Day two of Michael's visit to Halifax started early. He was due to be in the hotel lobby pretty early to head out to some radio inteviews and since I was staying in the same hotel, i made sure i was up in time to be in the lobby. I had to go to work and it was about the time i'd be heading over to the office anyway. He was outside having a smoke and i chatted to Connie and picked up a tea for a few minutes. I only wanted to say good morning anyway and once i'd done that, i went to work.
After work, my friend Denise, who was one of the volunteers for the night, and I went to my hotel room and about 4:30 we went to the venue in the hotel, which was all set up with 725 chairs, a stage and two huge video screens. Around the walls on each side of the room were some booths set up. We have a raffle so the prizes were displayed, and we sell tickets for an autograph, so there was a booth for that. We also distribute surveys and question forms in the program. The surveys are useful for feedback and the questions get sorted and submitted to the guest. I was at one other table with another committee member. This year we ordered four large boxes of merchandise from CBC Shop and set up to resell it.
As mentioned in yesterday's blog, another really special feature this year was a large "ginnel" made of 12 panels covered in "brick" with poster sized photos of all the guests that we have had here in Halifax to date and 5 large backdrops of various businesses on Coronation Street, the Rovers, the Kabin, Roys Rolls, the Butcher shop, the garage and the corner shop. These were the inspiration of one of our committee members, Chris Bailey. The end result was spectacular! Lots of people were taking photos of the ginnel and the backdrops alone!
Ok, the doors haven't even opened yet, have they! Our Master of Ceremonies is a local florist, Neville MacKay, who's quite well known and a massive Coronation Street fan. He always donates lovely floral arrangements for the star's hotel room and wanted to be more involved. He kept the crowds entertained while they waited in line outside. When the doors opened, people hurried in to get good seats and then roamed around to have a look at everything. We at the merchandise table were quickly surrounded and were swamped! We had a lovely man helping to keep people in an orderly line and another woman, Anne Marie, who jumped in an lent her two hands to the sales desk, too! And boy, was I glad of the extra hands! We were taking credit card sales but most of the punters were throwing cash at us! Business was more than brisk, i can tell you!
Closer to 7, Neville took the stage to chat to the fans. He used some lovely flowers he'd brought to describe the properties and meanings of the flowers, likening them to characters on the show. Red roses for classic beauty and he said those were for Rita and Emily. Calla Lillies, i think, were one of the trendy flowers for trendy gals like Maria. There was a shrivelled old something (prune?) for Ted Page!! And a lemon on the stick for the inevitable fruit in the bunch, Sean. Let me just say here that Neville himself is gay so he wasn't out to insult anyone!
Finally, the hour came and Michael came out from behind the curtain to thunderous applause and cheers!!! Neville had given out some roses to people in the front and they tossed flowers at Michael as he came up onto the stage which was decked out with a vase of daffodils and backed by a large Rovers Return backdrop. He spent the next hour and a half answering questions, telling stories, and trading jokes with Neville, keeping everyone laughing. People would run up and take a few snaps and return to their seats. I was doing that and also taking notes! Later the organizing committee from the Downeast Streeters came on stage. Michael and Neville had everyone applaud for us and our efforts and then we presented him with a couple of gifts. The first one was a hand painted rock depicting Webster's Garage. This was done by a lady named Debbie Jardine, aka the "Rock Lady". The other gift was a unique cariacature (corriecature?) of Michael in front of the Halifax waterfront skyline with many Halifax landmarks and icons visible in the cartoon including Theodore tugboat, the ferry, one of our harbour bridges, the town clock and one or two others. This cartoon was drawn my my very own fiance, Graham! Michael was very surprised and really liked it! I videoed him opening it and took a few photos as Graham wanted one of Michael holding the photo, and giving the "metal" horns up sign which he graciously did when i asked! \M/
The winner of the "Guess Who's Coming" contest was drawn and the winner was awarded a $100 gift voucher to My Mother's Bloomers, a prize generously donated by our Neville. Michael drew the raffle tickets, too. First prize was breakfast the next morning with Michael and i saw the winners the next morning practically skip across the room when they were led to the table.
After a break he signed the autographs. Anyone that was there last year remembers that we had a bit of confusion around how the lineup work work. We did it a little differently this year, selling tickets by colour and having 20 of each colour so that when a coloured ticket was drawn, only 20 would line up at a time and the rest would remain seated. No numbers, no confusion and it seemed to work pretty well.
But that's really not what you want is it? You want to know some of the things Michael talked about so that's the next part of the blog.
Michael was asked how it is decided who will come on the annual Canadian trip and while most times the producers put up a notice in the green room asking if someone wants to go, this time he himself put his name forward. That's because his good mate Steven Arnold gave the trip such a glowing review and persuaded him that he ought to go. It worked out and here he is! He's only been here two days but he's loved it so far. Everyone has made him feel welcome everywhere and he says the people are fantastic!
He really never talked about his background aside from how he chose his name. His real last name is Turner but there was already an actor in the Equity with the name of Michael Turner. His mother's maiden name is Le Vell and his other choice was MacKenzie but his auntie thought Le Vell sounded posher so Le Vell it was.
He says the cast really is like family and in almost 26 years of working there, there's really never been anyone he's not got on with. Some other things about him: He's a really good poker player, he's a Manchester United fan and he only started playing darts when he was invited on a celebrity darts television show. He never knew how to play before that so had to practice for about a month so that he wouldn't make a fool of himself on telly. He was raised in Manchester and his parents died when he was young. There's a bit more about Michael and about Kevin Webster here.
In answer to various questions:
- Someone cheekily asked if he'd do a love scene with another male and if so who? He joked with Neville over that for a bit and then said he'd choose.... Tyrone! Seriously, though, he later said that actors love to be the centre of attention and they love having big storylines which gives them lots to do. When they're told they have a big storyline coming up, even if it's going to be controversial, all the actors involved are pleased. They don't really even worry about if the viewers will like the storyline because it's all good work and it's all pretend anyway. There's an upcoming storyline that's rumoured to be happening on the UK timeline involving Kevin, though I am not going to spoil it because it didn't sound like a certainty yet when Michael talked about it. That only means that he's not got the scripts yet and I *think* hasn't been told officially and you can't always believe everything the tabloids report. It's all his job though, so yes, if he had to kiss another man (which isn't the rumour I mentioned), he'd just get on with it because it's all part of the job. "We just want to make entertainment" he says.
- Now, in his earlier years, Michael was rumoured to be gay, probably because he used to do a lot of appearances in gay clubs all over the country. That's when "Kevin" had that big bushy moustache. Michael was surprised that when he shaved it off, the gay clubs didn't want to know anymore!! He asked Neville why that was. Neville gave the "family show answer" and said it was because many gay men have a great love for their old grannies who often had a bit of whisker when they gave the little ones a kiss!
- The grease and dirt on Kevin's and Ty's hands isn't real, it's black makeup mixed with hand lotion. He has discovered though, that real mechanics have to wear thin latex gloves now because of the carcinogens in the oil so we may see Kev and Ty wearing them soon. He said he and Alan Halsall have a lot of fun with the gloves and play on it a lot! In real life, he hasn't got a clue about cars!
-There was one story he told, and I didn't get all of it, but it seems he still suffers from stage fright after all these years. He was relating how he sometimes has to scold himself for blanking on his lines, because he *knows* he knows the lines but they just go out of his head, or sometimes he'll get so nervous he's shaking and he demonstrating trying to "eat breakfast", for instance, with hands shaking so much that he'll miss the food with his fork or miss his mouth with the fork and food on it and he says "it's only trying to get a sausage on a fork, how hard can it be?" What happens is that he has to think about what he's doing, or it may need particular timing in the scene so it isn't something he can just do naturally and that can get him worked up trying to do it right. Sometimes, too, I think stage fright isn't so much a case of nerves as it is a huge adrenaline rush. But that's just my own take on things. I've read Jean Alexander's autobiography and she often had stage fright especially in the early days and Lord Laurence Olivier is famous for having it too so he's in good company!.
Now, before you go any further, my no-spoiler rule doesn't apply to this next section so don't say you weren't warned!
- Yes, the house swop with the Peacocks is going ahead and Kevin will be sipping the finest wine Salford offers, in the new conservatory.... with a lead pipe!
- when asked how they find actors for new characters, he joked about a casting couch but said the casting directors hold auditions and sometimes if the new characters are planned to be long term, they will set up camera tests with other actors. This is something they've only just started doing recently, I think.
- Kate Ford who played Tracy Barlow has had a baby and is quite happy being a mom for now
- Michael Stark who plays Jerry Morton was brilliant but they never really gave him much to work with (and that spoiled it, because he's going to be leaving the show soon)
- On a related note, the little fellow that plays Finlay is not related to Craig Charles who plays Lloyd and No, Finlay isn't his son. But you probably already figured that out!
- one of the biggest spoilers was a storyline that hasn't happened yet. The rumour has hit the UK papers that Kevin and Molly are going to have an affair. We asked him about that and it also came up at the show and Michael said that he didn't think Kevin would ever do that to his best mate, Tyrone so he is hoping is isn't going to actually happen. He didn't say definitely that it would so maybe he doesn't know officially yet or else he's not allowed to say, I don't know. I can't see it either but I also watch the UK timeline and read the updates and spoilers and there are already hints that Kevin is getting more annoyed with Sally and is going to be thown together with Molly when they get involved in a fun run. Cross your fingers it doesn't get any further than a flirtation or a near thing. I just can't see Molly doing the dirty on Tyrone when they're such a perfect couple and have only been married a short time. I can, however, see Kevin being attracted to her if he's been out of sorts with Sally lately and feeling put upon.
Back out of the spoiler zone and back to your regularly scheduled blogging....
- The food that gets eaten while taping really isn't very appetising. Michael joked about the dubious cleanliness habits of the servers but i'm sure it's all above board!
- When asked about Sally 's affairs, he admitted that Kevin always had an inkling and looked the other way because he wanted to keep his family together. As i thought!
- when asked which is better, a BMW or a Mercedes, he replied that as an actor, he can't afford either one but does drive a Mitsubishi.
- When asked about all the beautiful women on the show, he seemed to mention Michelle Keegan who plays Tina as being particularly lovely and he talked about how quickly Helen Flanagan grew up and blossomed, seemingly overnight! One minute she was a little girl and days later, it seemed, she had boobs and an uplift bra!! He's expecting Brooke Vincent, who plays Sophie, to blossom similarly any time now as she's a couple of years older than her character who is only 14 on screen.
- What was his favourite storyline with Sally? Divorce, he joked. All that aside, though, he says that Sally Whittaker who plays his wife Sally, is a very professional actor and is absolutely fantastic to work with. She actually hates it when her character has to act like a fishwife! He says he doesn't understand why people hate Sally so much. That's often the kind of feedback he gets from people that meet him on the street, advising him to smack Sally around a bit! He also says he's very lucky to work with three great actors, including the two that play his daughters though it doesn't always go smoothly when he's trying to work and they're chatting about shoes and clothes and makeup! He thinks the casting directors really chose well when they recast his daughters. He says that sometimes happens because they cast children as newborns and sometimes get new children when they are about 5 and again, when they are about 10 or 11 and the children realize they really don't want to be actors. They then will try to get children who are already actors or want to be so will be more likely to grow with the role.
- Tes, it felt great to thump John Stape, he laughed.
- Has he ever had to do any scenes that make him question his own morals? What morals, he joked! Nah, again, it's all just pretend at the end of the day. It's what he does for a living.
- Jean Alexander, who was the wonderful Hilda Ogden, was remembered fondly. He said in the old days, they all rehearsed in an old warehouse and had little partitions for their own private space and shared a space with a telly as well. You could smoke inside then and Jean used to sit there and smoke and if snooker was on the telly, she'd sit and watch it, mesmerized!
- He says that Bev Callard, aka Liz has some good stuff coming up. It's all about Liz, Steve, Lloyd and some perfume! Hmmmmm.... But when someone mentioned all the "sensational" storylines we seem to get these days he said, without shenanigans, it'd be pretty boring and nobody would watch.
- Is the Street haunted? Nope. Though when asked if he believed in such things, I got the feeling that maybe he did but he didn't really seem to want to go into it too much. He did say that most people have had spooky things happen to them.
- Boxers or Briefs? (and we did warn him this question always comes up) The answer is.... Boxers!
- He was on the street when he was much younger, about 12 or 13 years old, as a paper boy Neil Grimshaw who gave Mavis a lot of grief. He was in it for 13 episodes.
- their work schedule is pretty tough these days, they can film up to 6 days a week for long days if they're in a big storyline and they have three filming units on the go.
- Would he ever want to leave to do something else? He did have a short time off a few years ago and did a play in Chester just because he wanted to see if he still could do it, having done it a lot before his Corrie days. Some people want to leave to be a big star. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't but he loves where he is at the moment because there's always new storylines and something to do.
The other interesting thing he brought up was about iconic characters such as Hilda or Elsie Tanner or Vera Duckworth. People sometimes thing the show just wouldn't be the same and would suffer when one of these characters leaves the show because the actor wants to go or due to ill health. It's sad when one of them leaves but he says the show always goes on. New characters and storylines always come along and though you may miss that particular character, "There's never anything bigger than Coronation Street itself". I've heard that before, other actors always say the biggest star *is* the Street!
He's been on the show going on 26 years. I think you could say he's one of the iconic characters now as well, having put more time on the show than some of the ones he talked about. Jean Alexander was on Corrie from 1964 until Christmas 1987 so he's passed her term. He's got more years in than Pat Phoenix had as well. I can't imagine Coronation Street without Kevin (and Sally!) but as he said, it *will* go on!
Michael is really nice, he's got a great sense of humour and seems to love to joke around. Neville flirted with him shamelessly and he went right along with it, making jokes right back. A few of the jokes may have been a bit close to the knuckle or "rude" as he calls it ("off colour" in the UK means you're feeling a bit ill) but i think it only shows he was comfortable with the whole thing, and with Neville and really enjoyed himself.
At the end of a very long day and evening, some of us went to the hotel bar, along with Michael, for one or two last nightcaps and to wind down. Michael was visibly tired by that time and i don't think he would have been long for bed once the bar closed. Still, when a few fans approached him, as they did the night before in the bar as well, he graciously chatted to them and posed for a picture. He was nice enough to have a last photo with a couple of our group as well and I got a nice hug and kiss on the cheek goodnight when I went left the bar. What a sweetie he is!
It was a late night for all of us so I took the next day off and i was staying in the hotel as well which makes a big difference. I still managed to get up and get down for breakfast in time though, because i wanted to at least have one last look though i wasn't going to interrupt him, of course. I was quite pleased, though, when he arrived with the event coordinators, when he spotted me across the room, waved and called out Good Morning, Diane! Made my day! He hasn't spent as much time with me as with the others so i was pleased he'd remembered my name. I caught up with a couple of the other committee members who had also stayed over and came down to breakfast before i was done and we'd all agreed that none of us had really slept all that well. Too wired up and overtired when we went to bed!!! I didn't get to meet his wife and children though i did see them in the restaurant at breakfast as well. I only recognized them because i had seen them with our committee chair and coordinator in the hotel lobby. Of course, I didn't go over and bother them as they didn't know who i was.
So another year and another very successful event. Of course i took photos (someone mentioned that taking photos is in my DNA!) and you can see them here (click "View Photos", no need to sign in). I'm going to upload my video of him opening his gift and i'll post the Youtube of that probably later tonight or tomorrow.