Tag Archives: Tom Jones

Is Sir a sport? The truth about Paul McCartney and Tom Jones

4 Mar

Can you imagine a young Paul McCartney beetling around the country following his favourite football team? I certainly can’t.

That’s not to say that sport and music don’t mix – just that Mac the Knight seems about as steeped in the beautiful game as old codgers like myself are besotted with rap music.

Yet various websites would have it that Sir Paul is a keen Everton fan.

The reality, however, is not exactly engraved in blue-and-white stone. ‘‘Here’s the deal,’’ the great man explains. ‘’My father was born in Everton, my family are officially Evertonians, so if it comes down to a derby match or an FA Cup final between the two, I would have to support Everton.

“But after a concert at Wembley Arena I got into a bit of a friendship with Kenny Dalglish, who had been to the gig, and I thought ‘You know what? I am just going to support them both because it’s all Liverpool and I don’t have that Catholic-Protestant thing.’

“So I did have to get special dispensation from the Pope to do this but that’s it, too bad. I support them both.

“They are both great teams. But if it comes to the crunch, I’m Evertonian.”

Personally, I would have thought that master musicians of McCartney’s talent would be too driven by their first love to be sidetracked by such trivialities as football. And it’s clear from his comments that Paul is a bit of a sporting fence-sitter, anyway.

At least his explanation sounds marginally more sincere than fellow Beatle Ringo Starr’s assertion that he’s a Liverpool supporter because ”I like the colour red”, which  presumably he also bangs the drum for every red-shirted team from Arsenal to Aberdeen. Well, I love the colour purple but that doesn’t mean I support the team they call the Royals – be it the monarchy or Reading FC.

The only celebrity I actually KNEW before he was famous is another shining knight, Tom Jones (yes, I am that old!). I gave him his first-ever write-ups in the Pontypridd Observer a couple of years before he hit the big-time – in the days where he sang around the South Wales clubs under his stage name of  Tommy Scott.

Tommy Woodward aka Tommy Scott aka Tom Jones

Great Scott: Tom Jones as I remember him

Whilst Tom may have been built like a sportsman, I can assure you he never showed the slightest interest in football, rugby or any other sport. And believe me he definitely was neither gay nor a wimp.

Cardiff City, the nearest professional football club to Pontypridd, were in the old First Division – the equivalent of the Premier League. But although I was a keen Bluebirds fan myself, the only birds Tom was interested in were certainly not blue. Nor had he any time for Spurs, Manchester United Spurs or any of the other big-name teams of that era.

The sporting fraternity sometimes wheels the great man out onto the green, green grass of home to sing at the occasional Wales rugby international and what have you. But while the old Jones heart may still beat for his homeland, I doubt that Sir Tom’s head really cares about match results, whatever the shape of the ball.

Having said that, many celebrities are completely smitten by sport – and particularly football. Some to the point that their names are synonymous with their favourites – for example the oasis of Gallaghers at Manchester City and Mick Hucknell’s simply-red love affair with Manchester United.

Others, I am convinced, just attach themselves to the mast of the big-name clubs for effect. Teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, for example, have such large fan bases that showing token support for them might just persuade a few extra fans to buy their CDs and albums.

Conversely, when I was young (and there aren’t many people alive who remember that!), major pop stars  were rarely linked with sports teams. Presumably with professional footballers no better off financially than miners or postmen, there was no glamour spin-off for the marketing people.

Indeed, I can’t remember Elvis Presley, the biggest name in music during that era, having any particular sporting allegiance. And the only British top-tenner I recall with strong football ties was Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers fame.

Until he came on the scene, if you weren’t a fan of Hollywood musicals, the song You’ll Never Walk Alone would have meant nothing to you.to the vast majority of people.

Now Marsden’s name is likely to live as long in the Anfield memory as those of Bill Shankly and Dalglish.

And thereby hangs a tale – because some sources insist that until Liverpool fans adopted his 1963 smash hit as their club anthem, Gerry was in fact an Evertonian.

Perhaps it’s time he had a chat with Macca and Ringo.

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Headline news: Who Cares What Katie Price Did Today?

25 Feb

I spent nearly 20 years working for The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Star – but I rarely read Britain’s red-top rags these days.

It’s bad enough that they cost four times as much here in Spain as they do in the UK. But seeing the rants of a talentless ‘celebrity’ plastered all over the front pages day after day is enough to make me wish I was blind.

You know who I’m talking about – and I shudder to even mention her name. Every day without fail there is a new ‘‘story’’ about Katie Price and her latest husband/separation /lover/divorce/motoring conviction/attempt to pick her nose.

There’s no story at all really – it’s just publicity for publicity’s sake of someone whose only assets are a distorted set of surgically-adjusted boobs. As for her over made-up face, I sense a new Jackie Stallone or Donatella Versace in the making. (God, those two actually make me look pretty!),

Whilst I quite like Peter Andre – and he does have a decent voice (well, decentish!) – we all know his appearance on the reality show which led to his romance with the aforesaid Ms Price was orchestrated to revive his flagging singing career.

Rather than I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here a more appropriate title for the show would have been I Used To Be A Celebrity – Get Me In There! OK, the romance that subsequently developed in the Australian jungle was a story of sorts. But how on earth did it develop into the current interminable TV and tabloid soap opera?

Have news values really sunk to an ebb where the day-to-day movements of a mouthy model heading for botoxville are more headline-worthy than events that change the world?

The tabloid press has gone crazy to the point that when Price and Andre inevitably split up, any man who moved in was destined to become a celebrity whether he liked it or not. As well as contracting foot-in-mouth disease from the irritation once known as Jordan.

Enter a transvestite cage fighter (anything for publicity) called Alex Reid, whose biggest claim to fame was that he was once a contestant on the Gladiators TV show. Cue an instant red-top revolution as the back bench eyed a new target to continue the obligatory promotion of Betty Big Boobs with the Thick Lips and Too Much Slap.

Anonymous Alex was suddenly Awesome Alex, albeit a multi-talentless addition to the growing volume of Z-list nobodies.

Andre had Priced himself out of the picture (and conveniently into his own fly-on-the-wall series. But for his successor in the love-hate stakes, the ‘‘Reid all about it’’ headlines were more than enough reward for Alex’s self-sacrifice as Caring Katie’s new puppet.

I have long since stopped reading the titillating trivia, though it’s virtually impossible to avoid catching glimpses of headlines that highlight Price’s latest publicity-fuelled tirade.

I’m not sure whether the obsession with the lives of so-called celebrities is the fault of the media or just an example of the diminishing intellect of the UK public. It’s not as if one needs any particular skill to become a celebrity. The fact is that in 21st century Britain, ANYONE can become one.

At times, it really is a case of the less talent the better – as portrayed by the late Jade Goody, whose only assets were her ignorance, big mouth and a Big Brother with the frightening ability to change people’s fortunes forever.

Looking at the seedy background the poor girl emerged from, it’s encouraging to think that someone like Goody can be turned at the drop of a switch into a celebrity with millions in the bank.

But I find it uncomfortable that the media has the power to create instant celebrities – and then destroy them just as quickly.

There was a time when the essential ingredient to become a celebrity was talent. Whether you were an actor, singer, comedian, sports star, you name it, there was no way into the public eye unless you possessed genuine talent.

When I was a teenager, I had a friend in South Wales who spent years performing around the clubs in the hope of making it as a professional singer. In the end, Tommy Woodward made it bigtime as Tom Jones – because he had genuine talent.

But it was a case of anonymity for life for most of us – including those with a lot more talent than the vast majority of today’s reality show ‘celebrities’.

Had she been born 30 years earlier, Katie Price would no doubt have made a living as a model. No more than that.

But at least she wouldn’t have knocked the Bay of Pigs and Watergate off the front page of the Daily Mirror.

Beyond belief: My close encounter of the weird kind

18 Dec

The real world really can be stranger than fiction. My reunion in a remote Costa Blanca bar with a dark stranger from my youth takes some believing.
I was driving my visitor John home from a mini shopping trip in Ciudad Quesada last summer when – not for the first time – he decided he fancied a beer. Hardly surprising on a hot summer’s afternoon in the tranquility of Doña Pepa. 

ALL MUSCLE: Doug in his bodybuilding days

‘’That place looks friendly enough,’’ said my former Sunday People colleague as our eyes fell on half a dozen people chatting happily over a drink in the sunshine.
We were in a sleepy sidestreet, not exactly a hotbed of tourist activity. And certainly not the sort of place to revive distant memories of my teenage years in South Wales.
The sunshine six, four women and two men, were clearly enjoying themselves. And my ears pricked up when one of the women suddenly giggled:
‘‘You Welsh – you’re all the same!’’
Nosey dragon that I am, I got up and sidled over. ‘’So who’s Welsh here, then?’’ I grinned, summoning up my best valleys accent.
I actually left Wales when I was 20, but my celtic patriotism remains a strong as ever –no doubt a reaction to being overrun by Mancunians since moving north in the ’70s.
It’s a bit different out here in Spain, of course, where there seem to be more Taffs than smoke-sodden bars.
‘’I’m Welsh and proud of it,’’ piped up a curly-haired mixed-race guy about my own age. ‘’Where are you from then?’’
‘’Well,’’ I mused, trying to condense my complicated  roots into a single sentence. ‘I lived in Barry, Cardiff and Caerphilly as a child but I started my working life in Pontypridd.’’
‘’Hey, I’m from near Ponty myself,’’ said the dark stranger. ‘’Who did you know there, then?’’
‘’Well, I knew Tom Jones – or Tommy Woodward as he was then,’’ I grinned. ”In fact, I gave him his first-ever newspaper write-ups.”

THE FULL PONTY: Donna and Doug's mentor Ray Thomas interviews Tom Jones in Pontypridd in the mid 1960s

‘’We all knew him,’’ quipped my new soulmate, to laughter from all corners. ‘’Who else did you know?’’
My mind immediately conjured up memories of the larger-than-life journalist who was my boss and mentor at the Pontypridd Observer. As a school leaver approaching my 17th birthday, he and his wife took me in as a lodger – and over my three years as a trainee reporter they effectively became my surrogate mum and dad.
‘’Well, my landlord was a guy called Ray Thomas, who was chief reporter of the local newspaper…’’ I ventured, expecting a blank reaction.
STRANGERS IN PARADISE: Doug, wife Kath and Donna celebrate their new friendship

Instead, my new acquaintance all but turned white with shock. I could see the name had a special significance to him, too.

In a flash, everything came together in my head and I realised in amazement just who this guy was.
A cold chill went down my spine. As forgotten images of a dusky teenager flashed before my eyes, I blurted out: ”My God, you’re not Doug are you?”
He nodded slowly – and the six other people realised this was a special moment for the both of us. ”We all came out in goose pimples,” one of those who witnessed the liaison told me later.
The two youngsters Ray and his wife Margaret had mentored in those dim and distant times had been brought face to face in the most unlikely circumstances. And Doug realised who I was at virtually the same moment.
I had heard so much about him during my time in Pontypridd. He had moved to Stoke-on-Trent with his family when he was eight, but the Thomases never stopped talking about him. You’d have thought he was their own son and they perpetually chatted about wanting him and me to meet because we had so much in common.
It never happened – but I did see many photos of him, most of them taken on his occasional visits back to Pontypridd when I never seemed to be around.
And he confided: ‘‘They were special people in my life and I was so jealous of you because you were living with them and I wasn’t.’’
Doug had been born to a young local woman in the nearby village of Abercynon, Ray’s birthplace, near the end of World War Two. His father was a black American GI who promptly disappeared back to the States and Doug was brought up in his mother’s all-white family, the only mixed-race child for miles around.
His childhood had naturally been difficult and he got into so many scrapes that it was almost inevitable that he would later become a professional boxer and champion body-builder.
Because of his unusual background, and his bond with Ray and Margaret, Doug’s name had remained vivid in my mind for well over four decades. But the chance of us ever meeting was remote in the extreme – even in the more likely surroundings of Pontypridd or Stoke.
As you might guess, Doug and his wife Kath, who also knew of me from her husband’s dim and distant past, are now among my best friends.
Indeed, Doug regularly jokes to me: ‘‘This is a friendship that is NEVER going to end.’’
He and Kath have been holidaying in the southern Costa Blanca for many years and cynics might say our meeting was pure coincidence. But although I am not a religious person, I am convinced the meeting was orchestrated from above.
You see, Margaret passed away just months before I finally met Doug. And I truly believe that she and arch-joker Ray – who died in the ’70s – set it all up from their new celestial home.
There is nothing they would have wanted more than for Doug and me to meet and now their wish has finally been granted.
Was our freak encounter merely a bizarre coincidence? Or did Ray and Margaret set it up from the grave? That’s for you to decide.
Article first published in Female Focus magazine, May 2010
You can read more of Donna’s tales and grumps at www.eyeonspain.com/blogs/donnagee.aspx and www.donnagee.blogspot.com