In the days when newspapers actually put on circulation one often effective way of increasing readership was to launch a competition.
Derek Jameson’s introduction of bingo in the early 1980s saw the Daily Star’s sale increase from around 1.2m to almost 1.8m.
But alongside that big money promotion the Star embarked on a far humbler but rather more bizarre sales booster : a contest to find the man or woman in the UK who could do the strangest thing Standing On One Leg Only. To plug the idea of SOOLO (pronounced like the Star Trek character first portrayed by George Takei) reporters were required, whenever they went to interview anyone famous, to ask the celebrity (after the story in hand had been covered, of course) whether they wouldn’t mind posing for a photograph …yes, you’ve guessed, Standing On One Leg Only.
A week or so into the project I was assigned to attend a book launch by Joan Collins, unveiling her autobiography Past Imperfect. In a top Manchester hotel, the Hollywood star dealt effortlessly with an array of questions from the Fourth Estate and then the assembled guests were all invited to a finger buffet. Seizing the moment I glided alongside the actress who was then starring in Dynasty and trying to make my ridiculous request sound as if it was an offer to play a potentially Oscar winning role I put my question. Joan smiled, put down her plate, which contained barely enough food to keep a gerbil going and said: “We’ll go to my room!”
Sadly it was more than 20 years into the future that reporters were able (indeed required) to take photographs as well as write stories so we were soon joined in her boudoir by one of Fleet Street’s finest snappers.
Like the trouper she is Joan struck a series of cumly poses which duly graced the pages of Victor Matthews’ brainchild tabloid. The political correspondent sent to interview Mrs Thatcher was not so lucky.
I know what you're thinking: who won the contest? Do you know it was that momentous I can't recall.