"An old friend of mine recently passed away aged 91 years. Born in Southport, Lancashire she was one of the few ladies who wore the wrong colour of rose (Born on the wrong side of the Pennines) who stole my heart with her impish and childlike personality and oodles of charm. Her name was Dora Bryan, actress of the 1962 film, 'A taste of honey.'
Between 1990 and 2005, I had been able to persuade over 800 celebrities to visit West Yorkshire and to read from my books to assemblies of schoolchildren, which raised over £200,000 for charity from book sales. Ironically, getting the celebrity reader was often easier than getting suitable transport to take them to their appointed venues and return afterwards.
While some of these famous readers may have been working within 50 miles of the school venue on the day of their reading, many travelled hundreds of miles at their own expense, simply to undertake my reading invitation to a West Yorkshire school.
Consequently, it would have been churlish of me to have expected them to travel the last miles to their school venue by bus or even taxi, given the amount of trouble and expense they’d already put themselves to on my behalf. To have collected them in my own old banger just wouldn’t have been ‘the done thing!’
Having vowed always to keep my charity fund-raising ventures ‘self-financing,’ anyone who helped me throughout the years, did so for love and no money. I knew that I’d have to come up with many different solutions to fund any necessary project expenses and that private sponsorship and public cash appeals might not always prove sufficient in themselves to keep the projects on the road.
One particular week I needed to collect the film star and actress Dora Bryan from her lodgings that was about 25 miles away from the school in Bradford where she was reading from one of my books. Unable to get the type of car I would ideally have liked to have picked her up in, I cleaned my car up the best I could and decided to escort her personally.
Dora was a really down-to-earth person with no airs and graces. Much of her acting career had witnessed much hardship and personal suffering. She bonded so easily with everyone she met and proved to be an instant success with the children she read to. A couple of hours in her company automatically left one feeling better than if they’d actually fell in the jar and ‘tasted the honey.’ On the way back to where she was lodging, I explained the problem I frequently had pertaining to the acquisition of suitable cars to convey my celebrity readers around in. Within minutes, Dora had supplied me with the answer. She said, “I’ve invariably found Bill, that the best way to get a nice car is to get a nice man to go with it.”
While Dora may have been talking ‘tongue in cheek’ what she said provided me with the germ of a good idea that I was to successfully use over 500 times during the years ahead.
I needed to find the man as well as the car!’ After a number of inquiries, I quickly learned of a many people who would willingly provide me with a constant stream of vintage cars, Rolls Royces or indeed anything that was ever motorised, at no monetary charge. Their fee would be a straight swap. In exchange for their car and services for the day, I would simply allow them to act as the celebrity’s chauffeur and to have their own photograph taken with the star at some point during the day's proceedings.
I found this solution to be a perfect answer to my problem and the stars who were escorted in style didn’t seem to mind having an additional photograph taken alongside 'their chauffeur for the day.' Within no time at all, I’d amassed a surfeit celebrity car-pool of vintage vehicles to draw from. Other people with such cars also wanted in on the act and started initiating contact with me; requesting that I include them and their cars in the celebrity car-pool also!
Through such means, I was able to have many of the celebrities who read for me chauffeur-driven to their reading venue in cars fit for a star. I recollect having Diana Rigg escorted to her school in the very same colour, model and year of car she had on screen when she starred in ‘The Avengers’ television series during the 80s. I secured a chauffeur, dressed in 1939 clothes to collect Timothy West when he did one of his many readings for me at Mirfield High School. The type of car used for that occasion was the very type, year and colour used by Winston Churchill when he was PM (Timothy had been playing Winston on our television screens at the time). His wife Prunella had more up-market tastes and liked to be chaufeurred around in a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Similarly, when Christopher Timothy first read for me, he arrived at the school in a car straight out of the world of James Herriot. The first man to travel to both the North and South Poles, Robert Swann was chaufeurred in a unique Italian car that cost over £2million.
Thanks to Dora's suggestion the first time I met her, my celebrities thereafter were never stuck for a ride. RIP Dora. The full story can be found on my website." July 25th, 2014. http://www.fordefables.co.uk/cars-for-stars.html