Big Name Hunting – Arnie Wilson

This is a book about celebrities – a group of people completely outside my sphere of knowledge. So, how did TSL come to re-publish Arnie Wilson’s recollections? Eagles – A chance connection between two authors with a fascination for Eagle Magazine and Dan Dare.

I was taken with the description Arnie gave to me and I actually knew many of the names he mentioned – nostalgia and intrigue got the better of me: Spike Milligan, Joanna Lumley, Morcambe and Wise, Yuri Gargarin as starters. A couple of limericks to whet my appetite and to show how human the ‘big names’ are.

In some ways, Big Name Hunting is a social and cultural history. Arnie charts the move of celebrity status from that of aristocracy to film and sport star in an era before agents became the gate keeper. In addition to shedding tales – all good natured – of some famous folk, you get a flavour of the newspaper world – how stories get discovered and end up getting into print. Different types of story having appeal to different papers.

In telling the stories collected over the years, Arnie’s honesty and openness is clear. He’s not been afraid to tell how the rift between him and Spike Milligan developed or how he was rebuffed by Michael Winner and put in his place by Robert Redford. It seems too good to be true these days, but Arnie writes with integrity – all the takes told are reproduced with permission and confidences maintained where agreed except for one or two occasions where the individual has since died.

There’s something for most people in this eclectic gathering of tales. Politics and history – Profumo, Conservative Party conferences, ambassadors and US presidents; Royalty; Music – Bowie, Old Blue Eyes; Actors galore – Greta Scacchi, Arnold Schwartzenegger, William Shatner, Liza Minelli, James Bond; Golf; Cricket and Skiing all intermingle.

Advice from Michael Winner on how to manage one’s finances and from Barbara Cartland on good healthy living. Others give their views, or not, on the value of sex, and David Gower explains how a hire car ended up at the bottom of a lake in Innsbruck. Stirling Moss shares what it was like to race cars back in the days before the big money got involved and a few skiers explain how they keep fit in anticipation of the forthcoming season.

This book makes an ideal gift for a friend, harking back to ‘the good old days’. Heard of space travel and landing on the moon? If so, then this is your era. Step back in time with a light and somewhat humorous read (I caught myself smiling on occasion).

(And the other author – Keith Howard author of Dunn and Dusted)