There's So Much More In TV Times Part 4: Honey Misses A Good Natter
Back in the sixties, Radio Times was hardly exactly Spare Rib, but it did at least have some semblance of a sense that the gender balance was changing rapidly and for the better. You were as likely to see a sympathetic feature on a female academic, politician or industrialist - particularly once BBC2 had started up - as you were one of Top Of The Pops' resident dancers The Go-Jos complaining that they couldn't have their miniskirts as mini as they would have liked them. It wasn't always perfect, but it was a start, and you have to start somewhere.
And it definitely, definitely wasn't starting over at TV Times. Very occasionally they might have had to lower themselves to give up valuable column inches to some feminist firebrand who had found herself the focus of World In Action or a mouthy folk singer that those blasted youngsters had demanded appear on Ready Steady Go!, but nine times out of ten it was doubtful that they'd ever even heard of the mere word 'liberation'. Much as they were when doling out 'points' on flagship game shows, women were there to be decorative and to speak as little as possible. After all, we didn't want the readership catching 'opinions' as lord knows what might happen then. They were never quite told to get back in the kitchen - after all, that's where you'd find Brucie in a comedy oversized chef's hat making something out of 'leftovers' - but here are some of the more jaw-dropping examples to disgrace the listings pages back in the decade when Carnaby Street swung like a pendulum do or something...
1965 was the year when The Ipcress File broke significant ground by featuring Michael Caine as a Swinging London secret agent who read for pleasure, took pride in his culinary expertise, and enjoyed a casual and mutually convenient relationship with an independent career woman whom he treated with respect and credited with intelligence. Perhaps alarmed by this, 1965 was also the year when TV Times conducted a survey which concluded that the overwhelming majority of unmarried men would tie the knot as a way of actually getting some laundry done and food cooked, except that in return their wives would probably spend all their money on nothing and prevent them from being able to buy The World's Best Car. And what's more, people were always trying to sneakily fix them up with a smashing gold-digging young lady in a nice frock to boot. Rumours that Cathy McGowan promptly invented the theoretical coding framework for Tinder specifically so she could delete her account cannot be confirmed.
Ann 'Honey' Lantree, the hard-walloping drummer with Have I The Right? hitmakers The Honeycombs, was and is an unsung pioneer and a landmark figure in rock music. Perfectly content to be seen as a musician rather than eye candy, she insisted on taking her turn driving the tour van and swearing at other motorists, snogged the odd male groupie as and when she felt like it, and wasn't afraid to stand up to the band's notoriously temperamental producer Joe Meek. She also, by stamping her foot on a wooden staircase to give the drums some extra punch, created one of the most iconic sounds in sixties pop. But what did TV Times want to know? When she was going to "settle down and become a housewife and mum". It's no wonder Huggybear bit that cameraman.
Seriously, even if you were just looking to see what time Send For Dithers was on, you couldn't move for photographs of assembled bikinied lovelies in sixties issues of TV Times. Above you can see a teenage-boy-misuse-friendly full-colour shot of the Blackpool Night Out dancers apparently lying in wait for the undisputed grand master of the game Lionel Blair, and below that short-lived chart star Eden Kane lassoing a big load of swimsuited hotties and dragging them away for some unspecified purpose. It might of course be innocent and might well say so the article itself, but frankly there are so many dubious opinions espoused therein that it's not worth quoting any of it. Well I Ask You was Eden Kane's big hit, but it's likely any self-respecting young lady would have preferred its little-remembered follow-up, Get Lost.
Women's Football had an early and formidable detractor in Professor John Cohen, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Manchester, who remarked with an apparently straight face that men have sporting prowess in their genes whereas if women - who have been "designed to bear children" - tried to kick a ball their tits might make them fall over or something. And that's not an exaggeration for comic effect - he almost literally word for word says that. They did make sure to get a nice photo of some footballing lady sticking her shorts-clad arse out to illustrate his point, though. Later on he does go in to some bizarre eulogistic celebration of the ball, that estimable sphere that so inflatedly facilitates our sporting enjoyment, but the rest is sufficiently repulsive to make it hard even to get many laughs out of that. Anyone else think a girl might have snuck a couple of goals past him at some point?
Still, the odd Women's Lib crank did occasionally somehow manage to get through, and here's (Mrs.) Doris Chandler flying the flag for the right to female-friendly sex and violence on TV once the kids have fucked off to bed where they belong, and never mind the poor manbabies being deprived of their football and their Eden Kane. You can be fairly sure that she wasn't amongst the callers who complained about Big Breadwinner Hog.
Anyway, to balance things out, let's have a man making a complete prat of himself and insisting on talking even when he has absolutely nothing to say. Thomas Scott of Leeds has a nonsensical observation based on absolutely nothing outside of a bewildering insistence on paying attention to the studio scenery rather than Bernard Levin's incisive political debate, and a complete and profound lack of understanding of how the pop charts, music itself and even the basic rudiments of language work, but he's sharing it with us regardless. Take that, something! Anyway, join us again next time, when we'll be taking a look at how Independent Television almost literally rammed junk food down our throats...