In yesterday’s blog, comedy critic Kate Copstick explained why she gave up her planned career as a lawyer because she lost faith in the legal system.
“So,” I asked, “then what did you decide you wanted to do?”
“I had always wanted to be an actress,” she told me at The Grouchy Club in Edinburgh. “So, when I got asked to do a play for no money, I said Yes. It was a piece by Pedro Calderón de la Barca with the snazzy title The House With Two Doors Is Hard To Guard. I played the comedy maid, which was when I discovered the joy of corsets.”
“Did you,” I asked, “want to be a comedy performer or an actress?”
“Oh, I wanted to be an actress,” she said. “I wanted to be Joan Crawford. I had posters on my wall of Debbie Harry, Joan Crawford and Bryan Ferry.
“But people preferred me trying to be funny. Then they kept asking me to write.”
“Why,” I asked, “would they ask you to write if you were an actress?”
“Because nobody believed I was really an actress. Also, I was so bossy that I tended to write and direct. It started off with me saying: Wouldn’t it be better if I said this…
“Then someone from Scottish Television saw me and I fronted a kids’ programme about the environment. Then I was asked down to London to present Play School for BBC TV.”
“They obviously just looked at me performing in my wig and my Ginger Rogers frock and thought: I would love to see this woman dressed as a penguin jumping up and down on children’s television.”
I told her: “I used to know someone who did Playbus. He went into porn.”
“Many of us did,” said Copstick.
“How long did you do Play School?” I asked.
“About four years, then I did a load of other kids’ programmes – Up Our Street, No 73…”
“Did you do that rude Christmas tape for No 73?” I asked.
“Everything was rude when you got behind the scenes,” said Copstick. “The very first place I ever encountered cocaine was on Play School.
“Because it was only pre-school television with small budgets, they didn’t give you any time for re-takes. Once you started recording, you had time to do two episodes back-to-back. That was it. No mucking about. No re-takes. So we rehearsed endlessly. One time, we did all the rehearsing including the songs and it was all lovely, all great, all timed to perfection. But when we recorded it, the show was a whole minute short and nobody could understand why.
“It turned out that, between the rehearsals and the recording, the boys in the band had been in the dressing room enjoying some of Bolivia’s finest (cocaine) and all the songs had gone at almost twice the speed they had in the rehearsals.
“So the programmes were not just educational for the children, they were educational for me personally.
“I did this show called Whizz and got on Top of the Pops. We recorded the theme tune, released it as a single and, for some reason, it did really well in the charts. No-one could understand why until I went on Top of the Pops and somebody told me it had a massive student following because the hook line was Do the Biz, Do the Biz, With Whizz. None of the nice middle class ladies at the BBC realised Whizz/Wiz had any kind of double meaning whatsoever, but students thought it was fantastic.”
There is, sadly, no copy of this song on YouTube, but there is a video of Pulp singing Sorted For E’s and Wizz at Glastonbury.
“Was Jimmy Savile presenting Top of the Pops when you were on it?” I asked Copstick.
“No. It was Mike Read and Gary Davis. When I got to come down the chute onto the stage, there were all these girls. There were self-evidently 16-year-old girls who just went there in the hope that somebody famous would fondle their boobs.”
“You met Savile somewhere else?” I asked.
“I was doing a show called On The Waterfront up in Liverpool with Bernie Nolan (of The Nolan Sisters). She could drink more vodka on a night than anyone and get up at 7 o’clock the next morning looking like she was straight out of convent school. That girl had hollow legs. I’ve never met anyone who could drink like her.”
“You are too modest,” I said.
“She taught me everything I know!” said Copstick.
“And Savile?” I asked.
“On the show, I did a thing like Through The Keyhole, but it was called Through The Sunroof – I went into people’s cars. So I did Through The Sunroof with Jimmy Savile’s car and we had to go up to his house in Leeds and when I met him, instead of shaking my hand, he turned it over and licked the palm. Eurghh! Just loathsome. Some people you meet and you just know… And there was Rolf Harris, as well.”
“You met Rolf?” I asked. “You must have been groped by Rolf. Everyone was groped by Rolf.”
“When he came on the show as a guest,” said Copstick, “we had a lovely young female director who used to wear trousers that had a rose trellis pattern. When Rolf came in, she was bending over to pick something up and he said: That’s a furrow I’d like to plough! He self-evidently was just a bit of a dirty old man which is not great, but I think there’s a difference between being a dirty old man and a paedophile.”
“He had a reputation for groping,” I said, “but I was surprised by the children.”
“I’ve kind of always thought,” said Copstick, “if you like grown-ups, you like grown ups; if you like kids, you like kids. It’s not really the same people. So, as an ex-lawyer, I was very surprised by the Rolf Harris verdict.
“I think, yet again, it’s the Establishment being so horrified and embarrassed that nobody did anything about Jimmy Savile or Cyril Smith or any of the other people they knew about but protected… that anybody they can now grab onto is going down because somebody has to and they can’t do anything about Savile because he’s dead.
“I’m sure all of us who are grown-up and female have had some hideous, ghastly, creepy uncle type stick his tongue in your ear before he should and you just go Ughh! but there’s a long, long way between that and being attacked. I think all the women who are lining up claiming Dave Lee Travis held their boobs are doing a terrible amount of damage to the people who really did suffer.
“It must be horrendous. I can’t imagine what it must have been like being one of these boys in the home that Cyril Smith went to. Or being in Stoke Mandeville Hospital and seeing Jimmy Savile wander across the ward towards you with his cock in his hand. Horrendous. Horrendous! But it’s not the same thing at all as a bit of a misjudgment.”
… CONTINUED HERE …