“Up above the streets and houses, rainbow climbing high, Everyone can see it smiling over the sky. Paint the whole world with a rainbow.” I learnt these lyrics before I learnt the lyrics to Baggy Trousers by Madness, the instituion that is the children’s tv program, Rainbow, had quite a definitive impact on my childhood, and I expect that resonates within my age group, and at a year away from my 50th birthday, that is quite an impact.
Rainbow, for the younger and less fortunate, consisted of two hand puppets called George (a pink camp cow) and Zippy (an alien with a zip for lips), and a human sized bear called Bungle. These were assisted by Rod Jane and Freddy and also the somewhat humble, master of ceremonies, Charles Geoffrey Hayes. Every kid knew him as Geoffrey, we never knew his surname, we didn’t care, he was our Geoffrey, all smiles and happy.
Geoffrey Hayes was born in 1942 and it wasn’t until 1974 when he took over from Rainbow presenter David Cook that he found his true glory. He had various jobs before 1974, such as a British Rail ticket clerk and a recurring acting role on Z Cars (ask your parents about that program if you’re younger than 50), and then he got the presenter job on Rainbow and like a rainbow, his career soared above the streets and houses until ITV, rather stupidily, cancelled Rainbow in 1997 after 27 seasons (1071 episodes).
Life after Rainbow was hard for Geoffrey, he was stacking shelves for his local Sainsbury’s for a few months because he had to work, he retired after a spell as a taxi driver stating that he couldn’t get any serious acting work because casting directors could only see the “happy presenter guy from Rainbow”. Beyond retirement, Geoffrey gained a cult following doing guest spots on tv game shows and adverts (commercials to those from the USA).
I personally remember watching Rainbow with fondness, I can do a rather good George and Zippy impression, but then can’t we all, but try doing Zippy without putting your hand up and across your mouth. Sorry I’m digressing from the real star of Rainbow, Geoffrey Hayes, there are few iconic tv stars from my childhood that have passed away that caused me to go “Oh no, that’s a shame” and Geoffrey was one of them. A humble and well-loved icon, but neglected by the industry he loved.
Geoffrey Hayes passed away in hospital from Pneumonia on 30th September 2018 aged 76 and I hope he is looking down on us, with his infectious smile, all realising the impact that he had on my generation and younger generations.
Just one lovely story from Geoffrey’s life, he was a massive football fan and because he lived in Dundee for some time in the 60’s, he asked the producers of Rainbow to make Zippy a tangerine colour, the main colour of Dundee United, rather than the blue of local rivals Dundee. if that is a true story then we have more to thank Geoffrey for because he made Zippy, George, Bungle and Rod, Jane n Freddy icons of my childhood too. Geoffrey, long may you live in the hearts of those who adored you.