1 9 7 2 – 1 9 8 1 (UK)
This ITV chat show started in 1972, hosted by Lancashire-born ex-school teacher Russell Harty.
His interviewing style (“untouched by expertise” said Alan Bennett) was less straightforward than other chatters. He said he never prepared his questions but relied on ‘whatever seemed a good idea at the time’.
Sometimes it worked. Sometimes – when he interrupted the guests – he could be irritating in the extreme.
His “you have, have you not . . .” style of questioning was roundly mocked, but often he produced surprises. Certainly, guests felt less constrained with Harty than they did with Michael Parkinson.
The Who drummer Keith Moon stripped down to his Y-fronts (in a 1973 interview, parts of which were included in the 1979 film The Kids Are Alright) and one famous American woman guest taken short before the start of the show relieved herself in an ice-bucket rather than rush to the loo.
Russell received the usual fan mail and such comments as “If I ever see you in the street, Mr Smarty Harty, I’ll smack your irregular teeth down your throat”.
Russell Harty once said he thought his shows were the closest thing to Horlicks. “You watch me then toddle off to bed for a nice deep sleep”. But Horlicks never made you smile like Harty did.
A favourite story he told against himself is this: After an interview with Johnny Weissmuller, the seven-foot bronzed star of the Tarzan films, the slightly built host and his guest left the studio together to be greeted by a boy autograph-hunter who asked: “hey, which one of you two is Tarzan?”.
Russell Harty Plus lasted until 1981 when he moved to the BBC for a new chat show, titled Harty.
It was here in 1981 that Russell received his infamous slap in the face by American singer and actress Grace Jones, who took offence because he supposedly turned his back to her to talk to his other guest. Boy George from Culture Club also created a stir by claiming he preferred a cup of tea to sex whilst being interviewed by Russell.
The show ended in 1985 and Russell Harty died of hepatitis on 8 June 1988, aged 53.