Oh...what a terrible mornin'!
Some time after the Mark Vardy commercial, I was introduced to a fabulous agent called Joan Reddin. She was wonderful and arranged for me to start singing lessons to improve my London accent.
My first singing lesson was with a lady in Finchley Road, Hampstead. My mother was very supportive and offered to pay, so I turned up at a posh house and was ushered in to a large room with an enormous white grand piano. Now, I’m not a bad singer, but performing in front of strangers was a different kettle of winkles!
I didn't fancy singing for this lady, but she asked me if I knew any songs. While I was thinking, she handed me a music score from the musical 'Oklahoma'. To my horror she started playing the intro to ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’. I had no choice, so I started singing in a baritone voice and finished the song.
Joan also wanted to promote me as an actor and offered me the chance to join the Bristol repertory company.The idea of living in a garret in Bristol and learning tons of dialogue didn’t appeal to me.
One reason was that I’ve always suffered from a bad memory and not much patience, I wanted to travel. I’d always wanted to hack my way through a jungle. I knew all about them because I had seen a few Tarzan films. It was years before I discovered that elephants don’t live in jungles.
I've always believed that opportunities are everywhere. All you have to do is reach out with confidence and grab one. So far, I haven't done very well, but change was on the way.
Timex - waterproof?
A discerning producer must have thought I looked like I was capable of digging up the M1, so he cast me as a navvy.
The TV commercial was for Timex and their waterproof watch. I had to stand in the middle of a road in Ealing, London and start to drill. It was hard work and noisy but I managed a few minutes which was enough to make them smile.
All this time I was wearing the waterproof and shock proof watch. When we finished the shoot, I washed my hands which was also filmed, to show how waterproof it was.
On the second day of filming we shot a few different angles and closeups and finished just after lunch. The production company had a trailer which was used for makeup and changing into dirty clothes. They had fixed up a tap outside the trailer so that they had enough light to shoot when I washed my hands.
Each day they show the rushes (in America called dailies). Everything seemed OK until the close up of my hands under the tap.
The waterproof watch was …..well…..not quite.… There was condensation inside the glass! Oh dear.
Back to the drawing board for Timex!
Public Enemy No.1?
Gigs in showbiz are not regular, so there’s always time to look at other options, one of which was stunt work, so I joined a stunt agency and was cast for a few jobs, mainly driving cars really fast!
One of my first stunt jobs was a sword fight on the Golden Hind, moored on the river Thames (no, not the original, that would make me 237 years old!).
My next job was a police chase, driving a police car chasing villains in the middle of the night. The car was an exact replica of a squad car and I was in a police uniform. We finished filming the car chase about 4 a.m, so I decided to stay at my mother’s flat in Stanmore. I was really tired, so I parked outside her ground floor flat and went to bed. I didn’t feel like removing the police sign or other ‘incriminating’ evidence.
When the police saw the abandoned ‘police’ car, they assumed it had been involved in a bank robbery and were very concerned to say the least.
I was sleeping in the front bedroom when a bunch of detectives crept up to the window and peered in. I was fast asleep and had left my uniform draped over a chair. They banged on the front door and woke me. I dragged myself to the door and blearily looked into their angry faces while they pushed past me to inspect the evidence.
After much explanation, and a couple of phone calls to the BBC, we sat in the kitchen with a cuppa and toast and marmalade. I’m lucky I didn’t get nicked!
Take one... Action!
A few weeks later, my agent sent me to a casting for Talisman pipe tobacco, and I was lucky enough to be chosen.
The location was Chiswick House in west London. The cast were due at 7.30 for make-up and wardrobe. Chiswick House is one of the most beautiful houses in England, and a perfect setting. The scene was a posh banquet and we were all dressed in dinner jackets and frilly frocks. I was in a dinner jacket so as not to confuse you!
I was sitting at a desk in the library, lighting my trusty pipe. The doors open and a beautiful lady walks in. Her golden hair is tumbling over her shoulders and I couldn’t help noticing her twin orbs of pleasure bursting through gossamer seams. She closed the door and walked towards me with obvious interest, but I was more interested in lighting my pipe…and they say romance is dead!