Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Me On T.V.With Tony Wilson

I've been on TV twice. Nothing glam. The first time was a morning discussion programme. I remember the presenter striding about like Sasha Distel crossed with General MacArthur on the beach at Bataan.  Was his first name Kevin?  Naah, I don't think it was.

And the second time was a late night show for Granada.  Ailz and I were booked as witches and we got to argue our case with an affable, beardy  evangelical minister who offered to pray for us.  All frightfully silly. I imagine I came over as smug- because that's how I was feeling.

I've done T.V. now. I don't need to do any more.

But it was interesting - especially the second time. The studio was this great brick cavern- huge snaking cables all over the floor-  with a tiny little lighted space in the centre. It was cool to see how they work the magic.

Our presenter/interviewer on this second occasion was Tony Wilson. Yes, the one and only Tony Wilson who died a couple of days ago. Those of you who don't have the privilege of living in Manchester may not recognise the name. But if I mention 24 Hour Party People (brilliant film) and say  he was the guy  who was played by Steve Coogan...

Wilson was a one-off.  A local TV presenter who chose not to hit the big time (which would have involved a move to London) and who- sort of in his spare time-  founded a record label, managed some of the great Manchester bands of the 80s and ran an internationally famous night club- the Hacienda.

Coogan played him as a prat because that's what Coogan does. I love the film and I love Coogan's work- but that wasn't Tony Wilson on screen. It wasn't even a passable impersonation. The real Wilson was hugely intelligent, arrogant, ambitous and utterly unworldly- which is a pretty weird combination. He can't have had much personal vanity either because, after all, he let Coogan get away with it. In another age he'd have been William Wilberforce or St Ignatius Loyola or someone like that.  Perhaps he was.

So I brushed against his sleeve for half an hour or so. He was smart, he was fair, he'd done his homework- and he wrapped the show up in exactly the time alotted- no need for re-shoots. What a pro!

He died of cancer. He was only 57. There was a news story just before he died about how members of the bands he' d managed- like Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays- were clubbing together to buy him expensive American drugs of the kind  the NHS refuses to fund. This story tells you two things. One, he inspired long-term loyalty. Two, he'd managed to live that fabulous life of his without making any money. 

Once in a while someone comes along who in spite of all temptations to be a total prick, manages not to be. Tony Wilson was one of them.  Maybe human beings aren't so dreadful after all.

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