Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Strictly Finalists 2010; Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan

As we wait for the most exciting Strictly Final in years, this is the last of my profiles of each of our deserving finalists, with a look at their pre Strictly life (as if that actually matters), and Strictly story with their first, best and my favourite of their dances. Kara's is here, and Matt's is here

Pre-Strictly Life

The first I ever heard of Pamela Stephenson was actually some time in the 70s as the wife of Nicholas Ball, the guy who played Hazell, the Cockney Private Detective who was the Minder of his day, I suppose. I can't really remember much except I thought he was quite good looking. 

It wasn't until Not the Nine O'Clock News started that I really got to like Pamela. That show was my first real introduction to irreverent political and satirical humour. It felt very grown up and very wicked to be watching it. I really can't resist the opportunity to show a bit. In the making of this profile, much time was wasted watching great moments such as these. Here's Pamela in one of their fabulous parody songs, I believe:

It was during this programme that she met Billy Connolly. This man has been making me laugh since I was a tot. There was not one single long car journey that didn't feature the car cartridge gadget thingy playing one of his shows. He's hilarious.  The two of them seemed exceptionally well suited and that's been borne out by the longevity of their relationship. 

Pamela has also stood for election to Parliament, in 1987, for Windsor and Maidenhead, for the Stuff Blancmange down Terry Wogan's Trousers Party. Not something I'd ever want to waste a moment doing, but it takes all sorts. The proof comes courtesy of Mr Derek Payne, on Twitter, who very kindly responded to my plea for definitive evidence of this result. 

If you're going to be a successful comedian, you have to have an interest in and understanding of human nature. It made a lot of sense then, that Pamela has been a respected psychotherpaist for the last 16 years. She specialises in sexuality and has done research as well as had a private practice. 

As well as that, she wrote a super and frank biography of Billy Connolly, not an easy thing to do when you are so close to the subject.

That's not to say she's just spent the last 16 years sitting behind a desk. She decided to take a year to go sailing in the South Pacific. With that sort of adventurous spirit, it's not surprising that she's done so well on Strictly. She doesn't do anything by half measures, embracing every challenge put to her. 

Strictly Partner

It's been quite a job to learn to love James Jordan. After his treatment of Georgina Bouzova in 2006, which verged on the bullying, I absolutely loathed him. He reminded me of some training footage of ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean in which he absolutely ripped her to shreds and made me wonder why on earth she'd put up for him for so long. It was literally years before I could even look at him again after I saw that.

It took me a while to find his redeeming features - and there are plenty. He is a fabulous dancer and an inventive, intuitive choreographer who is capable of really suiting routines to the people dancing. His Rumba to Songbird, with Cherie Lunghi was utterly beautiful and tasteful when I suspect someone else (that'd be you, Mr Cole), could make it look brash and inappropriate. He is very funny, as his testosterone fuelled Twitter Banter with Brendan often shows. 

He looked to be on course for victory with Gabby Logan in 2007, but while they were technically good, the public didn't warm to them because they made no secret of their desire to win. We British are strange - we're quite happy to encourage ambition, as long as we don't, at any time, show that we want success. Had they had any other dance than the Samba, always a difficult one to impress with, I suspect that they would have beaten Penny Lancaster in the dance off.

It was the Samba that saw him off last year too, in week 7, with Zoe Lucker. 

By a little bit of luck, or producer sleight of hand, do you want to take a guess at which dance he and Pamela haven't done?

His wife Ola won last year with Chris Hollins, so will he be able to take home another glitterball to even up the mantlepiece tonight?

Strictly Story

Every so often, the producers put a couple together who have an absolutely magical partnership, bringing out the best in each other. Bill Turnbull and Karen Hardy were one example. Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan were another. 

Pamela and James are another great match. Pamela has enough life experience, poise and balls not to take any of James' nonsense. They are two very strong personalities and it could have gone very badly wrong, but Pamela has really got James laughing and toning down his harsh competitive edge while he has appreciated the talent he's been given and taught her extremely well, giving her choreography that shows her at her best. He's appreciated that he has a partner who, despite being past her Diamond Jubilee, will try any challenge given to her and has an inner grace and radiance that is beautiful to watch.

It may be that with her psychological knowledge, she's ensured that she and James have been playing the audience like a fiddle, manipulating us into loving them. But even if that's the case, I don't care. I still love them regardless and could watch them dance all day. And train. And laugh. And talk to Claudia on ITT.

Pamela had a wee trip on her first journey down the famous Strictly stairs, which didn't bode well. Her waltz in week was one of  the most beautiful, elegant dances we'd seen. The judges raved about her arm placement, which gave me some confidence as that's what I'd been saying too. The question after week one was could she do Latin?  She came out the next week in a scarlet dress and showed that she could deliver an amazing Salsa. The fact that she stumbled, and while she seemed to be on her way to hit the deck, gave a radiant smile and a shimmy before she righted herself and carried on with the dance earned her many fans. "Don't throw Granny on the floor" she said afterwards. And then on It Takes Two the next week, she literally spent five minutes giggling about it with Claudia. I think that moment showed her spirit and even then set her on track to the final.

We knew that she had public support from the unfortunate incident on Hallowe'en. Ok, so she lost her place a couple of times in the Jive, but she actually jived down the stairs. The judges undermarked her, giving her only 27 when she desrved much more leaving her in a perilous bottom of mid table position. She made it through and that was her only real wobble and her only sub 30 score..

She always manages to capture the spirit of the dance and has used her acting skills and comic timing to great effect in her Tango, her cheeky Charleston and 40-scoring magical, ethereal Viennese Waltz to Unchained Melody. Last week she excelled with a dramatic Paso to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance but scored another perfect 40 for a complicated Quickstep which involved a routine with canes at the beginning, a costume change in the middle and a spot of tap dancing on her own.

Pamela's the finalist who's had the most improvement, who's surprised us the most and whose radiance has grown with every dance she's done.  In an age obsessed with youth, she's struck a blow back for women with a certain age.

The Dances

First Dance - a beautiful waltz

Best Dances perfection for their Viennese Waltz and Quickstep

My Favourite

It has to be the Charleston. Of course it plays to her comedic strength, but look at how intensely difficult this choreography is. And it shows the depth of trust between them. Those lifts are dangerous. She had to pick him up, then end up a split second later upside down doing a tumble off his back. That takes guts. And to portray the cheeky, slapstick spirit of the dance while you're doing it is remarkable.

I suspect her showdance will have Hollywood panache, elegance and glamour, with a splash of comedy and some outrageous tricks. She's the one I'll be voting for as soon as the lines open tonight and I hope that the whole country will vote for a brave, spirited, funny woman who brings beauty and grace to the dance floor.

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