Wednesday, 17 December 2008

1983: Geoffrey Hughes On Eddie Yeats And Coronation Street

A slate loose? Eddie Yeats and Len Fairclough at Len's builder's yard in Mawdsley Street.

Geoffrey Hughes was hugely popular as petty criminal Eddie Yeats. Eddie contained echoes of a previous Street bad lad, Jed Stone (Kenneth Cope). Both characters were Liverpudlians, had a heart of gold, and wore distinctive headgear - Jed a flat cap and Eddie (in his early years) a shapeless woolly hat!

In 1980, Eddie turned over a new leaf - he took up full time employment with the local council's refuse department - becoming a bin man, and moved in as a lodger with his long-term pals Stan and Hilda Ogden at Number 13.

Interviewed in 1983, Geoffrey Hughes commented that his favourite Street story line occurred in 1981 - when the Ogdens' washing ended up at the local tip. Hilda had put the washing in a plastic bin liner, and Eddie, acting in his professional capacity, carried it away.

It was the real-life early 1980s craze for CB radio which led to Eddie finding himself a wife. Citizens' Band Radio had been invented in America way back in the 1940s, but usage had only been known in England (in a very small way) since the 1960s. The film Convoy in the mid-70s increased interest in CB radio and jargon, and in the late 70s illegal usage in England, although still very small, slowly began to rise. In 1980, the number of illegal CB'ers swelled enormously and in November 1981 CB was legalised.

CB radio had been illegally dallied with in England (on a very small scale) since the 1960s. The illegal usage of the equipment increased tremendously in 1980 and 1981 (the newspapers of those two years contain some hilarious stories of CB misuse!) and CB was finally legalised on 2 November '81. Leading to big changes in the life of Mr Edward Yeats in 1982.

In early 1982, Eddie Yeats began using a CB radio in his bin wagon (his handle was "Slim Jim") and made contact with a young lady called Marion Willis (handle "Stardust Lil")(played by Veronica Doran). The two had an "eyeball" and fell in love.

In 1983, Geoffrey Hughes announced his desire to leave Coronation Street. To accommodate his departure in the story line, Marion fell pregnant, she and Eddie married, and then Marion's mother fell ill, necessitating a move to Bury. Eddie visited The Street briefly in 1987, but apart from that never darkened those cobblestones again.

Below is an interview with Geoffrey Hughes from the Daily Mirror, June 16, 1983.

There's nothing Eddie Yeats likes better than a greasy fry-up followed by a bucket of beer at the Rovers.

And away from the set Geoff Hughes is just as fond of his food and drink.

"You don't get to be seventeen and a half stone by worrying about what you eat and drink," he says.

"I don't worry about my weight. I'm still very active and I feel fit."

His tastes are a little more refined than Eddie's, however.

"I don't drink as much beer as Eddie, but I love good wine and a few glasses of port."

Coronation Street food is barely edible, Geoff says.

"They cook it in the morning and leave it in a warming oven until we're ready to do the scene. It's nearly always cold and rubbery. So when you see me and Stan tucking into pie and chips with great big smiles on our faces, we're doing a good bit of acting."

The pints of beer Eddie knocks back at Annie Walker's bar are in fact shandy. Once he was ill through drinking in the line of duty.

He says: "We were doing a pram race when we had to stop off in every pub. This kept going wrong and I had to knock back four pints each in one gulp. I went greener and greener and the lads put a bath outside for me to be sick in. I needed it."

Geoff's first part in Coronation Street was in 1965 - not as Eddie but as bricklayer Eric Fairbrother.

He appeared in three episodes - and in one of them he beat up grumpy Albert Tatlock. For this he expected a few abusive letters.

"All I got," he recalls, "were two saying I should have killed him."

It was in 1974, when the show's happy-go-lucky layabout, Jed Stone, had to be replaced, that Eddie Yeats arrived.

Geoff says: "They brought me in for a couple of weeks and then offered me a six months contract. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay, so I took six months off to think about it. Then I came back, did a six-month contract then another one. I've been there ever since."

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