Russell Harty

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Russell Harty
Russell Harty Allan Warren.jpg
Portrait by Allan Warren
Born Frederick Russell Harty[1]
(1934-09-05)5 September 1934
Blackburn, Lancashire, England
Died 8 June 1988(1988-06-08) (aged 53)
Leeds, England
Cause of death
Hepatitis
Occupation Talk show host

Russell Harty (5 September 1934 – 8 June 1988) was a British television presenter of arts programmes and chat shows.

Early life[edit]

Born Frederick Russell Harty[1] in Blackburn, Lancashire, he was the son of a Fred Harty, a fruit and vegetable stallholder on the local market, and Myrtle Rishton. He attended Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School on West Park Road and Exeter College, Oxford, where he obtained a first-class degree in English Literature.

Career[edit]

On leaving university, Harty became an English and drama teacher in Giggleswick, North Yorkshire. In 1964, he started a year lecturing in English Literature at the City University of New York, and finally began his broadcasting career a few years later, when he became a radio producer for the BBC Third Programme, reviewing arts and literature.

He got his first break in 1970 presenting the arts programme Aquarius,[1] that was intended to be London Weekend Television's response to the BBC's Omnibus. One programme involving a typically offbeat meeting of cultures saw Harty travelling to Italy in 1974 to engineer a first encounter between the entertainer Gracie Fields and the composer William Walton, two fellow Lancastrians now living on the neighbouring islands of Capri and Ischia.[2] A documentary on Salvador Dalí ("Hello Dalí") directed by Bruce Gowers, won an Emmy. Another award winning documentary was "Finnan Games" about a Scottish community - Glenfinnan, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard to begin the Jacobite rebellion - and its Highland Games. Also directed by Bruce Gowers.

In 1972 Harty interviewed Marc Bolan, who at that time was at the height of his fame as a teen idol and king of glam rock. During the interview Harty posed the fateful question as to what Marc thought he would be doing when he was forty or sixty years old. Looking nervous and pensive Bolan prophetically replied that he didn't think he would live that long. True to his word, Bolan died two weeks before his thirtieth birthday on 16 September 1977.

In 1973 he was given his own series Russell Harty Plus on ITV which placed him against the BBC's Parkinson, conducting lengthy celebrity interviews.[1] Parts of Russell Harty's interview with the Who in 1973 were included in Jeff Stein's 1979 film The Kids Are Alright, providing some of its most memorable moments, such as Pete Townshend and Keith Moon ripping off each other's shirt sleeves. The show lasted until 1981 and some of his more memorable interviews included show business legends Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, David Carradine, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. One show followed Elton John's "charabang" from London to Los Angeles, where the singer was playing two nights at Dodger Stadium. The shows were executive produced by David Bell, produced by Nick Barrett, directed by Mike Mansfield and researched by Paul Flattery.

In 1975, Harty moved to the BBC with an early evening celebrity chatshow, which gained some unwelcome notice when he was smacked in the face by Jamaican-American singer Grace Jones on live TV on 18 November 1980. Jones appeared to be offended by Harty's turning away from her to talk to another guest. This show ended in 1982.

Harty was the subject of This Is Your Life in December 1980, when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the London department store Selfridges.

Harty began working on a new series Russell Harty's Grand Tour for the BBC in 1987; the few interviews completed before his death included Salvador Dalí and Dirk Bogarde.

Harty had a distinctly camp turn of phrase; his name has been used as Cockney rhyming slang for party. One of his catchphrases was "you were, were you not...?".

Russell Harty was a good friend of the playwright Alan Bennett, who talks about him and his family, in relation with Bennett's own family, in the episode "Written on the Body", taken from his semi-biography Untold Stories.

Harty had strong connections with the village of Giggleswick in North Yorkshire: before beginning his TV career he worked as an English teacher at Giggleswick School, where one of his pupils was Richard Whiteley, the future journalist, TV presenter and host of Countdown. Harty subsequently lived in the heart of Giggleswick village. Following his death in 1988 (from hepatitis B) in a Leeds hospital aged 53, he was buried in the churchyard of St Alkelda, Giggleswick.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 403. ISBN 1-84854-195-3. 
  2. ^ Walton, Susana (May 1988). William Walton: Behind the Façade. Oxford University Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-19-315156-7. 

External links[edit]