diamond geezer

 Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's not often you can celebrate the birthday of a cultural icon. Usually people become famous after their birth so, unless you're a future King or a Beckham offspring, your first day goes unchecked. But today we can all raise a glass to a much loved television star, born May 30th 2013. Because today is Parker's birthday.

If you're of a certain age you'll have watched Thunderbirds as a kid, partly because it was excellent but mostly because there was nothing else on. International Rescue were based on a fantastical tropical island with retractable swimming pool, backed up by a posh lady with a pink Rolls Royce and her butler. You know this already.

Only 32 episodes were ever made, although it feels like more because they were shown year after year after year. The first was shown in 1965, with the action set 100 years into the future in 2065. That seemed impossibly far away then, but we're already nearly halfway there, and a lot of the foretold technology has already appeared.

Gerry Anderson wanted his series to have a proper foundation, so all the characters were given full back stories including a notional day of birth. Most of the Tracy brothers were to be in their early 20s so their birthdays were in the 2040s. Lady Penelope was to be mid 20s, so her birthday was in 2039. And Parker was to be 52 (which surprises me because I always thought he was older), so his birthday was scheduled for 2013. For May 30th 2013. For today.
Born on May 30th 2013, Aloysius Parker is the last of a long line of faithful Cockney retainers who have served the English aristocracy for centuries. However, unable to follow in the family tradition and find employment as a butler, he fell in with various villains in the London underworld who taught him the tricks of the trade. A quick student, Parker soon gained a reputation for himself as one of the world's finest safe-crackers and cat burglars, a reputation that also landed him in prison for a spell. After his release, he attempted to make an honest living only soon fell back into his old habits and was caught by Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward while he was helping himself to the contents of an oil tycoon's safe. Penelope had heard of Parker's superior talents and offered him a working partnership in her espionage activities, as well as employment as both butler at Creighton-Ward Mansion and chauffeur of her car FAB 1. Now 52 years old, he remains a loyal and indispensable assistant to Lady Penelope during her dangerous assignments for International Rescue.
I found this nugget of information lurking on a Thunderbirds DVD when I bought the entire series a while back, on a whim. I've never got round to rewatching all the episodes but I have flicked through the extras, where I discovered a phenomenally retro 'F.A.B. Factfile', whose presentation makes even Ceefax look cool. A dozen pages give background details of the characters' profiles, including Parker's mini-biography reproduced above. It seems I missed Jeff Tracy's birthday - he's currently four years old and living on a wheat farm in Kansas. But I'm not too late to wish many happy returns to Aloysius 'Nosey' Parker, whose parents are probably checking into the Royal London Hospital as we speak.
Born 2 January 2009: Jeff Tracy
Born 30 May 2013: Aloysius Parker
Born 4 April 2039: Scott Tracy
Born 24 December 2039: Penelope Creighton-Ward
Born 8 October 2040: John Tracy
Born 14 November 2040: Brains
Born 15 August 2041: Virgil Tracy
Born 14 February 2043: Gordon Tracy
Born 20 June 2043: Tin-Tin Kyrano
Born 12 March 2044: Alan Tracy
In other biographical discoveries I learned that...
• Jeff Tracy abandoned his space career to raise his five sons after the tragic early death of his wife.
• Gordon Tracy is one of the world's fastest freestyle swimmers and is a past Olympic champion at the butterfly stroke.
• John Tracy is an electronics expert with a degree in laser communication and has published four astronomy text books.
• Lady Penelope works from her stately home at Foxleyheath in rural Southern England.
• Tin-Tin graduated with degrees in higher mathematics, advanced technical theory and engineering and is a qualified pilot. Outside work her main interests include water-skiing, swimming and designing her own clothes.
• Brains was orphaned when a hurricane struck his Michigan home. His idea of off-duty relaxation includes studying trigonometry and thermodynamics. To protect his identity in the outside world, Brains goes by the alias Hiram Hackenbacker. His real name is unknown.

Parker appears in precisely half of the 32 Thunderbirds episodes. In the first he races The Hood down the M1 from London International Airport firing the pink Rolls Royce's built-in machine gun to earn Milady's approval. In the last he distracts hotel guests from solar meltdown by organising a game of breakfast bingo in a Mediterranean town. I'm not sure that's the career trajectory Aloysius would have hoped for, but it's still quite a life. And it all begins today, somewhere East End local, so listen out later for the first yells of a superstar.

For a most appropriate birthday tribute, may I recommend listening to Parker - Well Done. This was the B side to the 1965 single release of the Thunderbirds theme tune, and features Sylvia Anderson sort-of singing the role of Lady Penelope. The four minute adventure has all the catchphrases you could hope for, plus what sounds like a couple of tracks from BBC Sound Effects Album 8. Now, Milady? Now, Parker.

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