Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's Brian Blessed!!!!!!!!
As promised I got my picture with one of this countries most treasured celebs - HURRAH!!!

Brian had plenty to chat about on arrival to our studio and never fails to impress with his gun ho attitude. He really is larger than life and a fountain of fascinating yarns.

This week he has a hot tip for anybody out there that has a thing for the film War and Peace. Brian says to forget all other versions and get on board with the Russian epic. On wandering over to our studio he took a quick pit stop at a shop on our corner and to his booming delight he found not one but two copies of the film he has been seeking for quite a while. Glad coming to A1 steered you on such a successful path Brian!

In relating Tolstoy's complex tale of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Director Sergei Bondarchuk made some of the most graphic battle scenes ever seen, one of which runs nearly 45 minutes. According to the Guinness Book of Records, its cast of 120,000 people is a record.

Brian, much to our delight, re-enacted one of the war scenes, and got overly enthusiastic explaining that the sight of so many real soviet soldiers marching forth en masse, with no need for CGI special effects, is phenomenal. He also says that the acting is out of this world. Well you can't get a better recommendation than Blessed himself - Check it Out People.

Boisterous Brit Brian Blessed is known for his hearty, king-sized portrayals on film and TV. A giant of a man accompanied by an eloquent wit and booming, operatic voice. At a young age he displayed an acute talent for acting in school productions, but also had a penchant for boxing.

Luckily for us the boxing was taken out with one swift blow, and Brian, who managed to bag a spot at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic, was off and running. He has lent his musical talents to several productions - from playing Old Deuteronomy in Cats to The Baron in the more recent Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In the 1970s he began appearing more and more on-camera with both classical and contemporary performances.

In costumed TV movies he has played Porthos in The Three Musketeers and The Further Adventures of the Three Musketeers, Augustus in I Claudius, and Long John Silver in Treasure Island. He has also been a part of various TV re-enactments, including Catherine the Great, Lady Chatterley, The Hound of the Baskervilles and Kidnapped. On film he's appeared in robust support in several William Shakespeare adaptations including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet and Macbeth. More recently he appeared in Oliver Stone's epic-scale Alexander and in Kenneth Branagh's film version of Shakespeare's As you Like it.

One of his famous, 'clean', quotes relates to Shakespeare: "The blue planet has had its author. It would be greedy to want another."

In much the same way I feel we have had the Booming Voice of the 20th Century and it would be greedy to hanker after another. Gawd Bless Blessed.

But not all is plain sailing for our Brian.

As a child he and his friends used to play at Flash Gordon, inspired by the Buster Crabbe TV serials. In these childhood games Brian would always play Vultan, leader of the Hawkmen. In the 1980 film Flash Gordon he played the same role as he had in childhood with his now infamous cry of “Gordon’s Alive”.

It seems to this day the film strikes a special chord into the heart of the big man and so it was that Brian Blessed allegedly 'throttled' a Savoy diner and stormed out of his speaking engagement after being told Flash Gordon was 'c**p'.

Don’t mess with the Vultan seems to be the message here and let’s be honest, Blessed is known for his straight talking. When asked whether he was looking forward to co-starring with Pamela Anderson in the pantomime Aladdin last year, he replied: ‘Pamela ****ing Anderson? I wouldn’t touch her with yours. I’ve starred alongside Sophia Loren.’

And that just about sums up this meaty, mouthy, mountain explorer who’s best friend is Patrick Stewart and thinks Ben Kingsley is a ....well I can’t repeat that particular fact I’m afraid!

A very tanned and sickeningly healthy looking Simon Greenall visited us at VOX Towers this week.
Comedy actor Simon, is probably best known for starring as Alan Partridge's Geordie friend Michael in I’m Alan Partridge.

Greenall, played a handyman working in Partridge's roadside hotel in series one and as the server in the local petrol station in the second. Alan takes a liking to Michael even though he..... canny understand a word he says like!

Simon has appeared in a wide variety of roles in television, film, radio and the theatre, and is probably best known, not only for his role as Michael, but also as the voice of headmaster Iqbal in Bromwell High.

He has also appeared in the TV series The Bill, Holby City,Harry Enfield and Chums, Monkey Dust (voice only), People Like Us, Doc Martin, and Time Gentlemen Please. His film credits include Wimbledon. He wrote for and appeared in Harry Enfield's Brand Spanking New Show. He has also contributed his voice to the video games Dragon Quest VIII and Tomb Raider II, among several others.

What you may not realise is that Simon is the voice of Aleksandr the Meerkat, star of the series of ads for His voice has helped increase hits on the site by 80 per cent since January. Nice work if you can get it – SIMPLES!

Next bounding her way up the stairs was the vivacious Natalie Casey. She is as bouncy and lively as her barnet of brunette curls. She wasn’t shy about coming forward and started throwing rude boy shapes around the studio when we asked for a picture. She is a live wire and let there be no mistaking!
Natalie Casey is an English actress, television presenter and singer. She is best known for her long running roles in the TV series Hollyoaks and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. She has also appeared on stage and worked as a television presenter for MTV, Channel 4 and the BBC.
At the age of three her single "Chick Chick Chicken" reached number 72 in the UK Singles Chart in 1984. This made her the youngest person ever to have a recording in the UK chart. At this time, she appeared on the BBC's Saturday Superstore and asked Boy George to take her to the toilet. Cheeky little Manchester tyke.

In the summer of 2007, Casey played "Serena Katz" in a hit run of the musical, Fame, at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and in February 2008 she began playing the role "Julia" in the pre-West End UK tour of The Wedding Singer. Her other stage credits include The Vagina Monologues, Hobson's Choice (Watermill Theatre opposite her sister Anna-Jane Casey),Flint Street Nativity, Well at the Trafalgar Studios, and the Apollo Theatre, opposite Sarah Miles and most recently "Ado Annie" in Oklahoma! at the Chichester Festival Theatre where the Telegraph reviewed her performance as a wonderfully skittish, perkily contrary Ado Annie who shines brightest and best. I guess our Natalie has the X Factor!

Natalie , is sometimes more commonly known as 'Chatty Natty', and boy can we see why, but she was lost for words as Huey Morgan, front man for the Fun Lovin' Criminals, pounced on her unannounced with a long lingering kiss in the middle of an interview on air.
Never fear for Natalie was soon back up on her MTV feet brandishing a Cheshire sized grin and completing the interview with much-a-gusto and fresh fire in her loins – OO ER!



Yes it is a sad day folks, Piccadilly Circus is to get a new advertiser on its famous brightly-lit hoardings after Sanyo decided to quit.

Land Securities, are now on the look out for a big name brand to fill the gap soon to be left by the Japanese electronics giant.
Any would-be buyer is likely to have to shell out tens of millions a year to secure the spot, especially as top London tourists sites are soon likely to get more exposure than usual thanks to the London Olympics in 2012.

"This really is a very rare opportunity for a brand to become part of the London landscape," said Tim Allibone, asset manager for the London Portfolio at Land Securities.

Sanyo has been one of the main brand names on Piccadilly Circus since 1978. It is the last of the major advertisers at the Circus to stay loyal to neon as other brands have switched to LED in recent years.

So long San Friend, It will be strange not to see those famous four letters as a shining beacon but life and advertising opportunity must go on and in the words of the one and only ‘Vultan’ Blessed – who wants to live forever – DIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Till next week intrepid A1 Blog followers.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Snap, Crackle and Rock to all you A1 pop pickers out there!

This week we at VOX Towers we were privy to a very rare sight... not one..but two fantastic DJ’s together in the same building. Outstanding!

No, I’m not talking about duo Smashie and Nicey but real yabba-dabba, pop heaven, in the form of Tony ‘I’m a legend’ Blackburn and Charles ‘Jazz Time Lord and News Extraordinaire’ Nove.

I like to call them the ‘Pop-tastic - A1 Vox Jox’

So let’s, quite literally, kick off from the womb of music – Pop-a-Doodle-Doo!!!!

Tony Blackburn may be slightly more grey around the gills, but for a golden oldie, the Peter Pan of disc jockeys, is a very shrewd man. Not only is he a born survivor (how many other Radio 1 stars of the Sixties are still on air?) but he has wholeheartedly embraced modern life and knows a good thing when he sees one.

In 1964, Tony joined pirate broadcaster Radio Caroline as a DJ. He rapidly became successful on the basis of his informal, American influenced presentation.

After a short spell on Radio London, Tony was hired as the first of a new generation of DJs for the BBC's newly established pop station, Radio One in 1967. The first DJ heard on the new station that was to change the face of British music, his "Breakfast Show" programme soon became popular, ensuring that he rapidly became a household name (who can forget Arnold the dog!) and ran for 10 years. Also in 1967, Tony started a 17 year run as one of the regular presenters of the TV programme "Top of The Pops".

Not content with being a popular DJ, Tony also had a moderately successful career as a recording artist. Although not the strongest of vocalists, he even made the lower reaches of the UK charts twice and three albums of songs were released in the late 60s/early 70s.

Just as he was in danger of becoming passé, he started presenting a soul show on BBC Radio London which re-established his talents as a DJ. By 1988 he was to be heard on Capital Gold in their own "Breakfast Show", winning a prestigious Sony Radio Award along the way.

Tony then became a member of the Manchester radio station Jazz FM's team and still tours British clubs and universities with his very own 70s style disco. He is occasionally seen on British TV, particularly in programmes devoted to those heady days of the 70s. Spandex and platforms anyone?

Tony has just landed a plum role as Dale Winton’s successor presenting the two-hour Saturday show Pick of the Pops that looks back at the chart hits of the Sixties and Seventies on Radio 2.

For Blackburn it is a dream job. ''The funny thing is I’ve wanted to be on Radio 2 for a long, long time,’’ he says. ''It was one of my two remaining ambitions. [The other is a cameo in Coronation Street. Blackburn has watched every episode and longs to sit in the Rovers Return, pint in hand, in the background.] I was 37 when I left Radio 1, and 2 seemed a natural progression. So it’s only taken 30 years.’’

There was much laughter and chuckle lines all round as he and Charles gabbed on about this and that, one Jock to another!

Charles has known Tony for many years and has always said what a lovely man he is. It was an honour to meet him and everyone in the Green Room can back me up when I tell you that he was one of the most laid back and easy going people we have ever had to our sunny studio. Small....but lovely, and they do say the best things come in small packages so........

You can next catch Tony all in the name of ‘chairidee’ as he and other BBC presenters such as Radio 4 Woman’s Hour host Jenni Murray do battle as stand-up comedians for Comic Relief.

The six presenters have been working with mentors, including Julian Clary and Sandi Toksvig, ahead of a gig at London's Comedy Store on 22 February.

The winning act, voted for by listeners, will be announced on Red Nose Day on 18th March.

Tony said he was "petrified" at the prospect of performing his three-minute routine:

"I have a reputation for corny gags but on radio it takes 10 seconds then I put a record on - I don't have to rely on getting a reaction,".

Come on Tony, once upon a yonk you never got tongue tied, so just keep it pop, rock and roll, and if all else fails slam on “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive. SENSATIONAL!

So from one Comic Relief venture to another. .....

But why a sticky bun? I hear you cry.

Well that saucy minx of ours, Joan Walker, has only gone and got herself tied up, in more ways than one, in a Richard Curtis porn spoof entitled Extremely Sticky Buns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now before you all rush in with more Complaints than Elton John swearing on Radio 2......

(The programme's host, Chris Evans, was telling the star that Jools Holland has to start his day by playing the piano, to re-connect with it, to which Elton sighs deeply, raises his eyes to heaven and says: "Oh f****** hell")

.........this is a, tongue in cheek nod to Calendar Girls.

A group of northern guild members decide to go one better than merely stripping naked, to raise money for their Kneesley Village Hall Roof Fund.. by ‘eck, why stop at stripping when you can go the whole hog.

It seems their antics will raise the roof rather than fix it!

Richard Curtis has hand picked some bits for this year’s Comic Relief. Due to the rudery content it will probably be on late in the evening, but if you can’t wait until then, just use the link below to see our Joan doing her best When Harry met Sally face as she takes on the role of comical, yet strangely alluring, Head of the Ladies Guild.

As the slogan of the film reads ‘Some ladies do EVERYTHING for a good cause’ and it is a real rib tickler so check it out people - Raising money for charity will never be the same again!


Design hotel opens in London's Leicester Square

Now last week we reported that The Hairy Bikers were ribbing myself and Chris about our Soho fancy ways, well I thought I would indulge the pretentious side of our habitat and prove them somewhat right by telling you all about W Hotels new flagship, luxury venture that opened on February 14th, in the colourful streets of Soho.

The 192-room property stands ten stories tall above the city's famous Leicester Square and is covered in translucent glass which changes color according to the time of day and the ambience of the area. Ruddy hell, it must be pretty hard to see in or out of the windows at the moment!

The new landmark is designed to establish Starwood's W Hotels as a truly international luxury design hotel chain.

The W London features a fitness facility with rooftop views of Soho, a spa offering a full range of treatments and a bar inspired by "rock and roll London," complete with a specially curated tequila selection. Just imagine - a quick run on the treadmill whilst sipping a mexican special and listening to The Rolling Stones - Tidy!

In keeping with Leicester Square's famous association with film and cinema, the hotel is also home to a 38-seat 3D screening room, which W believes will be used for small-scale premieres.

The hotel also offers the Spice Market, a signature restaurant by three-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten that Starwood says is inspired by the "vibrant street life of South East Asia."

Rooms at the W London start from £269 per night so probably something that The Hairy Bikers could afford to try out. As for me, I will stick to The Travelodge and go grab some pukka noodles in Chinatown.

So that is all for this week folks - Brian Blessed is coming back in next week and this time I have been promised a picture with the man himself so make sure you don't miss that one. Until then......ARRIVEDERCI DOODLE DO.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

It was a case of beauty meets the beasts this week as The Hairy Bikers roared into town, and the lovely Denise Van Outen positively glided into the studio like a very graceful , all be it Essex, swan!

So may colourful accents and all round studio merriment commence.

I was obviously very excited at having another Essex gal in the studio but when Denise arrived I felt a tad inadequate standing near this lithe, blond bombshell.

I was further crushed when she declared to myself and Chris that she had been up all night with her baby Betsy who is teething. Well if that is what this talented vixen looks like when she’s had no sleep then I need to shake Betsy’s new front tooth, for had she been on top form, I may have been tempted to lock myself in the bathroom and weep copious non-showbiz tears.

Mind you I guess this is one lass who is used to getting up early in the morning and looking stunning, after her notable role as a presenter on The Big Breakfast.

Denise joined The Big Breakfast on Channel 4 as a weather and travel reporter in 1996 and landed the main co-presenting role in 1997. It proved to be her big breakthrough, with her cheeky “Essex Girl” personality and sexy clothing playing off well against the quick wit of Johnny Vaughan, and together they recovered audience figures to respectable levels. The same cannot be said for the length of Denise’s skirts however!

Denise is also an actress and singer, as well as presenter, and her other significant role was as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago on both the West End and on Broadway.

In 2007, she joined the panel for BBC One's follow up to How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream will Do!, which was casting Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, where she was to meet hubby to be Lee Mead.

Van Outen's personal life has always been subjected to the sharp glare of the British tabloid media. In 1991, aged 17, she had a relationship with popstar Gary Glitter. In 1996, Denise dated Dodgy guitarist Andy Millar. From 1998 to 2001, she dated Jamiroquai lead singer Jay Kay.

They were engaged and reported to be on the verge of marriage, but split up in 2001; his album A Funk Odyssey is mostly about their break-up, with the song "Little L" expressing his fight against cocaine addiction during their break up.

It seems Denise went from pervert, to extrovert and then finally settled on a fellow all singing, all dancing, Essex-ite! She married Lee in April 2009 in the Seychelles. Oh don’t they make a perfick couple.

Denise will next be seen on OK! TV hitting our screens on February 14th alongside Matt Johnson, best known for presenting This Morning. The show will feature news and gossip about celebrities, music and fashion and takes over from axed programme Live from Studio Five.

Denise, however, seems unwilling to let the channel's previous problems bother her and said she is looking forward to starting filming.

'I have a huge appetite for all things showbiz so this show is right up my street. I'm really looking forward to working with Matt too and we can't wait to show the viewers what we've got in store,' she said.

Johnson added: 'I think Denise and I are going to have a lot of fun together – I've long been an admirer of her presenting style and know we'll get along like a house on fire.'

Well if anyone can, our Den can. So let’s hope this scrummy mummy puts on her usual Essex-tastic charm and manages to pull in the punters. Meanwhile I am off to go and Razzle Dazzle around the living room to the Chicago soundtrack in the hope of obtaining a ‘Denise’ washboard stomach, and all that jazz!

The BBC has come a long way – FACT. For decades, British regional accents were frowned upon by the broadcasting powers-that-be who preferred the supercilious tones of received pronunciation.

Fortunately, strong and character accents now bless the airwaves and nowhere are they more evident than BBC television’s The Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook – two motorcyclists, habitual dodgers of scissors and razors, visit exotic locations and investigate and recreate local dishes with an accompaniment of liberal drizzles of extra-virgin wit, daftness and banter. You can’t go wrong.

Biker one is Dave Myers, a native of Barrow-in- Furness (a ‘Barrovian’), the town at the southern tip of Cumbria. His deadpan accent is flatter than a ruined soufflĂ©. Biker two is Si King, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne; his animated Geordie chatter adds spice to the proceedings.

The theme of their TV series' and books is simple – ride motorbikes, cook and eat local food and drink the local drink, especially beer: “We asked the BBC – can we take on the countries’ beer and drinking cultures, they said yes, which is great because you can put the research against expenses.”

These lads were an absolute joy to have in the studio though I have to say that they smelt very strongly of patchouli oil – Odd!

They joked around with myself and Chris and made fun of our ‘Soho Ways’ as they put it. Funny cause when asked if they wanted a brew Dave promptly asked for a proper cafetiere of coffee. So now who has fancy pants ideas and double standards?!

Engagingly daft humour is a key ingredient of the Hairy Bikers’ presentation and so we wondered how this would go down with Prince Charles’ wife the Duchess of Cornwall, as after talking at A1 they were off to cook for royalty nonetheless.

Sure enough the next day their escapades at Clarence House had been well documented as The Hairy Bikers and a group of young chefs prepared a special lunch for Camilla and her son.

The secondary school pupils were invited into the kitchens of Clarence House to prepare a three-course meal, assisted by the TV cooks.

The teens had won a competition to devise a menu fit for a duchess, and her guests - including her food writer son Tom Parker-Bowles - as part of British Food Fortnight. No pressure then.

Spotting one of the television chefs in the hot kitchen, the duchess added: "Ah, I see a Hairy Biker! Very nice to see you. You all look very organised down here. I was expecting chaos."

Dave praised the pupils for their culinary skills and thanked the duchess for allowing them all into her home.

He said: "The dining room looks so beautiful. The Duchess of Cornwall has supported 'British Food Fortnight' from the beginning and it's very generous for her to throw open her house and let us two hooligans into her kitchen."

Camilla had previously spoken to Mr Myers about her love of food, saying that traditional British steamed puddings are among her favourites. He added: "She is famous for her roast chicken - we know that from Tom." So even the royals like nothing more than a classic bird and a nice bit of stuffing!

A little known fact is that Dave suffered from alopecia for most of his life.

His ‘Mam’ was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 50; he was eight. Within two years, she was in a wheelchair.

Dave’s hair began falling out then, and when he was 14, he developed alopecia.

His biggest fear was that he was never going to get a girlfriend like the other boys in his class at Barrow Grammar School. Luckily, he had some great mates, so bullying wasn't an issue.

Strangely, his hair grew back when he was 40, following an emergency operation to remove a cyst on his brain. The medical profession will never admit that it was the pressure of that which stopped his hair growth, but he’s utterly convinced that it was.

So the irony is not lost on Dave that he’s made his name as a Hairy Biker. He says joking of his now infamous mane:

“All of my mates, who are experiencing baldness for the first time, don't find it quite so amusing”.

So if you ever open your door to see Dave Lee Travis and the Honey Monster asking for their Cornflakes/Sugar Puffs back then it could actually be Dave and Si researching recipes for their next tour. Just follow the patchouli oil trail.....

So we have had the beauty and the beasts so what about an ambassador of the arts?

John Woodvine is an English stage and screen actor who has appeared in more than 70 theatre productions, as well as a similar number of television and film roles. They are some stats people!

John trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and worked with the Old Vic company in the 1950s.

Woodvine frequently played police officers from early on in his career, including in the seminal British drama series Z Cars in the 1960s and Softly, Softly in the 1970s.

His film roles include the 1981 John Landis film An American Werewolf in London (he later re-created his film role for the BBC Radio One adaptation of the film). He also appeared in the Oscar-nominated 1972 Richard Attenborough film Young Winston.

In 2008 John was seen as Joe Jacobs in the ITV1 soap Emmerdale but he wasn't the first choice funnily enough.

Blimey O'Reilly - it was only going to be Blessed who was scheduled to play the role!

An Emmerdale spokesperson said: “Unfortunately Brian was unable to film his scenes due to a last minute clash of schedules. However, we’re thrilled to confirm that the part of Joe will now be played by John Woodvine.”

So the doctor, more famous than even Dr Karl Kennedy of Neighbours fame, was thrown an Emmerdale life buoy by none other than big man Blessed.

London News:

If you are out and about in London this weekend then why not welcome in the Chinese New Year.

The major celebrations in Central London are the largest outside Asia!

Chinese New Year 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, falls on 3rd February. And London's main celebrations will be held on Sunday 6th February.

Trafalgar Square hosts traditional and contemporary Chinese entertainment such as dance, music and acrobatics as well as firecrackers, Chinese dragons and lions.

Meanwhile, Chinatown will be bustling with special decorations, stalls, food and lion dance displays. Shaftesbury Avenue hosts a local performance stage featuring performances by Chinese artists.

So get yourself down down there to join in the free street parties that are sure to go off with a hop, skip and a jump - Rabbit Stylee of course!

Catch you next week folks............