FOLLOWING the death of Likely Lads actor Rodney Bewes we republish this interview from 2006.

As Rodney Bewes' autobiography is published, Viv Hardwick looks at the Likely Lad's split with co-star James Bolam and why the pair haven't spoken for 30 years.

For the past 30 years, Rodney Bewes and James Bolam haven't spoke a word to each other since the The Likely Lads film came out in 1976. In his recently published autobiography, 67-year-old Bewes admits lying to journalists, including myself, about regularly having meals with the man he calls Jimmy and discussing the Sunderland-born actor's passion for horse racing.

Bolam, 68, couldn't call him a liar because he refuses to discuss one of Britain's best-loved sitcoms and left Bewes to do the press conferences when the BBC show was in its heyday.

According to Bewes, Bolam's obsession about not discussing his private life led to the man the TV audiences loved as waster Terry Collier putting the phone down on him while he tried to apologise about a newspaper feature. It was an amusing little story linked to the birth of Bewes's triplet sons. While driving the car, Bolam's wife Sue (Jameson) told him: "Er, you know Daphne's (Bewes's wife) had three, well I'm just having the one'. Bolam drove up the pavement and narrowly missed a lamppost before recovering his composure.

"Was it that bad?" questions the Bingley-born lad who became loveable Bob Ferris for 12 glorious years.

Then he adds: "It was to someone like Bolam. I rang him back and he didn't answer the phone and I never spoke to him again. He never spoke to me again. It's been nearly 30 years. We have never met, never bumped into each other in the theatre or voiceover studio in Soho. I've always thought how funny it would be to see him walking down a corridor towards me at the Television Centre or at Granada or Yorkshire Television... but it hasn't happened... yet."

The most hurtful side of the break-up of this acting partnership was Bolam's refusal to come on Bewes's This Is Your Life in 1980 and Thames Television had to find TV clips from the show which didn't include scenes of the two together. Bolam also had reservations about repeat showings of the series until 1990.

Bewes claims that the lies stop here and, in future, he'll tell the truth about the unlikely end to the pair's incredibly successful career.

Sadly, for the reader, he adds to the mystery by quoting at length from Whitley Bay's Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement's classic scripts but gives little away about Bolam.

He reflects that his co-star might have been needled about Bewes gaining top billing for the film. Forthright Bolam declined a percentage cut saying: "No, thank you, who wants five per cent of f*** all!". Bewes has never made a penny from profits.

He defends Bolam over his love-hate relationship with the North-East. Journalists were told at the film's Newcastle premiere: "Look, I took the last train in and I shall catch the first train out". Bewes indicates that the Wearsider's blunt response was understandable given a question about it being "great to be back". The newspaper headlines were 'Likely Lad shuns homeland!' and perhaps the final nail in the coffin of the Tyneside-based show.

It was also unlikely for the lads to last when the characters of Terry and Bob had become so much like the actors themselves. Bewes is twittering and a bundle of nervous energy when interviewed while Bolam hides that inner charm behind a cautious and sometimes hostile exterior.

The autobiography itself is a difficult read. Bewes has written it almost with one eye on adapting it as a TV script. He includes all the errs, ums and ... unfinished sentences pauses, in the hope that his reader will, perhaps, fill in the blanks.

Despite the stop-start nature of presentation, Bewes has a fascinating tale to tell of surviving a sickly childhood to become a teenage actor on TV. Despite being thrown out by Rada, having worked through drama school financed by lowly hotel kitchen duties, he finally broke into acting thanks to twice-nightly rep in Stockton.

Tom Courtenay became a friend during the making of the film Billy Liar and Bewes trots through a series of showbiz anecdotes about the greats like Eric Morecambe and Robert Mitchum, interspersed with his failed first marriage, troubled family affairs and meeting Daphne.

He recalls meeting Clement and La Frenais in 1964 with the Lads script originally based in Liverpool before being shifted to the North-East. The early shows were shot in Willesden Junction and became BBC2's first sitcom. That year's A Christmas Night With The Stars had Bolam and Bewes in a five-minute sketch which put The Likely Lads on a par with The Beatles in terms of popularity. Bewes gave up his own comedy series, Dear Mother... Love Albert, on ITV to star in BBC's Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads in 1973.

In the years of silence, Bolam has gone on to great things with The National Theatre and starring roles on BBC in New Tricks. Bewes has slipped into one-man touring shows presented with great cheerfulness and the delights of being a financially-strapped well-known father of four.

Back in the 1960s he remembers that Bolam told Lynda Lee-Potter in a rare interview: "I'm having some new track rods fitted on my car. I don't want to know anything about the man who's doing it. Why should he want to know about me?"

That makes it unlikely that Bolam has an autobiography up his sleeve to tell the other half of the story, but we'd love to think it was likely.