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Monday, May 23, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 7

Ex-Managing Editor Alan Fennell and Ex-Art Editor Dennis Hooper of the now defunct “Century 21” comics section had, oddly enough, accompanied Robert T Prior, Andrew Harrison, Bob Reed, Howard Elson, Linda Wheway and me to the new offices in May’s Court – but, once there, had acted very much like a pair of proverbial spare “wot-nots” at a wedding.

It is almost certain that Fennell and Hooper were fully aware that the book departments’ move to May’s Court was a temporary measure only. In June (or perhaps July) 1968, TV21. Lady Penelope and Candy were handed over to Martspress. Assuming that both Fennell and Hooper had been engaged on contracts with a notice period of twelve months, this would have extended their employment to June of 1969 . . . which was precisely when the book section of Century 21 Publishing was finally disbanded.

I need to say here and now that both Alan Fennell and Dennis Hooper were truly magnificent insofar that they never once interfered with anything that we in the book department were (or were not) doing. Looking back and seeing the picture as a whole, I now believe they found themselves in the position of having to work out their one year’s notice period and—despite the book section having a great many planned titles—having virtually nothing to do. However, they were both experienced script-writers, so perhaps they turned to writing to keep their minds occupied.

There was, however, something else going on that appeared to me to be quite utterly bizarre.

I never knew much – if anything – about the domestic problems experienced by Editor of the Book Department Bob Prior during those difficult years. It was only in 2003, when he and I met for an evening meal in a Notting Hill Gate restaurant, that, with tears in his eyes, he’d related all that had been going on at the south London home he’d vacated; of how his wife’s new boyfriend had been disciplining Bob’s two young children (a girl and a boy roughly 6 and 8) by locking them away in the garden shed for what had seemed like days on end.

Clearly Bob had been looking for a change in his circumstances and, in an effort to alter his image, had bought and worn a number of medallions, chunky gold chains and miniature gold bars (which certainly didn’t come cheap) that he’d strung around his neck and wrists. He grew his hair long in the fashion of Peter Wyngarde, the French-born English actor, best known for playing Jason King. During the time that the book section was housed in May’s Court, Bob had come to work daily wearing a sweeping black cape, secured on the left shoulder by a very large, black, decorative, rose-shaped clasp. To top everything off, he wore an oversized hat in the style of George Melly, a flamboyant Renaissance man, passionate about jazz, film, art and writing, who over-indulged in both sex and drink.

Around about February or March of 1969, a well-dressed, tall-and-thin-streak of an individual carrying an official-looking briefcase entered our office demanding to see Robert T Prior. I was told later that he’d had something to do with accounting although where he’d emanated from was anyone’s guess. By the end of the day, Bob Prior had cleared his desk and had left the building without a goodbye to anyone. The ‘tall streak’ remained sitting in the office Bob had vacated for a further two-to-three weeks and, although I received the odd snippet of information from our Sales Manager (whose name totally slips me), I felt it prudent not to create further waves by asking too many awkward questions.

During the latter half of 1968 and the first few months of 1969, Howard Elson and I spent quite a bit of time together working on Alphabeat. I don’t know whose idea it was, or who chose the title—my guess is that it was Howard, but Bob Reed was also very much into pop and I wouldn’t want to dismiss him as Alphabeat's potential originator. The book was essentially an ABC of Pop, and the idea might have arisen from Howard’s father who owned and ran a public relations business representing a good many stage performers (in the Seventies, Howard joined the business and took it over when his father retired).

For Alphabeat, Howard interviewed the stars we came into contact with while I captured a series of exclusive shots . . . at least, that was the plan, although it hadn’t always panned out that way. Take, for example, the day I went to visit Bee-Gee Maurice Gibb.

Maurice Gibb was living in a Mews house not much more than a stone’s throw away from Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge and Buckingham Palace. On the day I went to see him (for some reason, Howard was not with me), I had rather been expecting to see all three members of the group. However, not only was Maurice alone, but he wasn't in what I would call a particularly good frame of mind. At the time I guessed this was down to a bust-up with Lulu; they were not to be married for another year, so this was probably down to a lovers' tiff. I'd felt it prudent not to ask.

Maurice quickly picked up on my disappointment that Barry and Robin were not also present, and  suggested that we drive over to where Barry was renting a penthouse apartment, just off Ludgate Hill and close to St Paul’s Cathedral.

The drive over in Maurice’s dark bottle-green convertible Rolls Royce with pale cream upholstery was totally uneventful (even though I’d actually had my left arm ready to execute a Queen’s condescending wave of acknowledgment had anyone shouted and screamed on recognising my celebrated chauffeur . . . which nobody had.

Sadly things became infinitely worse when parking the car. Within sight of the Cathedral, we’d turned off Limeburner Lane and had to squeeze into a tiny vacancy in Old Seacoal Lane. While maneuvering the car into its parking spot, Maurice inadvertently graunched the side of the Rolls against a none-too-smooth concrete bollard, making his mood even gloomier.

At the rear entrance to the building, he led me over to a private lift that gave access only to the penthouse suite. He obviously had some sort of key as I don’t remember there having been any incidentals such as ringing bells or buzzers or being asked to identify ourselves.

At the very top of this high-rise office block, had I opened the window and leant out holding onto a long stick, I could have almost touched the spires of St Paul’s Cathedral and, from the kitchen (although I never actually went in there to check it out), one could almost have touched the Lady Justice statue at the top of the Old Bailey . . . or to be precise (and give it its correct title) – the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales.

The suite itself was bright and airy – absorbing all the sunlight that was being thrust upon us that day – and, as it was on two levels, it gave the impression of being quite a substantial place. It was clear that Barry was occupied upstairs, so while Maurice went up, I discreetly waited in the spacious living room and had gazed out over London town in all its finest glory.

Two minutes later, an attractive slim, blonde aged about nineteen, nonchalantly dragging a pristine white bed-robe beside her, descended the wide wooden stairway and disappeared into where I  assumed the kitchen to be. She had been totally and unabashedly naked. But what had been even more fascinating was the way she had skilfully circumnavigated a fresh, oversized dog’s turd – still shimmering in its youthfulness, its wispy column of steam caught by a shaft of sunlight – that had been deposited about a foot away from the bottom-most stair.

Somehow, whatever enthusiasm I’d started out with on that day had finally fizzled out. With the feeling that enough-was-more-than-enough, I picked up the bag containing my cameras and the power-flash I’d taken with me, had gone over to the lift and left the building without saying a further word to anyone. I’d not taken one single shot.

However, on browsing the “net” over the past few days, the actions I took on that fateful day in 1968 is paled into insignificance by the three Bee-Gees who appeared on Clive Anderson’s chat show in 1996 and had stormed off after a barrage of Anderson’s sniping jokes!

Billie Davis, the Caravelles and Long John Baldry were all photographed on the same day and more or less in the same place. As to whose apartment it had been, I really have no idea, but it was sumptuously appointed with over-stuffed, white leather settees, a glass-topped Grecian-style metal table upon which had been placed a chunky white and green onyx chess set, and, on the floor, a white carpet with a pile so thick that had you accidentally dropped a chopstick, it probably would have taken you a week to find it again.

Billie Davis – who had been born Carol Hedges – was the first to appear that afternoon. As the light had been good, I’d placed her outside, sitting on the balcony that over-looked Cromwell Road and the Natural History Museum that lay beyond. Looking at Google Maps 47 years later, I see that the building we had been in is now the “Consulat Général de France à Londres” . . . but it hadn’t been at that time.

Davis was climbing back to popularity after having (a) suffered a broken jaw received when her chauffeur-driven limousine had crashed and she’d had to have her jaw wired up for four months while she recovered, and (b) from some damaging publicity in a less-permissive Britain following an affair she’d had with married guitarist Jet Harris. Upon her arrival, she had been slightly on edge at meeting us, but not nearly on edge as Howard had been in the minutes before she had arrived.

He had been checking his recording apparatus, when he suddenly came over – almost white-faced with horror – saying that there was something wrong with his recording machine. “Every now and then it will utter this awful whining sound for about eight or ten seconds,” he said, “and then it goes back to being normal once again. I just don’t understand it!”

Following a week-long study of road-traffic-systems in the United States, Earnest Marples MP had thrust upon the innocent Briton annual encumbrances called MOTs; they were also being forced to understand the intricacies of double white lines; and to cope with new laws regarding the parking of cars on single and double yellow lines, together with the added accompaniment of the dreaded traffic warden. Also bringing misery into our lives was the breathalyzer test and strange things called Pelican Crossings. Prior to Davis’s arrival and with me looking around for suitable locations to pose our stars in, I’d seen one of these new-fangled crossings situated just yards away from where we were.

“That whining sound you appear to be picking up isn’t coming from that squeaky crossing thing down there is it?”

The look of relief on Howard’s face was clear for all to see.

At the invitation of Howard Elson, some solo artists and groups were asked to come to our offices in May’s Court. Century 21 Publishing had a small room that wasn’t being used for anything else, so it was there that groups such as Blossom Toes and Harmony Grass became immortalised on film. The room was a bit bland, so, having bought half-a-dozen large posters—and with the help of my assistant Andy Harrison—we’d pinned up five on the far wall featuring Julie Christie, Laurel and Hardy, Ursula Andress – the shot where, as Honey Rider, she is seen walking out of the sea in the film Dr No – David Hemmings and John Lennon. This bare empty room – devoid of anything apart from a single chair – was to be my studio.

One day, Gun called in and, having taken a few shots, I decided to have a change of view-point. I lay down on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, and got the three guys to encircle me, place their arms on each others’ shoulders, and look down (requesting at the same time not to spit or dribble!).

Once I felt I’d got enough pictures, I said “Thanks lads,” and they trouped off down the stairs and out of the building. I had two cameras and a power-pack flash unit in one hand, and was relying on my right hand to get me up off the floor. Unfortunately, my right thumb was taking my full weight and didn't like it one little bit. It didn’t break, but the pain of the dislocation was enough to put me out for a few seconds!

The front cover of Alphabeat was designed by me in late 1968 using a picture of Roy Wood of The Move. Bob Reed created the lettering that appears on the left hand lens of his glasses. Thirty-nine years later, in 2007, my attention was brought to a Danish pop band of six singers from Silkeborg, fronted by Stine Bramsen and Anders SG (not to be confused with their guitarist – Anders G), who are signed to Polydor Records.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But you know folks, it could also be called downright plagiarism.

Going back a few years to 1964 to when my son Marcus was born, W H Smith had a retail outlet that occupied the whole of the ground-level floor-space of Hulton House. In their January sale of 1965, amongst other things, they’d included various items from the Hornby Railways OO-gauge system of which I had bought quite an alarming selection. My wife Jenny thought I was totally mad.

But, three years later, whilst employed at Century 21 Publishing and having visited the film studios at Slough on a number of occasions, not only had I picked up quite a number of tricks of the trade from the on-site set builders, but I was also encouraged to construct the model railway system I’d purchased onto a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of block-board.

In 1968, with Marcus still really far too young to play with the Hornby Double-O set, my recently-created train layout came into its own when being used as a backdrop to the range of Corgi model cars I had been given to photograph. Amazingly, Jenny’s original thoughts on the Hornby Double-O matter had at long, long last begun to mellow.

Roger Perry
The Philippines

Coming soon: In Part Eight, the end of Century 21 Publishing, and I meet up with some old friends at Hamlyn Books.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Illustrators #14

There's a great deal of pleasure to be had in a magazine like Illustrators, not only in articles about artists you know, but also in the discovery of new talents that you've never heard of. Of the five featured artists, I'd heard of one, Joe Jusko, but knew little about his background and was delighted to see plenty of artwork that was new to me.

The first of three lengthy articles features the often surreal art of Tara McPherson, pastel-coloured paintings influenced by Japanese art, often featuring winsome redheads with heart-shaped holes in their bodies. This particular theme developed after McPherson went through a particularly horrible break-up; she discovered she was able to funnel emotion through her work, with the heart-shaped hole encompassing emotions visually. Some of her work could be described as pop surrealist, other work as just plain weird.

Joe Jusko, on the other hand, is best known for fantasy art that is based firmly in realism. From his debut in Heavy Metal, Jusko has been a prolific cover artist for nearly forty years. After briefly working as Howard Chaykin's assistant as as a police officer in the South Bronx, Jusko found steady work as an artist. Since then he has drawn just about every muscular character you can imagine—Tarzan, Conan, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, etc., etc.—along with a nice line in big cats.

Maurice Leloir may be a less familiar name. He was a Frenchman who illustrated many fine historical books, born in Paris in 1853, where he died in 1940. Here, author David Ashford concentrates on his 250 illustrations drawn for the two-volume edition of The Three Musketeers published in 1894 and the 1901 edition of Richelieu.

Adam Stower is a children's book writer and illustrator whose work has appeared in educational books, illustrated novels and in magazines, including a regular spot as the cover artist for Money Magazine. He's the author of a number of children's books, including Silly Doggy, Troll and the Oliver and Grumbug.

The tail-end of the magazine includes a brief announcement that Book Palace are currently finishing off the long-awaited The Art of Fortunino Matania—Drawing From History, which I remember being in active preparation back in 2010 (like I can talk—my life is one long trail of half-completed projects!). There's also a handful of reviews and letters wrapping up the issue.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 15 will feature Dave McKean, Andy Thomas, Jonathan Bull and Sam Peffer.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 6

Trying to do something a little different can occasionally result in major problems. On the changeover from Thunderbirds to Captain Scarlet, it was Bob Prior’s decision to have one half of the annual (i.e. 48 pages of the 96-page book) devoted to Thunderbirds while the remaining 48 pages should be given over to the new-comer who pranced around wearing the scarlet hat.

This raised the question of who should appear first in the book and who should be the runner-up? Well, this was where I came in. My idea was to have Thunderbirds occupying 48 pages of the book, which could then be flipped over and Captain Scarlet would also have 48 pages. Although it was a common format elsewhere in the book industry, there were still a number of wholesalers who returned their consignment of the books to the distributor, complaining that it had been bound incorrectly.

I wasn't the only adventurous designer wishing to break away from the norm.

It was around that time that Harry Fieldhouse of IPC Media launched NOVA. The magazine described itself as being “a new kind of publication for a new kind of woman”, and yet, it had more male readers than female. There was also little doubt that the in-house designers were doing their utmost to push their designs outside the envelope . . . but this ground-breaking trend almost sounded the magazine’s death-knell.

Virtually 100% of magazines display their main title at the top of the front cover. There is good reason for this as with so many periodicals being placed on display, newsagent vendors checkerboard the product they wish to sell in a ‘tiled-roof’ fashion so that although the lower half is hidden, the purchaser can still spot the magazine he or she is seeking. But some bright spark at NOVA broke this tradition and displayed the main heading towards the bottom of the front cover. Consequently, vendors didn’t know what to do – should they display the magazine upside down, or should they just ‘hide’ the magazine’s title – whatever, sales plummeted as customers failed to spot what they were looking for.

Perhaps it had been on the back of the photographic material I had been producing for the Candy and Andy storybooks that prompted Gillian Allan to ask if I would like to supply her with some fashion pictures for Lady Penelope magazine. It was all very simple: she would hand over one or two dresses on a Friday afternoon; over the weekend I would visit one or more of my ‘contacts’; and on the following Monday morning, I would take the exposed rolls of film to the processing laboratory that was housed right next door in the basement of Hulton House. The development of these colour films usually took around two hours (including the drying) and, so, after lunch, I was able to pick the processed films and take them into the Lady Penelope editorial office where Gillian and the designer who put the pages together could choose which ones they wanted.

My favourite ‘model’ at that time was Mandy Walls, a girl of about 15 or 16 who lived not all that far away in nearby Redbourn. She was not necessarily a striking beauty per se, but she had great charm and was so relaxed and natural when it came to posing in front of a camera that she was a sheer joy to work with. Perhaps I should have stuck with her, for I tried out one or two of her chums, and in comparison . . . well, let me just say that it was blooming hard going. It was then that I began to understand the differences between those who had the knack and those who clearly didn’t – something that put me in good stead a number of years later.

I was also pleased to employ another 14-year-old – not because she was a natural poser, but because she was the only daughter of Eric Kincaid. As a point of interest, Eric had married a woman who was a great deal older than himself . . . like six hours! Eric and Lucy Kincaid had been born on exactly the same day, the same month and the same year.

On the day I took the pictures, Eric was telling me that, only the week before, he’d had a VAT inspector come from Customs and Excise to check his books, and the man couldn’t believe that Eric could possibly produce the work he did while cramped in what had once been the kitchen’s walk-in larder! Eric didn’t think to enlighten me on where Lucy had opted to store their groceries now that Eric had moved in.
Not too long after I became part of the Century 21 Publishing team, Bob Prior asked if I would take the following day off and drive up to the Birmingham television studios, as it was from there that the Tingha and Tucker programmes were being recorded and transmitted. Their host was Jean Morton, otherwise known as Auntie Jean, and Bob thought it would be a good idea to have some photographic reference material close to hand.

Although I got to the studios mid-to-late morning, the programme wasn't scheduled for recording until mid-afternoon. There appeared to be no sense of urgency and, alongside Auntie Jean and some of the studio crew who’d hung onto every word she’d uttered, we’d munched through a nondescript light snack supplied by the in-house canteen. The star of the show related stories using the most disgusting collection of verbal filth, which the crew thought was terribly funny . . . whilst my opinion of this aging, scrawny bat had sunk lower and lower by the minute.

Glove puppets only come alive when someone’s hands are placed inside. Ahead of the recording, Tingha and Tucker – who had been lying dormant in a cardboard box – had as much sparkle as a moth-eaten doormat that had lain at the bottom of the dog’s sleeping basket for many a month. As for getting any reference shots, well there just weren’t any.

After lunch, in the hour before the recording began, the studio became more active as cameras were moved to pre-designated spots, marked by two strips of masking tape stuck in an ‘X’ on the floor. Up in the gantries, lights were adjusted and re-positioned; on-site painters touched up the odd place here and there; and Auntie Jean had had her hair washed, styled and was having a thick coating of make-up applied. While all this was going on, I carried out several checks on exposure levels and finding places to capture images without getting in anyone’s way. I thought to myself that, at long last, I could now take all the shots I had driven up from London for. But, no. Once again my plans were thwarted.

In the final seconds before the recording began, the level of studio lighting was cut to about 25% of what it had been. It was probably done to create a ‘soft-focus’ effect on the exceedingly tatty-looking puppets, while at the same time giving Auntie Jean a more youthful appearance by removing facial imperfections like worry-lines and crow’s feet. Naturally I could not use a flash and the ambient level of light was far too low for anything to register on the film without lengthy time exposures . . . so apart from enjoying the delights of the M1 motorway and a monotonous succession of cars’ and lorries’ rear ends, the day had been an utter disaster.

Following the takeover of TV21, Lady Penelope and Candy magazines by Leonard Matthews’ packaging company, Martspress, and, a couple of months later – in August or September of 1968 – the transfer of the book department to rooms in May’s Court, it was pretty surprising that our optimism for the future was as high as it was. We were still putting together new books like there was no tomorrow, and the fact that the Century 21 Production studios in Slough had closed its doors on 24th January 1969 almost passed us by without any of us even realising it.

It would be true to say that my involvement with Candy had taken a back seat. There were other things that kept me off the streets and photographically pretty busy.

For those of you who may not be entirely “in the know” on these things, in order to help keep unit costs down, books at times are often printed alongside one or more others – usually in multiples of two. Because of that, it was not unusual for us to be working on two, three or even four books of a similar type and size so that they could all be printed together. In the case of Alphabeat, there were certainly two other books – All About Cars and Action Girl (there might have been a fourth book, but if there was, I’ve totally forgotten what it might have been).

In regard to one of those books just mentioned – Action Girl – this is one that you might never  have heard of . . . and for good reason.

These books were printed in Rotterdam where my contact was Jacques Post. One week after I officially left Century 21 Publishing and had not yet become ensconced within the high-rise tower block of Hamlyn House), Alan Fennell asked if I might be willing to fly over to Rotterdam and cast an eye over the printer’s proofs prior to the books being printed. This I willingly did—on Wednesday, 11th June 1969, flying back the following day.

Now, before I go on with this particular tale, I need to bring in Howard Elson who had worked on TV21 from the very beginning. When the magazines were passed over to Martspress, Howard was transferred to the book department. I sent Howard a draft of all that I had written and he sent me a couple of additional items that I feel I ought to include:
After I left Century 21, I also made the journey to Holland (three times) to proof read the book. During one visit, Brian Jones of the Stones died and I was able to make a rapid correction to the copy of the Stones piece in the book.

As Brian Jones died on 3rd July, 1969, Howard must have travelled over to Rotterdam two or three weeks after I’d gone there. On Monday, 23rd June, I became employed at Hamlyn Books, based in Feltham, Middlesex, and it was a week or two after that, that Bob Prior called through to give me the devastating news. It would appear that through a documentation muck-up (although I dare say Bob had used far stronger words), the whole consignment of Action Girl books had been pulped and destroyed by customs officials.

I know for a fact that the Dutch printer was also producing hard pornography which, in Holland, was perfectly legal – you only needed to browse around the shops in Amsterdam’s red light district for proof of that. When I was shown around the print works prior to checking out the colour proofs, this pornographic material was being worked upon by technicians at another table. Maybe – just maybe – some “porn” had been included in the container along with our books. This is not a fact I can prove, but let’s call it an educated guess on my part.

Roger Perry
The Philippines

Coming Soon: in Part Seven, producing exclusive pictures for Alphabeat and All About Cars.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Comic Cuts - 20 May 2016

There's no more pitiful sight than me with an adjustable spanner. There's no authority in that image at all. I don't own the adjustable spanner—it owns me. I have no "I can do this" spirit when it comes to repairs and that lack of confidence usually reveals itself when I find myself delaying the inevitable.

We've had a small but persistent leak from the pipe connecting the water supply to the cistern of our downstairs loo. Despite being aware of it, our landlady hadn't done anything about it, so I thought I'd better tackle it myself. Hence the adjustable spanner, borrowed especially for the occasion. I've always shared houses with more practical people who own such things and, whilst I have a toolbox with plenty of smaller spanners, this was something I'd never had to own.

Anyway... armed with an adjustable spanner like some fleshy Bob the Builder and, with my nuts tightened ready to face the challenge (gentlemen will know what I mean), got down to business.

The end result was a more regular drip and a phonecall to our landlady demanding a plumber. Please.

He turned up the next day and spent five hours trying to figure out why, every time he fixed the leak, the drip kept coming back. First everything was taken apart, a perished washer was replaced, and everything was put back together again. Still the steady drip. So everything was taken apart, every joint was sealed, and everything was put back together again. Still the steady drip. Eventually our plumber found a hairline crack in the thread of the plastic pipe in the cistern that connected to the outside pipe. This was contributing most to the leak and, once he'd bought a replacement and sealed everything up again and put everything back together again, it worked. No more leak.

All of which proved one thing. I shouldn't be allowed anywhere near an adjustable spanner. A cautionary tale certainly. I'm not sure if there's a moral . . . maybe something simple like leave it to the experts, or that even experts have their off days.

On a more positive note, I finally have a proof that I'm happy with for Iron Mask. The rather long-winded tale has been told before, so I won't bore you with the tedious tale of how the printers have been mucking about with pagination. What I've ended up with is a 44-page book with 42 pages of text and illustrations, plus two blanks. I'm happy with it and have my initial order on the way. Normally with POD books I never see them... in this case I'll have ten copies to hand which I'll sign should anybody want to order one.

The order page over at Bear Alley Books is now live and waiting for your order.

Random scans this week are a mixed bunch. I managed to find a copy of UFO 2 by Robert Miall last Saturday, a book I've been after for some time as I have had the first volume for many years.I picked up another Miall novelisation last year, The Adventurer, and I already have his Jason King novelisations. I've included only one of the latter below as my copy of the other has a cover so very poor it's beyond repair. Miall—actually John F. Burke under another of his pseudonyms—also wrote a novelisation of The Protectors, which I don't think I have.

Next week we will be continuing our serialisation of Roger Perry's memories of his days taking photos for comics and annuals, and I'll try to squeeze in whatever else I can.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Commando Issues 4915-4918

Commando Issues on sale 19 May 2016.

Commando No 4915 – Nemesis Of The North

Smolenskaya Ostrov, a small island in the Barents Sea, was feared by the Russians, who had given it a much more ominous name — the Island of Death. This inhospitable place was uninhabited, apart from the packs of the ferocious polar bears who roamed its barren wastes.
   Now, “Jelly” Jakes, Titch Mooney and the rest of the Convict Commandos were tasked with preventing the outbreak of a deadly virus — if they could survive long enough to complete their mission.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

Commando No 4916 – Duel To The Death

It was like a duel between two knights of old. Each combatant knew the look and reputation of the other. Only this time, on one side was a giant white Sunderland flying-boat and on the other, a black-hulled German submarine, the U-37. Dick Stapleton and an Aussie crew flew the “Flying Porcupine”; the merciless Nazi, Kapitan von Bloeke, commanded the U-37.
   The North Sea convoy routes just weren’t big enough for both of them…


Sanfelix’s stunning cover image perfectly encapsulates a truly thrilling sequence from this book (and it’s on pages 10-13, if you wish to skip ahead). Expertly drawn by veteran interior artist Gordon Livingstone, one of our heroes attempts to extinguish an engine fire on the wing of his Sunderland Flying Boat…while it is still in the air.
   As far as I’m aware, I’ve never seen anything quite as daring as that in many years as a Commando reader and, latterly, as a Commando staffer. Wonderful stuff indeed.—Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Tyson
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Sanfelix
Duel To The Death, originally Commando No 210 (April 1966)

Commando No 4917 – Death On The Ground

In 1963, in the skies above a group of remote islands in the South Pacific, many military aircraft disappeared without trace — so many, if fact, that the area became known as the “New Guinea Triangle”.
   When R.A.F. Flight Lieutenant Jon Day, and his C.O., Squadron Leader Richard Gibson, became embroiled in the mystery, they discovered that their dangerous foe was on the ground as well as in the air.
   The Englishmen would have to improvise and use their wits to survive — even if that meant using captured weapons to bat away enemy grenades!

Story: Steve Coombs
Art: Morahin
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4918 – Eagle In The Sun

In the air war over Russia Anton Pozetski found life dangerous and confusing. It was easy to identify the enemy — they were the Germans and they shot at you. However, it wasn’t so easy to identify your friends. For a start, the Political Commissar and the Squadron Commander were apt to stab you in the back and they regarded the R.A.F. as enemies.
   Life was going to prove even more difficult for Anton when he joined an R.A.F. squadron on active service.


All of our artists are very versatile and capable of drawing any subject. However, even after five decades, Ian Kennedy is still usually our first port of call whenever we need an aeronautical cover. So, I imagine that’s what happened back in 1991 when the then-editorial team wanted an illustration featuring a Russian Polikarpov 1-16 using its propeller to shred the tail fin of an enemy Heinkel 111 bomber. Featuring Ian’s usual dynamic style and sense of drama, this is yet another prime example of his legendary work.—Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: Ian Clark
Art: Terry Patrick
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Eagle In The Sun, originally Commando No 2497 (August 1991)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 5

You will have read in “Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Eight” that along with TV21 and Lady Penelope, the production of Candy comic was now being handled by Martspress from June or July 1968 onwards. A month or so before the changeover, Dennis Hooper passed me a message to say that one of the ITC directors – he didn’t elaborate as to which one but I seem to think that it was destined to become a gift to his over-indulged son or daughter – had requested that the logbook and keys to “Stripey” be handed over, which was a bit of a blow as far as I was concerned for, over the previous year, I’d had the use of it as a second car.

I drove “Stripey” up to London and found a parking spot close to what is now (forty-eight years later) the Barbican Centre. On getting out and making quite sure that the doors and boot were firmly locked, an over-zealous young police constable made a bee-line for me and had demanded to see the log-book . . . the reason having been that at that time, many vehicles were being creatively spray-painted by their artistic owners with the result that the colours on the vehicle no longed tied in with the colours officially entered onto the vehicle’s registration document.

On handing the keys over to Dennis and Alan Fennell, I relayed the tale of what had happened, and as it turned out, the log-book had already been updated when the candy-striping had been carried out at Slough.

So what really did happen to Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas?

As I have said, TV21, Lady Penelope, and Candy comic went to Martspress in June or July, and a month or so later, the book section of Century 21 Publishing vacated the eighth floor of The City Magazines building and transferred to offices in May’s Court. Robert T. Prior, Andy Harrison, Bob Reed, Linda Wheway, Howard Elson and I, together with Alan Fennell, Dennis Hooper and the small Century 21 Publishing sales force, had moved into rooms to the rear of the English National Opera building (the ENO) where we had remained until the following June. We occupied a floor right above the theatre’s dressing rooms, and for much of each day we were entertained by the melodic scales of ascending and descending octaves as offered by the performers prior to them going through their respective paces in front of an appreciative fee-paying audience.

The Candy and Andy dolls, together with the two Bearandas, had remained in my custody. They were carefully put away in the loft-space and no-one ever thought of asking me about them, and to be honest, they were virtually forgotten by me also.

Items such as the orange settee, the pine dining table and chairs, and the two beds were incorporated into my house . . . as were the cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons and anything else of that ilk that had been deemed as being useful. The 2,000-watt and 5,000 watt studio lamps were given to Ken Mills, who had played the role of Sailor Jim (see part four), as he had more need of them than I.

As for items such as the toyshop counter and the shelving behind, these ended up in my garage, where they made good work-surfaces for carrying out various D I Y chores of which I once did a fair amount.

In the early 1990s, I went to live in the Far East, and it was then that my son Marcus asked me what he should do with varying items that I had left behind. It was at his suggestion that Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas be sent off for auction. By now, the rubberised “flesh” had become noticeably perished (the soft wire that ran through the fingers thus allowing items to be held began poking through the rubber) and some of the welded joints on the skeletal armature – particularly on the two bears – were sadly in need of attention. I believe the dolls were eventually bought by someone for an absolute pittance somewhere around 1994.

The range of books that  Century 21 Publishing produced had really been quite extensive – not just in regard to the variety of associated merchandised characters (Tingha and Tucker, Topo Gigio, Candy, Lady Penelope, The Monkees and Captain Scarlet to name but a few), but also the types of publication. This mixed-bag of product included painting books, sticker fun books, shape books, dot-to-dot books, puzzle books, large picture books, Christmas annuals, story and gift-books, paperbacks, board books, and model construction books.

I was fully in control of commissioning all the art that passed through the Century 21 Publishing (Books) section and it was I who designed the covers for all the books that we had produced. Meanwhile, it was down to Editor Bob Prior to (a) thrash out the financial arrangement he made with the Licensing Agents, and (b), to make whatever deals he could (down to the last decimal point of a penny) with the printers both at home and abroad. It was a balancing act between knowing just how many books of a certain type that he felt the Century 21 Publishing sales force could sell when it featured a certain merchandised character and, through ordering the longest possible run, achieve a profitable price per unit. Unfortunately, it was being bandied about by members within the printing industry that if you were able to get an order from Bob Prior, you were virtually made . . . I suggest you read into that whatever you may, but I shall be returning to this conundrum in a future part.

Not included in the list itemised above were the rather more complex doll-dressing books of which Century 21 Publishing (Books) produced a good selection for those individuals who liked getting involved in dressing and undressing girls and boys. I believe the first set of eight books had featured five members of the all-male pop-group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, and to make up the final three, Bob Prior chose the all-girl pop-group The Paper Dolls comprising of lead singer “Tiger” and her two chums “Spyder” and “Copper” partly because Bob had a fetish for heavy thighs and short skirts, and The Paper Dolls certainly had heavy thighs and short skirts.

With Captain Scarlet now being transmitted over the airwaves, Book Editor Bob Prior made the executive decision to produce yet another series of four titles – three of them having homed in on three of the five “Angles” – Destiny, Harmony and Rhapsody – and to make up the fourth, there was to be a title featuring none other than Captain Scarlet himself. As I had done with the previous doll-dressing books, I again commissioned Belinda Lyon (of the Oxfam Tea-towel fame and whose style was very distinctive) to carry out the work.

Within each book, there were four pages of clothes to cut out (printed in full colour on one side but blank on the reverse); each book had a lengthy story not only relevant to the character but also to the clothes that Belinda had created and lavishly illustrated; and for something to hang the cut-out clothes upon, there was an illustrated figure of the featured character, who just stood there attired in his or her undies. This figurine was printed onto an extended part of the fairly substantial front and back cover but was a gate-fold so it could be tucked back nicely to fit within the confines of the trimmed book. Each model came with a “stand” that slotted into the base so that when the figure was cut out, it would stand up properly in order to receive its allocation of clothes.

I was so fortunate to have as an assistant a tall, lanky mid-twenties lad called Andy (Andrew) Harrison. I don't recall having hired him myself – perhaps Bob Prior (my own immediate boss) had done so. Anyway, Andy was a perfect match for my own occasionally manic behaviour. As an example of his rather more zany actions, with Century 21 now proudly being in possession of a Rank Xerox copying machine, when the coast was clear, he would drop his trousers and briefs and capture a fine scan of his backside while sitting upon the viewing glass. Other rather less rude scans had appeared in a variety of forms in our books whereby he or I would capture our distorted portraits. In need of a fairly nondescript background for puzzles, quiz pages and 'fillers’ of that ilk, it seemed the quickest (and cheapest) way of filling up a page. On another occasion though, it had been Andy who had nearly brought about a whole heap of problems.

A day or two after some artwork had come in, Andy had been left working over lunchtime while I met up with Terry Smith for another session of being encouraged to walk into lampposts and crash into unsuspecting bystanders. Perhaps to shock Linda Wheway, who had now become part of the team, and using Taki-bac balloon-lettering paper, Andy had added a certain gruesome appendage that protruded from beneath the designer striped briefs Belinda had thoughtfully provided. Mind you, Belinda and Andy would have got on well, for she had also been a bit of a wag and would have been one of the first to have laughed her socks off over Andy’s highly detailed indiscretion.

At around 4:00, with everything done, read and corrected, the work had been wrapped up and was awaiting collection by the printer’s courier service in the reception area. In passing, I casually asked Andy if he had remembered to remove the offending object before packaging up the parcel. The sudden look of horror on his face and his speedy exit out to the reception area was all the answer I needed.

The Make-a-Model Cloudbase book was the very last job that Eric Eden created for me. Poor old Eric wasn’t the fastest worker on this planet, but with this final commission he took literally months to get the job done. I even had to drive over to his house – just off the Finchley Road, close to the north London borough of Golders Green – on a couple of occasions so that I might jolly him along a little. A month or two after completion, I learnt that he had become employed down in the dusty depths of the British Museum and working amongst and beside other ancient relics – some alive and some dead. Whether he was ill or not, I cannot say, but when his days had finally ended in October 1983, he was only 58. A question we need to ask ourselves . . . what was it about working on Dan Dare that encouraged so many of those associated with it to die in their late fifties—Frank Bellamy  aged 59, Keith Watson aged 59 . . . and whilst he didn’t work on Dan Dare, Ron Embleton was even younger when he passed away, aged 57.

Roger Perry
The Philippines

Coming soon: In Part Six, appearing on the front cover of Lady Penelope magazine are teenagers Mandy Walls and Eric Kincaid’s daughter.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 4

I’d been working in the barn late one Saturday evening and was in the midst of producing the front cover shot for the Candy and Andy and the Magic Slippers book when there was a tentative knock on the barn door. Seconds later, in walked Jennie Lee along with five or six others – all of whom had heads that bobbed quickly this way and that in an effort to scan the entire area before the distinct possibility that they might be asked to leave.

My father-in-law Arthur Edscer had been assisting me and thankfully – particularly as I’m not very good at having my concentration interrupted – had involved himself in the resulting exchange. Two of Jennie Lee’s visitors turned out to be Lord Boothby (Conservative Member of Parliament for West Aberdeenshire), while the other was former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who died only a few weeks later. Perhaps seeing Candy holding an old slipper and sitting beside Mr Bearanda had hasted his departure.

Who were the others? I really have no idea – they could have been members of MI5 for all I knew ... or cared. All I did know was that during those rare occasions when Prime Minister Harold Wilson had a whim to visit his Minister for Arts at her Asheridge farm, I was pre-warned that I should not set foot on the place.

Also in 1967, in order to better ourselves as a family, we’d moved from Chesham (close to where Jennie Lee’s Asheridge barn was) to a small village some 20-odd miles away to the north-east. A month or so later when we had settled in, I’d taken Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas back to Flamstead with me so that not only could their stories be captured as and when needed, but also so they could be centred around a more village-orientated environment.

Up until that point, my four-year-and-ten-month old daughter Rae hadn’t yet seen (or even known about) the Candy and Andy set-up, so when I first brought them back to Flamstead, unfeelingly I had set the characters up in our living-room area with Mr Bearanda relaxing in my black G-Plan rocking chair and sitting nonchalantly with his legs crossed, reading a book (the chair had first come to my notice while watching John Steed and Emma Peel in the tv series The Avengers). Unknown to Jenny and I (both pottering about in the back garden), Rae had walked home from school and, on spotting these strange grotesque strangers who had taken over her house, had all-but filled her panties front and back and rushed the two hundred yards back to the school where life (and the people with whom she had been surrounded for much of the day) seemed a good deal more normal and sane!

Back in London, on the eighth floor of the City Magazines building (three floors up from the comics section), Linda Wheway and I knuckled down to come up with a number of stories. These were destined to be included in (a) the large format Candy and Andy Story Book, (b) an up-and-coming Candy and Andy Annual, and (c) four smaller story books to be published in a landscape format. One of my favourite yarns was about having to change a wheel on “Stripey” without the luxury of having a jack, purely because this had really happened some years prior to the outbreak of World War II.

My favourite close relation had been Auntie Kay, who for much of her adult life had taught art at the Portsmouth High School for Girls. If you have had the chance to read my profile, you will already know that my paternal grandmother was a German national and that she had heralded from Dresden, the capital city of the Free State of Saxony, pretty close to the Polish and Czechoslovakian boarders.

During the long summer holidays, Auntie Kay travelled the length and breadth of the continent in her Morris 8 Tourer, and somewhere high up in the Alps, the car had succumbed to a puncture. The problem was that although she’d had a spare wheel, there appeared to be no method in being able to jack the car up – perhaps she had left it behind in her Portsmouth garage. It had been the idea of some local children that by using a long sturdy pole (and a log of wood for leverage), their combined weight would be enough to replace whatever the missing jack would have lifted.

In the rigmarole of going to work on a daily basis, I’d had to drive my car through nearby Redbourn village so that I might catch a certain train departing from St Albans – for it was one of the few that didn’t terminate at the Kings Cross but continued through to Farringdon Road railway station. Catching my eye as I passed through Redbourn, I’d noticed a quaint blacksmith’s forge and, on arriving at the office, passed my thoughts onto Linda Wheway while she lovingly sowed up my trousers (was it my imagination, or had she been spending a good deal longer on repairing them than was really warranted? Confused? You won’t be if you read on!)

Following his epic single-handed round-the-world voyage, Sir Francis Chichester’s Gypsy Moth IV had been placed on display upon a small triangulation of grass between Charterhouse Street and Holborn Viaduct (and was almost in fear of coming into contact with the commanding statue of Prince Albert at Holborn Circus). Covering all points of the compass, five roads converge at this junction and the plinth upon which Prince Albert – who was sitting astride his steed – was being regarded as a rather small round-about.

As I came up Charterhouse Street, despite it being only late August, I still needed to pull my sheepskin coat tightly around me – for the damp and blustery wind blowing down from Oxford Street and into High Holborn was almost enough to cut me in two. I passed Gypsy Moth IV to my left fully knowing well that the 54-foot (16 m) craft had seen weather far worse than this, especially when she had rounded South America’s Cape Horn. As I proceeded, I became acutely aware of the fact that the slow-but-at-least-normally-moving traffic was now at a complete standstill. It was solid and I soon discovered why.

A lone motorcyclist wearing thick and heavy protective black leathers was lying prone on the decorative-but-well-worn cobble-stones. Despite him being about eight-feet beneath Prince Albert’s left boot, the Consort Prince was arrogantly taking no notice. There was also a mode of transport laying akimbo just a couple of feet away. But the rider was not alone – kneeling beside him was a young (and perhaps slightly inexperienced) police constable who was trying not to look down at the rider’s right leg that was now so deformed that he was virtually kicking his own backside. As is my want, I went over.

“Look,” I said, “I’ve had experience in medical matters. I’ll look after him while you go over to that police ‘phone box over there on the corner and get in some help. After that, try to sort this traffic out and see if you can get it moving again.”

“Er, yeah, right . . . er right. I have to say that I’m feeling a bit funny meself!”

The lad in my care began to shiver violently, and as much as I hadn’t wanted to, I took off my sheepskin and in an effort to avoid the spillage of blood from his right thigh (which didn’t seem to be getting any worse, thank God), I covered him with my coat. Then, as I squatted down to place a package he’d had with him to use as a pillow, there was this great ripping sound as the two halves of my trousers had split from zipper to breakfast-time! The first thought that came into my mind had been: “What colour were the underpants I put on this morning?” As luck would have it, they had been the bright red pair!

Anyway, the ambulance turned up five or ten minutes later and with much screaming from the hapless motorcyclist as ambulance men did their best to straighten his leg enough so that he might fit onto their stretcher, extra police from nearby Snow Hill Station quickly got the traffic moving again. And I? – well, with my sheepskin gleefully covering up my embarrassment – I went to the office where Linda had put her sewing skills to good use while the two of us threw around ideas as to how I could employ this Bill Sibley, the Redbourn blacksmith.

The people of Flamstead quickly got used to seeing me out and about with my newly-adopted family, and, when asked, they gladly consented to stand here or lean on that while I busied around setting up the next shot. The vicar of St Leonard’s Church who lived directly across the road from me had thought the whole thing a tremendous wheeze as had my immediate next-door neighbour – Brian Modlyn, a representative for Yardley soaps and cosmetics, as it gave him something new to talk about during his chatty sales-patter.

Funnily enough, while setting up the shot that eventually appeared on the front cover of Penny for the Guy, two elderly ladies had paused while passing, one saying to the other:

“My goodness, aren’t those children good – they’re standing sooooo perfectly still . . . I can hardly believe it.”

Most of the stories were centred in or around Flamstead village and, in the main, all of the participants who played whatever roles I needed them for were un-paid neighbours, friends and acquaintances who lived locally. Occasionally I needed to travel a little further afield, such as the story in which my life-long chum Ken Mills took on the role of Sailor Jim. We’d gone to one of the quarry-filled lakes that meander along the Coln Valley – bypassing Rickmansworth, Maple Cross and Denham – where members of the local sailing club had passed many an idle afternoon mucking about in boats.

You may recall from part 3 that Doug Luke had found the whole process very frustrating, “what with toppling pandas and awkward dolls to deal with on a daily basis,” and I went on to mention the use of suitable lengths of stick, strategically placed and out of the camera’s line of sight. Well, I must have missed one, for in the shot where the rowing boat is drifting away from the shoreline, the wooden prop helping to keep Candy aloft is clear for all to see. Oooooops!

Although it was posted on Monday, 30th November 2009, it is only recently that I came across this website and I have to admit that I am utterly appalled at the factual errors that have remained unchallenged for so many years. The author, “Steerforth”, begins his post:
In 1966, at the height of his powers, "supermarionation" creator Gerry Anderson came up with a bold concept for a new television series. He had already designed the puppets and with the recent success of Thunderbirds behind him, it looked certain that the new project would be given the green light.
    But there was one problem: Anderson's idea was utterly mad
    The new series was given a unanimous thumbs down by television executives, but undeterred, Anderson turned his idea into a franchise, spawning 154 issues of a comic and several books. The whole sorry episode lasted less than three years but it was long enough to screw-up a generation of under 5s.

Candy and Andy had been a joint creative venture of TV21’s Art Editor Dennis Hooper and Lady Penelope Editor Gillian Allan and most certainly it had not been any idea of Gerry Anderson’s. There was also never a time when Candy and Andy were being considered for a television series – for starters, they were far too heavy to have been manipulated by puppeteers; their joints were far too stiff to be manhandled in the same manner that those other “supermarionated” characters from shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, where they had been brought to life by the deft hands of Mary Turner and her co-puppeteering chums. Although Anderson had a long and successful career in the world of puppetry with puppeteer Christine Glanville and special effects technician Derek Meddings, his true love was to move into live-action television which he later did.

Apart from their eyes, neither Candy nor Andy had any solenoid moving parts – something that had been the hallmark of Anderson’s “supermarionation” for a good number of years. The only reason Gerry Anderson became involved with Candy was because his studio had both the facilities and the expertise to create these characters as originally conceived by Dennis Hooper and Gillian Allan.

To have lasted three years, Candy must have had some considerable success when it was launched. There have been plenty of other periodicals that were closed down or amalgamated long before their 154th issue.

Roger Perry
The Philippines

Coming soon: In Part Five, “Stripey” becomes an over-indulgent birthday gift and I divulge what truly happened to Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 3


I had not been made fully aware of the financial predicament our Mother Company (Century 21 Productions, where the Supermarionation films in Slough were being created) had found itself in. (A more in-depth account on the reasons behind all this can be found in “Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Eight”).

Earlier in the year – on Wednesday, 18th January 1967 (but cover-dated Saturday 21st), “Century 21 Publishing” launched a comic for the very young entitled Candy. Along with several other merchandised characters that were regularly being seen on television – Tingha and Tucker, Topo Gigio, Bengo and Winnie-the Pooh – the main characters featured in Candy comic were based upon the lives and adventures of two life-sized dolls – one called Candy (so what else could it have been?) and her twin brother, who had been blessed with the similar name, Andy.

Their parents (Mr and Mrs Bearanda) were a pair of “Melungeons” – an animal species made up from the genetic mixing of a Chinese giant panda and a Russian brown bear – and the family lived very happily together in a two up, two down above a magic toyshop.

These four main characters had been created by the model-making division at Century 21 Productions, based in Stirling Road, Slough, where in-house carpenters, furniture-makers, painters and decorators had constructed a number of stage-sets that had been kept permanently at the ready in Slough for instant and on-going use.

While these sets were being put together, the Supermarionation side of Anderson’s business had continued thus bringing about its own blend of specialised headache.

The puppets were a third life-size, which made designing sets for them ten times more difficult than for human actors because everything had to be made to scale. The problem of producing cups, glasses, radio sets, control panels, chairs, tables and the like had to be solved by Bob Bell. As he has said: “Each item is specially made, for substitute toys do not look real enough under the critical eye of a film camera.”

The stage-sets for Candy magazine comprised the main toyshop (complete with shop-counter, shelving towards the rear, and a selection of toys that could be re-arranged to make it look as though the place had been fully stocked with product), a comfortable lounge area with a stone-built fireplace and mantelpiece that included, amongst other things, a bright orange deep-buttoned settee with white piping at the seams, and a kitchen-cum-dining area that came complete with a stainless-steel sink (with drainers each side, but not physically plumbed in). There was also a solid, 2-inch-thick pine-wood table that was surrounded by four Windsor-style pine chairs.

Leading out of the lounge there was a short stairway giving the impression of leading upwards to places unseen. However, rather more conveniently placed elsewhere had been Candy and Andy’s bedroom (but, please note, the pair had separate beds!). The whole stage-set had been fully-furnished with a variety of props including a large dark-blue kettle, pots and pans, a wicker shopping basket, pictures on the wall, and a designer table lamp. There were mugs, bowls and plates with an artistic ABC design printed in blue, and the knives, forks and spoons had been of such good quality that it was evident that no expense had been spared. Anything you care to name was probably there, tucked into one of the kitchen cabinet drawers somewhere, ready to be photographed should it be needed.

Finally, the Bearanda family drove around in an Austin Se7en Mini, lovingly nick-named “Stripey” due to its psychedelic colour-scheme of four-inch-wide diagonal stripes of blue, red and yellow onto what was once a perfectly plain and ordinary white-painted car.

The Candy comic ran for a total of 154 issues, although by around issue No 70 – along with TV21 and Lady PenelopeCandy had been passed on to Leonard Matthews' Martspress, where the original photographic style was discarded in favour of more conventional artist-drawn stories.

I assume scripts were sent well in advance for the attention of the film studio’s resident photographer, Doug Luke, who, along with his set-dressing assistant, supplied the editorial department (based on the 5th floor of City Magazines in Fleet Street) with a selection of 2” x 2” colour transparencies to match the half-dozen or so pre-written captions he had been supplied with.

It has been said elsewhere that Doug Luke found the whole process “very frustrating, what with toppling pandas and awkward dolls to deal with on a daily basis,” but at least he didn’t have to put up with temperamental, self-opinionated and egotistic stars who relished in keeping studio crews waiting by sleeping in and consequently turning up late! Personally, I didn’t agree with his views on the subject . . . but then, perhaps Doug Luke never thought of utilizing lengths of stick (strategically positioned out of the camera’s line of sight) – all done to prevent these starring characters from falling over flat onto their faces. If they did, then most certainly “heads did roll,” with the result that a certain amount of touching-up had to be carried out.

Due to the scaling down of filming operations in Slough, TV21 Art Editor Dennis Hooper approached me one day with the view to asking if I would be interested in taking over the photography of Candy particularly as the book department – of which I had been the Art Editor for more than a year – was in the midst of producing quite a number of “Candy and Andy” story books. I said that I would, but that the first thing I needed to do was to find a suitable barn large enough to house all the prefabricated sets. In the end, it was my father-in-law, Arthur Edscer (of whom I have spoken about in Part One), who found exactly what I had wanted.

The barn belonged to Jennie Lee, the widow of Aneurin Bevan. While acting as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee’s post war Labour government (1945 to 1951) it was his deputy leader “Nye” Bevan who spearheaded the establishment of the National Health Service. A number of years later when Jennie Lee was working directly with Harold Wilson as the Minister for the Arts, she had played a leading role in the foundation of the Open University where no formal entrance requirement was imposed upon the applicant. For that, she was awarded the title of The Baroness Lee of Asheridge (Asheridge being the name of the village three or four miles to the west of Chesham where her farm could be found).

The stage-sets were delivered by a furniture removal van from Slough and over the next few days and weeks, I strung up half-a-dozen 2,000 watt and 5,000 watt studio lamps about the barn using some pretty hefty S-shaped meat-hooks. Eventually the barn was ready for me to photograph anything that might be required of me by TV21 Art Editor Dennis Hooper or by Gillian Allan, the editor of Lady Penelope, who had also been in overall editorial control of Candy magazine.

It might be nice to give mention to Angus Allan (Gillian’s husband) at this juncture. He was a comic strip writer who had worked on TV21 during the Sixties and on Look-In magazine for much of the Seventies. His output was truly prolific: the vast majority of comic scripts for Look-In were his work. While working at Pearsons during the late '50s, he met and eventually married Gillian, after which he had made the decision then to become a freelance writer where (and these are his own words) he could visit the local pub as and when he wanted rather than be stuck behind a desk in some office and be confined to the task of editing from 9 to 5.

Being freelance – and therefore a free agent – Angus also wrote for other publishing outlets and penned several “Garth” adventures for the Daily Mirror. “Garth” was drawn with great dexterity by Martin Asbury, someone I had known well at a time when he still had hair! And while I speak of Angus, I have this desperate urge to tell you this eye-watering tale.

It was lunchtime and I was visiting the comics’ combined art and editorial department down on the fifth floor so that I might have a quick word with Junior Sub-Editor Howard Elson. Upon occasion, a TV21 reader would place a telephone call to the Century 21 Publishing offices with a request to speak to “Brains”. Knowing that I had a knack for mimicry, Howard would ask me to take on the voice of “Brains” and kid the caller into thinking that he was speaking to the man in question.

Most of the occupants of the art and editorial department had gone off to appease the empty feeling in their stomachs, but remaining behind were John Ayres (assistant to Art Editor Dennis Hooper), Peter Corri (assistant to the Art Editor’s assistant), Peter Covington (the office boy), Angus Allan and (when I finally got there) myself. It became clear there was a problem. A script that Angus had written was being kept in the adjacent office and was sitting on Dennis Hooper’s desk. But Dennis was out and about somewhere and both his office door and the one beyond – Alan Fennell’s – were locked. For some reason that was not fully explained to me, Angus was desperate to get his hands on the script before heading off somewhere else. (You will, I hope, understand that there are quite a lot of facts about this story that I had not been privy to).

There were, however, other – somewhat rather darker – things about the higher echelon that I did get to hear about. It was common knowledge, for example, that in times of stress or crisis, Managing Editor Alan Fennell locked up his office, just took off at a moment’s notice, and would disappear for several days until such time he felt he could return and sort the latest problem out (I believe that this occasion had been one of these “stressful times”). It was also common knowledge that Tod Sullivan – who was Century 21 Publishing’s script editor and had at one time been a prominent union official at one of Dagenham’s car plants – would also whiz off home at the drop of a hat. Hardly a day would go by when his wife wouldn’t ring through to say that the washing machine had stopped working (or some such reason for having placed the call) and Tod’s co-working chums had quickly become accustomed to the idea that Tod’s ‘better half’ had once again demanded his presence so that he could be beside her and sort the latest alleged problem out.

But now back to my original story.

The 1¼” thick partitioning between the offices had been constructed from sturdy battle-ship grey pre-fabricated steel panels above which were sheets of frosted glass that allowed a certain amount of light to brighten up the place. The one metre square pane was topped by a second pane, a metre wide but trimmed so that it fitted very neatly under the ceiling. The sheets of glass were held in place by bevelled metal glazing bars (set at 45°), some of which were very definitely coming adrift from their moorings.

Following a short discussion between Angus Allan and John Ayres, the master plan had been that if John turned his desk around and pushed it up against the steel panelling, had then topped it with a suitably sturdy chair, then Angus could climb up, dismantle and remove the upper sheet of glass thus allowing him access into Dennis’s locked room.

Viewing it all from afar, it appeared to be going well. With his head brushing against the white-painted acoustic ceiling tiles, Angus carefully removed the four glazing bars and passed the smaller sheet of glass down to Peter Corri, who in turn had placed it so that it wouldn’t get kicked or knocked over. With the opening now free of all extraneous obstacles, Angus gingerly attempted to climb through.

But in order to do so, he was obliged to place his feet on the lower set of bevelled glazing bars – his left on the art-room side of the partition and his right in Dennis’s office. Then, of course, disaster happened! His foot slipped off the angled moulding and in thumping heavily down onto John’s desk, the sudden downward thrust of his six-foot frame – which must have been around the 12-stone mark – had quickly bent the narrow framework that should have supported little more than a simple pane of glass. Protesting wildly, the centre of the lower sheet of glass disintegrated into a dozen or more shards leaving a number of jagged pieces still firmly attached to the bottom and the two sides of the frame.

John and Peter rushed to help Angus, but not before a particularly ugly-looking splinter had ripped through his trousers and gouged a nasty two-inch-long cut in Angus’s inner left thigh. I suppose one has to thank one’s lucky stars that the pointed spike hadn’t made a bee-line for Angus’s femoral artery, for that really would have taken some stopping!

Amazingly, Angus made light of it all and had declined all suggestions of having the cut seen to and stitched up. Feeling a little like a spare what-not at a wedding, I quickly returned to the security of my own office three floors up

I must confess that I had always found John Ayres and Peter Corri somewhat intimidating, although I really had no reason for saying that as they had always been most courteous and pleasant towards me. It’s just that at Century 21 I had been the new boy and they had been in situ from almost the very beginning when TV21 had been launched more than two years earlier.

On my very first day there in June 1966, despite having been engaged as the new Art Editor for Books (no less), I still felt as though I was being somewhat ‘put down’ by having been given a hurriedly-found desk that was placed in the furthest corner of a room filled with around twenty others. It wasn’t just that, but the desk was as far away from any natural light that it could possibly get. To give me something to do, I was given the “Thunderbirds Are Go!” souvenir booklet to make a start on designing, during which time Peter Covington – the resident Office Boy – had been dispatched to the local art supplier with a hurriedly written list so that he might acquire items that would certainly be needed while carrying out the intricacies of my chosen craft. One of those fairly vital items had been in the shape of an Angle-Poise Lamp.

When Covington eventually returned back to the Editorial-cum-Art Room, I was handed the purchased items including the Angle-Poise, but it was then discovered that the electric flex had been so short that there was no way it could do much more than sit on the corner of my desk – un-connected, un-wanted and un-used. So Peter was sent off once again – this time to the hardware store for a length of electrical wire, some electrical tape, and a couple of screwdrivers.

Being the new-boy, it was not my want to interfere, but I felt that John Ayres’ directive to Covington for him to remove the 13-amp plug from the Angle-Poise; attach the new length of wiring onto where the plug had once been, and that he should (using John’s precise words) then “join all the wires together” was a disaster just waiting to happen. To give Peter his due, he did exactly what John had decreed, and on plugging the new length of electric cable into the nearest wall socket, coinciding with the loud bang that seemed to have emanated from some other part of the City Magazines building, all the lights suddenly went out and had remained that way for the next half-an-hour or more.

Naturally I just kept my mouth tightly closed and had said precisely nothing, for this had been my introduction to the world of Century 21 Publishing!

Roger Perry
The Philippines

Coming soon: In Part Four, while daughter Rae fills hers, I split mine!