Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

When Bilko Came to Newcastle

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

When Bilko Came to Newcastle

Article excerpt

Byline: NOSTALGIA DAVE MORTON recalls the people and places of the North East CHECK US OUT ONLINE AT WWW.CHRONICLELIVE.CO.UK/NEWS/HISTORY EMAIL: TELEPHONE: 0191 2016437 WRITE TO: Dave Morton, ncjMedia, Eldon Court, Percy Street, Newcastle, NE1 7JB. @DaveSMorton Newcastle Chronicle - History Photosales - 0191 201 6000

HE was best-known as the fast-talking, wisecracking, opportunistic, American army spiv, Sgt Ernie Bilko - but on this day 45 years ago, the US television star Phil Silvers was on Tyneside.

Our picture was taken on April 3, 1974 when, much like his Bilko alter ego, Silvers was engaged in another get-rich quick scheme - this time at Newcastle Racecourse.

The Chronicle reported how Phil, who was starring in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at Newcastle's Theatre Royal, backed the horse Record Run in the 3pm race. It romped home but the bookie who paid out, Alec Lewis, was still smiling.

To British TV audiences the actor will always be best remembered as Sgt Bilko, the star of the Phil Silvers Show which ran from 1955 to 1959.

Set on fictional US army camp, Camp Baxter, the bespectacled sergeant spent most of his time dreaming up schemes to make money through hilarious scams and swindles - or trying to get others to do his work for him.

The show was a huge hit in the States, running for 143 episodes across four series, and turning journeyman actor Silvers into a major star.

He said of his new-found fame: "I had adoration before - but it was limited-type. Now they adore me all out."

Most of the shows were performed before a live audience in a New York TV studio, leading to some bungled lines and awkward pauses.

The actor Paul Ford who played the hapless Colonel Hall was notorious for forgetting his lines, and Silvers would improvise to cover the gaffes on many occasions.

Guest stars on the show included Hollywood A-listers like Dean Martin, Mickey Rooney and Lucille Ball. …

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