After surviving the crook in the camel coat, we carried on picking up a small job here and a small job there and the weeks turned into a few months and soon somehow we had managed to survive a year. But the future was not looking no brighter for the two of us and Jane and I had a gathering friction which broke out almost daily into rows.
In fact it felt like I was married twice!
Then something exciting happened. Just as the year rolled over into1977, we were joined by of all people, the former Executive Head of the Design studio at Yorkshire Television, not Ed but his boss. He too had decided to go freelance and hearing about our place he approached us for a room to sub-let and moved into a room just across the landing.
I’d met Allen several times at the studios, but I didn’t know him well, after all at the studios he’d had quite an elevated position. Now, on the outside of the studios, he seemed both a nice enough bloke and very professional.
Jane and I both reckoned we could learn a lot from him and we were flattered that someone of his quality and professional standing would want to come and chum up with us of all people. Added to that, he still had his TV connections, so we hoped we’d pick up some work from him.
He said he’d had enough of corporate life and decided to go his own way before he got too old to try, at the same time he made it clear, there’d been no fallout with the company and he’d left on good terms, and with the promise of work coming his way.
But something didn’t seem quite right and although he said he’d decided to step out of the corporate structure for personal reasons I wasn’t convinced he’d told us the whole story. After all he’d held a plum job with what I imagined a great salary and benefits; if there was something else he wasn’t telling us.
Allen was older than us, in his late thirties and like Jane he’d never been freelance, or even worked outside a company and at first that showed; he was the proverbial fish out of water. I had the feeling that at first he was let down that we didn’t have a canteen and a bar with subsidized beer! But he soon got used to the new freelance way, and was nothing but charming and friendly, I quickly forgot he’d in effect been my boss at the studios. So we and the mice took him into our small, but expanding family.
Allen was already familiar with my illustration and cartooning as he’d commissioned simple animated title sequences from me in the past and said he liked my work; in fact it turned out it was him who’d sanctioned Ed from the graphics studio to use me.
One day, not long after he’d joined us, coffee cup and cigarette in hand, he stepped across the landing and into our room. Jane was out so he drew up her chair and came and sat next to me.
He explained he had a nice little job in the offing and there was work in it for me if I wanted it. He told me about a new mega light-entertainment show about to be produced, a quiz game which had been bought in from a Spanish television company where it had been a huge hit. He said the expectation was for it to be huge here too and there’d be loads of work farmed out to freelancers during it’s production. He said fortunes would be spent by the Producers in order to make it a huge hit.
and Yorkshire TV had bought rights to produce an English version.
In Spain the show was known as ‘On*Dos*Tres’. Its’ main attraction, resulting in sensational viewing figures, were the spectacular prizes the most extravagant on television at that time.
But the catch, which kept the live audience, contestants and viewers on the edge of their seats, was that they could lose everything in a moment and go home with a booby prize instead of a yacht. A likely winner could go from riches to rags- in a moment. That’s what gave the show it’s’ hook and it’s teeth.
In Spain the booby prize was a watermelon, something so common it was of no value. The English show explained Allen, needed something similar
He told me how the show’s ex-BBC Producer, who’d been brought in specially, decided that in Britain an ordinary ‘dustbin’ would make an ideal booby-prize (a dustbin translates to a trash-can in America for our American readers). But a full size backyard galvanized bin wasn’t much use, so he’d asked Allen to create a cartoon character, to become not only the booby prize, but the show’s mascot.
As he was about to make his freelance move he’d gladly agreed to take the development of the character as his first freelance project. But Allen was neither character-designer nor animator, in fact he was one of those designers who could hardly draw a straight line. That’s why he said he was speaking to me.
How a golden booby prize landed in my freelance lap!