WE TRIED very, very hard to
keep it a secret when we sprang "This Is Your Life" on the legendary Mohammed Ali.
Of course, the most important part of the secret. as far as we were concerned, was to maintain the surprise for him. This was achieved by one of the most elaborate schemes I can ever imagine having been instituted for one television programme.
We sent a film unit to the States to his home-town in Louisville, to New York in the East and Las Vegas in the West, the film stories about him, or for him — either one step ahead of him or one step behind him.
We built a cover story that would get him to London without him suspecting anything — an imaginary TV sports programme. We flew him over by Concorde and booked him into a swish hotel in London.
His colourful manager, Angelo Dundee, was flown into Manchester and held there until we were ready to swoop him into London. Other surprises were flown into Gatwick, and all kept as separate and a s hidden as possible until the "off'.
When we had taped the programme, I told our 800 or so audience that now it was obviously no longer secret but perhaps they'd try and keep it quiet until Christmas Day, when it would be transmitted.
The only reason for this, of course, is that lots of people who follow the programme don't like to know in advance and feel it spoils part of the excitement for them.
I believe those people did keep the secret, but some smart little journalist somewhere didn't. I don't know why he bothered.
CLARE came home from her junior school with a letter from the energetic headmaster inviting parents to a meeting at school to see what he and the staff were doing doctrine-wise for our children and to talk over with us what we thought about important issues like First Communion, First Confession and Confirmation.
Michael and I always go — after all, they are our children the school is taking charge of and we are really interested to discuss things with the pedagogical experts. It's good, too, to know what the teachers are actually saying, instead of what the children say they are saying.
But I often get a feeling of unhappiness. You would think that when the school goes to all the trouble it does for a parents' meeting, the parents would respond. But it's nearly always the same group — by and large the most knowledgeable group — who turn up. It's the preaching to Any junior reporter could have found out if he'd so wanted.
All the leak succeeded in doing was to tear open a corner of the package before Christmas Day itself. Childish? I agree. Just before the programme I said some people described him as the most famous man on earth.
Whether this is open to argument or not, I don't mind, but I will brook no argument when say that he is the most extraordinary character I have ever met.
And there was something so simple and so touching about it all when, surrounded by his mother, father, brother, friends, he said that he had done almost everything that he had wanted to do, and that he hadn't believed there was anything any more in the world that could surprise him, but that now he had been surprised, and that he felt like a small boy getting a wonderful Christmas present.
I wish him joy. The pressures up there must be enormous, and I have no reason to doubt the rumours I hear that millions and millions of dollars he has earned have vanished and that he now has to stop and take stock.
I am mightily encouraged for his sake that that shrewd financier Mark McCormack, who has turned golf into a millionaires' business, is taking his affairs in hand.
the converted syndrome.
Those who would profit by knowing more, seeing the school's point of view, opening out their own problems — well, they're just not there. And the longer they stay away, the worse it becomes.
We "regulars" have got to know the staff and each other. We don't have to start a discussion from scratch — we've