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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 Tussauds - 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. Who 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. I got a hefty pay rise to stay at Elstree.

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.


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.

After the wrap, 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. An interesting 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!


 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.

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.

 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. 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. 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.

 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. 

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.

. 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 mould. 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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!). 

There is a lot more on the above subject in CUE TAPE PLEASE, TED. Also a veery lengthy list of people who left ATV before, or after, the event who have become successful (some, massively). To replicate it here would take a  very long (and tedious) read . . . thanks for bearing with it, so far.








I have 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.
The GORDON BENNETT adventures in the trilogy HOW THE RICH LIVE are available in either e book or paperback form from AMAZON.com. They are;. How The Rich Live - Posing In Paradise and Filthy Rich In Miami. 

Contact Ted