This TV Review first appeared in the Andersonstown News
As a rule I don’t watch daytime TV. I find I have enough tasks to keep me out of devilment, and dipping into daytime TV would feel like nipping into the kitchen and downing a double gin and tonic before lunch-time.
But these are strange and twisted times, so in the public interest I have watched presenters Dáithí Ó Sé and Maura Derrane on Today (RTÉ ONE). “Sit back, relax, we’re here for the next few hours!” Dáithí told viewers. And there’d be €5000 Cash Up for Grabs. All you had to know was whether the city of Chicago on St Patrick’s Day dyed its (i) River; (ii) its Puddle or (iii) its Swimming Pool green. Ooh, my head hurts.
The best bit by far was when Jonathan Healy did the Gems from the Past bit.
Jonathan got it all going by telling Daithi that looking at him brought to mind Val Doonican. He reminded Daithi, who was wearing a light-grey roll-top sweater, that Val was known affectionately as The Singing Jumper. Daithi bared his teeth in what was intended to be a smile.
But then Jonathan took us into ‘Gems from the Past’, and black and white footage remembered when Jayne Mansfield came to ‘perform’ at Tralee’s Mount Brandon Hotel. The clergy strongly condemned Jayne and her visit, but people lined up to see the gloriously sensual goddess. She was to sing six songs inside half an hour and would get – wait for it – a £1000 fee! Crikey. Yerra she must have had some voice, that woman.
But then, at the last minute, Mount Brandon buckled. A big sign went up at the hotel saying ‘Owing to the controversy Miss Jane (sic) Mansfield would not be appearing’. A clip of Jayne fondling her little dog followed, as she expressed amazement that she’s been cancelled. The RTÉ interviewer told her she’d been described in church as “a goddess of lust” and “a corrupting influence”. How did Jayne feel about that? “Obviously there’s a misunderstanding somewhere. My act is satirical, it’s very clean, it’s fun.”
Three months later 34-year-old Jayne died in a car crash.
The next item was the Birmingham Six being welcomed in Dublin on an open-topped bus. (Ask your granny, Virginia, and quit bothering me.) Gerry Hunter told the crowd that when they visited Boston, a bottle of champagne was presented to him. The note with it said “This is from the Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey.” Gerry’s reaction? “I turned to my wife and I said ‘I’m not drinking it.’ ”
That was thirty years ago. The Birmingham Six had spent the previous sixteen years in prison.
It’s amazing what old footage teaches us.