The Night Gary Glitter Fans Nearly Killed Me!
TV Times
29 October 1994
TV Times: This Is Your Life article TV Times: This Is Your Life article TV Times: This Is Your Life article
Not every show goes off as expected. Michael needed his wellies to meet Little and Large, and Dickie Bird was tearful. But Paul Daniels was 'well and truly had'
TV Times: This Is Your Life article
Hero of the hour: Gary Glitter saved Malcolm from the stampede
TV Times: This Is Your Life article
'While Michael and I were walking to a Los Angeles hotel to surprise Charlton Heston, a tall and sinister-looking beggar closed in on us,' says Malcolm. 'I increased my pace, but Michael is a friendly chap and struck up a friendship with what looked to me very much like a would-be assassin'
related pages...

Producing Life

the producers who steered the programme's success

Michael Aspel

a career review

The Big Red Book

the programme's icon

This Is Your Life goes back to its birthplace

Press coverage on the return to the BBC

Dickie Bird

Paul Daniels

Gary Glitter

Charlton Heston

Little and Large

Richard Thorp

The 'me' in question is the man who knows all the secrets of This Is Your Life – producer Malcolm Morris. As the show moves back to the BBC after 25 years with ITV, he reveals, exclusively for TV Times, some of the heart-stopping moments that the viewing public never saw.

It was dark that night in Blackpool when the police car spotted a silver-haired man with a red book walking along the street, talking to himself and waving his hands in the air. He kept stopping when he saw the police car, waiting for it to pass by.

'Are you all right?' the policemen finally asked. The silver-haired man explained he was filming This Is Your Life. 'But where's the camera?' they demanded. Michael Aspel pointed to the top of the Blackpool Tower, a quarter of a mile away.

We were filming him with a telescopic lens for the programme on Little and Large. And our troubles with this particular show were only just starting.

The plan was for Michael to run onto the stage at the Winter Garden Theatre during Eddie and Syd's big finale. It wasn't until the very last moment that we realised they'd be ending the show with Singin' in the Rain, during which a thousand gallons of water would pour onto the stage - no joke when you have cameramen wired to the mains!

It took extra care from the technicians – but all was well. With 30 seconds to go, raincoats were whipped off three dancers, an umbrella was shoved into Michael's hand and we were ready to film.

This was the last series before the programme switched back to BBC1. By then we were quite used to things not going to plan. There have been so many times – funny and not so funny – that I'll never forget.

Once I was standing in the 5ft well between stage and audience at a Gary Glitter concert at Wembley, waiting for Michael to come on behind Gary and spring the surprise. But I wasn't prepared for the audience reaction when they saw Michael.

The deafening roar from 8000 people, already wound up by the three-hour performance, was followed by a surge towards the stage. Only a steel barrier stood between them and me. As the sheer weight and energy of the audience hit the steel, it began to bend. They'd be no surviving the stampede. I was frozen to the spot.

Then Gary took charge of the audience just by lifting his hand. The solid mass of stampeding fans stopped in their tracks and I sprinted to safety. I still have nightmares about it.

It can be an enormous shock for our subjects when they first see the Red Book. When Michael approached him and assured him it was no joke, cricket umpire Dickie Bird burst into tears.

And the programme that follows is pretty intense.

Emmerdale star Richard Thorp enjoyed every minute, but suffered a slight heart attack afterwards and was taken to hospital. Happily, all is well with him now.

The ultimate challenge is to trick the trickster, which we did when Michael fooled Paul Daniels with a complete Chinese disguise and voice. The expression on Paul's face was wonderful as he admitted he'd been 'well and truly had'.

I've produced This Is Your Life on and off since 1971, and the question I'm always asked is: do they know? The answer is no. My associate producer Johnny Graham and I are usually with the subjects just after the surprise and we see their shock close up. If I discover before the programme that someone knew, I'd cancel everything and perhaps throw a private party instead.

Possibly the closest we ever got to a real catastrophe was the time we took a subject's entire family to a hotel the night before the programme. I'd just walked into reception when the well-known subject of the programme walked through the revolving doors. With him was a very attractive lady. They sat drinking cocktails, blissfully unaware that his wife and the rest of the family were just a few feet above their heads. I raced upstairs and explained that the press were in reception, so a nearby hotel would be much better. A back door provided a neat exit.

Years later I told the story to the man concerned. He told me that evening was his farewell before returning to domesticity... And no, I won't tell you his name.