Monday, July 13, 2009

Kim Cattrall, me - and a Bobby Ewing stepping-out-of-the-shower moment...

You know when something so weird happens in your life, you just cannot take it in. Something, if written in a soap opera you would think it so outrageously improbable - even for Dynasty or Dallas?..

It happened to me, my sisters and my Mum just 8 weeks ago.

It started, just like any Agatha Christie novel does with an advert placed in the personal column of a newspaper - the Liverpool Echo in early May to be precise. It asked whether anyone knew the wherebouts of a man last seen in the Toxteth area of Liverpool in the mid 1930's. His name was George Baugh. His surname is quite unusual - and significantly, it also happens to be my Mum's maiden name. What's more, she had an eldest brother who she called 'Georgie' - and as a young teenager, she was the last person in her family to see him storm out of his father's home and disappear down the road forever in the mid 1930's....

Our family are now living all over the place - and none of us actually saw the advert - but my youngest sister has been building our family tree for the past 20 years and has many times tried to find our missing Uncle Georgie without any success. One of her friends in Liverpool saw the advert and contacted my sister to ask whether it could be my long lost Uncle....

We reckoned that more than likely it was. But there was only one way to find out - ring the number on the advert.

We already knew a bit about Uncle Georgie. He was the eldest of 7 kids, was a bit of a tearaway and had been running away from home since his early teens. He had got married at an early age, and had three daughters to Marian, his wife. After he ran away for the last time, (leaving his wife and kids behind) we know he had tried to get into America but was refused entry. He spent a few months banged up in Ellis Island chokey before being shoved onto a boat home... That was over 70 years ago... since then, nothing until now.

We rang the number. It was a researcher from the BBC. They were producing a new episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and they thought Uncle Georgie, my Mum and us kids were all related to their celebrity subject.

"So who is it then?"

They wouldn't tell us. The only thing they did confirm was that the subject of the episode was very, very famous...

Please God, don't let it be Derek Hatton or Jimmy Tarbuck or Cherie Blair or Les Dennis or Cilla Black or especially Keith Chegwin..... But maybe they're not a scouser? The awful thought comes into my mind that Jimmy Krankie is a long lost relly....

We ruminate. Then we cogitate. Our brains have never been so racked. Who the hell is it?

To be honest, I didn't care who it is - just as long as we feel honoured to call them one of our relatives. Footy genius, Stevie Gerrard would be good. We could have a kickabout in our back garden - and I could show him how fab my demon left foot is. Jimmy Page would be better, because if nothing else, I might at last get to actually see Led Zepp' live - possibly in my front room with a wall of Marshall speakers, a four pack, a bottle of Jack Daniels and a couple of cigarette lighters (for the Stairway to Heaven number)... Then maybe I could dig out my Son's classic Gibson Les Paul Studio electric guitar and me and Jimbo could have a bit of a sesh, jammin' the night away..... Sweet.

It wasn't either of them. Nor thankfully was it Degsy, Cherie or Cilla.

All they would tell us was that the subject was internationally famous, born in Liverpool but now lives in the states.

Blimey. Gobsmacking. We are related to someone internationally famous who now lives in the states!..

They ring us back. They want to come round and screen-test my old Mum with a view to interviewing her on camera for the programme. Not only that, if all goes well then the celeb will drop in to do a face to face with her!..

It's all going too fast. We're having difficulty getting our collective heads around this one... and they still won't tell us who it is!

All I can say is 'Thank God for Google'...

We type in Mum's maiden name and start working through all the famous people we can think of who were born in Liverpool. We are forensic in our search.

And then we find it. We find it but we cannot believe it. It ain't really registering.

Us, the Ordinary-Nobody family from Liverpool really are related to someone who has already been to the White House as a guest of President Obama. Someone who is instantly recognisable right around the globe....

It really is sort of getting to be like a plot from Dallas or Dynasty - improbable, not to say impossible! But it appeared to be true!

Amazingly, our relation is Kim Cattrall.

Although dying to blab to anyone we meet, we don't crack on to anyone (well, hardly anyone) - especially my Mum. The programme makers want it to be as natural experience as possible when she meets the people from the Beeb.

The researchers come round. They are impressed with my old girl. She's 87 years old but is still dealing from a full pack (including the jokers). Her recall of her long lost brother is undiminished by a 70-odd year gap. They tell my Mum that they would like to come round with a camera crew and the subject of the programme to do a few scenes. My Mum agrees.

Finally, I tell my kids that they could be related to someone famous. They press me, I capitulate and tell them who it is. Three nanoseconds later, my 25 year old son had shoved it straight onto his FaceBook page.

So much for discretion.

The big day comes - Spring Bank Holiday Monday to be precise and by now, my Mum has been told who it is. She invites us kids to her house to meet our newly discovered relation. Knowing that my Mum's house is a tad on the bijou side - and that around 20 people are likely to be tramping around inside, I reluctantly decide to decline the offer - in the hope that I might meet Kim in less fraught surroundings at a later date.

Three cars turn up the little street in Sheffield where my Mum now lives. Out steps the Director, two researchers, camera crew & sound man, make-up lady, minder and Kim Cattrall... Already in the house are my three sisters, a nephew, a niece, my Mum's younger sister and her daughter.

They are there for a couple of hours filming before they depart. Now is the time to take stock. Basically, my Mum is Kim's Great Aunt - her brother was Kim's Grandfather. That makes me her mother's cousin and my kids are Kim's second cousins.

We've kept a collective embargo on the information while the rest of the programme was being made. The reason being that there is one hell of a story to come out regarding my Uncle Georgie - alot of it is very very painful and upsetting to those concerned. We didn't feel it was our job to publicise the story - especially as we have only just found out about it all. It is really amazing - but not in a positive way. And to be honest, we were all very shocked when we heard what my uncle Georgie had been up to. After he left his wife - he laid low for a few years then remarried. In short, Georgie was a bigamist.

For my Mum it's closure. She was pretty much the last person to see her eldest brother as he did his last runner all those years ago and has always wondered what had happened to him. Well now she knows - where he settled and when he died. Last Saturday I met Kim's Auntie - she's another cousin of mine; and is Georgie's third child. She was really nice, as was her husband. They had loads of photos of their niece - including one with her and Leonard Nimoy playing a couple of Vulcans in a Star Trek movie.

We've heard that the programme is due to air on August 12th. My Mum is getting a private showing beforehand because some of the stuff the programme uncovers is a bit painful....

The process has been surreal, the story has been shocking and painful for all concerned - but I have to say how thrilled we all are to have discovered a new arm of our family - and yes, we do feel honoured to have Kim as one of our relatives.

Well, that's the story - I wrote this piece a few weeks ago and have been wondering when to whack it up on the blog. Well, I reckon now is the right time as the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? is about to start and a piece about Kim's story was featured in Saturday's Daily Mail magazine..



Chris said...

That is a totally 1980s big-hair-and-shoulder-pads story! It ALMOST knocks the 1986 "Bobby Ewing Shower" story-line into a cocked hat.

Amazing. Thanks for sharing! And congratulations on your famous relative!

Wyrdtimes said...

Great story!

Got to say I'd never heard of her though - but that's more to do with me and popular culture than her celebrity status!

Will the English cause get a wealthy and influential backer at last?

Gavin Corder said...

You named her in the title you numptie. Suspense man, suspense!

Thud said...

Now this is what I call a are you going to top this?

Jennyta said...

Lovely to hear from you again, Alfie. I read your comment on my blog as I was watching 'Who do you think you are.' Amazing story.

Red_Fred said...

Wow! Great to see you again Alfie, and glad you are still A the OK!
It was an amazing story - and your Mum was on good form

More power to your blog and I shall add this to my list