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Our very own 'Alf'.

Here, in Wales, we have an even more famous ALF - Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas.

A committed Cardiff City fan renowned for celebrating a score by 'doing the Ayatollah', as the Ninian Park faithful call it, it wasn't known for years how he'd earned his nick-name.

Then, last year, the Western Mail revealed that his best friend and former Bridgend team-mate Ian Greenslade had told us that it's because of the Wales captain's likeness to the 1980s alien sitcom character ALF.

Mr Greenslade, who was best man at Alfie's wedding, said, 'Years ago when Gareth was playing mini rugby there was a TV programme called ALF - Alf had a big nose and they said he looked like Gareth.

'I think it just stuck with him and he has had it for nearly 20 years. It carried on from school and everybody calls him Alfie.

'He will call himself Alf.

'If we are playing darts or whatever, he marks himself down as Alf.' ALF: In 1986 a small, brown furry creature burst onto our TV screens, and it was to turn the lives of one particular suburbanite American family upside-down.

Gordon Shumway, otherwise known as ALF, abbreviated from Alien Life Form, originated from the planet Melmac, far away in a distant galaxy. But when Melmac was destroyed (it was rumoured everyone had plugged their hair dryers in at the same time and the electrical force generated had caused the planet to explode), ALF was one of the lucky few to escape.

Circling the orbit in his spaceship, he lost his way and crash landed into the garage roof of the Tanner family in Los Angeles. As his spaceship was beyond repair, the family decided to adopt him, despite mother Kate's (Anne Schedeen ) serious misgivings.

Named after his grandmother - one of the few women on Melmac who could split a block of wood with her lips - ALF was born on October 28, 1756, but his playful enthusiasm and penchant for chasing cats (he liked them best with a side of French fries) kept him looking far younger than his 229 years.

On Melmac, he had been an Orbit Guard and part-time male model, and he was rapidly embraced by the Tanner's young son, Brian (Benji Gregory ), who idolised him, and elder daughter Lynn (Andrea Elson ). ALF's taste in jokes may have been a little on the eccentric side (as was his famous catchphrase, emulated by Brian, of 'Ha! I kill me!'), but his warmth was infectious and he was soon accepted as a bona fide member of the family.

From trying on Kate's dresses to playing connect the dots by joining together the freckles on father Willie's (Max Wright) face while he slept, ALF ensured there was never again a dull moment in the Tanner household. And by cutting his toenails in the living room and baking Willie and Kate an anniversary cake made from toothpaste and playdough ('The fluorescent kind - I wanted to make it special'), ALF also showed he had much to learn about human customs and traditions.

But the family and the British and American public loved him, following his every adventure from dodging the inquisitive glances of nosy neighbours the Ochmoneks to going on a date with a blind woman and ending up in a dog pound after going out searching for the Tanners' cat Lucky, whom the family had accused him of eating. ALF's heart may have been in his ear, but it was always in the right place.

An offshoot film 'Project: ALF' (where our loveable hero was captured by the Alien Task Force) was made in 1996, and now, nearly 10 years on, ALF is once more back on our screens, hosting his own talk show in the States and bringing his irrepressible, mischievous sense of humour to a whole new generation. Proof, if ever it were needed, that the best shows never grow old.

Russell Atkins.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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