The cast they assembled does not disappoint on that score.A former dominatrix, Sooty’s old stage manager, the father of a Page 3 girl and a tap-dancing septuagenarian are among the participants in Close To The Edge.But for the youngest cast member, 65-year-old Barbara Fowler, it is also a chance for a late stab at enjoying 15 minutes of fame.
The prospect of national TV coverage for my business was a great opportunity,” said Fowler, an entrepreneur who runs My Babylog, a company selling keepsake boxes for parents and grandparents. Viewers should expect the unexpected – nothing is as it seems.
“I’m brave enough and quirky enough to do the show. I think the programme will be huge.” Fowler also hinted that there would be friction aplenty in the show, as “there are a lot of lovely people in it and some not so lovely people”.
John Seaton, 75, is a comedian who was stage manager and puppeteer for The Sooty Show in the 1980s and 1990s.
His late wife, Connie Creighton, appeared in the original Sooty programme on television. “They filmed me playing football, playing golf, even on a zipwire,” he said.
Simon Cowen, 72, cheerfully referred to himself as “the token gay” in the programme.
The former jazz dancer and male model said the experience of being filmed had been fun. I’m really into my fitness, I go to my health club three or four times a week and they filmed me doing all sorts: tap dancing, aqua aerobics, weightlifting,” he said.
The other contributors include Beate Braban, 71, owner of a local golf club; Gloria Byrns, 75, a former languages teacher; Paul ‘Monty’ Barrett, 69, a musician; and Bill Kennedy, 76, an ex-army officer and keen marathon runner.
The line-up also features Chris Dowding, an amateur bowls player and father of Leilani Dowding, the former Page 3 glamour model.
But none can match the story of Vanessa Coleman, 68, who spent her 60th birthday in jail after admitting two charges of running venues for prostitution.
Coleman was born Mavis Thornhill but changed her name when she began brothel-keeping “because Madam Vanessa sounded much better than Madam Mavis”.
She fell into the profession when she answered the phone for her then partner’s bona fide massage therapy business “and this very posh man asked if I did spanking”.