An Audience With Ed Bishop
FAB Café Manchester UK
27th September 1999
by Sheila Holton-Brown
Background information on the writer and a rite of passage:
I have been a fan of Ed Bishop's ever since I heard him as Captain Blue in Captain Scarlet in the late 60's. I would have been around 8 years old back then.
A few years later I was excited to learn that the Anderson's had made a series using live action. Little did I know the surprise I was in for! I was hooked on space flight back then having lived through the Apollo missions on TV. I was a big fan of Science Fiction in general. The thought of a SF TV series in colour was a delightful prospect.
Then I watched the first episode and I was hooked. I was puzzled by the familiarity of the voice of the main character Commander Ed Straker. Where had I heard it before? Then the penny dropped! The combined effect of that face and that voice on me, a mere 11-year-old, was astounding. I have never forgot the feeling I got back then.
Nearly thirty years on we move to the age of the Information Superhighway and the Net. Having got a computer at last this year I wanted to test the web. So I decided to enter just three letters...U-F-O. Well, let me tell you it took me a week to trawl through just Marc Martin's web site alone. I finally get on to the Ed Bishop Fans mailing list (a very friendly bunch, mostly female) only to learn that Ed is going to be at the Fab Café in Manchester in a few weeks time. I think to myself, I got to go -- it will be a once in a lifetime chance!
So I make several phone calls to the Café and can never get to speak to the organiser. Eventually I am assured that I will be admitted. I need not have worried as the organiser turned out to be far from organised. My ticket had someone else's name on it and there were nowhere near the number of people Ed had been led to believe would be there. However I do not wish to dwell on the negative side of this event.
Let us get down to the nitty gritty.
I traveled up from Andover to Manchester arriving at the Fab Café in the afternoon. I must say that I thought the venue rather shabby and dingy but that did not matter. I would wait in a cow shed in a snowstorm if Ed was going to make an appearance. The café was smoky and in a seedy end of town. Even Marlowe would have never sunk a Gimlet in this dive. However, I figured if it was good enough for the "Big Man" then it was fine by me! As usual I was early, way too early but I stuck around and sipped a very watery Coke.
Well I waited and I waited and still no sign of the main event. I was wondering if I was going to be disappointed. What kind of shape is this guy Bishop going to be in. He looked fine in those pictures of him in Italy. I wanted to find out what makes this man tick!
I looked up at the TV screens, all showing ESP. I whistle quietly to myself and alarm bells rang in my head. Yeah, I thought this guy is worth the wait, thirty years on and he is still cool! I hoped that Mr. Bishop did not have the power of ESP else he would spin on his heel and say "I am outta here".
Barmaids in slinky Moonbase-type outfits were serving drinks and posing a lot. There was however no coffee with or without cream and sugar.
Time dragged on. Was I in some kind of Timelash? Surely our brave Commander had not turned chicken?
Then suddenly the doors opened and in he strode looking so fine. I was glad to see him looking so well and very dapper.
Introductions were made and the evening finally began. We moved into a Q&A session a little shakily but with the help of a man by the name of Fred Fielder from BBC Manchester the questions started to flow. Ed seemed happy and relaxed and eager to talk about his work and his life in general. A number of the questions Ed has answered in great detail at previous conventions and the like. Such as the story behind the watch that he wears and the story of how he got the part of Ed Straker. Some of the questions were just plain daft or even out of touch with reality but Ed tried to answer them all with such good grace. He seemed to me to be a very charming gentleman.
The Q&A session over we were told Ed would be around for twenty minutes or so to sign his autograph. It was then I started to shake. Oh dear I thought, I am going to be so nervous. I was all right though because I had met up with a producer from Cosgrove Hall film studios. Famous for making cartoons such as Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. He offered to take photos of Ed and me. So I queued up and waited my turn. I had a lovely picture of Ed as Straker that Marc Martin had sent me. Ed liked the picture very much and there were general murmurs of approval from all around the table and from those queuing. Thanks Marc you're a star!
Ed did not rush me, he was prepared to chat to me. As Chris Bowden commented afterwards Ed spent the longest time of all with me. Well I had to make the long journey from Andover to Manchester worth it (a round trip of about 400 miles).
Ed was very interested to hear that I had worked in Sudbury House in London EC1 (now demolished), which was the building that was used as a location for the International Aerospace Commission, most significantly in the episode Conflict when Straker has an appointment to see General Henderson. (You know girls the one where Ed wears those shades!)
Ed looked at me in disbelief and said, "You worked there when we were filming?" Possibly thinking to himself, "boy this chick looks good for her age, she must be at least 50!" No I told him about 20 years later. "Oh I see," he said.
"Did you want to work there because we had filmed UFO there?" Ed asked. "No it was just coincidence. I told him I recognised the building and it made going to work a bit easier." Ed just looked at me a smiled. When I worked there it housed the Central Electricity Generating Board's Headquarters. I worked in the Department of Information and Public Affairs as an Information Officer answering people's questions about nuclear power. It was my first job after getting my BA Hons in Librarianship and Information Studies.
Ed was interested to hear that I had been a near neighbour of George Sewell's at The Barbican in the City of London. I told him I used to see George around quite a bit on my way to and from work. I did not mention that George and I shared the same GP in Long Lane and the George had come in to see the nurse one day when I was in there for an ante natal check up. I nearly went into labour with the shock! Ed said that "Georgie's fine, he just fine"
I asked Ed about the play he is going to be in. He just repeated what we already know, that the play has no title yet and will be at the Young Vic during November and December this year. "You'll come and see me?" he asked. "Of course", I replied.
Ed held on to my pen. I had brought a pen I had from the Ministry of Defence with the DTMA logo on it. DTMA stands for Defence Transport and Movements Agency. I worked for the MOD up until August this year. I thought it rather appropriate that he use it. So I said to him, "Can I have my pen back now please dear?" but he held on to it and said "That is how I get all my pens". Not a very original line I know but he looked me straight in the eyes when he said it, and well girls you get my drift.
He thanked me for coming (Gulp!)
Meanwhile, Chris Bowden was taking photographs. When he took the picture of Ed and I looking at the camera. Ed said "I have to take my glasses off for photographs" .
I walked away blissfully happy and contented. I was shaking like a leaf. Chris caught hold of my trembling fingers. "Oi" I thought, "don't touch -- Ed's just touched them!"
Everyone who was at the table where I was sitting looked at the autograph and asked me if it had been worth coming so far for. I said that it had definitely been worth it! Chris laughed, as I had to have a cigarette afterwards. I don't normally smoke!
I took some more pictures and watched Ed from a distance. I did not see him leave though as there were people in the way blocking my view. I just settled down to enjoy what was left of the evening.
I went back to my hotel room after saying cheerio to Chris and the others from Cosgrove Hall.
I awoke at 6.20 the next morning and got ready to go down for breakfast. I was sad it was all over but knew it had been a lovely time. However I think the Gods were smiling upon me that day as I had a lovely surprise in store for me. I breakfasted and upon leaving the dining room I hesitated in the middle of the lobby and must have looked very foolish. I turned around and saw a man standing at the hotel reception checking out. He had his back to me but I knew who it was! He was wearing a long raincoat, unbuttoned and beige trousers. Uh Oh! I spotted the shirt. It was like the one in the pictures taken in Italy but this one was bright yellow.
As he turned I touched his sleeve and he looked up at me. I don't know where I got the nerve from but I just could not let this opportunity pass. "Hello again" I said feebly hoping he would realise if I said "again" he would connect me with the event the night before. "Hello" he replied. I thought fast but none too well. My reply was a hopelessly naff "Safe journey". "Thank you very much" he said with THAT VOICE! I melted away and left him.
I floated back to my room and gathered up my bag that I had packed already. As I checked out I asked the receptionist if she had realised who the American gentleman was who had checked out minutes before? "Oh you mean Mr Bishop", she said. He seemed a nice man to her but she had not got a clue who he was, well she wouldn't would she?
As I stepped out of the hotel I saw Ed with his lady at the foot of the steps and waiting for a car or taxi. I did not intrude on him anymore but stopped to put my coat on as it had started to rain. I walked away from the hotel and after about 50 yards I dared to look back and he and the woman were gone. I went home very satisfied that I had achieved a life long ambition to meet dear Ed.
Gentle reader: please be advised that the above is a report of an Audience with Ed Bishop at the Fab Cafe with a decidedly personal approach. I hope no one is offended by the rather sentimental tone of the report and will not pour scorn upon the writer. I have merely attempted to put across what the event meant to me. Thank you for your indulgence.
Q & A Session Transcript
Steve: "Welcome to the FAB CAFÉ for a very special night -- we have got the star of UFO! Tonight in person. Commander Ed Straker himself, Mr Ed Bishop."
Ed then enters to tumultuous applause and whistles, looking absolutely immaculate in a very smart double-breasted suit and red patterned tie.
Ed: " Thank you very much. Well although there are two stools and a microphone I can assure you, I am not going to sing."
Ed: "And you just saw, Close Up and ESP, right? Well I guess you deserve some kind of applause for that!"
Crowd laughs again.
Ed: " I always divide the series into two parts -- we made seventeen episodes at MGM and then we had a sort of hiatus and we shot the remaining, however many more it takes to make twenty-six at Pinewood. So, I think the ones we shot at MGM, that first seventeen, a lot of them were very slow. And if I am not mistaken these two were -- at least I am certain Close Up was and I kinda suspect E.S.P as being one of the MGM ones. It's bad when the audience is there before the actors on the screen, if the audience has worked it out that is bad news. From the ones that I have seen, and they have been repeating them recently on BBC2, seem to just about hold together. Because it was thirty years ago the mobile telephones and the gull wing doors and all that stuff, well we kinda broke ground with that. It's not much to say but we did have some kind of technological advancement."
Ed: "Now I understand this is going to be Q&A, Question and Answer because I don't have any scr…"
Steve: "Yes that's right and we have with us tonight another guest star with us this evening from the BBC who is going to be passing the mic round for Ed. So I would like you to welcome from the BBC Mr Fred Fielder.
FF: "My God, Straker you're a cold hearted swine, how the Devil are you?"
Ed: "He's been rehearsing that line for a week!
Laughter and applause
FF: "What we are going to do tonight Ladies and Gentlemen is I am going to be coming round the audience because there are a lot of very intimate questions I know you want to ask about the character of Ed Straker. (Ed mouths the word, "intimate", pretends to look worried then grins and smirks). I am sure that throughout the series of UFO you had your favourites like Mike Billington who played, Col. Paul Foster and there are a lot of secrets that Ed is quite prepared to divulge. Are you not Ed?"
Ed: "Er well (clears throat nervously) ahem, Yes"
FF: "No that’s right -- no holds barred. If you want to ask why as he gets older…doesn't he look well?"
FF: "Well maybe he is working in retrospect, because most people go white as they get older Ed has decide to go the other way"
More laughter and Ed smiles
FF: "We went out for a dinner last night and we had a great time. I asked him a lot of personal intimate questions. I don't think your questions are going to be as personal as what mine were but I'll be the judge of that. Because Ed's up for it and I think you can ask virtually any questions you like about Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, about Paul Foster, about George Sewell, so does any one have a question they want to put to Ed"?
(Meanwhile we are just breaking up with laughter as Ed is still looking around at us all and mouthing things like "personal" and "intimate". I am sure I saw him mouth "me and Paul? Intimate?" Anyway he is obviously having fun here!)
No one has the nerve to start the ball rolling so…
Ed: "Not a question. Well, goodnight folks!"
More laughter at this…
FF: "Well I have a question, did you wear eyeliner?"
Ed: "Well what else could I do? I mean all you got to do is look at the screen. I think at that time eyeliners were in."
FF: "They are in right now where we are in this area"
Ed: "Oh, really. I'll let that one drift. No I think the make-up people got carried away, there was a lot of experimentation going on because it was a series with a new format, a new look. As you can see. (Points to the TV screen) I see a lot of close-ups of old Straker with the eyeliner underneath which is a little awkward to look at now. You got to remember we are talking over thirty years ago, we are talking almost antique here!"
FF: "Being serious now, and I think you will agree Ladies and Gentlemen that the series has lasted remarkably well over the years. There is still a story line relevant to today and you can watch it on BBC 2, when there is no cricket on"
FF: "There are lots of questions that I asked him last night and one of them was about this super powered car which I though was styled on the Delorean. I was surprised when Ed told me I was wrong"
Ed: " Well yes, the Delorean came much after with the gull wings. But real experts will realise that you never actually see it rise up all the way clear, in frame. Because there is always some prop man just out of shot, Fred or Bert or somebody. You know as the actor pressed the button, there was a guy trying to lift or lower the door. And we used to have a little trouble because it is very difficult to lift a heavy car door absolutely smoothly as it had to do. An adjunct to that question there is that we used to hate being in the cars because they were boxed in. They were invariably towed on the Queen's highway because they had no brakes, no exhaust system and you were put on a Casper Loader, which is just a trolley and the camera truck followed you. I was very, very uncomfortable. Then if you were inside the studio they had what they called a traveling matte. The screen going behind which looked like the road you were supposed to be traveling on. That was even worse because you were inside the studio, inside a car, with no air conditioner. It was an MGM production, you couldn't get out because you were all wired up for sound and you would have to get Bert to lift the car door up. So a scene in the car was not always greeted with great joy. I don't know what happened to those cars. I keep getting little articles from various people saying Disc Jockeys had bought them and so on. They were on display somewhere. They keep turning up. Now I understand that Colonel Foster's has been built into a neighbour's dispute. He had the car there, he was going to work on it and he could not get planning permission or something like that. So his next door neighbour built a brick wall and he built another brick wall so the only way he could look at it was to climb a ladder and look down on it and just see it rusting away."
FF: "So what about the fashions? Sylvia Anderson was very prominent in the design of the fashion and all the wardrobe for you"
Ed: "Yeah, yeah absolutely. Sylvia had and has a fantastic eye for colour and detail. She had cast all of the extras who were in SHADO. The girls who were in the background. All of that was down to her. And of course the art designer Bob Bell and Keith Wilson but obviously it was her look. I trusted her implicitly because I don't personally like to buy clothes. The suit that I am wearing tonight, which I don't think is too bad looking. (Pauses and smiles and poses!) I did a pilot for CBS last year where I worked with Angela Lansbury and played my usual CIA hard-assed guy. They took me down to Aquascutum in London and a guy bought me three suits and I figured. Hey, that's his job, to make me look good. So I bought some more of them.
Much laughter at this last remark.
Ed: "Anyway I don't like to go in a men's clothing store -- they always seem to want to measure your inseam just because you are buying a tie. I just don't trust my own judgement, but I trusted Sylvia with my personal appearance. You know she would take a tie off me and say, "I never want to see you in that tie again" Er Yes Ma'am! So the whole look was hers, yes.
FF: "What about Mike Billington?"
Ed: "Yeah, Mike wore a full wig but I don’t think that held him back at all. It was an era for that kind of approach of wigs, moustaches, beards and long hair. It was just in vogue at that time.
FF: "a good looking fellow was Mike though. Was there anything onscreen that we didn't know about? Was he a womaniser? Did he enjoy the company of ladies?"
Ed: "Well I don't know if he enjoyed the company of ladies but they certainly enjoyed the company of him."
Ed at this point smiles and winks.
Ed: "I don't know but I often told him that whatever it was he had he should to bottle it and sell it. Because it was incredible the appeal that women had for this guy and I think it was reciprocated. But I don't know, they were what was called the swinging 60's or 70's — and all of that time he was a single young adult guy — why not! We had a lot of beautiful girls on the show.
FF: "Very ambitious was he not"
Ed: "Michael wanted to get ahead in the business and I think that was one of the reasons we got along. Some people have asked sometimes "did you really get along, was there any trouble?" But we were in a time trap because we were so busy making that series and this is something that I have mentioned at other conventions and things and when you interviewed me for your show on Sunday I used this example. Forgive me those of you who heard it it's a duplication. In the David Lean Film Bridge on the River Kwai they got 18 seconds of finished film a day. We had to get 5 minutes a day, finished in the can. You think of the difference between 18 seconds and 300 seconds and there is really no time for anything except work, say your lines, cut, print you move on over. It sounds extraordinary to say but we just did not have any time for bitchiness or jealousy or any thing like that. I have always got along with Michael very well because I have always been very lazy professionally. You know so long as I was making a living and the kids were ok, I was happy. But Michael, I envied him in this regard, wanted to go to the top and what the hell's the point of doing anything unless you get to be the best. Whether it's a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, a brain surgeon, an actor or whatever. But I was always kind of a drifter."
FF: "But he nearly got to the top at one stage"
Ed: "Oh yes, fascinating. I flew to Los Angeles with him to go to a convention a couple of years back and it was really the first time in a long time. Must have been since we finished the series some 25 years that I had. Whatever it is, nine hours to actually sit there and talk to him. He told me about his relationship with the Bond picture and the family because he had a sweetheart who now produces the Bond pictures. Cubby Broccoli's daughter, they lived together in L.A. And he had been tested, screen tested seven times to play James Bond and you know he could never really get the reason why he didn't make it. And you know that at one time he literally came within half an inch, because they had used Lazenby and apparently they were so disappointed with him, his attitude and all the rest of it that they went with an established professional, whose track record they knew like Roger Moore. But for a long time they were just wavering whether to go with Michael or not. I said, Michael you must write that book. I mean there are people would be really interested. You know you talk about background. He was in L.A and they flew him over to Paris, France. Can you believe that! For a screen test with about a dozen girls who all wanted to be in the Bond picture, can you imagine they flew him all that way just to do this screen test with these girls"
FF: "And you suggested a title for the book."
Ed: "Yeah, that’s right, I did. 'The Bond That Never Was'. Now would you buy a book with that title? Maybe not?"
FF: "Of course you are no stranger to Sean Connery yourself are you? " (Says this in a really bad imitation of Sean Connery)
Ed: "Oh yes, this guy's fantastic!"
FF: "You're right"
Ed: "I am just a straight man here. That is all I was last night." "Yeah I've worked in two Bond films. If you blink your eye you miss me in one and if you cough and blink you miss me in the other"
Now at this point Ed turns to FF and asks, "What was the name of that movie?"
FF: "To Live and Let Die" (Ye Gods! This guy is feeding Ed incorrect information…)
Ed: "How many of you saw that movie"
Ed: "I had a tiny tiny part as a character whose name was Klaus Hergersheimer. And there is a sequence when Bond sneaks into this dome, out in the middle of the desert. You know he wants to find out what these bad guys are doing there. And the first guy he sees inside the dome is me, Klaus, and I am walking down the aisle. And I see that he does not have a radiation shield. So I say 'Excuse me where is your radiation shield?'. He says, 'well I am waiting for you guys to send me one' quick as a flash. No flies on Bond. (Laughter) So I have my nameplate on and he gets my name from my nameplate. So I say, well you are lucky I happen to have a spare, so I give him a spare. So he goes down the corridor and gets a white coat and goes into this lab where all the bad guys are and says, 'I am Klaus Hergersheimer, and I am checking radiation shields.' So he does this 360-degree pan with the camera and gets all the input that he wants. Then he goes out the door and I immediately come in the next door and say, 'I am Klaus Hergersheimer and I am checking radiation shields' so then they start to move in on me thinking that I am a phoney. Now Klaus Hergersheimer is not the easiest word to say in show business so now after they have set up this scene which goes on for around a minute and a half, they do this pan and he says I am Klaus Hergersheimer and goes out the door. I come in and say, "Hi I am Klaus Hergerschmeyer".
Ed: " You can imagine the embarrassment in front of this whole Bond crew. Actually I must throw in something here. I blew two takes on that, I don't know why. But after every take that I blew, Sean Connery he could sense my embarrassment, he would say in a very loud voice 'Oh I am sorry Peter' (that's Peter the director) 'I was way off my mark there, we would have to go again anyway'. He made the blame look like it was on him. Which I thought was very creditworthy. It was very terrifying you know. I would be standing behind the door with my clipboard waiting. I would hear Derek Cracknell the first assistant say, 'turn over, sound running' and then we hear a guy say 'mark it' and then the clapper board comes in and the director says 'action'. So after the first two takes, we goes through all this 'turn over, sound running, mark it, clapper board, scene whatever it was take four and then the director said, 'Klaus Hergersheimer, Action!' Oh talk about trauma! What a way to make a living"
FF: "In, 1993 I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Connery. Now you were on location with him, is he really such a nice fella?"
Ed: "Yes he really is, he is together, he is secure, he is kind, very generous and very conscientious. We had a little scene to make and we ended up behind some closed doors and he turned to me and he really meant it, 'well how did you feel about that scene, did it go, did it seem to work to you?' Here is a guy with a million pounds in the bank, an international star and he is worrying about a little tiny scene and he was actually genuine which is a very rare quality. Because most people of that stature they sometimes have a tendency not to care. He is a guy who really cares about his craft.
FF: "Now you were born Edmund Percival Alistair Bishop... Ok I lied about the Edmund Percival Alistair bit you were born Ed Bishop. (Well actually no he wasn't, was he guys and gals) You were a kid from Brooklyn, you were born 1932, you have come a long way since then. You were an American GI."
Ed: "Yes, 53-54 doing National Service. Defending the world from those Korean peasants who wanted to take over the world at that time."
FF makes some comment about a Korean Restaurant but this is drowned out by laughter.
Ed: "I was very lucky through a lot of crazy circumstances that can only occur in the Army. I was a radio announcer and disk jockey in Saint John's Newfoundland, Canada. I got involved in some amateur dramatics there and I really got bit by the acting bug. Then I went to University in Boston Theatre School 56 - 59, then I came to England in 59 on a scholarship and studied at LAMDA. And I have been at it ever since -- I have been acting all of my adult life. When I finished LAMDA I got a job in the West end in a musical, then I did a straight play, then a film -- a tiny part in Lolita. The guys that I had been to University with in Boston were selling life insurance or working in liquor stores. I was making a living as a actor and I figured as long as I was making a living I would stay in the business. Now over 40 years later I am still hacking it to death. Actors say 'oh if I am still making a living they obviously haven't found out about me yet.' I think that is what keeps people young. Not knowing what the Hell is going to happen next. I say I have been in the business over 40 years and I am still waiting for the big phone call! Every time the phone rings you think this is going to be the big one. I have a daughter who really does something for society, she serves as a policewoman. I think that some of that Kamikaze spirit has gone into her. We said Georgina, this is not the career we had hoped for you. But she said, 'Daddy I love it -- I never know what is going to happen.' So I think that keeps people on their toes."
FF: "Apart from the big screen and TV you are no stranger to radio are you. You have done a lot of voiceovers and such.
Ed: " No I was very lucky because when commercial radio started up here in around 1975-76, for some reason butch American voices were needed. 'Out now certificate X'". (Ed says this in deep gravely growling voice)
Hoots of laughter.
Ed: "I got on to this sort of merry-go-round and I am very grateful to it too. It bought a lot of Heinz baby food and Nappysan. But it got to a point where I had to decide if I was an actor who did voiceovers or a voiceover artist who occasionally acted. But the industry decided that for me, as a lot of guys started to come in and started to bring over narration's from the states. They needed people to voice them all in the UK. I seem to have peaked on that industry now. I do have occasionally a bit to do now but the main radio I do is for BBC Radio 4. I'll work for anybody."
FF: "Yeah the money is crap in the BBC"
Ed: "It is not good but it is a good training ground. It gave me experience. I did a half a dozen episodes of 'The Archers'. Keep hoping that guy will come back. I have done live schools' radio. I read a short story live on the radio. I have read poetry on Radio 3. And that book recently 'Me and Hitch'.
Ed: "So maybe anybody now has got a question they want to ask?"
Q: "What kept you working over here?"
Ed: "Well I'll tell you it is the path of least resistance. As I said almost immediately when I left drama school, I just had work. I never forget -- I went down to the American Embassy to renew my passport sometime in the 70's and I spoke to a guy called Mr Vanglass and he had very very thick glasses on like the bottoms of Coca-Cola bottles. He said 'Mr Bishop, why don't you go back to America?' (Says this in funny nasal voice) 'You are an actor, a Pulbright Scholar' Well look Mr Vanglass, I don't think America needs any more out of work actors. I think the only yardstick I ever used was that as long as I was working I would stay."
FF: "I suppose being the fact that you are an American in Great Britain makes you socially acceptable. Just like Hugh Grant is over in the USA"
Ed: "Yes, I suppose there is a similarity there. (Ed smiles a wry smile and smoothes his hair at this thought).
Q: "Which format of work do you prefer, radio or TV work?"
Ed: "My preference is motion pictures. I love the excitement of working on a film. I know a lot of actors talk of the mystique of the theatre. But I had two years at the National Theatre but to me it was kind of easy. You just had to get up there, learn the lines and don't bump into the furniture and take it easy as you go. Nobody yells at you from the audience 'rubbish' or 'get off'. No, no don't start doing that now."
Laughter all around.
Ed: "But you know there is kind of an arrangement between the actor on the stage and the audience. You know some actors get cross if anyone in the audience coughs. Hell in the old days in the eighteenth century the crowd used to hurl rubbish or they would try to make up a funnier line than the actor was saying. I think that kept people on their toes. Like Klaus Hergerschmeier, when the director yelled cut you would have to stop when 150 people all laugh at you it's a tough line. We went to see a movie this afternoon, 'Election' wonderful film highly recommended. And some of the scenes that you see you see all these people crying and fighting and all that and you have to do all that at 8.30 in the morning! It is really a tough medium and I like that challenge. I think the stage is kind of easy peasy. Radio is a lovely medium though -- you don't even have to get dressed for it."
Q: "Well it is a sort of anoraks sort of question. You were the shuttle pilot in Kubrick's 2001. According to all the things I have read. Kubrik ditched the original plans for the shuttle flight deck. Apparently it looked a bit like a Chinese Restaurant. I want to find out why? What'd it look like before he changed the scenery? Alternatively just tell us about the film."
Pause. Ed is thinking about this...Looking bemused.
Ed: "I am sorry I did not get the facts!"
FF: (trying to explain the question to Ed) "The shuttle that you were in, did it originally look like a Chinese Restaurant? Would you have seen the plans of that?
FF: "OK, Next question."
The house was in uproarious laughter at this exchange!
Ed: "However I must just dwell momentarily on the Kubrick thing. I had a tiny part in Lolita, just out of drama school, the first film I ever did and I had just met this man that we at drama school were all in awe of Paths of Glory and Kubrick. After Lolita he was so complimentary. He called me up in my home one day and says he has got this film 2001 and had a part for me. I was appearing in a West End play at the time and drove out to Borehamwood to meet him. I had nine days on this film. I had some wonderful scenes but unfortunately they were all cut. I am hoping now that somebody will get the rights to them. Kubrick never threw away anything. Everything was totally controlled. When we were making the film there were other guys making a film of us making the film. So you could sit down and be talking to somebody and you would see this stick mike come up. Then there would be some guy there with a camera. So somewhere there is a documentary film of Kubrick making 2001. He had total control. Most of us worked on several levels. I just could not handle this control thing. A lot of actors blew out on that. It got to the point on day 8 when he said good morning that I started to wonder what he really meant. It was a very unhappy experience.
FF: "OK, to answer that young gentleman. What was 2001 really all about? What was the plot?"
Ed laughs at being put on the spot.
Ed: "Move in the camp beds then. Get the breakfast things ready. It's erm. (Shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head.) I was suffering from trauma when I went to the premier. I was waiting for my scene. I think I nudged the person sitting next to me. I said 'watch this,' you know. Ah, blink he's gone! Poll-axed! I have watched it a couple of times on the box but it was not really a happy experience for me.
Q: "I was watching The Responsibility Seat" the other night and I saw you cast off the attentions of Jane Merrow and also you had the likes of Gabrielle Drake hanging around but you never succumbed. What is wrong with you?"
FF: "Get out of that one, Ed"
Ed: "Well they say when you are in a hole stop digging. I always felt there were so many elements of UFO that were left unexplored, and obviously the sexual tensions that exist between people normally did not seem to really have a thriving place in UFO. It was extraordinary. It's almost like Laurel & Hardy. You can take a scene of Laurel and Hardy in bed together in caps and nightgowns and you never think to yourself 'Oh my God, are they gay?' So when old Straker was with any of those girls, whether it was Colonel Lake or whoever it was just a situation that existed, it was a relationship that was 100% professional. I think from that point it added a kind of interest to it looking at it now. You had Paul Foster... he went out and got the girls he had the sandy beaches and what have you. But I think Straker, and that was one of the things I liked about the guy, was that he could be with a woman (Ed's suppressing a laugh here) and be totally switched off and say 'what do you mean, what do YOU MEAN!! Good God woman...what are you doing?' (says this in deep voice and as if horrified) That is the only way I can explain it. It was like Laurel & Hardy, it just wasn't there, they were in bed but ok so what, you know?
Q: "Does Ed Bishop have any views on the current topic of UFO's?"
Ed at this point looks bemused.
FF: "Come on Straker tell it like it is, you heard the guy..."
Ed: "My goodness...oh er yes. I am not a fan by any stretch of the imagination of the Science Fiction genre. And you know I am not suggesting any comparison whatsoever, but I have seen and have read a lot of things about Duke Wayne and how he was never comfortable amongst horses. You know the thing about an actor is he has to make a living and very very few of us over the tens of thousands of actors all over the world have any influence or any choice what we do. I was offered $5000 in 1972 to appear in a porno film. But I don't think it ever got made, if it did it got made without me. Very rarely do you have these kind of choices. I remember a guy at a convention asked me 'why did you do Space Cadets? 'That short lived quiz programme set in space. It wasn't a success, we had a man there dressed in space clothes and we had to make jokes. He asked me why did you do it ? And I said they paid me £1200.
Q: "Well that was very interesting but can you please answer the question? Do you believe in UFOs?"
Ed: "I knew there had to be a point of departure. I do not believe that we have been visited. I think there is a lot of anticipation. People would like it to happen. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence and I think if there were a people who had the technology to come to us they wouldn't just flatten some crops. They would say 'Hi we're here, bring me your leader' "
Q: "I have a question about Interceptors. Why were they never developed to have multiple rockets and were you really disorientated as you looked (laughter is drowning out speech here)...or was it just a (something inaudible) and how did you deal with the disorientation if you were ?"
FF: "Welcome to the world of heroin Ed!"
(The poor guy must have felt awful...the room just collapsed in fits of laughter)
Ed: "Wow, I never saw the end of that one ( Ed is inaudible here because of laughter). "I always wondered why we only had one shot with those Interceptors. The guy in them only had one chance -- if he missed because he may have had a bad night or whatever, well that was it! I could not answer the question why the Interceptors only had one shot.
Ed then tries to clarify what the questioner is asking in the second part of the question. The questioner carries on regardless of the laughter...
Q: " Yes well, going on from that, in that episode where you were frozen in time you looked very disorientated. Were you in fact disorientated and if so how did you cope with it?"
FF: "Do you remember that one ?"
Ed: "Yes, I remember that one -- it was Timelash that was, one of the better ones we shot at Pinewood. We had to inject ourselves with some kind of magic drug to get our pulses going to keep up with time and I think that the distributors looked very dimly on the drug taking. That was one of two episodes that were banished to the late late late hours. But I mean from as far as disorientation was concerned that was a different acting challenge because you were acting with people who were standing there frozen and were really just waiting for their lunch. So from that point of view it was just another episode.
FF: "Are you satisfied with that answer from Ed?"
Q: "Just about! (A few boos from the crowd and more laughter) Next thing on the mobiles why were those mobiles never properly armour plated?"
FF: "This guy believes!"
Ed: "I think there was a segment of an episode which was cut out where Straker wanted more armour plating on the mobiles but I think it never happened because of a Henderson budget cut."
Wild applause and hoots of laughter!
Q: "What were those buildings that were used as the Harlington - Straker Studios?"
Ed: "I think that was Elstree Studios just down the road from Borehamwood. Most of the series was shot in the studio in a box set, we only got out on location very rarely. It was expensive to take everything out there and of course the danger was that you would photograph a 1968 car going by. So we had to shoot in places that were very secure, that did not show TV aerials or whatever. We didn't want to make any mistakes. It is very difficult to shoot a period piece. Also it is very expensive to send a cast and crew out to locations, put them in busses and whatever and take them miles and miles away. So we only went down the road. So the woods around Pinewood were used ad nauseum in a lot of low budget films. But talking about locations, I can remember where they all were, but a very enterprising person has gone around and not only for UFO but for other shows of the 60's and 70's shows which are now coming back into the public appreciation, set up tours to take you out to these locations.
Q: "Did you get to keep the clothes?"
Ed: "Well I was given the watch that I wore. I told Steve and Fred about this last night.
Someone shouts "What time is it?"
Ed: "The time is exactly 9.12... the watch is engraved. The watch was worn all the time and it was very handy if you didn't know what to do you could always look at your watch. I was given the watch by Gerry, Sylvia and Reg. It is engraved on the back. Did I keep any of the costumes? No I don't think I did. Some of the scripts I kept a few bits and pieces but not all of it. On my desk was a green plastic ball which again if you did not know what to do in a scene you could always pick it up.The directors liked that so they could shoot through the ball and give special effects. But they gave me that at the end of the series. But every time I was in a series for TV or film and I was always behind a desk I would ask the Art Director if I could put the little green ball on the set. So the people who remembered UFO would say AH HA!! nudge nudge! I was doing a series of Francis Durbridge stories, I forget the name of the series, and I did about 8 or 9 episodes. I was behind this desk and put the thing there and on the last night it went. Nicked! We went up to a party and they were striking the set and I said 'my God I've got to go up and get that ball' and I came back about an hour later and it was history...gone."
FF: "Last night you were offered an incredible amount of money for that watch and you would not part with it?"
Ed: "The spiraling figure that it reached at the auction last night -- no it is something that I would like to keep, it is very close to me."
FF: "Living proof that every man does not have his price"
Ed: " last night no one offered me $30 for it"
FF: "You never said that last night you bugger - "
Steve: "I'll give you £3000 for it now cash in a brown envelope. Just think you could go to Barbados -- come on I'll give it to you now out of the till - I'll put the watch in a glass case for everyone to see."
Ed: "I am leaving this to my eldest grandson"
Applause at this.
Someone offers to buy Ed a beer.
Ed: "He's not a regular viewer of UFO, is he?"
FF: "He is obviously impressed by your countenance"
Ed: "No no, thank you I'm OK. That is very kind of you . First you want to buy my watch then you want to buy me a beer."
Q: "What did you want to do as a child. I wanted to own a toy shop. What did you want to do?"
Ed: "Well I think like most everybody I wanted to be a fireman or something like that. My formative years were during WW 2 and I guess I wanted to be in the army. One thing I wanted to be was a minister of the Episcopal Church. But I have lost my faith now, I have gone completely the other way. But I think the theatre is a kind of religion, the spectacle of the church is very theatrical -- there is the dress and the ritual, there is a certain similarity to the theatre. I think if I had it to do all over again I would study law and go into politics."
Q: "Can you tell us about the voiceovers you did for the Star Trek cartoons?"
Ed: "I did those in LA 71-72. I was asked to do this funny voice. I did it as a professional engagement - I don't really understand the question."
(This questioner was inaudible. Ed was baffled but in the end just said he did it as a business proposition)
Q: "Do you ever see anything of Gabrielle Drake?"
Ed: "No, several people have asked me that before. We don't see each other. We actors had no social contact with each other. We worked together but we never went over to each others houses. We all got along very well. I would meet people at conventions, George Sewell, the late Vladek Sheybal occasionally, we would keep up to date like that.
Q: "What do you do to relax?"
Ed: "Well I used to be very keen on DIY (Do It Yourself). I had a large house in Warwickshire and it needed a lot of work and I found that good therapy to relax. I found it good to do something completely different from acting and the theatre. We had a large garden. But I am not up to it anymore. I am an OAP (Old Age Pensioner), now we have a much smaller lawn."
FF: "Okay Ed tell us about Captain Blue."
Ed: " That was the first time that I worked with Gerry and it came about as a fluke. I had not been out of drama school long. I had an agent who was also the agent for Cy Grant the black singer. Gerry and Sylvia were interviewing him for the voices of one of the puppets. So this girl at the agency said 'oh by the way Mrs Anderson we have just taken on a new young American actor - that will tell you how long ago this was - his name is Edward Bishop. We know you like American voices from Thunderbirds and so on. Would you like to meet him?' Sylvia said 'ok send him round'. I went out to Gerry and Sylvia's house and auditioned for them. So there you start to think what if that girl hadn't been on the ball and just said 'Oh we'll send out Cy Grant' and that's it. But she had the tenacity to throw that little contribution in. On such flukes are careers enhanced. Yes I enjoyed that very much. For doing just voice work you don't have to dress well. We got along very well, Francis Matthews, Cy Grant and Paul Maxwell.. I was working with Joan Riverwood at the time at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Making 15 guineas a week. So I turned to Captain Blue to pay my rent and the Heinz baby food that was necessary. I have a great feeling for that series. But I have to tell you I had a call from Gerry a couple of weeks ago. Carlton TV is interested in doing a new series of Captain Scarlet."
Applause and cheering.
Ed: "So Gerry wants to do a five minute trailer since it is not going to be puppets. It is going to be digital enhancement or some such new technique. It's clever the magic ways they have to do these things. So we are going to put this down this 5 minute thing. They want the same voices. It is hoped that Carlton will go ahead with it. A couple of years ago Francis and I got together to do a couple of radio commercials as Captain's Scarlet and Blue. Francis' hair is completely snow white so there is the two of us in the studio - you know these two old farts with glasses on. (Ed pretends to be doddery and says "FAB Captain Scarlet" in his Captain Blue voice but shakily like Captain Blue is about 90) They should have made a film of these two old actors.
Q: "How did you find Gerry Anderson as a director on UFO compared to some of the other directors and could you do the Captain Blue voice for us?
Ed: "Well first of all let me say to be perfectly candid Gerry has a very unusual talent. The man has a talent to get an idea and make it happen on the screen. That means he has got to get about the same number of people as are here tonight, together. Then get all those disparate egos together and going in one direction. So that his UFO, Thunderbirds, Space 1999, Lavender whatever you know all his projects, to get them on screen and that is his talent. I think to be a director is less quite candidly but think that Gerry has a yearning to be in at the sharp end. He could see at that time that his contribution and Sylvia's was the most important. He wanted to have something to do with the creative process on the floor and that was not his speciality -- he was ill at ease there. We got along very well obviously. I hope that answers your question? You said we should have some candid revelations and that is mine about Gerry."
Q: "Can you do the Captain Blue voice for us?"
Ed: (in the style of Captain Blue) " Well - I - have - to - have - some - dialogue. You know I just can't make it up as I go along but all I can say is, Scarlet is we are in danger but you are INDESTRUCTIBLE!!!"
Hoots of laughter and cheers plus applause.
Steve: "There are about 20 minutes only because Ed has to get back to his hotel. He will be sat here with the BBC contingent if you want him to sign anything at all -- shoes, shirts, etc. Ed will be here to sign it okay? But thanks for coming! We've got a lot to get through. Ladies and gentlemen Mr Ed Bishop!!
More cheers and applause as Ed waves and smiles and makes his way across to a table in a corner of the room.