One of the problems with looking through old issues of TV Times for research is that you keep coming across the astrology columns. Whether or not you think that anyone should ever have been paid good money for idly scribbling out this sort of wishy-washy unscientific exploitative claptrap is another question, but the simple fact of the matter is that they lower the tone of the entire magazine by their very presence. Which, given that TV Times was already all too fond of giving reactionary blowhards a free platform and telling famous women to settle down and make a nice little wife for some lucky young man, was quite an achievement. You may well scoff at the comparative bookish tone, disregard for celebrity culture and strange woodcut-esque illustrations of Radio Times, but at least you could take it out to dinner without it causing too much of a scene.
Self-proclaimed clairvoyant and close confidant of Peter Sellers, Maurice Woodruff was TV Times‘ resident stargazer for much of the ‘Swinging Sixties’, and as a consequence, someone whose puzzlingly incomplete face I am all too familiar with. His speciality appears to have been making predictions for top celebrities, and here you can see his confident assertions of what 1967 would hold for one Paul McCartney. Although there’s probably little doubt that he liked ‘children, animals and people generally’, there’s also a rather more dubious claim that he will put his money into ‘building’ rather than a big brown bag inside a zoo, and what’s more there’s not a single mention of Carnival Of Light.
In the New Year TV Times for 1966/67, after advising Librans to get down to the practical things in life and tipping off Virgos about an unexpected visitor, Maurice Woodruff took a look back over some of the predictions that he’d made at the very start of 1966. The ‘selection’ of his accurate forecasts ran to a whopping four out of fifteen. Two of them related to ongoing global political situations that were already close to tipping point, one suggested that a football team that were doing spectacularly well would continue to do spectacularly well, and the last one was the most vague and open-ended Oscars tip imaginable. No doubt giddy with this incontrovertible proof of his uncanny ability to forecast the future from the stars, he went on to make another set of similarly bold predictions for 1967. You probably won’t be too surprised to hear that he once again failed to spot Carnival Of Light. Did he see anything coming that actually did, though? Well, let’s have a look at those stargazed assumptions, and also at cold hard historical fact, and see if any of them add up…
Prince Richard Of Gloucester will announce his engagement to a commoner
Intending to pursue a full-time career as an architect, twenty-one year old Richard Windsor spent 1967 gaining work experience before commencing a masters at Cambridge. He then spent several years working for a partnership before royal duties took precedence in 1972, apparently to his considerable regret. Not long afterwards he married Danish-born Birgitte Henriksen, whom he had met while she was working at the Danish Embassy in London. It cannot have been too hard to predict that he would pursue romantic interests outside ‘title’, and the time frame is completely off. So the first one’s a dud. What’s next?
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) will lose his title to someone equally as fast. I do not think his conqueror will be coloured
Hmm, doesn’t seem quite such a genial and jovial figure now, does he? As it happened, Ali fought the fearsome reigning WBA Heavyweight Champion Ernie Terrell – who certainly wouldn’t have been white enough for Mr. Woodruff’s liking – in April 1967, scoring an unexpected and humiliating victory after Terrell provoked him by repeatedly addressing him as ‘Clay’. After which the bunch of sweaty cowards in charge prevented him from boxing for over three years due to his refusal to be drafted to fight in Vietnam; his stated reason of course being one of the most profound utterances of the Twentieth Century. Presumably this outcome would have pleased our favourite astrologer greatly, though it would be interesting to know if he also predicted Muhammad Ali punching him in the face.
A British woman will take the 1967 Wimbledon title
Billie Jean King beat Birmingham’s own Ann Haydon-Jones (and her husband Pip) by six sets to three. Next!
One of our well-known politicians, initial “G” or “J”, will disappear from the forefront by the end of 1967
Not at all hedging his bets there, was he? No reason given, no specification of whether this initial was forename or surname, and speculation was already mounting over some imminent key by-elections. Jo Grimond – who was both a “G” and a “J”, staggeringly coincidentally enough – resigned as leader of the Liberals, but that was such an inevitability following their poor showing in the previous year’s General Election that a concrete bollard could have predicted it. And would probably have been more accurate about everything else than Maurice Woodruff too. A very, very undeserved point here.
Actress Diana Rigg will receive an award, and great praise from America
Although unhappy at the way that she was treated by men in the industry, even in the face of on-set interventions by co-star Patrick Macnee, Diana Rigg was still starring in television’s hottest series The Avengers throughout 1967. The show was an established smash in America – in fact, its sale to ABC and the associated shift in production was partly what led to her being cast in the first place – and in 1967 she received one of several Emmy nominations for Best Actress In A Drama Series. She didn’t win, though. Partial Credit.
By late spring Mr. Wilson could well find himself in for a lot of criticism from his own side in the House
A divisive figure at the best of times, the UK’s incumbent Prime Minister’s foot was never far from ‘it’, and 1967 was to prove a bumper year, ranging from his ill-advised jollity about ‘the pound in your pocket’ to the buffoonish libel lawsuit against The Move for a bit of sub-Punch parody gone wrong. So late spring, late summer, late autumn, late winter, thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, take your pick really. ‘Late spring’ was, however, when he chose to announce that the United Kingdom was to apply for EEC membership. And if you can count the pathetic percentage of today’s Labour party refusing to challenge Brexit because something something hey look a horsey, then Maurice was arguably spot on here.
By the autumn Millicent Martin will have agreed to do a big musical on Broadway and will have signed a very healthy film contract. She will be acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic
Television’s top song-and-dance satirist already had substantial Broadway experience behind her, and had recently played key roles to some acclaim in both Alfie and Stop The World – I Want To Get Off, so this wasn’t so much a prediction as opening a sodding newspaper, frankly. In the event, some ups and downs in Millie’s personal life – to the sound of raised hopes of a generation of teenage boys – result in her throwing herself into stage, television and charity work at home, although in fairness she did appear in Piccadilly Palace, a bizarre and not especially successful attempt at ‘launching’ Morecambe and Wise on American television. He’s just about scraped a reluctant pass on this one.
Stoke City will pull off a few surprises late in the season
Well unless they sold Stobby Buld to the South American Republic of San Rico for eight million pounds, it’s hard to see what he’s predicting here really. It was a fairly straightforward year for Troubled Stoke City as it went, ending up with them being knocked out in the third round of the FA Cup and the quarter finals of the League Cup, and ending the season in eighteenth place and three points away from relegation. Gordon Banks joined the club from Leicester while Stanley Matthews retired at the staggering age of fifty, while they also took part in a short-lived venture named The United Soccer Association, which pitted teams from around the world against each other in a sort of international ‘just for fun’ league. And of course gave displays of the footballing skills that have made them famous. I’ll admit I don’t know very much about football, but none of that seems especially surprising to me.
We could hear with some sadness of the death of a famous American author, whose initial could be either “R” or “H”
Only ‘some’ sadness?! Mercurial sci-fi legend Charles Beaumount, novelist and Civil Rights trailblazer Jean Toomer, crime fiction bestseller David Goodis, three time Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg and the no-introduction-needing Dorothy Parker all passed away in 1967, but none of them even arguably fit the initials and Woodruff’s conveniently broad terms of definition.
Castro will be removed from power in a Cuba flare-up
Oh you are kidding, right? Everyone predicted this every four minutes for very nearly fifty years. Fidel Castro survived exploding cigars, pens that fired poison darts, wetsuits coated with tubercolotic bacteria and radio studios doused with LSD, and remained Prime Minister and/or President right up until his voluntary retirement in 2008, leaving Uncle Sam with his head in his hands throughout. So the chances of his being taken down by an astrologer a couple of pages away from a feature on the Christmas plans of the cast of A Date With Music were negligible to say the least.
We can look for discontent and slight trouble in the Civil Service
Really? We can? Wow, thanks! Seriously though, unless Sir Humphrey was a devastatingly accurate and factually informed parody of absolutely nothing whatsoever, this was and has pretty much always been an average working day in the Civil Service. You only had to switch over to the BBC Light Programme to hear a long-running sitcom founded on that very principle. So it wasn’t so much a prediction as a straightforward statement of fact.
Labour: an airline strike and yet another in the docks
BOAC Pilots threatened a strike over pay in early December 1967, but it never went ahead due to last-minute talks. Crane drivers at Manchester Docks caused massive disruption in July when they downed tools until their demands for an additional winchman to be hired were met. Their colleagues in Liverpool followed suit in August as a result of a dispute over overtime; this spilled on into October, by which time they had been joined by fellow dockers in London and once again Manchester. All of which is technically what he said would happen, but let’s face it, you could honestly just guess at what industrial action might have taken place in 1967 and probably be at least seventy percent correct.
There will be the death of a well-known backroom TV personality
Well… what’s he even predicting here? With the best will in the world, back in 1966, ‘backroom’ and ‘well-known’ were pretty much mutually exclusive terms when it came to television, and even the likes of Biddy Baxter were hardly exactly household names. Whether or not he was pursuing some form of personal vendetta here we can only guess at. Derek McCulloch, better known to millions of wartime youngsters as ‘Uncle Mac’, sadly died in June 1967, but he was very much front of house and from the radio anyway. That was about as well-known as the broadcast-related obituaries got, and doesn’t really count to be honest, so definitely no points there.
Dorothy Squires will have a record topping the Hit Parade and a successful stage musical
Not that you would expect anyone who was still referring to it as the ‘Hit Parade’ in 1966 to have any real insight into how it might work, but unless she was actually the ‘druid’ one out of Procol Harum, then this prediction was spectacularly off-beam. Not sighted in the pop charts since 1961, the idea that a hitmaker from the previous decade would suddenly enjoy a massive surge in popularity in the mid-sixties and see off those Beatle layabouts in the process would have seemed as risible at the time as it does now. Presumably the fact that she didn’t release any singles at all in 1967 might not have helped either. In fairness, Dorothy Squires did enjoy a minor career revival and some chart success at the very – literally the very – end of the decade, but he said 1967 and Number One so no points.
The Greek Queen will be expecting another child
The Cheapo Astrologer doesn’t even have the decency to refer to Queen Anne-Marie by name. In actual fact she and Constantine II were ousted by a right-wing military coup in April, and later in the year mounted an attempted counter-coup which failed. In the aftermath, she miscarried and there is some dispute as to whether she had even realised she was pregnant yet. But don’t let that get in the way of your celebrity tittle-tattle, Maurice.
Watch the fields for the Classic Races and a horse from Ireland, but with a British owner. It will be a small horse, and one with a happy name. It will win.
Ah yes, we all remember when Twelve Lovely Pints romped home to victory in the St Leger Stakes to the delight of its owner, Derek Griffiths Carrying A Hod Of Vimto. Except it was actually Kentucky-bred Ribocco, ridden by Lester Piggot and owned by Charles W. Engelhard Jr, who was as British as some grits in an Uncle Sam hat. Don’t take any betting tips from this man.
So there you have it. A very, very reluctant three and a half correct predictions out of a possible sixteen. That means Maurice Woodruff and his weekly forecasts had an accuracy rating of less than twenty nine percent. Let’s hope that none of the Sagittarians reading actually did use any ‘extra diplomacy’.
Buy A Book!
You can find an extended version of …And Looks Into 1967, complete with full details of what the cast of A Date With Music had planned for Christmas and much more on the background to Maurice’s comically askew astrological assumptions, in my book Can’t Help Thinking About Me, a collection of columns and features with a personal twist. Can’t Help Thinking About Me is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
I’ve Heard Of Politics, But This Is Ridiculous is a feature about how I found a copy of the That Was The Week That Was book in a charity shop, and includes plenty about Millicent Martin’s career prior to Maurice’s staggeringly off-beam predictions for her short-term future; you can find it here.
Can We Hear It Back Now? is the story behind The Beatles’ still-unreleased experimental electronic track Carnival Of Light, which Maurice most definitely did not see coming; you can find it here.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.