Michaela Strachan has told how she couldn’t stop giggling when she watched a re-run of The Hitman and Her from Flicks nightclub in Brechin.
From 1988 to 1992, Michaela starred as ‘Her’ in the cult ITV late-night clubbing show after a presenting career which began on TV-am and The Wide Awake Club.
The Hitman was Pete Waterman, then riding incredible levels of success and best known as one third of the hugely successful music production and song-writing partnership, Stock Aitken Waterman.
Flicks opened 35 years ago on December 20 1985, the club’s name and recognisable cinema ticket logo was a nod to the building’s past life as the old King’s Theatre.
Flicks had a strong business relationship with Pete and hosted a number of the record boss’s chart-toppers including Jason Donovan, Bananarama and Rick Astley.
Steve Wright was a regular DJ there and late EastEnders star Leslie Grantham and glamour model Samantha Fox were among the special guests.
The Hitman and Her was filmed live from its dancefloor four times including a show which took place 30 years ago where Pete and Michaela dressed as pop duo Bros.
“I watched the Brechin show back from the summer of 1990 and I was giggling away with my headphones on,” said Michaela.
“My partner kept looking at me and I said: ‘Look at this bit!’.
“Because he’s South African he doesn’t really realise what the late 80s and early 90s was like in the UK but I was wetting myself at some of the stuff.
“It was such a bizarre idea and yet it has become so cult and I find it extraordinary how many people seem to remember it and how many people watched it considering it went out in the middle of the night.
“The wildlife stuff has now taken over but I’m always surprised by the amount of people who say they remember me from the Hitman and Her and the show in a really fond way.
“Flicks was extremely friendly and welcoming and they absolutely loved us being there in Brechin.
“I think it’s quite sad there just aren’t those sort of clubs like Flicks any more.
“Now it’s all bars with some music and a bit of a dance floor.
“I wonder why that era has gone so much?
“When I was watching the Brechin show we were reading out some letters and there was one from abroad which said: ‘We love the show so much because we hear the new dance tracks that are coming out’.
“I think it was an avenue for that sort of music that nobody else really had because there were very few outlets for dance music which were being played on TV.”
Flicks was famed for its laser light show and drew clubbers from across the UK with the promise of seeing that generation’s biggest singers, soap stars and personalities.
Michaela said: “When I watched the Brechin episode it was two hours of people dancing with people talking in between.
“A lot of people would come in from their own night out and switch it on and probably fall asleep watching it!
“The bits that made me laugh was a segment called Step Back in Time where we would dress up and of course our budget was never big.
“In Brechin we were doing Bros and both me and Pete were dressed up as Matt and Luke Goss with blonde wigs and leather jackets.
“We were so irreverent and back then you got away with it because there was no social media back in those days.
“Nobody was as self-conscious back in those days.
“Now as a celebrity you are so self conscious about anything you say or do just in case someone takes it the wrong way and your whole career is over.
“That wasn’t around in those days.”
The Hitman and Michaela
The 54-year-old presenter, who is best known for hosting nature programmes, said the show was originally to be called The Hitman and Michaela.
“It was all really bizarre,” she said.
“Pete Waterman worked with a guy called Nick Wilson who was the producer of children’s entertainment at TV-am and created the Wide Awake Club.
“He went on to set up his own company and Pete Waterman wanted him to try this late-night show and they were looking for someone to do it with him.
“Nick thought I would be great but at the time I was still working for TV-am on the Wide Awake Club and Michaela on Sunday which started at 7am.
“We had to get permission from TV-am to do this show which would go out in the middle of the night on the same channel.
“By the time they came to advertise the show I still hadn’t had my contract signed which is why it ended up as The Hitman and Her rather than The Hitman and Michaela.
“The Hitman and Her is a much better title!”
Michaela almost didn’t make the show’s pilot episode when she injured her ankle while she was out running with the dog.
“I went to the physio and he said I should be walking in a couple of weeks,” she said.
“I said: ‘I’m doing a pilot for a new music and dancing show and not only have I got to be walking I’ve got to be dancing on it!
“I managed to make the pilot and although it was a bonkers idea it carried on for four years after Granada TV originally gave us six weeks.
“It was such good fun.
“I was 22 and stayed until I was 26 so at that age to be paid to be dancing in a nightclub was the stuff of dreams.
“We were paid quite well and in fact I don’t think I earn that much more now for the BBC nature programmes than I did for The Hitman and Her 30 years ago.
“It would be my worst nightmare now at 54 and I could think of nothing worse than having to go into a club and dance for two hours but at 22 it was an absolute laugh.
“It wasn’t particularly rehearsed apart from the bands that came in and the sound was always quite tricky but me and Pete hardly rehearsed at all.
“We would mark out a couple of positions and that was it really.
“It was an easy show to do and in the early days the whole team came from London and we used to come up in this tour bus.
“I thought this was such a laugh.
“We would sleep in bunk beds in the bus on the way home from the nightclub.
“As it went on the team came from Granada in Manchester so I was one of the few people driving back to London.
“At first I had a driver and after a while I drove myself back in the middle of the night which was absolutely potty!”
Michaela said going to Brechin was always a highlight but there were a couple of shows that stood out for the wrong reasons including the Hacienda in Manchester.
“They were so unwelcoming,” he said.
“It was super trendy in the early 90s and we were the wrong show for that club.
“The last thing they wanted was Stock Aitken and Waterman tracks being played.
“We tweaked the music but they hated us and I got a glass thrown at me and they were rude to Pete and I couldn’t wait to get out.
“It felt so hostile.”
Michaela said she now looks back on The Hitman and Her with such fondness and admits it was such a great laugh as well as being a fantastic opportunity.
“It was a show that people loved,” she said.
“It was very tongue in cheek too and great fun to be part of.
“I loved dancing, I trained as a dancer, and I loved music so I loved it standing there.
“I loved the bits where we could just dress up and have fun like we did in Brechin.
“I just loved the freedom of it.”
Flicks was the best nightspot in the UK
Flicks in Brechin should never have worked.
It was a plan hatched by three local pals to turn the old cinema of a quaint Angus burgh into a nightclub fit to rival anything in the land.
Stuart Aikenhead and fellow Brechin men Mike Swilinski and Pete Barr bought the old King’s Cinema for £800,000 and transformed it into a state-of-the-art nightclub.
With Dundee, Aberdeen and Perth all within an hour’s travelling time and the Edzell US Naval base on the doorstep, there was a huge customer base.
People even came from as far away as Newcastle.
Shrewd marketing – such as free ticket offers to people turning 18 or 21 – and buses taking revellers to the club and home again often led to a packed venue.
Steve Wright, the wacky Radio 1 DJ was a regular at Flicks.
Signing off his show late afternoon Friday, he would fly up to Edinburgh and be driven to Brechin along with his sidekick Peter Dickson — the man who did all the voices on his show.
Bananarama, Doctor And The Medics, Man 2 Man Meets Man Parish, Village People, Sabrina, Aswad, Amazulu, Bruno Brookes and the top three male draws in EastEnders, Nick Berry (Simon Wicks), Tom Watt (Lofty) and Leslie Grantham (Dirty Den) all appeared there.
Then there was Page 3 girl Samantha Fox.
And there were many others.
Stuart and Mike sold the business in 1989.
It changed hands again a few times before closing permanently in 2005 and the club has languished on the Buildings at Risk Register ever since.