By Katherine Adams
The name Bob Holness conjures up memories of game shows and of course the infamous question, “Can I have a P please Bob?” He is a man with a terrific yet subtle sense of humour and over time has emerged as one of Britain's best loved broadcasters.
While a Kent man at heart Bob was in fact born in Natal in South Africa in 1928. When he was still a baby he was brought to the place where his father was born, the seaside town of Herne Bay.
A 'B' please Bob...
He describes the town as “a terrific place for me; you didn’t have to walk very far. It had its own beach and the main street, Mortimer Street, was always busy and bustling.” Bob remembers having trouble first settling down, “It was a strange existence really as we all still had South Africa in our blood and I was a bit lost in this place called Kent. However, I soon came to love the area and make friends, particularly when I moved to Ashford.”
Christmas in Kent
One of Bob’s first memories as a young boy was at Christmas when he was living in a bungalow in Herne Bay and was convinced that he wouldn’t get any presents, “I was terrified that Father Christmas wouldn’t be able to get in because the bungalow didn’t have a chimney. I slept with my bedroom window open all night long in the freezing cold winter so that he could get in! I was amazed when I woke up the following day to find a large sack of presents at the bottom of my bed!”
Having studied at Herne Bay Council School, Ashford Grammar and Maidstone College of Art, Bob left Kent at the age of 25 and returned to South Africa where he began a career as an actor and broadcaster. There he performed in many radio plays and presented his own show entitled Calling to Youth, featuring visiting British and American artistes.
It was during this time, performing on the radio in South Africa that Bob played the first ever James Bond. “Well, that just came up through a hole in the floor. I was doing lots of radio plays at the time but I wanted to do something a bit different so when James Bond came up I ventured in and said yes. I had never even heard of him at the time but it became an amazing part to play and the response from listeners was terrific!”
But what does the first ever James Bond think of the latest Bond, Daniel Craig? “I think he’s fantastic, I really do. He’s got some of the best traits of all the previous Bonds in one. I’ve never met him but I’d very much like to.” And who is Bob’s favourite Bond? “Oh, Sean Connery of course! But now Craig’s come along I think he might take over. He’s just so good!”
Returning to England
In 1961, Bob returned to Britain where he took up a variety of presenting roles for Granada television and the BBC. However, he is probably best known for his roles as Chairman of BBC 1’s Call My Bluff and the host of ITV’s Blockbusters, both of which turned him into a household name.
Blockbusters was a huge success for Bob and turned him into something of a teenage cult figure. How did this make Bob feel? “It was terrific, I loved working with the students and the funny things they’d come out with.” Blockbusters produced many unforgettable catchphrases like ‘Put yourself on the Hot Spot’, ‘Gold to gold in 60 seconds’ and of course the hilarious, ‘Can I have a P please Bob?’ So how many times has Bob been asked for a P? “Oh, countless! I can’t tell you how many times! People say ‘Don’t you ever get fed up with it?’ but I didn’t. I loved everything to do with the show so it always got a very positive reception from me, however many times I heard it!”
Contemporary Game Shows
Since Blockbusters ended in 1993 there have been many spin-offs from the show. However, none have been half as popular as the original. Bob says that he can’t explain this, “I don’t know why it is really. It’s funny isn’t it? It must be the change in presenter!” he says cheekily. So what does ‘Quiz legend’ Bob think of game shows that are on TV at the moment like Deal or No Deal and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? “I don’t like them much. I might like them if I’d grown up in another era or a different environment, but they’re not up to scratch in my view.”
Bob now lives in Pinner on the outskirts of London. He continues to do voiceovers for television and radio and was recently recorded for the interactive Blockbusters DVD game proving that the show is still popular to this day. But what does Bob like to do to relax? “Well, I enjoy walking and reading, and going to the theatre. When I’m at home and the weather’s good I run around the garden and dig a bit.”
However, Bob doesn’t forget the county that for so long he called home, “I do miss Kent because it is such a lovely and nice place to be, especially Ashford, a town which I really got to know and love. I think of it now with reverence and often look up old friends from the area. Funnily enough the place I live now, on the fringes of London, is a bit like Kent in a way; very green and not too crowded, so it makes me feel not too far away.”
last updated: 03/04/2008 at 09:32