Noele    Gordon    is    a    television    legend;    she    produced    and appeared    on    ATV's    first-ever    programme    "The    Weekend Show"   in   London   in   1955   and   set   many   other   TV   records over   the   following   years.   She   was   the   first   female   to   have   a major   chat   show   on   ITV   (Tea   With   Noele   Gordon),   pioneered daytime   TV   entertainment   with   Lunchbox   and   was   the   first female   presenter   to   interview   a   Prime   Minister   -   to   name only a few of these feats. Noele, you've been living with 'Meg Richardson/Mortimer' for years. Did Meg intrude on Noele's life? Oh   no,   we   are   completely   different   and   you   drop   these   things   entirely   when   you   leave   the   studio.   I   would   say   that   perhaps   the   only   effect   the   programme has   had   on   me   -   apart   from   ageing   me   -   is   that   it   has   made   me   a   lot   more   tolerant   than   I   used   to   be.   We've   dealt   with   so   many   problems   in   Crossroads which,   if   one   doesn't   know   much   about   them,   one   is   inclined   to   shrug   them   off.   For   example,   the   problems   of   the   handicapped   were   treated   in   depth when my screen son was crippled. We especially looked into the effect a handicapped member of a family has on the rest of the relatives. You say you and Meg are dissimilar, how different are you to her? Oh   I'm   completely   incapable   as   everyone   at ATV   knows!   Meg   is   very   practical,   she   can   count,   which   I   can't!   She   is   very   good   at   dealing   with   staff   whereas   I would   never   be   any   good   at   hiring   or   firing   people.   I'm   much   too   of   a   coward.   If   I   ran   a   motel   I'd   end   up   with   about   a   thousand   employees.   I'd   never   have the nerve to sack any of them! Meg   Richardson   isn't   allowed   to   smoke,   Noele   Gordon   smokes   like   a   furnace.   But   then   again,   it   is   very   difficult   to   say   just   how   different   we   are.   I   don't know if I would treat my children the way Meg treats hers. Then again, if I had children, I might. I just don't know. You say you're incapable, yet you have taken up hobbies such as flying? Oh   I'm   very   good   at   doing   things   like   that.   I'll   always   have   a   go.   I'm   not   a   very   capable   person   at   looking   after   myself,   though.   I   seem   to   need   a   lot   of people   to   look   after   me!   My   one   great   talent   that   I'm   very   proud   of   is   my   great   ability   to   get   people   to   do   things   for   me!   I   presented   a   show   where   I learned   to   fly   for ATV,   Noele   Gordon   Takes   The Air.   I   also   hosted   a   series   on Anglers   and   other   sport   shows.   For   Lunchbox   I   drove   a   tank,   a   bus,   a   train   and racing car. Went down a mineshaft looking for coal. Oh yes, I'll have a go at anything. Is Meg a real person in your eyes? Yes,   in   fact   she's   modelled   on   a   friend   of   mine   who   does   actually   run   a   hotel   in   the   country.   When   we   were   first   starting   the   series,   we   leaned   quite heavily   on   her   for   advice.   Her   husband   continued   to   act   as   an   unpaid   advisor   on   the   programme   for   many   years   too.   [Geoff   and   Edna   Lancashire   were   the hotel advisors and friends of Noele] Did you put any of your own ideas into the scripts? We   were   always   encouraged   to   make   alterations   if   a   line   was   difficult   or   wrong. Also   we   were   encouraged   to   put   up   ideas.   For   instance,   I   went   on   a   trip once   and   ended   up   in   a   hotel   in   Scotland   that   was   a   cross   between   Dartmoor   and   Belsen!   Well,   we   wrote   it   up   in   the   show,   all   the   ghastly   things   that happened at this hotel. We   got   letters   saying   'no   that   couldn't   happen!'   But   it   did! Also,   we   were   often   consulted   if   we   were   going   to   be   in   a   storyline   that   they   thought   we   may not   like.   For   example,   I   was   asked   to   comment   when   they   were   going   to   send   me   to   prison.   And   when   I   was   going   to   be   poisoned,   the   producer   rang   up one Sunday afternoon and asked, "Hey, how would you like to be poisoned?"! We've talked about the differences between Noele and Meg, but are there any similarities? Well   we   both   make   'to   do'   lists,   and   then   lose   them.   I   think   we   have   the   same   attitudes.   I   think   we're   both   pretty   normal,   average   sort   of   ladies   really.   I would have liked Meg Richardson to have been a bit more scattier though. Me I'm demented! What is your opinion of Meg? I think Meg was marvellous. A lovely lady! I wish the producers had given her a few more faults. But she never seemed to have an Achilles Heel at all. How do you deal with your popularity, people recognising you wherever you go and coming up and talking to you? If   they   stopped   doing   it,   you   might   as   well   give   up.   It's   a   great   compliment   that   people   think   I'm   Meg   Mortimer   and   I   find   most   people   very   nice.   What   is   a bit disconcerting is that people who see you every night on the screen think they know you and they think you know them. Very   often,   usually   very   nice   ladies   will   say   to   me,   "Oh   hello"   and   I'll   say   "Hello"   and   then   they   will   realise   and   say,   "Oh   God,   of   course   you   don't   know   me!" But I love it. I think it's a measure of the success of the programme. Earlier you discussed a little of how Crossroads dealt with serious issues, do you think these stories helped the causes? Primarily   we   aimed   to   be   family   entertainment,   but   we   have   helped   a   lot   of   people   enormously.   One   of   the   ways   we   did   this   was   through   the   setting   up, thanks   to   ATV,   a   foundation   to   help   relatives   of   handicapped   people   by   supplying   a   helper   who   looks   after   a   disabled   person   for   a   day   or   weekend   to enable the relations to have a rest. The   programme   we   did   about   decimalisation   when   the   change-over   came   is   another   example   of   Crossroads   helping.   The   Post   Office   thanked   us   in Parliament for that. Despite all the ground breaking stories in Crossroads, the show still came in for a good deal of criticism? Whatever   the   critics   in   the   press   said,   Crossroads   did   a   very   good   job!   It   did   the   job   it   was   designed   to   do.   Its   ratings   were   amazing   and   a   heck-of-a-lot   of people   still   like   it.   From   the   actors   point   of   view,   we   were   very   conscious   of   the   time   limit.   To   be   in   Crossroads   you   had   to   be   very   professional.   We rehearsed   on   Mondays,   Tuesdays   and   Wednesdays   and   the   episodes   were   recorded   on   Thursday   and   Friday.   There   wasn't   time   to   be   amateur   about   any   of it! With such a busy schedule, it couldn't have left you much time for a social life? Free time? I never had any! Really, when you're in a soap opera, you give up a personal life. But I did it gladly because I loved working on Crossroads. Is this why you never married? Look,   I   really   think   no-one   has   ever   really   wanted   to   marry   me!   I've   been   acting   since   I   was   two-and-a-half   and   I've   never   really   met   anyone   I'd   like   to   give the business up for. I have one or two ideas though! I'd give it up for Charles Aznavour.. And Larry Grayson? Oh   Larry,   bless   his   soul!   No,   I'm   a   bit   old   fashioned   really. As   I   said,   I'm   not   really   very   capable   and   I   couldn't   work   and   be   married   at   the   same   time.   If   I had a husband running around I don't know what would happen to him. God knows, poor soul! It sounds like you're not a great fan of 'Women's Lib'? Well   you   see,   I'm   a   very   strange   little   animal.   I've   been   liberated   all   my   life,   dear!   I   think   its   an   awfully   sad   thing   that   they've   had   to   pass   laws   to   make women   equal.   I   don't   want   to   be   equal   to   a   man;   I   think   I   am   far   superior! Always   have   done!   I   am   a   great   believer   in   equal   rights.   I   think   that   if   a   woman is doing the same work as a man she should get the same wage rates. Being dedicated to your work, do you never feel lonely, missing that 'normal' lifestyle? Hmmm,   I   haven't   got   time   to   feel   lonely.   Occasionally,   you   know,   one   does   feel   you   would   like   to   have   a   strong   arm   around   you,   and   a   shoulder   to   cry   on. But   I   am   a   very   fortunate   person,   I   have   wonderful   friends..   ..and   I   lean   on   them.   I   think   most   women   would   like   a   man   about   the   place..   ..I'm   still looking. Did you run into problems in your career being a woman? People   try   to   take   advantage   of   a   woman.   They   do.   But   they   don't   do   it   twice!   My   father   died   some   years   ago,   and   both   my   mother   and   I   found   that   from time to time people do try to take advantage of you. But usually I find people are very nice to me. If   you're   not   getting   your   own   way   with   a   man,   I've   found   two   things   which   are   great   to   do!   Cry   or   fall   down.   If   a   man   feels   you're   really   helpless,   they   love you. You generally get your own way then. Did it bother you that eighteen million people tuned in to watch you night after night? I   never   thought   of   it   as   millions   of   people   looking   at   me.   Never!   That   would   really   drive   you   mad!   I   still   get   nervous,   before   performing   for   television.   I was warned about this on Lunchbox when I first started. If you think about the millions of people you will go screaming out the building! Let’s talk about those pioneering ATV daytime years on Lunchbox Jolly   great   programme   that!   I   did   it   with   Ivor   Jay,   who   went   on   to   create   the   soap   opera   idea   [boarding   house   drama   series]   that   eventually   Peter   Ling   and Hazel Adair transformed into Crossroads. Ivor became the script editor for the soap. I used to hate Ivor and Ivor used to hate me! The   first   time   I   ever   really   talked   to   Ivor   was   when   we   all   met   at   an ATV   party,   and   he   looked   at   me   and   said,   "I   bet   you   wouldn't   go   into   the   lion's   den   at the local circus." And I said, "I bet you I would! But there are easier ways of getting rid of me than that!" No, I loved doing Lunchbox it was great fun. I love interviewing and I love doing live shows. Did you get on equally as well with the Crossroads team? We   all   got   on   very   well.   We're   a   family,   you   see.   You've   got   to   get   on,   after   all   you're   living   with   each   other   five   days   a   week.   We   are   all   fond   of   each other. We like each other. We know each other extremely well. What do you think are some of the finest Crossroads episodes? Personally,   some   of   the   finest   episodes   we   ever   did   were   at   Coventry   and   at   the   Cathedral.   They   were   so   pleased   with   some   of   those   episodes   that   they have   put   the   scripts   of   the   episodes   in   the   archives   at   Coventry   Cathedral.   We   shot   some   fabulous   stuff   in   the   Cathedral   that   brought   people   from   all   over the   country   to   see   the   place.   The   episodes   were   all   surrounding   the   car   accident   with   Sandy,   and   we   were   wandering   around   Coventry   looking   for guidance and so on. Do you recall any embarrassing moments? Princess   Alexandra   came   to   open   the   new   ATV   studios,   and   I   had   to   do   a   fall   in   the   motel   reception.   A   sort   of   comedy   scene.   She   asked   me   "Do   you   hurt yourself when you fall?" And I said not really as we are trained to do it at drama school. Well, she asked to see me do it. So I fell. The   newsboys   were   there   shooting   it   for   the   TV   news,   and   that   night   it   was   broadcast.   The   following   morning   I   went   into   the   garage   next   door,   and   the fellow there said "You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Were you drunk last night? Falling down in front of the Princess like that!" What has been the greatest thrill in your career? I   had   a   tremendous   thrill   when   I   appeared   at   the   London   Palladium   with   Larry   Grayson   in   1975.   Having   played   the   Palladium   as   a   principal   boy,   going   back 20   years   later   and   being   able   to   sing   and   carry   on   was   great.   I   also   did   the   Command   Performance   which   was   fabulous.   The   first   night   of   Brigadoon   was also a great thrill too. A lot of people don't realise I did a lot of work before Crossroads. Did you enjoy your screen wedding to Hugh Mortimer? The   wedding,   too,   was   very   nice   and   I   think   we   showed   the   rest   of   the   country   just   what   a   beautiful   Cathedral   Birmingham   has   got.   I   think   it   was   a   great high-spot. It did a lot of good too, as at the time a lot of people didn't realise that a civil marriage could be blessed. It's   funny,   but   people   pick   up   a   lot   more   facts   if   they   are   watching   something   as   entertainment   rather   than   being   preached   at.   They   know   what   they   saw on Crossroads was true, because it was all fully researched. John Bentley, as Hugh, was wonderful to work with. We were a great on-screen partnership. What would you like to say to the critics and people who knock Crossroads, still? You   cannot   judge   a   programme   like   Crossroads,   unless   you   stick   with   it   for   several   weeks,   at   least.   Because   Crossroads   makes   four   programmes   a   week, now   we   may   have   made   one   jolly   good   one   and   then   we   may   have   made   three   very   duff   ones,   or   we   may   have   done   two   which   are   not   so   bad   and   then two which are pretty good. But the show cannot be judged on the same standards as Play Of The Week or even the serials that air twice a week. We   knew   our   limitations,   we   knew   our   faults. And   we   would   have   loved   to   have   had   the   time   to   put   them   right.   But   if   we   had   had   the   time   to   put   them right, then we wouldn't have been able to make a soap opera. Now your life at Crossroads is over, Meg has gone, possibly forever? Meg   had   to   go.   Nolly,   as   my   friends   call   me,   will   to   go   on.   I   had   to   begin   a   new   chapter   in   my   life,   exciting   and   also   rather   terrifying.   But   who   knows   what lies ahead? I never expected to leave Crossroads. I never expected to be starting a new life. It could be said that I am now at a Crossroads. What   I   won't   ever   be   doing   is   taking   up   the   hilarious   offers   of   jobs   in   hotels   which   came   in   from   viewers   convinced   that   I   can   really   run   a   motel.   I   would like to do more in theatre because there is nothing like a live audience. How were you told that after eighteen years of Meg Mortimer, she was going to be written out of Crossroads? I   was   in   Birmingham   where   my   home   is,   when   my   manager   Michael   Summerton   telephoned   to   break   the   news.   At   first   I   couldn't   grasp   it.   I   had   harbored my   suspicions   that   I   was   being   eased   out   because   I   seemed   to   have   been   given   less   and   less   to   do.   I   had   never   dreamed   I   would   be   sacked.   I   put   the   phone down in tears. I cried all that night. Then I later cried all over one of chat show host Russell Harty's best suits. Will you leave the Midlands after so many years in Birmingham? I   shall   go   on   living   in   Birmingham. After   so   many   years   in   Midland Television   all   my   friends   are   in   the   Midlands   and   I   am   also   president   and   patron   of   around 30   Midland   organisations   so   I   would   not   want   to   move.   Since   the   death   of   my   mother   I   have   had   our   homes,   which   were   neighbouring   flats,   converted   into a house for myself. How did you cope with the shock of being dropped from Crossroads? During   the   unhappy   days   that   followed,   I   spent   hours   remembering   the   happy   times   and   marvellous   people   I   have   known   in   Crossroads   and   this   sent   me   to my   scrapbook   in   which   I   have   kept   pictures   and   press   cuttings   recalling   them. These   helped   me   come   to   accept   that   while   one   way   of   life   was   about   to   be ended, a new one was about to begin. Were your parents supportive of your stage and television career? My   mother,   Joan   was   very   supportive.   My   father   James   was   more   concerned   about   my   working   in   theatre.   But   he   came   round   in   the   end.   He   was   a   Scottish Civil   Engineer,   so   no   theatrical   background   at   all.   My   mother   was   rather   shy   and   I   think   she   always   had   wanted   to   be   an   actress   but   never   had   the   drive   for that, so she was very pleased I was into performance. What would you like Crossroads to be remembered for? For the good causes it made people aware of, and also, when it began in 1964 it made TV history as the world's first half-hour daily serial. Was working for nearly 18 years on Crossroads worth it? Worth   every   minute   of   it.   Crossroads   gave   me   more   opportunities   to   act   than   any   other   actress   has   had   in   the   history   of   the   theatre. And   some   people   say we did it badly, some people say we did it very well.. ..The main thing that mattered to me is that the public enjoyed Crossroads, and I enjoyed doing it. Would you do it all again? Every minute of it, I'd like to go back to the very first programme.
 © Crossroads Fan Club 1987-2016, interview compiled from material via ATV Press Office, Format V (ATV) and Goodbye Meg Magazine