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When Sophie Loren filmed on Elstree's Mound, the true size of the Big Brother house, and how Simon Cowell is actually a nice man
Well, another week has gone and I am just back from a walkabout with some fans of the old MGM Studios in Borehamwood.
There is a site dedicated to the old studio on Facebook with more than 300 members, which is great considering it closed 43 years ago.
On our walkabout over the present studio estate, we were joined by MGM veterans Mick Brady and Alan Kelly and it was a fun day.
On the same weekend, the Big Brother house was opened to the public by the National Trust, charging I think £18 a ticket and it was quickly sold out.
A few years ago, I remember looking over the house and thinking how small it actually was. How anyone can spend months locked in there is beyond me.
I guess housemates are hoping for a shortcut to fame, but in reality, nobody actually remembers the contestants, with one or two exceptions.
I am glad to see work has started on dealing with the large mound at the back of Elstree
Studios so it can be turned into a source of generating revenue.
I remember bumping into the studio manager in Shenley Road more than 30 years ago and asking if anything interesting was happening at the studio.
He commented that Sophia Loren was in for a few days filming her life story. I phoned the production office and spoke to her stepson Carlo Ponti Jnr, who was producing the made-for-television movie and asked if I could meet Sophia.
He invited me to visit the filming that was actually taking place on the mound, which was doubling for a hill in Spain. It was a great pleasure to meet this legendary star of the 1950s and 1960s.
The last time I was on the mound was in about 1997 when we let a group of students make a short film.
They used part of the mound as a First World War battleground and they invited back veterans to shadow the student film crew.
I still recall Oscar-winning cameraman Jack Cardiff helping the would-be cinematographers on a cold, dark night, lining up shots even though he must have been in his 80s.
We chatted between takes about his memories of Elstree in the 1930s, but I regret I never recorded his memories.
I see Simon Cowell is back in the news these days as a dad-to-be.
Odd that this should spring up as his American version of The X Factor is sinking into the sunset and needs publicity — or am I just being cynical?
Personally, I found Simon to be a nice chap when I organised and hosted a plaque-unveiling in his honour at Elstree Studios in 2006.
I picked him because he grew up in Barnet Lane and started his career at the studio. Plus, I felt we needed to honour someone who appealed to younger residents.
I asked Pete Waterman to be the guest unveiler and the Borehamwood Community Choir did a great rendition of a song called Si’s Way, which was a reworking of My Way with the lyrics re-worded mainly by myself.
Afterwards, Simon sent me a nice letter saying how honoured he felt by the occasion and was genuinely moved to think the choir had given up their time to rehearse and perform the song.
Next year marks the tenth anniversary of the choir. The X Factor is back on our TV screens again full of wannabee stars but who can tell? Look at the success of One Direction and they didn’t even win the show.
Personally, I find the formula a bit tired these days, but it remains a ratings success. It was amusing how the national press were fixated on how tight host Dermot O’Leary’s trousers were, revealing his assets. Is that really national news?
I have worked with Dermot and he is a great lad, but why he wears suits one size too small for him is beyond me.
Odd that my suits are now all too small due to increasing waist size, but in my case, is it worth buying anything new?