Omar Sharif

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 21st January 2017

I'm typing and listening to Alexander Armstrong's Movie music.  What has he just played?  The iconic piece from Laurence of Arabia when Omar Sharif rides out of the mirage in the desert, shoots an arab helping himself to the water in the well merely because he is of the wrong tribe (nothing changes does it).

Along with hundreds, if not thousands of women, I was an enormous fan of Omar Sharif and had the honour to interview him in the late 70's on the Magazine programme 'Pebble Mill at One'.  The senior person on the show, who always got the 'personality' interviews, was the late lovely Donny Macleod.  He was stuck in his home town of Aberdeen because of fog.  They were in a panic and I just happened to be sitting in the office reading up my notes for an interview with Jim Dale.

The breathless researcher ran into the room and said 'Jan could you do a pre-recording with Omar Sharif down in the lobby now.......' She'd hardly finished the sentence than I took off at the speed of light.

It is no secret that Omar was an inveterate gambler - both at cards, bridge and horse racing.  Apparently he needed money and had agreed to publicising Waddingtons Games Compendiums and that was why he happened to be in the Pebble Mill Studio in Birmingham.  Fortunately I'd bought his autobiography which had come out a few months previously so I wasn't completey without research.

We recorded the interview and then had to do the 'Cutaways' - that's where the interviewer repeats questions so that the film (as it was in those days) can be edited.  In the break, Omar asked me if I were married and I replied that I was divorced.  Because I'd pre-recorded the interview for use the next day the Editor allowed me the following day off and I returned to my home in Bristol.

On returning to the studio the researcher said 'Oh Jan, Omar Sharif phoned up yesterday asking to speak to you ...'.  Actually I was no way intelligent enough for a man like Omar but I might have got a lunch with my idol.

And then some years ago I was to attend a Conference in Barcelona.  Another couple and I decided that we'd go down by TGV and stop overnight in Perpignan because one of our number was thinking of buying a property in the area.  In the middle of our 'house hunting' we stopped for lunch at the picturesque Port of Collioure.  Guess who was filming there?  The runner very kindly agreed to take me to meet him past the cordon of guards.  I know that he couldn't possibly have remembered me from more than 3 decades previously BUT he treated me with such attention, warmth and charm that I was mesmerized.

I spent years (truly) trying to access a copy fo the film he was making in French 'J'Oublie que te dire'.  Finally I found it but it was only in French. His French I could understand but the remainder of the cast had strong southern accents and comprehension was impossible.

But that day and the interview remain two of the most precious memories in my life and it was so sad to hear of his death and the fact that he'd fallen prey to that dreadful predator 'Altzeimers'.


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