It is traditional to give the floor to new members, to allow them to introduce themselves.
“…I think that most of you will probably know me: I’ve been in the papers quite a lot from time to time. My name is Terry Tease and I’m a warm-up man. Not my real name, of course. Not quite. Terence Teasdale I was born, but everybody called me Tease at school and it just kind of stuck. My mum hated it of course. More the ‘Terry’ than the ‘Tease’. ‘You were christened Terence,’ she used to say. ‘If God had wanted you to be called Terry, I would have christened you Terry.’ She wasn’t happy when the local paper started to call me Tease the Sleaze either, but it was all a simple mistake and it soon passed. Mother spoke to the girl and I don’t know what she said, but she stopped saying things almost straight away. It didn’t really matter anyway though, because she moved away soon afterwards. Bought herself a new car as I recall. Mother never spoke about it afterwards, but she made me promise never to go on any of those websites again. Not that I had a lot of choice; the computer stopped working soon afterwards and mother refused to have a smart phone in the house. She approved of mobile phones only as long as they didn’t have pictures. Ungodly she called them, so I never bothered. She took all my calls anyway, so I never really needed one myself.
I always wanted to be an entertainer. I was never good at school work so I didn’t really have the skills to do anything else. I wasn’t class clown or anything, nobody ever found me very funny if I’m honest, and I didn’t really have many friends. Well, any really. I always preferred the company of the girls, tell the truth, but they didn’t have much time for me – always kept me at arm’s length – and the lads just called me a mummy’s boy. So, anyway, I went to school – mostly – and sat quietly, and kept myself to myself as much as I could: kept my head down, tried not to make enemies; it’s what we all do at school, isn’t it?
I had a few jobs after I left school. Well, quite a lot actually. Mostly in shops, stacking shelves, that kind of thing – never got to work with the customers really. Never got near the till. Never lasted that long. Mostly ended with mother telling me not to bother getting my smart clothes on when she brought my tea up in the morning. Something would come along, she always said. Mostly it did, I couldn’t seem to stop it.
I’ve always been single. Never seem to have met the right girl really. At least, none that mother thought were right. Stopped trying after a while. You come to an age where everybody is already married or divorced with kids. I’ve never been any good with kids. They don’t seem to take to me. I don’t know why. Mother got me a job as Santa’s Little Helper one year in a department store. That didn’t last long I can tell you. Little sod. It took me hours to get the chewing gum out of my hair. I mean, what was I supposed to do? You’ve got to be so careful with children. I thought it was safer for everybody if he stayed in that cupboard until he calmed down. His mother didn’t agree, of course – no idea about discipline – but the store said they’d have to let me go – just as soon as they’d persuaded the shrieking woman not to press charges. So, another job bit the dust. Still, it’s an ill wind and all that.
I was held in the manager’s office for a while with a young lad who I took to be a shoplifter. We got talking. Richard Danvers he said his name was. He was actually from the warehouse, working part-time while he went through Uni. Something to do with catering, I think: food hygiene, that kind of thing. He had dreams of becoming a celebrity chef, but unfortunately he couldn’t keep his hands out of the till.”
Terry cast his eyes around the circle. Many of the jaws were slack, but the eyes were all fixed. One or two of the group appeared to be shifting uncomfortably in their seats, but he put that down to the hard chairs. All in all, he had never enjoyed attention like it.
“Well,” he resumed. “I’m sure most of you know my story from there on. You look like an intelligent bunch. All read the papers, that kind of thing. I started on the club circuit much to my mother’s disgust. She took to her bed and slowly faded away – it took her three years in the end. She said she couldn’t handle the shame: her only son a ‘showman’. Mind you, when it finally came, her death still managed to take everybody by surprise. I’d made her a nice fish pie, just for a change, that kind of thing. She said she’d never had one before I remember. Who could have guessed that she was so allergic to shellfish?
Anyway, I worked my way up from third support to compere within the year. I didn’t do the kids’ nights, of course, but I made up for it by doing a double shift on Thursdays, Cabaret Compere and Bingo Caller and, as many of you will know, that is where I once again bumped into a young comic called Dick Devine. He was just starting out back then. Changed his name from Danvers. No-one would ever have guessed that he would become the UK’s Quiz Show King. But I took him under my wing, gave him a few tips where I could, introduced him to a few people – on the council mainly – watched him grow up. Become a man you might say. I like to think that I set him on his way and, to be fair, he was very helpful to me when mum took ill. Oh the stories I could tell…”
Terry smiled briefly. It was not comforting.
“When Dick first moved into TV I sent him a little letter, to congratulate him and to remind him how far we went back, the memories we shared, that kind of thing and before I knew it, there I was, a BBC warm-up man. The man that got the audience ready for Dick! I loved that job and I was good at it. ‘Never be too funny,’ they told me, ‘it upsets Dick if you’re too funny,’ and I never was. He used to pat me on the back sometimes as we passed in the studio. ‘Great job,’ he would say. ‘You make me look so good.’ And then, one day, out of the blue, I got the news. Sacked. Direct from Dick, they said. They said he would text me personally, but he never did. He had just been given a new show, prime time Saturday slot and he said he needed a proper warm-up man, not some sleazy ex-bingo caller apparently. Sent me a cheque and said not to bother to come back to collect my things as he was having them burned. He said he would love to be able to recommend me to the other studios – but he didn’t intend to lie for me anymore.
So, that’s why I’m here really. I’ve had an interesting life and I think it’s probably time I wrote some of my stories down. He’s a powerful man is Dick, everybody loves him, and the papers really want to hear all about what he was like on the way up. So I’ll tell them, and if they want me to tell them all about how to test for shellfish allergies, I’ll tell them that too…”