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No wonder they call it the Rovers Return. The characters seem to keep coming back! Our two cover pictures sum up the success of the Coronation Street formula. In one, Minnie Caldwell, Ena Sharples and Martha Longhurst sit in the pub drinking milk stout. In the other, the drinks have changed but little else has. Rita Sullivan, Mavis Wilton and Emily Bishop are merely loosely-based "doubles" of those past favourites. In fact, the trademark Northern types return so often it could be called Reincarnation Street. As the show celebrates its 36th year, JULES STENSON finds the characters who came back from the dead...

Stan and Hilda Ogden were the most popular characters in the history of the show. A record 26.6 million viewers saw Hilda's farewell appearance on Christmas Day, 1987.

Fans loved the couple's humour and warmth and, of course, the china ducks in their living room. Hilda, especially, will be remembered for many classic lines, like her verdict on Bet's low-cut blouses: "The day I have to look like that to attract the fellas is the day I give up the struggle as a female fatal."

Jean Alexander quit the show after 23 years of playing Hilda, saying: "I've had enough." She has refused numerous pleas to return. Now 69, she lives in the same semi-detached house in Southport, Merseyside, where she has been for 25 years.

Bernard Youens, who became a TV legend as workshy Stan, was a heart-throb in his heyday as a stage star in the 1940s. A 40-a-day smoker, his health deteriorated in the late 1970s. Bravely, he refused to give up acting even after his speech was impaired by two strokes. He died, aged 69, in 1984.

It was a tough job, but Jack and Vera Duckworth have filled the shoes of Stan and Hilda. Like Stan, lay-about Jack was a part-time window cleaner and odd-job man before working first as the cellarman and now the landlord of his beloved Rovers.

Vera is just like Hilda - loud, nosy, funny and dead common. But Vera has reached the dizzy heights as landlady of the Rovers Return, something Hilda couldn't have dreamed about.

Actress Liz Dawn, 56, is every bit as sharp-witted as Vera in real life. She lives in Yorkshire with her second husband Don Ibbetson and works tirelessly for charity.

Bill Tarmey, 54, a former builder and greengrocer, reckons he is under- paid, despite earning pounds 100,000 a year as Jack. He married his childhood sweetheart Alma and they have two children.

Moaning Minnie Caldwell, one of the Street's earliest characters has been reincarnated as Mavis Wilton. Today, Mavis - once described as the "eternal virgin" - meets Rita and Emily in the Rovers for a natter like the Street's most famous trio, Ena Sharples, Martha Longhurst and little Minnie.

Like Minnie, Mavis is easily bullied and she seemed to be on the shelf for life before marrying dithering Derek.

But actress Thelma Barlow, 66, is the complete opposite of the character she plays - bright, positive and far from timid. She is divorced and lives alone in a cottage in Yorkshire.

Margot Bryant, who played Minnie Caldwell, was also a world away from her down-trodden character. Margot was caustic and outspoken. She left the Street after 16 years in 1976 due to ill health and died in 1988.

Here's never been anyone to match the mighty Ena Sharples but Minnie's friend Martha Longhurst, with her trademark black-rimmed glasses, lives on today as Emily Bishop. Like Martha, Emily is plucky and not afraid to speak her mind, especially when Percy's driving her mad.

Martha Longhurst's TV death caused an uproar. Viewers saw her slumped over her drink after suffering a heart attack in the Rovers snug.

Actress Lynne Carol, who starred as Martha, thought it was wrong to break up the gang of three with Ena and Minnie, and perhaps she was right. Her career never recovered after she was axed.

Eileen Derbyshire, 56, who plays Emily, is married to a businessman. She joined the show in 1961 and is its longest-serving star after Bill Roache (Ken Barlow).

Elsie Tanner was the Street's first tart with a heart. Dubbed the Sexiest Woman On TV by the then Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, she was always quick to fall in love and had a total of 23 boyfriends, lovers or husbands in 22 years in the show. Like Elsie, actress Pat Phoenix had an action-packed life, which included a long-standing romance with actor Tony Booth, father of Labour leader Tony Blair's wife Cherie.

Pat, a 60-a-day smoker, quit the Street in 1983 saying she was tired of being its "lonely spinster" and died of lung cancer in 1986.

Lively Liz McDonald, played by Bev Callard, is shaping up as the new Elsie after splitting from her overbearing husband Jim. She's always had an eye for the fellas and nearly ended up taking some red-hot tips from romeo bookie Des Barnes. Now about to divorce, Liz will be free to follow more closely in Elsie's sexy footsteps!

Keep-fit expert Bev, 39, is married to her manager Steve, 30. Her daughter by her first marriage, Rebecca, 20, is also an actress and starred in ITV's Band Of Gold.

There has always been a grumpy old man living in the Street and none has been grumpier than Albert Tatlock. He bored everyone with his stories about the First World War and made Victor Meldrew look like a real raver!

Actor Jack Howarth was nothing like miserable Albert, Ken Barlow's moaning, penny-pinching uncle by marriage. In real life, Jack was a practical joker who loved the high-life and lived in a four-star hotel while filming. He was in the show for 24 years and died, aged 88, in 1984.

Percy Sugden, played by Bill Waddington, is Albert Mark II - right down to the war memories. But his stories are about the Second World War when he was an Army chef. Bill, 79, is a real romeo compared to stuffy Percy - he's been married four times. But he is said to be just as grumpy in real life.

In the 1960s, Len Fairclough was the tough guy with an eye for the ladies. He had affairs with Elsie Tanner and Bet Lynch and he married nightclub singer Rita Littlewood, now Rita Sullivan (Barbara Knox).

Hard-drinking, hard-living Peter Adamson, who played Len, was sacked for selling his story of the court case in which he was cleared of indecently assaulting two girls. The 65-year-old grandfather is now overweight, unemployed and living in a bedsit.

Builder Bill Webster seemed the natural successor to Len when he first appeared in the Street in 1984, but he ran off with Percy Sugden's niece Elaine after less than a year. Bachelor Peter Armitage, 54, who plays Bill, stunned bosses when he quit. They'd built a family around his character and only his son Kevin survived his departure.

But last year Bill returned and the word is that he will marry Reg Holdsworth's estranged wife Maureen.

Eddie Yeats, the burglar turned binman, was one of the Street's all- time greats. He became a second son to Stan and Hilda Ogden

after moving in as their lodger. He married Marion, whom he first knew as Stardust Lil when they flirted on their CB radios, and last appeared in 1987 after moving to Bury.

Geoffrey Hughes, 51, who played Eddie, is one of the few stars to prove there is a life after Coronation Street. The 16-stone Scouser quit, saying there would always be work for fat actors - and he was right. He is hugely popular as the beer-swilling Onslow in the hit TV comedy Keeping Up Appearances.

Curly Watts, the binman turned supermarket manager, was groomed as the new Eddie Yeats. A loser in love until he married Raquel, Curly faces fresh heartache later his year when Raquel - played by Sarah Lancashire - leaves the soap.

Kevin Kennedy, 34, who plays Curly, always wanted to be a pop star and played guitar with several bands before switching to acting. A divorcee, he married for the second time in the Caribbean earlier this year.

lucille Hewitt was the Street's wild child who shocked Britain with her outrageous behaviour. The teenage tearaway dyed her hair blonde, had a tattoo (scandalous back in 1962!) and then ran away to join a hippy commune after starring in the show for nine years.

Actress Jennifer Moss's own life is more dramatic than any script while playing Lucille...she became an alcoholic and has had FOUR broken marriages. Now 50, she has quit drinking and found happiness with husband Stephen Ramsden.

The Street has had no teenage hell-raisers since to compare with Lucille but Tracy Barlow came close. To the horror of her parents, Ken and Deirdre, she ended up in a coma after taking the rave drug Ecstasy. Dawn Acton, 19, who played Tracy, is certainly no wild child. Since being axed from the soap she has been working in a bakery.

Sexy barmaid Suzie Birchall attracted men like moths to a flame but could never find Mr Right. Cheryl Murray, 43, who played Suzie, left Weatherfield in 1983 after two spells in the soap spanning seven years. The twice-divorced actress is now battling against multiple sclerosis but she recently landed a part in Brookside.

Stunning hairdresser Maxine Heavey is shaping up as the new Suzie Birchall. A blonde good-time girl, she prefers flirting to working.

Off-screen, actress Tracy Shaw, who plays Maxine, lives with her parents at their pub in Belper, Derbyshire.

Tracy, 22, recently revealed that she has battled for years against anorexia nervosa.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Stenson, Jules
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jun 23, 1996
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