Do you remember the TV espionage series Jason King in which actor Peter Wyngarde played a bestselling novelist turned sleuth?
The show was a spin-off from the series Department S and the adventures of suave womaniser King, which ran for one season (26 one-hour episodes) in 1971, made Wyngarde a British household name.
The quirky programme was sold overseas and Wyngarde briefly became an international celebrity, being mobbed by female fans. He was much in demand for public appearances and would have commanded a sizeable fee when he was booked to open the brand new Woolworths store in the recently completed Luton Arndale Centre in 1973.
Hundreds of female fans flocked to the shopping centre to catch a glimpse of the star and hunt for opening day bargains in the shop.
At the time the Arndale, today called The Mall Luton, was Europe’s largest undercover shopping centre.
But Wyngarde, who was born Cyril Louis Goldbert in Marseille, France, in 1933, had a short-lived TV career.
He was involved in an indecency scandal in 1975 and he twice filed for bankruptcy in the 1980s.
His 200-year-old Cotswolds farmhouse was repossessed and he lived on the dole for a time. He later did some theatre work and returned to TV and he celebrated his 80th birthday in August.
As for Woolies in the Arndale, it remained open until shortly after Christmas 2008 when all of the company’s 807 stores were closed after the business went into administration, with 27,000 job losses.