Is There Life after Docu-Soap? They're the Ordinary People Who Become Heroes and Villains as Stars of Television's Fly-on-the-Wall Shows. but What Happens to Their Lives after the Cameras Stop Rolling? They're the Ordinary People Who Become Heroes and Villains as Stars of Television's Fly-on-the-Wall Shows. but What Happens to Their Lives after the Cameras Stop Rolling?
Byline: SARAH IVENS;PAUL BRACCHI
IT'S the TV phenomenon of the age - the fly-on-the-wall docu-soap. A TV crew sets up in a suburban town or workplace and puts everyday life in Britain under the microscope. One or two personalities emerge, proving to be as popular in the ratings as any character from EastEnders or Coronation Street.
Here, SARAH IVENS and PAUL BRACCHI find out what happens when their 15 minutes of fame is over...
SHOWN: January/February 1996, six weeks on BBC2.
STORY: Behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of Covent Garden Opera House.
POPULARITY: Peaked at four million viewers.
STAR: Public affairs manager Keith Cooper - or the 'axeman', 'Beast of the Ballet' or 'Vlad the Impaler' if you were
an employee. While Jose Carreras on stage singing Carmen, Keith was busy throwing tantrums (and telephones), firing staff and screaming: 'Sod it, the house will do what I will determine it will do.'
LIFE AFTER: Keith got a taste of his own medicine 18 months after the series was screened when he was sacked from his [pounds sterling]60,000 job by the new chairman, Sir Colin Southgate, who ordered him to clear his desk within the hour.
Officials at the opera house say his dismissal had nothing to do with the programme and everything to do with disappointing ticket sales.
He has since got revenge, writing scathing reports about his former employers for the Spectator and filming another BBC2 documentary on the 'real prob-
lems' at the house. Keith, a silver-haired 41-year-old, was inundated with modelling offers. He advertised sunglasses for Yohji Yamamoto and appeared in a fashion spread in L'Umo Vogue.
But it didn't last.
These days, rather than giving orders, he's taking them, working at a friend's restaurant in Shepherd's Bush. ('Now I can even be trusted with the cappuccino machine.')
REGRETS: Losing that [pounds sterling]60,000 job. 'It has been enormously humbling,' he says.
'It's a bit like having to cope with death. You think: ''Why me?''' He blames the series for his career decline: 'My professional credibility was affected by what people saw on television. The camera got me 180 degrees totally wrong. Looking back, I might have done things in a slightly different way, but I wouldn't duck the responsibility.
'We all want to be liked, but sometimes respect is better than being liked.'
ON FAME: 'The fame does go to your head a bit, although I'm always mistaken for Grant from EastEnders and I'm sure he's not mistaken for me. I'm not in that exclusive club of true docu-soap celebrities who win new glamorous careers, although it has affected how people see me.'
VERDICT: A catastrophic performance and you still can't help thinking that being nice to people for a living may not suit the onetime JR of Covent Garden.
SHOWN: November/December 1997.
Eight-part BBC series.
STORY: Life at Liverpool's largest hotel, The Adelphi.
POPULARITY: Ten million.
STAR: General manager Eileen Downey (Cruella de Vil to her critics).
Despite being just 5ft, she struck fear into the hearts of her staff. But our Eileen has a very thick skin.
'What criticism? I've seen all the Press cuttings and I think they're favourable.'
LIFE AFTER: Flooded with offers from other chains, Eileen says: 'Anyone would want a businessman of my calibre to run their hotel.' Despite this she is at the helm of the Adelphi for her sixth
year. After the show, bookings rose by 20 pc and the staff turnover fell by 9 pc.
REGRETS: An on-air row with a reporter who asked her why the hotel had decided to charge customers left stranded by the IRA bomb threat at the Grand National.
ON FAME: 'It hasn't affected me. I don't think I'm dictatorial.
I'm just doing my job. …