The Truth About Crossroads ... continued

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While at Ashton Ann saw John Bentley, who plays Hugh Mortimer, Noele Gordon's TV husband.  "John hasn't been seen in Crossroads for months," says Ann.  "He hasn't actually been written out, but he doesn't know if or when he will be back.
 
"When I asked John when he was going back, he said: 'I don't know and I don't care!'  I don't blame him!"
 
Noele Gordon is known as the Godmother on the Crossroads set.  She even signs herself that way on her Christmas cards.  Noele, 58, has been in the series since it started nearly 14 years ago.  She even wrote a book about it.
 
In it she reveals that it can be an unfriendly place for the unwary extra.  He can literally talk himself out of a job.  She says:
 
"Extras have to understand that a TV studio has hidden microphones everywhere, behind plants, furniture and other objects.  The whole place is bugged and everything said is relayed direct to the control room.  If an extra makes disparaging remarks about Meg Richardson looking a little bit the worse for wear, or some such observation, then it is going to be heard straight away.
 
"We had one extra who carried on for ten minutes, between rehearsals, about what he thought of Meg, Crossroads, the script and everything connected with the serial.  The director heard every word.  That man has never worked on the show since.  To this day, I don't suppose he knows why.
 
"Sometimes performers who are written out of the show would like to stay longer.  But if viewers saw too many of the same faces they would become bored and their interest would flag.  It is always a sad moment when an artist gets written out, but most accept their departure gracefully and set about finding themselves another job.
 
"An exception was Tony Morton.  Tony appeared in 750 episodes and he was removed by the simple if dramatic trick of being killed off.  Josefina, his Spanish wife, received a letter from Spain telling her she was a widow.  This was all too much for Tony, who learned of his death when he was watching the programme some weeks after he left us.
 
"He sent Reg Watson (the producer at the time) a black-edged mourning card, decorated with a sheaf of lillies in one corner.  On the face of the card Tony had written just four words: 'Wish you were here.'
 
"The nearest Meg Richardson has come to death was when I walked out of Crossroads.  Everybody thought it was a publicity stunt.  But it wasn't.  I wanted a pay rise.  I had been with the serial for more than three years.  We were working hard and it seemed to me that I was working hardest of all.  So when my contract came up for renewal, I explained to the powers-that-be that the only time I had been away from the studios was at weekends.
 
"And that my fee for appearing on each Crossroads programme compared favourably with other TV series and productions even within ATVs own studios.  At that time the cast for Emergency Ward 10 were receiving between 150 and 200 a week.  And as they only appeared twice a week this gave them much more freedom and much less to do than working on our four programmes.
 
"The new contract I had been offered was no different to the last and as I had not had an increase in salary for seven years I decided I was going to quit.  I sent off letters to Sir Lew Grade, Leonard Matthews (the Midlands Controller) and Reg Watson telling them that if they didn't change the contract I would resign.
 
Somehow or other the papers got hold of the news that I was quitting and put it on their front pages.  This caused the biggest rumpus Crossroads has ever known.  The phones never stopped.  If it meant so much to so many people then surely, I thought, I owed it to them to carry on.  On the other hand I had resigned and it was too late to do anything about it.
 
I went away on holiday and while I was abroad ATV announced that Meg's last appearance would be in August.  Once again there was uproar among Meg's horrified supporters.  If anyone wanted proof of the popularity of Crossroads and the loyalty of our viewers, they had it now.
 
         

The Truth About Crossroads continued