Bachelor Baker 

15 June 2024 tbs.pm/81302

He’s the quiet, soft spoken young man who’s adding personality to the BBC news. Elizabeth Beresford went along to see Richard to get all the news about him — past and present

 

 

Cover of TV Mirror

From TV Mirror for 24 August 1957

“COME in. Sorry the place is a bit untidy. Would you like some coffee?” were the first words of Richard Baker as he opened the front door of his fourth floor flat in London’s Notting Hill Gate. I stumbled in out of the gloom of the landing and said I would very much. Richard disappeared into the tiny kitchen while I prowled round the sitting-room, which was not at all untidy.

It had white panelled walls, a very large and glossy television set, a rather battered radio, a French guitar (one string broken) and a splendid view over the chimney pots of London, W.2.

Richard returned with the coffee which was very hot and strong. He sat down cautiously and said, “I did a silly thing last night when I came home from work — went upstairs to a party my neighbours were giving and stayed there talking till about half-past three this morning.” Which made it exactly six hours ago, so I let him come to grips with his coffee before asking him about his early days.

He revived quickly.

“I was in the Navy during the war,” he said. “Then I went up to Cambridge to take a degree, but I soon became more interested in acting than studying, which led me into getting a job with the Brighton Rep. From there I went to a rep in Wales. It was in a converted swimming bath actually, and besides being wonderful voice training it improved my memory because we put on four plays a week.”

Whether it was the acoustics of the swimming bath or not, someone suggested that Richard had a “BBC” voice and urged him to apply there for a job. Richard did so and had several auditions, but in order to pay the rent in the meantime he became an English master in a grammar school.

 

Richard Baker comes out of a building

Off to work from his bachelor home with a busy day ahead. Even during the comparatively short time he’s been with BBC News, ideas have changed

 

“Form 4C was my bugbear,” Richard said, shaking his head. “They couldn’t have cared less about English. In fact, one of the boys said to me confidentially one day, ‘Why don’t you give up this teaching lark and come on the barrows with me and the old man?'”

Luckily the BBC came back into the picture at this point and gave Richard a job as an announcer. While working on the Third Programme, which he enjoyed, he met an old friend, Michael Westmore.

“Just the chap I want for my Saturday Special, said Mr. Westmore, who in those days was producing TV at Lime Grove. He knew what he wanted and he got it, and Richard found himself leading a double life. Highbrow announcer one moment and Sir Anthony Fairfax, Bart, in a knockabout series in the next.

“Another thing I remember about that time,” said Richard, “was when I was doing the early morning bulletins. That meant I had to sleep in Broadcasting House. There was an electric clock which clicked every thirty seconds, so I scouted round the secretary’s desk, found a nail file and stopped the clock.

“I was up bright and early next morning in time for my piece, but as I walked down the passage I noticed the clock said one-thirty. Same thing in the canteen. I’d stopped every clock in Broadcasting House and the engineers had been going mad trying to find out where the fault was!”

This probably had nothing to do with the fact that Richard soon found himself becoming a television newsreader.

 

Baker plays guitar; Edmunds plays comb

No, this isn’t the case of a newsreader waiting his chance to turn pop singer… but Richard and his flat-mate, John Edmunds enjoy a guitar and comb session

 

Out of vision

“Things were different in those days,” he said, a trifle nostalgically. “We arrived in the studio an hour-and-a-half before the programme, we were out of vision and we read a straightforward script to a series of still pictures and diagrams.

“You know,” he went on thoughtfully, “it’s funny what appearing regularly on television does for you. People start writing letters and because they know when I’m going to be on a lot of them end up by saying, ‘Just to show that you got my letter, will you give me a signal during the news?’ The signals vary between rubbing my nose during the opening bulletin to crooking my little finger at the end. Odd, isn’t it?”

Apart from this relatively mild intrusion into his life television fame has made very little difference to Richard. For the last three years he has been sharing a three-roomed flat with a friend, John Edmunds, who — apart from being an ex-rep actor himself — is also an announcer, but with ABC Television.

 

Baker in the kitchenette

That half stifled look of amusement which millions of viewers know so well hides the fact that Richard likes to do his own cooking. The results are in great demand among his friends

 

“We do for ourselves,” said Richard. “Things pile up a little sometimes, of course. I like cooking and have just acquired a wooden salad bowl which I’ve always wanted.

“The rest of the time? Oh, I go to the theatre as often as I can and I write lyrics for the BBC’s Aerial Players. I’m busy at the moment working on their Christmas pantomime.’

He thought about that for some time and then came back to the present with a jerk.

“Or,” he said, “I like doing anything at all with boats. Sailing ’em, painting ’em or just messing about on the river.”

Somebody began clattering round with saucepans in the kitchen.

“That’s John,” Richard said. “He’s just come back from a holiday in Paris. He brought me a fat, gingerbread pig with the name Richard on the side. I’m sorry I can’t show it to you, but it decomposed rather.”

 

 

I said that was quite all right and asked the question that had been humming in my mind from the start.

“Your wireless has a kind of used look,” I said, “do you have it on more than the television?”

A very, very faint shadow of guilt passed across Richard’s face.

“If,” he said carefully, “I want a quick picture of the news then — er — yes, I just switch on the radio.”

Richard, it appears, has made more impact on television than it has on him — which brings us, I think, to a satisfactory conclusion of this news bulletin, without signals, of course.

Exclusive photographs for TV MIRROR by GEORGE DOUGLAS

 

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