Monday, 17 October 2011

Gail McIntyre - a wonder of a life

With a new Muppet Movie on the horizon, our thoughts naturally turn to Gail McIntyre.  Weatherfield's very own Kermit the Frog has had the spotlight shone on her so often, it's easy to forget that she's spent 40 years battling against producers, audiences, and general sanity to reach her lofty position as a four-times-married mother of Satan.

Back in the Seventies, Gail Potter was the closest ITV got to the kind of swinging chick who was shaking her hotpants in front of Mud on Top of the Pops.  Remember, this was the decade that saw Deirdre Hunt and her Glasses of Doom introduced as the new Street siren; standards were lower then.  It was probably something to do with the Three Day Week. Gail was a friend of Tricia Hopkins, who is one of those characters that turns up in the Street's history and provokes a big chorus of "who?" amongst even the most loyal fans.  Tricia was the daughter of Nora Batty and that Welsh bloke out of Please Sir!; unsurprisingly her parents felt that appearing in top-rated sitcoms was a better way to spend their time than bringing up a ratty teenager on a Manchester back street and so the entire Hopkins family vanished soon after.

Gail became friends with the legendary Elsie Tanner, and was soon her tenant alongside the flighty Susie Birchall.  This triumvirate of man-eaters decided to divide up the male population of Weatherfield between them, though while Susie and Elsie took out temporary leases, Gail decided that she would go fot the full marriage option every time.  Gail was soon Mrs Brian Tilsley, spending her evenings perming his hair and pretending to read the New Testament to pacify Ivy.  Ivy disapproved of Gail, you see, firstly for being the daughter of the secretary from Reggie Perrin, and secondly for not being a Catholic.  These were the days when religious allegiances could be used as a plot point; in the 21st century, having any kind of faith immediately marks you out as a nutter and next thing you know you'll be falling off a church roof (qv Sophie Webster).

To her credit, Gail refused to submit to the blitzkrieg that was Ivy, and managed to eke out a happy existence in a maisonette away from Coronation Street with Brian.  To this day, they remain the only family to have achieved any kind of happiness more than 100 yards from the front door of the Rovers.  It couldn't last, of course, and soon Gail and Brian ended up living with Ivy, in scenes reminiscent of the Battle of the Somme, only without the feelgood ending.

It didn't help that Gail had given Ivy a grandson by this time, Nicky.  Being a modern woman, Gail decided that working in a greasy spoon would be more enjoyable than wiping a toddler's backside (who can blame her?).  More conflict followed, as Ivy felt she had done a bang up job with Brian and Gail should follow all her parental advice.  By this time, Brian was in the Middle East, doing something with oil pipelines; on his return, it was revealed he had been laying a few pipelines of his own, and he and Gail separated.  She took up with his cousin Ian, because once you've had a taste of Tilsley, you can never get it out of your system.

This caused a lot of problems when Gail reunited with Brian and became pregnant.  The timelines were sufficiently vague for him to be suspicious as to Sarah-Louise's real father and, since this was the Eighties and Jeremy Kyle hadn't been invented yet, there was never any real way to be sure.  A blood test said that Ian couldn't be the father but the damage was done, so Brian went off to get stabbed in an alleyway and marry Leeza Gibbons.

Widowed in her thirties, Gail did what any sensible woman would do and hooked up with a toyboy.  Martin Platt was a nurse, which is always a good option when you have two small children; he's caring, enthusiastic, and has ready access to a supply of tranquillisers.  She was soon knocked up, because condoms are like unicorns in soap operas - spoken about but rarely seen.  Gail was about to have an abortion, but Martin persuaded her not to bother.  Historians have subsequently spoken of this in the same tones they use to describe Mrs Hitler's decision not to bother with her diaphragm one night in 1888.

Married to her second husband, and living a life of domestic bliss at number 8, Gail soon settled into a pattern of happy drudgery.  She had her children, none of whom could act; she had a cafe to run, ignoring its awful orange tiles; she had a friendship with Alma and Sally, both of whom looked down on her on a regular basis.  Things were trotting along nicely, until Nicky moved to Canada.  He came back to England with a missing consonant and a new face.  Almost immediately, he was spooning with Leanne Battersby and taking his shirt off at the slightest provocation.

Gail was, naturally, outraged.  The old Nick(y) had been a sweet young Manchester boy; the new one had a posh accent and a floppy hairdo and a fondness for lying around in glass tanks in pop videos.  She banned him from seeing Leanne, though this had little effect; for some reason, teenage boys like scraggy slappers who'll give you hand relief during the adverts on Beavis and Butthead.  She was soon distracted by Sarah-Louise's complaints about stomach cramps and tendency to throw up her Pop-Tarts, and suddenly Gail was a granny.  Not even Ivy's death in a convent could shine a little sunshine into her miserable existence.

Forced to spend his life staring at Gail's miserable face and her demon spawn, Martin did the only sensible thing and hooked up with Jill Halfpenny.  His marriage to Gail crumbled, and he was forced to live in a bedsit while Gail turned number 8 into a home for David Platt, Sarah-Louise and Bethany; it was like The Addams Family, but with considerably fewer laughs.

Life as a grandmother strangely suited Gail.  It gave her the opportunity to be sanctimonious and hectoring without any of the responsibility.  It also gave her time to acquire a third husband, Richard Hillman, whose devotion to family life involved cracking Emily Bishop on the head and stealing Vera Duckworth's savings.  Gail wrestled with her conscience - after all, it was only Maxine who died, no-one important - but she finally reported Richard to the police.  Her reward was a dunk in the canal with her family, and another of her husbands bit the dust.

Little David didn't take this whole "stepfather turns out to be a psychopath" revelation well, and decided to turn into Satan.  It was easier than doing his homework, anyway.  As it turned out, he had quite the talent for evildoing, and he gleefully persecuted his mother with cards from her dead husband.  No, the second one.  At the same time, Sarah-Louise took up with Todd Grimshaw, as they bonded over a mutual love of musical theatre and the films of Bette Davis.  She was happy when she became pregnant, though less happy when Todd suggested "Liza" for their little boy's name.  When Todd came out the closet, by trying to kiss potential Tory MP Nick(y) Tilsley, war was declared.

The battle between Gail and Eileen Grimshaw is one of the pivotal moments in British history; indeed, it's been concluded that the victory at Trafalgar would only have been more impressive if Nelson had been wearing a ratty blue dressing gown and slippers.  The two women grappled on the cobbles in the least dignified wrestling match since Big Daddy forgot to do up the poppers on his leotard.

Sarah-Louise overcame the trauma of losing a baby by immediately shagging her ex's brother, creating a whole new layer of hatred between the Grimshaws and the Potter-Tilsley-Platts that hadn't even been thought possible.  When Jason then bunked off the wedding, UN Peacekeepers were recalled from Somalia to stand guard in the Street.

At their second try, Sarah-Louise managed to snare her man, largely by ignoring her brother's suicide attempt.  This romantic gesture failed to win her many plaudits, so she left for Italy with her mute daughter and abandoned her marriage.  David took the opportunity to turn his somewhat co-dependent relationship with Gail into truly disturbing territory, with the two of them grappling with a familial bond that Oedipus would have thought was a bit intense.  Sometimes, a ray of light shone through the heavens, as when Gail persuaded Tina to abort David's baby; this was a move that even Pro-Life campaigners had to admit was justified.

As is usual with Gail, she took it a bit too far, and hooked up with Tina's kitchen fitter father.  Yes, she ended up with a very nice worktop, but was it worth it?  Soon she found that sleeping with the son from Home to Roost had its down side, when he revealed himself to be a manic depressive with enormous debts.  By this point, Gail was just happy to meet a man who knew her name the next morning, and so she married him anyway.  The full horror of what he'd done soon hit Joe, and he decided to fake his own death.  He said it was for the insurance, but he was probably thinking of a life in Bolivia without Gail. Things went wrong, and when he ended up drowning in Windermere, Gail turned to David for help.  You can imagine how well that turned out.

After a few months in prison Gail Potter-Tilsley-Platt-Hillman-Platt-McIntyre returned to the Street without a job or any respect.  Now she's a cleaner at her son Nick(y)'s restaurant; some would say that scrubbing bogs is demeaning, then they remember she has slept with Chris Quinten. She's taken David's marriage to Kylie with characteristic grace, trying to pay off the bride and bawling in the street at her.  I sincerely look forward to the day she finds out Kylie is pregnant.  In fact, I'd pay to see it.

11 comments:

Blackie Bird said...

I think referring to Helen Worth as a chinless wonder and Kermit the frog is just nasty and this post should be removed. Nastytart.

Glenda Young said...

Merseytart's having a go at the character, not the actress.

Layman Battler said...

Legend-based article.

No need to get personal about the looks of the actress who plays her, though.

Tvor said...

I agree, the "chinless wonder" title is mean spirited.

Scott Willison said...

It's ALL mean-spirited. That's half the fun. If I wrote nice things, it'd be a paragraph wrong.

Anonymous said...

This is a nasty, horrible and mean-spirited article.

Tvor said...

The article is bitchy but fine, the title takes a shot at her looks which is not called for.

ChiaGwen said...

hmmmmmm.....has the title been changed..?.I can't see anything wrong with the title as I see it. Funny...no one has ever been outraged or commented on the often described 'Cheshire cat grin' of Kate Ford while playing Tracy Barlow..which after all is a physical part of the actress, the same as Helen's chin 'deficiency'. Very funny, well written interesting article on Gail and a walk down memory lane for those who missed the 'Ivy' era. Thanks Merseytart!

Tvor said...

The title was changed. A Cheshire Cat grin only implies a very wide smile. It's not a criticism of the actress' looks. One of the main reasons I like Corrie so much is that the actors are more every day looking people than shiny glam cover models.

ChiaGwen said...

Well, I beg to differ on the 'implication of a very wide smile'....what I have read in the past is 'Cheshire gummy grin' and variations on that description, none too pleasant..which has a lot to do with the actress' looks...so no different than going on about Helen's chin area.

Anonymous said...

I tuned in after the title change. A+ Merseytart, as always. It's clear to me you are having a go at the character and even the lovely actress has done that. You have referenced everything that has happened to this character and we can all see how deliberately insane it's been. It's not like you've wished her ill, or hoped for more of the same terrible (i.e. violence) things upon her.

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