THE telephone at the side of Honor Blackman's bed shrills out that it's 7.15 a.m. on Monday morning. As she lifts the receiver in her Fulham, London, flat she knows it's a business call, for only her colleagues know the number.
Not only is it ex-directory, but the disc on the front of the phone deliberately displays her old number, now changed.
For Cathy Gale, judo-fighting blonde of The Avengers, has made Honor the most sought-after person in London - all part of the hectic week that starts now.
Audrey Riddle, The Avengers' wardrobe mistress, is on the line. Plans for Honor's dress fitting, made on Saturday, have been altered. Can she meet her at a West End costumier by 8.30 before going to rehearsal at Teddington by ten?
In minutes Honor is washed, dressed, has snatched a bite of breakfast and is speeding to town in her sleek, iris-blue sports car.
There follows 25 minutes of fitting and adjustment and the immediate crisis is over, but she will be needed again after rehearsal.
Back into the car, with the wardrobe chief as passenger. Once a dispatch-rider, Honor handles a car every bit as well as Cathy Gale.
She points the front wheels in the direction of Teddington Studios, puts her foot down and drives past the rush-hour traffic as it heads for London.
There, she and fellow "Avenger," Patrick Macnee, spend another day running through the script ... and the first gruelling hours of another 60-minute episode are under way.
The rehearsal, which was to have ended by 5.30 p.m., has overrun 20 minutes and it's almost six by the time Honor's car swings out of the studio gates and streaks for the West End.
But it's still not quite 6.30 as Honor is fitted with a new version of the latest "far out" creation the programme's costumiers have dreamed up.
"If I'm lucky, this fitting is over by 7.30, but before the present series began, I had to be fitted for 20 costumes in a few weeks and that meant almost living with the dressmaker," Honor told me.
"It certainly hasn't allowed me much time to buy new clothes for myself," she said, fingering the orange shirt she wore outside a tight, greyish skirt.
"I picked this up when I rushed to the hairdresser's one day. It was in the shop next door."
She edged in her chair to display the two cartridge pockets set high in the sleeves, a bright button fastening each.
"Just what Cathy Gale would order, but I really must have some clothes made for me."
Back home, each evening is an extension of her working day. The studio clock replaced by a smaller, no less impatient one on her lounge wall.
Now she unfolds a well-thumbed script. "It is not just a case of learning the lines - one night I learned the whole part in two hours - it's the action that has to be studied closely."
Standing in as Patrick Macnee is Honor's husband, TV and film actor, Maurice Kaufmann.
"Maurice and I have enacted dozens of scenes from The Avengers at home," said Honor.
"But having an actor for a husband does not mean every situation runs smoothly. For one thing, there is the difference between two actors' interpretations of a role.
"And since Parick Macnee often throws me lines spontaneously, I must always be flexible and watch for possible variations in the script."
Another day's rehearsing flips by and she is off for a hair-do, a wig-fitting or another costume call.
Or she's racing to the gymansium to work out judo moves with Messrs. Doug and Joe Robinson, her trainers in the art of self-defence.
"I prefer not to be watched when I am in the gym, especially by other women," she said. "The truths is, one can so easily be made to look a fool."
Honor often shares the shopping with Maurice in her busy week, too. A daily help cleans the flat while she's out working, but buying the evening meal is a task they squeeze into most daily routines.
Five days every week, the organised confusion of the rehearsal room is her life. The sixth day, it is replaced by the refined tension of recording.
But time, constantly running against Honor, does not slow down. If a new script is not awaiting attention, there is plenty of fan mail to answer... some of the hundreds of letters viewers send her every week.
The Avengers has forced a temporary farewell on Honor's friends. "I have four very dear friends, but since Cathy Gale was born, I haven't seen them for over a year."
Among her fan mail are requests for Cathy to make personal appearances. A college had a plan to kidnap her for their "rag" week. They wanted her for three days!
"I said I simply could not spare the time," explained Honor.
From: The TV Times, England, November 15th 1963.
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