To a kid growing up in the 80s, Cilla Black was like that neighbour you’d call ‘Auntie Cilla’. That kind of friendly, down-to-earth, slightly loopy sort, who would give you a Double Decker half an hour before tea and wouldn't mind if you wore your shoes in the house.
According to Cilla: The Lost Tapes (ITV, Wednesday, 9pm), however, she was a feminist icon, the OG (Original Ginger).
These lost tapes were home movies and audio tapes of an interview, found in Cilla’s house after she died, and “they show a pioneer who rewrote the rules of showbiz”, according to Sheridan Smith’s voiceover.
And the producers come up with a convincing case for Cilla’s feminist credentials.
“I was the original women’s libber,” Cilla tells her ghostwriter on one of the tapes, “I was headlining shows, and I’d have all-male bills beneath me. If I didn’t turn up, all those men would have been out of a job.”
She was a millionaire before the age of 25, had her own TV shows over three decades, and combined all that with raising a family that didn’t fall into some sort of dysfunctional mess.
The programme also showed her career was guided by men –Brian Epstein, George Martin and husband/manager Bobby – but she was never a puppet.
She had the same, strong, upfront personality in front of the cameras and behind, enjoying single life when her beloved Bobby died and heading out on the lash with Simon Cowell and ‘Nasty’ Nigel Lythgoe, as one home movie showed.
To call it the lost tapes was a bit of a cheat –much of the footage was taken from the ITV archives – but it was a fitting tribute to a woman who seemed to have it all – career, family and happiness. Cheers, Auntie Cilla.
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