|Rob Cope: How did
it all begin for you at Maplins?
Su Pollard: As you know David (Croft)
and Jimmy (Perry) were also clients of Richard
Stone, the agent I was with at the time. Normally
with Richard if you want one of his artistes you
get another six thrown in so it becomes a sort of
package deal. In one way its a good thing
because when David and Jimmy write anything
usually the agencys clients get the pick of
the auditions first because they tend to look
after their own stable. The first I heard was
when Richard phoned me, he said You
know David and Jimmy of Dad's Army fame,
they are thinking about writing a new sit-com
about a holiday camp. Im not sure if all
the parts have been cast but go and visit them
anyway for a chat. So I duly took myself
the 369 steps up to Jimmys penthouse, when
I got there he opened the door he looked me up
and down and said, No we don't want any
pegs thank you ! because I had a long hippy
coat on, I must have looked like a Yak. I thought
it wasnt a very salubrious start, but we
started chatting about all the usual stuff,
things Id done etc. At the end they thanked
me and said they would be letting me know one way
or the other. I didnt hear anything for a
year by which time I reckoned that must have got
someone else for the job, but as Ive
come to learn about them they take a lot of time
casting. During that year thats what they
were doing, seeing the world and his wife about
various roles. Interestingly enough, John Quayle
with whom I worked in the West End and New
Zealand runs of the farce Dont Dress For
Dinner was offered the part of Jeffrey
Fairbrother. He was working at the National
Theatre at the time appearing in rep doing small
roles in three of their plays and they refused to
let him off to play a major television role like
Jeffrey Fairbrother! Obviously Simon Cadell then
got it by default, but didnt he turn out to
be brilliant? Anyway, the next thing was that
Richard Stone phoned me again saying that theyd
like to offer me the role of the chalet maid, it
was only a small part but if I wanted a go at it
he promised that Jimmy and David would look after
me if it went into a series. Of course I decided
to give it a whirl and the rest is history. It
just shows darling, its just where you are
sometimes - luck plays a major part.
Youve got to be talented surely but its
then up to you to make the most of what youve
What were your
thoughts when you first read that pilot script ?
The very first
scene I thought was hilarious, on the train where
Spike, Ted and Jeffrey are travelling to Maplins.
Straight away what appeals to me is that David
and Jimmys comedy comes from the class
structure. The greatest fun in this country is
when you are taking the mickey out of the higher
ranks. So for a start I was really impressed with
the dialogue, I could hear Teds voice when
I was reading it.The sounds of the words leapt
out from the written page. Marvellous phrases
like If the Venus De Milo was a map of the
world, Maplins would be the bum !
Then there was Gladys Pugh, Ruth (Madoc) was
marvellous as Gladys I thought. Some people are
tailor made for parts. But you see I always say
that if you get a success you become a victim of
the system, if you are good in a certain
characterisation and people like you, they want
to see you doing a similar thing next time. But
after a while they start to say Cant
she do anything else? Its really
difficult to balance the two. The first time we
went into the studio though and heard the
applause and cheers, we all thought Dare we
hope that this will be a success? At our
peak we got 16 million viewers, I was just lucky
to get the job, everybody needs a lucky break.
told me that at the first read through he was
terrified of you. What did you make
of the rest of them?
On the day of
the first rehearsal I got there really early
because the Central Line is notorious for getting
stuck in the tunnel at White City. I was there at
half-past nine and at about twenty-five-past-ten
I wandered off to find the rehearsal room. As I
walked in David took one look at me and asked
Good God, you havent walked off the
street dressed like that have you? Simon
Cadell was marvellous, he said Darling, I
can tell we are going to be great mates", he
had a big fat cigar in his mouth. I was a nervous
wreck doing the read through, I slow down a lot
now but then I read it like a bat out of hell.
Afterwards you get talking and you then realise
you are all in the same boat. Paul Shane was a
bag of nerves, thats how Tony's Tratatoria
came about. In one of the read throughs
Paul said Hey Clive, why dont you
take Gladys down to Tonys Tratatoria...
And of course it should have been Tratoria.
Anyway it stuck and we all p***** ourselves when
he said it.
When did you
get the first hint that the series was going to
until the second series I dont think...
the first series was repeated just three months
after the original transmissions so someone at
the BBC smelled a hit. Also the catchphrase
Hi de hi caught on very quickly...
I think you are
absolutely right, it was a boost to the original
showing. You realise it is going to be massive
when you are constantly asked for interviews. You
are a new person on the entertainment scene if
you like and they want to find out as much about
you as they can. Of course it all comes out about
how many abortions you may have had and thats
the down side of it.
|How did you cope with
becoming a celebrity, very much public property?
I was hopeless at the beginning. I was
very good at saying hello to people in the street
but you dont learn how to play the media
game until youve been at it for a bit. We
all got caught out, by freelance journalists
especially. Beware the News of The World! We all
need publicity and they need a story so I think
you can have friendly relations with the press if
you play it right. At the beginning I was very
naive and I was telling everybody I used to moon
out of coach windows, the whole lot. Then we had
the unfortunate business of my marriage (to
teacher Peter Keogh), we got married in unusual
circumstances as you know - which I dont
want to go into - but again the press had a field
day. Over the years you learn how to deal
with it, but when you are involved in, for want
of a better word, a scandal and are
relentlessly pursued you become very wary and dont
open up to anybody.
Even though it
was a traumatic time in your private life with
headlines on the front page of all the national
newspapers and even on the television news,
somehow you emerged from it an even bigger star -
everyone knew the name Su Pollard whereas before
you were just the chalet maid from HI DE
and thats why even negative publicity like
that can be turned into something more positive.
Photographers have always said that the HI DE
HI! and You Rang M'Lord? gang have
always been very good at giving them what they
want, a good photo. Theyve got their job to
do and so if you start being difficult theyll
just go off and take pictures of someone else and
you loose out on valuable publicity. Its a
two way thing and they respect you if you
approach it all in a professional way.
Lets face it if you are not very high
profile for a while (due to lack of work) you
need those photo stings to let people know you
are still around. If ever I hit hard times I
might need those little radio stations and
newspapers that you get asked to speak to so its
no good being very grand and pretending you are
too big a star for all that. Mind you, I do think
success is 25% graft and the rest is just playing
the media game that keeps you in the limelight.
If you give your best in everything you do you
will be respected for it by the public and the
people you work with.
What do you
think were your best moments in the show?
I was very
proud of the scene where I didnt get my
Yellowcoat (Peggys Big Chance). If it
elicits a response like Ah, poor thing
at least youve hopefully brought across the
reality to people. There was another one in the
Christmas special where I had to Obligon the
campers (The Great Cat Robbery) to put them to
sleep and I was running around with a balaclava
on my heat stuck up like a peanut. I love doing
slapstick comedy. I really really enjoyed Tell It
To The Marines as well where I had to pretend to
be a man and go over an army assault course.
There were other moments too, scenes with Ruth
Madoc where she is sewing her wedding dress and
Gladys would have a heart to heart with Peggy.
There have been some wonderful moments, these are
just two or three that spring to mind.
Then there was
the stage musical of HI DE HI!...
that fantastic? Two a day though, it was
ridiculous. One day Felix Bowness came in looking
very agitated. He stood there without his
trousers saying Su, I feel terrible.
His trousers were on the radiator and he was in
just his boxer shorts. He had dashed onto a tube
thinking hed be late for the show and sat
down in the nearest seat. He suddenly felt all
wet, obviously some poor tramp had wet himself
and Felix had sat in it ! We killed
ourselves laughing. We were thrilled with the
stage show though because it showed everybody our
theatrical roots, all of us were strong stage
performers. The reason we had to do the Ugly Bug
Ball in the show I reckon was that theyd
spent a fortune on the costumes for one of the
episodes on television so they tried to get their
money back by including it in the stage version.
We repeated our Victoria Palace success at the
Opera House, Blackpool - a 16 week season in that
massive 3,000 seater theatre. It is a real killer
though trying to give 110% twice a day bar
Sundays, I dont think variety performers
really get their due, they dont have
anything like the BAFTAs for variety people.
What really gets me sometimes is this thing where
they think they can team up an opera singer with
a news reader. OK, perhaps Im being cynical
but that opera singer has worked hard all his
life to perfect his art and by bringing in a news
reader it is demeaning his professionalism.
When Perry and
Croft asked you to be in You Rang M'Lord?,
did you think to yourself Oh no, not more
of the same because they cast you as
Oh yes, totally.
I thought I was going to get stuck playing a maid
for the rest of my life. They took us to one side
to try and dismiss some of the initial fears we
may have by explaining that for a start we would
look totally different. I was happy that as a
performer I had a chance to play not simply black
and white, there was a lot more to Ivy than
making someone laugh or making someone cry.
Because it was fifty minutes per episode we were
able to take advantage of that long script,
things didnt have to be quite so frantic.
People say to me sometimes Which series did
|And it is so difficult
to find an answer because there were so many
things about each one that made them really
special. I suppose in a way Ivy appealed to a lot
more people than you would have thought, its
amazing how many people have said to me,I
prefer that to HI DE HI!, please bring it
back. I did get a huge mail bag from You
Rang. One lady wrote to say that shed
been in service some fifty odd years ago and she
was cleaning the room of Kitty McShane, the stage
daughter of Old Mother Riley, the great variety
comic. She spied some face cream on the dressing
table and because she was only sixteen dipped her
finger in it and put a bit on her face. Anyway,
the next day Kitty McShane sent for her and
shouted How dare you touch my make-up
and slapped her across the face. The upshot of it
was that this womans mother was furious and
went to see Kitty and ended up slapping the stage
star across the face before triumphantly walking
out. It just shows you how the characters and
situations in You Rang M'Lord? struck a
chord with those that had been in service.
I think too it was educational for
viewers to glimpse life as it must have been for
so many people all those years ago.
I think you are
right, who would have thought that Mrs.
Lipton would order 13 lobsters for the upstairs
lot and an extra 6 lobsters for the servants!
They were really crafty but I suppose they had to
be in a way. During the series we got free
butling advice from Ivor Spencer who runs a
school for butlers, I think knowing what to do
gave our performances a bit of extra reality on
The cast as a
whole seemed disappointed that the BBC didnt
embrace the series as much as it might have.
No, they didnt
seem to did they ? What did it for us
is that they brought out the drama version of our
show, The House Of Eliot. When you have
two very similar period pieces something has to
give and with theirs being done on film
that sort of investment is going to be a bit more
secure. Its also my opinion that a lot of
the powers that be thought Oh no, not these
tired old performers on the screen again,
because people like Bill Pertwee go back as far
as Dad's Army. But by the same token if
the performers are popular and turn in good
performances why should their careers come to an
end? Bill is a damn good actor so if there is a
good part for him why shouldnt he be seen
on television ?
Where do you
see your career going. Having created your
niche in comedy, what would you like to say
youd been doing if I interviewed you again
in fifteen years time.
I would love to
be telling you that Id tried every aspect
of show business. Id love to have
done a film especially. I did do one many years
ago with Bernard Manning called The Great
British Striptease Contest which was a big
hit on video. It was pathetic, really
terrible. I was the Anthea Redfern who collected
everybodys clothes! Id like to be
saying Id scored a hit in my own sit-com
and had a big success in a major musical. Its
still one of my first loves, musicals. Above all
I want to still carry on doing good work and
being respected for what I do.
How would you
like to be remembered?
people to say she was good to have around, wasnt
negative. She was a great mate, wasnt just
an actress but a person as well. You get so many
arty-farty actors who havent got a clue how
to live life in general. Im
very simple, I dont strive for a Porche or
a big house, if they come through hard work and
success that is fine but they are not essentials
I think youll
be remembered as a true star, by that I mean
somebody who didnt just take but gave
something back to life.
nice actually, its nice when people come up
to you and say Weve enjoyed your work,
thank you for all the pleasure youve given
us. Its a nice testament. If people
do think that Id be thrilled, its a
real reason not something made up.
thank you very much.
published in the now defunct fan magazine Hello
by Rob Cope.