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Coronation Street 1960-2000: Where are they now? Tracking down the wandering Rovers; Corrie made them household names, but what became of them when they left? By Sue Crawford.

Byline: Sue Crawford

Ivy Brennan (1971-94)

Played by Lynne Perrie

As Gail Platt's interfering mother-in-law, Poison Ivy was one of the Street's best-known characters. When husband Bert died she married taxi driver Don Brennan, but he was unfaithful and the deeply religious Ivy was last seen in 1994 entering a retreat to commit her life to prayer, where she later died.

In real life, Lynne was axed after TV bosses tired of her increasingly bizarre off-screen behaviour. Her champagne-drinking sessions had become legendary, and led to a string of encounters with toyboys. When she had plastic surgery to make her lips fuller, it was the last straw. For two years after leaving she lived off her Street reputation, writing a kiss-and-tell autobiography and making a sleazy "fitness" video. But poor health forced her to retire from the limelight.

Since then, Lynne has been plagued by manic depression, drug addiction and a variety of illnesses. She spent two and a half years in bed hooked on sleeping pills, and takes a cocktail of tablets for heart, liver and kidney problems.

Today her speech is slurred, she suffers memory loss, has just spent ten weeks in a psychiatric hospital, and is to have a brain scan after hitting her head on concrete steps earlier this year. She rarely leaves the modest bungalow she shares with husband Derrick in Rotherham, South Yorkshire - they were re-united in 1996 after spending 20 years apart.

"I've let myself go, I've let everything go and I've been suffering from terrible depression," admits Lynne, 69, in a rare interview. "It's been hard since I left. I like my privacy and I don't want people to see me like this. Anyone who tells you they're depressed when they're simply a bit fed-up, doesn't know what they're talking about. It's the blackest thing in the world. I was seeing things, hearing voices and talking to people who weren't there.

"I've had a bad few years and I'm still not right. I've fallen down six or seven times now on concrete. The doctors think there may be something wrong with my brain. They're going to do a scan."

At times there are flashes of the old, joking Lynne but for much of our interview her mind wanders. She says she left Coronation Street in 1922 or 1921. When asked about her present Yorkshire home, she instead tells a rambling story about the family who bought her former house in Bolton which she left six years ago.

"One of the problems is my memory, I can't remember words," she admits. "But I'm better than I was and, who knows, I might get back to acting one day. My husband doesn't want me to, but if a nice little play came up I would take it."

Hilda Ogden (1964-87)

Played by Jean Alexander

After 23 years as Rovers cleaner, gossip and wife of layabout Stan, Hilda decided to hang up her pinny. The episode when she left singing, "Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye", was seen by 26.6 million - the highest-viewing figure ever recorded for the show.

"I thoroughly enjoyed every day of it and it was a good job, but towards the end Hilda's character didn't really have anything to do," says Jean, 74. "I don't think they knew what to do with her once Stan died. So I decided to play other parts before I fall off my perch."

The year after she left, Jean, who lives alone in Southport, Lancs, joined the cast of Last Of The Summer Wine as Auntie Wainwright - a part she has played on and off ever since. Recently she guested in Heartbeat and Where The Heart Is, and will shortly appear in the ITV sitcom Barbara.

"When I joined Coronation Street along with Bernard Youens, who played Stan, we thought if we had work until Christmas it would be marvellous. Until we'd been in it five years we didn't realise we'd be staying! I think Hilda and Stan became so popular because people related to them. They were always struggling - it was the Ogdens against the world."

Jean insists that Hilda will never return. "She's come up in the world, she's living as a doctor's housekeeper in a Derbyshire village. She'd be a bit more upmarket now, and a bit better dressed. There'd be nothing for her to do in Coronation Street. It's best to leave her where she's happy."

Lucille Hewitt (1960-74)

Played by Jennifer Moss

The original soap wild child, 16-year-old Lucille shocked the nation with her outrageous antics. But her on-screen behaviour was nothing compared to the dramas in Jennifer's own life after she left the soap. An alcoholic by 29, she went through four broken marriages, lived in six different homes for battered wives, and saw her fortune disappear in a series of bad investments. Jennifer fought back with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and in 1989 met computer programmer Stephen Ramsden. They are now married and live in Runcorn, Cheshire, from where she runs an Internet stamp-collecting site.

"I wanted some normality and now I've got it," says Jennifer, 55. "I've always been interested in stamps and it seemed a good idea to make a business out of it. When I was 29 I wanted to leave the Street because it was getting in the way of my boozing! Now my life is sorted out I'd love to go back to acting, but not necessarily to Coronation Street. These days I prefer EastEnders."

Ernest Bishop (1967-78)

Played by Stephen Hancock

Stephen left in dramatic fashion when wages clerk Ernest, husband of Emily Bishop, was murdered by armed robbers during a raid on Baldwin's factory.

"It was all a mistake. They contacted my agent who had got the idea I wanted out. The next thing I knew, I was being shot," said Stephen at the time.

He was reduced to spells on the dole and touring church halls with local theatre groups, and still feels so angry about what happened that he refuses to discuss the show that made him famous. After a spell composing music for theatre, television and radio, Stephen, now 74, features occasionally in the Radio 4 saga The Archers, as Laurence Lovell.

He once revealed: "It has been tough at times. There is no pension or anything. I shall go on until I drop or can't do it any more. I didn't make the best of things when I was a star. I was always disappointing for the punters when they were told Ernie Bishop would open this or that. They came along expecting somebody scintillating. Instead it was just me."

Ray Langton (1966-78)

Played by Neville Buswell

Ray was the Street bad lad, who had been in Borstal, stole from neighbours and tried to rape Lucille Hewitt. Later he married Deirdre and they had a daughter, Tracy. When Deirdre discovered he was having an affair, she threw him out and he departed for Holland.

When Neville quit he moved to America with wife Susan armed with tapes of Street episodes to show to US TV and film executives. But he found out too late that his videos weren't compatible with American systems. He ended up as a croupier in a Las Vegas casino, then in 1991 worked in the mortgage loans department of a Nevada bank. He reappeared briefly in a 1997 Street Christmas video special when Jack and Vera flew out to Las Vegas, but that was his only acting job for more than 20 years.

Now 57, he says, "I enjoy having a nice, ordinary job, but I am thinking about acting again. If the opportunity arises to return to the show I would give it serious consideration."

Brian Tilsley (1978-89)

Played by Chris Quinten

Since Brian was stabbed to death outside a nightclub, Chris's own life has seen more drama than even the most far-fetched soap plot. He moved to LA and wed TV presenter Leeza Gibbons, but neither the marriage nor a Hollywood career worked out. Back in Britain, he got a job as a host at Stringfellow's - which Chris, now 43, has to this day. This year his TV appearances have been limited to a McDonald's advert and a one-off spot in the daytime soap Doctors. At Christmas he will be appearing in Aladdin in Porthcawl, South Wales.

"I can't go back to Coronation Street obviously, but I'd love to be in another successful, long-running TV show," says Chris, who lives in London. "I don't have any regrets. It's no good looking back and wondering what might have been."

Irma Barlow (1964-71)

Played by Sandra Gough

After seven years playing Irma, Hilda and Stan Ogden's glamorous daughter, Sandra quit. "I was only 17 when I started and some of the other women were envious," says Sandra, now 52. "I was young and bubbly and I didn't have a bad figure, and some of them thought I was out to steal their crown. "They were quite cruel to me.

Pat Phoenix who played Elsie Tanner stood on my foot once with her high heels and kept it there as I was trying to film a scene.

On another occasion one actress stood behind a camera and swayed to ruin my concentration. I was so young I didn't know how to handle it.

In the end the dirty tricks got to me and I left." Sandra worked in a bar in Spain and wed a Spanish nightclub owner - the marriage lasted a week.

She then worked in a chemists in Australia.

A second marriage to a university administrator failed after three months. Back in Britain, she began acting again and in 1995 played Emmerdale's Nellie Dingle, but arthritis forced her to quit.

Today she divides her time between occasional roles and charity work, and lives alone in Manchester. Her last romance - with judge James Pickles - ended four years ago. "He would take me out for a meal and then complain that it had cost pounds 12," she says. "He once asked me, 'Do you know how much I've spent on you, it's pounds 395' - he'd totted it all up." She still watches the Street. "After all these years it's hard to believe I was actually in it," she says. "It's changed so much, but it's still a great programme."

Reg Holdsworth (1989-95)

Played by Ken Morley

Ken quit at the height of his fame as bumbling supermarket boss Reg, claiming he was told that the show was to become more serious.

Now 57, he has spent the last 18 months as the Narrator in a tour of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and will be appearing in pantomime at Christmas. In his spare time, Ken collects motorbikes and American cars.

Married, with a nine yearold son, he lives in Chorley, Lancashire. "Reg made me laugh and I miss the camaraderie, but it was the right time to leave if it was going to become serious," he says. "I watch it occasionally. It's still a very good show, but there's less comedy. You have a wry smile, but you don't laugh out loud.

"My mother and I were watching some old tapes ofme the other day and we just sat there and howled with laughter.

Reg was pompous and ridiculous. I would consider going back as Reg if it felt right, but I've had a great time since I left, so I can't say I sit here with tears running down my face."

Derek Wilton (1976-97)

Played by Peter Baldwin

Dozy Derek was axed in a massive clear-out. The character had a heart attack and died in his lurid green car. Since then, Peter, 67, has devoted more time to the toy theatre shop he owns in London'sCovent Garden.

He would like to retire and go travelling, but says he can't afford to do that just yet. "You get used to living in a grand style when you're in a soap and I'm loath to give it up," he admits.

"My life was quite easy doing Coronation Street. You don't work every day and you don't have to worry about money, then suddenly you're thrust back into the real world and it's a bit of a shock. "It was totally out of the blue and I wasn't prepared for it.

I'd devoted 20odd years to it. But it's changed such a lot, it's too action-based now, which it never was.

Whereas I don't think you have to have death, abortion and rape - the other soaps do that. That makes me sound bitter, which I'm not, I had a very happy time there, it's just a shame that it changed its focus."

Suzie Birchall (1977-83)

Played by Cheryl Murray

Full of fun, cheek and sex appeal, Suzie was Gail's best friend and spent much of her time arguing with landlady Elsie Tanner.

Since leaving, Cheryl has battled multiple sclerosis and has two failed marriagesbehind her.

Now 47, she needs 12 hours sleep a day, and has mostly had to bring up daughter Louise, now 18, on pounds 200 a week disability allowance and income support.

"MS has never really stopped me doing anything," she insists. "I get attacks about once a year when I have to go to bed for a few days, but I have brilliant doctors who sort me out."

In 1998 Cheryl played snooty vet's wife Mrs Parker in Emmerdale, but the strain of travelling from her home in Wilmslow, Cheshire to the Leeds set proved too much.

Of a Street return she says, "Suzi was never killed off, so I suppose anything is possible. But I cannot imagine it would be as much fun. Everyone was like a big family in those days, but there is a lot more pressure now."

Andy McDonald (1989-98)

Played by Nicholas Cochrane

Now 26, Nicholas was still a schoolboy when he was picked to play Steve McDonald's twin brother Andy.

But when producer Brian Park had a mass clear-out, student Andy was among them and left Weatherfield to travel the world.

Nicholas had a brief stint as a presenter on Manchester United's TV channel MUTV and hosts a one-hour Sunday show on Chesterfield's Peak Radio.

Nicholas returns to the show on Monday for a three-week stint. "I still watch the Street when I'm at home," he says. "I loved working there, it sounds patronising, but it's so easy, it's second nature to me."

CAPTION(S):

THE WAY THEY ARE AND THE WAY THEY WERE: How four former Street have aged. From left to right - Lynne Perrie; (Ivy Brennan), Stephen Hancock (Ernie Bishop), Jennifer Moss (Lucille Hewitt), and Neville Buswell (Ray Langton); CHAR LADY: Jean; PLEASED AS PUNCH: Peter Baldwin; EASY RIDER: Ken Morley (Reg) has a passion for bikes
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2000
Words:2457
Previous Article:Coronation Street 1960-2000: Junior Showtime; Some of the Street's young stars reveal what it was like to grow up in public.
Next Article:Coronation Street 1960-2000: Oops! Mirror Man Predicted The Street Would Flop.


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