Monday, December 08, 2008

Not to be forgotten

I know it's been quiet of late, but there really has been so much going on. There are lots of things to talk about, one of them is my aunt Myrna. She's pretty poorly really, so much so that it's getting to that point where you think about how you will try and not to forget. So I had a look on the inter-trap and found this article from the Yorkshire Evening Post. Pretty amazing what you can miss in the world.

Myrna Wilson has always had stars in her eyes – if anyone can tell you about A-list celebrities, she can.

The 73-year-old grandmother-of-two from Moortown has worked with all of the greats. She convinced Frank Sinatra to play a gig, two of the Beatles once borrowed her car (and one of them her sunglasses) and she coaxed Gracie Fields out of retirement in 1970. She's also met Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Spike Milligan, among others.

She said: "The Sixties was a wonderful era and is even better in hindsight. When all this happened to me, I don't think I appreciated it fully. Some of the big stars were absolutely fantastic."

Belfast-born Myrna Malinksy was the youngest of two daughters to father Joe, a cabinet maker and mother Dora, a furrier. She was educated at convent school and in 1948 moved to South Shields.


She began working for a credit drapers in South Shields in the 1950s, then in 1956, star-struck and adventurous, she went to London to see if the streets were paved with gold and by 1963 she was a theatrical tycoon.

She became secretary to variety bookings manager Alec Fyne on ITC (Independent Television Corporation), which made and sold programmes to ITV.

Two years later she became Fyne's casting assistant and worked on shows such as Sunday Night at the London Palladium and Saturday Spectacular with Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Alma Cogan.

"I booked everything and everyone from a St Bernard dog to Spike Milligan. When Jonathan Routh of Candid Camera fame requested such bizarre casting as a girl prepared to lose her skirt in a door or a chimpanzee who wouldn't mind being measured for a suit, I took it all in my stride and delivered the goods."

Plum job

Myrna was head-hunted in 1961 by impresarios George and Alfred Black and returned to the North East to work as casting director of light entertainment on Tyne Tees.

"This led to me being approached by Brian Tesler and eventually landing the plum job of casting director for all light entertainment programmes with ABC in London at Teddington studios."

Apart from working on big TV projects with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Myrna secured the Beatles from Brian Epstein for Blackpool Night Out, which took over from Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the summer.

"It was 1966 and they were staying at the Imperial Hotel. I will never forget John and Ringo borrowing my car. They asked to take my Hillman Minx convertible, which I always kept in immaculate condition. When they somewhat sheepishly returned it the whole interior had been ripped to pieces by hysterical fans."

A big feather in her cap was when Myrna persuaded Frank Sinatra to make his British TV debut for ABC TV when he was doing a show at the Royal Festival Hall.

"I practically camped outside the Dorchester Hotel, where he was staying, just to meet his manager. After nearly six months of negotiating I succeeded in booking him – I just wouldn't give in."

The thrill of the scoop proved to be heady stuff; after Sinatra said 'yes' it cost Myrna's office £10,000 in fees – and Ole Blue Eyes donated it all to three charities.

"As a reward I was invited to afternoon tea in his Savoy Hotel suite. I threw caution to the wind and bought a new suit, white leather gloves and a new hair-do. It was all worth it – just to look into those amazing blue eyes, the handshake alone turned my knees to jelly."

In 1968 Myrna, now married, started a family – two boys, Scott, now 39 and Kyle, 34 – and shortly afterwards was approached by Yorkshire TV to come to Leeds and freelance for the Les Dawson Show for six months – but six months became 10 years.

It was Myrna who finally coaxed Gracie Fields out of retirement in 1970. She also recalls meeting Bing Crosby, a "gorgeous and very unassuming" man, who appeared on Stars on Sunday and arrived with a toupee in his pocket.

Lovely time

She said: "He went and met all the people in the canteen, but went to say hello to the kitchen staff first."

After that, she formed her own company, before retiring.

See you soon x

No comments: