Why are they famous? John Noakes
Sunday 09 August 1998
APPEARANCE: Then: eager young puppy, scampering about ready for anything. Permanently-sandalled Youth Group Leader, but still dashing enough to appeal to the Brownie pack. Earnest chair of the Students' Union Real Ale and Geology Society. Now: still all the above, but with grey hair. Well, he is 64.
ANIMAL MAGNETISM? In spades. His furry sidekick Shep gave rise to one of the wittiest catchphrases of the small screen, "Get down, Shep!" Famously unruffled when a guest elephant copiously and unexpectedly anointed the studio, to the glee of children up and down the land, and then stepped on his foot.
FAME AND FORTUNE: Kids' telly is a notorious career graveyard (see Johnny Morris, Johnny Ball, etc etc). Noaksey went on to front Go With Noakes and has since attempted various low-key "comebacks". Not helped by the fact that he left the BBC under a cloud - he was allowed to keep Shep, but only on the grounds that the furry one's artistic integrity remain uncompromised: ie no dog food commercials. Subsequent sulk lasted years; he stalked off to live in Majorca and bum round the Med on his yacht. Majorca is lacking in Harry Ramsden's fish and chips. "I wish he'd send me a packet of frozen," says a nostalgic John.
NOT WHAT HE SEEMS: Says that his open persona is naught but a sham: an alter-ego he calls Idiot Noakes. "Idiot Noakes has an extrovert personality, is light-hearted and jokey. A bit of a buffoon who would do anything for a laugh or a few pence." Off-screen, he says, he is about as extrovert as - well, any other native of Halifax. "I switch the personality on when I turn up to do the job, and off when I leave."
FAME PROSPECTS: Dour Yorkshiremen tend not to scale the heights in television. But bring back Idiot Noakes and who knows? Podgy pets could be just the start of a glorious renaissance.
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