What?    An Evening with Bruce Jones
When?    March 1, 2005
Where?    The Halifax Westin Hotel
"I love it!"
That's a quote from Bruce Jones. He told the crowd of 600 Coronation Street fans that there are two things an actor feels about Coronation Street. You either love it or you hate it, and I *love* it!
Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at the Halifax Westin Hotel was the scene of one of the most enjoyable evenings I've spent being entertained. Bruce Jones, who plays Les Battersby on Coronation Street, stopped in Halifax on the way to the Toronto British Isles show and was the starring and only attraction of the evening. Although admittedly nervous before he came out to greet the crowd, he soon relaxed, basking in the warmth and love emanating from a sell-out crowd. The more they gave to him, the more he gave back and as far as I could see, nobody went away grumbling.
The evening was presented by the Downeast Streeters Non Profit Society, an offshoot of the Downeast Streeters fan group in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is the fourth year in a row the Streeters offered fans a chance to meet and greet a Corrie fan and it was by far the most successful yet! The Society and organizing committee did a top job with the arrangements and many thanks go out to their hard work.
This is the fourth year that a personality from Coronation Street has visited Halifax, the second year that it was presented by the Downeast Streeters Non-Profit Society and what a great job they did pulling it all together. Bruce, and his lovely wife Sandra, saw a little of the city during their three days' stay. While Bruce was busy doing media interviews, Sandra got to do a little local shopping and they both confirmed that they were very impressed by Halifax. Sue Cleaver told him they would fall in love with Halifax and it seems they sure did! No surprise there!
All of the celebrities we've seen to date have been very surprised and impressed by the huge support Corrie has in Canada and were all touched at the response. Bruce also expressed Les-like dismay at the CBC for letting us fall so far behind the UK broadcasts and, since he's a smoker, was a bit disconcerted that smoking wasn't allowed in public places including restaurants. He joked after a break that he had to go all the way to Mexico for a "fag".
Bruce walked out on the podium to a standing ovation and thunderous applause and jumped right in with both feet. Wearing Les's snakeskin "pulling" jacket, he worked the crowd, coming right into the audience to greet people and post for pictures. So much for the planned itinerary! For every question that was selected from a stack submitted by audience members, Bruce would be busy making jokes and poking fun, telling stories and winding people up. Between recollections, anecdotes and off the wall jokes and remarks, he had everyone in the audience in stitches all night. Members of the organizing committee told me that he was the same the whole time he was here, too.
He was part Les, part stand up comedian and part Bruce and everyone loved him! In order to answer the question "Boxers or briefs?", he undid his belt and zip to check to see what he was wearing (boxers). When someone asked if his jacket was felt he retorted "Well it's being felt now! " Things got a bit risqué from time to time but even the most senior members of the audience just chuckled at his faux pas.
Bruce himself grew up in a place that was rough and violent, but he walked away with a dream, to be an actor and he made it. In one of his more serious moments he encouraged everyone never to let go of their dreams. I think because of where he came from, he knows Les inside and out. He knows the man Les is and where he came from and what made him who he is which makes him so much more convincing. He also credits his wife, Sandra, and says he would not be where he is today if it weren't for her. I had a chance to speak to her a few times and she's very nice.
Bruce also recently won the Variety Club of Great Britain's Silver Heart which is one of the most important awards for people who do charity work. Bruce said it's never been given to a television celebrity before. He spends a large amount of his personal time doing and sponsoring charity work and focuses his energies on kids' charities, primarily for the Variety Club of Great Britain which is one of if not the largest children's charity in the world. They work with sick, disabled and disadvantaged children. I don't think Bruce has a lot of free time but they do have a house in north Wales for a weekend getaway.
Bruce was head hunted for the Street and he didn't think the Battersby family would last 6 months but the next thing he knew, he was in a pub being swatted in the head by a handbag, wielded by an old lady! Prior to the Street, Bruce has appeared in lots of tv roles and some movies including 24/7 with Bob Hoskins and a famous cameo in the Full Monty. He won an award for that!
He plays lots of practical jokes on fellow cast members and gets involved in a lot of on-set high-jinks including a settee-throwing incident that started with Steven Arnold (Ashley) and Alan Halsall (Tyrone) snapping elastic bands at him and ended with them pinning him down after a chase. Bruce got free by biting the groin of Steven since he was the one unlucky enough to be sitting across Bruce's chest at the time !!! When asked if he's going to do any more films he said he was planning to stay on CS which was good news for us.
There are some minor spoilers below so skip a paragraph if you don't want to know. When asked if he and Janice will ever get back together, sadly the answer is No. He said as far as he knows, as long as Chesney and Les are in each other's lives, they're not going to send Les back to Janice. Sam Aston who plays Chesney has become a major player and has become like a son to Les. Cilla is his main squeeze (and everyone else's, he joked) and it sounded like she'll be around for a good long while too, with exciting stuff coming up in the UK this summer for their little family.
Wendi Peters, who plays the odious Cilla, is lovely. He told us we wouldn't even recognize her as Cilla if she were standing there without her Cilla gear on. She's nothing like her character and retorted that she has to go in to makeup at 6 a.m. and be there hours for them to make her ugly enough to be Cilla!
Another new character (whom we are only just being introduced to in the next few weeks) is played by an actor called Bradley Walsh who instantly seemed to have fit in and has become very popular.
When asked what he liked and hated most about Les, he had to admit he likes that Les is always after women but makes a right plonker of himself and loses out. He hates Les's scrounging and the mess of the house. He also had some fun behind the scenes stories about getting Chesney's dog, "Schmeikel" to perform (involving sausages and brute strength to drag/push the dog up and down a set of stairs). The cute little puppy we have just seen lately on our screens has grown into a full size Great Dane with the emphasis on "Great".
Later on in the evening, Bruce and Sandra were presented with a few gifts including a framed print of the Bluenose. This was presented to him by Anne Marie Perkins who was dressed up as Bet Lynch and was a dead ringer right down to the long cigarette holder! Bruce drew a couple of raffle prizes, one ticket won a lucky couple breakfast with Bruce and Sandra and another prize of a full set of ceramic replica Street houses went to a long time viewer and fan of the show. Lots of smaller gifts were raffled off as well including autographed scripts, beer mats and publicity cards from other cast members that Granada keeps on hand for appearances like this. Bruce also auctioned off two of his own personal scripts which are different from the "official" autographed scripts that Granada releases. These are his own and are complete. Granada-issued scripts are not, and only contain some of the scenes for an episode. The money raised will go into the kitty for next year's event.
Bruce even did an animated jig to Barrett's Privateers, accompanied by as many members in the audience as knew the words to that popular Stan Rogers tune. But by the end of the evening, the late nights, jet lag and high energy were wearing off and he finally started to slow down. He patiently signed autographs and posed for photos with 100 lucky people and I think that time sitting down in one place was when he started to sag. He and Sandra are off to Toronto for the British Isles show, which provided more fodder for Les-like joking …"The Lone Ranger and Toronto! Who WAS that masked man???……… It was Les Battersby, the asshole from Coronation Street!"
Well we might agree that Les is a bit of a plonker but Bruce Jones is a big shiny star!
LinksThe Variety Club of Great Britain Coronation Street page with links to the write ups for previous star visits.
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