By the producer:
Mitch Winehouse and me
Spending a year filming Amy Winehouse's dad made me feel like an honorary member of the family, and see his daughter in a rather different light
It started with a letter to "Mr Winehouse" last January. Now I feel like an honorary member of the family – imagine The Sopranos if it was set on an executive estate next to Bluewater. As the producer of My Daughter Amy, a documentary for Channel 4 about Amy Winehouse's dad, Mitch, I've been finding out the consequences of his daughter's stardom and addiction for Mitch and his family.
I spent a year filming with Mitch. I met his friends – Tony with his six Ivor Novellos; East End Freddie, an old acquaintance of Princess Margaret's; other cabbies he'd known since he was a kid – shared many lunches of chicken soup and matzo balls, and was introduced to the joys of being "schmeissed" on a visit to the Porchester Baths in Bayswater, where basically I got naked, soaped up, then was beaten with a loofah as Mitch straddled me, naked too. It was an ice-breaker. I became a shoulder to cry on – and there was a lot to cry about: Mitch and I spent hours plotting how to get Blake out of Amy's life for good. If only we could introduce Amy to the actor Tom Hardy, we thought, wouldn't they just be perfect for each other?
One afternoon, a couple of months into filming, Mitch suggested we all go out to St Lucia. The next morning I was on a plane to Cotton Bay, an all-inclusive, five-star, high security honeymoon resort – the perfect place for people who want to holiday in a similar environment to Simon Cowell's X Factor boot camp. Amy had been living there for five months, and we were greeted by the entourage: two weary bodyguards, a girl from Chelmsford who did nails at the golf club and was Amy's new best friend, and a gaggle of scruffy local kids. And of course Amy – all chaotic movements, freckles and tousled hair, with no beehive and pretty in real life. "Who the fuck are you?" she asked. It wasn't quite the introduction I'd been planning.
That night we sat around Amy's private pool telling ghost stories; Amy wide-eyed as I told her about a dream I'd had. She has dreams too, she said, about her childhood cat, Simon. Mitch pulled me aside. He looked serious. There had in fact been two Simons. When the first one died they replaced him, Amy never realised. I was made to swear not to tell her.
I'm very fond of Mitch, and we survived the filming process, which is no mean feat. As for Amy, she can be rude, delightful, away with the fairies and then on you as sharp as anything. But then I've also spent afternoons with Mitch watching old home movies – where she's rather less of a superstar and rather more a naughty, foot-stamping four-year-old. Maybe that's best.
• Richard Hughes is the MD of Transparent Television and producer of My Daughter Amy, which is showing on Channel 4 tonight at 7.30pm.
Edit: Gee, maybe all Amy's bad dreams and problems are due to her cat inexplicably turning into another cat! Painfully dishonest parenting! I doubt Mr Hughes would have broken his promise if he didn't think it was something Amy needed to know.
Edited by Alan48, 08 January 2010 - 03:43 PM.