Campers: Su Pollard Interview
Rob Cope: How did it all begin for you at
As you know David (Croft) and Jimmy (Perry) were
also clients of Richard Stone, the agent I was
with at the time. Normally with Richard if you
want one of his artistes you get another six
thrown in so it becomes a sort of package deal.
In one way its a good thing because when
David and Jimmy write anything usually the agencys
clients get the pick of the auditions first
because they tend to look after their own stable.
The first I heard was when Richard phoned me, he
said You know David and Jimmy of Dad's Army
fame, they are thinking about writing a new
sit-com about a holiday camp. Im not sure
if all the parts have been cast but go and visit
them anyway for a chat. So I duly took
myself the 369 steps up to Jimmys
penthouse, when I got there he opened the door he
looked me up and down and said, No we don't
want any pegs thank you ! because I had a
long hippy coat on, I must have looked like a
Yak. I thought it wasnt a very salubrious
start, but we started chatting about all the
usual stuff, things Id done etc. At the end
they thanked me and said they would be letting me
know one way or the other. I didnt hear
anything for a year by which time I reckoned that
must have got someone else for the job, but as Ive
come to learn about them they take a lot of time
casting. During that year thats what they
were doing, seeing the world and his wife about
various roles. Interestingly enough, John Quayle
with whom I worked in the West End and New
Zealand runs of the farce Dont Dress For
Dinner was offered the part of Jeffrey
Fairbrother. He was working at the National
Theatre at the time appearing in rep doing small
roles in three of their plays and they refused to
let him off to play a major television role like
Jeffrey Fairbrother! Obviously Simon Cadell then
got it by default, but didnt he turn out to
be brilliant? Anyway, the next thing was that
Richard Stone phoned me again saying that theyd
like to offer me the role of the chalet maid, it
was only a small part but if I wanted a go at it
he promised that Jimmy and David would look after
me if it went into a series. Of course I decided
to give it a whirl and the rest is history. It
just shows darling, its just where you are
sometimes - luck plays a major part. Youve
got to be talented surely but its then up
to you to make the most of what youve been
What were your thoughts when you first
read that pilot script?
The very first scene I thought was hilarious, on
the train where Spike, Ted and Jeffrey are
travelling to Maplins. Straight away what
appeals to me is that David and Jimmys
comedy comes from the class structure. The
greatest fun in this country is when you are
taking the mickey out of the higher ranks. So for
a start I was really impressed with the dialogue,
I could hear Teds voice when I was reading
it.The sounds of the words leapt out from the
written page. Marvellous phrases like If
the Venus De Milo was a map of the world, Maplins
would be the bum ! Then there was Gladys
Pugh, Ruth (Madoc) was marvellous as Gladys I
thought. Some people are tailor made for parts.
But you see I always say that if you get a
success you become a victim of the system, if you
are good in a certain characterisation and people
like you, they want to see you doing a similar
thing next time. But after a while they start to
say Cant she do anything else?
Its really difficult to balance the two.
The first time we went into the studio though and
heard the applause and cheers, we all thought
Dare we hope that this will be a success?
At our peak we got 16 million viewers, I was just
lucky to get the job, everybody needs a lucky
Jeff Holland told me that at the first
read through he was terrified of you. What did
you make of the rest of them?
On the day of the first rehearsal I got there
really early because the Central Line is
notorious for getting stuck in the tunnel at
White City. I was there at half-past nine and at
about twenty-five-past-ten I wandered off to find
the rehearsal room. As I walked in David took one
look at me and asked Good God, you havent
walked off the street dressed like that have you?
Simon Cadell was marvellous, he said Darling,
I can tell we are going to be great mates",
he had a big fat cigar in his mouth. I was a
nervous wreck doing the read through, I slow down
a lot now but then I read it like a bat out of
hell. Afterwards you get talking and you then
realise you are all in the same boat. Paul Shane
was a bag of nerves, thats how Tony's
Tratatoria came about. In one of the read throughs
Paul said Hey Clive, why dont you
take Gladys down to Tonys Tratatoria...
And of course it should have been Tratoria.
Anyway it stuck and we all p***** ourselves when
he said it.
When did you get the first hint that the
series was going to be massive?
It wasnt until the second series I dont
Funnily enough the first series was
repeated just three months after the original
transmissions so someone at the BBC smelled a
hit. Also the catchphrase Hi de hi
caught on very quickly...
I think you are absolutely right, it was a boost
to the original showing. You realise it is going
to be massive when you are constantly asked for
interviews. You are a new person on the
entertainment scene if you like and they want to
find out as much about you as they can. Of course
it all comes out about how many abortions you may
have had and thats the down side of it.
How did you cope with becoming a
celebrity, very much public property?
was hopeless at the beginning. I was very good at
saying hello to people in the street but you dont
learn how to play the media game until youve
been at it for a bit. We all got caught out, by
freelance journalists especially. Beware the News
of The World! We all need publicity and they need
a story so I think you can have friendly
relations with the press if you play it right. At
the beginning I was very naive and I was telling
everybody I used to moon out of coach windows,
the whole lot. Then we had the unfortunate
business of my marriage (to teacher Peter Keogh),
we got married in unusual circumstances as you
know - which I dont want to go into - but
again the press had a field day. Over the years
you learn how to deal with it, but when you are
involved in, for want of a better word, a scandal
and are relentlessly pursued you become very wary
and dont open up to anybody.
Even though it was a traumatic time in
your private life with headlines on the front
page of all the national newspapers and even on
the television news, somehow you emerged from it
an even bigger star - everyone knew the name Su
Pollard whereas before you were just the
chalet maid from HI DE HI!
Its true, and thats why even negative
publicity like that can be turned into something
more positive. Photographers have always said
that the HI DE HI! and You Rang M'Lord? gang have
always been very good at giving them what they
want, a good photo. Theyve got their job to
do and so if you start being difficult theyll
just go off and take pictures of someone else and
you loose out on valuable publicity. Its a
two way thing and they respect you if you
approach it all in a professional way. Lets
face it if you are not very high profile for a
while (due to lack of work) you need those photo
stings to let people know you are still around.
If ever I hit hard times I might need those
little radio stations and newspapers that you get
asked to speak to so its no good being very
grand and pretending you are too big a star for
all that. Mind you, I do think success is 25%
graft and the rest is just playing the media game
that keeps you in the limelight. If you give your
best in everything you do you will be respected
for it by the public and the people you work
What do you think were your best moments
in the show?
I was very proud of the scene where I didnt
get my Yellowcoat (Peggys Big Chance). If
it elicits a response like Ah, poor thing
at least youve hopefully brought across the
reality to people. There was another one in the
Christmas special where I had to Obligon the
campers (The Great Cat Robbery) to put them to
sleep and I was running around with a balaclava
on my heat stuck up like a peanut. I love doing
slapstick comedy. I really really enjoyed Tell It
To The Marines as well where I had to pretend to
be a man and go over an army assault course.
There were other moments too, scenes with Ruth
Madoc where she is sewing her wedding dress and
Gladys would have a heart to heart with Peggy.
There have been some wonderful moments, these are
just two or three that spring to mind.
Then there was the stage musical of HI DE
Wasnt that fantastic? Two a day though, it
was ridiculous. One day Felix Bowness came in
looking very agitated. He stood there without his
trousers saying Su, I feel terrible.
His trousers were on the radiator and he was in
just his boxer shorts. He had dashed onto a tube
thinking hed be late for the show and sat
down in the nearest seat. He suddenly felt all
wet, obviously some poor tramp had wet himself
and Felix had sat in it ! We killed ourselves
laughing. We were thrilled with the stage show
though because it showed everybody our theatrical
roots, all of us were strong stage performers.
The reason we had to do the Ugly Bug Ball in the
show I reckon was that theyd spent a
fortune on the costumes for one of the episodes
on television so they tried to get their money
back by including it in the stage version. We
repeated our Victoria Palace success at the Opera
House, Blackpool - a 16 week season in that
massive 3,000 seater theatre. It is a real killer
though trying to give 110% twice a day bar
Sundays, I dont think variety performers
really get their due, they dont have
anything like the BAFTAs for variety
people. What really gets me sometimes is this
thing where they think they can team up an opera
singer with a news reader. OK, perhaps Im
being cynical but that opera singer has worked
hard all his life to perfect his art and by
bringing in a news reader it is demeaning his
When Perry and Croft asked you to be in
You Rang M'Lord?, did you think to yourself
Oh no, not more of the same because
they cast you as another maid?
Oh yes, totally. I thought I was going to get
stuck playing a maid for the rest of my life.
They took us to one side to try and dismiss some
of the initial fears we may have by explaining
that for a start we would look totally different.
I was happy that as a performer I had a chance to
play not simply black and white, there was a lot
more to Ivy than making someone laugh or making
someone cry. Because it was fifty minutes per
episode we were able to take advantage of that
long script, things didnt have to be quite
so frantic. People say to me sometimes Which
series did you prefer?
And it is so difficult to find an answer because
there were so many things about each one that
made them really special. I suppose in a way Ivy
appealed to a lot more people than you would have
thought, its amazing how many people have
said to me,I prefer that to HI DE HI!,
please bring it back. I did get a huge mail
bag from You Rang. One lady wrote to say that shed
been in service some fifty odd years ago and she
was cleaning the room of Kitty McShane, the stage
daughter of Old Mother Riley, the great variety
comic. She spied some face cream on the dressing
table and because she was only sixteen dipped her
finger in it and put a bit on her face. Anyway,
the next day Kitty McShane sent for her and
shouted How dare you touch my make-up
and slapped her across the face. The upshot of it
was that this womans mother was furious and
went to see Kitty and ended up slapping the stage
star across the face before triumphantly walking
out. It just shows you how the characters and
situations in You Rang M'Lord? struck a chord
with those that had been in service.
think too it was educational for viewers to
glimpse life as it must have been for so many
people all those years ago.
I think you are right, who would have thought
that Mrs. Lipton would order 13 lobsters for the
upstairs lot and an extra 6 lobsters for the
servants! They were really crafty but I suppose
they had to be in a way. During the series we got
free butling advice from Ivor Spencer who runs a
school for butlers, I think knowing what to do
gave our performances a bit of extra reality on
The cast as a whole seemed disappointed
that the BBC didnt embrace the series as
much as it might have.
No, they didnt seem to did they ? What did
it for us is that they brought out the drama
version of our show, The House Of Eliot. When you
have two very similar period pieces something has
to give and with theirs being done on film
that sort of investment is going to be a bit more
secure. Its also my opinion that a lot of
the powers that be thought Oh no, not these
tired old performers on the screen again,
because people like Bill Pertwee go back as far
as Dad's Army. But by the same token if the
performers are popular and turn in good
performances why should their careers come to an
end? Bill is a damn good actor so if there is a
good part for him why shouldnt he be seen
on television ?
Where do you see your career going.
Having created your niche in comedy, what would
you like to say youd been doing if I
interviewed you again in fifteen years time.
I would love to be telling you that Id
tried every aspect of show business. Id
love to have done a film especially. I did do one
many years ago with Bernard Manning called The
Great British Striptease Contest which was a big
hit on video. It was pathetic, really terrible. I
was the Anthea Redfern who collected everybodys
clothes! Id like to be saying Id
scored a hit in my own sit-com and had a big
success in a major musical. Its still one
of my first loves, musicals. Above all I want to
still carry on doing good work and being
respected for what I do.
How would you like to be remembered?
Id like people to say she was good to have
around, wasnt negative. She was a great
mate, wasnt just an actress but a person as
well. You get so many arty-farty actors who havent
got a clue how to live life in general. Im
very simple, I dont strive for a Porche or
a big house, if they come through hard work and
success that is fine but they are not essentials
I think youll be remembered as a
true star, by that I mean somebody who didnt
just take but gave something back to life.
Thatd be nice actually, its nice when
people come up to you and say Weve
enjoyed your work, thank you for all the pleasure
youve given us. Its a nice
testament. If people do think that Id be
thrilled, its a real reason not something
Su Pollard, thank you very much.
Su interviewed by Rob Cope.