Split Second Danny
Radio Times
10 November 1960
Radio Times: This Is Your Life article
related pages...

Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

Producing Life

the producers who steered the programme's success

These Were Your Lives

a review of the first series

Venues and Sets

the studio look and locations

'This Is Your Life' But It Dominates MINE!

Producer Leslie Jackson recalls some heart-stopping moments

David Barclay

Arthur Christiansen

Russ Conway

David Sheppard

IF LITTLE Danny Roman happens to be driving you in a car tonight, then it's a pretty safe bet that you have an unknowing date to hear Eamonn Andrews tell you 'This Is Your Life...'

Danny, sixty-two, a chirpy Cockney who stands just 5 ft. 4 ins., is the hire-car driver used by producer T. Leslie Jackson and his team to bring The Subject, as they call him or her, to the TV cameras.

It's a split-second timing job to make sure that the 'Life' arrives on the dot of 7.30 pm.

As Jackson himself says, 'You just try driving through London traffic to keep an appointment and you'll know how difficult Danny's job is.'

But Danny, an ex-merchant sailor and ex-soldier, says 'I love it. I've never had so much fun as working for This Is Your Life.'

This in spite of the fact that it's a job that also tends to win Danny a reputation among certain people - the unsuspecting Subjects he carries - of being London's worst chauffeur.

For Danny's big problem is killing time when he's driving to the appointment with Eamonn Andrews, making sure that The Subject doesn't arrive too soon - or get suspicious.

He had an hour in hand when he was sent to London Airport to pick up air ambulance officer David Barclay. Captain Barclay thought he was going on a dinner date. But Danny's job was to have him at the TV Theatre at Shepherd's Bush at 7.30.

Danny stalled for time by 'inventing' a puncture and telephoning the airport to say he would be late.

'The next problem was to find an excuse for stopping at Shepherd's Bush. I'd had a special switch put on the dashboard of my car which gave the impression of engine trouble when it was pulled.'

'As we got to the Theatre I pulled the switch and the car started to jerk along. I said "I'll just pull up here and look under the bonnet." The cameras moved in - just in time to catch Captain Barclay saying "Here, get me a taxi - this... thing's broken down."'

What if The Subject gets suspicious? 'I just act the dummy,' explains Danny. 'Once, when I had too much time to kill, I told The Subject that I'd forgotten to leave the wages of another chauffeur at his home.'

'So I drove over to Fulham, stopped outside a house I'd never seen before, took out an envelope I always carry for emergencies, and dropped it into the letter-box. Then I drove to meet Eamonn. I suppose there's somebody wondering to this day what that empty envelope was doing on his mat.'

Other Roman-isms for delaying a journey have included stopping at police stations for directions, or going into a hospital. 'Must enquire after a driver who's sick,' he tells the 'Life'.

Small wonder Arthur Christiansen, the former editor of the Daily Express, gave Danny a 'coating' - Danny's expression for a telling off - when he was being driven to his rendezvous with Eamonn.

Danny first picked him up in Mayfair. Christiansen thinking that he was being driven to meet Kenneth Adam, Controller of Programmes, at the Television Centre.

'I started off by getting into all the traffic jams I could find because I had heaps of time to get there,' Danny recalls. 'He was calling me all the idiots under the sun. "Are you a Cockney?" he demanded at one stage, "because you certainly don't know where you are."'

'I kept saying "Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir," and carried on driving. He finally said, "Don't keep saying you're sorry. I'll get out and catch a taxi in a minute. Now where are you going?" We'd got out at Hammersmith - and I still had fifteen minutes to spare. So I went on to Chiswick - miles from the Television Centre. He turned round to his 'Minder' - that's what we call the person accompanying The Subject - and said in despair "Where did you get him from?" But he apologised after the programme.'

There was just one time when it looked as if Danny wouldn't get his man to the cameras. That was when he was on his way to pick up the Rev. David Sheppard - and found that he really had a puncture. But he got the tyre changed just in time, only to meet another snag.

Sheppard, who thought he was going to a special conference at an Islington's boys' club, wanted to use his own car - and that was too risky.

So Danny did a little tinkering with Sheppard's car. When Sheppard couldn't get it to go Danny offered to look under the bonnet, pronounced ignition trouble, and offered him a lift.

Danny has just one regret - that he couldn't drive Russ Conway to his date with his 'Life'. For Russ was 'caught' for the programme while rehearsing one of his own shows.

'I wasn't needed,' says Danny. 'Pity. Back in the days he was Trevor Stanford we both served together in the same ship on the Far East run. I'd like to have driven my old shipmate to his "Life"'