The Birmingham man who shot to fame as ‘Bernie the Bolt’ on a TV gameshow which attracted an audience of 17 million, has died aged 72.
Behind-the-scenes TV worker John Baker fell into the hit role on ATV’s The Golden Shot which brought him celebrity status and sackfuls of fan mail, from the mid-1960s.
John, who lived all his life in Moseley, was chosen by the show’s director to appear blindfolded on screen loading a crossbow for contestants to aim at an apple in the studio. Contestants would instruct him by telephone where to aim, using the words "up a ;bit", "down a bit" and "fire".
Long-time friend Joe Lewis revealed John was at first reluctant to take the job on the programme, which was filmed at studios in Broad Street.
“It was beyond his wildest dreams in the end,” he said. “He started to get fan mail. He was just this kid from Moseley and suddenly he found himself a bit of a celebrity.
“There is a saying ‘it’s nice to be nice’ and he was a nice man. He was a smart, good-looking young fella and would’ve caught people’s eye and he always kept his looks.
“He’d get things in the mail from people asking him for advice and saying ‘Oh John, I watched your show, me and my sister think the world of you. If you’re ever passing pop in because our mum would love to see you’.”
“It was a fantastically popular show. The way things are with health and safety these days it wouldn’t be allowed.”
Joe, a 58-year-old property developer, said John remained friends with its one-time presenter Bob Monkhouse, until he died in 2003. He was also pals with Chris Tarrant, who he knew from working on Tiswas and its spin-off OTT.
“He was a very adaptable man,” added Joe. “He could be called on to do anything and he was proud he’d educated himself to do all those things.”
Bachelor John, who stayed in the profession for three decades, at one point feared he would lose a leg after he was injured while working on the drama series Muck And Brass. He was loading a van in Steelhouse Lane when a driver slipped on the pedals of his car and it ran into him.
* Three people played Bernie the Bolt during the TV show's original eight-year run from 1967 to 1975. The other two were Alan Bailey and Derek Young. None were ever introduced by their real name.