You have no idea how I and other people suffer for this blog.
At the moment, I have comedy performer Matt Roper staying in my spare bedroom for the next four weeks. Well, he may emerge occasionally. Matt performs as comedy singing character Wilfredo. His father was stand-up comedian George Roper, who rose to fame on Granada TV’s stand-up series The Comedians in the 1960s, along with Bernard Manning, Frank Carson and others.
“I don’t have a blog today,” I told Matt this afternoon. “You’ll have to give me one. I always tell people that, as a boy, you were bounced on Bernard Manning’s knee and you say you weren’t. There must be a blog in that.”
“I was bounced on Cilla Black’s knee,” said Matt.
“In blog terms,” I said, “Cilla Black is not as sexy as Bernard Manning.”
“We are not talking about Bernard Manning,” said Matt.
“Why,” I asked, “don’t you want to be associated with Manning?”
“It’s just that I didn’t know him that well. I might as well be associated with Hermann Goering.”
“Well, you are,” I said.
Matt introduced me to Hermann Goering’s great-niece for a blog last year.
“Bernard Manning,” I persisted, “kept coming round for Sunday lunch, didn’t he?”
“No,” said Matt. “Les Dawson used to come round for Sunday lunch sometimes.”
“Did he bounce you on his knee?” I asked hopefully.
Matt did not answer.
“There’s a picture of me sitting on Cilla’s knee,” said Matt, “but she might not like me letting you put it online. She’s in a swimming costume. This is not interesting, John.”
“It is,” I insisted. “I WAS NOT BOUNCED ON BERNARD MANNING’S KNEE is the headline, then we talk about something completely different.”
“OK,” said Matt. “But I think Louis Armstrong kissing Molly Parkin is far more interesting.”
“Where did he kiss her?” I asked.
“Do you mean…” Matt started to ask.
“I mean whatever you think I mean,” I said.
“You’ve always got Johnnie Hamp as a blog,” suggested Matt about the legendary Granada TV producer.
“He’s very interesting,” I said, “but he’s up in Cheshire.”
“Next year,” persisted Matt, “it’s the 50th anniversary of a TV show he produced called The Music of Lennon & McCartney. Brian Epstein (The Beatles’ manager) was very loyal. Not the best businessman, but a very loyal man to people who had given him a helping hand.
“By 1965, The Beatles didn’t really need to do a Granada TV show but Johnnie had been one of the first people to put The Beatles on TV in a regional Granada show Scene at 6.30. It’s on YouTube.
“In 1965, Johnnie had this idea The Music of Lennon & McCartney and there was this huge spectacular in Studio One at Granada TV and he flew people in – Henry Mancini played If I Fell on the piano; Ella Fitzgerald; Cilla was on it; Peter Sellers reciting A Hard Day’s Night as Richard III. That’s on YouTube.”
“What were Cilla’s knees like?” I asked.
Matt ignored me.
“Johnnie Hamp,” he continued, “brought Woody Allen over to do a TV special – it’s the 50th anniversary of that next year, too. It’s the only television special Woody Allen ever did. Just for Johnnie Hamp at Granada. There’s a clip on YouTube.
“Johnnie told me recently: Back in those days, we didn’t care about ratings; creativity was more important. I mean, The Comedians was interesting because, today, no-one would take a chance on giving twelve unknown comics a primetime TV series.”
“That,” I said, “was why Sidney Bernstein (who owned Granada) was a great man.”
“Was it him or his brother who had a wooden leg?” asked Matt.
“That was Denis Forman,” I said. “It might have been metal.”
“I’ve got a Beatles-related story you could end your blog with,” said Matt.
“Just tell me what Cilla Black’s knees were like,” I told him.
“My dad,” said Matt, ignoring me, “told a story of when all the Beatles’ brothers and uncles in Liverpool – all the men of the family – heard that The Beatles were smoking drugs. What’s all this? they went. They took the train down from Lime Street to Euston to sort the fookin’ whatever’s going on owt. We’ll sort this fookin’ droogs thing owt.
“And the story goes that, three days later, they all got off the train back in Liverpool Lime Street saying: Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it… Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”
“I’d better take a photo of you,” I said, “for the blog.”
“Not if you’re going to go on and on about Bernard Manning,” said Matt.