Tommy and the Toilet

For a short while—from late ’79 to ’85—I was making my living doing showbiz-related promotional work like producing fashion shows in shops, hotels, the MetroCentre, even nightclubs. I was designing and producing leaflets, arranging advertorials in local newspapers and running promotions; a pop quiz in a nightclub, for example, or booking celebrities—real ones, not the manufactured been-in-a-reality-TV-show kind you get now!

I remember one in particular. A department store in Newcastle (Farnons, one of the many which have since gone the journey) wondered if I could find them a real star for a special promotion. I looked around and discovered that, at the time they wanted to run this promotion, Tommy Cooper was playing at Billingham Forum.

Well, I did say real celebrities, didn’t I?

I contacted his agent, made all the necessary arrangements and agreed that I would pick him up from the Billingham Arms Hotel where he was staying and drive him to Newcastle (and back).

I arrived at the hotel at the agreed time only to discover he was still in bed! The hotel staff roused him and he rushed to get ready, got into my car and we were off up the A19, Tommy, my business partner John and myself, travelling at, I must say, rather more than the speed limit.

We were just south of Peterlee when Tommy said, “Er, lads. Sorry, but I… er, need to piss.”

He could hardly do it on the hard shoulder of the northbound A19 in the middle of the morning and I really couldn’t see him clambering over or through a hedge, so I was beginning to panic a bit, when John said, “My mother lives in Shotton Colliery. It’s not far. Do you think you could hang on about five minutes, Tommy?”

He thought he could so I turned off at the next junction and headed to Shotton. When we pulled up outside of his mam’s house, John said, “Give me a minute” and in he went to prepare her. He told me later that he’d said to her, “Look mam, I don’t want to shock you, but Tommy Cooper wants to use your toilet.”

She didn’t believe him, of course, but she came to the door and there was Tommy who by now was out of the car and hopping from leg to leg.

“Ee! Come in, pet!” she said, and he did. He did his business and we went on our way.

I suspect that by the time we reached Peterlee, everyone in Shotton Colliery knew that Tommy Cooper had called in to use her toilet, by the time we reached Durham everyone in Peterlee had found out and by the time we reached Newcastle, the whole of East Durham from Seaham to Easington knew!

And yes, he proved very popular in store, talking to the customers, and, once the bladder pressure was relieved, he was a very entertaining car passenger too!