One of the things I've been careful with on this blog is not to make too much of the in-house dance troupes. Partly because there's loads about them online anyway going into fulsome and frank detail and much other discussion is of the 'men fancied them but they did stupid routines' postmodern one-liner sense, but it's something you've got to tread carefully round. We know why it happened, maybe we don't appreciate from this distance the late 60s to mid-80s success of specialist dance teams on television from The Young Generation to the Brian Rogers Connection, but there still seems something out of place about reinterpreting someone's carefully honed work in such a choreographed close to studio time fashion. It's natural, though, then when you delve into everything a TOTP offers in detail as this blog has there's things you can't help but notice that turn out to be specific to the given time frame. One thing that seems to have happened as far as Ruby Flipper goes is that one member has been getting the bulk of the good, unembarrassing (cf Young Hearts Run Free) roles, and in doing so earning themselves a not inconsiderable amount of new personal followers and appreciative commenters.
Not for much longer, though. The next TOTP showing next week will also mark the end of... no, not an era, but something. A something that started at Christmas 1972 like this (and moreover, because this clip hasn't got the relevant introduction attached, like this:
Flick called that the worst routine they ever did, by the way, largely due to the volume of those dresses.
While it's Babs or Dee Dee, often Louise too, who usually get dragged out whenever nostalgia TV comes calling, Cherry Gillespie seems from the three and three quarter years she served as a TOTP dancer to have become a totemic presence. Actually that seems to have been the case at the time - it's rumoured she had a clear lead in personal fanmail at their height. Is it the horse's mane length hair? The eyes? The frequently part-bared and constantly toned body? The faces to camera (of which, as I didn't pick up at the time what with being new to this back then, there's an excellent mock-baffled example of 0:31-0:35 into Ruby Flipper's debut) Or all of the above?
It's all of the above.
Flick tried to dissuade her, but Cherry insisted shitting on the dressing room floor was her good luck charm. (pic source)
But then it's also possible to say she was much more than that on the sly, which is why if you discount Babs' globetrotting human endurance feats for their rarefied nature she seems more than her contemporaries to have made something of a go at a showbiz life after Pops. From Hemsby, near Great Yarmouth, she was a ballet school prodigy of whom the Daily Telegraph wrote in 1972 "she seems bound to develop into a major artist". When Andi Rutherford got married and became pregnant she chanced the open audition for her replacement, got a unanimous nod and a couple of months short of 18 years old she became the then fifth girl of the troupe.
The Pan's People Kites range needed some fine tuning
And so a place in televisual dancing history was assured. She was there circumnavigating the dogs for Get Down. When the Monster Mash costumes were being doled out, she became a bat in a curious furry costume with a tellingly balletic routine. She gets a solo in the celebrated 1974 folly Pan's People In Concert.
"...and then I'll get Robin to sack the rest of them!"
And when the Ruby Flipper bandwagon rolled in she became the senior member, being seven months older than Sue. Here's her celebrated solo spot to Misty Blue, which was never discussed here at the time of reshowing because a) it got edited out of the first showing and b) there's not really much you can add.
And then it ended. Well, to be accurate she ended it. It's not entirely clear at this distance why she left early, even less why she had that three week break not long before, but she went on to play Connie in the award winning original West End run of A Chorus Line from January 1977, so maybe rehearsals started around then.
Gillespie may have done more theatre work, and there are suggestions to that end, there's little online record compared to the years of bit parts she got when returning to TV after that run - Casualty, Minder, Blankety Blank (five times), Metal Mickey, Crown Court, Bergerac (which is on YouTube in full - she first turns up 4:55 into part one) and a guest slot with Morecambe & Wise, albeit on one of their lesser 1983 shows for ITV. In addition she's female lead in the video for Dire Straits' Private Investigations and has credits in Octopussy, where she's the titular character's henchwoman, and The Bitch, as 'Disco Girl'. Nothing like stereotyping.
Her major post-Pops TV work came in 1983 as she took third billing behind Wayne Sleep and Bonnie Langford on the BBC dancing roustelay The Hot Shoe Show. Here's a couple of clips of her work there. The song on this got released as a BBC Records single, which was about as successful as the Pan's People 1974 single she takes lead vocals on. According to the uploader the here unseen punchline is the mystery beau is a Boy George-alike.
And here's an ensemble piece chiefly featuring the always delightful sound of middle class white Brits rapping, and especially so when one is Bonnie Langford. Roxanne Shante rests easy in her bed.
With no listed onscreen roles since 1991 we can only assume Cherry subsequently settled down to raise a family with music industry big shot husband Rob Dickins, though she's continued to do voiceovers - here's an example - and in fact can still be hired for such. And if you must know, here's a clip of a Pan's mini-reunion last April at the opening of a Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition of photos by Harry Goodwin. We shall never see her like again. Well, there's not the telly dance troupes any more.