Tuesday, 27 January 2015
74 Opportunity Knocks
First watched : December 1971 or January 1972
I can be more precise about when I first watched this because it was one Monday night when I had already been put to bed but my mother called me down to watch this little lad ( Neil Reid above ) perform on Opportunity Knocks. The exact reason why is less easy to determine. Perhaps I had evinced some ambition to perform or she just felt he might be a good role model at a time when I was in a lot of conflict with my sister fuelled by "Why can't you be more like your sister ?" criticism at school. Neil was actually a poor fit for this; he was nearly twice as old as me and an experienced performer in the Scottish clubs when he first appeared on the show on 13th December 1971 and won for six weeks in a row.
I began watching it regularly some time in 1973 when bedtime had been pushed back to 8pm as I remember Peters and Lee winning it. Others I remember on the show include the singing miners Millican and Nesbitt, still one of the most unlikely acts ever to make the charts, Candlewick Green and the ghastly Lena Zavaroni whose tragic end tends to suppress mention of how awful she was.
I don't remember anyone past Pam Ayres in 1975; perhaps none of the subsequent winners were able to capitalise on it . Nor do I remember the right wing rants by oily Candaian host Hughie Green that caused , or at least gave an excuse for, the cancellation of the show in 1978. It's said that Hughie was preparing a broadcast in which he would propose himself a la Geoffrey Palmer in Reginald Perrin as the head of an alternative government.
Poor Hughie never got back on TV on a regular basis , a fact he predictably blamed on left wing blacklisting, and wasted much of his fortune on foolhardy lawsuits despite already having experienced bankruptcy in the fifties from a failed attempt to sue the BBC. His one small victory was a credit as "Programme Consultant" when the BBC revived the show under Bob Monkhouse in 1987 ( I never bothered to watch that ). He died of lung cancer in 1997 and would be largely forgotten now were it not for the revelation that he was Paula Yates's dad and therefore caught up in the ongoing real - life soap opera surrounding the late presenter and her family.
As numerous nostalgia shows and newspaper articles have pointed out in recent years, Neil's time in the spotlight was very brief and he soon found himself marooned in Blackpool doing cabaret. In his mid-thirties he quit , re-trained in finance and is now a management consultant though still based in Blackpool where he sometimes performs at the independent Oasis church.