Belle Blog

Legends

Posted by Richard on December 6th, 2014

Ever wondered what makes “A Legend” in the Entertainment Business?

Well on Friday we found out. We attended a lunch at the House of Lords honouring Cilla Black when she was presented with the RTS’s first ever, ‘RTS Legends Award’.

It may be a bit of a cliché, but in truth they could not have given it to anyone so deserving. Yes, perhaps it helps having been a regular at the Cavern Club in the early 60s, knowing most of the Mersey Generation, or being introduced to Brian Epstein by your long-time friend John Lennon and having Burt Bacharach fly over from LA to arrange and record, ‘Alfie’ with you when your just 22. But of course what really makes a legend is Cilla’s almost unrivalled ability to sustain a career over 50 years in show business and to reinvent herself over those years. From Sixties rock and roll, to hosting iconic television shows like ‘Surprise, Surprise’, it’s clear Cilla has had a quite remarkable career.

But for Paul Jackson – head of the Committee giving her the award, one key feature that really defined her was her shock announcement, “live on air”, she was stepping down from ‘Blind Date’. The show had been phenomenally successful, running for 18 seasons (from 1985 to 2003). It was a show that, at its peak, attracted audiences of over 18 million.

No-one involved in the production knew her decision was coming. It was the only episode of the show they ever did live, and for Paul (who was in the studio that night and basically in charge of Entertainment at ITV at the time) it was both a shock and, on reflection, actually a very special moment. As he said yesterday at the presentation, it was one of the very few occasions he knew of where a performer, and a hugely successful one at that, was able to “bow-out” completely on her own terms – not at the whim of some arbitrary production exec, or of some decision from somewhere ‘on high’. A real Legend.

And perhaps there is a message there about retaining the key decisions in life and discovering that ultimately however inconvenient it might be for people at the time you will be respected for it.

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