Thursday, 31 December 2015

Fourth 1977 Blackpool Photo Album, 2: The Golden Mile

Blackpool's Golden Mile features on today's flashback to 1977, with reminders of the Dr Who Exhibition, Lewis's department store, the building of Coral Island and the Golden Mile Centre.

I start with the Lewis's store as the only shot that is less oriented towards the holiday maker. Though it did draw them in their thousands of course. The store, which opened in 1964, is still fondly remembered in the town and added considerably to the aesthetics of the Promenade with it's turquoise tiling and backlit frontage. In 1977 it carried red, white and blue ribbons for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. It closed in 1993.

Another fine sight on the Golden Mile, though a brand new use for the building, was Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium. Celebrating the startling and freakish amongst both nature and achievement, it was fun to visit and brilliantly stand-out at night when the large signboard lit up with bright red neon. A short time later Ripley installed a glass tube that fed water from a pool below to a huge tap that, as the water cascaded from the tube seemed to be flowing from the tap. The water then obscured the pipe so that the tap seemed to be suspended on a column of falling water. It was very effective. Sadly I have no photograph of it.

An out of season shot of Ripley's, also showing the Golden Mile Centre.

This was Blackpool's first large purpose-built amusement arcade. It would eventually become Mr Bee's and today houses the Sea Life Centre.

Together with Ripley's it dominated the Central Beach area of the Golden Mile. The bright blue and yellow of the Silver Jubilee commemorative tram passes by and the two port-a-cabins towards the left are the Lost Children's Centre (white) and a first-aid post in blue. There's a Wall's ice cream kiosk on the beach and I think the other one is selling seafood type rubbish for the southern visitors...

Why anyone would eat jellied eels and whelks is beyond me, though the practice of putting unidentifiable pap on meals and sandwiches is sadly spreading northwards. When people in the south say "we'll eat out" I invariably hear it as "we'll eat owt..." The number of times I went to London for work and had to point at something on a buffet saying "what the hell is that???" doesn't bear thinking of. But for all their culinary short-comings (they seem never to have heard of a crust for instance), the people are remarkably likeable!

For a couple of years the Golden Mile Centre hosted an exhibition of models and puppets from the Gerry Anderson TV portfolio. Twizzle, Torchy the Battery Boy, Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray (Whoopee - colour!) (Waah! We still had a black and white telly!), Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space 1999... I used to go in and just lap up pleasure until it got dark and they threw me out...

An early season shot before they installed a massive and animated ogre figure over the end of this building to advertise The Horror Crypt. My goodness gracious, that steamed up a lot of people in the council who shouted their disgust and distress loud and clear, ignoring the fact that it was carrying on a great tradition of the Golden Mile. Farther into the distance are the green girders that would later hold up the roof of the new Coral Island centre, due to open in 1978.

The Devil's Den was a short-lived exhibition next door to the Brunswick which has opened a self-service fish and chip cafe. Self-service in those days meant you got a tray and slid it across rails whilst you gave your order and then waited for it to be plated before sliding the tray to the till. It wasn't too many years since this would have been unthinkable - that your order wouldn't be taken and served by a waitress in black with starched white apron. "What do I do? What do I do???" muttered people helplessly as others sat at empty tables, fuming because they had been there half an hour without anyone taking their order... The same people a few years later let food go cold in MacDonalds whilst they searched for cutlery...

The old-style open sheds full of flick-ball games, Ber-o-Mat one-armed bandits, pinball machines so old they didn't have flippers etc. were in their last throes. The old houses and hotels behind them that they were built onto had been neglected so long that they were in danger of collapsing. Nothing above ground floor level had been in use for decades.

The kiosks at the front of the arcades were the last bastions of those oh-so-scrummy hamburgers (which now had to be called beefburgers due to advertising law) which were fried on a griddle and then propped up in a row on the back of the griddle plate amongst a pile of fried onions that kept them hot. Asking for lettuce (even though it would have been lettuce and not some sort of weird-looking "salad leaf", then still correctly thought of as inedible) or pickle or a slice of tomato would have earned you guffaws of hysterics. Only recently was it becoming acceptable, though not yet the norm, to ask for a slice of cheese. You had your bun, a burger, lots of fried onions and it was normal to put ketchup or mustard or possibly both on it.

Youngsters have always wondered why old people get so grumpy. And I can now say that for every generation it's because everything that has been familiar and comfortable and good seems to get swept away by following generations. To those youngsters who read this I can say with all surety that you will feel like this yourself when you get older. Sadly though the generation between mine and yours is doing their best to ensure you will never get chance to do this yourselves because they are destroying things for you already, having got into power and now looking after their rich chums whilst dancing with their fingers in their ears in case they hear something that might prick the last remaining vestige of conscience they might have. Robin Hood, we need you back more than ever...

The other reason older people are grumpy is that it is, actually, quite good fun...

Down at Chapel Street, opposite the Central Pier. At the end of the building is an exhibition of props and costumes from Dr Who. The entrance is the Tardis itself, which can be seen halfway down the side of the building. Another of those bits of Blackpool's past that seems to be lovingly remembered. Incredibly almost, we were still only on the fourth Doctor at the time. Tom Baker played the Doctor from 1974 to 1981, lasting not quite as long as did the exhibition which lasted from 1974 to 1985.

As I write it is New Year's Eve. Tomorrow will be 2016, so a Happy New Year to all my readers! I hope it will be / is / was!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Film Review, November 1977 Issue

Here we are again, the future potential of articles set in 1977 are dwindling fast for here we are at the penultimate issue of Film Review for the year.

This month features Peter Fonda singing into a somewhat Sellotaped microphone from the film Outlaw Blues.

On the inside front cover Bacardi Rum is once again pointing out that no one under millionaire status should be thinking of drinking it as The Man From Uncle's sister leans over the back of the boat that her partner named for her. Meanwhile he maintains a tight grip on his rod whilst the hired hand who is driving the boat above them is the one guzzling down the Bacardi and wanting to get home for tea...

On the contents page the hype for the forthcoming very-first-but-to-be-relegated-to-fourth Star Wars film (no hope deemed necessary) sets into motion as robot C3-PO leaves his footmarks in cement in Hollywood. "I've just poured that!!!" screamed the driver of the cement truck...

Once started, the onslaught of blockbuster films is taking on landslide proportions. Marlon Brando and Susannah York bounce their Super-Baby prior to blowing up with the rest of planet Krypton.

Perhaps a little more lucky - though not to be guessed from his expression - Oliver Reed bounces actress Judy Buxton on his knee as they prepare to shoot Michael Winner's remake of The Big Sleep.

Oh I love this! We've not seen an advert for hi-fi equipment in Film Review up to now, but this Pioneer stacking system has everything a music lover could want. Reel-to-reel tape deck, a cassette deck, FM stereo radio receiver and a high-fidelity amplifier at the bottom. Wait...! Hang on...! Oh no! They've forgotten a record player! Doh!!! Almost as funny as their description of this as a "professional rack"...

The real-life event of Israeli commandos storming Uganda's Entebbe Airport to rescue hostages from a hijacked Air France 707 flight had already been filmed twice by Hollywood but Operation Thunderbolt (the actual code name for the Israeli raid) was the Israelis' own version of the tale.

In the photo, the terrorists, played by Sybil Danning and Klaus Kinsky, unscrew their false champagne bottles to reveal they carry grenades.

Some 27 years later I was introduced to Sybil Danning by a mutual friend and spent a delightful quarter of an hour in conversation with this witty and very sexy lady before Miss Franny grasped me lovingly by the ear and dragged me away...

The full-page glamour photo for this issue features the delectable Barbara Carrere, then appearing in The Island of Dr Moreau with Burt Lancaster and Michael York.

It really is true... You do have to be a millionaire with a yacht or boat to drink spirits!

"How many times must I tell you, R2? I can't cross this corridor because my feet are stuck in the cement!"

"Stand by for Star Wars the biggest film hit ever" shrieks the title of a two-page spread. Faced with a cast of relative unknowns, the article focusses closest on Peter Cushing's role as Moff Tarkin - in actual fact a fairly minor part as far as things go.

John Beck and Susan Sarandon star in The Other Side Of Midnight. This is described as marking the "return of the romantic melodrama" though the article goes on to quote the two leading actresses - Susan Sarandon saying "If tastefully done, I'm not against nudity... You can say sex plays a prime role in the development of the characters" whilst Marie-France Pisier who plays the scheming mistress of Beck's character who together plot the demise of his wife (Sarandon) says endearingly: "When nudity is important in the scene... I am willing to do it. And if men want to look at me with sensuality in their eyes, so be it." Darn - I never saw this film!

Our cosmetics advert from this issue shows Queens Park Rangers and England Under-23 goalkeeper Phil Parkes who has sprayed his hair with Cossack Hairspray. Good man, him... The mounted cossack waving his sword on the can could easily be mistaken for a polo player with the end dropped off his mallet and a helmet over his mullet.

As it's the November issue the articles celebrating the 50th anniversary of sound films will also soon end and this time it is the turn of horror films to undergo the retrospection. This is Laura La Plante about to have a rather disturbing moment in The Cat And The Canary. No less than five cinema versions have been made with this title and this 1927 version is the third, but the first with sound. This tale of an heiress who will only inherit if she is sane, thus prompting the rest of her family to drive her nuts, was hilariously remade in 1939 starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.

Boris Karloff is also pictured from the 1933 Frankenstein. As every film buff knows, Karloff played the monster. Frankenstein was the scientist who created him.

A drop of the old Southern Comfort on the back cover brings this issue to an end, dispelling the myth that you need a boat to enjoy a glass of spirits though sadly, even here, the possession of a large wallet would still help.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Fourth Blackpool 1977 Photo Album: 1

Another photo album full of photos taken in Blackpool in 1977. We've already seen two articles from it of the Jubilee Air Show and this time we turn to the tram tracks for my content.

I'll start with a tram that was only painted in this particular livery for just that year, 1977 being the Queen's Silver Jubilee year! Brush car 634 was chosen the previous year to be painted in a special livery to mark Blackpool Corporation's centenary anniversary and the design forms the basis of the Silver Jubilee livery.

Boat tram 605 stands temporarily empty at the Pleasure Beach loop.

The resting point between journeys also gives us another chance to admire the special livery for the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Brush car 632 on the Promenade heading north towards the Central Pier, sports a more basic and more familiar colour scheme.

And to wind up this article, a handful of photos of maintenance car 753 at Starr Gate. This had been built from Standard tramcar 143 in the 1950s.

By 1977 it was barely the bones of the Standard car it had once been. The top deck had been removed and an inspection tower installed. A bus engine and generator allowed it to work independently of the power lines.

I'm not sure how many of these albums I have altogether. Over 30 certainly, but of course they are not all from 1977. And many of the photographs in them are prints from negatives that I may have already scanned and shown. But there's a couple more articles to come from this one yet.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Film Review, October 1977 Issue

Here we are again delving through the pages of the magazine Film Review from 38 years ago.

"Bigger and Brighter!" (with this issue the magazine increased in size from 10.8 x 8.25 inches to A4: roughly 11.75 x 8.4) It ran to 56 pages counting front and rear cover from the previous 48 pages and featured more colour, more pictures and more features. It also featured a price increase from 15p per issue to 25p, though this still made it a cheaper magazine than most on the shelves of 1977.

Liza Minelli and Robert De Niro were pictured boogie-ing on down in New York, New York

On the inside cover this issue is our toiletries advert for Wella's Blo-dry which now contains a touch of cosmetic colour which tones down "brassiness" for blondes, adds depth to "mousy-browns" and imparts "richness" to brunettes. Not by way of funds I suspect...

Robin Askwith and Liz Fraser and a warning of what can happen when you go through a ghost train ride with hanky-panky on your minds are shown here enhancing the Contents page in a shot from the film Confessions From A Holiday Camp. Robin features in two more photographs in the magazine, one with Julia Bond from the same film and in another with Fiona Richmond from the film Let's Get Laid. Meanwhile young ladies from around the world were refusing sex with English boys, convinced their lovemaking would be interrupted by returning husbands/wives, deluges of water, collapsing beds or runaway motor lawn mowers...

In a new regular feature for the magazine, Peter Haigh's Pictures & People, there is the interesting behind-the-scenes tale of film producer John Dark who was in a chartered motor launch off Malta, searching out locations for a proposed film Seven Cities To Atlantis. The boat started to sink and the tiny life raft was only large enough to save a case of documents so John plunged into the water but his colleagues waited to take his photo before having to jump into the drink themselves! Two of the shipwrecked men were picked up by a small fishing boat but the others had to swim back to land, this taking an hour.

Just to rub salt into the tale, the following pages contain a double-page spread of a rather more fortunate couple enjoying sailing their catamaran. It doesn't at first glance appear that this would afford them much time to start swigging Bacardi and Tonic, but who knows...?

A couple of pages later and Smirnoff's new "Well they said anything could happen" campaign presents us with a fruit machine that pays out...fruit!

Michael York and the beautiful Barbara Carrera play the shipwrecked man and the girl he falls in love with on The Island of Dr. Moreau, from the story by H.G. Wells. Burt Lancaster played the mad doctor, intent on turning beasts into humans and vice versa. No prizes for guessing whether that turns out well...

After the success of The Exorcist in 1973 made a sequel inevitable, we rejoin the victim of demonic possession, Regan (Linda Blair) after four years when she has discovered she has the power to excite or calm others. Max Von Sydow as Father Merrin, the exorcist of the original film, returns in flashback sequences whilst Richard Burton stars as Father Lamont, trying to understand whether Father Merrin successfully exorcised or aided the Devil four years previously. Father Lamont and Regan are seen being bombarded by demon locusts.

I've not seen this film, but remember sitting through the original movie with my girlfriend of the time who was a nurse. She sat unmoved by all the events including the pea soup bit, claiming she had seen it all on the wards. She was a bit put out though at Regan's turning her head through 360 degrees... At the time, the original film seriously disturbed many people with its special effects and supernatural theme.

But if there was any green vomit in the second film it was no doubt swept up efficiently by the characters in the film Wombling Free. Holding hands with Bungo (Kenny Baker soon to be found inside a somewhat different costume as R2-D2 in Star Wars) is one of the film's humans, Kim, played by Bonnie Langford.

Normally featured on the Contents page, a shot of a film star (Roger Moore) reading Film Review is this time shown with details of a competition to visit a film studio. A panel on the same page proclaims "51 Lucky Readers" and tells how one of them won a Ford Fiesta whilst the others (surely only slightly less lucky?) won a year's supply of Valderma soap...

On August 16 1977 Elvis Presley had died leaving millions of fans shocked and saddened. In this October issue Film Review published a full-page tribute to Elvis, concluding "His death now ensures that he will become a legend...". I liked many of his songs but, as many people who know me will already know, I think it unhealthy for any person living or dead to be worshipped so much. Many people of my own generation bemoan that today's music is rubbish but we have helped contribute to that by refusing to support almost any artist unless they are a tribute act.

Nicely topical given recent medical news about Hitler... 1977 is the 50th year of talkies and we've already covered musicals and westerns. In this issue it's the turn of war films! Alec Guinness leads his men in their whistling of Colonel Bogey, at the start of The Bridge Over The River Kwai, leaving cinema audiences to supply their own choice of words...

Robert Redford winds up this article in uniform for his role in A Bridge Too Far.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Blackpool's Jubilee Air Show (Part 2 of 2)

Concluding my look at the Air Show at Blackpool Airport on 28-29 May 1977.

Blackpool is famous for the quick-fire changes of weather. A spell of blue sky provides an excellent backdrop for the RAF's early jets, the Gloster Meteor and the futuristic-looking De Havilland Vampire with its twin fuselage.

An air of excitement always seems to go through the audience of air shows when the Spitfire makes an appearance. This one taxis out to the runway to give its display.

Ah, just the sound of the merlin engine causes shivers down the spine!

Biplanes have been a feature of air shows since the very first days of flight. I'd like to be really authoritative and say "This is a Tiger Moth" but the truth is so many planes looked almost exactly like that famous aeroplane that it could very easily be something else. If you know, leave a comment!

The displays are brought to a pause whilst a helicopter takes off on other business.

Little Nellie the autogyro from the James Bond film You Only Live Twice took part in both ground and air displays during the air show.

A good day for De Havilland... The De Havilland Rapide was a 1933 passenger aircraft built of plywood and carrying six to eight passengers. They had been used for regular air services in the 1930s between Blackpool and the Isle of Man.

The photo album that these photographs came from holds several photos that I still have the negatives for and consequently many of them have already appeared in articles in the blog. But there are a couple of photos of the old Blackpool standard tram whilst in operation as a maintenance vehicle and I'll get those scanned soon.

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