Singer Tina Turner died this week.
The following morning John Ward, esteemed eccentric inventor and designer of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards including the Cunning Stunt Award, was out shopping when his mobile phone rang from a withheld number.
“Warily,” John told me, “I answered it.”
It was the BBC.
John writes a weekly newspaper column for the Spalding Guardian.
Occasionally, he has been known to add in these columns, in the past, an unlikely throwaway line about how he gave up performing a Tina Turner tribute act some time ago with people citing such minor problems as his colour, height and girth – “She is taller and slimmer than me” – and the fact that wearing the high heels gave his feet a hammering.
John is is in demand as an after-dinner speaker and local personality. At some functions/events which he attended, people would occasionally ask him if he might consider “going back to doing the Tina Turner act”.
John says: “I do detect that some of them have been quite serious… They actually thought I had done a Tina Turner tribute act. In one case, a lady at one charity bash said she would have ‘dearly loved’ to have seen me performing as Tina. She was not alone. I would have dearly loved to see it too…”
Anyway he got a phone call from BBC Radio the morning after Tina Turner’s death was announced.
John tells me:
“The young BBC lady wondered if I had a moment or two as they would like to get a quote from me regarding the passing of Tina Turner as we had a ‘connection’ due to my tribute act…
“I asked how she had got my number but it was from somebody at BBC Radio Lincolnshire – so they, or somebody there, had read my stuff!
“I said Tina was a great performer and will be sadly missed by many around the world but, while we had never met personally, I felt sure Gyles Brandreth must have met her.
“Next thing was: Would I mind giving an interview over the phone, there and then, to discuss my tribute act and what inspired me to do it which might/might not be broadcast either on steam radio or online or both.”
The questions and answers went like this:
BBC: What inspired you to do it?
JOHN: I really wanted to do a George Formby tribute act but found I could not master the ukulele. So I did Tina Turner instead.
BBC: Was the Tina act easy to do?
ME: The biggest hurdle was to overcome my initial colour but, while this took some time, I like to think I nailed it.
BBC: Did you consider your singing voice on a par with Tina?
ME: She was an octave or two higher than me as many who had seen her perform in concert told me, but I was more of a visual act.
BBC: Will you be attending the funeral?
ME: The funeral arrangements have not been published yet, as far as I know, so I prefer not to comment.
“The BBC lady seemed to accept all this, thanked me for my time and said she would let me know if and when my segment would be broadcast.”
“Have you heard back?” I asked John.
“No. But later, in the afternoon, around four o’clock, someone from Central TV News rang up to find out why they had never covered the story. I asked him where he heard about my Tina Turner tribute act.
“I was told by a friend at BBC Radio Lincolnshire…” he said. “So it seems the news is spreading.”