MAY 13 marks the 32nd anniversary of actress Joan Collins’ historic visit to Windermere.
She arrived to support the making of a film called The Pike, supposed to be the freshwater answer to Jaws. This was the brainchild of Chris Twemlow, of Manchester, who had written a book of that name about a fictitious man-eating pike in Windermere.
He now intended to make, and direct, a film based on the book, and a lot of preparatory work had already gone into it.
This included commissioning a 12-feet-long mechanical pike from Ulvertech, of Ulverston, and organising a press launch for the film and the pike at the Low Wood Centre, on May 13, 1982, with the pike and Joan as the star attractions.
There was scepticism locally, and nationally, as to whether Joan would appear, especially as she was in the middle of filming Dynasty.
But she duly arrived the day before, and I was introduced to her at dinner as a local journalist.
I had been approached by Mr Twemlow some time before to give publicity support to his £2m venture.
Unfortunately, the next morning, when Joan and I, and others, assembled at the jetty for the press launch, the pike got star-struck and did not perform as it should.
But Joan dutifully, and joyfully, put her head in its non-working jaws anyway, and did her best to perform for the cameras and crowd.
She played her part to perfection. With great humour, she smiled and shone her way through the whole event, delighting not only the journalists present, but also a large crowd of onlookers, many of whom went away with some great pictures of her that they still probably treasure.
As a reward for my support, I was given a private interview with her, conducted on a bench outside the Low Wood Hotel in bright sunshine.
She sat next to me looking wonderful in a red suit and, with the sun also radiating warmth and light. I felt doubly blessed.
Joan told me she had been let off Dynasty temporarily in order to shoot Nutracker, in London, which is why she was able to be in the Lakes.
She said: “I have never been to the Lake District before. But I always wanted to come, as my father used to fish here.”
I found Joan a lovely person and not at all the insensitive character she portrayed in Dynasty. I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with her.
In the end, the film was never made as the necessary backing was not forthcoming.
The pike’s teething problems were sorted out, but it did not perform on the lake again.
However, a full-size glass fibre model was made, and this was loaned to the Low Wood Water Sports Centre, where it still hangs and is quite a popular attraction.
* Many members of the public took photos of Joan with the pike, and with Andrew, on the day. If anyone has such pictures, please contact Andrew Thomas at The Westmorland Gazette by email at andrew.thomas @kendal.newsquest.co.uk