Brownlegg at Large: December 2001 

1 December 2001 tbs.pm/3048

As you will no doubt have heard, following his vaccination against influenza (cognac given intravenously) Captain Tom Brownlegg isn’t at all well, and is under the doctor – Dr. Hermoine Spanner in fact. In his absence – and with the threat of being bed-bathed with prussic acid by his personal nurse Spencer-Wells for our failure to obey orders – we have asked Brownlegg’s less-than-constant companion, the winsome and voluptuous Gloria Gaumont, to write this month’s column. Taking a rest on the set of her Anglo-Oleaginous picture “The Man with The Golden Strumpet”, Gloria takes up her Mont Blanc pen and tells almost all about herself, except the especially rude bits, but mostly talks about our good Captain….

Gloria on top

Hallo everyone! I’m Gloria, budding starlet and all-round interlectuall. Welcome to my very own page in the West Lancashire Farming Supplement, all about me, Gloria! In this week’s article, you can read about my acting career, how I, Gloria, got started, my interlectuall pursuits and the men in my life. And there is so much to tell you, where could I, Gloria, begin?

My Tommy normally writes this, but he’s a bit poorly (bless!) and confined to quarters. Tommy likes to be in his own mess, he says, as during his service days, naval bases was always full of discharged seamen. Oh my, some things never change!

Redvers Kyle is wonderful. Just don't tell Tommy that I think so!

As you may already know, I were a chorus girl following the time I spent at the Actors’ Studio, based in Streatham High Street. Mr. Stanislavsky – he used to say, “Hey, baby, call me Reg” – taught me the Method in a small flat above the chandler’s. He were so dedicated to teaching me, so much so that he refused payment and I became his only pupil. I didn’t have a lot of studying to do really, but I thought that the night classes was a bit long – if you got something wrong, you had to do it again and again, and some of those sessions went on for ten hours – and longer if I let him. We almost got engaged, but I broke it off one night in East Grinstead: Reg got over it, but I think the incident left something of a gap in his life.

It didn’t lead to anything, and Mr. Stanislavsky left acting soon after that to work in Ann Summers as a prophylactics demonstrator. He told me recently that business is on the up and up.

Anyway, I got my Acting Diploma after collecting three tokens from Mantunna Tea wrappers, and went around the agents looking for work.

One of the first to spot my potential was the renowned actor-manager Sir Arthur Astoria. A towering man in some ways – even though he were only five foot two, he hardly came up to my waist, and often not even there – he wanted me in his repperatory company. You know, he didn’t really have a company, or a theatre… just a chaise-lounge in his bedsit. But Sir Arthur said, in his commanding voice, “one needs only a prop and an idea”, and showed me, as he adjusted the shoulder straps on my dress, and then asked if I would audition for his two-handed production of “The Rape Of Lucretia”. I objected, for after all, there aren’t many lines to learn, but he said it were the starring role: no matter how much we rehearsed, he couldn’t get it mounted.

Knowing that the variety halls was dying, I took the good advice of a certain Low Gradient – I’ve got a picture of him here, bet you’ve never seen a medallion hung round that before – and decided to go into television. However, after a brief disastrous career with DER, involving bending an old man’s dipole, I happened to bump into Walt Kenton outside Adastral House in Kingsway, who asked me a controversial question in front of the TV cameras: “do you like pickled onions?”

I slapped his face, walked off and he shouted after me, “I’m sorry, I mean, do you want a job? There’s plenty going here at Associated-Radiation.” “What’s that?” I replied. “A TV company”, he said. I thought that maybe I should tell him that my parents only ever watch the radio, but decided instead to ask, “who’s in charge?” He answered, in hushed tones: “Captain Tom Brownlegg, Royal Navy (retired), and he doesn’t take no for an answer”.

Impressed with this, I walked straight in, and there he were: medium height, medium looks, medium baldness, medium suit. Typical for a medium man working in the medium of television. He looked at me once. His tone were commanding and assured: “There’s your seat, sit there and don’t move until I tell you”. I felt, as his secretary of several seconds, that I should give him his head and obey his commands. After all, they did in the Navy, didn’t they? I soon learned that, as a secretary, I should be there to do all the little things he needed. I became very ept at doing shorthand jobs for him, I can tell you.

What does it say in that musical, what’s it called, “West Kirby Story”, you know, when that fella sings, “say it soft and it sounds like praying, say it loud and there’s music playing”. Well, I feel the same when I hear the name “Tommy”. “What does Tommy look like?” is one of the questions I often get asked. “Well, mind your own bleeding business” is my reply! He’s fabulous and is so considerate. You know, he never tells his wife that we spend time together – how sweet! And when he books his trips with me, he makes sure that no one knows so that we won’t be disturbed.

I remember our first evening out. We attended a group séance on the “Theatre on the Pie”, Minehead, led by the world famous mystic Leslie Harblo, the editor of “Psychic Gardening Weekly”. Leslie spoke to the audience through his spirit guide “Running Water”, and the assembled throng listened to a message from a late steeplejack, Arthur, who fell off a factory chimney rather suddenly. The message was “please cancel the milk”.

The audience were agog. Well, those that was awake.

Suddenly, there were this awful smell of herrings, and I said to Tommy, “I think someone’s brought back their tea”. He said, “What an analytical mind – you’ll have join me in the one-off A-R production “Life”. Then, all too suddenly, the lights came up, and we found ourselves knee-deep in ectoplasm.

Time spent with my Tommy at A-R were fun, although trying to get a pay rise was somewhat difficult. Tommy liked collecting moths, you see, and there was several rare ones in his wallet. So he put me to work on trying to come up with distractionary measures, for that were what he thought I were good at – distracting. “What about a staff beauty contest”, I suggested. The male staff complained after Miss Persephone Frump from the Accounts Section took off her glasses, let alone her clothes, but because of accusations of favouritism (they knew I had to win!) Tommy had to change it to a “tallest member of staff” contest. Mind you, he didn’t think the male staff looked very good in bikinis either.

From, er, well, somewhere northern, anyway.

Poor Tommy. Always the jealous type. Once, when I went to Manchester to appear in the Associated-Grimemark picture “Journey To Misery”, I met Sidney Burnsting of Grandad TV who invited me up to his penthouse office to watch Willy Walton on “Time For A Grimace”. It were a nice office – leather wallpaper, heart-shaped bed, pictures of his brother everywhere. All the time he were trying to get me tiddly on dandelion and burdock to persuade Tommy to part with Associated-Radiation. He even showed me the new logo – an adastral with an arrow right through it. Sid told me that it would be all right, because Associated-Radiation is also on Channel 9, so he’d save money on transmission equipment too.

Lord knows, he tried, and offered me a 26-week series called “For Your Viewing Pleasure” to be shown late on a Saturday night, and to be broadcast under his personal supervision, but I don’t think Grandad TV is on then. He even offered to let me spend some quality time with him and his brother together like. He tried a tie-up with Oxendales Catalogue so I could wear some of their lovely nightgowns too, and I were tempted by the offer of an Equity card and a weekend at the Clarendon Bed and Breakfast, Blackpool, too, but Tommy saved the day by telling Sidney that if he wanted a fight to the finish, it were perfectly all right by him.

I must tell you about James Spencer-Wells. Jimmy’s an odd chap, given to sitting on the garden wall shouting at earwigs because they’re unemployed, and is often beaten to a pulp by the paperboy because he won’t pay for all the copies of “Hotspur” he’s had. He tries to get me interested in what he keeps in his collection of Fray Bentos pie dishes, but however much I try to pretend I like looking at examples of food mould, I can’t suppress retching attacks. Jimmy tries hard to please Tommy, and is very loyal, probably because Tommy shows his appreciation by saving his Bazooka Joe comics for him. What a funny pair!

Finally, Tommy’s asked me to thank you for reading his column this year, and asked me to ask you why you didn’t read it last year? Don’t forget to watch for my next appearance on the cinema in “Seven Brides For Seven Fathers”, and for Jimmy, who stars in “Take Your Pick” as the contents of Box 13, if Michael Miles can stand it. Until then, have a super Christmas, and keep your mistletoe and your man close!!

Lots of love,

GLO x x x

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