(Written by Chris Hibberd)
4am, sometime in 1981. Kojak star and inveterate gambler Telly Savalas wakes, dazed, and gazes around him. He makes out a bank of recording equipment and a small projector on the far wall. He notices a microphone through the cigarette smoke, coughs, and pulls himself up on one semi-frozen elbow.
Where am I? Greek Street? Where’s the gyros and moussaka? I was rolling the hard eight on the tables at Atlantic City, baby!? Who are you?
Harold Baim? Never heard of you… Look, I know my credit ran out along with my luck, but what’s the deal with this jaunt to Jolly Old England? A film or two? Hey, baby, I don’t do nothing fruity…
Ok – so you paid my debts and now you want me to do some voiceover work. I got you. You’re talking Quota Quickies – sounds like a stag film to me. Any busty broads? Need me to cast an experienced eye over the talent? That’s a shame. So… mini-travelogues showcasing some of the UK’s finest cities in all of their glory. Aberdeen! Birmingham! Portsmouth! Never heard of them…
Gimme the scripts. I gotta be back in Manhattan by Wednesday, capiche?
A few questions, Mr Baim. Spaghetti Junction? What’s that? An Italian disco club for meatballs! Some of your joints certainly have crazy names, baby. Let me acquaint myself with the details while you fill me in on your resume and what have you.
You’ve been running this Quota Quickie racket for the last 40 years, huh? So you truck out to some English city, point your camera at the action, no matter how ho-ho or hum-drum, and you keep rolling until you have enough in the can to form what you call “an important record of regular life within the UK”? That’s some fancy talk. And then you bring in the chit-chat artists and they do the who and the how and the why into the microphone back at the studio.
I’m guessing you never had Hollywood gold like me, right?
Terry Wogan – he ain’t no Johnny Carson… and Nicholas Parsons? He the fruity guy on the egghead TV show – the one with the students and all the damn questions? Wild, baby, just wild.
You must be some pretty big honcho out here in UK TV Land though – carte blanche to film what you want, a solid gold licensing agreement with United Artists in the Swinging Sixties that let you film no less than a third of all the Quota Quickies produced, and you got to make most of the little bastards in colour too. I know how much that costs – you’re quite the golden boy out here.
And all because some Government suits passed a law in 1927 to ensure that a percentage of all the movies shown in the UK were of British origin. I’m guessing most of your Cecil B. de Milles made a tonne of dreck to screen alongside the two films and a cartoon, huh?
Ok, let’s roll – Birmingham. Botanical Gardens, Bournville, West Midlands Motorway Control Unit…
This is the view that nearly took my breath away
The Bull Ring, British pubs, some old broad named Mrs Taylor doing a disco dance…
I’m sure somebody loves ya, baby!
Gimme Aberdeen. Livelier, right? The River Dee, North Sea oil rigs, Hall Russell shipyards, Grampian Police…
That’s progress, I suppose
Let’s finish this shindig with Portsmouth. They won’t catch on that I’ve never been, trust me. Ships, the Mary Rose, Tudors, ships, the Blitz, more British pubs, ships, the King’s Theatre, Portsmouth Cathedral, Victoria Park, ships…
Today it’s a shell
That’s a wrap! Just point me at the plane – first class, naturally. Thanks for the little extra walking around money… Who loves ya, baby!
Recommended Viewing (all on our YouTube channel!)
- Looks At… Portsmouth
- Looks At… Birmingham
- Looks At… Aberdeen