to see him….to see him Nice’
Here is my personal account
of a visit me and my Daughter Kerry made to London .
chance she had an interview for a job with BBC 7 at Broadcasting
house, the same day that I had tickets for the recording of
a TV spectacular celebrating the 80th birthday of Mr. Forsyth,
‘Happy Birthday Brucie’, my wife Niki didn’t fancy a trip to
London, she hates the tube and all the hustle and bustle, so
I bargained with Kerry that I would go with her, if she came
to see the TV show recording in the evening.
was struck and our trip took place on Tuesday 12th February
contacted the ‘Happy Birthday Brucie’ show’s producer, Andrew
Cartmell to see if I could chat to Bruce for BBC Cambridgeshire’s
mid-morning programme, he said I could bring my mini-disc recorder
and we could play it by ear.
I’d been to both BBC Buildings before, and had never seen anyone
I was familiar with, but this trip could be different.
We caught the 11 O’clock train to Kings Cross and arrived in
the capital by noon.
The tube took us on to Great Portland Street, the home of the
world famous ‘Broadcasting house’.
Kerry met up with a friend called Anna, who worked for BBC 7,
and they made their way to the office to prepare for her 2.15
interview, Anna told me I could and have a look around the building,
she said the radio theatre was a good place to start. I saw
posters advertising Van Morrison, who was performing at the
venue that evening.
I strolled up to the big heavy door, gingerly opened it and
was shocked to hear an orchestra and catch the strains of a
rocking Irish crooner, Val Doonican, rocking refers to his famous
stage prop, the rocking chair. The auditorium was packed, but
a doorman told me I was welcome to go up to the gallery to watch
the rest of the event, which turned out to be a memorial concert
for Ronnie Hazlehurst, who had died in 2007.
Ronnie had written and arranged over 200 theme tunes, including
‘Blankety Blank’, ‘Some Mothers do ‘ave em’, ‘Are you being
served?’ and ‘The Two Ronnie’s’ to name but a few.
Cilla Black took to the stage to pay tribute to her friend,
and then the orchestra played another of Ronnie’s works, ‘Last
of the summer wine’, it sounded beautiful with a string quartet,
guitar, bass and harmonica.
The Hazlehurst family were then presented with an engraved silver
ice bucket by Sir Bill Cotton.
Cotton told us how in 1974 when he was working with Victor Borge,
he’d asked the Danish entertainer if he’d like to take a small
memento from his dressing room, Borge, replied , ‘I’ll have
the ice bucket’. So started a tradition, where-by the biggest
accolade an act could acquire was a BBC ice bucket.
The late Ronnie’s son made a short speech, at the end he said
we were all welcome to go to the St George Hotel, next to All
souls church for some refreshments.
The concert finished and the audience drifted into the pleasant
afternoon sunshine, I went out and saw Barry Cryer, Jess Conrad
and Bert Kwok all lighting up fags. I went back in and decided
to look for other stars. I saw Terry Wogan, but he quickly disappeared,
then picked out his fellow Irishman, Val Doonican, to get to
him I had to pass Robin Nash, Michael Hurl, Bill Cotton and
Cilla Black I spoke to them all, and they were all very nice,
probably trying to figure out who the hell I was.
As I was feeling a bit peckish I decided to gatecrash the hotel
and mingle with the celebs.
The elevator took me to the 15th floor, and I had the most amazing
view over west London, the BT tower stretching majestically
into the white clouds.
There were two free bars, so I kicked off with a white wine,
I decided early on not to try and keep up with Barry Cryer,
who is always the butt of Humphrey Lyttaltons jokes on ‘I’m
Sorry I haven’t a clue’.
Next came the grub, some gorgeous sushi, chicken breast, beef
on garlic bread and fancy canapés.
I saw Captain Peacock, from ‘Are you being served?’ But just
could not think of his real name.
As I went to top up my glass I noticed Sean Bean with his family
having some lunch, I sat near his table and got out an 80th
Birthday card I’d bought in my home town of March, it cost 30p
and I thought it might be a nice touch to pass it on to Bruce
in the evening.
I’d signed it from Johnny Dee, BBC Cambridgeshire, but thought
it might be shredded pretty quickly. How could I make it a bit
more interesting for Mr Forsyth?
I approached Sean Bean, ‘Do you like Bruce Forsyth?’, ‘Yes’
he said, I offered him my pen, ‘Do you want to sign his birthday
card?’ He laughed and agreed.
I thought I’d struck on a good idea, on my left was Sir Bill
Cotton, he too was a Brucie fan and signed the card. Next was
Val Doonican who was only to happy to ad his monocle to the
I went outside, still a nice bright day; I recorded a chat with
Val Doonican and Bill Cotton, and saw Captain Peacock again,
but still could not recall his name but helped him and his wife
into a taxi.
By now it was about 3.50pm so I decided to head back to Broadcasting
House to see how Kerry was getting on, I suddenly thought, ‘I
know who’d like to sign this…Chris Evans’.
So I had a short walk to Western House, the home of Radio 2,
unfortunately Chris was on holiday, and as I turned to leave,
who should bump into me but, Joe Brown, I didn’t hang about,
‘Hi Joe, do you like Bruce Forsyth?’ He told me he did, but
Bruce wouldn’t know who he was! So he declined.
I left and then met David Jacobs getting into a cab; the veteran
broadcaster looked quite frail so I didn’t bother him.
I met up with Kerry at about 4.15, she had got on well, and
had met some big names herself, Lenny Henry and Jenny Murray.
The BBC receptionist told us we could use the free shuttle bus
to get us to TV Centre, Sheppard’s Bush.
Had a nice 10 minute coach ride to the imposing building on
We ate our packed lunch on a lovely grassed area with wooden
benches, before making our way in to the iconic Television centre.
We marveled at Michael Palins BAFTA and other top award trophies
which were displayed museum style in the hallowed corridors,
we then sat in an area called ‘Stage door’ whilst we waited
for the studio doors to open.
I heard a great phone conversation, ‘The Spice Girls had that
dressing room last month, if it’s good enough for the Spice
Girls, its good enough for him!’ We wondered who the ‘him’ was,
but didn’t find out.
By 6.45 we were called to queue for entry to the studio’s, I
thought it might be like a theatre lay-out, but it was quite
strange, we had to walk through dark corridors and alleyways,
with hundreds of electrical wires trailing the floor, we eventually,
after climbing some steps found ourselves in the auditorium,
very small, with what looked like two rows of chairs that you
might have in you kitchen placed about 2 or 3 feet from the
Huge auto-cue cameras rolled around like demented darleks, and
boom mics and vision equipment was all around our heads, it
was an incredible set-up.
An orchestra pit was behind a small stage, which was no more
than 18” high, two very grand and glitzy staircases flanked
the boards and a huge projector screen was in the centre.
Kerry and I did not know who we were going to see, but we hadn’t
realized it was a ‘celebrity’ audience too. Right near us we
had the ‘Strictly come dancing’ judges, behind us were Richard
and Judy, June Whitfield, Nicholas Parsons, Barry Cryer, Des
Lynam, Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beal-Eastenders), Natasha Kaplinski,
Willie Thorn, Kenny Lynch, Andrew O’Conner, Rosemary Ford and
The performers were Liza Minnelli, Ronnie Corbett, Paul O’Grady,
Jonathon Ross, the boys from ‘Billy Elliot’, Tess Daly, Vernon
Kay, Alesha Dixon, Jools Holland, Jon Culshaw, Kate Garroway,
and of course Bruce Forsyth.
It really was a spectacular show, the closest you could get
to a ‘Sunday night at the London Palladium’ experience , the
site and sound of Liza Minnelli singing ‘New York, New York’
with a live orchestra made the hair on the back of your neck
stand up, as we all did to give Minnelli a standing ovation.
The recording itself had a few technical difficulties, and it
was interesting to watch Bruce constantly quizzing floor manager
Mark as to what was going on, on several occasions the birthday
boy swiftly took the reigns to steer things in the right direction,
and any fluff was quickly turned into a gag to ease the situation.
The climax to the evening was a breathtaking display by the
top ‘Come dancing’ team, with the musicians really letting rip,
a huge cake with 80 candles was then wheeled on as confetti
bombs went off. Bruce produced some bellows to help blow the
candles out which got a big laugh, and three hours had flown
The public left and I hung back, and managed to get on to the
stage to get a few words with Mr. Entertainment, Bruce Forsyth.
Daughter Kerry handed Bruce his 30p card, and I explained that
the signatures were genuine before helping him off the stage.
Kerry and I then made our way to White City underground, where
due to maintenance on the Victoria line we missed our 11.30
train back to Peterborough.
We eventually got home at 2.10am!