'I was the nude on the bacon advert': Imogen Edwards-Jones mingles with the stars among TV's extras

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'IT'S my ambition to be the richest, most anonymous man in the world,' said a huge bloke covered in tattoos, as he reorganised his chicken-wire shoulder pads. 'You can keep the fame, I just want the fortune.'

Barry normally plays heavy biker-types because of his extended waistline and straggly hair, but today he was an extra on a television advert for Gary Glitter's Christmas album re-release of greatest hits. 'I'm actually a bike mechanic,' he said, kicking the floor with his chunky boots, 'so it's not surprising that I normally play bikers. I only do this during the winter. Mending bikes is seasonal. People only ride in the summer.'

In a darkened room at Westbridge Studios in south London, about 30 odd-looking people were gathered around a trestle- table. It was salmon for lunch and the extras tucked in. Holding paper plates, they milled around in elaborate, Mad Max- goes-disco costumes - silver shoulder-pads abounded, as did leather boots and stacked hair- styles. 'This is one of the perks of the job,' said one lad with an eight-inch quiff. 'The pay is shit but the nosh is good.'

Meanwhile make-up was putting the finishing touches to a few latecomers. Copper, a vision in multi-coloured sequins, was having a respray. 'I do love these make-up girls,' she said, 'I looked 80 when I came and now I look my age.' Copper is 70 and used to be a trapeze artist in Gerry Cottle's circus. 'Gary Glitter was in Gerry Cottle's, you know. But I didn't know him personally, of course.'

She had been a patient in a pilot for the GMTV doctor-slot the day before. 'I spent the morning gazing into Dr Hilary Jones's eyes, the guy from TV-am, and I tell you, he's every bit and more. I don't know what he's like as a doctor, but then who cares.'

Sitting next to Copper was Sandrine, a French girl with thick blonde hair and a pretty pout. 'Oh dear,' she sighed, as the make-up girl took out her curlers. 'I thought I was going to look rather glamorous, like Madonna, not Mozart.'

There was a mad rush to get everyone on set. 'Five minutes,' shouted Jonathan, from the Partizan production company, as he swept the glitter off the floor. The extras already knew their routine and their places around the tinsel wrestling ring. As Gary, clad from head to toe in silver lame and stars, fought with the baddy, they punched the air, swayed from side to side and clapped in time to the music.

Watching them earn their pounds 85 were the latecomers, sitting in the wings waiting for their turn in the next take. 'See that guy on the end?' said the girl with the three-foot beehive and the golden G stuck in it. 'I've always wanted to meet him, he's the new Yorkie man. Isn't he a hunk? He spent nine hours in make-up to get that look in the advert. I think I'll talk to him later.'

There is a hierarchy even among the extras. Donald, the Yorkie man, was a bit of a star. He had, after all, been in the Bovril ads with Jerry Hall all sexy in red, surrounded by hunks. 'I'm doing this because I love Gary Glitter. I would only do these things for him and Cliff Richard, because I think he's brilliant as well.'

Standing next to him during the break, daintily sipping tea and nibbling a few biscuits, was Caron. 'You might recognise me,' she simpered, smoothing down her blonde bob. 'I was the nude woman at the barbecue on the bacon advert. The one with the naked family cooking bacon. It doesn't spit so you can cook in the nude.' She laughed and then confided, 'It is a bit of a problem as you end up being typecast. For months after that I kept on getting asked to take my clothes off at auditions.'

'Oh, I know,' said Angela, a pretty redhead. 'I had a weird one the other day. I played the prime suspect in a police reconstruction for Crime Monthly. We did it in the actual flat where the murder took place. Horrid. But I got pounds 75.'

Most of the extras came from Ugly's, an agency that specialises in providing extras for films and commercials. They are all members of Equity, that notoriously impenetrable actors' union.

'How did you get your Equity card?' the French girl asked the Yorkie man while they sat between takes. 'From a male dance group - you know, the ones that take their clothes off, rather like the Chippendales. We used to go down to our thongs, just thongs mind you, not all the way.'

An extra called Peter twirled the tea strainers attached to his shoulders and sighed. 'The things I do. If you think this outfit is bad I once spent the day with a 121b industrial tea kettle on my head wearing a pink plastic suit pretending to be an alien for a One Cal advert.'

'I saw that,' said Jimmy, squatting next to him. 'I've been in EastEnders and I was one of the Kray gang members but I'm a singer now.' He paused, then smiled. 'I've done a great rip-off of Gary Glitter.'

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