Tuesday, April 17, 2007

People make places

I have rambled on about those wonderful entertainment venues of my formative years. Let us not forget the people who made them, as otherwise buildings have no purpose.

At the City Hall, I have mentioned Moose, before, or as he preferred to spell it, MØØse. He had set up camp in the electrical intake room behind the Manager's office with all sorts of strange musical gadgets and improvised circuits, which he collectively referred to as MØØseCrap. He had a girlfriend called Marie and claimed to be an american (although I was told by others later that he was actually from Jesmond). He de-camped from the electrical intake room to the former projection room which had a bit more space but was a long way to go to answer the back door when the bells rang. Moose left rather suddenly in early 1976 and was replaced by Colin Rowell.

Colin was a very amiable guy, with long curly hair, tinted glasses and a jovial manner. Colin had been the Manager of a musical instrument store in the West End owned by Lindisfarne's promoter, Barry McKay. (Barry could play the Organ and had done so at the City Hall for Christmas Concerts and the like). Colin had a side-kick called Neil Humphrey (or perhaps Pomphret?) and it was a joy to be on their team.

Colin had particular expertise with flatulence and used the catchphrase "I've dropped me lungs" after each virtuoso performance. After a year or so, this changed to "I've dropped me guts", as he was courting a young girl not too long out of school who must have advised him of what she had learned in biology lessons. In subsequent years, he met a smashing lass called Angela who was a lifeguard in the Baths next door and they were still together last time I saw him in the early '90s.

Colin & Neil had a great banter and one of Neil's little singing ditties was:

"I'll lever forget...
the night that we met...
...the back of the Raby"

(The Raby was an extremely rough Pub in Byker, to the east of Newcastle).

They also had a range of joke chat-up lines, like "Gizasniffofyourfrontbumpet" and "Geddahadamenob". They only used them within the crew, however, as the pulling power was zero! One catch phrase that I still use is "Bozee Speakahs" (prounounced Bow (like grow) Zee Spee Cars"when they had heard some drunk punter admiring a Bose PA system down at the Assembly Rooms on the keyside. (Bose is pronounced like Rose).

I also have to mention Bob Brown, the Manager of the venue who put me straight on a lot of the realities of the business. He looked after several venues that the Council owned and had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about Freemasons running the Council. (He was old enough to have seen all of the T-Dan Snmith and Poulson scandals tearing the elected memebrs apart over the previous decade). He had an office in the Civic Centre (The T-Dan Smith memorial) and had ambitious plans to build a world class Concert hall to replace the City Hall and Baths Complex but he died in the late 70s.

Bob's Wife used to help out in the Box Office and his Son worked the lighting control- until he had an affair with the high wire girl from Circus Hoffman and he ran off with her. This is how I ended up getting the job, so have the circus to thank for that...

Down at the Royal, Ernie Savage was an excellent house electrician and admired by the touring community all over the UK for his capability and helpfulness. (I still meet people who speak highly of him). He had originally worked at the Newcastle Empire with Andy Kent and they both transferred to the Royal when it had a vintage Strand Electric Grand Master control located on a platform stage left. (As a boy, I can remember gazing through the Dock doors fascinated by this ironmongery). They had a little room in the bowels of the building (next to the boilerhouse which was also their duties, of course) but they also spent quite a lot of time over the road in The Adelphi, the Stage Door Tap. (They both once took me down to a CIU club down towards the river, drinking in clubs being much more amiable (and affordable) than City Centre Pubs. Sadly, whilst I was at college, Ernie had an accident, falling off a tallescope (an extendible ladder access system), injuring his back and being off work for a long time. He came back to light duties but died unexpectedly shortly afterwards. he is sadly missed.

Andy went on to be Chief and I visited him in the late 90s, when he was near retirement. He also died a couple of years into his actual retirement, the all too frequent sad fate of active men who lose their purpose.

On a lighter note I went to see Snow White (starring Dana) with my mum in the late 70s when I was back from college once and we went into the Adelphi for a pre-show drink. I was surprised by the large number of "persons of restricted growth" in the bar, but when I counted them and noticed that there were actually seven, I guessed correctly that they were in the cast!


james higham said...

Colin seems ... er ... interesting. Did you enjoy, Ian, being in the same room as him?

Delicolor said...

James, the benefit of working in large buildings is... the large volume of air.

Having said, that, I could give as well as I got if I had been on the Harp(ic Lager).

Moose & Colin both indoctrinated me into the joys of Southern Comfort & American Dry Ginger, or as I now call it- "Sudden Discomfort"