Top Ten Soap Characters headwear

Dallas 2012 - Larry Hagman as JR EwingAnother random just for fun Top 10 from ATV Today looking at some of soaps most memorable headgear, from hats to curlers. Yes last night the character of JR Ewing was laid to rest in Dallas, famous for being shot, cunning business moves and wearing his ‘cowboy’ Stetson, but who else is in our hat hall of soap fame…

1 – JR Ewings Stetson – Dallas

All good, and bad, businessmen wear a Stetson in Texas Larry Hagman once told an Australian news show, and for his character of J.R Ewing it became synonymous with the baddie. From 1978 to 1991, and numerous times since, the oil baron of Southfork was dealing and dishing some dirty trick in his ‘cowboy hat’.

Over the years J.R was seen as an egocentric, manipulative and amoral businessman with occasional burst of psychopathic tendencies. The covetous character had a long running feud with rival Cliff Barnes who he enjoyed mocking, this was a family tradition which had begun with J.R and Cliff’s parents. He was also constantly plotting subterfuges to takeover rivals and their wealth.

There were many storylines over the years but the most the nation remembers is when J.R was shot in 1980. In 2012 Dallas returned, Stetsons included, for a new series. Hagman, who died last year, makes his final appearance in the current second season airing on TNT and Channel 5. Last night he was fatally shot, he will be buried in next week’s episode.

Ena Sharples and others from Coronation Street on the Royal Variety Performance2 – Ena Sharples’ hairnet – Coronation Street

Flying ceramic ducks, pigeons and a hairnet, three things which conjure up images of the nations favourite telly soap. It was the latter which from episode one in 1960 through to 1980 that adorned the barnet of actress Violet Carson as the uncompromising Ena Sharples.

Ena wasn’t often seen without the hairnet and through major storylines it was there. From suffering a minor stroke, a heart attack, the death of her daughter, a coach crash and surviving a falling viaduct when the original train crashed off the tracks in 1967, this plot a may not have damaged the hairnet – but it did leave it dusty.

The character, like all good Christians, spent a lot of time criticising the activities of her neighbours. In 1980 however the actress decided it was time to end Ena’s gossiping and departed due to real-life health issues. It was reported the hairnet was a last-minute addition to the costume, who would have thought back in 1960 it would become so iconic to the programme.

3 – Hilda Ogden’s curlers – Coronation Street

It was the look of many ‘housewives’ in years gone by, the necktie turban, pinafore and curlers. From the days when you’d take turns in cleaning your neighbour’s front step and the only form of text messaging was writing with chalk on the wall.

Hilda Odgen, Coronation StreetFirst seen in 1964 Hilda Ogden was the Rovers Return cleaner and town gossip who became possibly one of the programme’s best known faces. Played by Jean Alexander her on-screen double act with Bernard Youens as lazy husband Stan was a huge part of the programme for twenty years. Hilda however was equally as prominent in scenes in her own right, from ear wigging in the pub to passing on gossip in the corner shop.

Over the years Hilda had pretty much had her say on everyone and everything in Weatherfield, even down to Elsie Tanners new bathroom. Memorable moments include asking landlady Annie Walker if she could ‘borrow’ a nightie as she didn’t own one for a holiday, a catfight in the street with barmaid Bet Lynch over an old sideboard and the regular money worries.

Hilda’s singing is best described as ‘unique’ and her regular bursts of 1940s and 50s hits became Corrie comedy gold. In 1987 however it was goodbye not just to the street, but also the curlers and pinafore as Hilda moved up in the world to be a doctors housekeeper, with much more upmarket attire.

4 – Seth Armstrong’s cap – Emmerdale

Seth Armstrong, EmmerdaleFrom 1978 until 2003 Seth and his green cap were a regular fixture in the village of Beckindale, later Emmerdale, the character fondly remembered for his honest opinions and rapport with boss and later village pub landlord Alan Turner.

In his time Seth had been an illegal poacher, a legitimate gamekeeper and internet entrepreneur. He survived the infamous plane crash, although his house didn’t. In later years after his wife Meg died he became involved with an old flame Betty, and they were a popular double act in Seth’s final years in Emmerdale.

In 2003 Seth left for an extended holiday in Australia, staying with former village resident Kathy Tate. He, sadly, never returned. He was last seen at Christmas 2004 giving the village a message via webcam.

5 – Benny Hawkins’ Wooly hat – Crossroads

Benny was, frankly, the village idiot. Copied even down to his hat by Emmerdale with Sam Dingle, Benny first arrived in the midland village of Kings Oak in 1975 working on a farm. His love of animals over time saw him keep a goat; Starry, plenty of hens, a dog ; Moses and a donkey; which he named after his close pal, Miss Diane.

Benny Hawkins, CrossroadsIn the series Diane taught Benny to read and write, which was praised in Parliament and lead to a successful literacy campaign.

It wasn’t all good news though, in 1977 he was due to marry Gypsy girl Maureen Flynn but she died on their wedding day in a hit and run incident. The storyline was accompanied by a specially written song ‘Benny’s Theme’ from the piano of Simon May, yes EastEnders theme Simon May.

Benny had a temper and it landed him in hot water a couple of times, even being wrongly accused of murder. Viewers were outraged. Benny went on the run and while the police were after him the nation – long before Corrie’s free Deidrie – started an innocent campaign. Universities across the UK had banners ‘Benny is Innocent’ hanging from their student lodgings while radio station DJ’s demanded the real killer own up. He was eventually proved innocent and lived to wear his wooly hat another day.

After his farming years Benny worked at the motel as a gardener and also an odd-jobs man at the garage. In the series as well as Diane Hunter he also formed a close relationship with cleaner Doris Luke, so much so that when she was attacked in her home Benny hunted down the culprits and attempted to put them in their place.

However it backfired and while a court case was about to begin he was knocked down in a targeted hit-and-run leaving him temporarily blinded. Eventually he recovered and remained a worker at the Crossroads Motel until Christmas 1987 when he went to put the fairy on the Christmas tree and was never seen again.

Dynasty-Alexis-hat6 – Alexis Carrington’s hats – Dynasty

This lady, if she could be classed as such a thing, wore her hats as a fashion and status statement. Aleixs was queen bitch and her attitude was reflected in her headwear, if it lasted long enough on her head that is.

Thanks to her scheming to destroy ex-husband Blake, undermine his marriage to angelic Krystle, Alexis quite often found herself at the receiving end of a slap, and more so a full-on catfight. From penthouse suites to lily ponds any location could become a place for Krystle and Alexis to role around and batter the beauty out of each others face.

Vengeful, Alexis was also a businesswoman with attitude, however there was – somewhere under the stern exterior a woman. She loved her children fiercely, however their best interests were sometimes clouded by her need for revenge on Blake.

Alexis survived falling from a balcony, the shoulder pads and hairdo no doubt helping to break her fall.

7 – Ethel Skinner’s hats and wig – EastEnders

Dear Ethel, a stalwart of London’s East End, she’d survived German bombs, muggers and Ian Beale’s food.

Ethel Skinner, EastEndersShe is probably best remembered for her ‘Little Willy’ which innuendo over the years lead to many a titter. Willy of course, named after her late husband, was a pug dog.

Over the course of her time in Albert Square on EastEnders Ethel had a succession of terrible hats and more so an even worse wig. She however thought them all lovely, and not even quick-tongued Pauline Fowler let her know she looked bizarre.

Ethel worked as the cleaner in the Queen Vic pub rubbing shoulders with big-haired landlady Angie Watts and her poodle Rolly. She also had a long running comedy partnership with fellow Walford resident Dot Cotton.

Despite being a little on the edge of insanity, Ethel knows a bad guy when she sees one, and is always the first to suss out when Dot’s wayward son Nick is up to no good. She was quick to realise he was trying to poison his mother, but residents put it down to Ethel’s wild imagination. She of course eventually was proved right.

In the late 1990s Ethel moved away into sheltered housing, returning in 2000 to be near her friends as she knew she was dying. Not wanting to suffer she asked pal Dot to help her to commit sucide, which after struggling with her religious beliefs she did.

Ethel died aged 86 peacefully, pill assisted, in her sleep.

8 – Jed Stone’s cap – Coronation Street
Jed Stone, the return, Coronation Street

Jed first appeared, cap in hand, in Coronation Street in 1961 looking for fellow bad boy Dennis Tanner who he had met in borstal. However Dennis had turned his back on crime, leaving Jed with nowhere to turn. Later the pair worked together which ultimately saw Dennis offer him a sofa to sleep on, however the iconic Elsie Tanner wasn’t allowing her son to let out her front room.

A sympathetic, elderly neighbour, Minnie Caldwell let Jed move in with her and her ginger pussy, Bobby. He became known for his trademark flat cap, which he even wore during a bed scene. Despite a long spell away from crime he was banged up in 1966 for stealing.

Storylines saw him remain living nearby Coronation Street, after his release, and while occasionally mentioned he, for 42 years, wasn’t seen.

In 2008 however he was seen once more, complete with cap and a cat. In a storyline which saw him appear intermittently on screen until 2009 when he was to be forced out of his 40-year home at the hands of evil, murderous property developer Tony Gordon.
In the end Tony, having failed to kill Jed, set the pensioner up in a decent flat with silence money out of the area. So far, despite old pal Dennis Tanner returning to Weatherfield Jed hasn’t been seen since.

9 – Frank Butcher’s Trilby / Flatcap – EastEnders

Frank Butcher, EastEndersThe ‘Del Boy’ of Walford certainly dressed the part. Frank Butcher with his cockney slang and one-liners was every bit the wheeler dealer. The trilby part of his car salesman gear, along with the gold chains and dark glasses.

Frank wooed Pat Harris first in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the long running relationship would begin, both had married and lost their partners in those intermittent years, bringing several kids between them along the way too.

Former prostitute Pat, was reunited with Frank in 1988 after a number of failed attempts by Frank to reunite. The pair had a cockney wedding and for a spell became the landlord and landlady of the Queen Vic pub on Albert Square.

However Frank liked the thrill of a sale and also opened up a used car forecourt nearby, it would be this venture that lead to much trouble. Following financial troubles he pays hard nut Phil Mitchell to set fire to the car lot, however a young homeless man, sleeping behind a car is killed. This leads to Frank suffering a mental breakdown and in 1994, trilby on head, he walks out of Walford.

Frank later returns, but Pat has moved on. It doesn’t stop them having the odd affair however. While she was remarried to Roy, he married Queen Vic landlady Peggy. In 2008 Frank died and both his recent wives laid him to rest.

10 – Doris Luke’s hats – Crossroads

Doris Luke, CrossroadsFriend of wooly-hat wearing Benny, Doris Luke was also famed for her strange hats, as often noted by Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2’s breakfast show.

Miss Luke was the dowdy spinster who tried to provide moral guidance to village folk while cleaning the Crossroads Motel. She first worked as a housekeeper on a farm before moving onto the motel.

Doris was mugged in 1981 by Reg Hollis from The Bill which leaves her battered and beaten. She retreats away until her facial scars have healed. Benny went on a mission to provide a return thumping on the culprit, however it angered the thug more and he arranged for both Doris and Benny to be taught a lesson by a car. Benny however pushed Doris out of its way and he suffered the serious injuries.

She later suffered a mental breakdown and became obsessed with Glenda and Kevin Banks’ newborn test-tube baby, whom she abducted, compete with spooky incidental music.

It wasn’t all bad however, she had a brief romance with an old war pal, Tom, however she decided that she was happier on her own.

Doris was last seen in 2002, when she’d progressed to housekeeper at the Crossroads Motel, however by the 2000s her iffy hats and dowdy fashions had been replaced by a much more glamorous wardrobe.

JR was shot, for the second time in Dallas last night – in the UK – his funeral is next Tuesday.

[Written by Mike Watkins]

Share Button

One Reply to “Top Ten Soap Characters headwear”

  1. Pingback: Catholic Jonny

Comments are closed.