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Thread: Being famous in the 1980s

  1. #1
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    Default 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?
    I am now in my 40s (just in case anyone asks).

  2. #2
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    Default 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.

  3. #3
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    Default 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...

  4. #4
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    Default 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

  5. #5
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    Default 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.
    ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THE NEXT HALF HOUR.

  6. #6
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    Default 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

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Being famous in the 1980s

    Quote 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.
    I am now in my 40s (just in case anyone asks).

  8. #8
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    Default 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!
    I am now in my 40s (just in case anyone asks).

  9. #9
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    Default 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.
    I am now in my 40s (just in case anyone asks).

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    Default Re: Being famous in the 1980s

    Quote 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

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