The incredible lengths journalists go to in order to deliver the story

Hello DollyMembers of a Scottish Brass Band are being offered the chance to tread the boards with a host of stars – according to a press release from Edinburgh Festival Theatre which crossed my desk in the past week.

Turns out the stars of evergreen muscial stage show, Hello Dolly, are looking for a likely brass band to perform with them during a week-long run in Edinburgh. Willing oompah volunteers are being sought – with the promise they’ll get to meet the stars of the show.

Those are Anita Dobson, who played Angie Watts in Eastenders – but who hasn’t actually been on telly since Den divorced her at some point in the 80s and is now better known for having a barnet that matches that of her husband, former Queen guitarist, Brian May (apparently the only bloke on the planet who didn’t realise Freddie Mercury, his tour roommate, was a shade lavendar).

And for the lucky lady band members, there’s the chance to be wowwed by serial sha*ger, Frank Spencer impersonator and all-round untrustworthy narcissist and commitment-phobe, Darren Day (if Cliff Richard wasn’t a lifelong bachelor and scarily intense God botherer I’d swear Day was his secret love child).

Woo hoo! If that doesn’t have the nation’s huffers, puffers and blowers stampeding theatrewards in a clanging sea of brass, then what will?

This isn’t the first time a production of Hello Dolly has had to resort to begging in the pages of local newspapers to find all the cast members necessary. Indeed way back in 1989 an advert appeared in the classified columns of the Edinburgh Evening News which read, plaintively: “Dolly needs men!”. it was spotted by my eagle-eyed news editor, Simon Bradshaw and further investigation revealed it had been placed by a local theatre company.

The am dram group in question was chockful of women and the only male members were a couple of greying, creaky-kneed old hams. The ladies of the Stockbridge Players (can’t remember the group’s real name) decided enough was enough – and turned to adveritising to rope in fresh blood. No doubt they were dreaming of  handsome, contemplative hunks with a sincere love of theatre and a great line in funny one liners.

What they got was me. In top hat and tails. Oh aye – and with a natty set of white gloves and a showman’s glittery-topped cane. As you can see in this photo, taken by Alan Ledgerwood.Hello Dolly Tophat

Which got me thinking on the lengths reporters go to in delivering stories. And I’m not talking about the war correspondents or undercover specialialists who grab glory by placing themselves in danger. I’m talking about  the real heroes – those who won’t shirk a job that requires a funny (and often demeaning) photo.

Possibly my favourite story is from the mid 90s, when Billy Adams – then a reporter in the Daily Record’s Edinburgh office – was chosen to be fired out of a cannon (my memory fails me as to why – so I can only presume it must have been Festival time). The news editor thought it would make a tremendous first person piece. Unfortunately Billy didn’t agree.

It wasn’t a lack of bottle on Billy’s part – more a surfeit of serious broadsheet ambition. You see, at that point he had really decided he wanted a serious, journalistic career and figured that being turned into a human cannonball wasn’t the surest route to a Pulitzer. I suspect that refusal to don a helmet and be blasted 50ft into a net finished Billy’s Daily Record career – because more than anything else, it was the point when he realised working for a tabloid wasn’t really where he wanted to be.

He went on from there to work as a freelance, penned a couple of books and moved to Australia  then – last I heard – to Japan.  Almost inevitably a trip Down Under means Billy has probably taken at least one bungee jump, but I’ll be he’s still not been fired from a cannon – and he might never get the chance again. Me? I’d have done it just to have the photos to show my grandkids.

A man with more than his fair share of unusual newspaper pics is Aidan Smith. During the near 20 years I’ve known him he’s been forced into numerous phtographic scrapes. Like the time he did a feature on nudists and was snapped wearing nothing but a manic grin – with a briefcase bareley covering his modesty. He also had to dress up as a Star Trek Klingon and was then photographed getting onto a Glasgow double decker.

Another photo of him waving maniacally from a roller coaster ride recently graced the front page of the Daily Record as part of an offer for cheap tickets to an amusement park – even though it’s been years since he last worked at the Glasgow tabloid. But my personal favourite is this shot of Aidan as a geeky trainspotter – complete with coke bottle glasses, goofy expression and notebook for recording engine numbers  (how tight is that anorak?).


Just to prove that  a bit of tabloid tomfoolery never did anyone any harm, Aidan suffered no long-term damage to his credibility. Indeed he’s now best known for his celebrity interviews, TV column and other writings in the highbrow Scotland on Sunday – and is also a successful author. His first book, Heartfelt – Supping Bovril From the Devil’s Cup, told how he spent a full season full season masquerading as a Hearts supporter. Even though he’s a lifelong Hibee.

The photo I’d love to see just about more than any other is Aidain in a maroon strip. Something tells me I’m more likely to see Billy Adams being fired from a cannon.


3 thoughts on “The incredible lengths journalists go to in order to deliver the story

  1. Perhaps it is one of these journalistic legends that has no basis in fact, but I have heard on numerous occasions that Daily Record stalwart Ian Dow has graced the pages of Scotland’s (former) favourite tabloid in full Del Boy Trotter garb complete with ageing yellow Reliant Robin.

    If memory serves me correctly, this may have been linked to a story where residents were complaining at the creation of a new street called Trotters Way/Haugh/Avenue or some other amalgamation of Peckham’s finest.

    Legend has it that Dowser was despatched in full “Mange Tout Rodders” mode for a spot of resident-baiting and picture frenzy.

    I have never seen evidence of this in print but I’m sure this rumour will be confirmed/strenuously denied in due course.

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