I was killer stalker's quarry; MY STORY By Amanda Barrie PART TWO.
Actress Amanda Barrie prayed for the calls to end. But they stopped only when a neighbour, a woman who looked just like her, was murdered. To this day, Amanda - known to millions of Coronation Street fans as Mike Baldwin's wife Alma - believes the stalker was responsible for that Glasgow killing.
And she is in no doubt that she was his intended victim. "My neighbour looked just like me. She was my height, my size with the same dark hair," Amanda recalls. "Her room was directly below mine. I'm convinced it was a tragic case of mistaken identity. The stalker killed this girl thinking she was me."
It was an experience that sent shivers down her spine. Now the memories have come flooding frighteningly back after the latest oddball to pester Coronation Street stars, scruffy Kevin Sedgwick - whose antics were revealed by the Sunday Mirror last month - shouted and swore at her.
But the nuisance of his approaches is nothing to the fear Amanda faced when the Glasgow stalker began pestering her.
First, she began getting love letters after a picture of her in a skimpy leotard was printed in a local paper.
Then she began to receive phone calls at the hostel she shared with other young actresses and students.
"The letters were bizarre enough," she remembers now. "There was always an underlying threatening tone to them. But the phone calls were much worse.
"He used to say `I am right outside, I can see you from where I'm standing, I know what you're doing.'
AT first I ignored the calls but eventually we told the police and they used to escort me to and from the theatre.
"I used to protest that I didn't need them, I thought I could look after myself - particularly as I was usually surrounded by my girlfriends.
"Then one day I came home to find that the girl whose room was directly below mine had been murdered.
"They never caught the killer, but after she died I never heard from the stalker again.
"I had been so blase about it, certain that I could protect myself. But when something like this happens to you, you realise how helpless you really are, and you become very wary.
"Years later it happened to me again when I was in Coronation Street.
"This man used to follow me home and stand outside my flat screaming all night. I was absolutely terrified, I couldn't help thinking about what had happened in Glasgow and wondering if this stalker would do something similar.
"The sounds he made were terrifying, horrible. They were usually unintelligible, crow-like sounds. But the police told me they couldn't do anything unless he attacked me, so I was forced to put up with him until one day when he just disappeared.
"But if it ever happened again there's no telling where it might end.""
Amanda first appeared briefly in the Street 16 years ago as Jim Sedgwick's feckless ex-wife.
And it's another eight years since she returned as the glamorous Alma the fans have warmed to in her turbulent marriage to Mike Baldwin. But it was a comeback that horrified her when she learned her very first job was to "sack" her heroine, Pat Phoenix. "I was sick on the train going in," says Amanda.
"Although I had been in the business for many years, I had never done a soap and, like everyone else, I thought of the actors in the Street as their characters.
"In the scene when Elsie was storming around and I had to tell her she couldn't have her job, I simply couldn't concentrate. All I could do was stare at Pat and think `That's Elsie Tanner!'
"You couldn't help it because Pat was always so much larger than life. In many ways she reminded me of my mother."
It was Amanda's mother, a big Street fan, who she thanks for making sure Alma became a permanent fixture.
After Amanda's debut, she bombarded the Granada studios with phone calls, pretending to be a series of different fans, saying how wonderful Alma was.
"Mum even got hold of the direct line and started calling Bill Podmore, the then producer," says Amanda. "I could have died when she told me."
Sadly, her mother died just six months before Alma was re-introduced to the Street. But it was partly due to her mother's death that Alma's first scenes with Mike Baldwin were so memorable. "I remember, not long after my mother died, we had to play scenes where Mike was leaving me and I was going to be alone for Christmas.
"The Christmas tree was up in the studios, and I suddenly remembered how my mother used to call Easter and Christmas `My Easter, my Christmas,' as if they belonged to her.
"On camera, all I could think of was that in real life I would be having Christmas without my mother. When I cried, the tears were for real. Ever since then, when-ever I need to cry on screen, I've only to think of Mum for the tears to start."
Although Amanda has been a mainstay of the soap for eight years, she still feels very much like the new girl in town.
She appeared just as the greats - Pat Phoenix, Doris Speed and Jean Alexander - were leaving.
She says: "I feel so proud to be part of a tradition that includes women like these.
"After last year's Christmas party, the show's creator Tony Warren and I walked down the Street and stood there looking at it together.
"It pulled at my heart strings. It always does because it suddenly hits you that you're a part of TV history."
AMANDA once turned down a marriage proposal from rock 'n' roll great Billy Fury - because it would have meant giving up her stage career.
The pair lived together for a year after meeting on the set of I've Got A Horse, in which Billy starred.
"We were inseparable almost from day one," Amanda, 56, remembers. "And not long after we started seeing each other he said, `Will you marry me?'
"Blind panic set in. I said, `Will I be able to carry on working?' But he couldn't understand why it was so important.
"I couldn't have married him anyway because he was on a different planet - partly due to drugs.
"He smoked dope non-stop and when he wasn't smoking it, we were going to clubs in Brixton where he could buy more.
"After he had moved in with me, we once went back to the house at Richmond, Surrey, he used to live in, just so he could dig up his dope plants. And once, at the studios, he realised he'd left his pot behind. So we rang my mother and told her there was a shoe box under the bed and it was essential she bring it.
"She had no idea what was in the box, but she didn't ask any questions, she just delivered it.
"I tried pot once, but it was a disaster. I'd been given quite a lot of brandy and when I tried the pot I got a ghastly attack of the horrors. I've never smoked it since.
"But Billy depended on it. He had a weak heart - he told me once that as a child his father used to leave him outside in the cold, and he developed rheumatic fever.
"One day he collapsed in the studios and the doctor said to me, `Don't ever try to stop him smoking, that's all that's keeping him alive'.
"Then, he bought a vast mansion. We'd spend our evenings drinking rum and coke and he would smoke pot and we'd listen to music all night.
"He had other strange habits, too. One day I was putting his socks into the wash and realised he had put all his money in them. There were hundreds of pounds, all his savings." Amanda admits now that the relationship was doomed from the start. One night, he wandered out of the house, and she never saw him again. He died in January 1983.
She says: "Billy was the only person who ever disappeared out of my life. Until then, I had always been the one to leave. The day after he walked out I was frantic, ringing around trying to find out where he was, but no one had seen him.
"To this day I don't know where he went. Maybe he had another woman. I was heartbroken for a long while, but have to admit part of me was also relieved."
NEXT WEEK: Amanda's private photo album
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|Publication:||Sunday Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Apr 7, 1996|
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