Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Wounded tigress

Over at Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle, my mind is on the magnificent Miss Dorothy Squires.

Idly trawling the web for more Dottie, I stumbled across this gem of an article by veteran journalist Donald Zec in The Sunday Mirror in March 1978:

It was the slanging match of the year, and I told them both they were like a couple of frisky cats on a hot tin roof.

I've now decided this was being unkind to cats.

For no self-respecting mog, pedigree or stray could have matched the loud and unscripted bitchery which involved Adrienne Corri and Dorothy Squires (and me) in that riot of a Thames TV show last Monday night.

Going for each other with forked tongues and blazing eyeballs, they transformed the cheerful Take Two chat show into as venomous a clash as you'd find this side of the average snake-pit.

"Phoney!" "You're only in it for the money and your horses." "Oh...rubbish!" and an unequivocal mutter of "Balls" were just a few of the felicitous exchanges which made anchorman Llew Gardner go pallid beneath his pancake, and his co-presenter Sandra Harris weak at the knees.

Seeing these two garrulous chicks giving each other the karate chop with their tongues certainly stunned the watching millions as it momentarily turned TV into an abattoir made for two. But actually to be there, as I was feeling their hot breath and prodding eyelashes on either side, gave me the best time I've had since World War Two...

Not that there was any hint of the blue murder to come when we all met for a pre-show drink. The ladies in question twittered sweetly, like nuns at netball. The theme of the programme was "Is there really no Business like Show Business?" Actress Adrienne Corri was down to defend the star game. Dorothy Squires was expected to take a less rosy view.

I was required to throw in anecdotal ballast.

But as an old student of the female animal, I had an instinct that blood was going to flow. The rising decibels of Adrienne's voice beat a warning tattoo on my ear-drums. Her eyes were like hot anthracite.

Miss Squires bore the icy calm of a hit-man lining up his sights.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," began the amiable Mr Gardner, cosily disarmed by the as yet unruffled pussycats to his left and right.

Dorothy Squires purred quietly along at first. Then, suddenly, she arched her back, hissing at the way the media reacted to her career.

Bitterly she said nobody "has any friends in show business" and the only love was between her and her audience.

That put the devil in Miss Corri. She rose sinuously in her seat like a charmed snake. She grimaced. She huffed, she sniffed and she snorted, "Nonsense!", "Rubbish!" "Oh come on, you're only in it for the money and your race-horses!"

Mr Gardner's face shrivelled into a mortician's smile. Dorothy Squires, who could spit rivets into more daunting opposition than the sleek Miss Corri, reacted like a wounded tigress.

She tore into Adrienne. "You're a phoney; you shouldn't be in show business," and when that failed to demolish the lady, made the curt comment "Balls!" which does tend to bring things to a halt. Llew Gardner looked at his questions, decided hell had taken over and threw them away.

I mentally discarded half my anecdotes on the grounds that only a UN contingent was going to get between these two.

The studio audience sat rigid as if nerve-gassed.

The earpiece linking Gardner with the producer was oscillating with frantic instructions for emergency re-jigging. This was a rare moment in television and the producer wanted to broadcast every bite, scratch and clout.

I discarded another brace of anecdotes as Miss Squires wondered icily whether Miss Corri had ever seen one of her performances.

With a sweetness compounded of two parts prussic acid to one part strychnine, Miss Corri purred, "I'm sorry, I've never seen your show."

The interval arrived like all quiet on the Western Front. The presenter joked about getting the fight promoter Harry Levine to mastermind the contest.

After the interval comedian Jim Bowen told some good jokes but then he caught a glimpse of Adrienne Corri idly turning the pages of a trade paper.

"Don't read while I'm performing," he rasped. "I don't read when you're performing. Mind you, I can't find where that is."

I felt like the character who'd been invited to a party but nobody asked him to play. Finally they stuck a mini-mike in my lapel. I worked up some steam, but who do they put to my right? The unstoppable Dorothy Squires.

I opened my mouth but the words came from the former Mrs Roger Moore. However, when she took a breath, I did tell her that the media had been pretty helpful in her career. That, without the likes of us, her shows would be pretty light on audiences.

But by now we were in intensive care. And even when the hostilities ceased and the dust settled the ladies continued their separate harangues.

Dorothy said: "I was bloody furious with Adrienne Corri's attitude to show business. I would have belted her one, but I couldn't get near her. I earn £4,000 a week and she earns £200 - that's the difference between us."

Adrienne Corri snapped back: "The idea that there is no business like show business is a load of rubbish. It's all an ego trip we get paid for. In any other business we'd be locked up."

Llew Gardner staggered off the stage like the walking wounded.

I thanked Miss Corri and Miss Squires for being so... something or other. The studio audience went out giggling into the night.
I think I would have given my right arm to be in that audience!

Dorothy Squires (25th March 1915 — 14th April 1998)


  1. Why do I not know about Miss Dorothy Squires?

    1. A whole world of wonder awaits you... Jx

  2. At first I thought it was Rosemary Squires but this is an entirely different matter altogether!

  3. Dot was unique, a close friend, and I adore her. Thank you so much for this!

    1. You are most welcome - and I look forward to reading your biography of Dottie when it comes out! Jx


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