George Best: This Charming Man

GEORGE Best was a charming man.
He’s played by Tom Payne in a new TV drama tonight.
In the 25 years or so before his death, I met and interviewed George a number of times.
Including the morning after his infamous drunken appearance on BBC1’s Wogan chat show in September 1990.
That day’s tabloid headlines had already made their minds up.
Disgraced George had gone too far this time with his foul-mouthed boozed up performance on live TV.
So the morning after the night before, I rang his home in Chelsea.
George’s, then, girlfriend Mary Shatila answered the phone and told me they were about to leave for Manchester.
I met up with them on the concourse at Euston station in London.
Where George, then aged 44, was mobbed by adoring fans.

All sympathetic to his plight and blaming both the BBC and Terry Wogan – not him – for the drunken TV appearance.
Most saying that he had been exploited and TV bosses should never have allowed him on in that state.
George was an alcoholic and came with all the baggage that illness carries with it.
He caused plenty of damage along the way to other people’s lives.
But many found you could forgive those Irish eyes almost anything.

Fifteen years after George caught that train north, he was dead.
Killed by booze.
Best – His Mother’s Son (BBC2, tonight, 9pm) tells a much earlier story.
But it helps to explain, in part, what came next.
You can read my main feature on the excellent one-off drama here.
I also used more quotes from my interview with former Waterloo Road star Tom (pictured with glass in hand) in yesterday’s MEN.
Tom, 26, is, of course, too young to remember George in his Manchester United glory years.
Even so, he did his best, so to speak, to catch up.
“I made sure that I watched all the documentaries, read the books and interviews with him,” Tom told me.
“But I was careful who I spoke to. Quite early on I decided not to talk to anyone unless they really knew him or had some experience of him.
“You mention that you’re playing George Best in this film and they’ll immediately spout forth an opinion about George.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people’s opinions just come from what they’ve read in the papers.
“I got to know him better through all the research and meeting the right people.
“So I felt a lot more comfortable with doing it because I felt that I knew him a lot more.
“He was a lovely man.”
A Family United By Tragedy.
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