ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Walkers

It was ten years ago that I hung up my boots, came back from Japan and started appearing in ads for Walkers Crisps. Happily, I'd managed to get to the end of my time in the Far East with my record of never being booked still intact.

I think this might have been the reason why I was invited to appear in the "welcome home" spot (1). Being new to the world of advertising, I was thankful that I was just being called upon to be myself (until that last "no more Mr Nice Guy" bit, of course).

Someone who did always seem to be getting himself into scrapes was Gazza, probably the finest footballer of his generation and one of the most genuine people I've ever met. He used to give me quite a hard time over the clean-cut image - he used to refer to me as "Golden Balls" - but the "Gascoigne" ad let me get my own back a little (6). I loved working with Gazza both in and away from football, and I was chuffed when he agreed to do this commercial.

Whatever else he may have got up to in his life - and nobody's more aware of his mistakes than he is - one of the huge appeals of Gazza is how prepared he is to send himself up.

You couldn't get much more of a contrast than with David Seaman. Now I'm more aware than most of how important it is not to cast aspersions, and I'm not saying that David doesn't enjoy a joke. It's more that he's just an archetypal dour Yorkshireman and most people know not to mess with him. Which is probably why the "Walkers footballs" commercial worked so well (3).

Here was this strapping great man reduced to little boy size, being talked down to by yours truly dressed up as a housewife. The action was all shot separately and then put together with some sort of clever technology, of course: the idea that I might speak like that to David while he was in the same room as me is almost as absurd as the thought that I could pick him up off the ground.

It was one of the many occasions that I've had the questionable thrill of being dressed up as a woman for the sake of Walkers crisps. Not that it was that much of a genuine thrill when it came to the "headmistress" shoot (2). My main memory of that occasion is the endless hours in make-up that I had to endure. By now, it really had become a case of "Welcome, Mr Nasty-Piece-of-Work". I wasn't just the old hero mischievously nicking a few crisps, I'd become a bully of children by the class-load and an abductor of teachers.

When I first started doing these ads, I didn't anticipate I'd be wincing at the sound of Emma Thompson, Zoe Ball and Liam Neeson farting on TV.

In "Comic Relief - whoopee cushion", a host of celebrities enjoyed the Walkers Comic Relief giveaway and, yet again, I didn't get the crisps (5).

I'd also have been surprised at the degree of acting on my part that would eventually be required. At the beginning, I was just being asked to be an ex-footballer who liked the crisps made in my home town.

If anyone had shown me the "Oh no - Carnaby Street" scripts back then, I wouldn't have believed that I could ever do it - cavorting in the street with hordes of mini-skirted young women in a parody of Austin Powers (4).

We've come some way from a walk in the park in my overcoat.

1. WALKERS Title: Welcome home Agency: BMP DDB Year: 1995 2. WALKERS Title: Headmistress Agency: BMP DDB Year: 1996 3. WALKERS Title: Walkers footballs Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Year: 2002 4. WALKERS Title: Oh no - Carnaby Street Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Year: 2002 5. WALKERS Title: Comic Relief - whoopee cushion Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Year: 2003 6. WALKERS Title: Gazza Agency: BMP DDB Year: 1996

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