Cilla Black always claimed she wanted to remembered first and foremost as a singer, not as a TV presenter. But to reduce her career to just those two options is to do the woman a great disservice. She was a true polymath, and it is our honour and privilege to recount some of her other great achievements.
Cilla, The Frequent Flyer
Known – and feared – throughout the cabin crew community, Cilla Black’s in-flight attitude is the stuff of legend.
Not only would she insist upon travelling first class, she’d demand seat 1A. That was only the first of many demands too – all of which were made through her PA, as Cilla didn’t want to speak to any staff herself. The full nine yards too, not so much as a please or thank you.
One flight attendant eventually grew so tired of her behaviour, that he leaned over to speak directly to her and uttered the immortal line: “I knew you couldn’t sing, but I didn’t know you couldn’t fucking speak”.
Cilla, The Golf Course Designer
Many years ago, Cilla bought a house bordering the fancy Denham Golf Club in Buckinghamshire. Despite her garden obviously bordering one of the club’s fairways when she purchased it, for years after moving in Cilla would frequently complain to the club and harangue golfers if they accidentally shanked a ball over the fence into her massive garden.
She even went as far as demanding that the club restructure the fairway to steer it away from her property. Needless to say, after a while, regulars at the club would intentionally hit a mulligan into her garden to spite her.
After many years of living there, realising she was onto a losing thing, she gave up complaining and submitted an application for membership to the club for her and her long-suffering husband.
It was met with a very prompt “fuck off” from the typically polite club secretary at the time.
Cilla, The Tough Boss
You may have wondered – what with all the glowing tributes to her immediately after her death – how it could be that someone apparently so cherished and loved could get so little telly work in her later years.
Ageism? Possibly. Changing tastes in light entertainment? Quite probably. But the main reason was that one of the top bods at ITV very determinedly blackballed each and every attempt that Cilla made to get on screen.
Why the personal vendetta? Because the exec in question started out as a runner. On Blind Date.
One early task was to fetch Cilla some salmon sandwiches for her and some guests. The runner got the nicest smoked salmon sarnies they could find. But all they got for their efforts was a bollocking from Cilla in front of her guests as she only liked tinned salmon, not smoked.
Cilla, The Disabled Toilet User
One of the unspoken perks of being a celebrity is that you get to use the disabled toilets, and the very worst that anyone will do is tip off a weekly gossip newsletter.
It happened at Wimbledon a few years back. A gentleman in a wheelchair found himself waiting patiently to use the disabled facilities (not knowing that it was a non-disabled occupant was in there) finishing her business.
You can imagine his shock when the lock clicked back and – surprise, surprise – out stepped the entirely able-bodied… Cilla Black!
Cilla, The Kleptomaniac
As far as celebrity riders go, Cilla Black had one of the most consistent. Wherever she went, she demanded champagne and two glasses. She never left the glasses behind though, she always took them home. A thrifty move, as when she hosted a big party at home she didn’t need to hire glasses because she had a collection of around 300 Granada flutes.
Cilla, The Shopper
Cilla would do most of her weekly shopping at a small grocery store called Fishers in Gerrards Cross. Despite there only being three check-out counters in the tiny store, when Cilla had finished her weekly shop she would, without fail, refuse to line up at an open counter even if there was only one person in front of her.
Instead, she would go and stand in front of one of the unmanned counters until someone opened it up especially for her. True to form, she would never speak to the staff to request it, just stand there staring daggers until someone did so.
Cilla, The Astronomer
The moon landing was the first time ITV officially beat the BBC’s ratings on a joint broadcast. One of ITV’s expert co-presenter? Cilla Black.
Cilla, The Intercity Commuter
When ITV’s flagship daytime programme This Morning was based out of Liverpool, Cilla would make appearances on the show to plug Blind Date or Surprise Surprise.
And why not? It would be easy to get a local girl on, wouldn’t it? Erm, not quite… She would always demand a chauffeur-driven car to bring her up from London on the morning of the show as she didn’t want to be in Liverpool the night before.
Which is fine for a one-off – but a very similar thing happened when she did a panto season in Liverpool.
Cilla, Showbiz Royalty
First off, in the interests of balance, we should say that Cilla did have a couple of friends from the world of old-school showbusiness. (She referred to Christopher Biggins and Paul O’Grady as her ‘good fairy’ and ‘bad fairy’, respectively. Lionel Blair also had a metric ton of eulogy to deliver on the Sunday that news broke.)
You may not know the Patton Brothers, but they are the real-life brothers of the Chuckle Brothers. They have a reputation in the business for being consummate professionals. Unanimously described as being hard-working, mild-mannered and excellently disciplined, they are never anything less than gentlemen and they famously refuse to tell tales on anyone or say anything snide about any of the people they’ve ever worked with.
Except for Cilla Black, that is – for whom they make a special exception. They described her, simply, as being “a cunt”.