‘Phil Mitchell Would Break My Legs’

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Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks reimagined by Doug Pledger

By Larry Jaffee

London artist Doug Pledger has found an unusual muse in Phil Mitchell, and his memes dedicated to the EastEnders hard man often go viral in social media, collected at www.utterphilth.com.

Pledger, whose other artwork is showcased at www.douggy.com, graciously shared insight into why he pays homage to someone who many fans consider to be an Albert Square menace.

Walford Gazette: What was the catalyst for using Phil Mitchell as a muse, and how old is the site? 

Doug Pledger: About 10 to 15 years ago, I did a few jokey photoshopped images of Phil, in fake film posters and what not, just to send to mates, and over the years have done a few here and there. My friend osymyso had also dabbled in messing with EastEnders, having made a musical track ‘Pat and Peg’ which had done the rounds in the late 1990s. We thought we’d rub our brains together and do a few more bits and pieces and make a website – Utter Philth, which we started in March 2016. Osymyso does the music for the videos, and I do all the designs/cartoons/photoshop stuff along with the video editing. It caught on pretty quickly thanks to the Facebook page, and kind of took off overnight. We haven’t made a single penny from it, but it sure is a laugh.

WG: But why Phil?

DP: I think the fact that Steve McFadden is the only actor in EastEnders who doesn’t do that much in the way of interviews/chat shows gives an air of mystery about him, almost like he really is Phil. He’s great to plonk into different situations, as he has various traits that work really well for comedy/tragedy. He’s famously angry, confused and sad, never really that happy… unless he’s drunk or doing someone over. He’s certainly the best thing about the show, by a million country miles.

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WG: Have you received any recognition from the BBC of your Utter Philth efforts?

DP: The BBC certainly know about Utter Philth as I have worked freelance for the EastEnders social media department; this was before Philth took over. I did a bunch of non-Phil-related images and designs, which were used on their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter etc. They did post a few of the early Utter Philth images but due to some of the stuff being pretty backward and just plain odd, they haven’t embraced it that much. This has all taken off in a weird direction now anyway. We like the idea of creating an alternate Phil Mitchell. One who’s scared of Kermit and has a sick Rubik’s Cube addiction.
WG: How many Utter Philth memes have you created?

DP: The amount of ‘memes’, as you say, so far I think there are more than 100 photos and 23 videos. There are also probably about that many again that’ll never see the light of day as they’re either too awful or just too unholy.
WG: What is the thought process behind creating such a meme?

DP: There isn’t really a thought process on any of this. Things just pop into your head, mostly due to what clips and photos surface. It’s a lot easier getting ideas from watching and looking rather than having an idea, then spending all day looking for a photo where he’d look good on a skateboard, for example.

WG: Why do you do it?

DP: FUN. Nobody’s paying us to do any of this, so it’s more like a hobby. The fact that it’s being banded around the web is just icing on the cake. I’ve been doing stuff like this forever, for the love of making stuff.

WG: If you met Steve McFadden, and he realized Utter Philth was your creation, what would you say to him?

DP: If I met Phil, I mean Steve, I would go weak at the knees probably because he’d be breaking them. Has he even seen it? I have no idea. I’d have to say hello though, shake his hand and check out that thumb of his. You know what… up until recently I couldn’t stand the guy, not Steve, but Phil. It’s only been this year I think and that he’s gotten older, that I’ve realised how fucking brilliant he is. Always known he’s a great actor and admired his skill but never really took to him. Maybe because when he was younger he was just this “well ’ard thug,” but now, he’s kind of still that, but he’s more of a character. But maybe that’s always been there. As I said before, I don’t really watch the show so I’m not really the best person to judge. Would love to have a drink with him though.
WG: Have you received any acknowledgment from Steve?

DP: My fiancée Caroline went to school with his son and is friends with him on Facebook. She said one day, “Oh look! Matt’s liked one of your Phil videos” so we know his son’s seen it … that’s as close to the holy grail we’ve got.
WG: To what extent do you watch the show for ideas?

DP: I have a one-year-old daughter, so I don’t really get much time to watch TV outside of CBeebies, but I do try to skim through the EastEnders episodes on the BBC iPlayer to see if Phil’s been in it. To be honest, I don’t watch the show, I see bits and pieces here and there, but I really couldn’t tell you what three quarters of the characters are called or what they’ve been up to. I’m just about up to date with Phil, but haven’t seen any of this week. Osymyso is the same, but I think between us we manage to keep on top of things. I do get told from time to time by people… “Doug, did you see EE last night, Phil was on form.” It’s good to have these informants.
WG: How many social media followers does Utter Philth have?

DP: Facebook has 57,740 followers and the videos have millions of hits. Is that good? Sounds good … but then you might find a page dedicated to a snowman that has double that, I’m really not that clued up on all this. The fans on there are great though, the best, they’ve really taken to the nutty stuff.

New Gazette (No. 95) At Printer

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The new issue features our usual pot pourri of EastEnders analysis and insight into characters including Pat Butcher and Dot Cotton, current series developments, such as the imminent return of Lord Cashman whose Colin left the show in 1989, and of course, humour. To wit, check out the brilliant mind behind “Utter Philth” devoted to all things Phil Mitchell.

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Another article is about a woman who likes Pat Butcher so much she has a tattoo of her.

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To subscribe, click here on the site or order via credit card by calling 917-291-2488 (US mobile).

Walford Gazette Presidential Endorsement

By Larry Jaffee

Being a  working-class publication, the Walford Gazette’s preferred candidate for the U.S. president during the primary season had been Senator Bermie Sanders.

However, as long as Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she will receive my vote to prevent a fraudulent lunatic from taking office.

I am not happy about it, and look on her as the lesser of two evils. But it is not the right time to place a protest vote, as I have done several times in the past.

Ironically, I thank the official from the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaking at the Republican National Convention for telling me how to vote in this absurd election.

The NRA official noted that the last time the US Supreme Court had to decide a case dealing with gun ownership, it was decided 5–4, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the deciding swing vote favoring the NRA.

But the Second Amendment is among the many issues the High Court will decide in the next four years, and I am deeply concerned whom Donald Trump would install for the vacant seat, as well as anything else he would do or say as president, based on his continually outrageous statements about minority groups and hollow rhetoric short on facts or concrete strategy on how he would get anything done.

The second that Donald Trump on the GOP primary campaign trail made fun of a disabled person, I realized how unfit he is to hold the office. A decent human being doesn’t make fun of disabled people. Period. That Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns is the behavior of a private citizen who has something to hide, not a public servant.

Does he think that being president is such a trivial job that he could continue to host his reality TV show The Apprentice, as he reportedly told NBC?

And for the record, if I had my druthers, Senator Sanders would lead a real third party that would teach both the Democrats and Republicans a lesson in civics and public service that puts citizens first, not special interests. We deserve better.

A Brief History of Walford’s Doctors

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Dr. Legg set the bar for Albert Square’s medical profession from Day One

By Nicholas Pascale

From his very first scene Dr Harold Legg (Leonard Felton) firmly planted himself in the community of Walford.

His first dramatic episode was the unforgettable “Who killed Reg Cox?”. From then on, we saw a doctor that lasted in our hearts from 1985 to 1997.

A Holocaust survivor, Dr Legg showed care, concern and compassion for all who inhabited

Albert Square. No doctor that followed him had the longevity of Dr Legg. He rented the two flats above his to Ethel Skinner and Mary with her baby Annie. In 1988 we were introduced to his sister’s son, Dr David Samuels (Christopher Reich), after his sister visited him and convinced him to bring her son into his practice. They came from Israel. The two doctors butted heads on many occasions.

Dr Samuels represented the new approach to medicine, whereas Legg was the old world. Dr Samuels has an argument with his uncle, Dr Legg, over failing to correctly diagnosis Vicki Fowler’s meningitis, which causes Dr Legg to retire and leave the practice to David. Since the character of David was not well received, the writers had his girlfriend Ruth talk him into going back to Israel with her!

For years after, Dr Legg was slowly written out, and we had a string of doctors to replace him. Of this string Dr Fred Fonseca (Jimi Mistry) became the next doctor to occupy the surgery. He was Asian as the producers felt they needed another Asian to replace the Kapoors.

He was not as compassionate as Legg, he would never listen to his patients’ complaints after hours and took a holistic approach to medicine. He was the writers’ way of introducing homophobia to Walford.

His receptionist Josie, who was a born-again Christian, would often chide him about being gay. When her daughter, Kim, who was confused about her sexual identity, consulted Fonseca, Josie accused him of trying to recruit her to the “gay cause”!

He stands out, a doctor that was trendy, handsome and struggling with being gay! He lasted from 1998 to 2000. He was followed by Dr Alex Harrison (Ian Shaw), Dr Daniel Rodford (Howard Saddler),

Dr Steven Khan (Hari Saijan) and Dr Anthony Trueman, played by Nicholas Bailey (son of one of main characters, Patrick Trueman). He lasted for three years, from 2000 to 2003, and provided us with many interesting story lines. One of which was

dating both mother and daughter, Kat Slater and her daughter Zoe. He came back for his father’s wedding to Yolande and his brother Paul’s funeral. He now lives in Cambodia.

And although he only lasted for one season, Dr Oliver Cousins could never be forgotten. From being locked out of his apartment wearing nothing but a bath towel that slipped off

to finally standing up for Little Mo and proposing to her once he got over being shy gave us our 2006 Walford doctor! All the doctors that worked in Albert Square lived above the surgery!

An interesting note: on a plaque outside the surgery a list of three doctors, whom we’ve never seen nor met, are listed: Dr Paige Luxton, Dr Sam Burnett and Dr Dale Lockey. And during 1985 to 2006 we’ve seen nurses as well.

Andy O’Brien who was tragically run over and died, and Sonia Jackson Fowler and her lover Naomi Julien. Now we have to wait to get to meet some interesting doctors that will arrive in the years following 2006: Dr May Wright whom the American audience will be meeting later this year and Dr Yusef Khan who arrives in 2011 in the UK. As you can see, none of the doctors that followed Dr Legg could ever hold a candle to the lovable Dr Legg!

 

Pauline’s Bloke on EE Was a Kitchen-Sink Lothario in the Mid-’60s

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Ray Brooks with Carol White in ‘Cathy Come Home’

By Dr. Charles P. Jenkins

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I discovered that Ray Brooks had joined the cast of EastEnders! Why, you may ask? What is the big deal? Isn’t he an actor? He is not someone special.

Well, Ray Brooks WAS someone special at one time and had an ‘avant garde’ past. During the early and mid 1960s, Ray Brooks was a young actor and had made a big splash with his first films.

In the early 1960s, English (not British) plays were riding high: writers like John Osborne and Arnold Wesker were the toast of the West End and Broadway. The wrote about ‘The Angry Young Man’ – people who had come of age following the Second World War; who had done their national service in the army; had gone to university; and now found that promises being made by the Conservative Government were not quite bringing happiness and a sense of fulfillment to the populace. These men snapped and snarled and found solace in drink and by making others unhappy.

Although Ray Brooks’ characters were not exactly typical of ‘Angry Young Men’, however in 1962, he appeared in a film, called ‘Some People’, which was about ‘youths’ with no sense of purpose who were saved through their trying out for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. This award was introduced in 1956 and recognises adolescents and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement exercises and which has now spread to 144 nations (the U.S. never became involved). Mr. Brooks played a youth in need of ‘direction’. He had a menacing look that appealed to young girls of the time. He was dark and had his hair cut and groomed very much in the ‘Teddy Boy’ tradition, which was long (for the times) and swept back at the sides and raised high at the front. The film had a song, which was successful at the time, was directed by Clive Donner who went on to make a number of major films.

Although this film was successful, it was his next film based on the play, The Knack ……. and How to Get It that received much attraction and brought acclaim to the actors and director. The film was awarded the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the Cannes Film Festival, 1965 and brought Michael Crawford (‘The Phantom of the Opera’) and Rita Tushingham (‘Dr. Zhivago’) to public attention. This film was made in the midst of the ‘Swinging London’ mayhem and dealt with young men and sex. The film was directed by Richard Lester who had recently completed The Beatles first film and used many of the cinematographic techniques that had been fresh and well-received in this film.

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Ray Brooks in The Knack….

Brooks played a ‘womaniser’ who had ‘the knack’, which Michael Crawford, a paranoid teacher lacking in confidence, wanted to have. They, and an artist, compete for the affection of Rita Tushingham, a young naïve girl who wanders into their world.   This film was filled with ‘dolly birds’ dressed in mini-skirts and with long blonde hair and saw the film debut of Jacqueline Bisset, Charlotte Rampling and Jane Birkin.

Mr. Brooks was obviously ‘riding high’. He followed his successes with a television play produced by the BBC in 1966 that set the country talking and Parliament ‘on its ear’! At that time, the BBC produced a series named ‘Wednesday Play for Today’, which dealt with ‘social issues’. I was in college at the time and was ‘far too sophisticated’ to watch television, but I always watched these plays! The play in question was called, ‘Cathy Come Home’ and brought to the attention of the public the lack of adequate and affordable housing in Britain.

The story revolved around a young couple, Cathy and Reg, played by Carol While and Ray Brooks. They got married and soon had a child and moved into a modern home with ‘all mod cons’ (i.e., all modern conveniences) and seemed to be leading a charmed life. Reg gets injured and loses his job. They have no savings and are soon evicted from their home. And so begins their descent into poverty.

Reg cannot find work and the family spends time in shelters and eventually have to ‘squat’ in derelict buildings. Reg finds a job outside of London and leaves with the promise to return. At first he sends money, but this stops and Cathy is left alone with her children. You watch as she deals with Social Services and various charitable organisations, and slowly, but surely, she is worn down by the bureaucracy associated with her situation. Her family is unable to help her since they are also in a sorry state. Eventually she is told that she has to be separated from her children. This she cannot tolerate and takes the children and runs off. Of course, she has nowhere to run. The last scene is remarkably powerful. Cathy is seen holding on to her children while sitting on a bench in a railway station. Suddenly the Officer from Social Services appears along with several henchmen. They surround Cathy who is screaming and crying as she refuses to loosen her grip on her children who are also weeping copiously. They grab her hands and pry her fingers free and take the children.   They are led away leaving Cathy totally broken.

A couple of years ago, ‘Turner Classic Movies’, invited the actor, Tim Roth, to be a guest presenter. He was allowed to choose the films shown and he and Robert Osborne discussed them following their emission. Mr. Roth asked if he might choose the Television Play, ‘Cathy Come Home’. Following its showing, Robert Osborne was physically disturbed by the play and asked a hundred questions about the situation that had led up to Cathy’s treatment.

The Play was written by Jeremy Sanford who had been brought up ‘with money’. He married the writer, Nell Dunn, and together they gave up their ‘charmed life’ to live amongst ‘the poor and downtrodden’ and both wrote about the people around them. The play was directed by Ken Loach who had also filmed ‘Up the Junction’ (1965), written by Nell Dunn, and featured the filming of an abortion, illegal at the time, for the BBC’s ‘Wednesday Play’ series.

The writer, producer and director of ‘Cathy Come Home’ were socialists, but were also ‘social realists’ and worked to bring attention to a number of projects, such as the labour rights, mental illness, capital punishment and alienation. Great pieces of work, but perhaps not the fare for an evening of relaxation in front of the television set!!!

‘Cathy Came Home’ caused ‘questions to be asked in the House (Parliament)’. Although ‘Britain had won the War’, people wanted to know why Germany had built more homes for its working class than Britain etc etc etc.

Most of the ‘hype’ surrounded Cathy, Carol White, who went to Hollywood, but did not do well and eventually committed suicide. Ray Brooks remained in Britain, had married in 1961 and next worked on a television series with the comedian, Sid James, about a taxi service, which was reasonably well-received. He never appeared in any major films and spent much of his career playing guest roles in various series, doing ‘Voice Overs’ and as the narrator of the well known animated children’s programmes. In the 2000’s, Mr. Brooks was, for a few years, the voice of the person informing passengers of the ‘next stop’ on the London Tramline system.

Apparently, Mr. Brooks is no stranger to British soap operas. He had appeared on Coronation Street before, in 2005, joining the cast, as Joe Macer, on EastEnders. I must admit to being shocked when I suddenly saw him in his first episode: gone were his thick black luxuriant hair and arrived was the look of age. Well, he was 66 years old at the time, so I suppose this was natural.

Sadly, I cannot say that I am overly impressed with his character, but I think that his friendship with the odious, Bert Atkinson, probably adds to this. However, what surprised me most was his marriage to Pauline Fowler. I still find it hard to believe that this took place. Still, ‘it takes all sorts to make this funny old world’, as we say in the East End.

Dr Charles S.P. Jenkins is the proprietor of the fine websites http://stories-of-london.org and http://eastend-memories.org