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The Freelance Life

Back from Spain - back to reality. Late 1983 and freelance work in the television industry is practically non-existent. None of the ITV companies were allowed to hire freelance technical staff, thanks to unionism at that time. The BBC had endless staff on hooks waiting for a chance to show their mettle. I had fired off a few letters but no response. Wait a minute though...didn't Lew Grade promise to set me up in films? It's the wrap party for the Liberace series at Madam Taussauds - I had given my notice in a couple of weeks previous with the intention of getting into film sound. I had formed a company (Sound On Film) and budgeted some equipment and was raring to go. The Liberace wrap party is going swell and I see ATV executive Leslie Abbott talking to Lew Grade and nodding in my direction. Lew crosses over, puts his arm around my shoulders; "I hear you're planning to leave us Ted?'‘ "Yes sir, I thought I'd try my luck in the film world'‘.  "You want to be in films - you come and see me, I am films!" His huge cigar is precariously close to my tie and the smoke is stinging my eyes. "Thank you sir" is all I can muster. "However", he continues with lowered voice.

:"The business at the moment is not good, when the time is ripe we'll see what we can do. In the mean time we'll look after you. Wwho is your head of department?" He got to me at the right time. I was having a twinge of cold feet. It had lately occurred to me that working in films didn't give total control of the sound output. On a TV Special, or sit-com, or whatever, the sound director is responsible for the final product, warts and all. In films, you may be a sound recordist where your location stuff is passed onto an editing suite. Or, a dubbing assistant finding sound effects - or a final dub sound mixer at the behest of the film director. I am summoned to the office of Dickie Bonafaux and asked to reconsider my resignation for a monetary consideration. I get a £1500 a year rise and a rocket from the union for having the gall to negotiate a contract without their permission. I am nearly drummed out of the union. Years later, before driving to Spain, I had fired off a letter to Lord Grade. I get a response eventually. ‘Lord Grade regrets that at this time . . . .' etc. Well, let's not blame Lew; it was nearly ten years ago. However, I had also sent my CV to a new facility - Limehouse Television, which was situated on the Isle of Dogs in East London. This innovative building was built on the site of a rum and banana warehouse on Canary Wharf. Within days of my coming home, Head of Sound Ron Payne rang and booked me to do a sit-com the following week. The concept is two girls in an East End high rise, quite a nice show; not unlike Birds of a Feather. Director John Kaye Cooper had left LWT and I am hired for the series. This is immediately followed by a drama series Winter Sunlight then another sit-com series Relative Strangers with Matthew Kelly. The months go by and I am working in Limehouse on a regular basis. The Isle of Dogs was a controversial area in those days. Derelict warehouses were being converted into luxury apartments which the locals could not afford. The railway bridge over the entrance carried the threatening graffiti ‘Kill a yuppie a day'. I was no yuppie but kept the car doors firmly locked. Limehouse Studios was high tech and a joy to work at. The atmosphere there was terrific. Unionism has faded into the background and the camera department, largely from BBC and LWT, was of the highest professional standard. Margaret Thatcher topped the bill at the opening of the studios where a couple of hundred people had gathered. The catering was supervised by Lorna who owned the floating restaurant moored outside the complex. Gloria (the receptionist with the ‘mostest') supervised just about everything else from her station in the luxurious reception area. Seemingly constantly on duty, Gloria epitomised the friendly structure of the entire Limehouse organization. Lines of demarcation were blurred and everybody seemed to muck in to help everybody else; the ‘one big happy family' concept was very much in evidence. Working there consistently for over eighteen months I had the pleasure of sound directing some wonderful shows. Emma Thompson did a special and we could see her talent was easily going to exceed the confines of a television screen. Derek Jacobi starred in a lavish version of Cyrano de Bergerac, which was shot on video and edited on film before re-transfer to video for the sound dub; a complicated process that offered three lots of time-code read-out virtually covering the picture when viewing for sound dubbing. The dub went on until 4:00 am and director Michael Simpson would have gone on for longer nit-picking the final battle sequence had I not got a flight booked out of Heathrow that morning. A classy Michel Legrand concert at the Royal Festival Hall starred Stephan Grappelli and Nancy Wilson with a sixty-piece orchestra. We recorded the sound digitally (a first for me) and re-mixed in one of the two super Limehouse sound control rooms. This Special was directed by David G. Hillier (ATV Starburst Shows) It was obvious that Limehouse was luring the cream of the directorial freelance world. The Spitting Image team had their puppet factory on site and recorded many shows there. Then, look what happened? It got bull-dozed to make way for the massive office block domineering Canary Wharf. That beautiful studio complex zilched for a financial workplace in up-and-coming Docklands. But long before that I was offered a staff job, which I reluctantly turned down (I was making more dosh freelance than I ever earned at ATV) so they hired David Taylor, also from LWT, who took over my turf. I still got work,though not as frequently. The Treasure Hunt series came my way for three series. Also, a lengthy stint on The Business Daily programme for Channel Four emanating from Docklands and later from the Trocadero complex in Piccadilly. The Business Daily went out live at 5:00 am with various transmissions and pre-recorded inserts throughout the morning until the main (un-rehearsed) half hour transmission at midday. With more business talking heads inserts in the afternoon, this could turn into a long day. Five of those, on the run, and you needed more than a cold shower! The outside recordings of The Business Daily were much more fun. We dashed about the City of London recording business stuff which was invariably biked back for the midday transmission. If we had time, we grabbed a bite on the road. Once, in a City pub, we scoffed down a quick burger before returning to our vehicle to find the cameraman had left the camera (£20,000's worth) in the pub. It was retrieved and no, I'm not naming the cameraman. Some finance centres had a land-line to Limehouse obviating the need for a bike but the plugging meant that often there would only be seconds to go before needed. I well remember an insert at the Daily Mirror with Robert Maxwell. The reporter, who would conduct the interview, was late and Bob was getting irate. When he finally arrived he explained that he had been delayed because of a fire in Fleet Street. Bob exploded and got on the phone to his editor; "There's a ****** fire on my doorstep and I'm the last to know it?" he ranted.

The reporters on The Business Daily were all well educated guys and girls with a massive grasp of the finance world. They travelled with us often in the truck working out their complicated questions en route. If there was time a hostelry might be visited. Dermot Murnaghan (BBC News now at Sky TV) discovered a watering hole that offered genuine Guinness from the barrel. Another reporter, Hugh Pym (now BBC) was miles over six feet tall and he always had to bend at the knees when doing a piece to camera. The Limehouse sound crew was headed by Ron Payne with Roy Drysdale. They were both from Southern Television and were the natural choice to be lured by the ex-STV directors who had just lost their franchise (remember Jimmy Gatward?). The Limehouse dream was their creation. Chris Blake and Dave Chapman were both previously running a sound mobile truck (owned by Richard Branson). I had worked with them before on the No Excuses series at ATV when we recorded on location. Steve Blincoe also ex-STV was a bona fide boom operator, now a firmly established sound recordist in the freelance world. Judy Headman and Alex Rutherford were the other sound assistants. Both Ron Payne and Roy Drysdale had immense opera experience from their STV Glynebourne days and they continued in this vein at Canary Wharf. On one opera I tracked two booms (brought back memories) during a ninety minute non-stop transmission. A huge orchestra in one studio  was relayed (sound and picture) to the other studio with the conductor on separate picture monitors for the performers to follow. After Limehouse died Chris Blake and Dave Chapman formed their own sound production company Audio Facilities Ltd. Nearly twenty years later they are still going strong - I would have liked to have been a part of that consortium.

The Limehouse experience for me was as close to ATV as I could possibly have got, great equipment, great crews and great shows. Not all big flag wavers, a mixture of kid's things, cooking and corporate stuf, you name it - but it had more than tied me over after the demise of ATV. In 1985 I was hired to sound direct the Bob Hope 80th Birthday Special at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftsbury Avenue. The event would also be a fund raiser for Prince Phillip's World Wildlife Fund. Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion would produce the show. Dwight would direct from a temporary set-up under the stage whilst I would be in a sound truck outside the stage door. Because of the complexity of the rig I had an extra 18-channel sound desk under my feet. As usual, everything was going to multi-track but I still did an on-line mix. Rather than sit back and check that all the microphones were peaking correctly, I could not but help mixing the programme as if it was going out live. The orchestra, under the direction of Alan Ferguson, was squeezed into the back stage wings on the proscenium arch side, a situation they vehemently (and uselessly) complained to me about. My sound crew was a mix of stage technicians and two freelancers I had never met before. One musical item with the band Duran Duran was pre-recorded at 10:30 pm the night before the show proper. During this recording Bob Hope, having checked into his hotel, arrived at the stage door only to be turned away by the stage door keeper, who, apparently never recognized him! Happily, Mr. Hope found this very funny. On the night, the show was not far short of chaotic. Charlton Heston was starring in The Caine Mutiny in a nearby theatre. Because his show overran he had to rush to our theatre, still made-up and in the rain to do something with boxer Marvin Hagler - I know not what! A couple of artistes failed to show and quick rescheduling was necessary. Ventriloquist Ray Allen with his puppet Lord Charles extended his act and Bernadette Peters performed a terrific song and dance number with a radio microphone stuffed down her low-cut dress. I kept fingers crossed that the mic wouldn't fall out as she was thrown from side to side by dancers. There was virtually no rehearsals whatsoever because most of the performers were doing other things or travelling. Film star Debbie Reynolds was ‘under the weather' or on some medication as her vocal performance was ‘marred'.  Never mind, said Dwight, over talk-back, we'll re-voice her in the States. Patrick Allen, the voice-over king, had previously pre-recorded all the introductory announcements which were played in on the night. Towards the end of the evening, one of my sound people had given a radio microphone kit to Prince Phillip's Equerry as the Duke was to appear on stage with Bob Hope receiving the World Wildlife Fund cheque. Ordinary human beings were not allowed near the Duke, so the sound guy explained to the Equerry how to connect it before leaving the royal box. When the Duke arrived on stage, I faded up his microphone and got shuuuush! Despite careful tutoring, the Equerry had not plugged the microphone into the transmitter - idiot. His excuse was that the vital connecting cable had not been presented to him. Dwight was convinced that I could fix this later. I recommended a voice dub with an impersonator! Several days later, I got a small package containing the vital connecting cable without explanation - presumably from somebody at the Palace?

Bob Hope's monologue to the audience was also marred because he was not able to see the cue cards. After the show finished and when the audience had gone, Gary Smith mustered up all the crew and stage people (anybody he could find) to sit in the first few rows of the stalls while Bob re-did his monologue on camera to bigger cue cards. Five sixteen-track audio tapes were handed over from the sound truck to production manager, Billy Glaze who immediately got them to Heathrow for shipping to Los Angeles. Two days later, I get a phone call at lunchtime.‘Is that Ted Scott?'‘


"Hi Ted, this Rod in LA, still waiting for the sound tapes

'‘What sound tapes?'‘

"Bob Hope's 80th - we can't proceed without them".

'I explain that I have no jurisdiction over the sound tapes once the show is over. Rod is distraught however and still thinks I've got them, holding them to ransom perhaps? Dwight is sitting in an LA editing suite twiddling his thumbs and wanting to re-voice Debbie Reynolds by dumping her original vocal performance and using the band tracks on the multi-track tapes. Dwight had not used a vision mixer to cut the show as it was progressing. Instead, he had isolated all the camera outputs to separate recording machines and was now faced with a massive edit job. Juggling the items around meant that Patrick Allen's intros were often wrong, i.e., ‘And now, here is Bernadette Peters' had to be transformed to ‘. . And that was Bernadette Peters'

Patrick had to redo most of his tracks which were then flown out to LA.

The missing sound tapes were eventually traced to New York via Pan Am - then never to be seen again. Were they lying in a remote customs shed in Alaska or Bali? Dwight had to go along with my on-line mix. From a sound balance point of view it was quite transmittable, obviously nothing could be done voice replacement-wise and nor could the sound be re-laid to avoid generation problems. They were stuck with what they had. The show went out coast-to-coast the following night. A coast-to-coast transmission involved all the station affiliates to record the show ‘down the line' for later transmission at their local times. After multi-editing by Dwight and safety copying, this meant that the show went out with something like eighth generation sound - rather hissy, I imagine? But, what if a decent on-line mix hadn't been available?

Famous photographer Keith Ewart had invested in a television facility in Wandsworth. Ewarts was a popular venue and I did many, many productions there. Lots of Muppet Show stuff re-edited by Pete Harris for VHS sales brought back old Muppet memories as we re-worked the songs and sketches. A Paul Daniels series was fascinating, if only because Paul worked without shoes on and liked everybody else to do the same. I saw his stage show in London and still think he is one of the best visual comedic/magic performers ever. A two hour show, just him, Debbie and the audience - time flew.

An interesting Ewarts contract for me was After Dark. This involved a live chat show from midnight onwards with a mixture of guests who sat round a table laden with food and drink. Cameras were out of sight behind gauze and producer Sebastian Scott requested that the guests were not to be mike'd up in case they wanted to leave suddenly (which they sometimes did!) and that no microphones should be seen in shot as this would spoil the illusion of an informal get together. Always willing to experiment, I placed small microphones under the ledge of the table held with lots of camera tape encased in rubber. There was invariably a bowl of fruit on the table and I hid a microphone in there as well. Of course, there was no rehearsal as the guests often arrived five minutes before transmission and occasionally later. It was all a bit hit and miss. Some guests had no voice, others yelled. The surfeit of alcohol didn't help and glasses suddenly banging down on a table with six hidden microphones could have certainly aroused any viewers still watching. To keep us alert in the early hours, Keith often popped into the sound control room with his parrot to have a chat. Him, me and the parrot! One memorable day occurred when I was contacted in the morning by a production company to operate a boom that very night in the Molinaire Studios, off Piccadilly. It was to be a live election programme. On arrival the director, who had never seen a boom before, was concerned that I would keep getting in shot. The audience of sixty or so, ‘don't knows' questioned a panel of well known politicians. My boom had a television monitor and I was able to dip in and out for the questions without being seen. After a short mock rehearsal, the director was so impressed that he insisted I get a credit on the end roller. This was extremely unusual. After the transmission, I arrived at Ewarts for the After Dark rig. Keith had obviously watched the pre-election broadcast (Molinaire being a rival production house). He and his parrot passed me in reception;‘Busy day, Ted?' he enquired with a knowing smile. You bet Keith! I hadn't finished my busy day by a long chalk. After Dark came off air at 3:30 am. I drove to Docklands for an early morning recording of Treasure Hunt coming from Australia (hence the time slip). On Treasure Hunt we never got the visual output of Anneka Rice's end of the show, just audio. This was relayed to the floor via earpieces for Kenneth Kendall, Wincy Willis and the contestants. It was imperative that the contestants never heard the pre-show chat between the director and Annika otherwise they would know - end of show. Director Chris Gage would not have forgiven me for that despite being the most charming and talented young lady.

Another nice contract was The Ticket. This was a programme for Southern Television visiting all the theatres in the south of England. Martin Hawkins both lit and operated the camera. We recorded inserts of many productions on tour. Wayne Sleep gave a very serious interview on the ballet scene in Hastings! The charming Michael Aspel ‘compelled' us to sample his latest batch of claret, making us late for an interview with Ronnie Corbett. During this I had to stop the recording as I was picking up taxis on the radio mike. Shortly after, Martin stopped the recording further because he ran out of battery power for the camera. Mr. Corbett was very unimpressed. ‘Never happens at the BBC' he snorted.

Again another nice freelance venue for me was CTVC at Bushey, Herts. The studios in lush grounds were conceived by J. Arthur Rank as a religious teaching centre. Now it was doing more commercial productions which included a long-running children's series. The sound department was run by Harry Jacobs and John Parker (both ex-ATV). I did a ‘fish-pole' for John at Ford Open Prison amidst a bunch of ‘hardened' criminals who were living in conditions that both John and I would not have complained at. Another job assigned to me was working with seven bishops being shown the ‘tricks' of appearing comfortable on telly, or radio broadcasts. Those that know me will ponder how I was chosen for this task?

William G. Stewart hired me to do a mock version of a show called Fifteen To One. I pointed out that fifteen microphones offered the possibility of a late fade or two. To obviate that, I devised a system where all the microphones were recorded onto tape before the fader, so a late fade of a contestant could be found and reinserted later. I understand the facility was often used by the sound guys at Ewarts. The sound crew there always went unrecognised on the roller. Unfairly I think, just because they were ‘merely' a facilities house. They contributed stacks of programmes for the networks. A call from an equipment hire facility (ESP) got me on to Birds of a Feather. The pilot for Alomo Productions was made at the Elstree Film Studio, a four wall studio. This entails all equipment having to be temporarily wheeled in for the show. A nightmare scenario for everyone. For the pilot, the director, vision mixer and producer's assistant sat in the back of a small van watching several TV monitors a few feet away, whilst I was ensconced in the cab on a reversed passenger seat with a portable sound mixer virtually on my lap. I wore headphones to mix as the constant chat from the team just in front of me was very off-putting.  Later, we moved into rooms above the studio floor. The studio was large enough for several sets and an audience area. The sound equipment supplied by ESP was not what I was used to and neither was their crewing which was often on a hit or miss basis. Once, they provided a film boom operator who, on arrival at the studio told me he had never operated a studio boom, only a hand held ‘fish-pole' - poor guy was terrified. Later, I managed to get good boom ops like Paul Botham, John Parker, Ken Campbell, Michael Gore and Steve Lindsay whenever they were available.

From a sound perspective, all situation comedies require the services of experienced boom operators. Lighting directors like to go for optimum lighting and this usually means that booms have a problem catching sound without throwing boom shadows. In the end a compromise is found. Some cameramen like to offer the director a shot without regard for the boom. My method to combat this was to ask the boom operator to get way out of shot. As the dialogue suddenly becomes far away the director gets the message and the shot is adjusted. Once more - compromise is the order of the day. Boom operators are still gold dust. What would Coronation Street do without them? I have long maintained that all budding actors should have a radio microphone implanted in their neck - they merely have to give their frequency when being cast for a job and need never cause a problem for sound again - shall I market it? Without an expensive sound dub with a laughter machine, it is imperative that good audience pick-up is aimed for. On Birds of a Feather at Elstree, I used six audience microphones. Later, at Teddington Studios, I got up to eighteen. Even then, writers Maurice Gran and Lawrence Marks would count the audience microphones to ensure I got the best pick-up; as if I would short-change them? I am convinced that other sound crews around the world will confirm my belief that a sit-com is the most difficult type of show. It can be tricky with three or four booms to switch between, sound effects to run in and VT inserts to fade up. Plus a constant hand on the audience group fader, whilst carefully following the script and picture cutting. The average sitcom ensured that at the end of the day you will drive home whacked out. I well remember after an arduous Birds of a Feather recording, walking to the car park with cameraman Alan Beale (ex-ATV) at 11:00 pm. Woefully, he shook his head saying; ‘I'm getting too old for this' I replied; ‘Alan, I am too old for this'. The Birds of a Feather girls, Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph were a joy to work with. Wherever we went on location an audience would quickly gather and the girls would chat as if they were next door neighbours. With them, what you saw was what you got. Once at lunch on the catering bus, Linda asked my advice about buying a car (as if I knew?) she had just passed her driving test. ‘How much have you got?' I enquired. ‘Eight ‘undred quid' she replied. I pointed out she wouldn't get much for that. Bit different now eh Linda? The girls have been very successful and well deserved too. The weekly turn round of BIRDS was a nightmare. Often they went on the set without knowing their lines too well, but their good humour got them through every time. The audience may have spent longer at the studio than planned but they always went away with happy faces. We did three terrific Christmas Specials. The first in Berlin shortly after the Wall came down, with director Nic Phillips. We saw fields of derelict Russian tanks as we filmed well into East Berlin. Young Russian soldiers willing to sell their fur hats as apparently they hadn't been paid for months. The following year we went to Majorca, where we all had a ball. The wrap party was held in a local restaurant and I well remember Peter Polycarpou (Pauline's show husband) standing up after the meal and singing us a beautiful love song in Greek. He later starred in Phantom of the Opera. The third special was set in Los Angeles in the summer of 1993. Martin Hawkins was cameraman. The BIRDS storyline was the girls discovering they have a long-lost relative who transpires to be a famous personage living in Hollywood. Writer Geoff Dean had Roger Moore in mind but he was ‘unavailable' Then, Dudley Moore, also unavailable. Other names came . . . . and went. Several days before we were due to start shooting, we flew out to find locations, organize equipment and crew. A small part was written for Richard Branson and he arranged upper class flights for us; both ways. Wow! That's the only way to travel (haven't been able to do so since). Geoff Dean was hastily re-writing while production assistant Samantha (Sam) Donavon was constantly revising the script. Then we struck lucky. George Hamilton (the third) agreed to be the missing personage. Actually, he had seen Birds Of A Feather in England so he knew what he was in for. It was reported that George had a short fuse and a very busy schedule so director Charlie Hanson decided to shoot the master and all of his close-ups first then release him while we filled in the gaps. The first scene was in a famous restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway at Malibu. Script-wise, George would be found at a table with six extras until Pauline emerged from behind a curtain. There was no written dialogue for this sequence but I had installed a hidden microphone in the middle of the table. When Mr. Hamilton arrived, he was ushered to the table and I listened in. He immediately got into an animated conversation with the extras and it was soon obvious to me that George had a very long fuse and turned out to be the most charming man ever. He never bunked off early and took an avid interest in the storyline.We shot on the back lot of Universal Studios and on Rodeo Drive. A seedy motel on Sunset Blvd was also used. We also did sequences in the Mondrian Hotel, which was also on Sunset Blvd, where we were all staying. They were long days but most enjoyable. Charlie Hanson decided to get married in LA and threw a wedding party on the hotel rooftop. The ceremony was a hoot with the vicar (and his trio) singing ‘It Had to Be You' to the gorgeous bride and nervous groom. The girls were great bridesmaids. After the wrap, George Hamilton had arranged a private room at a famous LA club (I think it was the Viper Room?) where a sumptuous meal was laid on. The cost probably exceeded his fee. He was such a friendly person and while the rest of the crew danced away to the loudest disco I have ever heard, George recounted to me the sad story of his son's drug habit. We also shot a sequence in the garden of a gorgeous mansion in Beverley Hills. The fences were inundated with Armed Response signs. George told me he had a pad like that once but chucked it up because it was costing $8000 a month just for security. He regaled about the car crime in Hollywood. Apparently, they could steal a brand new Mercedes Coupe and have it totally broken down in ten minutes for parts. George drove a beautiful Rolls Bentley convertible. He said it was the only one in Hollywood and therefore un-nickable! Being booked for a series where the sound technical requirements called for seven radio microphones got me wondering. Could be a chat show I thought? No, it turned out to be Drop The Dead Donkey. Recorded at break neck speed, my little army of good boom operators were a godsend. The production team was a nervous bunch; the outside rehearsal raced along disregarding technical queries because that would interfere with the artiste's concentration. (Psst! Outside rehearsals are designed to sort out technical problems before shoot time) I never did discover who thought the show could be done on seven radio mikes. We used to play taped music as the audience were being seated. Producer Andy Hamilton asked me if I could cut out the gaps between tracks as the momentary silence might cause the audience to get restless.Another sit-com project from Alomo called Get Back starred Ray Winstone, Larry Lamb and the indestructible John Bardon (presumably still forgetting his lines in East Enders?). John only had to walk onto a set when it would virtually light up. After recordings of this gritty comedy show I wheeled the booms into the adjacent Elstree studio where I was doing Lenny Henry's Chef sit-com series, Chef was shot with film cameras. Small TV cameras had to be strapped to their filmic brothers enabling the vision mixer to cut the pictures seen by the audience. This transpired to be a convoluted method of working. The film cameras took ages to get from set to set, allowing the audience to lose concentration. Presumably, someone had seen the way the Americans do things and decided to copy. The trouble was - the Americans did it properly. Later, I embarked on another Alomo Production series The Old Boy Network. This was a spy sit-com thriller directed by the legendary Sidney Lotterby and starring Tom Conti and John Standing. With masses of telephone distort sound effects and other visual tricks that stretched the facilities offered by a four wall-er, Sydney often requested a sound effect that had to be ordered and paid for. He was unable to comprehend this having left the comfort of the BBC and well equipped ITV studios where Aladdin's Cave would be provided if requested. But, it was an unusual, well-written show and would be well worth seeing again. Robert Lindsay starred with David Threllfall and James Ellis in the weirdest ever crazy six part sit-com called Nightingales. They were night security guards. Actually, there were four guards but one had died three years earlier and the others shared his pay packet. Their inventiveness and crazy antics enhanced the production enormously. I remember one show being cancelled at the outside rehearsal stage because the artistes didn't think the script was good enough. This brilliant 13-part series directed by Tony Dow is available on DVD. Alomo also came up with a charming series called Take The Floor featuring ballroom dancing. That would be very with-it today! Goodnight Sweetheart with Nicholas Lyndhurst was another winner. Nick had been a boy star in Peter Pan (ATV 1975) and he was delighted when I was able to provide him with a VHS of that show. I did sixteen ‘Sweethearts'. One episode called for a massive air raid sequence to be shot on a rooftop set. I got to Teddington Studios at 6:00 am that morning to make up about twenty minutes of air raid sirens, bombs, gunfire and what have you. The lengthy sequence was shot in one take and at one point I was rolling three tape machines and several spot effect machines so the explosions coincided with the script. This innovative series by Lo and Mo (Alomo) can still be seen on satellite telly. I once reminded Lo and Mo about a series they wrote for ATV in the sixties called Roots. I think it concerned the world of dentistry? Directed by Keith Farthing, we shot a lot of it in Wales. I think only two or three of the six-part series ever got shown. Lo and Mo were not impressed at my recollections!In 1987 my old ATV friend, Mike Gore had now left the HTV Bristol studios and he got me involved in a trip to Dallas and Los Angeles where we would seek out and report on the new digital sound equipment made by Lexicon for a planned ‘soap' that would go out all over Europe in different languages. The trip was organized by the Dutch Government. The idea for the project was developed by British director Andrew Wilson, who would be heavily involved throughout. We found the digital desk on display at the massive Dallas Convention Centre but it had no innards, just a carcass and therefore unable to show off its supposed capabilities. Onto LA where we met up with the Head of Sound honcho at Universal Studios, one David ‘Doc' Goldstein. He was an incredibly knowledgeable guy - aged about twenty five! They were already into digital and I think we learned a lot. After LA, I flew to Boston to see the missing innards and get a demo of the desk from Lexicon's sales manager, Brian Zolner - another 25-year-old whiz kid. Regretfully, the project came to nothing as Andrew Wilson tragically died of cancer the following year. I was able to repay Mike Gore by involving him in a series to be made in Norway. As a result of a call from the boss of Stageway Productions working for the newly formed Norwegian Channel 3, Ole Bjorn flew me to Bergen to recce the location for a night club-style light entertainment series to be called Casablanca. Shooting would be in a large café/restaurant close to the waterfront. Ole further envisaged a twelve-piece 40s style band with girl singers in the Andrews Sisters mold. Only the vocal microphones would be seen and these would need to be in 40s style (we hid radio mics in the shell of ancient microphones). All the orchestra microphones were hidden with reasonable success. It was further pointed out that a sing-along would occur as the Norwegian audiences liked to ‘join in'. This requirement entailed placing a lot of hidden speakers and microphones throughout the café. Apart from a small stock of sporting events sound equipment in their impressive new scanner, the production company had no other sound equipment and wanted me to buy it for them. I was very busy at that time with Chef, Get Back and Birds of a Feather. Mike Gore was called in and he organized everything, purchasing the right gear at the right price for Stageway - I was pleased that Mike was available. We went to Bergen, did the pilot using the brand new sound desk in the scanner and the show went very well, an hour of continuous music and song. The dialogue was all in Norwegian. No re-takes. The audience turned up in full evening dress (having paid for the privilege). Amazingly, the sing-song turned out to be a medley of British war-time songs; The White Cliffs of Dover, etc., and they knew every word. For the following nine shows, I flew backwards and forwards from Heathrow. Mike sometimes stayed and did a few of the shows himself. We split the fee and stayed in the gorgeous Admiral Hotel overlooking Bergen's fantastic waterway. We had dinner one night with guest star Gilbert O'Sullivan, who had married a Norwegian girl. The menu selections in Bergen were great but the wine was horrendously priced. One waterside café did roasted reindeer - marvellous. If you want a terrific weekend break, Bergen ticks all the boxes. It usually rains once a day but the inhabitants are the friendliest ever.

In the summer of 1987, Bill Ward (ex-ATV boss) asked me to go to Israel to work on an Easter Special for ITV. It would feature Rick Wakeman's rock group and be called The Gospels. On arrival, Bill picked us at the airport and on the manic drive back to Tel Aviv he was perhaps half a microsecond late pulling away from the lights and several drivers waived fists and shouted insults at him as they flew by. I said to Simon French (the senior cameraman) ‘Have they any conception who they are shouting at?' Bill Ward was a feared warlord at ATV often striking terror into the hearts of young directors. However, this was a calmed down Bill Ward; he enjoyed the shoot enormously. We did the show in Caesarea, a 2000 year old amphitheatre (reputed to be built by King Herod) overlooking the sea up the coast from Tel Aviv. I had got Derek Oliver's ESP Company involved to provide the camera gear. We had previously gone on a week's recce, returning a couple of weeks later for the two-week shoot. Hiring sound equipment in Israel was tricky. There were so many things happening there, documentaries and what-have-you, gear was at a premium. We managed to get a tacky truck and once I tracked everything, I re-mixed in London. The huge orchestra was mainly comprised of Russians. True to the tradition of the Musicians Union, they demanded, and got, world rates. For the opening shot the camera zoomed out from a sun setting scene over the sea. As the camera pulled back, two helicopter gun-ships flew into frame. It graphically pointed life in that neck of the woods. After the concert, we went all round Israel to the various holy sites connected with the Gospels telling various video stories. Robert Powell was the anchor for the segments. Two things stick in mind about Israel; it was rather warm! 47 degrees centigrade and I discovered they have more churches than Canterbury has pubs. We flew El Al and I was interrogated on both outward trips from Heathrow for twenty minutes by the same intelligence officer, a young girl who asked the same questions - twice. Our stewardess told me that a fly couldn't get into Israel without being checked. I believed her. HTV Bristol provided me with a lot of work. Mainly floor assistant or doing grams on the local news show. Most of the inserts for the news were on film and therefore mute. Sometimes these inserts didn't appear until minutes before transmission. A running order gave you some idea to select a sound effect to suit the location. One insert was entitled ‘Bristol Docks' I pulled out the cassettes for ships' horns, cranes operating, etc., and when the insert was played in, I let loose with my barrage of sound. The first words of the voice over were ‘Bristol Docks are quiet today as the strike continues . . . .' I slowly faded out everything and amazingly, nobody in production appeared to be bothered. After one news job in Bristol, I wasn't required until 2:00 pm the next day so I decided to drive home for the night. It was the time Michael Fish said ‘Hurricane? What hurricane?' It took me five hours back and another four returning the following day avoiding fallen trees etc.

Michael Gore had a musical show at Bristol needing three freelancers. He got me, Bill Nuttall and Dave Langridge (ATV and TV/AM). Top heavy, to say the least with three ex-sound directors. The brilliant ventriloquist Ray Charles ‘asked' Lord Allen to make several funny comments on rehearsal. Ray had known us all at various venues throughout the years. I pride myself on giving Lord Charles a radio microphone pinned to his dinner suit as if he were a real person. Between Alomo Production commitments, several shows at Fountain Studios came my way. Winjin Pom,a puppet/animation/live artist show was very clever and inventive directed by Steve Bendelack. Film director John Henderson did a six-part comedy involving classrooms and school kids and dotty teachers. On one occasion, we covered a football match on the playing fields of the private school at Radlett in Hertfordshire. It had been raining and the pitch was very muddy. The camera rushed around following the action, the hand-held boom was energetically following and I was connected to both via umbilical chords. At one point, the camera made a sudden move and Ian Coles, operating the pole followed sharply and their quick action pulled me over. This coincided with the football hitting me squarely in the face. I fell heavily in the mud but still protecting my portable mixer. At this point John Henderson foresaw a replacement being needed for the rest of the week. No chance, John.  In the freelance world, no show is no dough. After those shoot days, the meticulous Ian Coles and I would spend an hour washing all the sound cables ready for the next day. It will be noticed that I have glossed over other jobs in television. I'd like to read of a floor manager's life in the business. Or a designer, videotape engineer or a scene shifter and I bet make-up and hair could raise a few eyebrows! The production assistant (now termed script supervisor) is the only person to see a show through from absolute start to end with the director. Usually she knew where all the ‘bodies were buried'. Exploits of PA's and vision mixers could be a book in themselves. I well remember a twenty-minute advertising magazine coming out of Elstree intended only for the Birmingham area. We were nearly halfway through the show when Birmingham transmission control got on the line to say we would be on air in five minutes and why were we still rehearsing? Panic stations - we had been given a bum timing and the floor hastily worked hard to go back to the beginning of the show, re-arranging the pack shots, etc. Director Fred Wilby, more used to kid's talent shows, found it all too much and left the control room. The PA, Mary Selway and vision mixer Moyra Bird took over, Mary calling the shots and Moyra cutting the pictures as if nothing untoward had happened. After blocking the shots in rehearsal, artistic (but non-technical) director Lionel Harris, having molly-coddled his ‘darling' artistes, would sit back during transmission stroking his beloved cat on his shoulders as the PA and vision mixer worked the entire hour production.The brilliant John Nelson Burton ripping the telephone off the wall when someone had the audacity to ring during dress rehearsal. Anybody working for a period with John or the explosively charming Dennis Vance has a tale to tell, for sure. It will be rather obvious that I had now retired? I didn't advertise it on the Michelin Airship or took out ads on the escalators - it was merely that the phone ceased to ring. My disappointment was lessened by buying a boat in Florida and having a couple of holidays there each year. There's a host of stuff I've forgotten, or inadvertently left out.  All the above is presented in no particular sequence. I did not want it to read like a diary. My career in radio and television has been the result of barrel loads of luck and being fortunate enough to be ‘in the business' at exactly the right time. I have worked on hundreds of the most spectacular programmes, the like of which will probably never be repeated. In my day, sound people used to think they were the poor relations of the industry. I hope that understanding of the efforts of the present day sound departments (and those as catalogued here) will be viewed differently.

I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to my youngest sister Cindy and her daughter Elizabeth for the work they have done in making this website possible. Cindy has lived in Boston, USA for many years now and the idea for this website came about by my oft-related anecdotes, over many a glass of Rioja ... how the sound guys always got thrashed at ATV playing chess with Tommy Steele. How Bing Crosby sat in the back of a limo en route to the studio every day, not saying a word to his wife Kathryn (the chauffeur blabbed).  How Jimi Hendrix cried on my shoulder and how Dusty Springfield influenced my view of sound mixing in so many ways. Cindy badgered me to write these things down. The opening wordage introducing the site is her invention. Once again - many thanks Cindy (the cheque's in the post!). Ted Scott (2008). 


I've met many great artists in my career, not all of them in show business!  There have been some interesting characters and I've used certain aspects of them for my fictional anti-hero, Gordon Bennett.   I met a great character in my record shop in Manor Park, circa 1954-ish.  We often burned the midnight oil in the back room of the shop while I was cutting records.  He had a store of anecdotes and outlined many of exciting adventures.  Recently, I recalled a lot of his stories, added them to a few of my own, and using my fertile imagination - hey presto! - they've resulted in a series of books chronicling the Gordon Bennet Adventures.  These are now available as eBooks How The Rich Live  Posing In Paradise and Filthy Rich In Miami.

Contact Ted