Modern Mystic League
Blackburn & District  Society of Magicians
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July 2021

Sooty's little helper.
11th July was a very special date – not just because of an important football match, but because our own Lorenzo Carcione was presenting his talk ‘Sooty and Me’ for the MML.

Many will recall that, back in those pre-Covid days of 2018, Lorenzo was fortunate enough to be offered a fortnight’s work experience filming the Sooty Show for television, courtesy of Richard Cadell. Officially employed as a sound technician, for which he was credited, he was also used as an extra and part-time puppeteer. Other high-calibre extras included Bippo the Clown, the late circus owner Gerry Cottle and Trevor Hill – Sooty’s first TV producer, credited with giving him his black ears. 

Lorenzo arrived in style in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, courtesy of a client of his dad, and was soon set to work practising holding a broomstick over his head to simulate a boom microphone.  He was accommodated in an on-site caravan, to be ready for work at 6 a.m.

A series of six, ten-minute episodes was to be filmed, allowing two days for each. Use of a single camera led to an intricate editing process, often linking some very brief shots.  We were let into the secret of how Richard had two ‘99’chocolate flakes shot into his nostrils; the items being pulled out on threads while the film was played backwards.  This was part of the first episode, set in Sooty’s ice cream parlour, where Sweep invented a new sausage and mustard flavoured ice cream; much to the disgust of guest John Challis – ‘Boycie’ from Only Fools and Horses.

Lorenzo’s many anecdotes included the story of a hired ‘cow’, needing to be milked as part of the storyline, which was discovered to be a bad-tempered male.  On the second day of shooting, it turned up with a differently coloured rope (blue instead of the original red) and covered in dirt, which created havoc with continuity.

In the second episode a mix-up with instructions led to another very expensive car being painted blue, while The Wild Wild West involved special guest Peter Andre. Then we had Who’s Got Talent? with Sooty producing a white rabbit from a top hat while Sweep was taught how to sing ‘Tragedy’ by a member of Steps.

In the middle of all this we were joined by Lorenzo’s own special guest, Ronnie Le Drew, the animator of Zippy in Rainbow who also worked extensively with Jim Henson on films such as Labyrinth and The Muppets Christmas Carol.  He provided a delightful interlude.

For Jurassic Lark the company moved to Wookey Hole to work with the animatronic dinosaurs there, with the time-travelling Richard as a caveman and Lorenzo trying his hand as a puppeteer.

The final episode took place in the palatial grounds of Rookery Manor, Richard ending up in the lily pond and having to take the place of a broken fountain statue with water spurting out of his ears.

This was a fascinating insight into the making of a television series for children, with an illuminating commentary from Lorenzo and supported by film clips and stills.  It was a most pleasurable way to spend a summer’s afternoon, before it was time to say once again “Bye-bye, everybody.  Bye-bye!”

Brian Lead