Orson Welles was Parkinson’s first coup. He agreed to appear in the show’s first year, 1971, but only, Parkinson recalls:
“if we knocked the first two rows out of a jet so he could sleep on a mattress.”
“We did it… he walked on the plane, looked at the mattress on the floor and smiled, and went and sat in the seat.”
Welles insisted that Parkinson throw away his scrupulously prepared questions, assuring him, “We’ll talk”. It was worth it. Welles mulled over his love for bull-fighting:
“it is indefensible and irresistible”; he also recalled coming to blows with Ernest Hemingway during a read-through: “You have the picture of the Spanish Civil War being projected on a screen, and these two heavy figures swinging away at each other, and missing most of the time… The lights came up, we burst into laughter, and we became great friends.”
Parky remembers his joy at booking Welles: We thought, if we can get Orson Welles, the rest will follow – bill it and they will come. And we were right.