Hi John, thanks for dropping by, how long have you been a Background Artiste for Coronation Street?
I think I made my first appearance in 1986.
Let's first go back to your roots, where were you born?
I was born in Nantwich, then lived in Northwich until I moved to Manchester in 1980.
Did you head into being a Background Artist right from school?
No, but I think I was a born entertainer, starting off as a DJ and I remember buying my first twin deck console at fifteen years old.
I left school and went to work as an apprentice for a small printers (fifty boys applied, and I landed the job), although I really wanted to stay on at school & study drama. I was the guy that kept my work colleagues entertained by doing various impressions.
You do impressions? Who can you do?
I can do Frankie Howerd, Larry Grayson, Bruce Forsyth, Sue Pollard (Sue always asks me to do my impression of her whenever we meet), Kenny Everett (Cupid, Sid Snott, etc), Tina Turner (do the voice, face & leg movements), Austin Powers, Neil Diamond, Gary Barlow, Norman Wisdom, Prince Charles, and lots more.
I was often pushed up on stage by my mates whenever we went to Nightclubs, and I eventually handed in my notice and turned professional, landing the position as the main DJ at Rotters in Manchester, presenting acts such as Slade, XTC & Simple Minds. The manager often requested me to impersonate football manager Brian Clough & the likes of Jimmy Saville, who would become one of my lookalike artistes later in life, before all the bad publicity came out about him.
That was unfortunate, must have cut your repertoire down somewhat. Where did you go from there?
One night a DJ by the name of John Vincent came to the club and said he had been asked to introduce me to Peter Stringfellow at the Manchester Millionaire Club, needless to say, I jumped at this.
I remember my first time in the club and seeing Rod Stewart alongside various very famous celebrities sitting in the restaurant opposite the DJ's stage. The place was so glamorous and full of stunning people.
Peter immediately invited me to perform for his club, nervously I got up and rocked the house, I would DJ occasionally for him. In 1980 he opened Stringfellows in London whilst still running The Millionaire, later selling the club to the Granada Group.
After nine months I received a telephone call to ask me if I would return as the main DJ, as people associated me with the club, which would have a new refit. The opening night saw the cast of Coronation Street turn up, along with various celebrities.
That must have been exciting. Did you get to know any of them?
I became good friends with Pat Phoenix, Liz Dawn, Lynn Perrie & Helene Palmer who played Ida Clough, she actually wanted me to play her new son who worked as a van driver for Baldwin's, but I was having trouble obtaining my Equity card at that time, due to a jealous board member who was actually supposed to be a friend, lol.
Hmm, with friends like that, who needs enemies. So were you happy to continue as a DJ?
I enjoyed everything in the entertainment field. 1984 became the year I worked on Piccadilly Radio alongside Susie Mathis as co-presenter, appearing under the name "Jobsworth John" where I would link from people's houses and supposedly do the housework, all very camp. Instead, I would open their mail, drawers and give the listeners all the gossip, it was extremely funny, having me think very quickly on my feet, it was so popular, it won the "Sony Best Show of the Year Award". I had the biggest mail bag from the listeners at that time.
It sounds like loads of fun - kind of a precursor to Keith Lemon's 'Through the Keyhole'.
Yes, a lot have copied what I did, Dame Edna did exactly the same, but I was years earlier.
You were not tempted to stay in radio?
No, I love doing a variety of work. It was around this time that I started to appear on TV and in films using my earlier experience as an actor. My first TV speaking role was in an episode of "Juliet Bravo" for the BBC, it was called "Alibi" where I also did a solo dance routine.
Ah yes, thank you for the clip of this, we will put it into your gallery. You are quite the dancer! What else have you done in TV apart from Coronation Street?
I have played Charity Dingle's solicitor in Emmerdale, a vicar, a reporter, a doctor, a college pupil & a scene of the crime officer for Hollyoaks where Ricky Whittle actually thought I was the real thing, lol. Lately, viewers will have seen me as a "Lollipop man" in the BBC programme "Citizen Khan"
I have done various pilot tv shows too, one called "Licence to Grill" a cooking show, I still have the footage, where I meet my boss, a Sean Connery lookalike, to receive my orders, where I have to kidnap a top chef who is needed to cook a celebrity meal.
That sounds great. Have you done any theatre?
Oh yes, over the years I have appeared in theatre productions such as "Teachers" playing eight characters (multi-role), "Sweeney Todd" playing Pirelli, musicals such as "Her Benny" at the Liverpool Empire & even sang for the Queen & Prince Phillip.
Oh my goodness, you certainly have done a variety of work, anything else?
In the 80's I also staged some hair/fashion shows for the International hairdresser Pierre Alexandre. Once at a show in Barcelona I was teaching some young female models how to walk, they had been chosen for their looks & hair but some had no experience, one young Spanish girl, who spoke hardly any English was having difficulty, so I took extra time to help her, speaking what little Spanish I knew then. A few years back Pierre sent me a video of the show, that had just surfaced, & it turns out that young girl is now a world famous actress, the one & only Penelope Cruz. Here is that video, I take my bow at the end: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x74zeMItYyw
Good heavens! Esquire Magazine named her 'Sexiest Woman Alive', and you taught her how to walk? I think she owes you!!
Surely that is it for your talents isn't it?
Well, I have also produced albums such as: 'Forever Streisand', 'Forever Madonna', performed by the world's No.1 tributes, & the very successful 'Forever Bond', where I also perform as a singer, alongside various famous pop stars. I also write music and have had lots published. Actually there is a bit of a crossover here, because the poster for my 'Forever Bond' album was on the wall in an episode of Coronation Street.
Oh we have to find that episode and show the poster in your gallery!
Well, I started the "Manchester Mardi Gras" where it became world famous and is still running today, known as the Manchester Gay Pride.
Is that the Pride parade in which Corrie always sends a float? That one is huge - and a wonderful spectacle to behold!
Yes it is, I started the whole thing off in the early 1990's, I was asked to help to raise funds for the Village Charity for HIV/Aids, a cause which at that time carried a huge stigma, long before Princess Diana became involved, so I put together the whole weekend as a fund raiser, telephoned various famous artistes and blagged them into performing on stage for free, raising huge amounts of money for the charity. Over the years, the event has had many names, Tickled Pink, Absolutely Fabulous, Manchester Mardi Gras (which I thought up), Gayfest, & finally in 2003, Manchester Pride (as Manchester was awarded Euro Pride status).
In the last 18 years I have also worked as an Austin Powers tribute, appearing on "Come Dine with me" and have performed on stage/TV all over the world such as Los Angeles, Spain, etc.
I have seen a photo of you as Austin Powers with Manchester based singer Redd at the Maspalomas Pride in Gran Canaria - another big one. How long have you been involved with that?
Yes I have co-presented the Maspalomas Winter Pride (in November) for the past 2 years, I have also co-presented the Summer Pride there (May) several times, including the first one.
Now to Corrie, what have we seen you doing in that?
I am often in the Rovers, or walking the cobbles. I was also in the Marathon Run with Kevin and Molly when they were having their affair in 2009. It was really funny as my agent told me it was a fun run, so I took my Tina Turner outfit, but with trainers instead of heels, lol. We got ready, along with others from same agent, only to find out my agent had been told wrong, but it was too late, as I stood there already as Tina, lol. I quickly changed, but everyone was asking while I was on location "where's Tina"?
I also attended the Weatherfield Ball with Audrey and Norris, this was where she first met Lewis, who was there as Claudia's paid escort.
I remember both of those episodes well.
Another favourite scene I was in was in 1994 when Deirdre thought Samir was cheating on her, and went to the restaurant at which he worked, I was sitting at one of the tables, and had a very good closeup.
John, you have so many talents, I have to ask why you are not going for more 'front of house' types of roles?
I have done a lot - not bad for a child who couldn't speak at all for the first five years of life! I must admit I thoroughly enjoy what I am doing, but also I am looking after my mother, who is a hundred & one years old, so I need time for her too.
You couldn't speak at all until you were five? How did you overcome that?
I was accidentally scalded by a hot kettle over my head. At first the doctor thought I might be left blind, a few days later he visited & declared my sight was ok, as he was leaving he said "Bye bye" to my mum, and I replied with "Bye bye", the doctor dropped his bag in shock.
Did you have siblings growing up?
I was the youngest of ten kids, one brother and eight sisters.
It has to be said then, with eight sisters, it's quite possible you couldn't get a word in edgeways for the first five years! (Don't tell them where I live!)
This has been such a pleasure, thank you so much for taking time out for us - we will keep our eyes peeled for you on the Street, and in so many other places.
You're welcome Christine, I have enjoyed it.