Television, Film & Broadcasting Personalities
Born to a poor, working-class family in Manchester on 26th November
1924, Patricia Frederica Pilkington was better known by her
professional name – Pat Phoenix, and by the character with which
she played in “Coronation Street ” from 1960 to 1984 –
“Elsie Tanner”. Her acting career began in 1939, when, at the
age of 15, she appeared in a radio play, which was followed
in 1940 by appearances in BBC radio’s “Children’s Hour” .
For a short time she did office secretarial work, but her first
love had always been in performing and she joined the Manchester
Theatre Arts Company to spend the next 18 years touring Northern
England with the repertory company. She went on to join Joan
Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in the early 1950s. Her real break
came in 1960 when she was offered the part of Elsie Tanner in
Granada Television’s proposed new serial “Coronation Street”
– a strong female role which she occupied 23 years.
After quitting Coronation Street she appeared in various chat
shows and worked for Breakfast Television for a short time.
She also played the lead role in a little remembered television
situation comedy entitled “Constant Hot Water” . She also
wrote two biographies “All My Burning Bridges” in 1974,
and “Love, Curiosity, Freckles and Doubt ” in 1983.
ill at the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle, she married her long-standing
fianc� and ex-lover, Anthony Booth (father of Cherie Booth,
the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair), a short time
before she finally died of lung cancer on September 1986. She
had been married three times – to Peter Marsh, to fellow “Street”
star Alan Browning, and finally to Tony Booth.
funeral was held on 17th September at the Holy Name Church in
Oxford Road was accompanied by a Dixieland jazz band playing
” When the Saints go Marchin’ in” , and was attended by
thousands of adoring fans.
Melanie Sykes was born on the 7th August 1970 in Bottom Mossley,
Manchester. She attended Ashton Sixth Form College from 1986-1988
where she gained A-Level Certificates in Sociology and Religious
the age of 19, she migrated to London to sign on in a modelling
agency, which resulted in various short appearances in television
commercials, including Falmer Jeans, Pearl Drops Toothpaste,
and perhaps her best-known advertisement for Boddingtons Beer
(the so-called and one-time “Cream of Manchester”).
the strength of her instant fame resulting from the Boddingtons
advert Melanie soon moved to TV presenting, appearing in Sky
Television’s “Real TV UK” and “Hit List UK” on
she worked on “The Big Breakfast” and “The Bigger
Breakfast” on Channel 4; she also did stand-in presenting
with Terry Wogan and live link-ups from the Oscar presentation
ceremony in Los Angeles. In
2003-2004, Melanie began co-hosting a lunchtime television magazine
programme with singer/comedian Des O’Connor, entitled the “Today
with Des & Mel ” and was the presenter of the Television
Quiz Show “The Vault”.
Born in Ashton-under-Lyne on the 11th April 1930, Ronald Fraser
was a staple character actor who regularly appeared in British
films of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Though usually in rather
seedy or scruffy characterisations, his tousled red hair, broken
nose and freckled face made him a distinctive character actor
who made his mark specialising in pompous and self-effacing
very little is known of his early life, Fraser did serve in
the army and was ADC to the Governor of Cyprus. He had worked
extensively on the stage before developing a career in films.
He is generally considered to have been at his professional
best in the mid-1960s, when he briefly appeared in leading roles.
films included the cowardly Sergeant Watson in “The Flight
of the Pheonix” in which he accompanied Richard Attenborough,
Hardy Kruger and James Stewart. Other films of note included
“The Sundowners” in 1960 (with Robert Mitchum and Deborah
Kerr), “In Search of the Castaways” in 1962, “The
VIPs” in 1963 (with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton),
“The Whisperers” in 1966, “Fathom” in 1967,
“The Killing of Sister George” in 1968 (with Beryl Reid
and Susan George), “The Wild Geese” in 1978 (again with
Burton and Roger Moore), “The Trail of the Pink Panther”
in1982, “Scandal” in 1989, “Let Him Have It” in
1991 and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” in 1993 – this
was to be his final film.
also appeared regularly in major TV series, including “The
Misfits” in 1970, “Pennies from Heaven” in 1978,
“Spooner’s Patch” in 1979, “Fortunes of War” in 1987,
“Life Without George” and “Heavy Weather” in 1995.
television movies included “Man in the Zoo” in 1975,
“Pygmalion ” in 1981, and “The Fortunes and Misfortunes
of Moll Flanders” in 1996. He also made brief guest appearances
in “Dr. Who”, “Danger Man” and “The Young Indiana
Jones Chronicles.” He
died on the 13th March 1997.
Kieran Prendeville wa born 25 December 1947 in Rochdale and
attended Cardinal Langley RC High School in Middleton, Rochdale.
He has had an extensive career in television, as a presenter
and a reporter in science, news and sport. He came to the attention
of the public when he was one of a team of yourng co-presenters
backing Esther Rantzen in the BBC Television’s popular weekend
show “That’s Life” in the late 1970s. He was
also part of the “Tomorrow’s World” team for
a time. Yet
he is probably best known for his work in popular drama with
hits such as “Badger”, “Roughnecks” and
recent drama, made for BBC 1 Television, “Care”
claimed the Prix Italia 2001 in Bologna – its eleventh award
in a year – it had already won the Cologne International Film
festival gold for best single drama and the BAFTA for best single
drama. Earlier in September 2001, the production had also won
IBC Nombre D’Or single drama award at the IBC Production Festival
in Amsterdam. He
was BBC television’s choice for on-site commentator of the first
space shuttle mission, reporting from Cape Canaveral.
Merchant as a young woman
Born Ada Thompson in Manchester, Vivien Merchant was a leading
actress and television star who came into the limelight in the
mid-1950s as a leading light of the British stage and film industry.
made her first appearance on stage at the Peterborough Repertory
Theatre at the age of 14 as an orphan in their staging of “Jane
Eyre” . From
1956 through to 1980, she was married to playwright Harold Pinter;
she starred or was co-starred in several of his plays, notably
as Ruth in “The Homecoming” . She
went on to make her first film appearance in “Alfie”
in 1966, winning an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA Award for her
portrayal of Lily, the bored housewife whose fling with Michael
of Merchant’s most memorable film appearances was as a dizzy
gourmet-cook wife in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Frenzy” in 1972.
Vivien Merchant gave up acting in 1980 after she and Pinter
divorced. She died in 1982. Other
memorable films in which she acted include “Accident”,
directed by Joseph Losey in 1967, with Dirk Bogarde, Michael
Yorke and Stanley Baker as co-stars. In
1971 she appeared in Dylan Thomas’s “Under Milk Wood” ,
in 1973 “The Man in the Iron Mask” and “The Offence”
co-starring Sean Connery.
After the end of her marriage to Harold Pinter, she is reported
to have turned to drinking.. She died at the age of 53 on 3
October 1982 from acute alcoholism.
1973) Peter Kay was born in Bolton on 2nd July 1973. The star
of the Channel 4 television series “Phoenix Nights” and
“That Peter Kay Thing” maintains that stand-up comedy is
his first love. Appearing as if from nowhere, in 1997 Kay won
City Life’s Comedian of the year competition in Manchester
and in 1998, following his sell-out Edinburgh Fringe Festival
show his he was nominated for the Perrier award. He then went
on to win awards for Top Stand Up and Top TV Comedy. Also in
1998 he appeared in “The Services” , a one-off Channel
4 special. In 2000 the six part Channel 4 series “That Peter
Kay Thing” won him the best new TV comedy at the British
Recently he has done a series of television adverts for John
Smith’s beer and in the autumn of 2002 he returned to Channel
4 with a new six part series of “Phoenix Nights” and
did a sell out 17 night stand at the Lowry in Salford! In 2002
took to the road with his live stand up shows with performances
at almost 50 UK venues. Peter Kay has established himself as
a leading stand-up comedian on the national stage. He
regularly performs to large live audiences at major venues throughout
the United Kingdom.
Hovis Presley, a much-loved local poet and stand-up comedian
was born Richard Henry McFarlane in Bolton in 1960. From earliest
times he figured large in his school revues. By his late 20s
he had emerged onto the North-West comedy scene, first coming
to regional attention at the Buzz Club, a venue which was to
see emerging talents such as Steve
Coogan, Caroline Ahearne
and Dave Spikey. He
also appeared on television in the BBC3 poetry show “Whine
Gums” and Channel 4’s stand-up comedy show “Gas”.
He also was frequently to be heard on local and national radio.
Hovis had a somewhat dishevelled, shabby demeanour and an apparent
unawareness of his own comic persona which belied the genius
of his outrageous use of pun and witty use of language and irony.
He made several appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Despite public accolades, Hovis Presley was a shy, retiring
man who avoided all forms of celebrity, which he found odius
and distasteful. He suffered from stage fright, despite his
on-stage successes, and once went missing so that shows had
to be cancelled. A police search eventually found him – too
nervous and scared to perform. Thus he increasingly sought to
appear in smaller, more intimate gigs, mixing poetry, comedy
and music. He worked a great deal, for no charge, for charities
and was an avid fan of Bolton Wanderers. He also taught drama
classes at the University of Salford.
His poems were typically of a dry, northern satire, self-effacement
and matter-of-factness, much employed by his friend, the Salford
poet, John Cooper Clarke. A collection of his work, “Poetic
Off-Licence” , was published in 1993 and re-issued in
1997 as “Poetic Off-Licence Holiday Annual” ,
to critical acclaim. He
died in 2005 at the tender age of 44 years.