Last October I received an email from the producers of Dickinson’s Real Deal (for those of you outside the U.K. you can watch a short clip here) asking if we’d like to be involved in a show they were filming down the road in Barrow-in-Furness. As a part of the show they introduce a local museum or collector to show some of their items to David. It was agreed that we would bring some of Stan’s personal belongings which are on display in the museum. Our most unique and interesting items are three small things which tie together quite well; a hip flask, cigarette case and ashtray.
The first two were given to Stan by his father. Stan’s dad was a theatre manager, and a big name in the North East of England. Although the family moved from the North East to Glasgow, A.J. returned to take over the Eden Theatre, which he had previously managed. On his departure the staff presented him with a small cigarette case and hip flask. Dad gave the items to Stan in 1932, the inscription on the cigarette case reads “from the staff at the Eden Theatre 1925″. It was given to the museum by Stan Laurel’s biographer John McCabe who says in a note to Bill Cubin, founder of the museum, Incidentally, for your museum, would you like to have a cigarette case (silver plated) which belonged to Stan’s dad? Stan gave it to me. It’s a bit battered. “A.J.” is on the outside; on the inside is “from the staff at the Eden Theatre, 1925″. I’ve no idea where the Eden Theatre is (or was) you’d have to track that down. In any case it’s yours for the museum if you’d like it.
The hip flask was bought at auction by lifelong Laurel and Hardy fan, and friend of the museum, Wes Butters. Wes is a former Radio 1 DJ, now working for Radio 4 Extra who has been visiting the museum since childhood. He has very kindly loaned this fantastic item to us and allowed me to take it to the filming. It is inscribed Uncle Jeff, from a few pals at the Eden April 29th 1925 Bp Auckland and underneath To my dear son Stan, from Dad. Aug 1932
The ashtray was bought by Stan after he had suffered from a stroke, he used it around the house to stop him getting ash on the carpet, one of the feet fell off and Stan repaired it with a small screw.
The day was interesting, these things always look so busy on the TV but in reality there weren’t that many people there. It was a full day filming so I’m sure that plenty of people went through the doors but at the time it was pretty quiet. It’s always a case of ‘hurry up and wait’ at these things and so I hung around for a couple of hours until it was my turn to meet David. We set out the items and went through them a couple of times with David asking me questions, each time using slightly more of what I’d said to him in his question, until he had all the information he needed to look like he knew what he was talking about. I’m not suggesting that he’s anything but a fine antiques expert, but it seemed our practice runs were designed to get information from me so that he could use it when the cameras were rolling. In the end I was left slightly at a loss for what to say other than “that’s right” and “correct”, whilst trying to expand slightly in the time allowed, and trying to avoid saying “erm” too much (something nobody notices on TV until they see themselves urm-ing and errr-ing between every word, like the village idiot in a Two Ronnies sketch). I had even showed him how the ashtray would have been used and you can see he picked it up pretty quickly.
It’s always fun to see how these things work behind the scenes and I just thought I’d share a little bit of it with you.
I had almost given up on my small contribution ever being shown until this morning when I opened a letter which informed me that the I will be on this Monday, 23rd September, ITV1 at 2pm.
If you do tune in, please get in touch on Facebook or Twitter and let me know how I did. Just don’t count how many times I said “erm”.