I came by this today

Extracts from Michael Parkinson’s memoirs, to be published late this year.


I remember my first interview very well. I was three at the time. I was standing at the counter in Cleckheaton Co-op with my mum, waiting to be served. On impulse I turned to the woman behind us in the queue and said: ‘Tell me missus, what’s brought you to t’ Co-op today?’ She looked down at me and replied: ‘Why t’ bus of course, if it’s any of your business you cheeky little bugger’. I didn’t explain to her that I meant was what was the purpose of her visit, in the hope of continuing with the interview, as I then realised that dressed as she was in clogs and shawl with a pinafore over her frock, that it was most unlikely she was a film star who had a recently released film to plug. (This was long before the days of Helena Bonham Carter)


My best mate at the infants’ school was Stinky Higginbottom. Stinky was a real card and for a while we were inseparable. The pranks we got up to! Nailing a pound of tripe to the underside of the teacher’s desk so it stunk the classroom out, taking down the union jack from the school flagpole on VE Day and replacing it with Stinky’s sister’s bloomers, pushing fireworks up to cats’ bums. However it was obvious that Stinky was never going to become famous so I stopped talking to him.


 I am afraid I didn’t enjoy my years at Barnsley Grammar school very much, apart of course from the time I spent playing for the school cricket team, cricket being my great love in life apart from talking to Muhammad Ali and people who have a book out. There was nothing wrong with the teaching – it was good enough to get me five O –levels – it was just that I felt my time there was wasted as there was no one famous there to talk to. That holds true for the town of Barnsley in general. However in Barnsley town centre there were many statues of famous people so I spent my time talking to them. (I didn’t realise it at the time but this was to stand me in good stead for the time I interviewed Meg Ryan on the Michael Parkinson Show many years later)


I hoped that by taking a job in journalism I would get to meet many famous people, but as a cub reporter on the Ossett Exposer (named after a flasher at the time of the paper’s birth, according to the editor, a likely story) it soon became obvious to me that these fond hopes would not be realised. Then one day I got a note from the editor telling me to hot foot it to the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, to interview Laurence Oliver. It was obviously a spelling mistake, the editor meaning Laurence Olivier. This was it! My big break! But when I got to the Alhambra I found to my chagrin that Laurence Olivier was not appearing there and the Laurence Oliver the editor referred to was the theatre manager. However it came out in the interview that he used to be an actor with the Harrogate Rep, so he was sort of famous, so I didn’t mind interviewing him so much. (This interviewing of a nearly famous person came in useful when BBC cutbacks forced me into having cheaper, sort of famous people like Ben Elton on my show)


I have a great love of Yorkshire and a great love of cricket so naturally I interviewed many other famous Yorkshiremen who play cricket, my friends Geoff Boycott, Dickie Bird and the late Fred Trueman to name a few. Interviewing Fred when he was dead was perhaps one of the most difficult things I have had to do but it was certainly preferable to talking to someone who wasn’t famous. Then again, his wife had a book, ‘Ee Fred Tha Were A Reet Laugh’ newly published.