Friday 14 November 1986

…A man has died from doing a Noel Edmonds
Late Late Breakfast Show stunt.
He fell off a crane.
It is big news…

It wasn’t just big, it was enormous.

This was one of those events that collectively and instantly entered the psyche of a generation. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. It might sound it to people who weren’t around in 1986 or were too young to notice. But really, it’s not.

It was talked about in the playground for days. Days and days.

It was morbid and hubristic. It was downright bizarre. It was compellingly grisly.

It was, to be frank, a sensation. And, to be frank, as 10-year-olds, we revelled in it. That’s perhaps a horrible thing to say, but we weren’t old enough to know better.

All we were aware of, all we were receptive of, were the incidentals and the peripherals. Such as: what actually happened while Michael Lush was suspended from the crane? How high was he off the ground? How did Noel Edmonds find out?

And above all, what was going to be on instead of the Late Late Breakfast Show instead?

We didn’t once hold a thought for the friends and relatives of the victim.

And we certainly didn’t give a thought to the wider question of whether members of the public should ever be placed in situations of jeopardy on live television.

In short, we discussed it and then recalled it for all the wrong reasons. But to be fair, I don’t think any of us at that age would have been expected to determine what were the right and wrong ways to remember such a unique event.

We had others to do that for us.

Chiefly, television.

7 thoughts on “Friday 14 November 1986

  1. I genuinely have no memory of this from when it happened – later, of course, but not at the time. In 1986, I would have struggled to tell you who Noel Edmonds was. God, how I miss those innocent days….

  2. Yes, I think I heard subsequently that Noel decided it would be too difficult to go on. Imagine trying to present an episode the following week with a dark cloud hanging over what was a light entertainment programme.

    Which episode of Trial of Timelord was that?

  3. I think the possibility that it could have happened live on air was a ghastly enough thought to prompt the BBC into being seen to do something very bold very quickly.

    Let’s not forget that Noel was back on TV within days, turning up on Wogan to talk about the nutters – “and I mean that in the true sense of the word” – who had attempted to break into his house to exact some kind of revenge for Lush’s death.

    Plus a few weeks later he was live on BBC1 on Christmas Day, up the BT Tower as usual.

  4. There was the suggestion by Bill Cotton that they could actually bring it back a few months later, obviously minus one particular aspect, but in the end good taste prevailed. I was only seven at the time but I remember the first I heard of this incident was Adrian John doing Mike Smith’s Radio 1 show that morning and saying Smitty wasn’t there due to an accident on the Late Late, and I had no idea what he was referring to. I can’t remember when I first heard what had happened.

    The other thing that stuck in my mind was the local paper used to illustrate this story a picture of Noel and Smiity on the Late Late sofa with Smitty whispering in Noel’s ear, which in my innocence I initially took the be the moment Noel found out about it, caught on camera. I don’t know why I thought they’d tell him like that (although this was around the same time that I was convinced Noel was disabled, for some reason). Anyway, I vividly remembered that picture and never saw it again, and a few years back I read that image was actually, as luck would have it, released to the press a few days earlier from the Beeb press office to illustrate that week’s planned edition, and clearly my local paper decided it was too handy a picture not to use in this circumstance. I also read that the same picture was then circulate around TV Centre with suitably tasteless speech bubbles affixed.

  5. The Late Late Show had form for this kind of incident – remember how John Peel was nearly killed by a car nearly landing on him after an attempt to jump over 12 cars went badly wrong? “Everybody’s all right…no-one’s hurt”. The follow-up didn’t go much better either, “Bloody hell…..” It did used to be on YouTube and the comments centred on three things
    a) The stupidity of the stunts
    b) Insulting Noel Edmonds
    c) “Is that the Helen Fielding, who wrote the Bridget Jones books, working as a researcher?”

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