There is always something particularly charming about televisual entertainment being broadcast not from a nation’s capital but from somewhere out in the provinces. Thinking back to the later 1970s, around the time I ‘adopted’ Norwich City as my favourite football club in England, hearing the Sunday afternoon game show, ‘Sale Of The Century’ (produced by Anglia Television) being introduced with the words, “And now, from Norwich, it’s the quiz of the week!” might have been a contributory factor in my adoption. Putting what has emerged as a classic year of the GOTGE Era (1973) and that ‘TV from unexpected places’ charm together, we come up with the music show, beginning its run in 1973 and starring, at the beginning, Karel Gott, Jitka Zelenková and Jana Kocianová, ‘Zpívá Karel Gott’ (‘Karel Gott Sings’), broadcast from the Městské Divadlo (Municipal Theatre) in Slaný. I have been trying to think of what an equivalent on British TV might have been like and since Slaný literally means ‘salty’, betraying the fact that it is a spa town, I am imagining a show broadcast from Derbyshire’s Buxton Opera House, which, I’m afraid to say, never actually happened in the 1970s…and hasn’t since, for that matter! So, was this another one of those instances where the entertainment world of Communist-Era Czechoslovakia was doing something not even thought-of here in the UK? – where, at the time, we had a thriving, regionally based, independent, commercial TV network, as opposed to Czechoslovakia’s two state-run monoliths in Prague and Bratislava.
While I was in the Czech Republic recently one of the places I had picked out as a particularly desirable destination, as a location associated with two favourite GOTGE, was Slaný, so, on the penultimate day of my holiday, (Sunday, 22nd January), knowing that fitting it in on the final day would have been impossible, I made the train trip out from Prague (Masarykovo nádraží) to Slaný, on a beautifully sunny day, with a memorable trip on a double-decker along the gorge of the River Vltava to make a change at Kralupy nad Vltavou to a yet more memorable journey on the Louny-bound single-carriage railcar – quite the cutest (and noisiest!) train on which I have ever travelled! – to Slaný. It is quite fitting that a town with a name like Louny was the destination, since it certainly could be described as ‘the loony train’!
Here are some photos I took on the way.
To Kralupy nad Vltavou
From Kralupy nad Vltavou to Slaný
Thinking that there could only possibly be one theatre in a town the size of Slaný, on looking at the street plan my eyes were immediately drawn to the classic map legend for a theatre – the comic and tragic masks – at one of the four corners of the town’s main square. So, I made my way there and thought to myself, “if one imagines the scale of the venue as it appeared in the YouTube videos I’ve seen how could anything like that have possibly fit into a building like this???” “Is it like Doctor Who’s Tardis, or something?” (I know, by the way, that that will be ‘Pán času’ (‘The Time Lord’) to a Czech audience). As it transpired, the following photos of my Jitka Zelenková and Jana Kocianová records posed for the photo were taken at the wrong theatre, but I didn’t know that as I took it. The Hotel Hejtmanský dvůr does indeed have a theatre, but it is only a small affair suitable for fashion shows and the like and local theatrical productions.
As I was turning back out of town to head towards the station I spotted a sign to the ‘Městské Divadlo’ and it was then that the penny began to drop that there might be more than just the one theatre in Slaný after all and when I arrived there it became immediately obvious that it fitted the bill considerably more, scale-wise, than the Hotel Hejtmanský dvůr. It is strange to report that I must have walked straight past it on the way from the station, but, since the main frontage is slightly up a side street, from where the first two were taken and I was intent on striding into the town centre as fast as possible, along the pavement from where the last of the three was taken, it is easy to tell how I might have missed it.
Here are some more images of the Městské Divadlo.
To give GOTGE Readers a flavour of the sort of the ‘Wild Nights with Karel Gott’ referred to – in Slovak – in the magazine with both Karel Gott and Jitka Zelenková – next to the cameo of Jitka it reads ‘…reflects on her younger days’ – on the cover which I purchased during my March 2016 trip to Slovakia…
…here is a selection of some of ‘The Best Bits’ out there on YouTube of those two years when both Jitka and Jana were on the show, one of which I have previously embedded in GOTGE and some brand-new material. There may be one or two tunes in there with which Western European/North American-based GOTGE Readers may already be familiar.
Those TV recordings must have been quite some occasion in the town, packed with eager teenage fans….and how on earth did they all get there? I’d have loved to have been on that railcar, or whatever its contemporary equivalent was, on the recording days back at that time and seen how crowded it got! Failing the train, the roads to Slaný must have been thronged with hitch-hikers!
To go with Jana Kocianová’s biography, as GOTGE Readers can see from the following selection of goodies I brought back from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, I also managed to pick up Jitka Zelenková’s and Petra Černocká’s, making two books about artists with whom Valérie Čižmárová was closely involved at some stage or other of her career. It’s interesting to note that there is the same photo of Karel, Jitka and Jana in action at the Městské Divadlo in both Jitka’s and Jana’s books, but I’m sticking just to the covers thereof to avoid any copyright infringement….unless I’ve already done something dodgy in that respect by uploading ‘Oči nelžou’ and ‘Koňskou dráhou’ to YouTube!
I’m very glad that I spotted ‘Sem Tam’ at the book shop at Praha hlavní nádraží (Prague Main Station) since there is a photo on page 36 of Jitka with a just seventeen-year-old Valinka and others at the Divadlo Rokoko in 1969 – one of my Facebook Friends, Karel Bláha, Drahomíra Vlachová, Darek Vostřel, Pavlína Filipovská, Jiří Šašek, Valinka herself, Karel Štědrý, Karel Hála and the writer of Valinka’s second single, ‘Když mě chceš’, Milan Klipec.
There is also a mention, on page 57 of none other than the President of the U.S.A., Donald Trump, whose former wife, Ivana, originated from Czechoslovakia (the town of Zlín, at that time known as Gottwaldov), née Zelničková. The musical accompaniment on ‘Zpívá Karel Gott’ was provided by Ladislav Štaidl’s group (he’s the one in the checked jacket on the left in Jitka’s ‘Ve stínu na pláži’ video). His brother, Jiří, was a famous songwriter himself and was linked with a string of glamorous female celebrities, including Ivana Zelničková (a successful skier) and the figure skater, Hana Mašková, whose death in a car accident in March 1972 was followed by Jiří’s own in the same way only some eighteen months later.
‘Ve stínu na pláži’ was to the same tune as Donna Hightower’s ‘This World Today Is In A Mess’ and they are mentioned on the same page as Donald Trump.
Hmmmm, is there something in that, I wonder? 😉