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  • Being famous in the 1980s

    I always thought if you happened to be a person who was famous, the 1980s was the perfect decade to be a celebrity in - I have always felt growing up that society, mostly in television, sport, politics etc, there really was a lot of "community spirit" that celebrities lived under - one happened to be famous for doing what they were good at, and because of being famous, they got paid a lucrative amount - not bad for an era where people were successful at making lots of money from the outset.

    A lot of famous people had their own niches - Steve Davis - snooker; Russell Grant - astrology; Ian Botham - cricket; Shakin' Stevens - pop music and wearing jeans; Claire Rayner - agony aunt: Paul Daniels - magic; David Bellamy - Botany; Margaret Thatcher - politics; Jimmy Cricket - wearing his wellies the wrong way round; Brian Clough - Nottingham Forest, etc.

    I have always assumed that a celebrity was a celebrity back in the 1980s if they had at least one of these things happen to them:

    1) They were portrayed as a Spitting Image puppet.
    2) They were the star guest on This is Your Life (mostly hosted by Eamonn Andrews reading the Big Red Book), or they had featured as a guest on someone else's edition.
    3) They sat on the TV-am sofa at least once.
    4) They were a guest on Wogan at least once.
    5) They were seen at least once in the audience of an edition "An Audience With", unless they were the star guest on stage.
    6) They were on the panel on editions of Blankety Blank or Punchlines - mostly the first one of those two shows.
    7) They were on the panel of the Thames "What's My Line" (if they were not the star guest during the "blindfold" round).
    8) They supported Margaret Thatcher at the 1983 and 1987 General Elections, and by implication they were Conservative Party supporters.
    9) They were impersonated by Mike Yarwood (Rory Bremner didn't find his own niche properly until the early 1990s).
    10) They were part of an "all-star cast" in a comedy drama or film.
    11) They were featured in at least one outtake seen on It'll be Alright on the Night.
    12) They lost most of their earnings in the 1992 Recession, and became a "where are they now?" person.
    13) They allowed Loyd Grossman to look around their house for Through the Keyhole.
    14) They were continuity announcers for a whole month on Children's ITV, if they had presented or starred in a children's TV series on ITV at the time.
    15) They had a novelty hit in the charts, mostly for charity (cf Russ Abbot; neil [sic] from The Young Ones; Keith Harris and Orville, etc).
    16) They appeared in that year's Royal Variety Performance.
    17) They performed as contestants in celebrity versions of game shows at Christmas.
    18) They had a well-known catchphrase (which was probably repeated in the school playground).
    19) They probably ended up doing local radio or regional news programmes by the late 1990s, Alan Partridge style.
    20) They still perform ironically at Pontins or Butlins, birthday parties, and also at university dos.
    21) They haven't been seen on TV since 1991. but they still perform in pantomimes, summer seasons and sea cruises every year.
    22) They were famous for being in character as someone.
    23) They had a prop sidekick (emu, ventriloquist's dummy, soft toy, dustbin, etc).
    24) They appeared in TV commercials either as themselves or in character.
    25) They are now in their 60s and 70s if they are still around these days.
    26) They were implicated by Operation Yewtree nearly 30 years later, (but enough said about that).
    27) They had their own show on BBC Radio 2.
    28) They supported Manchester United, (says a Nottingham Forest supporter).
    29) Er…
    30) That's it. (cf Private Eye).

    So many famous people fall into one of those categories, no doubt - if I was looking back at the 2010s, no doubt that taking part in Reality TV programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing, or I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! would feature prominently in the above list.

    As I grew up in the 1980s as a child, the familiar names and faces that we saw on TV, be it as an actors, game show hosts, newsreaders, darts players, etc, felt like a community that nearly everyone in Britain was familiar with, and it made the decade so special and magical, especially the Christmases where we had Christmas specials that they appeared in, mostly for charity. It was so great to hear or see so many 1980s celebrities in "scaled down" roles in the late 1990s and 2000s, but are so welcome, such as Sarah Kennedy from Game from a Laugh doing the early show on Radio 2, or Gordon Burns of The Krypton Factor seen reading the BBC North West News. I would even include people like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Regan and Robert Runcie within that scope as well - they were the "straight" people to most of the others. The TV-am sofa and Wogan was such a huge showcase for a lot of these stars, and I suppose that the occupational hazard was the fact that many of them got a bit of over-exposure at the time as a result.

    I might be looking through my Dolland and Aitchison rose-tinted spectacles at my childhood from over 30 years ago, but the famous people who we saw on TV was amazing, and to think that if they had not had become famous in the first place, we would have missed a good chunk of all this, and many of them weren't even discovered on talent shows in the first place.

    I bet that the 1980s was the best decade to be famous in - or was it?
    Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

  • #2
    Re: Being famous in the 1980s

    I guess everyone knew ALL the stars of the time, you wouldn't have mentioned a celeb in those days with the other person now knowing who you meant. I guess we had a much narrower realm of popular entertainment then, 4 TV channels (well 3 for most of it) who seemed to program their shows around each other rather than compete, so everyone watched the same stuff pretty much. Whereas now there are so many channels and forms of entertainment there is no way everyone can keep up with everyone on them.

    Celebs were more than celebs back then, they were "household names" as we called them and as you said, it did seem to bring people closer together rather than fragmented as we are today. Was a great time to be alive, i'm so glad i was part of it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Being famous in the 1980s

      When children's presenters didn't have to be really young and trendy: Johnny Morris, Norris McWhirter, Wilf Lunn, John Craven...

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Being famous in the 1980s

        Here's a few more:

        Appear on a kids show (the Saturday morning ones mostly, or the likes of Crackerjack) & have the mickey taken out of them by the hosts & pretend they were in on the joke.

        Appear on Pebble Mill At One & badly sing an easy listening version of a current hit.

        If they were a sports personality they had a summer filler series giving tips on how to perform better in their particular sport.

        Become famous on a BBC show, then defect to ITV & pretend it's not for a bigger pay cheque.

        Have Harry Enfield base a character around them in the early 1990s.

        Appear on a chat show & baffle an American fellow guest who has no idea who they are, but are acting like a big name, leading to some awkward moment for the host.

        In the late 1980s jump on the green issues bandwagon by getter their car converted to unleaded & make sure a news crew is recording it.

        In the mid 1990s appear on Fantasy Football League to boast about being the sole celebrity fan of their home club, but can't stand being sent up by the hosts.

        Be a winner of the Golden Egg Award on The Late Late Breakfast show for an on screen ****-up on a BBC show.

        Become a Radio 1 DJ & an early victim of the Bannister axe, only to end up on Virgin Radio or a bigger local station a few months later.

        Getting in a court battle with a tabloid paper & losing.

        Get a brief chat show with guests even lower down the fame ladder & a baffling premise that turns the viewers away.

        Have a sort lived ITV sitcom where they play themselves & the plot lines & jokes are wobblier than the sets.
        The Trickster On The Roof

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Being famous in the 1980s

          unfortunately you dont have to do an awful lot or even have to be good at whatever you do to be labelled a sleb these days, if you are happy to forego your dignity in the name of entertainment aka love island, im a celebrity ,big brother etc than you too can have your fifteen minutes.
          Ejector seat?...your jokin!

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Being famous in the 1980s

            A few more I thought up:

            Being in a drinking or golfing clique

            Starring in a remake of an American sitcom that wasn't that good to start with

            Having an "er indoors" wife that stayed out the limelight or a young often ethnic partner who was almost as much in the public eye

            Being a fan of American culture & bosting about it when being interviewed

            Becoming famous in an odd way liked surviving a disaster or winning a quiz against the odds

            Being a child star & appearing on all the usual kids shows for ages afterwards

            Being a candidate in an election on a flimsy platform

            Saying they will leave the country if there's another Labour government, but didn't move in 1997

            Getting a boost of publicity during a TV strike when the usual staff wouldn't cross a picket line.

            Having a hobby that they seemed to be more dedicated to than their actual job

            If a musical act being tipped towards the end of the decade as being a sound for the 1990s, but fading away while the Berlin Wall was still intact

            Being billed as the British... in comparison to an American or Australian star, or else a New... for a star of the 1960s or 70s

            When a footballer playing for a home nation other than the one they were born in

            Being a "professional" person from where they were born, ie a professional Northerner, Cockney etc.

            Coasting on the success of a more talented parent / sibling / friend.
            The Trickster On The Roof

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Being famous in the 1980s

              Originally posted by Clare View Post
              When children's presenters didn't have to be really young and trendy: Johnny Morris, Norris McWhirter, Wilf Lunn, John Craven...
              That's right - I preferred those sort of presenters who probably did jobs such as teaching prior to entering into television - "the tweed jacket with leather patches" people if you like. David Bellamy and Johnny Ball are other examples. This is how Blue Peter has changed since the Christopher Trace / Singleton / Noakes era of the 1960s - from the Mark Curry era onwards, I doubt that many of them would fit into that category. Although they are not presenters, many of the actors who play Grange Hill teachers in character could even fit into that category.

              It's another reason why I enjoy the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures between Christmas and New Year - the lecturers often resemble that sort of person, although sadly, even that seems to lack a little bit in recent years. It disgusts me that it isn't popular enough for BBC 2 anymore.
              Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                Great list, Richard! Especially the one referring to leaving the country if Labour won in 1997 - Jim Davidson, Frank Bruno, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Paul Daniels were four celebrities who mentioned that they were going to do just that, I believe. I think that as the list was from a 1980s perspective, 1997 was two General Elections away into the future to consider those things!

                In addition to being a guest on Wogan as I said in my opening gambit, they could have also hosted it for a week when Tel was on one of his dozen annual holidays!
                Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                  And they could have been the star castaway on Desert Island Discs which would have been presented by Michael Parkinson after Roy Plomley's death - which reminds me of all of those guests on Una and Lionel's team on Give us a Clue.

                  I have always assumed that all celebrities (B and C-list at least) all know each other, and they often professionally "bump into each other" many times as guests on different shows as well as working together - it's just the ordinary members of the public which seem to be anonymous to them - a bit like the "teacher and pupil" relationship in a way.
                  Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                    Originally posted by George 1978 View Post
                    Great list, Richard! Especially the one referring to leaving the country if Labour won in 1997 - Jim Davidson, Frank Bruno, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Paul Daniels were four celebrities who mentioned that they were going to do just that, I believe. I think that as the list was from a 1980s perspective, 1997 was two General Elections away into the future to consider those things!

                    In addition to being a guest on Wogan as I said in my opening gambit, they could have also hosted it for a week when Tel was on one of his dozen annual holidays!
                    Thanks, I was trying to put things in a 1980s context about a Labour victory in a general election, when it looked like a future Labour government would put a lot of tax on high earners.

                    This was when anything like New Labour would have been pie in the sky thinking.
                    The Trickster On The Roof

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                      [QUOTE=George 1978;237536]Great list, Richard! Especially the one referring to leaving the country if Labour won in 1997 - Jim Davidson, Frank Bruno, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Paul Daniels were four celebrities who mentioned that they were going to do just that, I believe. I think that as the list was from a 1980s perspective, 1997 was two General Elections away into the future to consider those things!

                      In addition to being a guest on Wogan as I said in my opening gambit, they could have also hosted it for a week when Tel was on one of his dozen annual holidays![/QUO
                      Ejector seat?...your jokin!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                        Originally posted by Richard1978 View Post
                        Thanks, I was trying to put things in a 1980s context about a Labour victory in a general election, when it looked like a future Labour government would put a lot of tax on high earners.

                        This was when anything like New Labour would have been pie in the sky thinking.
                        If you look at those who supported Foot or Kinnock back then - in particular Kinnock in 1987, they were mostly alternative comedians such as Ben "12 more hours of Thatcherism to go" Elton; Tony Robinson; Rowan Atkinson (although one would imagine Mr Bean to be a Conservative if he knew what to do in a Polling Station) - anyone who appeared on a Friday or Saturday night on BBC 2 or Channel 4, whereas Conservative supporters would be mainstream BBC 1 and ITV entertainers pre-watershed which were harmless and would be seen by the majority of households. Those who were mainstream in the public's conscience - Paul Daniels, Bob Monkhouse, Jimmy Tarbuck, Cilla Black, etc. I would rather have watched a 7.00 pm Monkhouse game show back then rather watch than Ben Elton trying to be funny by using bad language at 11.00 pm so that he doesn't die on stage.

                        And Pete Murray claimed that he was sacked from Radio 2 because of his unofficial Public Election Broadcast on Breakfast Time while reviewing the daily papers, claiming that a vote for Michael Foot would be a vote for communism. On that day, Labour has a PEB, the Greens got a spot on TV later on and the Liberal leader featured on Election Call on Radio 4. Even in my old constituency, it was Labour since 1945 until Thursday 9th June 1983, and remained like that for nine years.

                        The closest one had to New Labour in the 1980s was the SDP which didn't have much of a chance.
                        Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                          And of course, the IBA made sure that we had proper commercial TV as well.
                          Last edited by George 1978; 30-03-2019, 20:42.
                          Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                            Richard also mentioned about celebrity candidates standing on a flimsy platform in elections back in the 1980s - apart from the obvious Lord Sutch by-elections in that decade, it made me think of the 1984 Chesterfield by-election where Tony Benn re-entered the Commons after losing his Bristol seat the year before. Bill Maynard of all people, stood as an Independent (some said it was Independent Labour) and was fourth with just over 1,000 votes, losing the pre-1985 12.5% deposit. Because of Maynard's fame and also the particular time of the election, I would have bet that he would have been close to a Conservative than Labour.

                            TV-am was full of Conservatives - in fact, it was regarded as Margaret Thatcher's favourite TV station - Bruce Gyngell the boss was Mrs Thatcher's friend; her daughter Carol Thatcher worked for the station; Jonathan Aitken MP was the first Chief Executive of the station; Gyles Brandreth (of the Tuesday Postbag) became a Conservative MP; Jimmy Greaves was a Conservative voter, etc. The unions members being locked out a la Wapping, etc. I am sure that the IBA felt that like the Daily Telegraph of broadcasters at the time! It doesn't bother me at all though.

                            It was still an agreeable decade to live in.
                            Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Being famous in the 1980s

                              THE 202 MAKERS OF THE 1980s - THE PEOPLE WHO WERE FAMOUS IN THAT DECADE
                               
                              Here is a list of the 202 most famous people of the 1980s as far as I am concerned - the list was originally to have been 101 of them, but there were so many of them that I have decided to double the number of people on the list.
                               
                              Those who made great inpact in that decade - the only rule is that a person must not have been born or have died in that decade. Of course, a lot of them were famous (or made a huge impact in society at least) before the decade bagan and after the decade ended. Was there a day that passed by during that decade without seeing any of them (or seeing their names at least) on television, or in a newspaper or a magazine?
                               
                              Some names are familiar, while others are not...
                               
                              1) RUSS ABBOT
                              2) JONATHAN AITKEN
                              3) ADAM ANT
                              4) PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK
                              5) MICHAEL ASPEL
                              6) CHERYL BAKER
                              7) RONNIE BARKER
                              8) MICHAEL BARRYMORE
                              9) GRANT BAYNHAM
                              10) JEREMY BEADLE
                              11) DAVID BELLAMY
                              12) FLOELLA BENJAMIN
                              13) HYWEL BENNETT
                              14) LENNIE BENNETT
                              15) CHRISTOPHER BIGGINS
                              16) CILLA BLACK
                              17) LIONEL BLAIR
                              18) IAN BOTHAM
                              19) FRANK BOUGH
                              20) JIM BOWEN
                              21) DAVID BOWIE
                              22) TOMMY BOYD
                              23) GYLES BRANDRETH
                              24) RICHARD BRANSON
                              25) ERIC BRISTOW
                              26) FRANK BRUNO
                              27) ZOLA BUDD
                              28) ROB BUCKMAN
                              29) GORDON BURNS
                              30) GEORGE BUSH
                              31) KATE BUSH
                              32) GAVIN CAMPBELL
                              33) CANNON AND BALL
                              34) GEOFF CAPES
                              35) BOB CAROLGEES
                              36) FRANK CARSON
                              37) JUDITH CHALMERS
                              38) BOB CHAMPION
                              39) PRINCE CHARLES
                              40) CHAS 'N' DAVE
                              41) JULIAN CLARY
                              42) BRIAN CLOUGH
                              43) SEBASTIAN COE
                              44) JOAN COLLINS
                              45) PHIL COLLINS
                              46) MATTHEW CORBETT
                              47) RONNIE CORBETT
                              48) JIMMY CRICKET
                              49) LESLIE CROWTHER
                              50) EDWINA CURRIE
                              51) BIG DADDY
                              52) PAUL DANIELS
                              53) JIM DAVIDSON
                              54) DICKIE DAVIES
                              55) SHARRON DAVIES
                              56) STEVE DAVIS
                              57) BOBBY DAVRO
                              58) LES DAWSON
                              59) ROBIN DAY
                              60) CAROL DECKER
                              61) LES DENNIS
                              62) ANNE DIAMOND
                              63) DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
                              64) JONATHAN DIMBLEBY
                              65) JASON DONAVAN
                              66) SHEENA EASTON
                              67) EDDIE "THE EAGLE" EDWARDS
                              68) QUEEN ELIZABETH II
                              69) BEN ELTON
                              70) NICK FALDO
                              71) ALEX FERGUSON
                              72) SARAH FERGUSON
                              73) MICHAEL FISH
                              74) BRUCE FORSYTH
                              75) DAVID FROST
                              76) JILL GASCOIGNE
                              77) MIKE GATTING
                              78) BOY GEORGE
                              79) BOB GELDOF
                              80) BRIAN GLOVER
                              81) DUNCAN GOODHEW
                              82) MICHAEL GRADE
                              83) RUSSELL GRANT
                              84) SARAH GREENE
                              85) DEREK GRIFFITHS
                              86) BRUCE GYNGELL
                              87) PAUL HARDCASTLE
                              88) KEITH HARRIS
                              89) DAVID HASSELHOFF
                              90) GEOFFREY HAYES
                              91) LENNY HENRY
                              92) PAUL HENRY
                              93) BENNY HILL
                              94) BOB HOLNESS
                              95) GORDON HONEYCOMBE
                              96) GEOFFREY HOWE
                              97) FRANKIE HOWERD
                              98) TED HUGHES
                              99) ROD HULL
                              100) GLORIA HUNNIFORD
                              101) DAVID ICKE
                              102) VICKY IRELAND
                              103) JESSE JACKSON
                              104) MICHAEL JACKSON
                              105) CLIVE JAMES
                              106) DEREK JAMESON
                              107) DAVID "KID" JENSEN
                              108) POPE JOHN PAUL II
                              109) HOWARD JONES
                              110) HENRY KELLY
                              111) MATTHEW KELLY
                              112) SARAH KENNEDY
                              113) NIK KERSHAW
                              114) MAGGIE KIRKPATRICK
                              115) NEIL KINNOCK
                              116) BONNIE LANGFORD
                              117) SIMON LE BON
                              118) RUSTIE LEE
                              119) MARTYN LEWIS
                              120) ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER
                              121) MAUREEN LIPMAN
                              122) LITTLE AND LARGE
                              123) KENNY LOGGINS
                              124) MADONNA
                              125) TIMMY MALLETT
                              126) ROBERT MAXWELL
                              127) IAN McCASKILL
                              128) JOHN McCRIRICK
                              129) TREVOR McDONALD
                              130) RALPH McTELL
                              131) FREDDIE MERCURY
                              132) GEORGE MICHAEL
                              133) KYLIE MINOGUE
                              134) BOB MONKHOUSE
                              135) DUDLEY MOORE
                              136) ADRIAN MOORHOUSE
                              137) ALISON MOYET
                              138) RUPERT MURDOCH
                              139) DENIS NORDEN
                              140) ANDREW O'CONNOR
                              141) DES O'CONNOR
                              142) TOM O'CONNOR
                              143) BILL ODDIE
                              144) DAVID OWEN
                              145) NICK OWEN
                              146) ELAINE PAIGE
                              147) SU POLLARD
                              148) GWYNNETH POWELL
                              149) PRINCE
                              150) ESTHER RANTZEN
                              151) CLAIRE RAYNER
                              152) MIKE READ
                              153) RONALD REAGAN
                              154) ANNEKA RICE
                              155) CLIFF RICHARD
                              156) LIONEL RICHIE
                              157) ANGELA RIPPON
                              158) KATE ROBBINS
                              159) TED ROGERS
                              160) JIM ROSENTHAL
                              161) ROBERT RUNCIE
                              162) TESSA SANDERSON
                              163) ARTHUR SCARGILL
                              164) SELINA SCOTT
                              165) HARRY SECOMBE
                              166) TOM SELLECK
                              167) CAPTAIN SENSIBLE
                              168) PETER SHILTON
                              169) WAYNE SLEEP
                              170) BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
                              171) ALVIN STARDUST
                              172) FREDDIE STARR
                              173) DAVID STEELE
                              174) SHAKIN' STEVENS
                              175) ROD STEWART
                              176) STING
                              177) MIRIAM STOPPARD
                              178) UNA STUBBS
                              179) MR T
                              180) JIMMY TARBUCK
                              181) CHRIS TARRANT
                              182) DENNIS TAYLOR
                              183) NORMAN TEBBIT
                              184) MARGARET THATCHER
                              185) DALEY THOMPSON
                              186) CLIFF THORBURN
                              187) SANDI TOKSVIG
                              188) TORVILL AND DEAN
                              189) TINA TURNER
                              190) BONNIE TYLER
                              191) TRACEY ULLMAN
                              192) SUZANNE VEGA
                              193) GARY WATSON
                              194) ROY WALKER
                              195) CLIVE WEBB
                              196) "MAD" LIZZIE WEBB
                              197) SIMON WESTON
                              198) KIM WILDE
                              199) GARY WILMOT
                              200) BERNIE WINTERS
                              201) TERRY WOGAN
                              202) VICTORIA WOOD
                              203) PAUL YOUNG (ONE TOO MANY, METHINKS!)
                              204) ER...
                              205) THAT'S IT
                              Telling it almost exactly like it was so many years later - and proud of doing so!

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