The Bruce Forsyth Story: part 3 – I’m still in charge! 

18 August 2017

From the TVTimes for week commencing 3 January 1960

Since I became compere of Sunday Night at the London Palladium some of my wildest dreams have been realised. I am told that I have become a National Figure. Certainly my fan mail has never looked so healthy — or my bank manager so happy.

But one of the things that has most impressed me about television is the way you let something drop casually — and find it isn’t a remark you’ve dropped so much as a brick. Or a catchphrase that sweeps the country.

I was lucky – was a catchphrase which is just as well since I’d rather compere the Palladium than sweep the country.

I never set out to originate anything in this line, but it looks as though I’m saddled with “I’m in charge!” and gags about drip-dry shirts for life.

The story of “I.I.C.” goes back to a “Beat the Clock” game in November 1958. I explained to a young couple how to play a game involving plate throwing. They got in a terrible state — there were plates flying all over the place. If the whole thing had taken place years earlier I doubt if flying saucers would ever have caught on.

Anyway, I stopped the clock and said: “Look, throw them one at a time, alternatively, and you’ll be all right.”

I turned round to see how many seconds they had left and would you believe it, in a twink they were off again, slinging plates one at a time — one handful at a time! So I shouted: “Hold on, I’m in charge!”

I have never understood why it got such a big laugh. But there it was, a catchphrase was born. Only I didn’t realise it. By the following week I had forgotten all about it. But others hadn’t. The show had hardly finished before I was being asked “What’s up, Bruce? Aren’t you in charge any more?”

That’s when I realised it might be a good gimmick. And how it has caught on.

I heard about a hole in the road in Birmingham, around which workmen had painted “I’m in charge!” in white paint. Then there was the factory where the workmen pinned a card on the back of their foreman’s overalls announcing “He’s in charge.”

In an exclusive Manchester restaurant, I found the immaculately dressed manager wearing an apron on which he had written my catchphrase.

Autograph hunters demand I sign their books “Bruce Forsyth, I.I.C.”

It grew so much, it became the title of touring stage show. One theatre advertised this simply as “Bruce Forsyth is ino charge.”

What about that drip-dry shirt gag? It started off to fill in 20 seconds. I said: “Aren’t these drip-dry shirts marvellous? No ironing. Just wash them and put them on. Do you know, this one is nearly dry now. Mind you, my shoes are full of water.”

This is the car viewers sent me. We passed it on to help old folks

That started it — a cascade of comebacks from the customers. “It’s your fault if your shoes are full of water. You should wear drainpipe trousers … Why don’t you wear pumps? … Wear a leek in your buttonhole … You shouldn’t do so much tap-dancing.” I thought the gags would never stop.

And the gifts! In came a shoal of plastic buckets, clothes lines, packets of detergent, bundles of pegs. Children sent paper cut-out shirts. There was a never-ending supply of tiny drip-dry shirts with my initials. My dressing-room was packed with so many gifts that Father Christmas asked me for my union card!

I once received a haggis all dressed up in a paper kilt. When I showed it on the show, just like the nervous amateur, it went all to pieces. Literally!

Waiting for me at the Palladium next week was a tartan wheelbarrow with the message “This is a haggis carrier.” Now this surprised me, for I have always thought a haggis carrier was a Scotsman with a full stomach.

Remember the time I casually mentioned that my car was not running so well? I was inundated by a fleet of toy cars of all shapes, materials and sizes. Somebody sent a handle. Another a tow rope. And a do-it-it-yourself tuning kit. To cap the lot, came a full-scale car which we showed on the programme in November and passed on to an old folks’ welfare organisation.

As for my future, I hope I’ll be able to stay with the Palladium show for a long time to come. But I have a number of other things lined up. On Boxing Day I started eight weeks of pantomime. In the spring I hope to appear in my first film.

Perhaps this is something of a gamble, but I believe I ought to branch out as much as possible. In show business, risking your neck is often the only way to get ahead.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Paul Mason 19 August 2017 at 7:11 am

One more item is that Bruce Forsythe 70th birthday was marked with a special Sunday Night At The London Palladium in 1998 which return end to the original format plus Beat The Clock. An attempt to revive the show as Tonight At The LP failed and I think the attempts to revive this show are daft and should be abandoned…in Bruce’s name.

Paul Mason 31 August 2017 at 9:12 pm

My spell checker has a problem with the name FORSYTH and insists on the extra ,”e”. Youll all know who I mean. Apologies.

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