Monday, 29 November 2010

As tube strikes continue and news of the chill factor is only slightly overlooked by the X Factor, we can inject a slice of warmth to all our avid readers.

Fame...I wanna live forever.....I wanna learn how to fly...High!!!!!!! I feel it coming together....

And boy did we come together!!!! The gals of A1 hit Soho where it hurts on Friday for more blood sweat and tears...well just some drinks and embarrassing dancing really.

Here is a fine picture of the girls from Fame, a la A1 VOX stylee, Beth, Flick, Sarah, Jane and Lucy – eat your heart out Coco!

Everyone had a fine old time and the costumes were all fantastic. Top prize of the night went to a girl dressed up as Timmy Mallet! Whack-A-Wave anyone?

Of course we have to show a piccie of the birthday girl so here is the GORGEOUS Princess Leah with her backing creatures.....I mean dancers.

Andrew Neil paid us a visit to A1 and was very happy to pose for this picture.

Andrew Ferguson Neil is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster. Andrew made his name at The Sunday Times where he was editor for 11 years. In 1995 he was made editor-in-chief of the Press Holdings group of newspapers, owner of The Business and (from 2005) The Spectator, moving to become chairman in July 2008.

Andrew was editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 until 1994. His hiring was controversial. Andrew, it was argued, was appointed by Rupert Murdoch over more experienced colleagues. Playing hard ball eh boys.

While at The Sunday Times in 1988, Andrew met the former Miss India, Pamella Bordes, in a nightclub. The News of the World suggested she was an up-market prostitute. Sir Peregrine Worsthorne argued, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, that Andrew was not fit to edit a serious Sunday newspaper, on the grounds that "playboys" should not be editors. In a subsequent libel case, Andrew sued Worsthorne and won £1,000 plus costs. It seems some playboys, can work hard, play hard and pick up a bit of extra cash along the way – liking your style Andrew.

In 1988 he also became founding chairman of Sky TV, also part of Murdoch's News Corporation. Andrew was in fact the person who brought The Simpsons to UK television – Doh!.

He eventually parted company with Murdoch on bad terms and became a writer for the Daily Mail. Andrew has not enjoyed great success with the circulations of the newspapers (indeed The European folded shortly after he took over). The Business also closed down in February 2008. He exchanged his role as Chief Executive of Press Holdings for Chairman in July 2008.

As well as Andrew's newspaper activities he has also maintained a television career. During the 1990s Neil fronted political programmes for the BBC, notably Despatch Box on BBC Two and the interview show Is This Your Life? which was nominated for a BAFTA award.

After being overlooked to present the BBC's flagship news programme Newsnight, Neil has presented This Week with ex-Conservative minister Michael Portillo, and Labour MP for Hackney Diane Abbott. Andrew also presents the weekly one-on-one political interview programme Straight Talk with Andrew Neil on the BBC News Channel.

Unfortunately for Andrew a photograph of him in a vest and baseball cap, embracing a much younger woman seems to overshadow all else. It ran over several editions of satirical magazine Private Eye, after it became known that he found the picture embarrassing. This still surfaces regularly. Well Andrew, you should know better than anyone – No Publicity is bad Publicity boyo!

The magazine nicknamed him Brillo, after his wiry hair was seen as a striking resemblance to the common kitchen scouring pad. Mind you...he got off lightly.... the poor woman in question was jinxed ‘Scrubber’ throughout the hateful campaign! (Joke) Hee hee.

Andrew has led a life of success and scandal but was very entertaining when he came into VOX Towers. No airs and graces and his hair was extremely well kept! – a Mogul in our midst.

Funny man, and impressionist extraordinaire, Lewis Macleod joined us at A1, and a fun time was had by all!

Lewis is a prolific Scottish character actor, who can be heard as the voice of a huge number of television commercials, movie trailers and cartoons in the UK. He voices characters such as Sebulba, the pod racer, from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and.... Postman Pat. Can you imagine those two characters going head to head in an intergalactic pod race?

Postman Pat: ‘Sebulba, you don’t stand a chance against the ultimate racing machine.....The Pat Van

Sebulba:’When I have been crowned king of the circuit, your van will be only good for second class deliveries and Jess will become road kill’

He can also be heard as The Earl on Cartoon Network's Skatoony, as well as comedy sketches for BBC Radio, including BBC Radio Scotland's Off the Ball, Bigipedia for BBC Radio 4, Newsjack for BBC Radio 7, and Mario Abdullah-Levy in the BBC Comedy Series Look Around You.

He is infamous to fans of the classic PC game of the 90's Theme Park World where players would notoriously become frustrated and pestered by his voice constantly discrediting their actions such as the delicate matter of the player not providing his park with toilets:

“You don’t have any toilets and your visitors are going to have to (puts on William Shatner Voice) ‘BOLDLY GO WHERE NO-ONE HAS GONE BEFORE..if you get my meaning”.

Cracking Stuff Lewis – He could ad lib his way out of a steel box..or a toilet!

His acting credits include 16 Years of Alcohol and The Purifiers directed by Richard Jobson as well as Happy Holidays and Terri McIntyre for BBC Scotland. He is also an outstanding mimic, with a voice range including Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Christopher Walken, Gordon Brown and George Galloway.

When Lewis came in he spent a while with myself and Charles chewing the fat and talking all things celeb. He enjoyed hearing our tales of Brian Blessed at A1, and on coming into the office the next day I saw my answer machine beeping at me.

As I pressed the button I got Brian Blessed’s booming voice asking after myself and A1 and then inviting Charles to some shindig or other. Well it turned out to be dear old Lewis who had obviously gone away and perfected his ‘Blessed’. It was a stroke of genius.

Lewis also told us that on one occasion before boarding a plane, and having settled into the VIP lounge, he turned to see Sir Ben Kingsley sitting opposite him. Sir Kingsley’s phone promptly went off. He made no reference to the caller, listened, nodded a few times, then simply said ‘Get it done’ before flipping the phone shut. That’s A List and knighthood for you sweetie!

Lewis played the Paul McCartney character in The Beatles sketches in the Harry and Paul series 3 for the BBC saying:

“Had a terrific time filming with Harry Enfield, Paul Whitehouse, Lenny Henry and Kevin Eldon for the new series 'Harry And Paul' due out in the autumn. Haven't laughed so much in ages”.

Well ditto to your visit Lewis - please come again!

Having asked us which tie he should wear to a formal meal, (neither Lewis!) with Gordon Ramsay and other such hoi polloi, off he went on his merry way to mix it up with said celeb chef to undoubtedly have a F****** good time!

London News:

Finally, Katie Waisell and Wagner have exited stage left and will no longer be part of the X Factor circus. Love it or hate it, you canny avoid it, but I found these rather good pictures from Cartoonist Leah Gray to give proceedings a humorous edge:

Obviously this is Katie pre, ‘I’m an elf from Dingly Dell’ look.

Loving this one of Mr Moneybags Cowell. Even in cartoon form his hair looks like a gorillas!

And, of course, Wagner has gone too.

Yup – so long to you too my hairy, Brazilian friend – surely a contradiction in terms?

So we will never get to hear Katie perform There’s No-One Quite Like Grandma, to a live audience of 12 million, and neither will we be able to sit and marvel at another Wagner Medley of Madness.

To return to the words of Irene Cara...Katie and Wagner – Baby.... remember my name...remember..remember..please remember!?!

Till next time chickens - keep it leg warmer friendly and sweatband-tastic!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Dashing through the snow, with a reindeer microphone, A1 VOX is back again to voice and laugh and....moan!

Well...just a little moan really, and it is a personal issue. I had a tussle with the serrated edge of a tuna can last week, and guess who came off best?

Whilst the boyf, Dom, desperately worked his way through our medical cabinet to help ebb the ever flowing stream of red stuff, I looked away from the deep, uneven, wound and held on to the sink, bracing myself.

To add dilemma to the proceedings, Dom then dragged me to the bathroom, whilst holding finger aloft, only to find that his bath had made a great escape all over the floor. We now had blood covering the kitchen and enough water on the floor to give a home to a school of koi, blooming, carp! All this and in two days time we would be having our flat inspection. Holy C***!

Luckily for me we have an excellent walk in centre in Soho just down the road from A1, and I must say a big thanks to all the nurses that have stitched, dressed and cleansed my digit. Special thanks must go to the supervisor who on seeing my hashed up thumb didn't mince her words by saying ‘blimey......that is horrendous!’. Nurse Willoughby, I salute you.

At A1 we all decided that the below dressing was the bees knees – especially Charles, who very - ahem – kindly, took this picture. AWOOGA AWOOGA – All Hail the Comedy Thumb!

On a brighter note, we would like give a massive shout out to Miss Eleanor Howell, who in the not too distant future is to become a Mrs!!!!!

Yes, the South London lass, (with a penchant for curry and a Geordie accent, that would make even Cheryl think she was alreet, right up her street, from her toon - you get the point... Whey-Aye pet!), hopped on over to New York last week to visit her boyfriend. Steve is currently in a show over there......oh it’s all totally show biz lovey...and what a better place to pop the question for two successful, young thespians in love!? Of course Ellie said an Empire State Building sized YES!

So this Friday, whilst we all don ridiculous 80’s outfits for Ellie’s 30th birthday, it will now be a double whammy celebration – We are all very happy for you Ellie and in the words of 80’s iconic band, Yazz and the Plastic Population, it seems the only way, really is, up for this gorgeous piece of strumpet and her Welsh lad from the valley. HURRAH!

Jay Benedict is probably best known today for his role as John Kieffer – the US Army officer and friend of Christopher Foyle - in Foyle’s War, but in his varied career he has danced with the legendary Zizi Jeanmaire at Le Casino de Paris, played almost every male role in The Rocky Horror Show in the early 1970s (given half a chance, he’d probably have had a crack at the female ones too …) and has appeared frequently on stage in both straight drama and musical theatre.

He’s also been seen and heard regularly on film and TV including the voice for Shiro Hagen in the cult Saturday morning science fiction show Star Fleet X-Bomber; Frank Crowe, Superintending Engineer on the Hoover Dam, in the BBC’s award-winning documentary series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, and, perhaps most notably, third lead in Vicente Aranda’s beautiful 2003 adaptation of Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen. Someones doing alright!

When not in front of the camera, he and his partner run Sync or Swim (Geddit!?), providing post-production ADR services to the film and television industry. Recent projects have included Downton Abbey, Any Human Heart and Armando Iannucci’s first feature film, In the Loop.

Jay and I discussed English market budgets compared to American sized budgets, as he has worked on both with Sync or Swim. He said the difference is palpable. If making some form of Blockbuster, epic, and the Americans want 200 soldiers running from a hill then they will employ 200 extras but if the same scene were to be shot in England then they will use the same 6 actors over and over again and just hope that none of these film type anoraks, (you know who you are) sit and watch the film frame by frame, thus noticing that Harold Smith 'the extra' is kicking in his own head!

In addition to all this, Jay's voice can be heard on video games, documentaries and TV and radio adverts, as well as in innumerable lifts, theatre foyers and other public spaces. The irritatingly soothing voice requesting that you take your seat and switch off your mobile phone is quite probably him: so now you know who to blame.

Currently Jay can be seen treading the boards as Bill Wilson, Co-Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in a new play for The Outside Edge Theatre Company - One Day At A Time.

Written and directed by the Artistic Director of Outside Edge,Phil Fox, it tells how the man known as ‘Bill W’ pioneered the ‘12 steps‘, helped AA grow and - finally - set it free:

Bill Wilson is struggling to stay sober. His depression, womanising, physical illness and collapsing marriage are taking their toll. Under criticism from fellow recovering alcoholics Bill instigates an encounter with an old friend who suggests a way through his troubles.Following his suggestions Bill risks all, and sparks events leading to the final and greatest chapter in his and AA’s destiny.

Jay says it is intense stuff, but that he is immensely happy to be back on stage and has wholeheartedly embraced this return to theatre, as he sees it as the only platform to which you can truly test yourself as an actor.

“Can anyone ever get rid of the Demons? Or the ghosts that follow you? … however long Bill Wilson stays sober, he has other problems; his smoking, his womanising … Dr Bob Smith, his co-founder, is his constant ghost and will not let him be … This play could be – should be – at the Fringe Awards next year at the Waldorf … I urge you to see this play. Great performances from Jay Benedict as Bill, Cathy Walker as Lois and Michael Halden as Dr Bob Smith. Phil Fox deserves much credit for the writing and direction. “
(Review by Tony Parkin from London Festival Fringe.)

Well it seems that Jay has certainly passed this test!

Tessa Peake-Jones is best known for her role as Raquel in the television comedy series Only Fools and Horses. She had a co-starring role in the 1999 TV series Births, Marriages, and Deaths and has appeared in the television series, The Demon Headmaster, Midsomer Murders, Casualty, Holby City, The Bill, Up the Garden Path and So Haunt Me.

Currently, Tessa plays Sue Bond in the BBC Birmingham daytime soap opera, Doctors.

Rachel (or "Raquel" as Del would say) first encountered Del via the Technomatch Matrimonial Agency in 1988. She told Del she was an actress but the truth was soon revealed when she was booked to perform in the Nag's a stripagram - Racy Raquel!!!. Despite this shaky start love soon blossomed between the pair (lovely jubbly) and their offspring, Damien, was born in 1991.

One of Raquels best known lines is as she is giving birth :

'Don't you ever come near me again Trotter'

Tessa was an absolute dream to have hanging out in the Green Room and her and Beth got talking about cult show conventions - Beth being in Doctor Who, and Tessa in Only Fools and Horses. Tessa said to Beth 'oh no - I would never go to one of those now' to which Beth replied, 'you may be wise. I was at a Doctor Who convention last week where someone was dressed up in a silver boiler suit with a mask in the shape of the pig over his face. On the second day, having been snuffling around in character for the whole of the first, I didn't see him again. I asked someone what happened to the pig in the boiler suit, to which they replied...........put his back out'!

Pure Genius - just one of our Green Room gems. Tessa seemed to be having a fine old time and we loved having her.

Next up we had the delightful Colin Murray to visit The Towers. He also hung out in the Green Room, after his session, and had Andy Stanson and Lucy Scott roaring with laughter. He is a very genuine and funny person and it is clear to see that his relationship when presenting alongside Edith Bowman on the radio was a true representation of their friendship together and as individuals.

It has been a few years since Radio 1’s hugely popular Colin and Edith Show came to an end. Its success was largely due, as mentioned, to the warmth and humour shared between the two close friends, which resulted in the afternoon show setting new listening-figure records for its time slot. Breaking up such a popular and successful partnership to pursue his late night solo show was a risky and brave decision, but a good one as it has propelled Colin to dizzy heights indeed.

He says of his partnership with Edith:“I don’t think we would have split up had we just had a working relationship because it was working so well and we had record listeners. Because we were such good friends we were able to talk about what we wanted to achieve and what challenges we wanted to take on, which resulted in me feeling the only choice I had was to leave Radio 1”, he explained.

Thankfully for Murray and his many fans the powers-that-be at Radio 1 did not let him go without a fight and offered him his own show in the late evening slot (10 until midnight, Monday to Thursday), a slot previously occupied by such legendary Radio 1 DJs as John Peel and Mark Radcliffe.

Murray said with the show being such a specific reflection of his own musical philosophy, it may not have been to everyone’s taste. Perhaps Murray inadvertently put this best in his typically candid description of music in general - “It goes in your ears and it will either hit your heart or your head and you’ll like it, or it will come out your arse”. How deep and profound!

On 18 March 2009 Murray left Radio 1 to expand his work at 5 Live, hosting 5 Live Sport on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. In 2010, Murray presented coverage of the BDO World Darts Championship on BBC, replacing the departed Ray Stubbs.

In April 2010, it was announced that Murray would replace Adrian Chiles as BBC's Match of the Day 2 host on BBC Two, while also hosting the BBC's World Cup highlights programme in Summer 2010.

Murray said of this move to Match of the Day 2, "I can't imagine how nervous I will be sitting there and hearing that theme tune. I like a laugh but I am serious also about football and the impartiality required to respect all football fans."

Well it seems that the fans also respect him as he has certainly carved out a lovely little niche in the market for himself. Lucky then, that he and Edith had that candid chat! Ain't the boy done good.

So that is all for this week I am afraid. Only one month until the birth of baby Jesus, St Nick or for any die hard religious fans out there.... Coca Cola's Santa Claus. Whatever your belief, let's hope we all get a better deal than Derek Trotter did when his dad Reg paid him a surprise yuletide visit:

"It's a right blinding Christmas this has turned out to be innit. I mean, some people get wise men bearing gifts, we get a wally with a disease"

Until next time folks - Keep it un-severed and water tight!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Remember remember the 5th November.... and the 4th..... as here we are again to regale you with more top notch A1 exploits.

It has been an extremely busy couple of weeks at A1 VOX with more showbiz than you can shake a sequined stick at!

Gyles Brandreth has been in for an amazing three weeks on the trot - so we must be doing something right. Aled Jones came in for an early morning fixture and I can vouch for the lad when I say he ain't all treble and no substance.

We have also had the legend that is Russ ‘I love a Party’ Abbott in, which caused Chris to be ever so star struck.

My dad was extremely jealous to hear that we had actual royalty in the form of Rula Lenska at the studio, and for those who like a bit of the old two step, Arlene Philips of Strictly fame dropped by, and Carrie Grant of Fame Academy launched her way up the stairs with her flame red hair.

There is almost too much to cover in this weeks blog as we also had the charming Mr Anthony Head of Buffy fame in, as well as the amazing Mr Nigel Short who became a Grandmaster (chess player) at age 19.

Life, as they say, is never dull at VOX Towers!!!!!

On first visit to us he managed to cram in a total of ‘four’ clients. He sure don’t hang about!

Gyles is a writer, broadcaster, former MP and Government Whip - and one of Britain's most sought-after award ceremony hosts and after-dinner speakers. Currently a reporter on The One Show and a regular on Radio 4's Just a Minute, his acclaimed Victorian detective stories - The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries - are now being published in twenty-one countries around the world.

Gyles Brandreth’s forebears include George R Sims (the highest-paid journalist of his day, who wrote the ballad Christmas Day in the Workhouse) and Jeremiah Brandreth (the last man in England to be beheaded for treason - YIKES!). His great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Brandreth, promoted Brandreth’s Pills’ (a medicine that cured everything!) and was a pioneer of modern advertising and a New York state senator.

Today, Gyles Brandreth has family living in New York, Maryland, South Carolina and California. He has been London correspondent for Up to the Minute on CBS News and his books published in the United States include the New York Times best-seller, The Joy of Lex as well as Philip & Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage and the aforementioned Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries.

He has appeared on countless TV programmes including Countdown and TV-am and was renowned for his seemingly endless collection of jumpers. Many of the more outrageous examples were sold in a charity auction in 1993 and he has since displayed somewhat more restraint in his dress sense. Such a shame as I was looking forward to a lewd yellow knit with royal navy piping!

When asked why he loves, in some people's opinion, particularly awful people such as Fanny Cradock, Jeffrey Archer and Prince Philip, he replies: “They’re larger than life.” He met Philip through the National Playing Fields Association and often goes to Buckingham Palace. In fact, he went fairly recently and flips open his diary to prove it: “Buckingham Palace,” he reads. “All friendly in the state dining room but a little strange ... the food was excellent, the fresh pineapple best, the camp footmen so playful as ever.” Certainly no wall flower, this silver tongued celeb certainly mixes in the right circles - What!

Aled Jones became famous for the cover version of "Walking in the Air", the song from Channel 4's 1982 animated film The Snowman. The record reached No. 5 in the UK charts in 1985, however, the version used in the film was not performed by Jones, but by Peter Auty, a St. Paul's Cathedral choirboy! Hmmmmm - quite a well kept secret that.

In June 1985, Jones was also the subject of the Emmy award winning BBC Omnibus documentary "The Treble".

His recording career was temporarily halted when his voice broke at sixteen. By this time he had recorded sixteen albums, sold more than six million albums, and sung for Pope John Paul II, the Queen, and the Prince and Princess of Wales in a private recital, as well as presenting numerous children's television programmes. He sang at the wedding of music celebrities Bob Geldof and Paula Yates in 1986, the same year that his first biography was published, "Walking on Air".

Jones's appearance as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2004 brought him to the attention of a wider audience, leading to further tours and albums. It also led to increasing demands on him as a broadcaster.

On 11 October 2010 it was announced that Jones would be taking over as stand-in presenter of the early morning breakfast slot on Radio 2 following the departure of Sarah Kennedy, a role which he occasionally covered in the years leading up to Kennedy's departure. It is not known yet if Jones will be permanently assuming the role but if you tuned in to our very own Mr Nove last week then you would have heard him have a little banter with the Welsh lad. Charles tells me that Aled is a very funny chap and having landed a prestigious spot at Radio 2 it seems the voice from Bangor is definitely still walking on air!.

Rula Lenska was born in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, the eldest daughter of Major Count Ludwik Maria Lubienski and Countess Elzbieta Tyszkiewicz. Rula's parents came to the UK from Poland as refugees in 1946. Although Rula was christened Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubienska, she has always been known as Rula - rolls off the tongue a lot easier I find.

Rula studied at Ursuline College in Westgate-on-Sea before training at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts and by the time she had started her acting career, she had renounced her title as a Polish countess, saying "In England it doesn't count - if you'll excuse the pun."

Rula has been married twice, to actors Brian Deacon (1977-1987) and Dennis Waterman (1987-1998).

Her big break was as Little Ladies' band member, "Q," in the British TV series Rock Follies (1976) and its sequel Rock Follies of '77 the following year.

Rock Follies was not widely seen in North America, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lenska became famous in the United States and Canada for her Alberto V05 hair products commercials. The commercial began with a closeup of her stating, "I'm Rula Lenska." People assumed this was a product endorsement by a celebrity whose name the advertisers expected them to know.

In a Tonight Show monologue that aired after the commercials started running, Johnny Carson asked "Who the hell is Rula Lenska?" and began using Lenska's name as a running joke on his show. Around the same time, Jane Curtin played Lenska in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Soon (at least to US audiences) Lenska became famous for merely pretending to be famous. Most people in the U.S. were unaware that she had an acting career in the United Kingdom, and believed she was a model.

She has appeared in television series such as Special Branch, Minder, Boon, The Detectives, Footballers' Wives, To the Manor Born, One Foot in the Grave, Casualty, Space: 1999,Return of the Saint, Robin of Sherwood, Doctors and EastEnders, in which she played Frank Butcher's girlfriend, Krystal, in a Costa del Sol special (2002)

As of 2009, Lenska starred in Coronation Street as new character Claudia Colby, an old friend of Audrey Roberts.

However, Rula is probably now best remembered for her stint in Celebrity Big Brother. On 13th January 2006, with fellow housemate, renegade British MP George Galloway, she attracted the attention of the media by indulging in a role-play task, in which Galloway, as a cat, pretended to lick milk from her cupped hands, and Lenska stroked his ears and moustache. No other word for it but Odd!

This incident has actually benefited Rula as after her departure from the Big Brother house she was offered a five figure deal to promote a famous cat food brand. It just goes to show that no publicity is bad publicity when it comes to this red haired countess!

Random Rula Fact:

Rula is a practicing Buddhist of the Nishiren Daishonin way and describes herself as "passionate, romantic and slightly eccentric".

We think she is just purrrrrrfect.

Nigel David Short MBE (born 1 June 1965 in Leigh, Lancashire) is often regarded as the strongest English chess player of the 20th century. He challenged for the World Chess Championship against Garry Kasparov at London 1993. Still active, Short continues to enjoy international success. He is also a chess columnist, coach and commentator.

A chess prodigy, Short first attracted significant media attention, as a 10-year-old, by defeating Viktor Korchnoi in a simultaneous exhibition. In 1977 he became the youngest ever participant in the British Chess Championship by qualifying three days before his twelfth birthday. He was awarded the grandmaster title in 1984, aged nineteen - becoming the youngest grandmaster in the world at that time.

In 1992, the Englishman overcame the legendary Russian Anatoly Karpov in a match that was described as "the end of an era." In the final, in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Short defeated Dutchman Jan Timman to earn the right to meet defending World Champion Garry Kasparov.

Kasparov won convincingly - the largest margin of victory in a world title contest since Botvinnik defeated Tal in 1961. Short's play came in for heavy criticism from BBC commentators Bill Harston and Tony Miles. Oh give him a break - we all have our 'off days' – even international prodigies.

Nigel now lives in Athens and I had a very interesting conversation with him about the Greek deficit. I think I managed to hold my own – Checkmate!

So to the last guest this week – the one and only Russ Abbott – WHAT A LOVELY MAN

You know when you meet someone for the first time and they just exude warmth and generosity, well that is this gent all over.

Our in house 'voice in the know', Trevor Nichols, told me of a story that once, after filming had wrapped, Russ invited the cast and crew back to his house for an impromptu visit and personally cooked a meal for them all. They don’t make em like they used to eh!

Russ Abbot is an English musician, comedian and actor who first came to public notice during the 1970s as the singer and drummer with British comedic showband the Black Abbots.

From 1980 onwards, Abbot released some albums as a solo artist, and appeared in several TV series. The most successful of his music singles was called "Atmosphere", which did well in the UK top 10, peaking at No 7. I once danced at a holiday camp to this track and came first in the talent competition – my prize......a big box of Maltesers!!!! – Weird the things you remember.........maybe that’s one to try and forget.

The Russ Abbot Show showcased his talents as an all-round entertainer, attracting millions of viewers. This show was especially popular among younger viewers, prompting two annuals to be published in 1982 and 1983. These annuals featured comic strips based on popular characters, plus some publicity photos of Abbot in a variety of guises, including his well-known James Bond satire featuring characters named Basildon Bond and Miss Funnyfanny. Chris and I both reminisced about watching this show religiously as young tots – it was blooming top banana.

From 2000, Abbot played the lead role in the British National Tour of Doctor Dolittle. Taking a break over the Christmas period, Russ stepped down for Phillip Schofield to take the plate, but returned to the tour subsequently.

Abbot's theatre roles include Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady (starring Amy Nuttall) at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and on tour; The Narrator in The Rocky Horror Show; Grandpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium and Fagin in Oliver! both in 1998 and 2009. From July 2007, he took over the role of Roger De Bris in the UK tour of Mel Brooks' The Producers.

In 2008, the BBC announced that Abbot would be joining the cast of Last of the Summer Wine for the show's 30th series playing Luther 'Hobbo' Hobdyke and in 2009, when Rowan Atkinson fell ill during the original run of Cameron Mackintosh's West End revival of Oliver!, Abbot stepped into the role of Fagin for the second time.

He is currently playing the role again, having taken over from the previous Fagin Griff Rhys Jones who left the show on 12 June 2010. You gotta pick a pocket or two, but pick Russ for anything and you will be a winner.

Just like Russ everyone at A1 ‘loves a party’ and can you imagine letting your hair down with Russ Abbott, Gyles Brandreth, Rula Lenska and Nigel Short – something for everyone I think you’ll agree.

But it would be Arlene Philipps and Carrie Grant getting everyone going on the dance floor, as long as Arlene has her make up. The lithe ex dancer refused us a piccie as she didn’t have her slap on and who can really blame her.

Carrie Grant however was slap-tastic and had all the girls in the Green Room cooing over her outfit, hair and accessories.

So I hope that is enough to keep you all going for another couple of weeks. Firework night is looming and so as is the mantra of many a celeb – Be Safe, but more importantly - Be Seen!