Bet Gilroy, whose necklines plunged, hair height soared and ear-rings lengthened as she became a national fixture over 25 years, left the Granada TV set last night after a surprise party from the rest of the cast, and after filming a storyline which Granada hopes to keep a surprise for the rest of us.
Julie Goodyear, 52, who plays Bet, decided in fitting, ministerial style to step down to spend more time with her family. Her departure is a loss not just to the viewers of Britain's highest rated soap, but also to the tabloid readers who faithfully followed her every trauma and even to transvestites for whom her character became a cult figure slavishly imitated at nightclubs.
Like the best soap-opera characters Bet Gilroy, nee Lynch, the character and Julie Goodyear the actress became interchangeable. Buxom and blousy, peroxide and decolletee, were Julie and Bet, dispensing good advice to others but unable to put their own lives in order.
It was Julie who insured her breasts for pounds 1,000 in 1970; had three marriages but only consummated two of them, who while engaged to the wealthy American Richard Skrob in 1983 announced she was to marry a television director, but a month before the wedding cancelled it and married Skrob, then divorced him, and went out with the footballer Justin Fashanu who left her, claiming that at 17 years his senior she was too old.
If that scenario was too far-fetched for a prime-time soap opera, the scriptwriters tried to meet it halfway. Bet tried to commit suicide after the death of her illegitimate son, had a miscarriage, and when a coach crashed into the Rovers Return commented with characteristic sardonic humour: "I'm sorry, I hardly ever cry. You can't afford to when you've got this much mascara on."
Rumour has it that Jack and Vera Duckworth, fellow veterans of the Street, will take over behind the bar. It is of some import. The pub plays an even more pivotal role in a soap than it does in real life. A focal point for characters to meet, sit and chat allied to the budgetary advantages of a fixed location.
Ms Lynch/Gilroy/Goodyear claims she might make the odd return to the script. As she has not committed the unforgivable sins of writing a book about the Street or revealing a storyline, we can be sure her last scene yesterday did not end with that coach ploughing once more into the Rovers Return and skidding towards the bar.Reuse content