Frank BRUNO (1961-)

Frank Bruno This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 855
  • Subject No: 844
  • Broadcast date: Wed 3 Feb 1993
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Tue 26 Jan 1993
  • Venue: Teddington Studios
  • Series: 33
  • Edition: 19
  • Code name: Glove

on the guest list...

  • Laura - wife
  • Lynette - mother
  • Michael - brother
  • Faye - sister
  • Joan - sister
  • Peter Mooney - father-in-law
  • Mary Mooney - mother-in-law
  • George Francis
  • Mickey Duff
  • Nigel Benn
  • Duke McKenzie
  • Horace Notice
  • John Conteh
  • Freddie Starr
  • Nicola - daughter
  • Rachel - daughter
  • Harry Carpenter
  • John Urwin
  • Allan Lawrence
  • Joan Lawrence
  • Roy Castle
  • Father Tony McSweeney
  • Reg Gutteridge
  • message from Muhammad Ali
  • Tom Sheby
  • message from HRH Prince of Wales
  • Jimmy Savile
  • Eddie O'Gorman
  • Mike Jackson
  • Lennox Lewis
  • Henrietta - grandmother
  • Eddie - brother
  • Edina - niece
  • Jonathan - nephew
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Lenny Henry
  • Syd Little
  • Eddie Large
  • Phil Collins

production team...

  • Researcher: Sarah Ann Cockcroft
  • Writer: Norman Giller
  • Directors: Brian Klein, Malcolm Morris
  • Associate Producer: John Graham
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...
Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life Frank Bruno This Is Your Life

Screenshots of Frank Bruno This Is Your Life

Frank Bruno's biography

Frank Bruno recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his book, From Zero to Hero, written with This Is Your Life scriptwriter Norman Giller...

The Frank Bruno 'hit' was planned just like a military operation. Somehow we had to get Frank in front of the This Is Your Life cameras without raising his suspicions. Laura, our chief co-conspirator, warned us that Frank would take some catching because he is such an alert character. 'It's got to be something really believable to get him,' she told the associate producer John Graham. 'If he guesses what's going on he'll run a mile.'

Having got Laura's reluctant go-ahead ('He'll murder me'), the Life hit team was called to a planning meeting at Teddington Studios by producer Malcolm Morris. I was present in my role as scriptwriter, along with presenter Michael Aspel, director Brian Klein, script editor Roy Bottomley, John Graham and researcher Sarah Cockcroft. This was in the second week of December 1992. The recording date was set for 26 January 1993, with transmission scheduled for the following week.

We had drawn up a list of possible guests, and it was reckoned that including Frank's relatives and closest friends there would be about seventy people on set. There would need to be relatives flown in from the West Indies, and we put in calls to the United States to see whether Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson would be available to join us live at Teddington Studios. Our main concentration was on planning what is known in Life jargon as the 'pick up' or 'hit'. Frank was given the codename 'Glove', and from that first meeting until the day of the show nobody even used his proper name. Security at the Life office is MI5-tight. Any hint of a leak and the show is dropped.

We explored several pick-up possibilities, including Michael climbing into the ring disguised as a referee, invading Frank's gymnasium and also sneaking in at the ringside while he was being interviewed by Harry Carpenter. We dropped them all because the security risk was too great. Finally we settled on bringing Frank's pal Freddie Starr in on the secret. They had recently recorded a Freddie Starr Special for Central Television, and Laura booked Frank to go to the office of Central to see an unedited preview of the show with Freddie.

Frank Bruno recalls:

'Laura told me that Freddie's producer had phoned to suggest that I should see the unedited version in case there was anything I wanted to change. He had also wanted me there, so Laura said, to have some publicity shots taken with Freddie. This struck me as a bit odd because when I was recording the show with Freddie in the Midlands there was a Central Television photographer taking pictures right, left and centre. But you don't stop and think, 'This has got to be a catch. They're setting me up for This Is Your Life.' So I told Laura to go ahead and accept the date. Freddie is a good old mate of mine, and I would not think twice about going to see him even though this usually meant non-stop leg-pulling. But Laura was right. If I had had even the slightest suspicion it was for a This Is Your Life programme I would have run a mile. I love the show when it's about other people but, believe it or believe it not, I'm a pretty shy man at heart and always felt I would have died of embarrassment.'

Frank was sitting in the Central viewing room watching the screen alongside Freddie Starr when Michael Aspel made his entrance followed by two cameramen with hand-held cameras. Frank was concentrating on watching a sketch in which he appeared with Freddie. Suddenly he looked up to see Michael approaching with the Big Red Book. Frank was relaxed when he first saw Michael. He thought he must be there for Freddie. Then, as it dawned on him that he was the subject, Frank looked as shocked as if he been hit on the jaw. He was speechless as Michael said the famous words: 'Frank Bruno, tonight This Is Your Life.'

Frank Bruno recalls:

'I just couldn't believe that Laura had kept this secret from me. Freddie kissed me on cheek and said, 'Gotcha, Big Man.' I was in a daze as of the Central office and into a waiting limousine. Even then I wondered if it was a wind-up by Freddie.'

'I could not hold back the tears when my grandma Henrietta came on. She was now eighty-nine, and it was fantastic to think she had made the second flight of her life just to be with me. Laura later told me that she had insisted that the Life team do their very best to get both my grandmothers over, but unfortunately my father's mother, who lives in Dominica, was not well enough to travel. It really hurt me just a week or so after my world title victory when a national newspaper tried to make it seem that I had ignored my Grandma Felicite. I will not drop down to their gutter level and discuss the story. Just let me say that my conscience is clear, and I will happily put up my record of what I have done for family members against anybody else's.'

'I was thrilled by the This Is Your Life tribute, although I found it uncomfortable at times when people were saying such nice things to my face. I had always wondered whether the subjects knew what was about to happen when Michael Aspel handed them the book. But now I know that they do not have a clue. Laura told me that she had been warned that if I got as much as a whiff that I was to be the subject, the show would be dropped. The element of surprise is so important to the show. Every time I watch the programme now I know just how the person in the 'hot seat' is feeling. You have a mixture of shock bewilderment and most of all, pride. Believe me, it's a tremendous honour to have Michael Aspel presenting you with the Red Book. Incidentally, the book that is given to you at the end of the show contains Michael's script and is taken back once the cameras are switched off. A couple of weeks later you receive a gold-embossed red book that is packed with colour photographs taken during the show and featuring the moment that you greet every guest that comes on. It has a pride of place in my home and will always remind me of a memorable night when I was not ashamed to cry on television.'

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

The popularity of heavyweight Frank Bruno transcends the fight game. His 'Know what I mean, Harry?' in banter with commentator Harry Carpenter (another Life subject) has become a national catchphrase.

On 26 January 1993, he was with comedian Freddie Starr at the London headquarters of Central Television, watching a preview of Freddie's Easter 'special', which featured the two of them in a sketch. Frank wasn't aware Michael Aspel was 'on the bill'.

Frank Bruno This Is Your Life

Frank's wife Laura and pretty daughters Nicola, ten and Rachel, six, were waiting to surprise him, and so was Harry Carpenter.

ITV's boxing commentator Reg Gutteridge read a warm letter from Muhammad Ali.

There was a letter, too, from Prince Charles, thanking him for his work on behalf of the Prince's Trust, which helps deserving young people.

'I am sorry I can't be with you. It would give you a terrible shock and probably embarrass you dreadfully,' wrote Charles.

But the biggest surprise was the 'voice off' which said, 'I've got the belt you want, Frank, and one day I'll give you the chance to take it off me.'

The voice belonged to Britain's first World Heavyweight Champion this century – Lennox Lewis.

But Big Frank was floored in the last round by a little old lady – his eighty-four-year-old grandmother, Henrietta, our surprise fly-in from Kingston, Jamaica.

Former world champion Mike Tyson was missing from Frank Bruno's Life, but needed no excuses: he was still in prison. Researcher Sarah Cockcroft persuaded the warden to allow Tyson to film a message for us. Alas, Tyson had become depressed and reclusive, and wouldn't face the camera.

Series 33 subjects

Barbara Windsor | Dickie Bird | Frazer Hines | Pat Kerr | Juliet Mills | William Tarmey | Ellen Pollock | Tessa Sanderson
Peter Saunders | Anthony Newley | Bert Weedon | Glen Murphy | Les Dawson | John Surtees | Shirley Bassey
Albert and Michel Roux | Anthony Jones | Lynda Bellingham | Frank Bruno | Johnnie Hamp | Honor Blackman | Sister Aquinas
Roddy McDowall | Jimmy White | Peggy Spencer | Jackie Collins | Derek Fowlds | Nat Lofthouse | Ann Miller | George Melly