ASPEL-HELMED LONDON-ONLY weekend-starting magazine, notable for launching television careers of JANET STREET-PORTER and DANNY BAKER, while MASTERMIND’s FRED HOUSEGO, CHRIS TARRANT and, on the way home from County Hall, KEN LIVINGSTONE were also on board. GREG DYKE was the brains behind it all. Became the most watched regional programme in Britain – unsurprising, really, with items like Janet jousting with pigeon fanciers or trying to raise a replica matchstick Titantic from a pond, or a live OB on Southend beach where the tide came in early and wrecked everything, or an item invaded by a bunch of kids, one of whom was promptly picked up by the reporter and thrown across the street. Most memorable moment of all was furious contretemps at a railway station twixt an officious British Rail employee and a swarthy Baker who was attempting to elicit voxpops from the capital’s plebs. Official: “Come on Danny, you know you can’t film here.” Baker: “How dare you! Don’t you dare speak to me like that!”
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Such a shame Les died when he did because he was just on the brink of a Brucie and Lord Bob-esque reinvention, lauded by the next generation of comedy stars and bright enough to take a few risks and move with the times. Still plenty to enjoy from the archives, mind, and if you can’t get enough you can probably see many of the same clips earlier today on The Unforgettable Les Dawson at half twelve on ITV. This one’s better, though.
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