Celebrities on Clouds

Back in the 80s we were working in London. I was in Chepstow Place and he was working in Park Street (Mayfair) for a rather up himself git. His was a big job. Park Street had a lot of Crown Estate properties at the time.

One day, he went out to get a sandwich at lunchtime. Across the road was a rather exclusive hotel. Looks like it is apartment hotel stuff these days.


Some old guy was doddering out of the impressive doorway. ‘Can I give you a hand mate?’ he said to old man with stick.

‘Oh thanks.’ Once safely on the pavement, the old guy tottered off with his stick.

Partner went off round the corner to get the sandwich. When he came back the doorman said ‘ Do you know who that was?’

Well no, he didn’t. Charlton Heston apparently. Seemed he always refused help down the steps. According to the doorman he was a tight old bastard so clearly he didn’t want to give tips to doormen but didn’t mind a hand from the decorator from over the road. CH must have been in his late sixties at the time.

Partner mentioned it to someone he was working with. ‘Oh yes, he lives over the road some of the time.’

Who knows whether it was him or not. Probably.

I’ve never met any famous actors/actresses but I did manage one sporting celebrity.

The infamous Alex Higgins, snooker champion. World champion in 1972 and 1982. I saw him win the second world championship at the Sheffield Crucible.

But before his restoration to glory in 1982, he came to play at our local club which was on my patch as a junior reporter. Off I trotted down there in the midst of the snowiest of winters. It was my dad’s birthday so I’d asked him to go along as he liked snooker.

We set off as the snow started to fall and kept falling as we drove to the venue. It was one of those soft snowfalls when no-one was around. My dad talked about turning back but I talked him down. Oh no. I wanted to see and interview Alex Higgins.

When we arrived at the venue, he wasn’t there of course. He was notorious for being late. There were a few other players around, some boring ones like Tony Meo (actually he was quite nice) and some ginger called Steve Davis (he was a rude git).

I guess in those days you either liked Higgins or Davis. I didn’t like Davis. I asked him a question and he told me I should do my homework before asking him questions. Hello fucking tosspot, how about getting the information correct from the horses mouth? Why can’t you answer the questions? Nasty Essex boy.

Anyway, there we all were, giving up on the enigmatic Alex, when – he walked in. Covered in snow, brimmed hat, and oozing that Northern Irish charm. Wow. Just wow!

He’s dead now.

In 2009, Higgins lived in a caravan. In April 2010 Higgins’s friends announced that they had set up a campaign to help raise the £20,000 he needed for teeth implants, to enable him to eat properly again and put on weight. Higgins lost his teeth after intensive radiotherapy used to treat his throat cancer.
At the end of his life, Higgins’ weight fell to 6 stone (38 kilograms).He lived in sheltered housing on the Donegall Road, Belfast. Despite having once been worth £4 million, he was bankrupt and survived on a £200-a-week disability allowance. He was found dead in bed in his flat on 24 July 2010. The cause of death was a combination of malnutrition, pneumonia, a bronchial condition and throat cancer.


But 30 years or so ago, when he walked into the room, he lit it up with his electrifying presence. Who cared about Steve Davis or Tony Meo? (both managed by Barry Hearn at the time, about whom I have another story …). Everyone wanted to see Alex. And of course, the club was also in the Irish part of town.

He took a few minutes to shake off the snow, tidy himself up and came out to play snooker. The room fell quiet as he potted the balls. There were sighs and applause as we all watched him come back from his long time out.

At the interval, he signed endless autographs for young kids from council estates. He had no side. For all his faults, he was absolutely charming and wonderful with local people who just wanted to speak to him and watch him play snooker.

As for me, well I could have gone back to his Leeds hotel with him for an exclusive interview (um?) but sadly my dad intervened there. Note to young journalists – never take your dad to a job.

I saw and spoke to him a few more times at a few different tournaments. I never did get my *exclusive interview*. Courtesy of a national snooker reporter friend I watched him win the world championship in 1982.

But my over-riding memory of him will be that evening when he walked into the club, covered in snow, and when he took so much time to sign autographs for local people. It was meant to be a break in the middle of the game and he didn’t even take one while Meo and Davis just chilled out. He got a lot of bad press and probably some was well deserved. Trouble was, I just saw the good side of him.

Celebrities – not always what they are portrayed to be.

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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27 Responses to Celebrities on Clouds

  1. bluonthemove says:

    Ahhhh, cue my favourite sports celebrity story. I used to go to Budapest (Hungary) on business as a guest of the government in the communist days. One day this obviously British team walked in to the hotel and I wondered who they were, couldn’t read the badges but thought it was a Rugby Union team.

    I carefully planned my strategy. There was a nice enough looking guy in his late 40s, probably management. I’d go up to him stretch my arm out to shake his hand read the the initials on his blazer and ask him what they stood for.

    So, thats how I came to ask Sir Bobby Charlton what MUFC stood for.


  2. bluonthemove says:

    Sir Bobby and I were both staying in the same hotel of course, the 4 star Intercontinental. But no, he didn’t, but he did invite me to the bar for a few drinks on Martin Edwards’s tab.


  3. Thank you for another interesting read. Celebs I’ve met none of major importance. I did meet and interview a NASA astronaut which blew me away at the time. Can’t remember his name now.


    • Charlton heston came out of a comment elsewhere, and it reminded me of those heady snooker days filled with smoke and lager – and the contrast between the one person in London;s poshest suburb and the other dying such a death of poverty struck me as quite powerful.

      I’ve met a load of politicians but they don’t count do they? 😀


      • Sorry, Political figures don’t count. Lol.


        • How about being near to royalty? I organised a royal visit for princess anne around a hospital although not being suitably worthy like nurses and doctors I didn’t get to shake the royal hand. Prince Edward waved at us when he and sophs came to gib this year. ‘Who’s that balding old man waving at us?’ we thought. ‘Do we know him?’


          • Ha, ha. Edward isn’t aging well is he? 🙂 Yes royalty counts in my books anyway. 🙂


          • The face was vaguely familiar, probably because he looks like his dad – well they all look the same anyway. I suppose he looks like his dad used to look 40 years ago, which is probably roughly right in age terms. Doesn’t help being so totally bald either 😀


  4. Vicky says:

    T would aways have snooker tournaments on the TV, I was never really into watching it, but became totally mesmerised by the Hurricane whenever he appeared.
    He came across as a true down to earth person, no airs and graces, and exciting to watch too.
    You’ve just verified the charisma that oozed out of that TV screen.

    A sad end to an amazing person. 😦


    • Wasn’t he wonderful? Well. I thought his style of play was dynamic. Really livened up a boring old man’s game dominated by the likes of Ray Reardon etc (not to criticise their play but boring – like Steve Boring Davis).

      He was honest, in one of those strange sort of ways. Drank, smoked, apparently took drugs (not in front of me), and shagged around. I would have been so disappointed if he had been as up himself as SBD, but he wasn’t. And his time for the young kids at the club was wonderful.

      And like you, I just loved watching him shoot around the table potting those balls. Electrifying.

      I’m not for a minute saying he didn’t have his bad sides. Just not in front of me. I thought it was a sad and pretty young end too. Similar age to you I think?

      I might mail you some other snooker tales 😉


  5. I once went on holiday with Griff Ryhs-Jones http://apetcher.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/france-customer-service-improvement-and-a-car-hire-scam/. I sat next to Robin Ellis (Poldark) on a flight to France and had dinner in the same restaurant in Santorini as Malcolm Hedbden (Norris Cole in Coronation Street) and last year we bumped into Nigella Lawson in Venice! You’ve got some catching up to do!


    • You did not go on holiday with GRJ at all! 😀 You both caught a cheap ‘plane and kept bumping into each other. Anyway, I don’t particularly like him. Did you know Robin Ellis has a blog where he writes boring posts about his diabetes and – you will like this – writes endless recipes for people with diabetes as though he is the first person in the world who has discovered how to cook. He lives in France.

      No idea who anybody is in Coronation Street after Violet Carson died. Nigella Lawson? I would imagine you would bump into her. Soft landing though – she’s quite fat isn’t she? 🙂

      My snooker list alone bags yours. And anyway, i went for quality (time) over quantity (numbers). So there. I haven’t mentioned my trip in Barry Hearn’s roller yet 😀

      And I’ve got Alex Hammond’s Free Electric Band single (famous Gib singer songwriter) does that count?


  6. EllaDee says:

    I like this post – i enjoyed the anecdote about Alex Higgins. Shame you didn’t get an unforgettable (um) interview… and also the sad end to his life. My Dad liked to watch Pot Black, so the name Eddie Charlton is familiar to me but that’s about all in the world of snooker.
    The few ‘celebrities” I’ve met have been very low key and unimpressive even to me, and it’s quite unAustralian to be impressed and notice even if there is a celebrity in the vicinity. Bryan Brown & Rachel Ward have been known to have a beer at the pub at Taylors Arm, and no-one turns a head.
    I think interviewing celebrities is a whole other level, and would be very interesting even if as you experienced with Steve Davis, unpredictable.


    • I liked him, I really did. Glad I didn’t get the ‘interview’ in the end 😀 I remember Eddie Charlton too of course.

      It used to be British to not ‘notice’ people, no idea what current culture is like.

      Interviewing them is difficult, a bit like politicians. In fact politicians are probably easier!


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