. It was actually a cauliflower... Not an iced one...

And - joy of my childhood - a wimberry pie! Wimberries are like bilberries but with a much more concentrated taste. They seemed to disappear from shop shelves in the 1970s and then we had to make do with bilberries which came from Poland or Ukraine or somewhere else that was affected by the clouds bearing gifts from Chernobyl. So they disappeared too. I haven't tasted a wimberry pie for four decades, but a few minutes ago I cut into it and...

oh. my. god....... So that's the first of our weekly visits to Bury then...

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Film Review, February 1979 Issue

Come back with me now to the final year of the Seventies, decade of disco, punk and flares. It's time to get to the cinema, unfortunately just as the lights go down so we have to shuffle along a row in the dark, tripping over feet and handbags and [CRUNCH!] whoops, was that your umbrella...?

February 1979's issue of Film Review magazine is described on the cover as "a really super issue". It has Superman, supersonic spoofers, supernatural shocks, superstar Clint Eastwood and a sachet of Super Soft shampoo... er... Fran have you seen a sachet of shampoo? It seems to have become detached and lost...

On the inside front cover are a few photos of a reader who has won a Ford Mustang car in a competition. That will look good parked near the high-rise flats - well, for a good five minutes until the locals get jealous... Sadly there are no adverts at all in this issue that we have not already seen in previous articles, but the good news is that the Contents page features the gorgeous Jenny Agutter and this is just a preview for a three-page article with more pics further inside the magazine!

Christopher Reeve stars in the forthcoming Superman - The Movie and is interviewed over three pages by Dave Badger. Dave then goes on to dominate another three pages with an interview of Superman producer Ilya Salkind.

The Superman film was shot back-to-back with what would later be released as Superman II and already the article confirms there will be a Superman III. It also speculates about a Supergirl film (later to be realised with Helen Slater in the role) and (thankfully never to be seen) Krypto the Superdog...

I just do not remember ever there having been a film called A Wedding, but here it gets a two-page article. Desi Arnaz Jr and Amy Stryker play the main participants and Geraldine Chaplin, Lauren Hutton, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish and Nina Van Pallandt (but not Frederick her one-time singing partner) all have supporting roles in both film and wedding. It was a comedy apparently, the article doesn't actually make it all that clear, but I suspect it couldn't have been all that hilarious as it managed to miss my conciousness both then and now...

A short piece in Barbra Paskin's gossip column, Hollywood, tells us that Hollywood stars are going mad for a new pure silk jogging outfit, that unfortunately has a knack of disintegrating after cleaning a couple of times. Cher is amongst those who have bought one, but the photo's caption helpfully points out that she is not shown dressed for jogging...

Two pages are devoted to the new Clint Eastwood film, Every Which Way But Loose in which he stars with Clyde the orang-utan.

Whilst Clyde may be an agreeable mate, he's no substitute for a girlfriend and Philo, as Clint's character is called, woos the elusive but lovely country singer Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Sondra Locke).

A nice behind-the-scenes photo of the cast of the 1979 remake of The Lady Vanishes. I recently watched the original Hitchcock version starring Margaret Lockwood and I confess I love both versions. Cybill Shepherd is both decorous and feisty in the starring role and Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael enjoy themselves immensely as the cricket-loving English pair, appalled that a "mad American girl" should cause them to be delayed when they need to get back to England to watch a test match.

There's a generous helping of late seventies glamorous film stars in this issue and here is Goldie Hawn in a scene from her new film Foul Play. The film teams her with Chevy Chase, Dudley Moore and Burgess Meredith as they battle or hinder each other to prevent the assassination of the Pope at an opera performance.

More glamour on the centre pages with Anika Pavel and June Chadwick (below) both of whom appear in spy spoof The Golden Lady.

Regular columnist Barbra Paskin takes us on a visit to the Hollywood home of Jenny Agutter who, luckily for us, manages to get in the way as Barbra is taking photos of the house...

The Railway Children was her ninth film and came after acting additionally in four TV series (including a BBC 7-part series also based on The Railway Children). She has 111 entries on the Internet Movie Database and appeared on TV most recently in Call The Midwife and in cinemas in Tin after appearing in both Captain America - The Winter Soldier and the 2012 Avengers film as a member of the World Security Council.

Bringing my collection of glamour shots to an end for this issue is Farrah Fawcett-Majors in her first film Somebody Killed Her Husband. Like A Wedding, this is another comedy that I've never come across...

Will the March issue of Film Review re-balance the sexes with a collection of hunks (I wouldn't bet on it...) Will it provide any new 1970s-style adverts for groovy ointments to zap pimples? Should I spin-off into a separate series all about glamorous actresses of the past? I'm sure there's already a glut of those elsewhere, but you never know...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fade To Black And White

A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to move my files of film negatives and, to my dismay, as soon as I picked up a file half of the pages slipped to the floor.

The "pages" were plastic sheets, each holding seven strips of negatives. Whilst these do not get used all that much, they are still the definitive version of my early photographs and for any publication work a fresh scan is needed at high resolution.

The problem was time. Isn't it always...? But in this case it was the effects of time on thin plastic sheets bought around 35 years ago. They had degraded to the point where the punched holes for the file's ring binders just ripped out. Indeed huge chunks of plastic were breaking free at every single touch. So I've had to buy a new supply of sleeves, choosing Kenro paper sleeves this time. Whilst I had the negatives out I thought I might run a few through the scanner again.

Each time I do this I'm amazed at the leap in the quality of reproduction. When I first scanned them onto a computer it was at the size of 320x240 pixels when the entire VDU screen could squeeze no more than 800x600 pixels altogether. Photo screen savers were as yet unknown so I didn't think at the time to try scanning any larger. These days I can scan a 35mm negative up to tens of thousands of pixels. My current screen size is 1680x1050 and for reproduction a scan of over 5000 pixels is required for a sharp image. I'm amazed at people who think they can take a small image off the web and resize it, thinking that the "hidden details" will adjust the sharpness as they go along. Nooooooo!

This image was taken in 1971 from the interior of a cave on the beach outside the harbour wall at Polperro in Cornwall. Not an easy topic for a light meter to cope with...

Moving north into Devon in the same year, here is a shot taken from the top of Clovelly's main street which descends down to the beach at a gradient that taxes the back coming up and the knees going down! This was not a sunny day...!

1972 and that's me on the right on stage with the band Spiral somewhere in Oldham. At the time I was working in a photographic studio and was necessarily in trendy mode...

The year after I was working for myself and the hair had grown a bit again, before it all fell out a few years after... I'd never fit into those dark green velvet trousers these days either...

Also from 1973. Spiral it's fair to say, was not a top-earning band... When we didn't have a gig we would go out for last orders at a pub in Failsworth (between Oldham and Manchester) and as it was on a cul-de-sac, we would park near this house. It was always in darkness, unless the inhabitants only occupied the rear of the place, and we always used to joke it was haunted. We called it Terror Towers or something similarly ridiculous that would appeal to a teenage mind after a pint of Watneys Red...

In 1974 my parents moved to Blackpool to take over a small hotel on Trafalgar Road, which runs between the Promenade and Lytham Road, close to The Manchester pub. I stayed on in Rochdale for a while and came over to Blackpool for free food at weekends... This was the view of the Pleasure Beach from the South Pier in 1974. Not only is this pre-Big One roller coaster and Ocean Boulevard, it's before the Space Tower was built or the Avalanche. The old Aztec frontage to the River Caves can be seen extreme left. In front of the Big Dipper with its old spherical finial is a simple roundabout ride, dating back to the late 50s or early 60s, of space rockets that could be raised or lowered by means of a joystick in each rocket.

Circa 1976-78 this shot from the Central Pier shows Blackpool's previous sea wall and the slade used for vehicle access to the beach. The pedestrian footbridge is very new and Lewis's and Woolworth's stores bookend the Tower. Visitors are enjoying a lively sea and the beach food carts and caravans sit waiting for the tide to go out.

From the pedestrian footbridge we can look along the Promenade roadway, looking north. This was taken on August Bank Holiday Monday, 1978. The Vauxhall car in front of the bus is brand new as the T-registration only came out on the first of that month. The bus is single-decker 571 and on it's way to Manchester Square. There's a healthy crowd of visitors on the Promenade and the roadway has two lanes of traffic in each direction with room for a central refuge for crossing pedestrians.

1976 and Brush tramcar 638 turns off the Promenade to return to the Rigby Road depot along Lytham Road. A car driver is hoping the tram will let him scoot in front once the pedestrians have cleared the way. At this time no other town in England had had street trams for over twenty years and many visiting drivers had sudden panic moments as they realised that Blackpool's trams were not going to swerve away from their antics...

In 1977 riding the Grand National roller coaster meant bouncing out of your seats and holding a handrail on the back of the seat in front of you. Restraints of any kind were not thought necessary. Just to make sure however, as the coaster trains neared the top of the lift hill a recorded voice politely said: "Please... do not stand up..."

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