Viva Las Vegas!

Last night, ITV1 soap opera Coronation Street said goodbye to Ray Langton, Deidre Barlow’s first husband, as he lost his battle against stomach cancer.

Langton (played by Neville Buswell) left the soap in 1978, reappearing earlier this year. He told Deirdre and their daughter, Tracey, that he’d been living in Holland all that time. But there’s something he didn’t tell them…

For a brief period circa 1997, he was working as a waiter in a Las Vegas hotel. In the straight-to-video spin-off “Coronation Street – Viva Las Vegas!”, he bumped into Vera Duckworth, who was there with her husband Jack. This being Corrie, however, it wasn’t quite as simple as that — Jack and Vera had rowed, after Jack revealed that he’d faked his age on their wedding certificate, invalidating it and rendering the last forty years of their marriage void.

_Viva Las Vegas_ is, with enough cheap plonk inside you, a bit of a laugh. Never designed to be shown on television, the script (by a then unknown hack by the name of Russell T Davies) is full of knowing winks for fans of the soap. From Maxine Heavey bursting into a spontaneous, badly dubbed version of _Happenin’ All Over Again_ (a one-hit wonder for Maxine’s alter ego, actress Tracey Shaw), Liz Dawn directly addressing the camera and some cracking jokes (when Vera discovers she and Jack are not legally wed, she wonders aloud what that makes their son, Terry. “I suppose,” answers Jack, “it makes it official…”), the high points outweigh some crass stereotyping and more ludicrous plotlines than have ever been seen in the broadcast show.

The absolute highlight, though, is the reunion between Ray and Vera — more accurately, Vera’s recap of what’s been going on in the Street since he left. As Jack sits in another bar, complaining about how dull his life is, Vera goes into full flow with the hope of impressing her new American friend, Biddy Baxter:

> Well, it’s called a Street; it’s more of a crescent — an avenue, really. I mean, it’s very upmarket, isn’t that right _(sly wink to Ray)_? … Well, I own it now, you know, the Rovers… mind you, we’re lucky it’s still standing. Just after you left, 79 was it _(“78.”)_ Oh, right… Deirdre left Tracey outside the Rovers, you know, in a pram. All hell breaks loose ’cause this lorry drove straight through the windows. Buried Tracey under two ton of planks. Well, it didn’t really, because she’d been kidnapped two seconds before… That’s only the start — you wouldn’t believe what’s happened since you’ve been gone…
>
> [Deirdre] married a Moroccan, she’s Mrs Rachid now. Well, she was, because he went to give Tracey a kidney, only he’d no choice, ’cause he died… Nobody knows, it’s a mystery. Very hush-hush.
>
> And Emily Bishop, d’you remember her? You think Ernie’d being shot’d be enough, but no, she goes and marries Arnold Swain, who turns out to be a bigamist. Then he tries to take her in a suicide pact — well, me and Ivy were very upset.
>
> Alan Bradley tried to murder Rita Fairclough… but he got killed by a Blackpool tram.

All of which, apart from the avenue bit, was true — yes, it’s hard to imagine now, but Jack and Vera did briefly own the Rovers. Of course, Ray doesn’t believe a word — well, who would? — and in return, tells Vera that he got married in Amsterdam to a bloke called Raymond. They adopted three Vietnamese boat people and now he’s on the run from his evil twin.

The most unbelievable thing about it is that Vera didn’t breathe a word…

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.