Izzy-wizzy, let’s get busy! 70 facts about Sooty as he celebrates 70 years!

From being on stage with the Bee Gees to soaking Prince Phillip with a water pistol, it's been an extraordinary 70 years for everyone's favourite glove puppet. Sooty's right-hand man Richard Cadell shares 70 facts about the wand-waving bear to celebrate seven decades of magic

1. Sooty was discovered on the North Pier in Blackpool on July 19 1948

2. On a family holiday, Harry Corbett bought the glove puppet from a joke shop to entertain his sons David and baby Matthew on a rainy day

3. Sooty cost seven shillings and sixpence

4. Before he became famous, Sooty was called Teddy

5. Harry was an amateur magician and performed at children’s birthday parties with Sooty (Teddy) in Yorkshire

6. Sooty’s magical catchphrase ‘Izzy-wizzy, let’s get busy!’ was developed while doing kids’ parties

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7. This is the oldest known picture of Sooty, before his ears were blackened

8. Sooty made his TV debut in 1952 on the BBC’s Talent Night

9. Sooty won the talent contest after making a live mouse appear from a silver bowl, shooting a water pistol and persistent bowing

10. Sooty is mute, “probably because Harry wasn’t a ventriloquist,” according to Richard Cadell. “It was never a calculated decision, not like today where they sit around a table and try to craft a global brand. He started off in a child’s toy box so he never had a voice.”

11. Harry Corbett was nephew of fish and chips titan Harry Ramsden

12. Corbett’s parents also ran a fish and chip shop

13. Sooty’s favourite food is (you’ll never guess) fish and chips

14. Sooty became a regular on the BBC’s Children’s Hour in the mid-1950s

15. Muffin the Mule was the big star of kids’ TV. After presenter Annette Mills died, the BBC looked to Sooty as a replacement

16. Sooty holds the Guinness WorldRecord for the longest-running children’s television show

17. Sweep arrived in 1957

18. “Harry Corbett’s brother Leslie was the operator and voice of Sweep,” says Cadell. “A saxophonist, he blew into a reed to give Sweep a monotonic voice. One day the reed disintegrated. Cobbling the pieces together, Harry and Leslie made a reed that made different tones. By accident they’d found a way to give Sweep inflection so you can almost work out what he’s saying.”

19. Sweep has three brothers – Swoop, Swipe and Swap

20. Soo is a Sixties girl, originally voiced by Harry’s wife Marjorie from 1964

21. Brenda Longman took Soo over in the early 1980s, and still plays her today

22. Other characters include cat Kipper, snake Ramsbottom and Butch the Bulldog

23. Sooty and Sweep appeared as Prime Minister and Home Secretary in an episode of The Goodies

24. Harry Corbett paid £150 a year to insure his thumb and two fingers

25. “When Harry Corbett received his OBE, with a miniature medal for Sooty, the Queen and Prince Phillip were there,” Cadell explains. “Harry thought this is the moment, and took the water pistol and soaked Prince Philip. He was quite shocked; the Queen was in hysterics. She apparently said, ‘You naughty boy Sooty.'”

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26. Around the World with Sooty was an album released in 1973

27. “The album was the only time Sooty was given a voice,” says Cadell, “Harry always regretted doing that.”

28. After Harry suffered a heart attack, his son Matthew Corbett took over in 1976

29. Matthew Corbett had previously sung with Rod Burton and Jane Tucker on Rainbow

30. Rod and Jane replaced Matthew with Freddy

31. One of the prizes for Young Magician of the Year was to appear on The Sooty Show – which winner Richard Cadell got to do aged 15 in 1985

32. The tabloids went to town after Soo became pregnant in a 1994 episode (but she was only pretending)

33. Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain is a fan and has Sooty as a mascot onstage

34. Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees also takes Sooty on stage

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35. Sooty and Sweep star with Peter Kay in the (Is This The Way To) Amarillo video

36. Special guests on Sooty’s shows have included Jack Dee, Shane Richie, Dennis Taylor, Jim Bowen and Harry Hill

37. Sooty & Co. was filmed at Granada Studios in Manchester sometimes using sets from Coronation Street

38. An animated series was made in 1996-7. “I hated it!” Cadell says. “They were ineffectual, bland and not remotely in keeping with Sooty at all.”

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39. In 1996 Sooty featured on a 26p stamp

40. Matthew retired in 1998 and Sooty was passed on to Richard Cadell, who the team remembered from his 1985 appearance

41. Richard Cadell’s hands were insured for £1m

42. In the early 2000s, Sooty became controlled by HiT Entertainment. “They wanted to make Sooty appeal to people all over the world like their other shows Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and Bob the Builder did,” Cadell explains. “They changed the show a little bit and realised it wasn’t going to work so they decided to sell the rights.”

43. Miki the Brazilian cat was introduced to broaden Sooty’s appeal. It wasn’t a great decision and Cadell tries to forget about this period

44. Sooty was Mayor of Blackpool for a day in 2000

45. In 2001 Paul Daniels was hospitalised after being hit by a pizza thrown by Sooty. “I threw the pizza,” Cadell confesses. “Paul Daniels was my childhood hero but the pizza skimmed like a frisbee and banged him in the eye. He had to lie on the ground for some time before being taken to hospital.”

46. The pizza-flinger is forgiven. This Christmas, Sooty stars in Sleeping Beauty in Wolverhampton with the lovely Debbie McGee

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47. Sooty enjoys reading The Big Issue

48. Richard Cadell and his brother purchased the rights to Sooty in 2008

49. Cadell then torched the master tapes of the hated animated Sooty series. “I paid for them, I owned them, I burned them,” he explains

50. Cadell bought what was thought to be the oldest surviving Sooty for £3,100 in 2008

51. Subsequently, an even older Sooty was given to him by Trevor Hill, who produced the original TV shows

52. Sooty recorded a 90th birthday message for Nelson Mandela 10 years ago. “It was played at Hyde Park,” Cadell says. “I have no idea if he knew who Sooty was, so what the hell he made of it I have no idea.”

53. Sooty has had over 5,000 ‘stunt doubles’

54. Sootys are made by British company Golden Bear

55. But like some bears and most pandas, they begin life in China

56. The real Sooty is slightly larger than the toy version (for an adult hand)

57. The real Sooty also has asymmetrical paws, one arm lower than the other

58. To correctly operate Sooty, you use your thumb and first two fingers, with the other two tucked in

59. For the last eight years there has been a Sooty Christmas show in London’s West End and in Hyde Park

60. Sooty was invited to be a member of the Magic Circle last yer. Cadell says: “Sooty is obviously a brilliant magician, but the reason they made him a member is because of lot of magicians are inspired by Sooty. It’s the first time children see magic on TV.”

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61. Sooty has long been a partner of charity for blind people, the RNIB

62. Sooty-shaped ‘Sooty Boxes’ in shops across the country have raised over £11.5m for the RNIB

63. To mark his 70th birthday, the RNIB is aiming to place an additional 2,018 boxes on counters this year

64. ITV have just relicensed 52 episodes to repeat

65. Six brand new episodes have been filmed, set on a holiday camp. “It’s a bit like Hi-de-Hi!” says Cadell

66. Special guests in upcoming episodes include Peter Andre, Lisa Riley, Boycie from Only Fools and Horses, and Faye from pop group Steps, who teaches Sweep how to dance

67. Lisa Riley gets the biggest gungeing of all time. “I’m talking about head to toe coverage,” Cadell says, “She loved it.”

68. Cadell thinks the secret of Sooty’s success is down to his silence: “That’s why he’s survived – on every presenter’s hand, every child’s hand, he’s the same.”

69. Sooty’s 70th birthday party was held on Blackpool’s North Pier last weekend, back where it all began

70. Every episode ends with the phrase, ‘Bye bye everybody, bye bye.’

thesootyshow.com

Bye bye everybody, bye bye!