Kathy STAFF (1928-2008)

Kathy Staff This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 647
  • Subject No: 640
  • Broadcast date: Wed 21 Mar 1984
  • Broadcast time: 8.00-8.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 7 Mar 1984
  • Venue: Royalty Theatre
  • Series: 24
  • Edition: 22
  • Code name: Legs

on the guest list...

  • Ronald Allen
  • Sue Lloyd
  • Stan Stennett
  • Sue Hanson
  • Paul Henry
  • John - husband
  • Susan - daughter
  • Katherine - daughter
  • David - son-in-law
  • Constance - sister
  • Derrick - brother-in-law
  • Joe Gladwin
  • Jane Freeman
  • Peter Sallis
  • Bill Owen
  • Doris Hare
  • Richard Jeffree
  • Mimi Langley
  • Yvonne Fisher
  • Joyce Henson
  • Finolla Crow
  • Roy Barraclough
  • Sam Higginbottom - uncle
  • Harry Higginbottom - uncle
  • Cyril Harrington - cousin
  • Janet Harrington - cousin
  • Frances Binkliff - cousin
  • Carolyn Hodge - cousin
  • Ian Hodge - cousin
  • Stella Harrington
  • Lucy Leech
  • Sarah Leech
  • Jason Leech
  • Rev Denis Thomas
  • Barbara Windsor
  • Irina Baronova
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Gerald Harper
  • John Schlesinger

production team...

  • Researcher: David Mason
  • Writers: Tom Brennand Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Terry Yarwood Michael D Kent
  • Associate Producer: Brian Klein
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Motel Life

Crossroads' finest

The Good Life

the sitcom stars

When a life hangs in the balance

TV Times reveals more behind-the-scenes stories

Roy Barraclough

Doris Hare

Gerald Harper

Bill Owen

Barbara Windsor

Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life Kathy Staff This Is Your Life

Screenshots of Kathy Staff This Is Your Life

Kathy Staff's autobiography

Kathy Staff recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in her autobiography, My Story - Wrinkles and All...

Every year around Eastertime, the Daily Star gives Golden Star awards to people who had done brave things, and brave children, especially, are often singled out. There would be a luncheon at the Savoy in London, and they would have a celebrity sitting at each table, so that the people getting the awards and their families all had a bit of fun during the meal.

I'd been invited to one or two of these Golden Star award ceremonies in the past, so I wasn't surprised one day in March in 1984 when the producer of Crossroads, Jack Barton, came to me and said, 'We've had a letter from the Daily Star asking if you can go to the Golden Star awards lunch next Wednesday.'

I said, 'Oh yes, I've been before.'

'Would you like to go this time?'

'Well, the trouble is, it's on a Wednesday. What about your producer's run?'

'Oh well, it won't matter for once. Actually there are quite a few children getting awards this year and, as you know, we have the storyline coming up when you're going to look after Glenda's baby.'

The storyline was that Glenda, played by Lynette McMorrough, was going to have a test-tube baby. Lynette was married to one of the cameramen who worked on the programme, Simon Albu, and she was really pregnant, so we followed her pregnancy all the way through, and then when the baby, Emily, was born, she came into the programme as the newborn, supposedly test-tube, baby. Doris had to look after her, and after a while the story was that poor Doris went a bit cuckoo and ran off with the baby.

Jack was saying casually, 'Actually, it would be quite good publicity for us if you did go down, because we could take your photograph with all these little children who have done brave things.'

Well, it sounded quite plausible. I wasn't suspicious. I said, 'Yes, well if you're willing to let me have next Wednesday off, it would be lovely.'

So I travelled down on the train from Birmingham on Wednesday morning, with Jill, the publicity girl from Crossroads. I enjoyed the lunch at the Savoy, and I was photographed with the wonderful children who had all been very brave. Then Jill, who had wandered off somewhere, came back and said, 'Thames Television have just been on the telephone and wondered if you would go over and do a little interview for News at Ten, with the children?'

I was very surprised and said, 'News at Ten? I can't stay that late. I'm in the studios tomorrow.'

'No, well,' she said, 'they said they could the interview at seven o'clock, record it with you and the children, and put it out at ten, on the news.'

'Can they do that? And will that give us enough time to get back for the train?' I asked.

'Oh yes, I've checked that, and there is a train that will get us back.'

So I said, 'Yes, well, all right. I'll do that. It'll be nice.'

She went off to telephone and came back and said, 'I've told them you'll do it, and they've been very good, and they said that as you're staying in town until seven o'clock, they'll give us a car.'

Now, I should have known. This car was to take me anywhere I wanted in London. 'My goodness!' I said. 'How wonderful!' But I should have known.

There was just me and Jill, the publicity girl, and by this time it was half past four. She asked me where I wanted to go, and I said, 'What shops will still be open?'

'What about Harvey Nichols?'

'Yes, that would be good.'

So we went to Harvey Nichols. Then after a bit she said, 'Would you mind coming with me to Harrods next? I've never been there and I'd love to have a look round.'

I said, 'Are you sure they'll still be open? I mean, I don't mind. I'd love to.'

'Yes, I've checked. They'll still be open.'

So the car took us and let us out at the side entrance, and the chauffeur said, 'I’ll wait here for you.'

I was growing extremely puzzled – but I should have known something strange was going on.

We went in, and she said, 'I'd like to look at bedding. Do you mind coming with me?'

'No. I don't mind. I don't mind what I do,' I said.

We were walking through women's wear, and I saw a camera out of the corner of my eye, and I said, 'Oh dear, there's a camera over there. They must be setting up for a mannequin parade.' And I deliberately went the other way, which I always do whenever I see a camera.

We got to the lifts and Jill said, 'It's the sixth floor' and pressed the bell. Suddenly a lift arrived behind us, on the other side, so I was running across to catch it, and she called out, 'No! No! Don't go in that lift!'

'Whyever not?'

She said, 'Well... um... um... it's making a funny noise.'

You know how it starts to ping when the light flashes? – ping, ping, ping, ping, ping – to make you hurry up. I said, 'It's only the light thing...' but by this time the doors had closed. So we stood there again, and the other lift arrived, and I went to get in... and the whole cast of Crossroads were standing in it. I couldn't believe it. I'd left them all in Birmingham that morning, getting ready for the producer's run. I just stood there, gawping at them in complete amazement.

And then, Eamonn Andrews came out from behind them all and said, 'Kathy Staff, this is your life.' I still couldn't believe it. Eamonn took me away by car, with the producer, and I said, 'Does John know?' And they said, 'Don't ask any questions.'

Kathy Staff This Is Your Life

We drove to the Playhouse Theatre, Kingsway, which Thames used to use, [Bigredbook.info editor: it was actually the Royalty Theatre] and because there was an audience still waiting to go in, we had to drive round the block again. Eamonn said, 'You mustn't get out, you mustn't be seen.'

And when I did finally get out of the car they flung a coat over my head, like a prisoner, so nobody could see who I was. They put me in a dressing-room on my own, where I found a few of my own dresses from home hanging up for me to choose from, so I thought, 'Oh, so John does know.'

John had actually stayed in London the night before, but because I had been staying in Birmingham, I didn't know. All the family had stayed the night in a hotel. They'd all been in the plot for weeks, but honestly I had not a clue. That night, after the programme, I stayed with them all in the hotel, and got the train back up to Birmingham the next morning.

Kathy Staff This Is Your Life

The Thames Television code-name for me, when they had been setting up the whole thing, had been 'Legs'. I’ve still got the Big Red Book, with the script and the photographs they showed, and everyone who was there, all black and white in those days. John, Katherine and Susan were there. My sister Con, and her husband Derrick, were there, but not their two girls, my nieces Alison and Helen, which was a terrible shame. And I was very disappointed that neither Jan Davies – one of my dearest friends, who I always stayed with when working in London – nor our oldest and closest friends, Sheila and Jim Burton, were on the programme. Unfortunately they're only really interested in getting theatricals on.

All the Crossroads cast came except Noele Gordon, who had just left the series. And most of the Summer Wine cast, including Joe Gladwin, Peter Sallis, Bill Owen and Jane Freeman, who I was supposed to be meeting the next day in Birmingham for lunch. I said, 'You might have told me.'

I was surprised and delighted to be greeted by Doris Hare. I had done a very funny charity show with Doris, and Peggy Mount. We'd had all the leading men from different West End shows singing, 'Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by' and Doris, Peggy and I – done up as Nora Batty – had come on as 'the girls'.

They had even dug up old friends from my repertory days in 1949. One boy, Richard Jeffree, told the story about the problems with Sally the dog when I was Elizabeth Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street. Mimi Gale, my dear friend, came on, and Yvonne Fisher, another leading lady with the International Players.

Gerald Harper was on, but he was working, so he was recorded. Then there was John Schlesinger, also on video, talking about my playing Mrs Oliphant in A Kind of Loving, his and my first ever film. (I had only had two tiny scenes in it, playing Thora's neighbour) Roy Barraclough, my mate, came all the way over from Germany to be on.

Irina Baranova, a ballet star, was the final guest. That was funny. John must have told them about the time when he and I had gone to a cinema in Llanelli one afternoon after we first met, to see a film starring John Clements, called Train of Events. I suddenly remembered in the middle of the film that I had a performance at five o'clock, so we had had to whip out of the cinema before it finished. On This Is Your Life they showed us the end of the film – which we'd never seen. And then this Irina Baranova – who was the female star of the film, a ballet dancer – came on, all the way from Switzerland.

About two weeks later, I was working on Crossroads, and I noticed I had one or two little spots on my neck. I went to see the nurse and she got the doctor to have a look at me. He said it was shingles. I asked if it was contagious, and he said no, it wasn't, and I'd be all right to carry on working, but not to let anybody know, or else they might all walk out. Luckily it was mainly on my body at first, so no one could see, but by the next day, Friday, a lot more spots had appeared.

John came to collect me at the end of the day, because we were supposed to be going to see The Dresser, a film I had just been in, but I said, 'Oh, please, just take me home.' I felt terrible. By the time Saturday came I was completely covered in spots, all up my neck, behind my ear, and all down one side of my face.

I was doing a programme from home for Yorkshire Television, and I had had to sign a big long form for the insurance, in case I fell over a cable or whatever, and it had said on it, 'When were you last examined by a doctor?'

I had put: 1959.

'What was the result of this examination?'

I had put: A baby!

I've never been ill, either before or since, so I can only think it was the shock of doing This is Your Life that gave me the shingles. Not very long after that, the two girls and I were all on Roy Barraclough's This Is Your Life, because Susan and Katherine always used to call him 'Daddy Number Two' when they were little. I said to Roy, 'Now do be careful, I got the shingles after mine.' But it did no good. He got the shingles as well.

Series 24 subjects

John Mills | Norman Parkinson | Chaim Topol | Pat Jennings | Susannah York | Stuart Henry | George Thomas | Richard Noble
Matthew Kelly | Gloria Cameron | Geraint Evans | Matthew Lethbridge | Liza Goddard | Terry Lawless | Jim Davidson
Chris Gittins | Bob Todd | Nerys Hughes | Mike Spring | Eddie Macken | Freddie Starr | Kathy Staff
Jenny Pitman | Brian Blessed | Laddie Lucas | Danny La Rue