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Paul Welsh on the importance of the Strictly studio audience, and saving the Quadrophenia soundtrack and a print of The Last Emperor from a dustbin
4:17pm Friday 11th October 2013 in Paul Welsh
Well, I have stumbled through another week and it is good to meet you again. This time it is a pot pourri of items that come to mind as I wait for one of my pals Nick Cole to come and cut my hedge.
I have always enjoyed watching others work while sitting back on the porch enjoying a drink or two.
Last Saturday I happened to be walking past Elstree Studios and saw 200 people already in
a queue to see a recording of Strictly Come Dancing.
It was only 1pm and they would not be free until 10.30pm, so that's commitment from an unsung part of showbiz – the studio audience.
Apparently on arrival they are given a number that secures them a seat, which the ticket itself does not. With more than one million people on the waiting list, they have done well, but having seen many TV recordings since the 1960s, that effort is beyond me now.
The other day I had an email from Pat Carr, who was the production manager on the
original Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies at Elstree.
Pat instigated the save Elstree Studios campaign in 1988, of which I became chairman, so it was a lovely surprise as I guess we have not met in 20 years.
Pat was trying to track down ace film model maker Brian Archer, who worked on such films as 2001 and Star Wars. Luckily Brian still lives in Borehamwood and I cold-called on his doorstep.
When he opened his door Brian exclaimed “Paul Welsh!”. Is that fame or am I just that damn face that appears each week in this newspaper? Anyway, he is a nice chap and I was able to put them in touch.
I am sad to hear that the historic Bray Studios is due to face demolition soon, to make way for housing. Older readers may recall it was home to all those Hammer horror films in the 1950s and 1960s.
What you may not know is that it is also home to the last surviving stage from the MGM studios in Borehamwood. The stage was originally erected at MGM in the early 1960s and was moved to Bray in about 1972 after MGM had closed.
The stage has outlived MGM by 43 years and I think Elstree Studios should buy it and bring it back to Borehamwood.
As a kid I used to enjoy going down to the Gate Recording Theatre located behind Bullens and now the site of Imperial Place. Fifty years ago, I used to go down and my late dad let me burn the 35mm film strips discarded by film editors.
Today I would keep them, but in the early 1960s it was more fun to burn them in an old oil barrel.
In 1996, when we regained Elstree Studios, I was asked to go in and sort out thousands of cans of sound film abandoned by Brent Walker. I went each weekend for about three months to sort out what should be saved or scrapped.
I listed everything there and wrote to film companies asking them to collect their material.
I remember coming across a complete print of The Last Emperor, which I gave to its director. It was worth about £2,000.
I then found the “presumed lost” music masters for Quadrophenia, which Polygram rushed down to collect as they were preparing a video release.
I never got a letter of thanks or even a drink but my reward awaits me in that big studio in the sky.
Finally, another pal, Michael Readings, is helping me to thin out my clutter and we tested the market on eBay with two items.
One was a creeping vine from Doctor Terror’s House Of Horrors, which I bought at a Shepperton Studios auction in the early 1970s.
The other was a lifetime achievement award given to DeForest Kelly who played the doctor in Star Trek.
We raised enough to keep me in vodka for a while so the week ended on a good note.
Until we meet again next week, take care.