… to FAC 501 and losing your head

It’s ten years today since Anthony H Wilson – journalist, broadcaster, music impresario and one man advert for Manchester – passed away.

There are, understandably, great tributes everywhere – old and new.  I heartily recommend reading them.  Especially the first of those links.

I only met Wilson the once, at the old Manchester Evening News building off Deansgate, when we both worked for the legendary, and late lamented, City Life magazine, and my only memory of that was that he was surprisingly tall.

But he was, soon afterwards, involved in one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  Stop reading now if you’ve heard me tell this one before…

Wilson had been hired as an agony uncle on the City Life magazine in Manchester. The new editor, formerly of Half Man Half Biscuit (no, really) had been trying to freshen up the mag and getting Wilson in to solve readers’ dilemmas had been one of his gimmicks.

Whether it put sales on is debatable (and unlikely, given the magazine shut not long afterwards, in one of Guardian Media Group’s brutal Mancunian bloodletting exercises while trying to bankroll the bold but massive white elephant that was Channel M), but it was hugely amusing, as Wilson answered trivial love life and workplace issues in his typical fashion.

City Life. Manchester’s Time Out without being shit

I was the DVD and tech reviewer for the mag at the time, as well as working for the Evening News’ website. And as part of the largess of GMG, twice a year the group sent editorial parties out to the Newsplex facility in Columbia, South Carolina, for a week long course on “multimedia convergence”.

I ended up getting sent out in late October 2004. There was just shy of a dozen of us, drawn from the weeklies, the Evening News, the website and the editor of City Life, who was still trying to put the magazine together from 4000 miles away.

The week didn’t start well. As we gathered in the Newsplex on the monday, the BBC News screens displaying on the wall revealed the tragic news that John Peel had died – which for most of us was horrible, but for someone who played with HMHB was even worse, even if the Americans didn’t understand why folk were so bothered by it.

So, the next morning, we’re down at breakfast in the hotel, and the City Life editor comes down with bandages around his ear. Plural. Sticking plasters, toilet roll, the full boonah – anything that can soak up blood.

“What the hell happened to you,” we asked.

“Tony Wilson.”

It transpired he’d been waiting on an early morning (local time) call from the office on print deadline day – including discussing Wilson’s column.

While he waited, he was getting ready, and in the bathroom as he shaved he had his mobile phone and his razor lying next to each other beside the sink.

You’ve worked out where the rest of the story goes, I suspect…

And that’s how I always remember Wilson. Not for the music, for the media, for the myth. But for being the man who almost decapitated his editor from 4000 miles away.

Anyway, why not support your local cancer charity on a day like today. If you’re in Manchester, for instance, you can support the Christy here in Wilson’s name.

Leave a Reply