The world lost a vast talent and I lost my best mate...
Quadrophenia star Gary "Spider" Shail shares his memories exclusively for the Gary Holton Tribute Site!
I first met Gary on a cold frosty night in a pub somewhere in west London, he was introduced.... as the "Rocker" who was to beat the crap out of me for a crucial scene in the British made film "Quadrophenia". I was playing "Spider" the young mod whose scooter breaks down and gets left behind by the others to fix it. Gary was with his girlfriend Donna and they both looked like rock stars, Gary in a sky blue sparkly jacket with leather strides and Donna with wild hair and sparkly make-up. I was a committed "Punk Rocker" and so the conversation quickly turned to music. Gary informed me of his vast talent for singing and I bragged of my virtuosity on the bass guitar. We certainly didn't talk about the acting we were about to do (that would come naturally) but we were both quite impressed with being involved with "The Who".... who we both agreed were the loudest band in the world.
It was a night shoot, so they kept the pub open.... all night! On a film set you are always left hanging around for hours whilst the crew get their act together. Frank Roddem - the director - wanted us to improvise the scene as much as possible, Gary was riding a "Norton Commando 750" (for the first time) and I was trying to fix a puny little 200cc scooter, and so Gaz came up with the immortal "What's the matter? Your mother's hair drier broken down?". We had to film the scene over and over but eventually everyone was happy, and although battered and bruised we were finished for the night. Gary and Donna invited me and my girlfriend back to their place in Maida Vale and after a night of carousing we cemented our friendship with a large tequila and vowed to stay in touch.
There was no going back. I had to finish Quad and Gary was gigging but we always managed to meet up to discuss our dreams of world domination, usually over a large one in one of the splendid hostelries of Maida Vale. Theatre was definitely something we both wanted to pursue and we heard of a new musical show called "H.M.V." to be premiered at the Half moon theatre. We met the writer and director on the Friday and started rehearsals on the Monday. Gary was to play the alcoholic dad to my drug addicted son in a story of music industry manipulation and corruption. My girlfriend was played by a very young, first timer "Michelle Collins". It was a great success, although life sometimes imitates art and we got very "out of it" for most of the performances. The critics loved it and both Gary and I were earmarked for new shows, me for a new series called "Johnny Jarvis" and Gary for a new show about dodgy builders. The work schedule was relentless, but we were both rewarded with hit shows (much to our surprise). After this we were thrown into the wonderful world of "celebrity" and had membership to every hot club in London. The two Gary's became an integral part of the London circuit. Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll.... every boy's dream! A new live music show was on at the time, "The Tube", and Gary was asked to appear. We decided to invent a new band, "The Actors", to show the other side of our talents. We rehearsed in London and then headed off to Newcastle for the live show. We performed "Long Legged Blue Eyed Blonde " and as far as I'm concerned it was one of Gary's finest live performances. We decided to travel home after the show, but got thrown off the train for being "drunk and abusive". We signed autographs for the police, and they put us on the next train home.
We always wanted to record the "Actors Album" but it was never to be. The world lost a vast talent and I lost my best mate...
Big thanks to Gary for taking the time to talk to me, cheers Gary!