Tony Penultimate

A Warning For Talent Show Contestants

A Warning for Talent Show Contestants*


Sitting on the sofa the other evening I was amazed at how many people are prepared to humiliate themselves on TV for a cheap shot at fame.  Looking at them strut their stuff, this sorry parade of losers, loonies and leftovers, I had to ask myself ……….don’t they realize they’re awful? 

It only took a few moments for my wife to remind me about my own mercifully brief blast at near anonymity when I appeared on a pre X Factor style show years ago in search of my big break in the business.

This whole sorry episode, one of the many cul de sacs in an otherwise ridiculous career was probably one of the more humiliating moments in my showbiz life, but looking back, not without its lessons.  Fortunately, the show is pretty much forgotten now with only a couple of references on the internet and I’m too long in the tooth to be bothered by it.

I had a look the video of it recently and it’s just as awful as I remember it - (sorry folks, niente video uploadi… too dull!).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still awful, but at least now I get paid for it.

So children, draw closer to the cyber fire and I will tell you the tale.

Twas the summer of 1994 and I’d got in the habit of going to talent shows with my ukulele trying to make things happen, pubs, clubs, busking, anything was fair game.  I was a lot brighter eyed, bushier tailed and sprightlier of bollock in those days……

I’d read an ad in the Stage newspaper for a TV talent show and it seemed like a good idea, so I applied…I mean people like music don’t they?  I got called to an open audition at a theatre in the West End and thought I’d have a stab at “There’s an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil” on my pink ukulele.

I didn’t get much response (no one said ‘next’) and I finished my bit and a couple of weeks later I got a call from the producers asking me to appear on the show, so far so good.  It looked like I’d managed to sidestep “paying my dues” and be hurtled into millions of homes via the magic of tv.

The show was called ‘Pot of Gold’ and was to be hosted by Des (Desert) O’Connor, a British showbiz veteran who got his start in the fifties compering Buddy Holly tours around the UK.  Having met a lot of shits in show business, I found him a pleasant man, but ultimately an enigma within a riddle, wrapped in bacon and topped off with golden cheese.

The filming was due to take place in a tv studio up in Nottingham and would involve an overnight stay.  So when the time came, I packed up my pink ukulele, my blazer, my slacks and my nautical hat and got on the train and took a cab to the studio.

It was upon reaching the studio and doing an evening rehearsal that I discovered that the show was in reality a two tiered talent show.  The main acts would be the usual bland club singers, comedians, jugglers etc (yawn) and then there would be a group of acts called ‘the wannabes’.  This was because they WANNABE on the SHOW and yes sir, they were the usual collection of nuts’n’sluts (plus an appalled and cringing moi).

Oppressed and deeply depressed, I took refuge in the hotel bar afterwards where I was consoled by one of the comedians, an old pro, who advised me to ‘just do it and forget about it’.  So the next day that’s what I did, the whole day was spent in grueling rehearsals under hot lights and then as the evening drew near the show began.   The studio audiences were mostly pensioners and I remember the warm up comedian warning them to applaud loudly ‘because they hadn’t had to pay to watch the show’

Our little group ran on one by one to be introduced and then we had 20 seconds to do our thing whereupon a gong would go off and the next one would come on.  The wannabe that got the most applause would then take part in the main bit of the show.  I did not get the most applause and so mercifully avoided making a twit of myself for a further three and a half minutes. 

It was during the filming of the show that I discovered that I was affected by “elvis leg” an uncontrollable shaking/spasm of the leg (a common problem among mountaineers/cyclists, but not ukulele players).  Fortunately I was wearing quite baggy slacks so nobody noticed.  However now, whenever I see someone on tv singing with intense emotion and forcefully gripping the microphone with two hands, I know for sure that they have ‘elvis hand’ 

Anyway, thank God the whole thing finished and at the wrap party afterwards I managed to get a photo with the ‘golden’ O’Connor.


A few months later the show aired and a few friends phoned to make comments like…’good’…’alright’…’not bad’..'didn't see it"


I thought I’d got away with it, but a few days after the show went out, a small article appeared by the acerbic tv critic Garry Bushell, in the high quality, very reasonably priced British tabloid, The Sun, featuring (on the third page) photos of beautiful young girls and their naked bodies (YO! Murdoch lawyers – pick some holes in that!).




Some years later describing the incident to a producer friend, he told me that I’d fallen for the classic talent show dupe, such people are known in the business as “patsies”.

If anyone is considering entering one of these cattle markets I’d advise them to watch Martin Scorcese's seminal, way ahead of its time, movie “The King of Comedy”; it just goes to prove that schmucks can and do make it through. 

As for the talent spotters I’d say – keep an eye on the crap, it may come back and bite you on the arse!


Good night and Good Luck

*This is an old blog post from myspace!



a wise warning many thanks:)

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