STAR OF THE SHOW COULD BE YOU”
- A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO BEADLE BY TV CREAM'S JACK KIBBLE-WHITE
"An untapped national treasure." That's what Jeremy Beadle once called me. In print too. Better than that, it was in a book I'd co-written. A book that Jeremy enthusiastically supported, and once purported in an email to me to have "gobbled up at a sitting".
My Beadle story (he always prefixed the subject line of any emails he sent to me with the word "Beadle"), is probably typical of many people's Beadle story. I first contacted him by post, some five or six years ago, with a 4000-word essay I'd written about the making of Game For A Laugh. Having heard of his reputation as an approachable chap, I thought it worth taking a punt and see if I could get him to pass comment, or better yet actually let me come and interview him for an ongoing history of Saturday night telly that I was in the middle of co-writing.
However, having speculatively included my contact details and even an SAE, I heard nothing back. A year passed, and I found myself involved in the production of a Channel 4 documentary called Who Killed Saturday Night TV? I provided a lot of the research and drafted up questions for the various interviewees, one of whom was inevitably Beadle.
Then, some weeks later and out of a blue an email dropped into my inbox. Beadle explained that the Royal Mail had managed to lose a bundle of his post, which after months of searching they'd only just found. He'd read my piece on Game For A Laugh and generously asked whether I'd been watching in the wings all along. He'd just been interviewed for a programme about Saturday night telly, he told me, and had found it amusing that when he said to the production team he knew the chap they should talk to, it turned out that the chap in question had written the interview questions he'd just finished answering.
So now we move on a year, and out of the blue (a perhaps appropriate motif that runs across all of my dealings with Beadle), I received an email from a friendly lady inviting me to attend a Jeremy Beadle Charity Quiz Night taking place not far away from where I lived. Clearly, Beadle had exported his contact details (sorted geographically) and handed them over as possible leads. I agreed to buy three tickets, but this necessitated filling out a form, which I then had to post off. A week later I received the tickets, plus a hand written note from the organiser advising me that I would be seated close to Jeremy, so we could have a good chat.
Come the week of the charity quiz, I was working from home as usual, musing whether to have cucumber with my crab paste sandwiches or not, when I got a phone call. Given my home phone fields both work and personal calls I am accustomed to answering with the salutation "Hello. Jack speaking." On this occasion the voice at the other end said "Hello Jack, this is Jeremy Beadle." From here, a lunch was set up for later in the week. There was no particular agenda, or reason offered for this meeting, so it was only after I'd put the phone down that I rather uncharitably wondered whether I was going to be coerced into doing something extra for this charity event.
So I turned up in good time, and decided to nip off and buy the newest issue of Doctor Who Magazine (Jeremy found the revived Doctor Who to be absolutely amazing, by the way, I know this because I engineered our conversation round to that subject). Turning up at the venue for our meet I realised that the place had not one, but two restaurants. So I nervously had to flit between them, until finally one of the staff became sufficiently suspicious to start shadowing me. At that point I was forced to explain that I was waiting to meet Jeremy Beadle.
Thankfully, Beadle arrived soon after. I waved to him, and over he came. He offered to buy me a drink and then proclaimed "You've cost me some money today Jack". It turned out he had been snooping around a bookshop and had found a TV Cream book I'd contributed to. I rather liked the thought of Beadle tucked up in his hotel bed reading TV Cream musings on the casual font and "Girls, Girls, Girls." We got to talking about the Saturday night telly book that I was co-writing. His interest piqued, he was keen to know what kind of index it would contain. He then said that at the end of the book I should have a chronological diagram featuring all the shows and the years they started and ended, plus a reference to where in the book the entry on the programme could be found. Steve (my co-writer) and I tried to get that idea passed the publisher but they felt the general humour market they were targeting wouldn't appreciate that level of information.
I mentioned to Beadle that we were hoping to include full transmission dates for the programmes we were covering and he said that whenever he bought a book about telly the first thing he would check was to see whether it contained transmission dates, as that was a sign of a well researched book. From there our conversation extended into issues of word count, whether or not I'd considered trying to get a show on Radio Clyde on which members of the public would phone up to talk about old telly, and whether we'd thought about including a map on TV Cream listing TV locations.
Next he started telling me about a documentary that was being made by Shine all about Light Entertainment. As we were sitting there talking about it, he phoned the producer and said "I want you to know that I think you should contact a good friend of mine who is the most knowledgeable person on this subject I have ever met. His name is Jack Kibble-White, that's K-I-B-B-L-E hyphen W-H-I-T-E. But he's a friend of mine so don't muck him around and try to rip him off".
As the afternoon progressed
I learned each episode of Game For A Laugh was filmed twice - once on a Wednesday
and once on a Thursday. Beadle also claimed that he'd had first dibs on NTV
and although Noel was great at it, he felt more could have been done with the
format. Then we were off again, Beadle telling me how brilliant Clive Doig was,
how much he enjoyed doing The Deceptors and even though Chris Tarrant was a
very good friend of his, even he had to admit that he'd hosted a lot of shit
programmes in his time.
After three and a half hours, I was flagging. But Beadle had unlimited energy, fuelled it seemed in part by the simple fact he was talking to someone who was an enthusiast. It had become clear quite quickly that Beadle gravitated towards enthusiasts, and not just of the telly stripe. If you were interested in anything, I sensed Beadle would have been happy to talk to you, give you a leg up and do whatever he could to help out, because he was an enthusiast too (of lots of different things as it happens, including quizzes, telly and tales of murder).
We shook hands and I told him l was looking forward to seeing him again at the quiz night. I was knackered, but I reckoned the memory of Jeremy Beadle spelling out my surname unprompted would stay with me for a while.
As I made my way home I realised I'd missed my big chance to ask him if he would write a foreword for that up and coming book of mine.
"Congratulations," he wrote in the last email I ever received from him. "Fabulous work. Your book is even better than my prescient foreword promises." It probably wasn't, but those were the words of an enthusiast. Every now and then, out of the blue I would get an email from him, letting me know he had mentioned my name to some producer or editor or other. In remembering him, I think of how he always seemed to remember me, along with - I suspect - scores of other people, who he similarly and honestly wanted to see do well at the things they really enjoyed doing.
JEREMY BEADLE, MBE:
1948 - 2008, RIP