Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star
I CAME across an article the other day that was of precious little interest to me except for one thing; the name of the gentleman mentioned therein. Talk about a blast from the past. Some of you, not dissimilar in vintage to myself, would instantly recall this guy from your youth. If I were to mention great shopping deals on ‘yellow pack’ items at Quinnsworth? Ring any bells? Yes, lo and behold, leaping out of my past was the infamous face of unbelievable supermarket bargains, Mr. Maurice Pratt himself.
Both quirky and annoying, he was the fresh face of Quinnsworth’s television campaign. His catchphrase was, “That’s real value” and you couldn’t escape him back in the 80’s. He was a big hit with the ladies too with his dashing good looks.
It got me thinking how easily people can fall off the radar after a period of seemingly endless fame and or notoriety. Turns out, our advertising whizz kid went on to do very well for himself and is today involved in several businesses, including Chairman of Uniphar PLC for the last few years, along with holding several company directorships. He was also formerly with Tesco and drinks company C&C where, alas, his golden touch somehow eluded him resulting in him leaving, albeit with a ‘golden handshake’ of more than a million quid. He is now in his early 60’s, married with five sons and lives in Foxrock, Dublin.
‘Whatever became of the guy who got the band together in the Commitments?’
From Maurice Pratt I started thinking about others who sort of disappeared from the public eye. Whatever became of the guy who got the band together in the Commitments? One of my favourite Irish movies. The Roddy Doyle book turned film, directed by Alan Parker, is a real gem, both musically and comedically.
In the Commitments Robert Arkins played the go getter manager Jimmy Rabbitte who put a motley bunch of Dubs together and had aspirations of making it big by bringing soul music to ‘the brothers’. Great fun and some memorable performances mixed with laughs and top tunes.
Robert was it seems never really that keen on the world of stardom according to himself and despite offers from the States, he was turned off by their attitude. Apparently, they were pushing for him to choose between acting and music and he didn’t see why he should have to. He remembers one party after the film had taken off. “I literally had lawyers and managers on one side and all my student drunk mates on free drink, chewing and slobbering all over me, on the other.” He also had his own personal life to attend to which sadly involved his partner leaving him and their kid. At the time he felt he just was not at an age where he was ready for any of this. He had a little fling with MCA Records in London, but nothing really came of it.
These days an older and probably wiser Robert Arkins works as a music composer for commercials and artistic projects. He also got a degree in Composition at Trinity College. What might have been? Who knows?
Fionnuala Sweeney certainly made an impact at RTE back in the 90’s after a stint on pirate radio in Dublin. She worked as a newscaster on 2FM and went on to present the Eurovision Song Contest in 1993. Later, she moved to the US with CNN as a producer and anchor at CNN International headquarters in Atlanta. Eventually she became a full-time anchor in a new role in London. Fionnuala certainly spread her wings and far removed from the world of Eurovision, these days is an Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health. She is currently Communications Director at the Atlantic Institute with the Rhodes Trust at the University of Oxford in the UK. What a journey. Yet here at home, you would swear she just vanished into the ether.
I then found myself investigating a host of “names” who I would perceive to be well off the beaten track today in comparison to once upon a time. Remember little Charlie from the classic original Willy Wonka? Peter Ostrum is now a vet in Lowville, New York, working mainly with horses and cows and is a managing partner with the Dairy Health & Management Service. Not a Wonka bar or a golden ticket in sight.
Model, pin up and actress Kelly Brook now works on radio co-presenting Heart London Drivetime and Saturday Breakfast. She loves a bit of gardening too.
Legendary multi-talented musician Mike Oldfield quit Britain some years ago critical of the introduction of the ban on smoking and after living in a few different countries, settled for the sunny climes of the Bahamas. How lovely.
How about 80’s pop doyen Kim Wilde? That stripy top and the tousled blonde hair. ‘Kids in America’ made her a star overnight and a string of chart hits followed. These days she performs occasionally but is most at home in the garden and has quite the reputation as a green fingers, developing the “All About Alice” garden for the Tatton Flower Show where she was awarded the ‘Best Show Garden’ award. In 2005, she won a Gold award for her courtyard garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. Recently she has popped up advertising Cadbury’s chocolate on the box and, if you have seen the ad, it now makes total sense why it’s set in a garden with Kim in her wellies and raincoat. So she’s not quite as anonymous as some former celebs.
The singer and music star Enya remains as enigmatic as ever. No one seems to know what she’s up to and that’s just how she likes it. Living in a castle in Co. Dublin, she continues to shun fame and as to her next move musically, your guess is as good as mine.
There are so many artists and stars we have forgotten about, exactly the way they prefer things. Maybe we should just mind our own business.