‘Nice to see him….to see him Nice’

Here is my personal account of a visit me and my Daughter Kerry made to London .

Just by 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.

A deal was struck and our trip took place on Tuesday 12th February 2008.

I had 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 greetings card.
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 Wood Lane.
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 stage.
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 Anthea Redfern.
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 by.
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!

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