It was with sadness that earlier this year (2016), that the world learned of the death of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.
The first time that I saw him in action was not in a boxing match, but talking live on the BBC. He announced himself as Cassius Clay. He then went on in true showmanship style to briefly say that he would be appearing in the programme Sportsview.
Eventually, it was time for the programme. Up he came with an amazing and exceptional interview. If my memory serves me correctly, the presenter and interviewer was David Coleman. All good things must come to an end. In this case, the end was surprising and sensational. Cassius stated that he should be in bed, so that he would be refreshed for his forthcoming fight. He then promptly rose from his chair, and walked out of the programme.
Now it is not a closely guarded secret that I am not a great lover of sport as a result of Belswains School and BBC Television. Besides, I was no good at it anyway. But I found compelled to take interest in his fights, both as Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali.
In 1971 Muhammad Ali visited two supermarkets in this area as well as the Ovaltine factory. At Watford the supermarket was Caters. The other was the then Sainsbury's in the town centre of Hemel Hempstead.
I took full advantage of being in between jobs, popped down the road with my Canon standard 8 mm. cine camera.
I was apprehensive about the lighting in Sainsbury's. But I risked everything and took some film of him. He was autographing tins of Ovaltine. Unfortunately, most amateur cine cameras at the time, were silent. When the task of autographing was over, he started to speak to the crowd. He thanked them for coming out to see him. He then went on further to state that he should not really have been there. He should have been in the USA training for his fight the following month with George Foreman, when he was going to whup him! This brought cheers and laughter from those present.
Now I had a problem. How was he going to leave the building? I somehow gained access to the back of Sainsbury's. I saw two smart looking cars outside there. I positioned myself between them. There was no lighting problem. I did not have to wait long. Out of the back entrance, Ali came. There were crowds getting as close to him as they could. Some managed to acquire his autograph. I however, acquired moving images of him. Some close up images filled the screen.
Decades later, the Radio Times contained an article which asked if any members of the public had any footage of a famous sportsperson, could they contact them?! This I did. A courier came and collected the film. Later arrangements were made for the film to be returned. I was pleasantly surprised that also enclosed with the film and an accompanying letter was a video tape. The video tape not only contained Muhammad Ali's segment, but also some bits and pieces that I had at sometime edited with it. Who better than the BBC to transpose my home movie? The Ali segment is about 30 to 60 seconds long. The letter stated that their video copy of my film had been archived. But they doubted that they would use it. Maybe it was because it was silent.
The VHS video cassette was shown at one of our club meetings. I did not say who was in it. Someone even asked were they to guess who it was? But then the answer became definitely obvious.
Since then, the commercial powers that be in the movie world, have now said we have to use DVD. This means that this production is about one of a hundred and fifty million films and tapes that I have to transpose.
Oh! It is so frustrating at times to be a movie maker!
For further reference please see Ovaltine Memories on www.ourdacorum.org.uk and on www.hertsmemories.org.uk Muhammad Ali's visit to Hertfordshire. Plus some others. See search engines.