Actress Heather Chasen dies aged 92

The performer was best known as Valerie Pollard in ITV serial Crossroads and later for a memorable stint in BBC One’s EastEnders.

Heather Chasen appears in BBC One daytime saga Doctors.

The actress who had a long stint as Valerie Pollard in the original Crossroads passed away yesterday, May 22nd, aged 92.

Heather Jean Chasen was born in Singapore to Agnes and Frederick Nutter Chasen. Her father was a well-known English ornithologist who fought as a trooper with the Norfolk Yeomanry in World War I. Her sister Christine Elizabeth was born in 1931 but seven years later their parents’ marriage was over.

Trained at RADA Heather’s early film roles included the 1949 movie Meet the Duke while television parts came with Rediffusion’s No Hiding Place in 1959 followed by other spots in shows such as ITC-ATV’s Danger Man in 1961, BBC One’s Dixon Of Dock Green in 1962 and her first regular part as Caroline Kerr in BBC One’s mid-sixties soap opera The Newcomers.

The award nominated actress began her theatre career in 1960, touring with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr and Sybil Thorndike. She married John Webster in 1949 and they had one child together, Rupert. He followed his mother into theatre and small television parts in the sixties and seventies.

The 1970s were also a buoyant time for Heather with a lead part opposite Stephanie Beacham in Thames Television’s daytime business drama Marked Personal while from 1959 through to 1977 she was a regular on the hit radio show The Navy Lark, a sitcom about life aboard a British Royal Navy frigate named HMS Troutbridge. Other regulars included Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee, Judy Cornwell and Ronnie Barker.

In 1981 she was cast in one episode of ATV’s serial Crossroads, as a newspaper reporter. It would lead to a much bigger part.

“Well at the time when I first joined there were some very good actors in Crossroads, I mean I thought the standard was pretty good. I remember some time before that I was in something called “The Newcomers”, we had longer to do it – say Crossroads took a week, “The Newcomers” took a  fortnight. I must say we thought ourselves rather a cut above Crossroads! But when I actually came to play it with people like Tony Adams and Michael Turner and  Sue Lloyd and Ronald Allen, there were some very, very good characters in it and some good actors in it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.” – Heather Chasen speaking to the Crossroads Fan Club

Heather Chasen appears in a 1961 edition of ATV-ITC action series Danger Man.

Heather Chasen in a BBC Promotional image for radio comedy series The Navy Lark.

In 1982 Heather took on her second, and best-known, Crossroads role as Valerie Pollard. Valerie, a sparkling sophisticated lady with red hair, waltzed into the Crossroads Motel in early 1982 – before Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington put the bitch into Dynasty – as the wife of multi-millionaire businessman J. Henry Pollard. She’d been known to have a fling or two – and we’re not talking about the drink – so J.Henry, now a part-owner of the motel, decided to make the complex her own personal prison.

He cancelled her credit cards and tried to show Valerie the error of her ways by grounding her in Kings Oak. Indignant, she threatened to divorce her powerful husband, but he pointed out that no other man would lavish her with the kind of money and lifestyle he provided. He also, and for a time unknown to Valerie, placed a spy at the motel to monitor his wayward wife.

Putting up with her “punishment” for straying with a number of “pretty but brain-dead” boys  -as J.Henry viewed them – she took an active role at the motel working behind the bar, possibly the most glamorous motel staff member in the history of the show.

It wasn’t long however before Valerie was up to mischief. She bedded engaged Adam Chance (actor Tony Adams) – who had been previously involved with her daughter! Her one-night of lust with Adam was just a game to infuriate J.Henry – the showdown between Adam and Valerie voted one of the most ‘iconic’ moments in Crossroads‘ history. The scene showed that Adam could also be a ‘super-bitch’ on par with his female counterpart.

Reaching millions of people night after night Heather soon became a household name. Many fans of soap are often known to take such shows as ‘real’ and in Crossroads case it was often true that viewers would call hospitals if a character was injured or try to book a room at the motel and some even sent in letters of application for jobs as waitresses at the fictional night-stop.

“They [the viewers] do expect you be that character. But you know I never had anybody be nasty to me, people were always very, very nice and I had very nice fan mail. And I remember once I was coming up to Birmingham and I got off the train and a young man had been talking to me and then he got off the train after me and I said: “You get back on the train this is not where  you’re getting out is it?” And he said: “I just want to talk to you, I want you to go out with me!” and I was about old enough to be his mother and I said: “Don’t be so silly get back on the train I am not like Valerie at all!”

After Crossroads Heather played Madge Bennett in Thames Television’s Family Affairs and Lydia Simmonds – grandmother to scheming Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) in EastEnders. Guest roles came in such shows as BBC One daytime serial Doctors, and as Madame Magloire in the movie of Les Misérables.

The news of her passing was released by long-time friend and Coronation Street legend Amanda Barrie on social media.

“Remembering the fabulous Heather Chasen who sadly left us yesterday. She was wonderfully eccentric, gloriously funny, and a very special actress. There’ll never be another like her. Will always miss her.” – Amanda Barrie

Heather Chasen in EastEnders with on-screen granddaughter Charlie Brooks.

Heather Chasen as Crossroads’ super-bitch Valerie Pollard.

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5 Replies to “Actress Heather Chasen dies aged 92”

  1. Great in Crossroads and EastEnders shame her latter stint wasn’t very long but memorable indeed.

    RIP sweet Heather.

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