“Give me the £100 I won. Says teacher to actor” was a headline in the Nottingham Guardian Journal, January 26, 1971. Who was the actor? The teacher? How did he respond? “Tell her to take a running jump, with my compliments,” he replied.
What was the setting for this drama?
Well, in London the weather was a worry: “Roofs go flying in freak whirlwind” reported the Guardian Journal. More than 100 homes and shops were hit, trees were uprooted and a car was lifted in the air and smashed against a wall. Passengers on a double-decker bus had to hold on for their lives as it veered across the road. Nottingham Forest’s FA Cup replay against Leyton Orient was abandoned at half-time with no score. A crowd of 18,591 were disappointed.
Nearer home, four bandits got away with £18,000 from a messenger in daylight outside an Ilkeston bank. Then, as now, strikes were making the news with Post Office workers on strike. There was uproar in the House of Commons as 40 Labour MPs demonstrated over the guillotine motion for the Industrial Relations Bill. Among them were local MPs Joe Aston, Michael English, Tom Swaine and Dennis Skinner. And, in Nottingham, more big cuts were on the way in the city’s bus services.
The raffle mix-up
Meanwhile, back to the drama. The actor was Peter O’Toole of Lawrence of Arabia and Becket fame. O’Toole, who was performing in Waiting For Godot at the Nottingham Playhouse, had agreed to draw raffle tickets in a competition organised by the Playhouse. The mix-up came when O’Toole drew the first ticket. “I called her name out and she didn’t answer,” said O’Toole. After waiting, those standing around took a vote and decided to draw again. The actor did not realise that each ticket bore the words “Winners notified by post.”
The holder of the second ticket, Mrs Monire Childs, my wife, was present. She too claimed the prize, as in the headline. This presented a problem. Various solutions were proposed by the organising committee but no solution came in sight. After his ‘running jump’ riposte, O’Toole withdrew from the argument: “I’m afraid it’s up to the Playhouse now. It’s not my problem. I feel I have done my duty, it was put to the vote.”
After various negotiations the Playhouse decided to give both winners £100 each which Mrs Childs spent on a new washing machine. O’Toole repentant over the mix-up sent the ‘real’ winner £56 of his own money, which he had won on a horse. The local paper reported ‘Happy end to mix-up over prize draw’.
A second encounter
In the summer holidays of 1999, we decided to see Egypt’s ancient wonders. As we sat alone waiting to be called for our flight, a familiar face appeared. To our great surprise, it was Peter O’Toole. Did he recognise Monire Childs? He said nothing!
He provided entertainment for some on arrival, apparently getting worked up over his baggage being searched: “Do you not know who I am?” I believe we exchanged a few words with him, revealing that he was a man of some importance. But before we could say much, there were hugs and noises of delight from another person, Omar Sharif of Dr Zhivago as well as Lawrence of Arabia fame.
Let’s hope they did not repeat previous ‘fun.’ According to the Los Angeles Times (16 December 2013), they both loved gambling and O’Toole recounted their adventures. “Omar loved gambling, too, so we’d lose all our money at the casino — we once did about nine months’ wages in one night — and then get up to the usual things young men get up to.”
O’Toole had many more successes and was nominated eight times for Oscars. He died aged 81 in London 14 December 2013. Omar Sharif was born in Egypt to a well-connected Lebanese Christian family. Among his many acting awards were three golden globes. He was also recognised as one of the world’s top contract bridge players. He died in Cairo, Egypt, 10 July, 2015.