Friday, 28 March 2008

Seth and His Boss!

From the Yorkshire Evening Post's 1985 supplement - Emmerdale Farm 1,000!

Somebody recently turned to Stan Richards with a quizzical look and asked: "Why is it you talk right posh when you're on the telly?"

Stan, who is as much a part of Barnsley as Arthur Scargill's ceremonial pit lamp, couldn't come up with an answer.

Apart from the now legendary woolly hat and a change of spectacles, the real Stan Richards isn't very far removed from the fictitious Seth Armstrong of "Emmerdale Farm".

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two down-to-earth characters is all that Woolpack ale Seth pours down his neck. Stan can't stand the stuff.

He has to grin and bear it as he swigs his way through scene after scene in anguish with Amos.

But as soon as the cameras have stopped rolling he screws up his face in disgust and swills his gums with a glass of scotch.

Those gums have become his stock-in-trade, not only as a highly-popular Seth, but over more than 30 years they have made him a sought-after toothless grin around the working men's clubs of the North.

"It isn't a gimmick," he says. "I just don't like wearing false teeth. And now I don't have to."

The role of Seth has come like a pools win for the lad from the mining town who still calls corrugated iron "wriggly tin".

He was originally signed up for a mere five episodes. "They must have liked me because they kept asking me back," he says. He is now one of the series well-loved fixtures and fittings.

That unmistakable face, set off by a magnificent handlebar moustache, means a lot of writer's cramp signing autograph after autograph.

But Stan never grumbles. At 54 he remembers the days as a struggling stand-up comic.

Going even farther back, he recalls his start in showbusiness. At the age of 15, as a pupil of Barnsley Grammar School, he used to enjoy a pint and a Woodbine while playing the piano around local pubs.

One of his first jobs was as a Ministry of Labour clerk. But he was transferred to London, which didn't do for a pure-bred Northerner.

"I couldn't stand the place," he says. "I packed up my job and came home."

After that he went to work in the accounts department of the local disinfectant factory and that's where he remained until 1965, when he decided to go full-time professional as a solo comic.

Television bit parts bolstered his earnings and he now boasts of acting alongside Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman.

That was a 10 -second appearance as an hotel porter in the film "Agatha".

He still keeps his hand in with working men's club dates, although it means strenuously long hours after doing a stint in the studios or on location.

Stan is a realist whose lifestyle has hardly altered since he found "Emmerdale" stardom.

"I was born and bred in Barnsley," he says with that pride which seems to accompany everyone who was born and bred there.

"To me it is the greatest place in the world. That is where I intend to stay.

"As far as the neighbours and my mates down the local are concerned, I'm still Stan Richards, an ordinary chap with a wife and six kids.

"I think they're all happy to see me successful. But nothing's changed."

He knows that one day Seth Armstrong or the series might cease to exist. As he tells his club audiences: "I used to be a clairvoyant, but I had to give it up due to unforeseen circumstances."

"You're a very, very nasty man," an elderly lady once told actor Richard Thorp as he sat in a genteel tea-room...

Richard, of course, is the "JR"-type manager of NY Estates in "Emmerdale Farm", but in reality he is a quietly-spoken, gentle man with a ready smile and a deep-throated chuckle.

Seth Armstrong's boss, and the bane of the gamekeeper's life, escapes to his beautiful old Tudor home in Sussex each weekend to join his wife, Noola, a TV floor manager.

The couple love animals and have two dogs, eight ducks, 14 chickens and numerous "wild" pets.

Richard tells an amusing "Emmerdale" story about a horse...

"I admit I'm a bit on the stout side and I had to get on a horse in one scene. The director said 'Action,' I hoisted myself into the saddle - and the entire production crew crew fell about laughing.

"I sat bemused until they explained that the horse, which was facing directly into the camera, had pulled a face when I climbed aboard."

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