Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fiona Spence

Today I'm going to learn about Fiona Spence. If I manage to find the time. Because right now I have two other obsessions besides Australia. It's not just Doctor Who anymore. Now I'm also obsessing over Ebola. Because it's in our metroplex. I was totally not freaked out at first. Then as the details starting coming through, I lost more and more faith in the intelligence and capabilities of our local medical professionals.


Fiona Spence. She plays Celia Stewart on Home and Away. Or she did. I'm not sure if she still makes appearances on the show. I'll hopefully learn more about that today.

I love Celia Stewart. I miss her a bit, since I've been expelled from Summer Bay. Sometimes I'd imagine myself living in that lovely little beach town. And when I did, I'd imagine myself being friends with Celia. Don't get me wrong. She'd drive me nuts with her gossip and strong religious beliefs. But I still imagine us being friends.

The last time I saw Celia Stewart, she had been fooled by Viv and Emma into thinking her sister Morag's house was haunted. Andrew led her to the truth of the situation, and the two of them were planning some type of fun wicked revenge plan.

I wonder what it was.

I'm getting to the point where I'm doubting I'll ever return to 1990 Summer Bay. So maybe I'll actually seek out the spoilers.

Lord Wiki says they faked a haunting during the dance the teens had at Morag's house.  Well, because that's what the teens did to Celia. They wanted a party at Morag's house, but wanted to make sure Celia didn't find out about it. So they scared her away. Then I guess Celia and Andrew got revenge by scaring the teens at the party.

Lord Wiki also told me some other shocking stuff. At some point, Celia goes to Africa and is taken hostage by rebels in Nigeria. Wow!

As for Fiona Spence, I don't know much about her, except that besides Home and Away, she was also on that prisoner show. What's it called again?

Well, I'll find out when I look at her filmography, I suppose.

For now, I'm going to look at her bio page on IMDb.

Fiona Spence was born on October 10, 1948 in England. She's about a month younger than my mom.

It's funny. In 1990, when she was on the show, she was the same age my mom would have been in 1990.  But I was watching the 1990 episodes in 2014, and now I'm the one that's very close to the age of Celia Stewart.

Spence started acting when she was in her late twenties. Before that worked for a London Department store. Like Rose Tyler!!!

I wonder when Spence came to Australia.

One more thing from the biography page: Fiona Spence has a sister named Kerry Spence. Both sisters were on the show, Prisoner: Cell Block H. Ah! And now I have the title of the show I had forgotten.

Next on my agenda is looking at the filmography of Fiona Spence.  It's much shorter than I expected. A lot of actors are in many things, but the appearances are minor. I think Spence has been in only a few screen projects, but had big roles in most of them.

Spence's first screen appearance was on a TV show called Glenview High. In 1978, she was in an episode in the first season. She would have been about thirty then.

Lord Wiki has just informed me that Spence was in the one and only season. The show was canceled because of low ratings.

In 1981, Spence was in a miniseries about Aboriginal women called Women of the Sun.  The program was made up of different segments, and Spence was in the one titled "Lo-Arna".

Lord Wiki says "Lo-Arna" took place in the 1980's It's about an adopted woman who believed she was from French Polynesia, and then learns she's Aboriginal. Spence plays the mother.

Crap. I made a chronological mistake again. I always do this.

So....let's rewind.

Go back to 1979. That's the year Spence started working on Prisoner: Cell Block H.  She played the character of Vera Bennett in 222 episodes.  She started with the first episode, and was there for three years. Then the show went on for a few years without her.

Lord Wiki says Vera Bennett was a tough prison guard. She has a bit of a stick up her ass, because she's been caring for her invalid mother.  Unlike Maconochie, Vera's not into progressive prison programs. She thinks prisoners need discipline.

Lord Wiki's cousin has more information about Vera Bennett. I'm going to read that now.

Vera Bennett's nickname is vinegar tits. As far as rude names go, that one's very clever. I'm often not a big fan of metaphors. But I like that one. It fits. If you connect breastfeeding to care-taking, milk would be nurturance. Bennett's job is to take care of the female prisoners, but she does so in a mean-spirited way. So it would be like she's nurturing the inmates with vinegar rather than milk.

I was wondering if perhaps Bennett is really strict, but has a good heart the dance teacher on Dance Academy.

I'm getting the idea that this is not the case. There was an inmate whose daughter died and wanted to attend something. Lord Wiki's cousin doesn't tell me what she wanted to attend, but I I'll assume it was the funeral. Bennett said no, not with reluctance, but enjoyment.

Though Bennett was awful to the prisoners, she does have a sympathetic backstory. It's not just that her mother was an invalid. She was abusive. She was decent and normal when other people were around to witness, and awful when Bennett was alone with her.  I've not had that experience. But I have had the experience of being with someone who is super, incredible, wonderful, close-to-perfect, amazing, and spectacular, when certain other people are around. And then when those others are not around, the person often goes back to being mediocre....normal...a human being with faults.And all that is fine. But it's frustrating when people imagine that what they see is what I ALWAYS get.

Maybe what I prefer is the situation I had with my cat Mu Shu. When other people were around, he was often like a psycho tiger—scary and mean...or at least shy and very aloof. But with me, he was so full of love. He was so cuddly.

The best is probably somewhere in the middle, though—someone who is nice to almost everyone, but especially nice to those that are closest to them.

Actually now that I think of it, the cat situation was probably as equally frustrating as the first situation I mentioned. It's that whole feeling of imagining people are making assumptions about my life and relationships, and I want to say, no, no. You have to understand. It's not like what you think. It's different.  And sometimes I have said stuff like that.  Some of those times I've felt understood and believed.  Most of the time, though, I feel people are humoring me, or annoyed with me and wishing I'd shut up about it.

Now I'm going to shut up about it and watch a little bit of Prisoner: Cell Block H.  I've seen Spence on the show recently, when I was researching someone else. But I figure it might be a good idea to watch her on the show again today.

There's a scene with Spence at 4:22. She's being quite strict, although not particularly cruel in that scene.

I'm wondering if Vera Bennett is similar to Jessica Lange's character in American Horror Story: Asylum.

I'm going to move on now.

The next thing on Spence's filmography is I Can Jump Puddles. I think I've read about this movie before, but I don't know why.

It's about a man with polio.

I'm going to look at the cast list and see if there are names I recognize, besides Fiona Spence.

Jason Donovan!

And Sigrid Thornton. Though I haven't written about her yet.

I don't know why the movie seems familiar to me.

Fence has a seven year gap in her filmography. Maybe she was doing theater? Raising a family? Writing poetry? Struggling to find work, perhaps.

Then in 1988, she started working on Home and Away. IMDb says she was on the show from 1988-1990. Then she returned in 2000 for one episode and 2002 for 13 episodes.  She was in two episodes in 2005, two episodes in 2012, and many episodes in 2013.

I'm surprised she left in 1990. I had no idea! She wasn't on that many episodes past where I stopped watching.

Maybe I'm kind of glad I was forced to stop watching. I wouldn't have wanted to go through all the character changes.

I have a really rough time with such changes on Doctor Who.  I'm finally okay with Martha Jones replacing Rose Tyler.  It's not that I've had a problem with Martha. I've always liked her. It's just she's not Rose,

But now after eight episodes of Martha Jones, I'm attached to her. She has a piece of my heart. Of course, as soon as she has a huge piece of my heart, she'll be replaced with a new character. And I'll have to go through the whole thing all over again.

I think I do better with shows that have a stable cast. Although maybe it's good for me to endure the changes. Maybe it builds character. I don't know.

Here is a preview of episode 5692 of Home and Away. It's the most recent episode that Spence has been on.  It shows Celia trying to give her engagement ring to someone to pass on to someone else. I'm guessing it's the same ring she had when I watched the show—the one given to her by her fiancĂ© who was killed in the war.

After Spence left Home and Away in 1990, she did a few other screen things.

She was in two episodes of a TV show called Acropolis Now.  Lord Wiki says the show was about a Greek family in Melbourne.

Then in 1993, Spence was in a miniseries called Law of the Land.  She's listed as being in unknown episodes, which I take to mean she had a small part.  There are a few names on the cast list of the show that are familiar to me—Asher Keddie, David Roberts, Hugh Jackman, and Radha Mitchell.

Wait. I thought it was a miniseries because on IMDb the actor with the most episodes is listed as being in only five episodes. But Lord Wiki says it had four seasons and 52 episodes.

Lord Wiki mentions Spence and her character, so that leads me to think she didn't have such a small role, after all.

In 2013, Spence appeared in ten episodes of the 6th season of Packed to the Rafters.  Is the 6th season the last season; or is that show still on?

Well....IMDb shows it ending in 2013.

Lord Wiki confirms that.

On Packed to the Rafters, Spence played Eleanor.  Lord Wiki says Eleanor is the ex-lover of Ted (the grandfather). I'm wondering if she was his lover back before Ted was married. Or was she a lover he had after his wife died?  I'm doubting he had an extra-marital thing. But I could be wrong.

Now I'm going to read Lord Wiki's entry about Fiona Spence.

He says she's been in theater productions in both Australia and the UK.

From 1979 to 2011 she was married to a man named Denise Morgan. That's a pretty long marriage.

Spence's mother was Irish and her father was an Australian serving in the British army.  In the 1950's, they all moved to Australia. So she's been in Australia since childhood.

Well...wait. I forgot, and Lord Wiki reminded me, she returned to England. I was thinking that I had imagined her coming to Australia as an adult.  It wasn't just random imaginings. Remember? I had mentioned earlier that Spence had worked in a London department store.

What happened is she left Australia and went to work in Canada. She was a hostess for the Australian Pavilion at the Canadian Expo. Then she moved to London where she worked at the department store. She'd go to plays in the West End, and this is what made her interested in acting. It's very cool that her interest became her career.

Spence returned to Australia and joined a group called the Independent Theatre School, which is no longer in existence.

During all this, Spence was engaged twice. Then finally she entered into a marriage that would last for 31 years. That's not a super long time. But it's a good bit of time.

Or....I guess they weren't married. Lord Wiki says they were partners.

It was death that ended the relationship.

Spence met this partner (Denise Morgan) on the set of Prisoner. He was a scriptwriter.

I wonder how many actors partner up with crew members from their shows and movies rather than other actors. And what's usually a better match? Well...maybe it just depends on the personalities and situation.

Lord Wiki says that when Spence left Prisoner,  many fans wrote and called in to ask for her to stay. But she wanted to go. She was ready to move on.

While working on Home and Away, Spence got herself an English degree at Monash University.  I wonder why she decided to do that.

I hear a really weird noise outside. Just wanted to mention that.

Spence did some theater, including a stage production of Prisoner in the UK. I think there was also a Home and Away stage play in the UK. I think maybe it was a musical?

There's a thunderstorm coming. That's probably what I'm hearing. Well, it does sound like thunder. But it sounds like it's coming from the ground. And then there was this other strange noise.

Tim is spending all afternoon and evening in Dallas to take photos of a game.  I'm wondering if he checked the weather before leaving. Does he really think they're still going to have the game? And does he want to risk getting his camera wet?

Now our electricity is flickering.

And there's Ebola in Dallas.

It's a bit paranoid to not want him to go to Dallas because of that. And we're all supposed to be going there soon as well. But still....

There seems to be a rule in our life that if there's a huge thunderstorm, our alarm goes off for a mysterious reason, or there's a terrorist attack on our country....Tim won't be home.

I'm exaggerating. There's been a few storms and one alarm situation in which Tim has been home. But I think for the most part, Jack and I are usually home alone when these things happen.

Here's an article about Spence's 2013 return to Home and Away.

The reason Celia returned is she wanted to attend the wedding of her niece Roo.

She said she hadn't been back since 2005, so maybe IMDb had it wrong about her being back in 2012.

Spence has very nice things to say about Home and Away. She says, It's well acted and well shot, and the sea and surf in Summer Bay has to be one of the best-loved landscapes on television.  I agree with that.

She also says she's happy to return for more appearances in the future. I like when actors are willing and happy to do that. Well, first of all. It's nice of them. And I especially like it when they are eager to come back. I like knowing that actors enjoyed their time on the show as much as I loved the show.

And of course, I have to bring up Doctor Who again. I loved Christopher Eccleston on the show, and I think it's sad he didn't have a good time with it. I don't know if that's more his fault or more the fault of the other people who worked on the show. Maybe it's a little bit of both. sours things a bit.

I don't blame him. And I actually understand. I once left a job prematurely. I tend to feel it was more THEIR fault than mine. In reality, it was probably more about us being a bad match.

So yeah...I'm very glad Fiona Spence enjoyed her time on Home and Away.

There seems to be a lot of stuff about Fiona Spence and her time on Prisoner: Cell Block H. I have to admit, I'm not overly interested. So I probably won't read or watch much of it. Or anymore of it, actually.

Or maybe I will actually watch this one 1990 interview. The purpose is to promote the stage version of Prisoner.  But she might also talk about Home and Away, and other stuff.

The interview show is showing a scene from Prisoner with Vera Bennett having a rare attack of kindness. I thought it would be a scene from the play, but it looks like it's from the show.

Spence says Vera did actually have a soft spot for one of the prisoners.

Fiona Spence is very different from Celia Stewart.

They're talking about whether Prisoner is taken seriously by the fans, or is it sort of a joke. And what about the play? The interviewers seem to think that it's seen as a joke. But Spence seems to think it's not. People take the show seriously.  And she says, though the play does have intentional humor, they're not doing it as a parody of the TV show.

Again, it reminds me of Doctor Who.  This is good, though. I'd rather be thinking about Australia and Doctor Who than Ebola.


Doctor Who does have a lot of intentional humor.  But often I think the serious parts...the funny as well. So am I bad fan to feel that way? Are there fans who take it all very seriously?

Would the writers, directors, and actors be disappointed and offended to know some people might laughing at scenes that are supposed to be scary or serious?

And I'm not saying I LAUGH at everything. I have moments where I feel the sorrow and seriousness.

Now that I think of it more, I think it's probably expected that we laugh at the show. Isn't it supposed to be campy? And aren't we expected to laugh at campy things?

 I just learned something kind of important about Fiona Spence. She's gay. I had no idea. I just found out, because while Googling I found an obituary about her partner. Denise Morgan was a woman. Should I have known that?  I think I was probably reading the name as Dennis rather than Denise. Or I was thinking Denise was another way of spell Dennis.


I feel dumb.

This would explain why Spence's engagements didn't turn into marriage. It's good that she realized she was on the wrong path with the whole heterosexual thing and got herself on the right path.

Sadly, Denise Morgan died of ovarian cancer.

I think ovarian cancer is a really scary thing. It's so good at hiding.

But I hope Spence and Morgan had a wonderful relationship before the end approached.

I feel really stupid about the Denise thing. If I was smart and normal, I'd just correct my mistake and pretend it never happened. But I feel dishonest doing that. I guess I like to showcase my stupidity and ignorance. Sometimes. Other times I like to show off my superb intelligence and wit (that manifests in very rare moments).

I am wondering if it's just so shocking to me that Fiona Spence is gay. It's actually not surprising. But it would be incredibly shocking if Celia Stewart was gay. And I still have not fully separated Celia from Fiona.  Am I making sense? So although the smart part of my brain should know Denise is a woman's name, maybe my brain tricked me into thinking it was something else.

Or not. Now that I think of it....I don't think I would have had the same reaction if Spence's partner was named Michelle, Susan, or Heather. I'm very familiar with those names, and definitely see them as female names. But it could really be that I'm less familiar with the name "Denise", so it was easier to mistake it for a man's name.

Hey! I might not be totally nuts. has it listed as a boy's name.  It's probably a mistake, but I made the same mistake, so I can hardly blame them.

Lord Wiki says Denise is a female name and is reminding me about Denise Huxtable.


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