PERSONAL APPEARANCES

NORWAY ADFrom the early Seventies onwards, PETER was in huge demand to open new stores, promote business ventures and attend charity events throughout the UK and Europe.

This page is a rolling undertaking to present a concise and detailed account of those appearances, featuring regular updates over the next few weeks.

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⇐ An original poster from one of PETER’s personal appearances in Norway

Promoter and marketing powerhouse, Carl Gresham, was responsible for many of the appearances listed here, and this is what he had to say about PETER in his book, ‘The Gresh – A Lifetime in Show-Biz’ (Bank House Books, 2009). www.bankhousebooks.com

 ‘Suave, sophisticated, French-born and winner with the ladies. PETER WYNGARDE made his name playing Jason king in ‘Department S’, later getting his own series. He played roles in many early 70’s TV dramas such as’ The Baron’, ‘The Prisoner’, ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’.

PETER drew some of the biggest crowds we ever had – mainly ladies who absolutely adored him, much to the disappointment and irritation of their menfolk, it must be said. His exotic looks and background were backed up by a voice that was once described as “Black Magic”.

PETER was a firm favourite with Woolworths for their store openings. They knew that the crowds and the publicity would be huge. On one occasion, PETER and I were stopped by police officers on the outskirts of Barnsley and asked not to proceed, as they were worried about being able to control the crowd outside the Woolworth store we were going to. This created a fantastic story for the national press, which featured one headline declaring ‘Jason King barred from town centre’.

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BEST DRESSED

 

Friday, 14th August, 1970: Best Dressed Male Personality Award ceremony. Carnaby Street, London.

 ⇐ PETER was presented with the trophy by the previous year’s winner. Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees


1970: Promotional tour of Australia.


December 1970: Promotional tour of (West) Germany


April, 1971: Album signing at the HMV Shop, Oxford Street.


Saturday, 7th August, 1971. Sydney Airport


September 1971: Publicity visit to Sweden. 


Friday, 22nd October, 1971: Ice King store, Long Eaton, Derbyshire. 


untitledMonday 8th November, 1971: Opening of new Woolworth store, The Arndale Centre, Luton.

Hundreds of female fans flocked to the shopping centre to catch a glimpse PETER and hunt for opening day bargains in the shop. At the time the Arndale, today called The Mall Luton, was Europe’s largest undercover shopping centre.

A baby was born in the Centre during his visit, and was named Jason Peter in his honour!


Monday, 29th November, 1971: Opening – Louis International Menswear:

There were over two thousand fans in Plymouth on Monday, 29th November, 1971. They were all there to see their hero open the Louis International menswear store on Cornwall Street.

The brand new two (due to be three) storey shop that aimed to stock men’s clothing, which had recently opened in Portsmouth, Exeter and Torbay. 

Louise Collins, who’d been fortunate enough to get a job as a sales assistant at the outfitters, and she said she felt quite privileged as she peeked out through the window three hours before PETER was due to arrive, to see a huge crowd already beginning to gather.

“I was told by the manager that PETER had been staying at the Holiday Inn in Plymouth overnight,” Louise told me, “and all hell let loose when his car finally pulled up outside the store with a police escort”.PW11

In fact, PETER had to be protected by a grand total of 50 uniformed officers, who battled to protect him from amorous fans.

⇐ PETER meeting fans in Plymouth 

After introducing himself to all the staff PETER, who was wearing a grey speckled suit with a mauve shirt and matching tie, tried on several garments in the exclusive menswear department in the basement, before settling for a black leather jacket and an aubergine-coloured suit. After performing the opening ceremony, fans were let inside to meet PETER, to get autographs and hand over gifts and flowers to him. 

“After he left,” Louise says, “a reporter from the Western Evening Herald spoke to me, and an article appeared in the paper the following the following day.”


Thursday, 3rd February, 1972: Opening of Santa Fe boutique, Whitgift Shopping Centre, Croydon.

Whilst making this appearance in Chatsworth Road, Croydon, PETER was besieged by over 2,000 fans whose desperation to see their idol was so great, they succeeded in pushing through the shop’s plate glass window.

More than 30 police officers struggled to control the crowd, whilst signed photos were distributed to the fans.


Saturday, 6th March, 1972: Whichgift

An estimated 4,000 fans amassed in Chatsworth Road, Clapton, to see PETER open a new greetings card shop owned by brothers, Stanley and Leonard Linch.

It took 10 minutes for PETER to push his way through the crowd after leaving the limousine that’d been sent to meet him. A police escort eventually enabled him to get through the enthusiastic fans to the shop.

“We had informed the police that the opening would be performed by PETER,” Leonard Linch said. “It started with three officers on duty, but reinforcements were quickly called for as the crowd rapidly grew”. Around 30 policemen were eventually employed to hold back the horde. At one point the huge front window of the new shop was almost pushed in, forcing the owners and members of staff to hold it in place.

The idea was that PETER would cut a tape outside the shop as part of the opening ceremony. However, such was the excitement that he was forced to do the honours inside the premises. Small groups of people were allowed in for autographs, but this gad to be abandoned as fans jostled for the privilege. Finally, signed photos were passed over the heads of the police officers to the eager mass.

“This is a wonderful reception,” PETER said at the time. “I’ve never seen such a large crowd be so good-humoured”.

PETER remained at the shop for around an hour, before leaving in the safety of a police van.


Thursday, 23rd March, 1972: Opening of City Stylish men’s boutique, Newcastle. 

Traffic in the centre of Newcastle came to a standstill, thanks to the number of fans who tried to catch a glimpse of PETER as he opened the new £25,000 City Stylish Shop in the town centre.

Dozens of extra police officers had to be drafted in to control the crowd and to get the traffic moving again.

BEWARE OF THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER

We were all there, of course, at the PETER WYNGARDE do. Like true, red-blooded, ever thirsty journalist… thirsty for news that is… we honed in on the free champagne and the big story like there was nothing else to write about in Newcastle on a Thursday lunchtime.

With our invitations clasped in our hot little hands, we strode smugly through the small, subdued band of women standing hopefully outside the New City Stylish boutique. We made short work of the smoked salmon sandwic hes and we made rude remarks about PETER WYNGARDE:

“That hair is definitely permed,” said one bloke, balding himself if I remember rightly after four glasses of champagne.

“What, no!” We all said.

“He wears false eyelashes,” continued another.

“Never!” We said.

“He told us the last time he appeared in public there were three thousand women mobbing him,” laughed a third, surveying the small huddle of females outside.

“Really?” We giggled.

The asparagus canapes were going down a treat when somebody told us that the police had sent for reinforcements. “Surely not,” we said. “What? Just to manage the dozen or so teenagers who had turned out to see him”13091955_1332578423435577_6542758111929717558_n

PETER with the owner and managers of the new store ⇒

It was only then that we began to perceive that there were more of them out there than had first been apparent. “Oh, they’re just part of the bus queue,” quipped someone hopefully. But they weren’t!

“Whatever he’d got, I wish I had it,” said one fellow, disconsolately. Funny, I’d just been thinking about these long, blonde models that were languishing about the place – Jason King style.

When The Champ finally emerged from the section marked ‘Jeans’ and went round to open the front door, some of us were, rather nervously, wondering what was going to happen. From being the privileged few on the inside, we suddenly realised the vulnerability of our situation. Not that we doubted, of course, that our dignity would survive all onslaughts. We were, after all, The Press. And we had been invited. It wasn’t, however, quite like that. In they streamed – thousands of them, clawing at his hair and his clothes; climbing on the glass counters and clambering over the racks of trousers. They sobbed and they screamed and very nearly trampled us under foot. And before we could say, “Excuse me, but do you wear false eyelashes?” we were booted, quite without ceremony, out of a nearby fire exit. Good Heavens!

Some of the policemen even thought we were fans! And later, back at the office, when they said, “What’s he like then?” We remarked casually that we didn’t really have the time to stay and chat with him. “Is it true that he wears false eyelashes?” someone asked. How the hell do I know?” I said, “he was wearing dark glasses!”

By Neil James – Journalist


Monday, 27th March, 1972: Opening of Harpers Music Store, Colchester. 

It was in March 1972, when my daughter, Sharon, travelled all the way down from Edinburgh to Colchester to meet PETER for the very first time, while he was there to open the new Harpers music store.

When I’d read that PETER had been invited to open the shop in Head Street, I just knew I had to be there, and so Sharon and I took our places at the front of what turned out to be a very large queue, at 9am – that being a full three hours before PETER was due to arrive.

When his car finally pulled up outside the store, the thousands of fans who’d gathered in the street began screaming at the top height of their voices, and he was immediately surrounded by girls. He then began signing posters, photos and a every other bit of paper that was thrust in front of him.

In spite of all the shoving and pushing, PETER was really polite and took the time to speak with as many people as he possibly could. He told me that he’d actually began his acting career at the repertory theatre in Colchester, but hadn’t been allowed to stay long, because: “I was so bad, they threw me out!” He didn’t seem to hold a grudge, as he went on to say that he intended to visit the old theatre before he left the city.

As a memento of the day, I managed to get him to sign a piece of the ceremonial ribbon, which he signed for me. I thought he was lovely – so handsome”.

Valerie Locke


March, 1972: PETER takes part in the Colchester Oyster Feast, Colchester.


Sunday, 19th November, 1972.

PETER was asked to plant a tree for the Littlehampton branch of the World Wildlife Fund, for whom he’d been bestowed to honour of becoming Honourary President.

The occasion was sponsored by Prince Brenhard of the Netherlands, who’d sent the English Oak over from Holland.


Thursday, 14th December, 1972: PETER switched on the Christmas at the County Shopping Centre, Leeds. GIRLS

PETER was invited by Leeds City Council to turn on the Christmas lights at the County Shopping Centre. He was met on his arrival at the Queen’s Hotel by a bevy of ‘Miss Christmases’, who accompanied him to the Centre.

The big switch-on was followed by a party for the shop staff, at which PETER was the guest of honour.


11973: Publicity Visit. Oslo, Norway.

⇐ PETER with two of his female bodyguards in Oslo

 

 


Thursday, 29th November 1973: PETER was host of the Y.M.C.A. Christmas Fair, Europa Hotel, London. 

PETER was invited to open the annual Y.M.C.A. Christmas Fair at the Europa Hotel inYMCA London’s Grosvenor Square. The event had been organised by the Young Women’s Christian Association of Great Britain, under the chairmanship of Lady Lew Grade.

After taking to the stage to officially open the fair, he perused the charity stalls, which included some selling bric-a-brac, homemade cakes and pastries and even a Palmist. Since he was appearing in ‘The King and I’ in the West End at the time, PETER took an extra special interest in a stall selling exotic gifts from Thailand.

As a result of his help, the event raised over £7,000 for the charity.


public4Thursday, 9th May, 1974:

Impresario, Larry Parnes, invited the stars from twenty West End shows to a special midnight showing of the show, ‘Flowers’, starring Lindsay Kemp. The performance, which was free, was held at the Regent Theatre. Mingling with personalities were four collectors from the Variety Artists Benevolent Fund.

PETER making his donation

 


Thursday, 18th July, 1974: PETER makes an appearance at the Dragonara Hotel in Middleborough, along with the cast of ‘Present Laughter’ which, at the time, was being staged at the Forum in Billingham. The event has been organised by social workers based in Teesside to help raise funds for a scheme to provide holidays for underprivileged children in the Cleveland area. £350 was raised.


Monday, 9th September, 1974: The management of the Old Vic Theatre chose ‘Present Laughter’ to re-open their splendid Georgian theatre in September 1974, after its summer refurbishment. The Duke of Gloucester was the guest of honour at the black-tie occasion, joined guests of the management and company at a champagne party on stage after the show. There were many civic dignitaries from Bristol, Bath and elsewhere to lend importance to the occasion, which brought hopeful signals for a new and profitable lease of life to the grand old theatre. 


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Thursday, 12th September, 1974: PETER opens a new theatre ticket office at Mackross in Cardiff ⇒

 

 


Friday, 13th September, 1974: PETER opens the new Rymarket branch of Woolworths in Stourbridge, Worcestershire.


Tuesday, 15th October, 1974: PETER opens the Market Yard Fine Fare superstore at Peter-Wyngarde-PostcardTowbridge, Wiltshire.

 

⇐ Front and back view of a souvenir card produced by Carl Gresham Promotions for his appearance at Fine Fare supermarket.

 

 


Thursday, 17th October, 1974: Peter opens a new Woolworths store in LeicesterWOOLIES

PETER cutting the ribbon at the new Woolworths store ⇒

 


Sunday, 14th December, 1975: Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, London

PETER attended the Variety Artistes Ladies and Children’s Guild annual dinner and ball, the funds from which aided the aforementioned charity.

The organisation raised funds for their work in caring for the children and elderly members of the Variety profession – especially those who were no longer able to work and needed regular assistance.


21977: PETER hosted the Silver Jubilee pensioner’s meal. Annabelle’s Cafe, Fulham Road, London.

 

PETER with actress Susan Hampshire at Annabelle’s Café ⇒

 


Thursday, 30th June, 1983: London Transport Museum, Covent Garden, London. Appearance to publicise the play ‘Underground’.


Sunday, 17th July, 1983: Brightwell Gardens, Farnham. Charity garden party.


Saturday, 15th July, 1989: PETER is invited to open a school fete in Crawley, Sussex, mingling with mothers and children alike for the entire day.


Tuesday, 23rd November, 1993: PETER is guest of honour at the National Film Theatre in London, for the first ever showing of Granada Television’s ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ episode, ‘The Three Gables’. 


March 1997: PETER was one of the special guests to witness the re-opening of the world-famous Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

Once known as Britain’s movie capital, over eighty films were shot there, including ‘Ivanhoe’ (1952), ‘Ben Hur’ (1959), ‘Doctor Zhivago’ (1965), 2001: ‘A Space Odyssey’ (1968), ‘Star Wars’ (1977) and ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1991).

During the 1960’s and 70’s,the studio became better known for its connections with the television industry, with both ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason king’ being made there.

As part of the opening ceremony, PETER headed a guided tour of the studio and backlot, which was recorded and shown on local TV news. Other guests at the event included actress Liz Fraser and the late actor, Christopher Lee. 


Monday 31st May, 1999: PETER was amongst marksmen at a charity clay-pigeon shoot at Dame Vera Lynn’s country estate, who helped raise £8,000 for the S.O.S. Appeal. 


Sunday, 13th February, 2000: The first charity Pro/Celebrity Bridge Tournament was held at the White House Hotel, London, was a great success, with eight tables in play and a lot of enthusiasm and good will from all sides. The event in aid of the Millennium Charity Save the Children, was won by Su Burn and tenor, Ian Partridge.


Wednesday, 30th October, 2002: PETER was the special guest at the National Film Theatre’s Celebration of British Horror, during the course of which ‘Night of the Eagle’ was screened.


ADDITIONAL

Wednesday, 10th November, 1971: Judge. Miss World Competition.

On November 10th, 1971, PETER was asked to act as Chairman of a panel of nine judges of the ‘Miss World’ contest, which was broadcast live on BBC1, and compared for the 10th and final time by TV personality, Michael Aspel.

PETER’s team of judges for the occasion included Peter Scott, Des O’Connor, Douglas Fairbanks, Julie Ege, Peter Dimmock, Sam Speigel, Jean Terrell and Lovelace Watkins. Each of the judges where asked to submit their first, second and third choices. PETER’s votes, in order of preference, were as follows: Miss Guyana, Miss Brazil and Miss Portugal.

So, how close were PETER’s choices to the final outcome? In third place was Miss Portugal; Second, was Miss United Kingdom; and the Miss World crown and £40,000 first prize went to Miss Brazil.

Oh, well – one out of three wasn’t bad!

Although PETER enjoyed the occasion, his comments concerning the event some time later weren’t quite so complimentary:

“I thought it would be marvellous, but I must say I was a little disappointed with the selection – and the winners. But I mean, how can you possibly judge?

“You’re awarding points on the basis of personality a well as looks, yet you saw next to nothing of their personalities. And they’d all been taught to look the same with those funny little walks. They looked as if they were about to fall over backwards!

“They’d walk up to the judges table like this, or this, and then they go off again, I’ve got nothing against the contest; I never sympathised with Women’s Lib. I think it’s a good thing to have so many countries brought together under any circumstances, and especially good for the country that wins in terms of public relations. But for a genuine contest to choose the world’s most beautiful woman! You’d be better taking them to bed, one by one, and judge them on sex appeal!”


Friday, 11th August, 1972. Judge. Beauty contest at the Goldmine nightclub, Canvey Island.


Friday, 10th November, 1972. Judge. Centre Girl of the Year.

Francois Bes was elected Centre Girl of the Year on November 10th, 1972, at a gala evening held at the new Regent Centre Hotel in London, in front of 600 Centre Hotel staff and guests, which was followed by a buffet dance.centregirl

PETER was asked to head a panel of four judges, who included ex-boxer, Henry Cooper, television presenter, Shaw Taylor, and fashion editor, Linda Foster.

During her 12 month reign, Bordeaux-born Francois – a secretary to the company’s Purchasing Manager, not only won the opportunity to represent Centre Parks at various events throughout to coming year, but was also given the chance to win the prestigious Catering Princess title.

PETER and his fellow judges were asked to select a winner from the twenty finalists on poise and personality.


Thursday, 4th January, 1973. Judge Miss TV Europe.

ROLFPETER was elected Chairman of a panel of judges who elected 24-year-old Sylvia Kristel from Utrech in the Netherlands, ‘Miss TV Europe’. The then model, beat Zoe Spink of the United Kingdom and Anne-Marie Godart from France into second and third places, respectively.

The event took place at ATV’s Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

One of the more noteworthy moments of the evening was the image of PETER giving Ms Kristel her first ever ‘screen kiss’. She, of course, latterly became the star of the soft porn ‘Emmanuel’ films and their endless sequels, and of Stanley Hyers remake of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ in 1981.

Australian ‘entertainer. Rolf Harris, who was one of the judges and also appears in the photograph above, was jailed in 2014 on sexual assault charges.


Friday, 15th June, 1973: Judge. Miss Fine Fare.


Click here for more on PETER’s personal appearances


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

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TO MUNICH WITH… PANACHE!

In December 1971 PETER, along with a number of other well-known personalities from stage and screen, took part in a one-day Golden lo charity event  under the canvas of the world famous Circus Krone in Munich, (West) Germany.  It was there that the moustachioed-one took the applause of the capacity crowd after a spot of clowning around, which involved being doused in water, and having his expensive handmade jacket torn off.

But not content with reducing his tailor to tears, something a little more daring was expected from Germany’s favourite television hero, and so it wasn’t long before PETER fMUNICHound himself curled up like a contortionist in a 5 ft x 4ft basket, suspended below a hot air balloon, which was hovering almost 100 feet above the circus ring.

⇐ During his visit to Munich, PETER was treated to a private tour of the Olympic Stadium and Village, that was still under construction at the time.

For the rehearsal PETER, who arrived dressed in faded blue denims and with a red silk scarf wrapped around his neck, told a British journalist who’d accompanied him that, although the routine was “hard on the bum”, he’d found himself in far more precarious positions prior to taking the role of Jason King:

“I was once fighting in a cable car high above the Swiss Alps, when the door slid open and I slipped on my new boots,” he said. “The terror on my face was so real that they had to cut it out of the film!”

Looking up from the basket during a try-out, PETER noticed that there was only about a 12 children’s balloons tugging at the ropes. There was, however, a strong cable holding our hero aloft.

“Damn it!” cried PETER. “You’d have thought that they’d have given us a real balloon!”

The day of the main event hadn’t started too well for the adventurous actor, who’d arrived to find that his dressing room was situated midway between the elephant stalls and a pen holding the performing pig! However, because PETER is always prepared to see the funny side of every situation, he simply placed a few bunches of fresh flowers in the wash basin, and left to attend an autograph session at a Munich department store – muttering something about everything being “alright on the night”.

Back in 1971, PETER had replaced (West) Germany’s Chancellor, Willy Brant, as the country’s most popular personality in numerous polls, so everywhere he went in the Bavarian capital, he was mobbed by crowds of adoring fans.

One of his stop-off’s on 12th December, was to sign his posters  at the ‘Schwabing poster shop. After all the adoration, t was something of a relief, therefore, for him to return to the relative peace of his dressing room in the evening toMUNICH2 prepare for his grand entrance.

Crouching inside the tiny basket out of sight of the unsuspecting crowd, PETER was hauled high above the heads of the capacity audience – accompanied only by an umbrella and a huge Union Jack flag, which he insisted was unfurling before he made his decent. “Well, we are joining the Common Market, after all!” he quipped at the time.

PETER is lowered safely to the ground from the roof of the Big Top ⇒

As the balloon was lowered slowly to the ground, PETER emerged; his cuffs turned back characteristically (“It’s the only sensible way to wear a shirt; they don’t get in the way, and you can look at your watch!”) to the applause of the crowd, who confirmed him as the star of the show. Well, he did say something about it being alright on the night!

Trivia…. Other guests at the gala event were Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, and actors Marc Slade (‘The High Chaparral’) and Ron Ely (‘Tarzan’).


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

‘FALL OUT’ – THE PRISONER AT 50

Portmeirion, Friday, 28th September, 2017

My own personal adventure to this event began at 2pm on Thursday, 27th September, when I picked PETER up from Runcorn Station in Cheshire to begin our 90+ mile drive to Portmeirion in North Wales.

His train from London Euston pulled into Runcorn right on time, so PETER and I were on the road by 2.20. Since traffic was light both on the Weston Bypass and the M53, we were into Wales in what seemed like a blink of an eye.

Because we weren’t tied to time, we decided to stop for a break in Llangollen; a beautiful little village which is built next to a fast flowing river, and has its own historical steam railway and horse-drawn canal boats. We had lunch – PETER opting for a baked potato and salad, after which we both clambered back into my car and off we went again.

Having only ever visited Wales once or twice in his career, PETER was taken by the stunning landscape which complemented our route along the A5, and which became ever more impressive once we turned off towards Blaenau Ffestiniog. There, we passed the mountains of slate which acted as a backdrop for several scenes in the ‘Clash of the Titans’ remake that was filmed back in 2010. 

We finally pulled into Portmeirion around 4.45pm, where we were met at the Toll Gate by a member of staff from the elegant Village hotel where PETER would be staying, who ferried down there in a shuttle bus.

PETER had been booked into ‘House One’ on the 1st Floor, which had a spectacular view of the Village on one side and the Estuary on the other. Each room in the hotel is decorated in its own unique fashion, and PETER’s was adorned with scenes from ancient China that was complimented by antique black lacquered furniture to match.DIGITAL CAMERA

⇐ Derren Nesbitt in the hotel signing posters

Only he and actress Fenella Fielding – another guest at the event, were due to stay in the Village itself, whilst the rest of the troupe; Derren Nesbitt and his wife, Miranda. Jane Merrow, Annette Andre and Norma West, plus their agent, Thomas Bowington and myself, would be billeted in Porthmadog – a village three miles up the coast. The original plan was for me to await the arrival of the others who were travelling down from London by coach, and we’d all go up to our hotel together. However, by 7.30 that evening there was still no sign of them, and since PETER was being pressed to order his evening meal, I decided I’d drive over to Porthmadog myself and check in to my digs.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived there to find that there was no indication on the hotel computer of any us having been booked in for the night. I immediately Thomas to ask him what I was meant to do – hoping that he and the other actors and actresses would be arriving soon. To my astonishment I was advised that, due to a combination of road works on the motorway, and the driver of the coach taking a wrong turn (easy done on the tiny lanes in North Wales), they’d be on the road for several hours yet.

It was 11.40pm when I heard that the coach had finally pulled into Portmeirion, and with several octogenarian passengers on board Thomas, quite rightly, refused to move them another inch – insisting that they were all accommodated at the plush Village hotel.

An arrangement was made for everyone to meet in the Village hotel restaurant at 9am the following morning. It was a relief to me that I’d actually get something to eat, as there was nowhere to get any food at the hotel I’d been staying at. I drove the three miles down to Portmeirion, and instead of leaving my car on the ‘public’ car park, my Jeep became a Mini Moke for the day as I was allowed to take it down to the hotel and park it in the space allotted to PETER’s room.

As I drove through the hotel gates, I immediately spotted Thomas who was talking to very smartly-dressed gentlemen who I recognised as Derren Nesbitt. Unlike PETER, Mr Nesbitt, I learned, is an early-riser, and was rearing to get to work. Since the main event was only due to start at 9.30, Thomas decided to oblige him by having him sign some posters while we, and the other actors, went for breakfast.

I was told that all of our party – myself included – would be accommodated at the Portmeirion Hotel that evening, so I was to pick up my key from reception. Imagine my delight when I took my bag up to my room (‘House Seven’) to see the view from my window. It was worth the trip just for that!VIEW

The view of the Estuary from my window ⇒

Around 9.30, I went up to see how PETER was getting on, only to find that he’d been unwell during the night and was asking to see a doctor. I immediately went downstairs to reception, where a call was made to the nearest surgery which was two miles away in Minfordd. Thanks to the cruel and savage cuts made to the National Health Service by the gangsters we have in government at present, doctor’s no longer do house-calls, and we were told that if we wanted someone to attend we would have to call an ambulance. Otherwise, I’d have to drive him to the nearest Accident and Emergency department, which was 50 miles away at Bangor Hospital.

With this information, I went back up to PETER and gave him the news. He didn’t wish to trouble an ambulance crew, but at our insistence (Thomas and I), we arranged for one to come out to him just to be on the safe side. You’ll be relieved to hear that it only took said ambulance 7 hours and 40 minutes to reach us, by which time PETER was – thankfully – feeling much better.

Although the gates opened at 8am for registration, with Screening Rooms available from 9, the main Event began at 9.30 with an announcement by Fenella Fielding through the Village P.A. system. Thomas and I were standing outside in the hotel grounds at the time, when the strangest thing happened. As Fenella said “….and now the weather. Today with be fine with the chance of showers”, right on cue, the heavens opened and it absolute poured with rain! (Given her obvious powers of prophesy, I did ask her at breakfast the following morning if she had next week’s Lottery numbers!). 

PETER was due to be interviewed after a screening of a restored version of ‘Checkmate’ in Hercules Hall, so it was up to me to get him ready for his big moment. Because he’d had a bang to his knee a couple of days earlier, and given the Village is a bit up hill and down dale in its layout, we felt it would be safer for him to make his way to the Hall in a wheelchair.

Whilst all this was going on, Fenella made an announcement over the P.A. system from The Green Dome, summoning fans over to the Hall advising that, just for today, it was Number 2 in town, not Jason King!VILLAGE

⇐ PETER being interviewed in front of a packed Hercules Hall

The shuttle bus was summoned and we put the ‘chair, which we’d borrowed from the hotel, in the back. We soon discovered, however, that said ‘chair had no brakes and, with the bus having to first go up what seemed like a 1 in 5 hill, then down the other side, Thomas and I were holding on to the ‘chair for grim death! PETER, of course, was blissfully unaware that any of this was going on, and was gleefully regaling us one of his theatrical anecdotes as the two of us grimaced and sweated in the back.

Once out of the bus, we were all ushered into the ‘Green Room’, where PETER had a cup of tea whilst we listened to the final scenes of ‘Checkmate’ playing in the adjoining Hall. As the film concluded, it was at that moment that I wheeled PETER in to huge applause by the crowded gallery of loyal Prisoner fans.

He opened the interview by telling the story of how, when he was on tour in a play in South Africa, the sets were hijacked by outlaws whilst in transit, which resulted in him having to go out on stage to explain to the audience why there was no scenery!

Needless to say, the fans loved his contribution to the Event, and gave him a rapturous applause. Little did they know that Thomas and I now had to face the prospect of getting him back up the steep ramp to the waiting mini bus – again without the aid of brakes, and on to the hotel.

As we arrived at the entrance to reception, two really nice guys – one of them Hellfire Club member, John Uttley, were waiting outside to see PETER, who was happy to chat with them and sign a copy of his album plus a couple of other knick-knacks.

We then took PETER to one of the many lounges in the hotel, where he was delighted to meet journalist and Hellfire Club member, Andrew Roberts, who’d arranged to do an interview for Classic Car magazine about the great man’s life-long love of cars. There PETER chatted away happily about some of the many vehicles he’d owned.

Afterwards, he had a little chat with his old friend – fellow actor, Nickolas Grace, we escorted him back up to his room where he had a little snooze until it was time for his evening meal.

Thomas and I shared our meal with the wonderful Annette Andre, who herself had suffered somewhat from the previous days’ coach trip from London; Miranda and Derren Nesbitt – the latter of whom was full of the most wonderful stories; Jane Merrow, Fenella Fielding and her companion, Simon, and last but not least Norma West.

After I’d made sure that PETER was fine and well, Thomas and I finally managed to get a moment to ourselves in the bar, accompanied by a pint of cider shandy and a bottle of beer.

Later on, when everyone had vanished to their rooms, I went for a stroll around the Village on my own, having not had a chance to look around during the day. I took the opportunity to see the new sculpture of Patrick McGoohan in Battery Square which McGoohan’s daughter, Catherine, had unveiled earlier in the day.

Since we were expected to vacate the hotel by 10am, I set my alarm for 8, had a quick shower and went down for breakfast which I shared with Fenella and Simon. On my way back upstairs, I bumped into Derren and Miranda and we had a little chat; both of them asking after PETER. Derren said that he didn’t think that I’d know who he was but, of course, I’ve seen him many times, both on TV and films (‘The Blue Max’, ‘Where Eagles Dare’ etc.). Additionally, my Mum had dined out for many years on seeing him in my hometown (St Helens) where he was appearing at the theatre, wearing purple velvet trousers and matching boots. When I regaled this story to them, Miranda turned to Derren and exclaimed: “Purple boots?” “Well,” he replied. Everyone was wearing purple boots in the Seventies!” True!

I walked into PETER’s room and found him still in the arms of Morpheus; the breakfast tray I’d ordered for him still outside the door. I woke him up and reminded him that he had an hour to get ready to leave, so whilst he went for a shower I began packing his things.

Based on the debacle that had been the coach trip down to Portmeirion two days earlier, all but the most hardy amongst the troupe of thespians (namely Fenella and Simon), had elected to take the train back to London, which would first entail a 50-mile taxi journey to the station in Bangor.TALLYHO

The official event programme and map ⇒

It had also been Thomas’s plan to be back in London in time to meet PETER from the train at Euston Station, and to ensure that he got home safe and sound. This strategy also needed to be revised, so he opted to drive back to Runcorn with us as PETER was booked on the 15.03 train.

Now, there’s something you need to know about my car. As much as I love him (I call him Eddie, for that is his name), he is rather small inside – i.e. two seats in the front/two in the back. Whilst this was fine when there was just PETER two days earlier, but we now had an extra passenger and his luggage to transport. (For those of you Brits who remember the game on ‘It’s A Knockout’ [1] which involved about 40 people carrying plates of jelly, shoehorning themselves into an Austin Mini, well it was something like that!)

So we had Thomas in the back seat with PETER’s bags (he came with one small case, but managed to accumulate enough stuff to fill two additional pieces of luggage for the return journey!), while Thomas’s and I had to stuff our bags in the ‘boot’ (actually a space about 10in x 12in).

I know that we would have to get to Runcorn Station no later than 2.50pm to guarantee that Thomas could get a ticket and we could ensure PETER got safely onto the train. Since it was now 12.20, which meant that we would have to do the drive in one go, there was no room for any further delay. However, since a travel party is only as strong as its weakest bladder, everyone made a final dash to the loo and we off.

With the additional amount of running about that I’d had to do for PETER over the weekend, I told my travelling companions that I’d have to put some petrol in the car at the garage about a mile outside Portmeirion. PETER couldn’t understand this given that we had just under half a tank on board. What he failed to realise was that in rural North Wales, there could be 40 or 50 miles between fuel stations, and if we were to run out in the middle of nowhere….

The tank now full, off we went over some of the bumpiest roads known to mankind; traversing our way around random sheep, deep patches of water, low cloud and mist, not to mention the occasional cattle grid that played havoc with PETER’s bad back.

Mercifully, once the B Roads were negotiated safely and we reached the A5, and subsequently the A55 and laterally the M53, we were able to pick up speed and make up some time – in spite of the torrential rain and spray from the road. We inevitably pulled up outside Runcorn Station at 2.45 exactly. Whilst Thomas dashed inside to get his ticket, I helped PETER and his bags(!) out of the car and onto the platform, just as the train rounded the bend into the Station.

Once the two guys were safely on board, I climbed into the carriage to hastily plonk down PETER’s luggage, whilst he gave me a huge hug which I hastily had to get myself out of, as the door was about to shut and I’d soon find myself trapped and en route to Crewe!

My trip home was short tho’ not sweet, thanks in no small part to the road works and diversions caused by the soon-to-be completed Merseyside Gateway Bridge over the River Mersey. Thomas called the moment he and PETER arrived in London (the journey being just 1 hour, 50 minutes) to let me know that they’d arrived safe and sound.

Although those of us behind the scenes were paddling like crazy underneath, the general consensus from the fans, the event was a huge success. I guess that’s all that matters!


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

IT’LL BE ALRIGHT ON THE NIGHT?

An affectionate look at some of the bloopers in Peter’s films and TV series

Strange as it may sound to our younger readers, back in the olden days, if you wanted to watch something on telly, you had to do it at the time it was broadcast. There was no such thing as being able to catch your favourite programme an hour later on +1, and there was certainly no iPlayer or SKY+; no videos, DVD’s or Blu-Ray’s either, so you’d see a television series once and once only. That was it.

One of the irritating thing’s about this was that if you thought you’d seen something dubious on screen, like spotting a character with a Beehive in one scene, and then them appearing completely bald in the next, you couldn’t just rewind live TV to make sure your eyes weren’t deceiving you.

It was clear by the number of continuity errors in TV programmes of the 1960’s and 70’s that directors/editors etc. expected these shows to be broadcast only once – possibly twice – so they didn’t worry too much about the odd blooper here and there. Certainly, no one could’ve foreseen that within the coming years, everyone would have VCR’s in their own homes, and that these series would be pored over and scrutinised ad infinitum by fans. Indeed, by the mid-1980’s,   ‘Nit-Picking’ had become an international sport.

When the first episodes of ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’ were released on VHS in the early 1990’s, a whole list of continuity errors were identified. Here are some of the more obvious ones and the episodes in which they appeared.

Firstly, Department S…

♦ Probably the most error-strew episodes of Department S is ‘Six Days’. For instance, when Jason and Annabelle are in the airline’s office at London Airport listening to a recording of the missing planes’ radio communications, Jason goes to stand at the window. He has a lit cigarette in his left hand and a glass of Scotch in his right. He lifts the glass and takes a sip, but as he lowers the glass again, it’s moved from his right hand to his left, and the cigarette has disappeared.

♦ When Walsham drives up and stops outside his flat, he notices Jason’s maroon Bentley parked in the street to the rear of where he pulls up. We’re shown that Annabelle is in the car alone, but when we’re given Walsham’s point-of-view through his own rear-view mirror, both Jason and Annabelle are in the Bentley.

♦ Annabelle and Jason are in the Bentley, staking out a house in central London (or at least she is; he’s snoozing in the passenger seat!). A black cab arrives to pick up their quarry, and the two take off after him. First Annabelle is driving the Bentley, but as they come to a road junction, Jason is at the wheel. However, when the cab stops to drop off its passenger and the Bentley pulls up behind it Jason (or at least a stand-in!) gets out of the passenger-side door, and follows his target into a London Underground station.

BLOOPER

 ⇑ Jason driving the Bentley… now it’s Annabelle!

♦ In the pre-title sequence of ‘The Pied Piper of Hambledown’, the pub landlord’s daughter is looking through the window of one of the vacant houses in the village, where she sees an unfinished breakfast on the kitchen table. However, we’re told later on in the story that the villager all disappeared during the night – i.e. approximately 00.55, as her alarm clock and peek through her bedroom window testifies.

♦ In the same episode, Annabelle organises the investigation into the missing villagers with some female associates, when a shadow of a microphone boom following her across the pub lounge, and can be seen clearly above the door just before Jason enters.

♦ Still in ‘…Hambledown’, – towards the end of the same episode, we see Susan’s father, who’s at the holding centre, reading a copy of ‘Index Finger, Left Hand’, The photograph of Jason King on the back of the book is a face-on portrait. However, when Jason picks the book up, the photo’ of the author is now in profile. The picture then returns to its original position in the next shot when the book is handed back to Susan’s father.

♦ ‘The Ghost of Mary Burnham’: When Jason is posing as an Irish window cleaner in order to get into the villains flat, he gets out of the lift carrying a ladder, his bucket is clearly empty (save for a cloth). However, when he’s seen and is instructed to get on and clean the windows, the bucket is suddenly full of water!

♦ ‘Who Played The Dummy?’: When Annabelle rescues Jason from the cafe, the white Jaguar they escape in is first a left-hand drive, then a right-hand, and latterly a left-hand again!

♦ In ‘A Ticket To Nowhere’ Lisa Crane, the Karate expert manages to dispatch Stewart Sullivan swiftly with her finely-honed skills, but seemingly forgets all about her Martial Arts prowess when she loses a cat-fight with Annabelle Hurst later on. It would appear that the amnesia-packed plot affected the script writer, too!

♦ In ‘One of Our Aircraft Is Empty’, when Annabelle is abducted from her hotel room, she’s wearing a dark top and trousers. However, in her very next scene, when her captor brings her to the place where Stewart and the other passengers are being held, she’s suddenly wearing a yellow jumper and skirt.

♦ Also, when the passengers on board the plane are about to be sent to their death, Chalmers punches a protesting Finch on the left-side of his face. However, Finch is clearly seen clutching the right-side. Even Annabelle Hurst is convinced Finch is correct, as she applies her handkerchief to the man’s right temple.

♦ In ‘A Cellar Full Of Silence”, Jason is lying on a couch in the Department S office with an obviously empty ice-bag on his head, having been knocked unconscious in an earlier scene. Annabelle and Stewart arrive, and the team begin watching a cine film of a university Rag. While they discuss the case, Jason can be seen in the background putting on a pair of sunglasses, and then reaching over to get a glass of Scotch from an occasional table. He places the glass on his lap, and lifts the ice-bag up with his right hand. In close-up, however, the ice-bag is still on his lap, then back in his hand as he’s seen again in the background. He now puts the bag on the occasional table. Yet, when we once more go to close-up, Jason is still taking ice from the bag which is once more resting on his lap, and putting it into the glass. In the final background shot, the ice-bag is on the table!

♦ ‘The Trojan Tanker’: It’s undoubtedly that PETER’s voice has been dubbed on where Stewart Sullivan exclaims “Il belle sola”, after throwing down the parasol in the beach scene.

Unfortunately, ‘Jason King’ didn’t fare any better in the blooper stakes as you’ll see…

♦ PETER clearly fluffs his lines in the pre-title sequence of ‘A Deadly Line In Digits’, when he’s seen sitting at a table outside a café near the ski-run – arguing with Ryland. He has to stop in the middle of the line: “I’m recovering from physical exhaustion!” to include the prior line which he seems, momentarily, to have forgotten: “Well, that’s presumptuous. I’m no longer with Department P, Q, R or S!”). He then repeats the line in its entirety.

♦ In ‘Variations On A Theme’, the footage cuts back and forth for a considerable time from exterior location shots to interior studio shots. One moment in the exterior shots, PETER’s hair is wavy and unkempt, the next (in the studio), it’s styled and perfectly groomed, as well as being a good inch or two longer.

Of course, ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’ weren’t the only series to feature such mistakes. Keeping to the PETER WYNGARDE theme, here are a few of the blunders that managed to remain in the Prisoner episode, ‘Checkmate’:

♦During the aerial view of the Village during the opening sequence of the episode, there is no sign of the human chessboard, yet moments later, it’s all laid out and the players on it.

♦ The chess move “Knight to Queen’s Bishop Three” is called, and appears to be completed by a ‘Pawn’, yet there’s no ‘Pawn’ in the appropriate square.

♦ When Number 6 appears to be filling in a crossword, it looks as if the puzzle has been pasted into a regular newspaper, as there’s an article in it which mentions various driving offenses and the Worcestershire town of Kidderminster!

♦ When Number 6 and ‘The Rook’ approach the Villager who’s painting the wall for the first time, a man’s voice can be heard in the shouting “You alright there, Fred?”.

♦ During the Word Association test at the Hospital, the ‘Nurse’ (Number 39) is holding a notebook, which disappears in the following close-up. But after Number 6 says (“Free”) “For All”, the book is back in her hand.

♦ When Number 2 has spoken to ‘The Rook’ on the beach, the latter is wearing his badge. However, when he walks across to the tent, the badge has gone, but it reappears once he’s inside the tent.

♦ ‘The Queen’ is sitting on a rock while talking to Number 6 about her locket. But when the Supervisor sees her a second or two later, she’s paddling in the water, before she’s momentarily spotted back on the rock.

♦ At the end of the episode, when No.6 is fighting with the crew of the Polotska, we see Number 2 drumming his fingers on the top of his shooting stick, and then clicking a button on the control panel using the point of his umbrella. However, in between these shots, when Number 2 is shown sitting in his chair, he doesn’t have the umbrella/shooting stick with him.

♦ When Number 6 punches one of the Guardian’s up in the Bell Tower, there’s the sound of a large splash, despite the Tower being nowhere near the sea.

♦ After the struggle between Number 6 and the crew of MS Polotska and Rover arrives to accompany the ship back to shore, none of the unconscious crewmen can be seen anywhere.

And what about the episodes of The Avengers in which PETER guest starred…?

CARTNEY

♦ ‘A Touch of Brimstone’: Right at the beginning of the episode, when Sir John Cleverly Cartney pours himself a drink, there’s no chocolates on the arm of his chair. But when the camera cuts to him sitting in front of the TV, the box has suddenly appeared on the chair arm. We then cut back to Cartney as he is selecting one of the chocolates which he has carefully placed along the arm of his chair!

♦ In ‘Epic’, during the scene where Emma Peel has a six-shooter pistol and fires several shots at Stewart Kirby in the guise of a Red Indian, she discards the gun in the buckboard. Later, when she’s walking through the back lot and comes to a notice on the electrified fence, the previously discarded weapon is back in her hands. Still later, when she runs into the policeman, the pistol has disappeared again.

♦ Also in Epic”, at the end of the fight between Emma Peel and Kirby in the guise of a Confederate soldier, PETER swings a punch past Diana Rigg’s head, but she reacts and then pretends to be unconscious.

Of course, the type of gaffes described above weren’t confined solely to television series. Big-budget feature films are often strewn with blunders and slip-ups. Take ‘Night of the Eagle’ (‘Burn, Witch, Burn’) for example…  

♦ After the giant eagle has smashed through the main door of the college to pursue Professor Taylor, we see the door back in one piece in a later shot.

♦ At the very beginning of ‘Flash Gordon’, Emperor Ming and General Klytus are discussing “An obscure body in the SK system”, which the inhabitants refer to as the planet “Earth” – which pronounced as if the word is completely foreign to them. However, at that moment, Klytus activates a button on his console labelled ‘Earthquake’.

♦ Also on the console amongst the choice of catastrophes, Typhoon and Hurricane are listed as separate items. Typhoons and Hurricanes are the same weather system and are just called by different names around the globe.

♦ After Dale and Flash take off from Dark Harbour, they fasten their seatbelts as turbulence begins, but when it gets really bad, Dale jumps into Flash’s lap without unfastening her seatbelt.

♦ As the capsule carrying Flash, Dale and Zarkov crash lands on Mongo, and one of Ming’s guards looks through a porthole into the craft, it seems that he’s just outside. However, the next shot reveals a crowd of guards, but they’re behind the ship and far away from the capsule.

♦ When General Klytus tells Flash and Dale that they have until “The sands run up” to say their goodbyes. Dale is distraught when she sees that the Timer is about to run out, she tries to turn it over, but there’s far more sand in it than when she first looked at it.

♦ After their escape from Mingo City, Princess Aura is showing Flash how to fly the ship in which they’re travelling to Arboria. She tells him that, “The left lever controls direction, and the right controls altitude”. Moments later while still flying, Flash gets angry at Aura for not showing him how to use the thought amplifier, so he shoves the left lever forward. The ship responds by going into a nose-dive.

♦ When Flash is on Arboria, he sees the initiations ceremony of a young Arborian man, who bleeds light green blood when he’s bitten by the Wood Beast. However, when Prince Barin fights Flash at Sky City later on, his blood is red.

♦ After General Kala announces the execution of Zarkov and Barin, there’s a small scene when the gold faced guards are lined up and ordered to march by their superior in a distorted voice. The voice matches the mouth movements of the superior for several words, then doesn’t as his mouth is closed. However, the voice continues to sound off.

♦ After the bloody fight between Prince Barin and Flash at Prince Vultan’s Sky City, both emerge without a single scratch on them in spite of sustaining numerous cuts from whips and spikes.

♦ In the same fight, Flash’s shirt (which he’d been wearing on Arboria) goes from clean to dirty and then clean again.

♦ During the wedding sequence, Prince Barin is charging around Ming’s Palace with a ray gun. He’s seen at one end of a corridor when three guards appear from around a corner at the opposite end. He promptly shoots one of them. When we next see him, Barin and the remaining two guards have switched positions (Barin is now standing over the body of the guard whom he initially shot down).


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

PETER WYNGARDE IMORTALISED IN SONG

20170115-211530‘Record Collector’ features editor, Mark Paytress unearths three unique songs recorded in honour of PETER WYNGARDE…

In recent years, PETER WYNGARDE’s profile has received a dramatic boost, climaxing in the availability – of much of his work on DVD – including ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’ – two series which seem to improve with age.

But few are aware that some of the earliest recognition of this revival of fortunes came via an obscure pop group who sung PETER’s praises on no less than three tracks on their obscure ‘Give Us A Light You Bastard’ album (sometimes known as ‘Off The Top of Our Heads’).

This record, which exists on a handful of test-pressings, is yet to emerge on the commercial market. Indeed, even tapes of its contents are preciously guarded, so I was pleased to receive a copy several months after the album was recorded – back in April 1990, during three days in the wake of legendary Hollywood actress, Greta Garbo.

If you can imagine the comfortable and uplifting music of Ray Coniff filtered through the crazed eyes of a social outcast like Charles Manson, you’ll begin to understand the Breadwinner world-view. Unconventional (but not forcedly so) and endearingly melodic, the bands album is a remarkable example of how of our eras best music still manages to elude the prying eyes of the mass media. I spoke to the somewhat reticent ex-band members to find out a little more about their fascination with PETER WYNGARDE.

“I was still in short trousers when Jason King was on TV,” says ‘Big’ Bob McGrath, the groups percussionist and singer/composer of the reggae-influenced ‘If Wyngarde Was A Woman’.  

“I knew nothing about his wonderful LP until, believe it or not, I found a copy – weather-beaten but still playable, under a bush in the New Forrest. It was a revelation. I sang in several punk bands, but we’d never have been able to get away with a song like ‘Rape’, even in those days. As I’m sure most WYNGARDE fans appreciate, it’s totally bloody mad!”

Playing it to his friends, McGrath and his mates in Dogloo Art Group eventually wrote to PETER via his agent, and received some answers to a questionnaire that they intended to publish in their ‘One More War’ fanzine’.

“I have to say that he was a bit bemused by our line of questioning,” says Breadwinner’s Morris De Cony. “But his replies were delivered with all the wit and understated cool that one would expect. We weren’t disappointed, not until Dogloo got banned from performing in our local town and we decided to shelve the magazine. Our approach to the arts has always been irreverent and controversial, and when the local council read the synopsis of our performance, which included an exhibit of ‘The Human Prune’ (where one band member sits in a bath all day, and is rushed on the stage in the evening covered in wrinkles), they pulled the show. Instead, the musical wing of Dogloo, Breadwinner, set about making a record”.

The three PETER-related tunes on ‘Give Us A Light…’ were composed in the irreverent style pioneered by WYNGARDE on his own album. ‘Because he’s a Sex God par excellence, we just had to write a song that dealt with that, but from a different perspective. So I came up with the idea of ‘If Wyngarde Was a Woman’, says McGrath. ‘The rest of the band loved it. It was in the true Dogloo spirit, and suitably Wyngardeian, too. We had great hopes for it; Morris was forever harping on about us doing a ‘Top of the Pops’, all decked out in Jason King-style, perhaps with PETER doing a little cameo walk-on. For all I know, he probably still harbours such a dream, the fool!” 

‘If Wyngarde Was a Woman’, which opens with a cheesy drum beat, is the aural equivalent of an exquisite piece of porcelain in Harrods; part reggae, part Latin amore – it’s the perfect accompaniment to one of Seňor King’s most exotic assignments.

On a seagulls wings I fly

with Pete up to the sky

Please don’t ask me why

oh, if WYNGARDE was a woman

And the chorus is a hoot, too:

‘If WYNGARDE was a woman

I’d sail the seven seas

to buy her jewels and spices

And other sexy treats.

You can almost hear Jason’s flares flapping with delight.

“We were all concerned that a woman’s touch was also needed,” says the band’s chanteuse – the stunning Fay Allright, who wrote ‘Hey There, Petter (sic) Wyngarde’, the second of the PETER trilogy on the album.

“I wrote it with two things in mind: ‘Le Petomane’, the film starring Leonard Rossiter which detailed the career of the French bloke who used to fart for a living. And the constant playing of PETER’s album which I fell in love with. Set to a canter reminiscent of the ‘Telstar’ man, Joe Meek. ‘Hey There, Petter Wyngarde’ was a solo effort that defies easy description.

“I don’t care much for trends in popular music,” says Fay. “I work on the basis of what interests me at any particular time, and my WYNGARDE obsession was reaching a peak when I wrote that song. I knew no record label was going to touch us; after all, everything was rave music, the grunge style was coming in and I knew we’d be impossible to market in that climate. So I found a mad violinist, double-tracked my voice, and did what I thought suited the mood best. I’m still very proud of that song.”

Best of all, perhaps, is ‘Jason Kinky Winky’, midway through the second side of the album. As DJ, Steve Wright could, with a few plays, transform this frivolous piece of country-tinged MOR into an overnight classic. Featuring the harmonising voices of De Cony and Allright, ‘Jason Kinky Winky’ is all your wildest Stereolab and St Etienne fantasies come true. It’s the kind of track, like, ‘The Birdy Song’ which immediately implants itself into your memory – just one hearing and you’ll never be able to forget it! Morris even turned in a Rockabilly-style solo.

“I always imagine Jason King as a Teddy Boy grown up,” says De Cony, “which is why we decided to add the James Burton[1] touch. The impassioned WYNGARDE fan will detect several references to his album littered throughout the lyrics: ‘Billy Sexy Hippie’ gets a name check, and the pay-off line, ‘Gas gets rid of all the stinky’, is a direct steal from the WYNGARDE album”.

Sadly there are no plans to make the Breadwinner album more freely accessible: “I see OK1
myself as one of life’s customers,”
says Mr Rubbish – the pseudonymous fourth member of the Breadwinner set-up, “and I prefer to buy records than to make them. I really couldn’t give a toss about the album, quite frankly. It was only the continual badgering of Morris, and the promise of lots of free cider at the recording sessions that tempted me and Big Bob into the studio in the first place.

“We had a saying in Dogloo: ‘Art for art’s sake’, and I’d much rather stick to that than be tempted by big money offerings from corporate record companies. We aspire to nothing but pure indulgence; intoxicated on homemade wine, and our fantasies.

“If the record ever came out properly, I’d be most unhappy though, of course, I’d love PETER to be aware of our continual devotion to his life and work”.

As if to prove his distance from the record-producing world, Mr Rubbish has since handed over the master tapes of the album to me – a copy of which was sent to Hellfire Club president, Tina Hopkins.

Respecting the wishes of the Breadwinner collective, I’ve decided not to actively court the record companies. However, if there was a way in which the three WYNGARDE-related could be combined into a tribute disc, I see no barriers involved. All those who’ve heard the songs in question have emerged punch-drunk and in a state of disbelief. Breadwinner have managed to sustain a Jason King sensibility decades after he left our screens. And as the quest for Exotica – records that stand far removed from rocks’ interminable trajectory has shown, there is a demand for music that slips between the net of courting fashion. Hopefully, on the back of this, this trio of WYNGARDE-inspired tributes will see the light of day officially. We’ll keep you posted.

[1] Burton’s distinctive guitar playing can be heard on the early Ricky Nelson singles, as well as later Elvis Presley recordings.

Click here for information on more tribute songs


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

DEPARTMENT S VERSUS JASON KING

department-s_the-shift-that-never-was-6Over the years as Secretary of the Official PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society, I’ve received many a strange, interesting and controversial letter from fans (and foes!), but not provoked such a reaction from our membership than the following, which was written by Mr Paul McGuinness of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Dear Tina,

I remember that it was around 7.30 in the evening when ‘Department S’ first appeared, but being just a child, I felt that it was just like ‘The Champions’, which had just finished its run. However, it was not long before I was into the storyline – hook, line and sinker.

I remember vividly that the first episode was ‘The Ghost of Mary Burnham’. I also recall the announcer at the end saying it wasn’t the episode scheduled to be shown. It helped that the first episode to be shown was such a good one, as they clearly wanted to show the best stories first to get people interested.

I think that the reason ‘Department S’ was so big was because of the blatant commercialism. This had a lot to do with Edwin Astley – composer and arranger. Another reason was the scripts. They were excellent – they were strong and the lines were straight and to the point.

The acting was great too, but this is where everyone is wrong in not recognising the other members of the cast, who were less flamboyant than PETER WYNGARDE, but who gave the show a base. ‘Department S’ was NOT PETER WYNGARDE; it was a combination of all the things I’ve mentioned above. I can only think that in 1970, PETER WYNGARDE was God (well, he thought so!) People told him that it was HIS performance that made the show, disregarding his fellow actors in the series, who were not recognised or given credit by the media, or through the public.

If ‘Department S’ was the most blatantly commercial show of all time, the ‘Jason King’ was just the opposite. Geoffrey Howe one destroyed the economy with one budget. I expect PETER WYNGARDE destroyed his career with 26 episodes of ‘Jason King’!

The scripts were dreadful. There was no Joel Fabiani or Rosemary Nicols to give the show balance. His image was changed from a masculine one to a rather thinner version of Frank Spencer. maybe subconsciously he wanted to destroy the character. He certainly destroyed him in the eyes of the public.

Yet there is no doubt that this man can act. His performance in ‘The Saint’ episode, ‘The Man Who Likes Lions’ will verify this. ‘The Saint’ sometimes suffered because many episodes were just the same, but in this episode he was a rather masculine one where he got his role from within and is probably a truer expression of himself. This is why he appealed to so many women. This is why I want to come back to ‘Jason King’, because it was this series that destroyed the credibility of PETER WYNGARDE.

He will never be forgiven!

Patrick McGoohan, who I recently watched in a Sunday night film, fell into the same trap when he left ‘Danger Man and did ‘The Prisoner’, which was complete rubbish, and he never recovered!

There’s little doubt that ‘‘Department S’’ was the best detective series ever made. Today, they make programmes for two hours which introduce characters. In my opinion, two hours is too long. You need to be direct with the scripts. The music has to be exciting, bring the show to its thrilling climax, and keeping its audience on the edge of their seats.

I would very much like to know if PETER was given the chance to do another series of ‘Department S’, and if so, did he turn it down? Did he get on with the other members of the cast, and does he regret making ‘Jason King’?

Also, do you know if Rosemary Nicols wore a wig in the show, or was she advised to do so, as she looks so much better? Was Anthony Nicholls from ‘The Champions’ her father?

Paul McGuinness

_________________ 

It was clear based on the questions at the end of this letter that its author was more than a little confused as to who – or more specifically, WHAT he was writing to. The clue to our concern was in the title: The Official PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society. We were not a club specifically devoted to ‘Department S’, therefore the enquiries relating to Rosemary Nicols were somewhat misplaced [1].

Nevertheless, I welcomed Mr McGuiness’s contribution as I’ve done all others, and respected his opinion, although I myself didn’t completely agree with it.

To begin with, PETER’s move from ‘Department S’ to ‘Jason King’ in 1971, wasn’t his choice but that of Lew Grade and ITC. He certainly had no influence over the fate of the characters – Annabelle Hurst, Stewart Sullivan or Sir Curtis Seretse. And whilst Mr McGuinness clearly doesn’t rate ‘Jason King’ as highly as he does the original series, his opinion is just that: a mere view-point – not fact. There are many fans who actually prefer ‘Jason King’ to ‘Department S’ – one of those people being none other than ITC’s own Dennis Spooner [2].

Another fallacy that was touched upon in McGuinness’s letter is that PETER’s career was somehow “destroyed” post ‘Jason King’. This point has been discussed several times in other articles in this Blog, so I won’t go through it all again. What I will say, however, is that it’s clear that most people see PETER solely as a television actor, and that when he chose to return to the stage after he completed the final episode of ‘Jason King’, certain members of the public simply believed he’d disappeared.

Mr McGuinness’s lack of awareness concerning PETER’s post-‘Jason King’ career is one thing, but as a self-confessed fanatic of a show which he declared as “the best detective series ever made”, you’d have at least expected him to know that ‘The Ghost of Mary Burnham’ was not the first episode o ‘Department S’ to be shown on British TV. The debut episode was, in fact ‘Six Days’, which was broadcast on Sunday, 9th March, 1969. ‘The Ghost of Mary Burnham’ was actually shown much later on Thursday, 18th February, 1970.

Following my reply to Mr McGuinness, a number of fans decided to join the debate. These included the following:

“Mr. McGuinness definitely lost me when he wrote that ‘The Prisoner’ was “complete rubbish”, said Uwe Sommerlad. But he’s got a (single) point – ‘Department S’ was a better show, as far as I’m concerned, and it had to do with the balance; having just Jason King gave us the pleasure of seeing more of PETER WYNGARDE, but it became a tad too fanciful. ‘Jason King’ needed a down-to-earth element it lacked – a Watson to Sherlock Holmes (“You are the one fixed point in a changing world, Watson.”), you may say, to make sure it’s only a 7% Solution and not an overdose. “Having said that – Jason King is still a very entertaining show, of course. And who needs the (fine) Edwin Astley when he gets the (great) Laurie Johnson?”

Wayne Webster added his thought as follows: ‘In ‘Department S’, l like the chemistry between PETER WYNGARDE and Joel Fabiani who were great together. The Jason King character was perfect for the time. As for the Jason King series the more l revisit the series the more l like it (l know some think this series was not strong). PETER WYNGARDE should be proud of this character.”

‘It might be fair to say the three leads on ‘Department S’ are like a balanced meal – starter, main, and dessert. Jason king is just dessert – and while that is my favourite course it is best not to over indulge”, Hellfire Club member, Patrick Nash said .

“However, this letter seems to be from someone craving attention and sadly he is getting it. ‘Danger Man’ is just about forgotten today – ‘The Prisoner’ considered a classic of all time. ‘Department S’ is just about forgotten – Jason king fondly remembered. While it would be interesting to hear PETER WYNGARDE’s views on how ‘Jason king’ affected his career it has to be said it has granted him a sort of immortality – and that is due to the solo show. It seems many other people also have a fondness for dessert.”

Diane Brierley, meanwhile, says that she’s a fan of both series: PETER was brilliant as Jason King in both series. I can’t think of a single other actor who could have given life to this sexy, flamboyant character the way PETER did. The first time I watched him in ‘Department S’ he had me hook, line and sinker! Personally I have to say that I preferred the story lines in ‘Department S’ but it was always PETER’S show. Joel was fab too but I think Annabelle could have been played by any actress. Rosemary never came across as very special in the part to me. Just to add, ‘Department S’ absolutely WAS PETER WYNGARDE for without his acting ability, superb voice and diction and ability to make Jason King the primary character the programme would not have been the success that it was. Not forgetting his damn good looks and style obviously!!”

“Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Australian, Tania Donald says pragmatically. “TV shows and movies are such a matter of personal taste after all – but I wouldn’t think that these views outlined above are held by many of PETER’s admirers. ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’ are different shows, by design. I think it would have been very evident to the producers of ‘Department S’ that PETER was a huge part of the show’s success and the next Dept S_blogger2
logical step would be to cater to the public’s admiration of Peter by showcasing his talents in his own series – which Jason King did and very successfully too. PETER is amazing in Jason King and the shows huge and continued popularity says much more about his masterful performance than the personal opinion of one fan ever could’.

‘Both shows are fabulous. Each shows different sides to the character, with the series Jason King being a more personal portrayal. The fact that nearly 50 years later we are here discussing this should be testament enough to the quality of PETER’S performance!’ Dave Asher.

‘I always loved ‘Department S’ because it seemed to have lots of sci-fi and weird bits to it. Jason King, on the other hand, my mum used the like (I wonder why?) but as a youngster I could never get into the stories and it was on quite late at night as well.’ David James Manning.

After the above comments were posted on our Facebook page, I then received the following email from Jeannette Griffiths from Perth, Australia:

Dear Tina,

I’m not usually much of a letter writer, but after reading Paul McGuinness’ manic utterings I felt compelled to put pen to paper.

Although I accept that most people associate PETER with Jason King as, without doubt, the flamboyant author was his most popular and best-loved creation to date, it really makes my blood boil to think that there are still such narrow-minded people out there who seem to think that that once ‘Jason King’ came to an end in 1973, Sir Lew Grade stuck PETER in a box and put him up in the attic with the Christmas tree and old photo albums!

In spite of your selfless hard work in bringing the countless aspect of PETER’s extensive career to our attention, it still hasn’t sunk in with certain cloth-heads out there that the character of Jason King was not, and never will be, the pinnacle of PETER WYNGARDE’s career.

If Paul McGuinness had been paying attention, he’d have noticed how often PETER has stated in interviews that, just after ‘Jason King’ ended its run on TV, he had no desire to make another long-running television series, and only wanted to return to the theatre – which I believe he did with great success. Surely it doesn’t take an Oxford don to work out that actors don’t just drop off the face of the earth the moment we switch of out TV sets!

Had it not occurred to Mr McGuinness that, perhaps, PETER saw himself primarily as a stage actor and that, maybe, ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’ were merely a diversion from what he saw as his main vocation? What some people clearly fail to understand is that television isn’t the be all and end all of a professional actors life. In fact, many thespians still look down on the box as the ‘Poor Relation’, and frown upon those who make it their life’s work.

Based on the reviews I’ve read, PETER’s career actually hit a peak after ‘Jason King’ finished, and did not nosedive as McGuinness advocates.

My advice to those people who think that PETER’s career amounts to nothing more than a four year period between 1969 and 1973, is to get off the couch, potato brain, and grab a life!

I also received this missal from Mr Grayson Dunning from Mid Glamorgan, who reacted thusly:

Dear Tina,

I’m writing in response to Paul McGuinness’ letter. Whilst I disagree with some of what he says, he’s not as wide of the mark as some people might think. There are three points in his letter that I’d like to make.

Firstly, I do believe that Joel Fabiani played an important anchor role in ‘Department S’ and was a vital to its artistic, if not commercial, success. His down-to-earth and fact-seeking character kept the drama grounded in realism as Jason went off on his flights of fancy. But let’s not be mistaken, it was PETER who gave the show its colour and impetus; he supplied its adrenalin, if you like, and it was he who the viewers tuned in to watch.

As for Rosemary Nicols, the less said about her the better! (How could she have possibly have believed herself to be an actress of any real worth with THAT voice?! Every time I hear it I’m reminded of the scene in ‘Jaws’ where Robert Shaw scrapes his fingernails down a blackboard!).

Secondly, looking from a fundamentalist viewpoint, dramatically and intellectually, ‘Jason King’ is inferior to ‘Department S’. However, it is not “rubbish”; to anyone like myself who has a deep love of all things Wyngardian, and who can happily sit through fifty minutes of PETER free-wheeling through all manner of ludicrous mayhem; coiffured and tarted up like a prize peacock, then its manna from heaven. therein lies its underrated appeal. On a pure ‘fun’ scale, it outstrips ‘Department S’.

Thirdly, I agree with Paul: ‘Jason King’ did ruin PETER’s TV career. But I think one can go even deeper to the core of the problem than Paul did in his letter. The more I think about it, and without being too harsh, it was PETER’s own fault. The character of Jason King became too over the top and cartoonish in its depiction of the ‘ideal woman’s man’. And PETER made the fatal mistake of allowing the boundaries between actor and character to become blurred you can see this in the countless interviews given at the time). he fell for the sex symbol status he acquired and encouraged it, instead of distancing himself; keeping his head down and making people sit up and concentrate of him as an actor (as opposed to wondering what he might be like in the sack!).

PETER seemed to revel in his pin-up status but it doesn’t do your career any good over the long term. People forget you’re an actor, and stop taking you seriously as one. You become a caricature, as PETER did – linked to a particular era of TV. But, inevitably, in TV as in everything else, when one era eventually comes to an end another one begins and some of the baggage is left behind – often the most defining people of the previous era, because they’ve become old fashioned; unhip, or inextricably linked to a bygone age: an anachronism. Only in recent years has PETER become revered by fans of all things cult. 1182834429_1

The general TV audience has a shallow appreciation of what’s put in front of them, with a limited attention span, which the TV producers are in tune with and respond to. Unfortunately, to the general television audience PETER was, and always will be Jason King from the Seventies; ‘medallion man’. If only he hadn’t allowed character and actor to merge into one all those years ago, who knows what else he might’ve achieved on TV. On the other hand, PETER’s theatrical career thrived because the stage is a completely different animal; it draws in a limited yet more cultured audience that would have a deeper appreciation and understanding of PETER’s work. After all, there is no doubting he is one of the finest, most talented actors of his or any generation.

I wonder if he actually now feels that he allowed himself to get too closely linked to the Jason King character at the time, or whether he had a preference for either ‘Department S’ or ‘Jason King?

Well let’s find out…

Dear Grayson,

I’d just like to say that I couldn’t agree with you more about Joel’s contribution to ‘Department S’ but, as usual, money raised its ugly head and the producers would only make the second series (‘Jason King’) if they had just one wage bill alone to pay and not three ! (The tailor’s bill alone was more than my salary!).

Secondly, I don’t think that ‘Jason King’ was in anyway inferior to ‘Department S’ – just different. I do think, however, that the lack of finance was partly responsible for the absence of good locations etc.

In the first series, Jason was only brought in at the very last moment when all else had failed. In ‘Jason King’, the idea was to discover a more ‘private self’; a deeper and more serious side to the character. Looking back now, perhaps he should never have been exposed to all those other influences, or allowed to take himself so seriously. Unfortunately at times, sentiment became more important than the plot. I do feel it was a mistake to make Jason so vulnerable, and in retrospect, that was perhaps the only major fault of the series. However, on a fun scale, it did outstrip ‘Department S’.

Now to a very important point: Acting is about being the person you play., and I think an actor succeeds only if he becomes the character he portrays – totally, which is what film and television acting is all about. Alas, it appears that it’s been a faithful audience which has blurred the imagery in this case.

Finally, I think that you’ve got the point of one era ending and another beginning slightly out of focus, and that the “baggage” to which you refer has itself become the dumping ground as opposed to the era itself. After all, that “era” has once again come around, the difference being that now some people prefer to call it ‘Cult’.

You must remember that ‘Jason King’ was a send-up of the James Bond films of that time, and this was the point of its humour. As you know, Bond won all his fight whilst Jason, on the other hand, rarely ever emerged unscathed from his! Like the master once said: “There is too much nonsense spoken about sex as there is too much nonsense spoken about television!” After all, they’re both primarily there to entertain; a talent to amuse.

Sincerely,

PETER

P.S. And can we please stop referring to Jason King as a “Medallion Man”! After all, the only time he ever wore a medallion was when he went undercover as another character, in the ‘Shake & Shout’ scene in ‘The Man From X’ (‘Department S’).

[1]. I pointed Mr McGuinness in the direction of the Actors Equity to see if they might be able to assist him in contacting Ms Rosemary Nicols, or her representative.

[2]. Story Consultant on both ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’.


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

THE ULTIMATE PETER WYNGARDE INTERVIEW

PETERInterviewed by Tina Hopkins

“My Father took me from my Mother when I was a tiny child”, PETER says. “She was beautiful – a real Claudette Colbert lookalike and racing driver, who was chased all over the place by men. I ended up in China when the Japanese invaded”.

It was five O’clock in the morning when the doorbell rang, and the Swiss diplomat’s wife went to answer it. A Japanese officer with two soldiers pushed their way into the house in Shanghai. The officer held a list of names. With difficulty one of them said WYNGARDE san?”

The Swiss lady gestured towards the little boy tucking into a large breakfast. “That’s him’,” she said. ”He’s eating his last meal’. “And for the next four years it pretty much was my last meal,” PETER adds.

“The Japanese were after my father; who was on their list to be picked up, along with all other British people in Shanghai,” PETER went on. “But he wasn’t there. He’d left me in the care of a neutral Swiss family for a couple of weeks. When the soldiers asked for ‘WYNGARDE san’ they meant Mr WYNGARDE. The Swiss lady thought they were asking for ‘WYNGARDE’s son.’

“As I was only a child, I was travelling on my father’s passport, and so I didn’t officially exist. If she’d had the presence of mind to say that I was her child, I’d have been left alone, and the Japanese would’ve been none the wiser.

“As it was, the Japanese were confused to find that the person named on their list was a child, and thought I must be some special kind of VIP. The officer didn’t speak good English, and didn’t really understand the situation. Along with hundreds of other Britons, I was herded into a truck for an internment camp for civilians about 40 miles outside Shanghai. All the other children were members of British families, but I was alone. I knew nobody there.

“The Japanese repeatedly asked me when I’d last seen my father. It was a very serious situation, but to me at that age, it was a sort of game. He was working between Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Malaya, and I think he was quite important. But at that age, I didn’t know anything about my father’s work, and believed he was on some sort of secret mission. I wouldn’t tell them anything.

“Women with children were housed in one block; the men and boys in another. I was in a billet with eighteen men.” The men made young PETER a kind of mascot. They swapped precious belongings, and somehow PETER always got the best of the bartering. All the war news came from Japanese sources, of course, and was designed to subdue the spirits of the captives. The Germans and their allies were winning everywhere, it seemed.

“With the hardships, the shortage of food, and the bad news, a lot of people were demoralised,” PETER told me. “But then a radio was smuggled into camp. It came in pieces, between the casings of vacuum flasks from a local factory. When it was assembled in our billet we could listen to Chiang Kai-Shek’s radio station, broadcasting news of the Allies.”

However, when the Japanese forbade prisoners in one block from communicating with those in another, PETER was used as their runner to spread the radio news through the camp. But then one day he was caught by a guard, who broke both his feet with rifle butts to stop him ever running again. He was then thrown into solitary confinement for a month. When he came out, he could barely walk and had to rely on crutches. His feet still show the signs of that beating to this day.

One concession the Japanese did allow was for the prisoners to put plays on in the canteen. “So we devised ways of incorporating code words into the scripts,” he said. “For instance, the main character -‘Macbeth’, was always supposed to be Churchill. And some important news event, like the D-Day Landings, would become ‘Our heroes have arrived among the Gaul’s and taken over Brittany’.”

Several other of the prisoners there had connections to the entertainment and acting professions, which included ballerina, Dame Margot Fontaine’s parents. “Hugh Colman – Ronald Coleman’s brother, was also in the camp,” PETER says, “but I don’t have any memory at all of J.G. Ballard who professed to remember me”.

But suddenly with news of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the war was over. “The commandant and the guards just disappeared one day,” PETER says. “The Americans flew over the camp dropping Red Cross parcels, which we hadn’t seen for years. When we were finally released, I was taken by submarine along with dozens of other British nationals, and then put on a ship for England. There was so many of us on-board, lots of us had to sleep on deck. The adults arranged games for us kids to play, and I became Snakes and Ladders champion!”

“My father was waiting in Liverpool to meet me. King George VI was also there to greet the returning internees. He shook hands with everyone – myself included, and pinned a medal on my chest – a sort of campaign medal, I suppose. My mother kept it until the day she died.”

When he arrived home, he was so sick with malnutrition that he was sent to a sanatorium in Switzerland to recover, before returning to England. “I was a precocious and spoiled,” he admits. “I was also an authority on matters way beyond my comprehension. I suppose I was a bit peculiar; I always had to be boss. I don’t think I’ve changed much!” he laughs. “I adored my Mother and had missed her desperately in the Lung-Hau. I was furious if she didn’t lavish all her attention on me.”

In the camp, PETER had caught the acting bug. He’d adapted a copy of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ for a simple stage play put on in the canteen – playing all the parts himself before a “captive” audience. It now appeared inevitable to him that he should become a professional actor, and with his determination and resilience, it seems that the sky was the limit. However, getting into the profession wasn’t easy.

It’s difficult to appreciate when you think about it that, as a child, he’d been so brutally tortured. From that early age he survived the kind of deprivation that some adults succumbed to. When he was freed, he was riddled with sickness and shrunken with malnutrition. He could only get around on crutches, as he was still recovering from having both of his feet broken.

I went to see my uncle – the French actor, Louis Jouvet, up in Scotland where he was appearing on stage, but he wasn’t very receptive. All I wanted was some advice, but I feel he thought I was looking for favours. I never saw him again”.

And so with his parents pushing for him to get a ‘proper job’, he decided to further his education. “I enrolled at Oxford to study law,” PETER says, “but I couldn’t stick at it. I then tried the advertising profession, and the next thing I knew I’d been roped into the family import-export business, which was concerned with the watch trade, amongst other things. Then one day I was wandering through Leicester Square; my eyes still sunken into my skull and with three tiny tuffs of beard on my chin, when I spotted a line of people at the stage door of the Hippodrome on Charing Cross Road.  

“I asked what they were doing and was told that they were waiting to be auditioned for a play, so I joined the queue. When it was my turn to step up on stage, I hadn’t a clue what to do, so I acted out all the parts from the script I’d been given. I must’ve done something right, as I was cast as the understudy to Peter Finch in a play in Brighton!

 “I think the reason I was cast was that I looked so much like him – in fact his mother used to call me her ‘other son’. I actually went on stage for about five minutes at the beginning of one performance when he was running late. I don’t think anyone really noticed”.

Acting was an instinctive career choice, and he felt the best way to learn his trade was through life’s experiences. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where his classmates were Alan Bates, Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole, didn’t appeal to him. “I left because I didn’t think it was the best place to learn quickly,” he said. His unconventional approach led him to repertory theatre – starting at rock bottom; sweeping the stage after the play was over. He decided that he’d stay no more than three months at a time with each company – often less, and then move on to the next.

“‘I was in ‘The Letter’ by Somerset Maugham, playing a coolie with the line “Missi, Missi. Master – he come for tiffin”, he tells me, “but I got bored, so after I said the line, I began singing ‘A Room With A View’ as I went off. I was sacked”.

One day, having seen ‘Rebecca’ at the cinema, he played a racket-swinging juvenile lead in a drawing-room comedy in the style of a moody Olivier: “All the other actors thought I’d gone stark raving mad, and I was sacked… again!”

“Sir Peter Hall once complained that I wasn’t a ‘company man’. That’s because I’ve never shied away from voicing my opinion to directors or producers,” PETER explains. “I’m a perfectionist. Producers don’t like it because most of them are just so mediocre.

“I lost the lead in a production of ‘King John’ because I told the Director how he should direct it, and I still believe that George Bernard Shaw missed the point of St Joan’s relationship with Dunois, who I played at the Art’s Theatre! Someone said to me recently that I should’ve said ‘Yes’ more often, but that’s just not who I am.”

“All actors go through various kinds of phases. When I was an even less experienced actor, and that really was inexperienced, I went through a phase of being all the heroes I’d seen at the cinema. One moment, I’d be giving a performance as Errol Flynn, and the next I’d be Noel Coward or Ronald Coleman. They were the film and stage actors of that time. My God! I was John Gielgud all over the place – it was dreadful! But when I made ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, I really did start to learn how to act on screen. If you’re very, very lucky, the camera might pick up something that belongs to you; that little piece of you that’s absolutely real. You can’t lose that, you see. That said, an actor really shouldn’t learn too much, because if you learn too much, you become aware of it; it can become tedious. There are lots of actors who we think ‘Oh, he’s going to do the same old thing again. Isn’t he sick of it!’’”

PETER soon learned what a peculiar place the world of actors could be: “I was filming at Pinewood, and had my dressing room in one of those caravans at the back of the studio,” he recollects. “There was a knock at my door; it was the Runner [1] who’d come to tell me that I was needed on-set.

“I could tell by the look of shock on his face that something was wrong, so I asked if he was OK. He eventually told me that he’d been to the dressing room next door to mine and he’d witnessed an actor; a huge Hollywood star and one half of a famous TV detective duo, sucking off one of the stuntmen; neither of whom had batted an eyelid at this boy’s presence in the doorway. Said Stuntman also happened to be the lover of another prominent American male actor.

“When I approached the artiste concerned and told the Runner had told me, he didn’t bother to deny it; he was just very matter-of-fact about it – as if it was the done thing”.

And then, of course, there was the notorious meeting with Hollywood legend, Bette Davis at MGM Studios, Elstree: “It was way back in the mid-1950’s. I was sitting with a couple of the actors I’d been working with, when this guy came over to our table and said that Ms Davis wanted to see me. I was still a complete unknown then; just a jobbing actor, so I wondered how on earth she could possibly have heard of me. I thought that perhaps she may’ve wanted to give me some advice or something, so over I went to where she was seated with her entourage.

“As I reached her table, I held out my hand and said: “PETER WYNGARDE. I believe you wanted to speak to me”. She had a cigarette in a holder, which she was holding stylishly in her right hand. From behind a huge plume of smoke I heard her snarl, “I hear you have a big cock”. And with that, she handed me a note; ‘Be here at 8.30!’ It had the address of her hotel and the room number. I told her that I was a married man, and that I was faithful to my wife. She clearly saw this as a rejection, which I’m sure she wasn’t used to.

“When I got back to my friends, they were all roaring with laughter. Apparently she went through every actor and technician under the age of 25 working at the studio!”

At 21, he met Dorinda Stevens – a young actress from Southampton. “We fell in love while I was acting in repertory with the London Players at the Grand Theatre in her hometown of Southampton. Shortly after, we went on holiday to Sicily. Wearing only our bathing things, we strolled into a white-walled church in Taormina, where an irate priest materialised222 from absolutely nowhere and screamed in Italian that he wasn’t holding auditions for a strip act! I told him that we were trying to get married and asked if there was any law saying what we had to wear for that.” he smiled. “In a film they’d have probably told us to make a date the following week. In reality he married us that day.

“All we did for the first year of our marriage was have sex. We were very young, so we were at it five and six times a day!” he grins. “We desperately wanted children, but Dorinda was unable to conceive; we were both tested. I remember dithering in a tiny room with a little paper cup and a pile of dirty magazines. I was relieved to learn that I was OK, but the news wasn’t so good for Dorinda. I’d have loved to have had a son. I think I’d have been a good dad”. 

There was one incident during his marriage when he became a real-life hero to his wife. “We were living near Holland Park at the time, and Dorinda was filming at Shepperton, so she had to get up really early in the morning to catch a train,” he explains. “On a couple of those mornings, the same man had followed her to the station, so when she told me we made a plan for me to go out first and stand around the corner where I’d wait for her to come up the street. Sure enough, this man appeared and began to follow her, so out I dashed just like Jason King and confronted him. He never bothered her again!” 

PETER and Dorinda were married for seven years. “We were too young and I was in the middle of my struggling-for-recognition days for it to have lasted.” When they divorced, he moved into a flat in Paddington with a new girl. “I was always in love at that time,” he confesses. 

PETER’s supposed “relationship” with fellow actor, Alan Bates, has been covered elsewhere on this ‘site. “All I’ll say on this occasion,” he states, “is that there’s been a lot of speculation and lies written about that time in my life. I certainly feel betrayed by a particular individual to whom I’d previously only ever shown the greatest respect and kindness”.

 His first West End success was in ‘Duel of Angels’ opposite Vivien Leigh, who was instrumental in getting him off a West End producers’ blacklist. She wanted him for her leading man in the play and it was only when director Jean Louis Barrault, insisted that he should be given the part of Count Marcellus that PETER was removed from said list. 

The ban was as a result of an appearance in Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ in which he played Morris Dixon. “The prop letters used in plays are usually silly ones, but in this production they were from out-of-work actors looking for a break. I found this disgusting so I ripped them up. When the secretary carried them on stage there were all these little bundles of paper. Quick as a flash, Noel Coward said, “Oh dear, the rats have been at them”. However, Coward was furious and PETER was sacked and blacklisted.

Luckily in the early-Fifties, television beckoned. “The spooky thing was,” PETER remembers, “that while I was on tour in Wales with a youth theatre production of an American play called ‘Pickup Girl’, my girlfriend dragged me along to see a clairvoyant in Cardiff. She told me that someone was looking after me, and described my father who’d died about a year earlier. She also told me that, soon, I’d perform in front of millions of people; not thousands, MILLIONS! It should be remembered that this was before everyone had a TV in their living rooms, and I was playing a bloody Door Attendant in an amateur play at the time!”

He must’ve thought she was mad after experiencing his very first screen test. “It was for the male lead in a film starring Jean Simmons. The scene was in her bedroom, and I was to play a Latin-type; a kidnapper, who’d come in to seduce her. I’d never seen myself on screen before, and it was the most horrible experience in the world!  

“I thought the story was very good, and I discussed it with the director, Leslie Norman, who’d made many successful films at Ealing Studios. On the day I went to see the Rushes, I took my girlfriend at the time with me for moral support, and I really did need her as I was nervous as hell. What I saw on the screen bore absolutely no relation whatsoever to what I thought I was doing in front of the camera. When the theatre darkened, we first saw the clapper boy hitting his board, on which was written something like: ‘Test for Jean Simmons’ as Lady something-or-other, and PETER WYNGARDE as Antonio’. 

“I grabbed my girl’s hand for reassurance. Up on the screen, a door flew open, and I knew I was about to make my entrance, so I squeezed my girlfriend’s hand increasingly tighter. Then in came what can only be described as a total stranger; someone I’d never laid eyes on before, that’s for sure! Although the outline of the figure was familiar, the darkened skin certainly wasn’t, nor was the inane smirk or the overstated, ogling eyes or the grin that showing at least 700 teeth! I looked like one of those villains from a Victorian melodrama!  

“I didn’t realise it, but I now had my girlfriend’s hand in a vice-like grip. When I heard her wince, I believed that it was in response to what she was witnessing up on the screen, but it wasn’t. My nails had jabbed so far into her hand that I’d drawn blood! It was an absolute disaster!”

Whilst PETER didn’t secure that particular part, his big TV breakthrough came playing Dicken’s tragic hero, Sidney Carton, in the BBC series of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, during which he was receiving upwards of 1,000 fan letters each week. “I got out of that as soon as I could and went back on stage”, he says. “I preferred to be anonymous. I used to think how boring it must be not being able to go out and see new places because you’d be instantly recognised.” But it didn’t stop him becoming a heartthrob at a very early stage in his career. 

“When I’m doing TV drama,” he explains, “I deliberately played down sex appeal – I suppose you must call it that – unless it’s needed for the plot. I believe actors should steer away from their natural traits. They’ll still show through in your final performance, but they’ll be much more realistic if you restrain them.” 

As such a celebrated sex symbol when, I ask, was his first sexual experience?

“I’m not sure if this counts, but around the age of four or five, a cousin and I were hiding behind the sofa when we ended up playing that infamous game of ‘I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours’. She dropped her draws and I got me whatsit out, only to see my Stepfather peering over the sofa at us. He never let me forget that incident, and recount the story at family gatherings to embarrass me. That went on right up to his passing in the late 1990s’.  

“I also remember one of the seniors at school showing us younger kids how to arouse a woman by practicing with the valve on a bicycle wheel. I was quite a natural!” he laughs.

“One of the strangest things was when I lived in Shanghai as a child,” he recalls. “I was coming home from a Cubs meeting – I was only very young, when the local pervert stopped me and tried to put his hand down my shorts. I managed to get away from him and ran as fast as I could. When I arrived home and told my Mother what had happened, she immediately put me in the bath and scrubbed my poor ‘thing’ until it bled. I don’t know which experience was worse; his wandering hands or my Mother’s scouring!  

“When the Japanese invaded, he was put in the same camp as me, where he was known as ‘Mr Billiards’, as he always had his hands in his pockets, playing with his balls. From what I heard while I was in there, he’d done the same thing to half the kids in Shanghai!”   

A season at the Old Vic in the late Fifties/Early Sixties proved to be a welcome break from TV, where he was able to turn his hand to directing for the first time with ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’. He also began to meet some fabulous and interesting people. 

“When I was in Lung-Hua, I cherished a copy of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ that my Mother had bought for me. In the late 50’s, I was able to spend a glorious long-weekend with A.A. Milne’s nephew after my last performance of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ at the Old Vic. He sold his prize Lagonda to me”. 

He also spent time with Agatha Christie and met the legendary ‘Bosie’ [2] – Oscar Wilde’s lover, who was very old at the time.

One of the most eccentric people he ever encountered was actor and comedian, Kenneth Williams, who he worked with in ‘St Joan’ at the Art’s Theatre [3]. “We went out to dinner one evening at a really swish place in Covent Garden, which I paid for,” PETER recollects. “But when it came to the return outing, he took me to a Lyon’s Corner House!” [4]

He also came face to chest with Clint Eastwood at Pinewood Studios one day back in the early Sixties: “I heard this very loud American voice coming from across the actor’s restaurant; the man behind it was giving one of the waitresses a real dressing down. The group I was sitting with all agreed that this person’s behaviour was rather ungallant, but only I was fool enough to march across to confront the scoundrel. I’d never seen Eastwood before, so when all 6 feet 4 inches of him stood up as I was launching into him, the entire room fell silent. My life genuinely flashed in front of my eyes. Thankfully, he was very good natured about it, and he apologised to the young lady – much to her relief, and mine!”

Even after being cast as Count Marcellus in ‘Duel of Angels’, he said he found it hard to maintain discipline: “I almost missed one show during the American leg of the tour,” he says, “because I’d been gambling at Lake Tahoe in Nevada. I was late for the plane back to San Francisco and so I had to book onto another one. So there I was on the plane, when I turned to the chap sitting next to me and saw that he’d turned completely white. I looked out of the window and noticed that we were completely surrounded by pine trees, and there was the wing, but no propeller. I suddenly thought to myself, ‘We’re going to crash!’ and we did.

“The next plane which was hurriedly chartered, was piloted by a real Gabby Hayes-type character, who sat in the cockpit chewing and muttering. It was only when we encountered the thick, black fog over San Francisco that I discovered that he didn’t have Radar!”

PETER arrived just in time for the performance, but afterwards was summoned to Vivien Leigh’s dressing room. “‘How DARE you!’ she raged. “I have never been treated like this by an actor before. I didn’t want to come to America in the first place, and THEY didn’t want YOU! And yet you do THIS to ME! You’re late for show after show’. And then she paused, hesitated, and said: ‘Except one, and he fell flat on his face!’ And then she roared with laughter, and it was all forgotten”.

Over the years an inordinate number of myths have grown up about PETER’s private life which has absolutely no basis in reality: “I’ve never had any doubt about my sexuality,” he asserts. “I’m mad about women. 

“My problem is that women fall in love with Jason King, but then find that I’m really Dracula. In a way, I’m very sadistic, but I think women quite like it. Treat them with any amount of charm, that’s how you start – then you throw off the frock coat and put on the bearskin. I love being the caveman. The reason I’m so sadistic is that men have a side of them that hates their mothers. Having so many women is a kind of revenge against your mother!”

And was his life as replete with women as Jason King’s? “Well, there were always so many on film and TV sets, I had a marvellous time!” 

His relationship with Vivien Leigh is well documented, both in this Blog and elsewhere. All he will say about her is that “She was the love of my life”.

In the past he mentioned a girl he’d been in love with, and an affair that had lasted three years. I asked him if he ever thought of that time and the actress, who he called Elaine. He nodded and contemplated for a moment: “Maybe I’ve been too career-minded sometimes. I’ve never hesitated to do acting jobs that took me away for months on end. Elaine was in a long running play in the West End while I was filmed several plays for American television [5], and the day I returned she went on tour for months.  

“Many actors seem to tell themselves that their love life is something they can come back to, and devote time to, when they are big stars. Our relationship was a fatal combination as I was probably telling myself the same thing that couples had in staying faithful to someone you didn’t see for months, or even years on end. One needs to be very undersexed to stay faithful to someone who is out of sight for long periods of time. She didn’t hit it big. Luck is such an important factor in show business”. 

There was also a famous actress to whom he was engaged in the mid-1960’s, and a girl he had a fling with in Australia in the early 70’s: “The Aussie girl came very close to making me think that waking up next to her every morning for the rest of my life would be the most marvellous thing in the world”. 

He laughs when he remembers another former girlfriend: “She wanted me to tattoo her name on an unmentionable place. So to appease her, I got a kids transfer tattoo from a pack of bubble gum that washes off after time. The trouble was, she had such a short name it disappeared when I got a hard-on!”  

And then, of course, there was the infamous Paternity suit. “It wasn’t the first time it’d happened. I was at the English Theatre in Vienna, and this girl claimed I’d shagged her and that she was pregnant. To be honest, I can’t really remember whether I did or not, as I was drinking quite a lot at the time. 

“Anyway, she took me to court, so I decided to defend myself. If I remember rightly, there were three judges – one of whom had never heard of Jason King, so they showed one of the episodes in the courtroom. The baby was asleep on the girls lap; an uglier child I’m yet to see. I picked him up and said something like: ”Your Honours. You can all see. Can you say, with hand on heart, that I could be capable of producing such an unpleasant-looking child?” There was a stunned silence, then everyone roared with laughter – much to my relief, I have to say.  

“Of course, there was no DNA testing back then in the mid-1970’s, but if he had been proven to be mine, I’d have drowned the little brat!”

As any self-respecting Classic British TV fan knows, PETER made guest appearances in many of the most iconic series of the 1960’s, including ‘The Avengers’, ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Saint’ – and, inevitably, stole the show on each occasion.

“I did two episodes of The Avengers – ‘A Touch of Brimstone’ and ‘Epic’ – the latter of which I got an Emmy nomination. I’d gone over to Greece to film the ‘I, Spy’ story, ‘Let’s Kill Karlovassi’, with Bill Cosby, who’d also been nominated in the same category as me. We both flew over to Hollywood from Greece for the ceremony, but I was terribly disappointed as the award went to Cosby. Now he’s a multi-millionaire and I’m not!” 

And, of course, there was the infamous scene’ in ‘A Touch of Brimstone’: “The thing I remember most about the Hellfire Club sections was the snake that Diana was holding. I loved it and wanted to take it home. The controversy was, of course, because of the costume she was wearing and the whip. But Diana is now a neighbour, so I haven’t whipped her for 10917417_936258119719038_6156926271153042370_n
a long time!”

“I remember the Saint episode: ‘’The Man Who Liked Lions’. I recall an orgy scene or something, and we were dressed up in Ancient Roman costumes. Roger (Moore) and I were supposed to end the episode with a sword fight. I’d always fenced, and had fought many times at the Green Club in London, but I decided to have a little game with him. Every time he came along to see how the stunt guys were getting along with me, I’d be shrieking, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh, God!’ I went to him and said, ‘Don’t you think it would be better if we did this with a stand-in; you know, like they did in the old Errol Flynn films – with just a shot of my face looking fierce?’ He laughed and said, ‘Oh, come on – have a go! We’ll have one big take and you’ll be fine’. The idea was that I’d have to go, Bang! Bang! Bang! He’d grab me and stick me with the sword, causing me to fall into the lion’s pit. It would be a marvellous big moment to end the film. Anyway, he went over to the stunt boys and said, ‘Look, he’s a bit tricky with the fight scene. Never mind, we can make some cuts here and there and somehow we’ll make him look tough. But when they called action, I really let him have it, and went whack! Whack! And he fell straight into the lion’s den!  

“As far as ‘The Prisoner’ was concerned: I don’t think anyone but Pat (McGoohan) knew what was going on. We all asked, of course, but it was always a bit like a George Orwell’s ‘1984’ thing, which I feel ‘The Prisoner’ had parallels with. It was as if you knew there was something amazing going on, but that you were likely to be done away with if you started asking too many questions. There was an absolutely fabulous atmosphere on the set – not just the chummy-chummy, all-actors-together thing”. 

“There was an incident just after we’d finished filming ‘The Prisoner’,” PETER recalls. “I was asked to go on a sailing trip with David Peel – an actor friend of mine who owned a yacht. There were four of us on board; him and his wife, and my girlfriend and I. We were just off the French coast near Cherbourg when a storm blew up and the lot of us almost drowned. I remember the incident distinctly being after ‘The Prisoner’, as I was wearing the Dunlop plimsolls I’d worn as Number 2”.    

And then, of course, along came the character that would inevitably define his career: Jason King. But what many fans don’t know is that he almost gave up the role.

“I looked hideous!” PETER says earnestly. “He was this blasé idiot floating about on screen – looking like a Mexican expatriate, with this awful English accent. I nearly decided not to go with it”. 

Nevertheless, PETER says that he greatly enjoyed his Jason King role because “Jason is a very romantic extension of me.” The program was based on the rumoured adventures of James Bond creator, Ian Flemming. As to the success it brought him, he says “I freely admit I miss it dreadfully.” 

It was PETER who brought his own sense of style to Jason King and also persuaded television bosses to film on location – something very rarely done in the 60’s and 70’s. 

“I wanted us to stop doing those terrible studio backdrop scenes, but I was told that location filming was too expensive. Eventually they agreed to send just me and a camera man away. We went to Vienna and did shots at the Wheel that featured in ‘The Third Man’ and a man appeared in black with a hat pulled down over his face, looking just like Orson Welles. He was actually selling watches, but it was wonderful stuff. 

“When we went to Rome and came across a gaggle of nuns and I just ran into the middle of them like some terrible rooster among all these hens,” he says. “Then we would write stories to fit in with the location shots.” The result of this inspired improvisation was a very different-looking series. The idiosyncratic King was very much a creation of PETER himself. 

“When ‘‘Department S’’ was being planned, I was told that I was going to be an Oxford professor sitting at his desk solving problems for two Americans. I thought it was a bit dull. Then I had the bright idea of basing him on Ian Fleming. The clothes were sort of an extension of me. I was a bit of a peacock then. I loved clothes, but I didn’t much like the kind of fashions that were about for guys in those days. Then I saw a picture of an Edwardian riding jacket and I thought it had real style, so I did some drawings and had a similar coat made. 

“A conventional tie never looked right with it and I had the idea of making the shirt and tie the same colour.” The idea started a popular fashion, as did his trademark of turned-back cuffs, which actually evolved by accident. 

“We were filming in Venice in a gondola and one of my cuff links fell off into the water,” recalls PETER. “The camera was rolling so I turned back my shirt cuffs over the sleeve of my jacket – and that was how it began.

Fans have often asked how he got on with his Co-Stars, Joel Fabiani and Rosemary Nicols? “I liked Joel and we became good mates, but Rosemary – or ‘Knickers’, as we all called her – and I didn’t really see eye-to-eye. She saw herself as the star of the show, which she wasn’t. I really didn’t care for her at all. 

“A strange thing happened some years ago when I was in Africa, and I was questioned for several hours as to the whereabouts of Dennis Alaba Peter, who I hadn’t seen or spoken to since the series ended. Apparently, he’d been involved in a property investment which had gone tits up, and the police were looking for him. I couldn’t make them understand that I was just an actor in a TV series, and that I didn’t really know Dennis at all. It was the last I ever heard about him”.  

The influence of Jason King in his heyday was almost frightening. He was an all-action hero but, at PETER’s insistence, he had no guns. “I was walking my dog in Holland Park once. Some kids were playing there and one of them pulled out a replica gun and pointed it at the other. I asked him what he thought he was doing. This kid just rolled back his cuffs and said: ‘I’m Jason King, who are you?’ And I thought, that’s it – I’m never going to have a gun.”

While the Sixties invented the dolly-bird, the glam-rock Seventies refined the concept with the making of the bimbo. She was paid to look gorgeous, but vacant.

‘Jason King’ was also renowned for all the different girls who appeared in it – many of whom became household names: “They were the television equivalent of a Bond girl, I suppose” PETER says. “We had Felicity Kendal, Stephanie Beecham, Michelle Dotrice and the stunning Kate O’Mara”.

Women were Jason King’s fashion accessories. His ever-changing harem wore tarantella eyelashes, bovine expressions and even bikinis to do the housework for him.

He well remembers Felicity Kendall’s first day on the set to play ‘A girl for whom a king would abdicate’. “My lovely Felicity – I fell in love with her. I found she was madly attractive.” recalls PETER. “She is and was one of the most attractive things around. I was in love with her and so was 50 million viewers. The whole crew fell for her. She was quite unique, because it was rare to find intelligence and beauty. 

“Everyone loved the ladies on the set, because they were young and glamorous with long legs, which were quite appealing; I’ve always been a ‘Leg Man’. I endorsed all the ladies we had on the show. They were one of the perks of the game. It’s lovely to have beauty around, whatever kind.”

It helped the series enormously to have women with such qualities. “Everyone was supposed to look like a bimbo, but Felicity and Stephanie (Beecham) certainly weren’t that,” says PETER. “We did have a lot of bimbos to fill some of the scenes as extras.”

Kate O’Mara vibrated sex around the studio. “Sex, sex and sex again – you could sense it coming down the stairs! She had a wonderful face and figure and she’s a terribly sweet girl. Although she had those gorgeous looks, green eyes with black hair, she had this hockey school captain manner. But she could suddenly change it and become a sultry sex kitten. She could be a chameleon and after all that’s what acting is about.”

Another of his leading ladies was Michelle Dotrice. “She had a wonderful sense of comedy,” says PETER, explaining: “Comedy has nothing to do with the person who says the lines – it’s to do with listening and reacting. She had a kind of innocence, and again, intelligence.”

So why was every woman on TV at the time made to look so dumb? “It was all to do with fashion. They didn’t want girls looking as if she had a brain. Remember, it was pre-yuppie time. A man had to have the brains and be dominant, while the woman was just extra-terrestrial bits hanging around” PETER explains. “They were very macho days, when men were dominating in a suit. Now they have to be dominating in boxer shorts.”

Jason’s elegant wardrobe frequently competed with the costumes of his ladies. His personally tailored single-breasted suits costing £500 a time and had to be figure-hugging, apart from the slight flares covering platform heeled boots, but not so tight that he couldn’t karate himself out of trouble.

So with his shirt cuffs turned back without cufflinks, his never carrying gun, and smoking his own brand of Russian cigarettes, he’d drink champagne and whiskey, but never together. Jason King was an all-action, devilish lady-killer with huge sideburns who inspired a million suburban imitators who lurking in Top Rank clubs on Saturday nights.

Jason King turned PETER into a highly influential star. To prove it, Jason became the most popular choice of name for boys in 1971 (even the kids TV show, ‘Blue Peter’ named their Siamese Cat after him). Despite becoming a TV hero, with his stylish clothes copied by men – including pop stars like Barry Gibb – and receiving thousands of adoring fan letters every week from women, PETER admits he lost out on making a fortune.

“I’m not very good at business,” he says. “I had a standard contract fee. They syndicated the show in America and I didn’t get a penny extra, nor have I ever received anything for the video and DVD releases. 

“With my London tailor, I designed the Jason King suits based on an 18th-Century riding jacket. When the series became a success all around the world, everyone was trying to copy them. In Hamburg, it was terrible. I found there were seven shops advertising Jason King suits and I wasn’t earning anything from them.”  

Didn’t it make him feel bitter? “Not bitter,” he replied. “I had a great deal of fun doing it. It brought me a huge amount of fame at that time, and I enjoyed doing them”.  

At one time, he had 56 Jason King suits in his wardrobe, but now there are only two left. “I’ve given them all away. After spending four years changing into five suits every day of the week, the last thing I want to do now is put one on.” 

And how did he cope with the big star image: “I never saw the point of trying to live up to anything,” PETER replies. “I remember doing some recording in Soho, and each morning I’d throw on a pair of jeans and a sweater and grab the first taxi I saw. One driver didn’t say a single word all the way, which is unusual for London cab drivers, and when I went to pay him, he said: ‘Excuse me. ‘Hope you don’t mind me asking, but didn’t you did get the award for the Best Dressed Man in Britain?’ It’s part of the training. You learn how to behave like a star; it’s as much a part of the job as it is learning your lines.” 

After ‘Jason King’ ended, PETER returned to his first love – the stage. His first outing was in a two-hander with Hermione Baddeley, who played his mother. It was a complete departure from the flamboyant King, but something he was desperate to do.

“’Mother Adam’ was fantastically written. It was a about a mother and her son, who live in their own extraordinary world. Adam has the world’s problems on his shoulders and his exoticism is in the language he uses”.  

Then came a revival of ‘The King and I’, in which PETER made 260 appearances as the King of Siam: “I had a share of the show’s profits, so was naturally interested in seeing good houses. I have eyes like a lynx and across the floodlights I could see the back of the auditorium and the circle. I counted the number of heads, and the number of pounds,” he told me, smiling.

He had a very moving death scene as the King, and laughed as he recalled, “Englishmen never like to appear affected by such things. The ladies shed a tear at my death, but the gentlemen invariably pretended to blow their noses, or stifle a sneeze with their handkerchiefs. I think it’s lovely, really.” 

There was, however, something far more humorous going on during that final scene: “Because it was my responsibly to ensure that the play ended on or before 10pm, I’d personally be expected to pay reparations to the theatre if it overran, even by a minute. I therefore guaranteed that we’d be done and dusted on time by having someone in the wings with their eye on the clock, who’d indicate to me as I lay on my deathbed whether we needed to more things along.

“I recall several of the Royal Children giggling away as I began to hurriedly say my final words to Anna. In fact, one critic commented on it – saying how strange it seemed that some of the little princes and princesses were tittering away as their father lay dying.”  

There was also another incident on the opening night in London, during the scene where all the Royal Children were brought onstage one by one to pay homage to the King.

“Each of them filed past me – bowing their heads,” PETER recollects, “until we came to the very last one, who was only a tiny 3-year-old. I was to pretend that I hadn’t seen him, at which he’d tug on my trouser leg until I looked down at him. I’d then pick him up and he’d kiss me on the cheek. This was the first time the little fella had been in front of a full house, and as I picked him up he peed with fright!”  

austra5
PETER
then went back on tour with Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’, which was a huge success… until one particular night: “We were at a theatre in south Wales that was a pre-booked full house. But when the curtain went up, we found we had about three people in the audience. The next-door town hall was packed… for Shirley Bassey. I sent her a dozen red roses, but never heard a word from her!” 

Of course, PETER’s work hasn’t been confined solely to stage and TV, he’s also starred in several films, which include ‘The Siege of Sidney Street’, ‘Night of the Eagle (A.K.A. ‘Burn, Witch, Burn’), and ‘The Innocents’.

His first big-screen outing was in Robert Rossen’s epic, ‘Alexander the Great’. “I was playing Dunois in ‘St Joan’ at the Art’s Theatre when I was approached to do the film,” he told me. “Siobhan McKenna who played Joan, was fervently against me leaving the play to do it, as she said the part just wasn’t right for me. I couldn’t see it then, but she was dead right.

“I was in Spain for almost 12 months filming, and I missed my wife terribly. It was over 45 degrees centigrade for the entire time we were there; terribly, terribly hot. I used to cool off by swimming in a lake close to the set.

“Working with Richard Burton was fabulous, although he was pissed most of the time. I recall a particular scene where he had to disembark from a galleon down a two-foot wide gangplank – totally pissed out of his mind. He said his lines perfectly, but the instant Robert called ‘Cut’, Richard fell off the plank straight into the harbour. Of course, because he was wearing all the armour, he just sank to the bottom!  

“Each day after filming near Montessori, which is not far from Madrid, Richard and I would drive back to the hotel where all the cast were staying. There was one communal shower for five room, which is where Richard taught me how to sing in Welsh. I remember the songs word-for-word, even now. (He gives me rendition).  

“Later, we’d go on our usual pub-crawl in the city, where he’d say to anyone who’d listen: ‘Those stories you’ve heard about WYNGARDE spending his childhood in a Jap war camp are definitely true; you can tell from the size of his schlong. He obviously had no other toys to play with!’”  

Whilst PETER and Burton became real buddies, one person he didn’t particularly get along with was Stanley Baker.

“When the shoot was over,” PETER says, ”Stanley Baker, who was planning to drive back to London, offered me a lift and I gratefully accepted. Do you know, he never spoke a single word to me for the entire 20-plus hour journey!”

And ‘The Siege of Sidney Street’? “I learned about Peter the Painter through Prince Kropotkin [6], who was a sort of serious Champagne socialist – having changed sides when he met Czar Nicholas and realised he was hopeless!  

“‘The Siege of Sidney Street’ would’ve been a really good film if they’d cut out the absurd Bulldog Drummond character played by Donald Sinden. But then I’d have missed his wonderful Prank.  

“We were all staying at Oscar Wilde’s favourite hotel in Dublin – it was the last day of shooting and time to pay the bill. The company paid for our accommodation, but there were some pretty heavy bar bills on two months of shooting. There was an American there; a Texan, I think. Very loud and rather showy. Donald took care of everything for us by going to reception and asking what room his American “cousin” was in, and then having our bill signed to his suite. Wonderful days and nights!”

PETER hit a few bumps in the road in the mid-Seventies, which were widely reported at the time, and which have been added to and embellished ever since. “The past is the past,” he says, philosophically. “All I can say is that the bastard who set me up certainly got his revenge!”  

“The trouble with the British press is that they like to big you up, but at the same time, they can’t wait to bring you down again. There were a lot of lies told about me, but I try not to dwell on it. I’ve had all that could happen to me as a child in Lung-Hua, so nothing – especially a lying journalist – could ever hurt me again”. 

So I ask him – what IS the worst thing that’s ever happened to him?

“When I had the Bentley, I collected thousands of Green Shield Stamps with the petrol and oil, which I hoped to buy a scooter. Then someone broke into the bloody thing and stole the lot. Oh, how I mourned those stamps!” 

“I think the only time I’ve ever been really frightened was when a flight I was on stopped off in Hong Kong en route to Australia, where I was doing a publicity tour,” PETER reveals. “There was a bomb scare resulting in everyone being evacuated from the plane. 

“I bumped into an old friend of mine, Leslie Bauld, who’d been in Lung-Hau, and who was now Head of Security at the airport. The passengers were refusing to reboard the plane after it’d been searched, and so Leslie asked me if I’d get on first – reasoning that if they all saw Jason King step back on the aircraft, everyone else would follow suit. I was like the proverbial swan, who looks perfectly calm on the surface, but underneath, my heart was racing. Thankfully, the plane landed in Perth without incident.”

When he wasn’t acting or writing PETER had, and still has, a large number of interests. “I’ve always been a bargain hunter, and I’ve managed to accumulate a large collection of clocks and watches. My latest acquisition is a 1320 Swiss Buco. I spend AGES hanging the weight chains, which have to be precise. Collecting clocks is said to be a sign of madness. Make of that what you will!  

“I also love sports. I boxed at school, and I enjoyed playing tennis; still love to watch it. I tried playing golf once, in the teeth of a hailstorm. My partner for the day said I should take it up, as I apparently had a ‘good swing’. I didn’t care what I had, I didn’t want to play it again, and I haven’t!”  

“Cars have been a lifelong passion of mine; the faster, the better. I’ve owned many over the years; a Studebaker, TR7, TVR’s, Bentley’s, Triumph’s, Bristol’s, Porsche’s, a Lagonda and a 1929 Dusdenberg. I sold one of my Bentley’s to the late Robin Gibb of the Bee Gee’s.  

“As a child, I was a mad plane spotter and knew every make and model by heart. When I had the money, I decided to get my pilots licence and also studied the Navigators Course, which meant that I had to do an awful lot of swotting. In the early 1970’s, I toyed with the idea of buying a mini helicopter, which cost around £2,000 back then. I wanted a place in Norfolk and thought I could commute to the studio in it each day.   

“The scary thing was, I was actually on my way to the airfield – chequebook in hand, when I spotted one of the contraptions hovering overhead. All of a sudden, it just fell apart and smashed to the ground in piece. It was a tremendous tragedy, as the pilot was killed. Needless to say, I didn’t buy the helicopter.”  

“I also loved fencing and swimming and, of course, Pistol Shooting. But then I had to give that up when handguns were banned in the 1990’s, and I took up Clay Shooting. But really, I’m just happy to find a wild bit of country or a beach with lots of sun. I don’t need too many people around me.”  

“That reminds me,” he exclaims, and then roars with laughter. “What about that bloody dangerous Jeep we hired in Kaş!” [7]

He’s talking about a rust bucket, masquerading as an open-top 4×4 that we were talked (conned?!) into renting in Turkey a few years ago. We thought we were getting a brand new Suzuki Vitara, and it wasn’t for the want of trying I can tell you (NEVER barter with PETER WYNGARDE – I’m just saying!). What we ended up with was a skip on wheels, which was held together with chewing gum and Sellotape!

“My God! It was a death-trap, which we cavalierioulsy careered round all those even more cavalierioulsy dangerous bends, and round and round that island! There must be a God, as SOMEONE was looking after us!”  

Then there was that submarine which we SWORE we’d spotted anchored about a mile off-shore We’d told everyone who’d listen about it… until we realised it was just an unusual rock formation. “What a couple of Derby and Joan’s!” he adds, and then screams with laughter. But we digress…  DUEL3

PETER is also mad about animals. He was surrounded by them as a young boy, and has had numerous dogs – including a Fox Terrier called Cassio; two Welsh Corgi’s – Cyrano and Pipistrello, and an Afghan Hound, Youssef. He also owned a horse when he had a farmhouse in the Cotswolds: “He went crazy one day,” PETER explains, “so I called in the vet. The poor boy had a brain tumour and I had to have him put to sleep.”  

So what has changed for him over the years?

“I think I’m much more tolerant than I was. I used to be very intolerant of things that didn’t go my way, and I’d sulk or make an awful lot of noise. Now I’m more inclined to see others points of view. Acting has done that for me, as it’s helped me to learn more about people and life. I keep growing as a person through performances.”  

I’ve known PETER for almost 30 years now and, in spite of some quite terrible experiences and incredible setbacks, I’ve never once heard him complain or attempt to blame anyone else for there’s misfortunes. So I asked him, is there anything that he regrets?

“In the mid-1950’s, I signed a contract with Paramount to be in a film version of ‘War and Peace” he replied. “I’d done a screen-test and met Audrey Hepburn, who would be in the lead role. I’d been told that they wouldn’t need me for another three months, so I took a part in a TV play by Peter Schaffer called ‘The Salt Land’ [8], in which I played a Jewish man who leads a group of people – including his brother, who was played by my mate, David Peel – to Jerusalem.  

“We’d just started filming the play at Shepperton Studios when I received a call from Paramount telling me that they’d decided to bring the shoot forward, and that they needed me on the ‘War and Peace’ set right away. I told them that I was committed to the play, but Paramount was livid. There was a big court case about it, and I was replaced in the film by Henry Fonda. I do wonder how things might’ve panned out if I’d done the film.  

“I was also asked by Ken Loach to be in a film he was planning about the Jarrow March [9], in which I was to play a northern miner. I believe that role would’ve changed my whole career considerably”.  

“But I suppose the biggest one was working with Orson Welles’ in ‘King Lear’. My agent called to say that Welles was going to do ‘Lear’ on Broadway, and he wanted to see me for the part of Edmund. So I was asked to call at the home he rented in Sloane Square which was, coincidently, opposite the back of the house owned by the Olivier’s. 

I arrived at the house a good ten minutes early and stood outside almost as long trying the bell. Finally the door was opened by a dumpy Irishwoman, who enquired what I wanted. 

“Orson Welles – I have an appointment at three. My name is…”. 

“He’s not here!” And with that, she slammed the door.  

It was quite a shock, and it took me a few minutes before I found a telephone box to call my agent to ask him what I should do next. His advice was a waste of time, as he directed me to go for a drink at the pub next door to The Royal Court Theatre, which I knew well, as I’d been there many times when I was in ‘The Good Woman of Setzuan’ [10]. While there, I bumped into the actors from the present play, and ended up staying until closing time.  

Later that week, I received another invitation to call on Welles and, thankfully, on this occasion I was asked in. I followed the Irish lady to the drawing room where she left me before returning to the kitchen. It was then that I was accosted by Orson’s booming voice…

“Mr… er… er…” I interjected with my name.  

“Oh, there must be some mistake. I have (rustling of paper), Kenneth Haig”, Haig had been a huge success in John Osborne’s ‘Look Back In Anger’ at the same Royal Court Theatre. I managed to blurt out that I wasn’t he.  

“Are you sure? I have a CV of all you’ve been in on stage”.  

There followed a long silence.  

“Well, I could give you a brief résumé of all the things I’ve done”.  

Another pause.  

“Will it be more than half an hour?”  

“No”.  

“In that case, please do. Into the dining room”  

We headed to the dining room, in which stood a miniature model of a set – displayed on what looked like a ping-pong table.  

“That’s my set for ‘Lear’. What do you think?”  

I’d hardly had a chance to look at it, but as he spoke, he’d gone for a switchboard which controlled the lighting. There was the great man standing before me; or as he would stand before he went on stage, and blew an enormous breath of air on to the set, followed by “Blow winds… etc. etc.”  

I’d got the full impact of the fascia’s for the first time, which is something I will always cherish. And that was it.  

Suddenly, he produced his script for ‘King Lear’, as if by magic; showing off the slight-of-hand he’d learned for the film ‘Magician’. Of course I’d studied the play and Edmund in particular, as I expected to have to read for the part.  

He then gave two performances: HIS ‘Macbeth’, and HIS ‘Lear’ – the latter of which only a great actor could manage. Gielgud did it, of course but, for me, he lacked the quality I believe every actor should have; the ability to be able to laugh at himself.  

Unfortunately, I said all this to Orson Welles, and I believe it may’ve lost me the part. It was my opinion of Donald Wolfe as ‘Lear’ that did it.  

He then asked me to do any Shakespeare – but not Edmund, so I did Cassio’s speech to Brutus and afterwards, he stared at me for a very long time. So much so that I thought he was so embarrassed by what he’s seen and heard that he didn’t know what to say! But, thankfully, he wasn’t and asked me if I was free and available to start rehearsals. I was consumed with joy.  

PW299“Of course, I shall be directing the play. Do you have any objections to that?”  

I said no. When I left Welles’ home I went back to the telephone box to call my agent. But, sadly, that was the last I heard from Welles. 

I read much later that the he’d had an accident which had confined him to a wheelchair, and that the production had closed after two weeks”.  

It’s a well-known fact that PETER has no time for the press, having had so many lies written about him over the years, but he’s been truly shocked at what has been written about him on the Internet:

“The press are garbage collectors,” he states firmly. “They take a story and twist it to suit their agenda, which is to sell as many copies as possible. They could make Mary Poppins look like Jack the Ripper by adding a little something here, or omit something there. More than once things I’ve said have been taken completely out of contexts. I’ve also seen it suggested that I’ve been in one place when I’ve actually been hundreds of miles away in another.  

“As far as the Internet is concerned, I’m really quite appalled that someone can simply take it upon themselves to write about my private life without knowing anything at all about me. I feel as if they’re violating my soul, and it’s really quite outrageous that there doesn’t appear to be any way of stopping them. It does make me wonder what kind of person would spend such an inordinate amount of time, prying into the personal business of someone they’ve never met. I really find it totally bizarre; the whole invasion of one’s privacy is quite distasteful. I’d rather like to hire a detective to follow them about – day and night – and report their every movement on the Internet to see how they like it. But I really can’t bear such interference in other’s private affairs. They’re really just vermin!”

Then, of course, there are the idiots who persist with the allegory that PETER’s career derailed in the mid-Seventies: “That’s because they haven’t the intellect to notice that there are mediums other than television. If you’re not on the box every week they think you’ve disappeared! My first love was always the stage, and after ‘Jason King’ ended, I couldn’t wait to return to the theatre. I feel that if some journalists had a brain, they’d be dangerous!”

In spite of the misinformed persisting with the line that his career crashed and burned from the mid-seventies onward, PETER actually did some of his best work post-Jason King, with critics expounding platitudes by the dozen:

Mother Adam: British Tour

PETER WYNGARDE gives a performance of near genius – a great actor in the very best sense of the word.” Harold Hobson – Theatre World

“…as for PETER WYNGARDE, in this play he approaches with a quiet, unassuming step, very close to greatness.” The Times  

The King And I: The Adelphi Theatre, London.  

“PETER WYNGARDE touches depths of understanding not always encountered in a musical. This is a spectacle indeed.” The Daily Express

Present Laughter: Theatre Royal, London

WYNGARDE himself bears no relation to his famous Jason King, with the possible exception of his immaculate wardrobe. Instead he produces some masterful touches sometimes by a word, an action, or as in one possible case, an expression.” The London Evening Standard.  

Flash Gordon: Film

“Regardless of whether you’re a fan of science-fiction or not, those who delight in studying the diverse acting talents of Mr PETER WYNGARDE and his multi-faceted performances must agree that he did a marvellous job in creating the malevolent, sadistic, and incredibly evil Klytus without the benefit of facial expressions. His totally chilling inflection and faultless performance in this most challenging of roles is yet another shining example of WYNGARDE’s tremendous acting ability.” Empire

Doctor Who: ‘Planet of Fire – TV

“Top honours for this story must go to PETER WYNGARDE, oozing faith, fire and fanaticism in a quite brilliant performance.” BBC Doctor Who Magazine

Last year, two-bit journalist, Gavin Stewart-Gaughan, suggested that, in future, PETER WYNGARDE would only be remembered for the role of Klytus in ‘Flash Gordon’. How misguided. In May this year (2017), ‘The Innocents’ – an all-time classic – was named as one of the greatest films never to have won the coveted Palme d’Ore at the Cannes Film festival, and he was mobbed by admirers after a showing of ‘South’ by the British Film Institute on 3rd July, 2071

These, and his guest appearances in such landmark series as ‘The Prisoner’, and standout episodes of other classic series, such as ‘The Avengers’, ‘The Saint’ and ‘Doctor Who (‘Planet of Fire’), have assured that PETER WYNGARDE’s name will live on LONG after most of todays “stars” have been forgotten.

“There was a suggestion that the character of Langdale Pike could be given his own spin-off series,” PETER says of his memorable appearance in ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ in 1994. “The idea was to make him the link man between the two series.

“I’d have loved to do something like ‘Quantum Leap’, where a character similar to Pike could travel from one time period to another, and I could play a different personality ever week.”

In the early Eighties, he finally got the opportunity to be in an episode of ‘Doctor Who’: “I’d been asked to appear in the series in the 1970’s, but it was due to be filmed entirely on a soundstage, which I’d have hated, so I turned it down. When ‘Planet of Fire’ came about, I was told that we’d be filming almost exclusively on location, so I jumped at the chance. It gave me the opportunity to do a lot of sunbathing between my scenes, which I love.

“The only thing with me is that I’m a bit of a loner; I don’t like being around people too much, so I spent quite a bit of time with my earphones on. Some of the cast and crew thought I was being a bit distant and unsociable, but that wasn’t the case. I just like my own company.”

And he still gets a HUGE amount of fan mail, which is evident by the three-foot pile of letters stacked up in the corner of his flat: “I get them from all over the world. I’m currently getting dozens and dozens from Germany, but I’ve also started to get a lot from America and Canada.”

Indeed, visitors to this Blog include people from as far afield as Singapore, Ukraine, Columbia, Hong Kong, Iran and Senegal.

“I really don’t understand it all,” he says modestly. “I thought that once ‘Jason King’ had finished, things would die down and I’d just return to the relative normality of the theatre. But the fan mail has never dried up – not for a moment. The surprising thing is that I’m getting letters from a lot of younger people; those who weren’t around when all that crazy stuff was going on. They tell me that they’ve seen me in ‘Flash Gordon’ or ‘Night of the Eagle’, and then have discovered ‘Jason King’ as a result. It’s quite bizarre!

“I had to phone the hospital a few days ago to rearrange an appointment, and when I gave the lady my name, she said: ‘WYNGARDE – like the actor?’ I said, ‘Yes. I AM the actor!’ She only sounded about 12!”

Apart from the occasional paternity suit, I wondered if any part of PETER’s past has ever come up and bit him on the backside?

“Not particularly. Although, at a recent convention, I was given a photograph of Alice Cooper Peter Sellers, Richard Chamberlain, Lynsey de Paul, and myself which had been taken at a party for Cooper at the Empire Pool, Wembley, in September, 1975.

“In the middle was Royal impersonator, Jeanette Charles, presenting Cooper with a gold disc. We were pissed out of our minds, so all I can remember about it was Lynsay trying to get me into her draws; Peter encouraging her, and Alice cooper standing at the bottom of the bed, watching”.

What do you think of those individuals who alleged to have seen you here, met you there, or witnessed you doing all manner of outrageous things in nightclubs and bars?  

“To start with, I was never really interested in nightclubs or bars. Of course, I’ve been to clubs, but I was never one of those people who spent every night in. Even when I was on tour in a play, I’d rather drive home to my farmhouse rather than go to a crowded pub or club. Those people who maintain that they’ve seen me in this or that establishment have clearly had one over the eight themselves!  

“I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve claimed to be a cousin, sister-in-law, brother, aunty… It’s ludicrous! Everyone has a story to tell, and it’s really got out of hand. It’s quite disgraceful!”

I wondered what he thought of those individuals who, having read some nonsense in a newspaper or on the Internet, believe themselves sufficiently informed to argue the point with someone who’s known him personally for years?

“People believe what they WANT to believe. They convince themselves, based on newspaper gossip, that I’m this or that person but, in reality, I’m really very different. I do find it incredible though, that they’ll attempt to discredit my closest friends whilst upholding a piece of gossip from a third or fourth-hand source. To me, that’s the final word in conceit.  

“I do recall someone prattling on via the Hellfire Club’s Facebook page whenever anything from an ‘Official’ source was posted on the ‘site: claiming that Felicity Kendal had said this or that to the contrary. I was utterly baffled by this, as I hadn’t so much as set eyes on Ms Kendal since we filmed an episode of ‘Jason King’ together back in the early 1970’s. The impression given was that this character had direct contact with her, and that she knew something about me that I didn’t know myself. It transpired that the person in question had merely been quoting from a book – and a very misleading book at that! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself!”

And so, after all his parents’ hopes for him to get a “proper job”, how does they feel about what he’s achieved as an actor?

“My Mother was very proud of her son,” he says, smiling. “I was always mindful of her whenever I was sent a script to read; wondering what she might think of this or that character. I remember being asked to take a part in a play in which I’d get sucked off every night by a naked girl, and the first thing I thought of was, ‘What would my Mother say?’ I decided to pass on it”.

It’s just as well that PETER defied his parents and followed his heart. Just think of all the wonderful things we’d have missed out if that advertising job had worked out?!  

[1] Young man or woman who delivers messages etc. on a film set.  

[2] Lord Alfred Douglas 1870-1945.

[3] Williams played The Dauphin.

[4] A chain of coffeehouses popular in Britain in the 1950’s and 60’s.

[5] ‘I, Spy – Let’s Kill Karlovassi’, ‘Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Colour: The Further Adventures of Gallagher – A Case of Murder’.

[6] A small town in south-western Turkey.  

[7] Russian activist, scientist and philosopher.  

[8] International Theatre: Broadcast: 8th November, 1955.

[9] The Jarrow March: Protest march by the unemployed from North-East England to London – October 1936

[10] Play. The Royal Court Theatre, London. October 1956. Character: Yang-Sun.

©TinaHopkins2017


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/