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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 5

You will have read in “Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Eight” that along with TV21 and Lady Penelope, the production of Candy comic was now being handled by Martspress from June or July 1968 onwards. A month or so before the changeover, Dennis Hooper passed me a message to say that one of the ITC directors – he didn’t elaborate as to which one but I seem to think that it was destined to become a gift to his over-indulged son or daughter – had requested that the logbook and keys to “Stripey” be handed over, which was a bit of a blow as far as I was concerned for, over the previous year, I’d had the use of it as a second car.

I drove “Stripey” up to London and found a parking spot close to what is now (forty-eight years later) the Barbican Centre. On getting out and making quite sure that the doors and boot were firmly locked, an over-zealous young police constable made a bee-line for me and had demanded to see the log-book . . . the reason having been that at that time, many vehicles were being creatively spray-painted by their artistic owners with the result that the colours on the vehicle no longed tied in with the colours officially entered onto the vehicle’s registration document.

On handing the keys over to Dennis and Alan Fennell, I relayed the tale of what had happened, and as it turned out, the log-book had already been updated when the candy-striping had been carried out at Slough.

So what really did happen to Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas?

As I have said, TV21, Lady Penelope, and Candy comic went to Martspress in June or July, and a month or so later, the book section of Century 21 Publishing vacated the eighth floor of The City Magazines building and transferred to offices in May’s Court. Robert T. Prior, Andy Harrison, Bob Reed, Linda Wheway, Howard Elson and I, together with Alan Fennell, Dennis Hooper and the small Century 21 Publishing sales force, had moved into rooms to the rear of the English National Opera building (the ENO) where we had remained until the following June. We occupied a floor right above the theatre’s dressing rooms, and for much of each day we were entertained by the melodic scales of ascending and descending octaves as offered by the performers prior to them going through their respective paces in front of an appreciative fee-paying audience.

The Candy and Andy dolls, together with the two Bearandas, had remained in my custody. They were carefully put away in the loft-space and no-one ever thought of asking me about them, and to be honest, they were virtually forgotten by me also.

Items such as the orange settee, the pine dining table and chairs, and the two beds were incorporated into my house . . . as were the cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons and anything else of that ilk that had been deemed as being useful. The 2,000-watt and 5,000 watt studio lamps were given to Ken Mills, who had played the role of Sailor Jim (see part four), as he had more need of them than I.

As for items such as the toyshop counter and the shelving behind, these ended up in my garage, where they made good work-surfaces for carrying out various D I Y chores of which I once did a fair amount.

In the early 1990s, I went to live in the Far East, and it was then that my son Marcus asked me what he should do with varying items that I had left behind. It was at his suggestion that Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas be sent off for auction. By now, the rubberised “flesh” had become noticeably perished (the soft wire that ran through the fingers thus allowing items to be held began poking through the rubber) and some of the welded joints on the skeletal armature – particularly on the two bears – were sadly in need of attention. I believe the dolls were eventually bought by someone for an absolute pittance somewhere around 1994.

The range of books that  Century 21 Publishing produced had really been quite extensive – not just in regard to the variety of associated merchandised characters (Tingha and Tucker, Topo Gigio, Candy, Lady Penelope, The Monkees and Captain Scarlet to name but a few), but also the types of publication. This mixed-bag of product included painting books, sticker fun books, shape books, dot-to-dot books, puzzle books, large picture books, Christmas annuals, story and gift-books, paperbacks, board books, and model construction books.

I was fully in control of commissioning all the art that passed through the Century 21 Publishing (Books) section and it was I who designed the covers for all the books that we had produced. Meanwhile, it was down to Editor Bob Prior to (a) thrash out the financial arrangement he made with the Licensing Agents, and (b), to make whatever deals he could (down to the last decimal point of a penny) with the printers both at home and abroad. It was a balancing act between knowing just how many books of a certain type that he felt the Century 21 Publishing sales force could sell when it featured a certain merchandised character and, through ordering the longest possible run, achieve a profitable price per unit. Unfortunately, it was being bandied about by members within the printing industry that if you were able to get an order from Bob Prior, you were virtually made . . . I suggest you read into that whatever you may, but I shall be returning to this conundrum in a future part.

Not included in the list itemised above were the rather more complex doll-dressing books of which Century 21 Publishing (Books) produced a good selection for those individuals who liked getting involved in dressing and undressing girls and boys. I believe the first set of eight books had featured five members of the all-male pop-group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, and to make up the final three, Bob Prior chose the all-girl pop-group The Paper Dolls comprising of lead singer “Tiger” and her two chums “Spyder” and “Copper” partly because Bob had a fetish for heavy thighs and short skirts, and The Paper Dolls certainly had heavy thighs and short skirts.

With Captain Scarlet now being transmitted over the airwaves, Book Editor Bob Prior made the executive decision to produce yet another series of four titles – three of them having homed in on three of the five “Angles” – Destiny, Harmony and Rhapsody – and to make up the fourth, there was to be a title featuring none other than Captain Scarlet himself. As I had done with the previous doll-dressing books, I again commissioned Belinda Lyon (of the Oxfam Tea-towel fame and whose style was very distinctive) to carry out the work.

Within each book, there were four pages of clothes to cut out (printed in full colour on one side but blank on the reverse); each book had a lengthy story not only relevant to the character but also to the clothes that Belinda had created and lavishly illustrated; and for something to hang the cut-out clothes upon, there was an illustrated figure of the featured character, who just stood there attired in his or her undies. This figurine was printed onto an extended part of the fairly substantial front and back cover but was a gate-fold so it could be tucked back nicely to fit within the confines of the trimmed book. Each model came with a “stand” that slotted into the base so that when the figure was cut out, it would stand up properly in order to receive its allocation of clothes.

I was so fortunate to have as an assistant a tall, lanky mid-twenties lad called Andy (Andrew) Harrison. I don't recall having hired him myself – perhaps Bob Prior (my own immediate boss) had done so. Anyway, Andy was a perfect match for my own occasionally manic behaviour. As an example of his rather more zany actions, with Century 21 now proudly being in possession of a Rank Xerox copying machine, when the coast was clear, he would drop his trousers and briefs and capture a fine scan of his backside while sitting upon the viewing glass. Other rather less rude scans had appeared in a variety of forms in our books whereby he or I would capture our distorted portraits. In need of a fairly nondescript background for puzzles, quiz pages and 'fillers’ of that ilk, it seemed the quickest (and cheapest) way of filling up a page. On another occasion though, it had been Andy who had nearly brought about a whole heap of problems.

A day or two after some artwork had come in, Andy had been left working over lunchtime while I met up with Terry Smith for another session of being encouraged to walk into lampposts and crash into unsuspecting bystanders. Perhaps to shock Linda Wheway, who had now become part of the team, and using Taki-bac balloon-lettering paper, Andy had added a certain gruesome appendage that protruded from beneath the designer striped briefs Belinda had thoughtfully provided. Mind you, Belinda and Andy would have got on well, for she had also been a bit of a wag and would have been one of the first to have laughed her socks off over Andy’s highly detailed indiscretion.

At around 4:00, with everything done, read and corrected, the work had been wrapped up and was awaiting collection by the printer’s courier service in the reception area. In passing, I casually asked Andy if he had remembered to remove the offending object before packaging up the parcel. The sudden look of horror on his face and his speedy exit out to the reception area was all the answer I needed.

The Make-a-Model Cloudbase book was the very last job that Eric Eden created for me. Poor old Eric wasn’t the fastest worker on this planet, but with this final commission he took literally months to get the job done. I even had to drive over to his house – just off the Finchley Road, close to the north London borough of Golders Green – on a couple of occasions so that I might jolly him along a little. A month or two after completion, I learnt that he had become employed down in the dusty depths of the British Museum and working amongst and beside other ancient relics – some alive and some dead. Whether he was ill or not, I cannot say, but when his days had finally ended in October 1983, he was only 58. A question we need to ask ourselves . . . what was it about working on Dan Dare that encouraged so many of those associated with it to die in their late fifties—Frank Bellamy  aged 59, Keith Watson aged 59 . . . and whilst he didn’t work on Dan Dare, Ron Embleton was even younger when he passed away, aged 57.

Roger Perry
The Philippines

Coming soon: In Part Six, appearing on the front cover of Lady Penelope magazine are teenagers Mandy Walls and Eric Kincaid’s daughter.

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