Westminster Film Fair, Westminster Hall, London – Saturday, 12th November, 2016
My adventure started on the 7.20 from Liverpool Lime Street which pulled in at London Euston at 09.48. PETER thought it best that I go straight over to his place in West London on my arrival, where I found the great man up and ready for a day signing autographs and meeting his loyal fans.
We left ‘Wyngarde Towers’ around 11.45 by taxi, as he was scheduled to be at Westminster Hall by 12.15. All went well until we got within touching distance of the Hall itself, where we found the traffic had become gridlocked as a result of an Armistice Day service that was taking place at Westminster Abbey. An executive decision was made to walk the rest of the way, so we were able to make it inside just four or five minutes later than billed.
PETER with Hellfire Club member, Andrew Sneddon, at the London Film Fair
As we walked in, there was already a huge line of people waiting to meet PETER, so he immediately took his place behind his table, which was piled high with photographs from his career in film and TV, including The Avengers, Night of the Eagle, The Innocents, Doctor Who, Flash Gordon and of course Jason King and Department S. As might be expected, the most popular stills where those of him as Jason, but there were also many fans who chose pictures from his films, and others brought their own posters, photos and DVD sleeves for him to sign.
All of the fans that attended were very knowledgeable, both about PETER’s career and films/TV in general. There was also a large cross-section of interests – from those who wanted to talk to him about his role in Doctor Who, whilst others wanted to know about The Innocents or Night of the Eagle.
One of the most pleasant experiences of the afternoon for me personally, was meeting so many members of The Hellfire Club, who’d travelled from every corner of the UK (and Germany!) to meet PETER. I was grateful to finally be able to put faces to the names on our Facebook page, and to witness their delight as they met their idol for the very first time.
As always, PETER was both gracious and friendly – shaking hands with each and every person in line, and having his photo’ taken with the same number. I couldn’t believe how many gifts and cards he received, which included chocolates, books and even model cars.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, PETER was the most popular ‘celebrity’ at the event, based on the never-ending line of people who waited hours to meet him. Other guest there that day included Bernard Cribbins, Miriam Margolyes, David Warner, David Prowes.
When finally the last fan got his or her prized signature, PETER and I took a taxi from outside the Hall – assuming that we’d be back at his place within 10 or 15 minutes at most. As with all the best laid plans, we found that several streets in the Capital had been cordoned off for the Remembrance Day concert that was taking place at the Albert Hall that evening, and which the Queen was due to attend. Whether the powers that be had received some kind of threat, or they were merely taking precautions, I wouldn’t know, but the area was absolutely heaving with police cars, vans and dogs.
With Des Glass
Our route back took us down virtually every street, road and alleyway in West London, and what should have been a brief ride turned into an hour-long expedition. However, we did finally reach PETER’s home just in time to watch Strictly Come Dancing on TV!
Comic Con, NEC Birmingham – Saturday, 19th November, 2106
On this occasion, PETER and I would be converging on the venue from different sides of the country – he, from London, and I from Lancashire.
I arrived at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) at around 10.15, then had to negotiate my way through the myriad security checks before ending up in the Organisers Office, where I was met by Thomas (Bowington), who is PETER’s ‘liaison’ (for want of a better term).
I was given a pass (in the form of a wristband) and taken to where PETER would be signing that day. I was thrilled to find that his table was wedged between (to our left) Flash Gordon himself, Sam J. Jones and Manu Bennett (Game of Thrones, Arrow) to the right. One table down from Bennett was Chris Barrie and Danny John-Jules (Arnold Rimmer and The Cat from Red Dwarf), who I’m a huge fan of.
During a short break, Sam came over to speak with me and to ask when PETER was due to arrive. He asked if PETER still enjoyed pistol shooting – a hobby he’d partaken in for years until the ban on handguns, whereupon he’d bought a shotgun and now shoots clays. Sam told me that he’d been a US Marine way back, and had learned to shoot then. It was an interest both men shared.
PETER at Comic Con with Hellfire Club stalwart, Al Samujh
Since PETER was due to arrive around 12 noon, Thomas and I began setting up his table at 11.30, with photos and Pop Klytus action figures. A long queue had started to form well in advance of this, so there was an air of excitement at PETER’s imminent arrival. It was then that we received a call from his driver who advised that, due to a build-up of traffic approaching the NEC, they could be 15 to 20 minutes late arriving.
When finally we were alerted that PETER’s car had reached the venue, Thomas went out to meet him while I manned the store. Immediately on him taking his seat, Sam came over, and the two men hugged and had a brief chat before the barrier was removed and the first fans were allowed to approach the table.
Although the demographic at this event was on the younger side, it was surprising how clued up they were about PETER’s work prior to Flash Gordon. After their seeing him play Klytus, they’d looked him up online and had bought the Department S and Jason King boxsets, plus the Avengers, Prisoner and Champions episodes. Indeed, many of the photos chosen for him to sign were from these series as opposed to Flash Gordon.
During his time there, PETER gave an impromptu, albeit brief, interview to a martial arts magazine about his famous karate chop in the Prisoner episode, ‘Checkmate’, and the two of us were photographed for the Midlands newspaper, The Express and Star.
PETER spent around two hours signing autographs, shaking and hands and posing for selfies with fans. By around 3.30, we’d all decided enough was enough, and his car was called to pick him up.
Sadly, Sam had decided to take a short break moments earlier, so PETER wasn’t able to say goodbye to him. Whilst Thomas began packing up the table, I walked with PETER around the back of the signing area, where he shook hands with Chris Barrie and Danny John-Jules – the latter of whom took a selfie with “A legend”, and then gave me a kiss (I kissed The Cat! How about that).
With Matthew Samuel
Once outside, I got a huge hug and a kiss from PETER before he got into the car. I asked the driver to take care of him, and off he went. I received a text from the man himself on his arriving home (much earlier than me, as it happened, since my train was cancelled!), to let me know that he’d got back safe and sound.
I have to say that I had two really fun days with PETER and Thomas. It was fabulous getting to meet all the fans – especially those who’re members of The Hellfire Club. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/