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February 4, 2009

Rags to Richie: The Story So Far

by Shane Richie/Sue Crawford

Okay, so you might think it’s a bit of a cheesy read. It had been on my bookshelf for a couple of years, a gift from my wife at the time of Shane Richie’s successful stint in EastEnders as the cheeky chapie Alfie Moon. On the back of a heavy read I was looking for something light-hearted and easy going and the time finally seemed right to pick it up. After all – and I’m really not sure I should be admitting this – I’d just become hooked on Richie’s Don’t Forget the Lyrics on Sky 1.

I can tell you now, it was a page-turner from the beginning. Truly unputdownable. Richie takes us from his less-than-humble beginnings in London, revealing a strained relationship with his alcoholic father who never really “got” him and his ambition to be in showbiz. What stands out right from the start is Richie’s drive, his ambition and total commitment to making it. He loves to be the star while somehow making others feel they are the centre of attention. He eventually blagged (he is the self-confessed blagger of all blaggers) his way to a job as a Pontins Bluecoat while well under the requisite age, marking the start of an incredible career including several gameshows and those whiter-than-white Daz adverts.

As most of us know, Shane Richie went on to become a star on London’s West End as the lead in the musical Grease. He reveals how one seemingly harmless decision to continue with the show in Manchester ultimately led to the collapse of his marriage to Coleen Nolan. He is candid when he talks about his bad investments, serious money problems, heavy drinking and nose-diving career. What most of us – or perhaps I speak for myself – don’t realise by the time he resurfaces as Alfie Moon is just how hard he has worked to pick himself up from absolute rock-bottom, both personally and professionally, and what a struggle it has been to re-invent himself. His hard work and determination were rewarded with the role of Alfie Moon being created especially for him, having auditioned for a different part altogether (Tom the fireman).

After picking up what I at first thought would be another fairly unforgettable memoire, well, Shane – I’ve now locked in those lyrics! His story is told with sincerity and plenty of humour – even I laughed out loud. I now await with eager anticipation as Shane Richie is poised to reprise a series which featured yet another loveable rogue – Arthur Daley – in Minder (Channel Five, starts Feb 4, 2009).

Take a chance on this one – go on, you might even enjoy it.

James’ out-of-five star rating: ****

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