‘Marijuana was like cornflakes’: Man behind Fingermouse admits drug-taking was rife at on the set of Play School
Courtesy of the Daily Mail
Smoking marijuana was ‘part of the culture’ at classic children’s TV programme Play School, according to a former presenter.
Rick Jones revealed the scale of drug use at the show, following claims by ex-presenter Johnny Ball that Jones and another presenter, Lionel Morton, were ‘stoned out of their minds’ before filming a nativity scene during the 1970s.
Jones, now 75, who went on to present children’s show Fingerbobs, told The Sun said that the drug was ‘part of the culture, definitely’, adding: ‘Marijuana was like cornflakes.
‘The BBC was really liberal. Once you were in all laws were forgotten. I had a wonderful time.’
He said around ‘half a dozen’ were doing it – and that toys on the programme, Humpty and Hamble, were even put in sexual poses on the set.
Earlier this week, Ball revealed the use of marijuana behind the scenes of the seemingly-innocent show, when he told a BBC4 documentary: ‘There was Rick Jones, Lionel Morton and myself. They got stoned on the biggest joint you’ve ever seen – in the studio.
‘We were in silhouette as the three shepherds with our crooks. They were absolutely stoned out of their minds. So when we recorded, who cocked his lines up? Me.’
Ball, 73, father of TV and radio presenter Zoe, insisted he had not used the drug on air himself as it would have left him incapable of working – a claim supported by Jones, who told the newspaper Ball was a ‘good egg, but he was too dull to do it’.
Play School ran from 1964 until 1988 and its presenters also included Brian Cant, Floella Benjamin and Derek Griffiths.
Revelations: Childrens’ television presenter Johnny Ball has told how his co hosts on Play School got stoned before one scene
On a high: Presenter Lionel Morton smoked a joint before filming one of the scenes from Play School
Each episode included a film about the outside world to which access was gained through one of three windows, with viewers asked to guess which it would be: round, square, or arched.
The documentary, Lights! Camera! Action! Tales of Television Centre, lays bare the liberal atmosphere at the BBC in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Presenter Joan Bakewell is also seen confessing that many of the pop groups of the time were stoned when they appeared on shows.
At times the aroma was so strong in the corridors of the BBC’s West London studios that Sir David Attenborough, who was controller of the BBC2 at the time, complained about it.
He recalls on the programme how he told staff: ‘Look, please don’t smoke that stuff openly so we can all smell it. Just be sensible.’
There are also revelations about the rampant antics of stars who used dressing rooms and green rooms for sex because ‘nobody cared if you did’.
Former Doctor Who actress Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant, says: ‘People were bonking all over the BBC. Everybody was doing it on the premises.’
Former Blue Peter and Going Live presenter Sarah Greene confesses that she enjoyed such trysts with Radio 1 DJ Mike Smith, whom she went on to marry.
The show features interviews with BBC staff and personalities including Sir Terry Wogan, Jeremy Paxman and Penelope Keith along with archive clips from hit shows such as Till Death Us Do Part, Top of the Pops and Doctor Who.
Barry Norman also gives an interview for the programme in which he reveals he was almost fired because a corporation executive thought he was wearing a wig on screen and took a dislike to it.
He said: ‘I wasn’t actually wearing a wig, I was just having a bad hair day.’ Lights! Camera! Action! Tales of Television Centre will air on BBC4 on May 17.