It’s tricky being an amateur researcher. I don’t kick doors in, nor do I follow up if someone forgets to email me back. So I do leave stones unturned, largely because I don’t want to annoy anyone. The ridiculous thing, of course, is that without exception all of the actors and production personnel I have spoken to have been very happy to have been remembered. But that doesn’t stop me being shy.
So this month, when I discovered that Victor Platt, a very recognisable actor with a Toby Jug countenance that made him born to play coppers and barkeeps, passed away in January aged 96 I rued that I had not found him (hiding in plain sight as he was). He could have told me about Quatermass and the Pit (he has a great cameo as a spooked PC who
takes Andre Morell around a deserted, possibly haunted house) and Doomwatch and The Road. Of course, his loss is properly felt by his family and loved ones and he may not have remembered much about the acting career he retired from 40 years ago in order to turn his hand to sculpting – but he might have enjoyed a lunch and a reminisce and I’d have been flattered and excited to have met him. Getting in touch with such people (which I attempted to do with Mr Platt several times) is more difficult now – my union, Equity, used to forward mail to members but since belligerent autograph seekers began to overuse the free forwarding system to send gazillions of unwanted items through the post to unsuspecting pensioners (and then kicked off when some weren’t returned) they no longer do – which means genuine researchers lose out too.
Carl Conway also passed away recently – and his death highlights another aspect of how tricky amateur research can be. My friend Ben Jolly let me know that IMDB was suggesting that Mr Conway had just passed away aged 95 (IMDB previously had him listed as deceased in 1992 by the way). So I did some digging. I found a Texan Carl Conway had died on February 17th aged 95 and I immediately put this down to IMDB being useless and people not fact checking properly (a real internet malaise, especially with IMDB and Wikipedia). Digging deeper however, I discovered that our Carl Conway – from Doctor Who‘s The War Machines and The Ambassadors of Death – had passed away exactly a week before the American one. Also aged 95!
Mr Conway had been suggested to me as a potential interviewee. He had been a DJ on Radio Caroline and had contacted the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame in 2008 to tell them what he was up to (which is what had made me certain that IMDB’s 1992 death date was wrong). His two roles in Doctor Who plus his career as the voice of the famous pirate station and his subsequent life organising film shows for old people’s homes would have made him a fascinating subject, but alas I never tracked him down (remember, I do all this stuff in my spare time).
So, Mr Platt and Mr Conway – sorry I never got to meet you, and believe me I would have loved every minute of doing so. Sorry not to have had the chance to thank you for all the entertainment. In the great scheme of things the fact that I never managed to track you down will have meant very little to you – but it would have meant a lot to me, and I think the small band of people who read and listen to my stuff would have been chuffed too.