When you think of EastEnders legends, who springs to mind?
Is it soap matriarchs like Pat Butcher or Pauline Fowler? Knuckleheads Grant and Phil Mitchell? Or maybe the tragic Ian Beale?
One name who is less likely to be mentioned is the humble and retiring Tracey the Barmaid.
Tracey, played by Jane Slaughter, has been cleaning glasses and gawping at catfights and Queen Vic brawls for 30 years, first appearing on the BBC One soap in 1985.
After three decades of putting up with the rows and turmoil of the Beales, Mitchells, Watts and Butchers, Tracey is finally getting her own storyline later this month – playing a key role in the return of Kathy Beale to the Square.
To mark the occasion, we’ve paid tribute to six of our favourite ‘silent’ soap stars.
1. Big Ron in EastEnders
From 1985 to 1997, Big Ron was one of the most familiar faces (He was certainly hard to miss!) in Albert Square, working on the market and regularly popping up in the background of some of the show’s biggest scenes.
Played by Ron Tarr, the character built up a cult following and was given his first (of very few) lines, “All right Den?”, five months after he first appeared in the show.
When Tarr died in 1997, the character was handed a fitting tribute as it was explained that Ron had won the lottery and moved to Spain with the cash - a rare soap happy ending.
2. Tracey the Barmaid in EastEnders
For 30 years Tracey has been a handy plot device allowing characters to leave the Queen Vic and their market stalls unattended (“Lock up will you Trace!” “Man the bar Tracey!” “Mop that up Tracey!”) during moments of high drama.
Despite appearing frequently, we know very little about her private life, not even her surname has been revealed.
Her brief moments in the spotlight include a one-night stand with Dennis Rickman in 2003, Phil Mitchell claiming that she has a crush on him and being branded the “silent assassin” by Big Mo who thought the barmaid might be a suspect in the Archie Mitchell murder.
3. Fat Brenda in Coronation Street
We can’t be entirely sure that Street Cars switch worker Brenda’s nickname is totally fair, because she has never been seen in full on the screen.
In fact the only body part that we’ve seen on screen is her feet which appeared in the online Corrie spinoff Street Car Stories.
A fan favourite with over 12,000 Twitter followers, the unseen character had a daughter named Imogen who did appear on screen and met Steve McDonald and Lloyd Mullaney when her mum was on holiday.
It has been implied that Steve once ‘enjoyed’ a one-night-stand with Brenda at the Street Cars Christmas Party, so if she ever does appear on screen that is one amusing backstory we’d like to hear more about.
Earlier this year, Corrie writer and Fat Brenda creator Jonathan Harvey said that they had been banned from calling her “fat” in scripts – politically correct news that will no doubt outrage Corrie’s hardcore fans.
4. Winston in EastEnders
Working in the Bridge Street CD market stall since 1986, Winston’s business doesn’t seem to have been damaged by the rise of music downloads and iTunes – maybe he could give some tips to HMV.
Always on hand to guard a stall or make up the numbers at any wedding, funeral or stag do, Winston is usually lurking nearby during the soaps’ biggest moments.
Despite being well known among the locals Winston’s speaking roles have been limited to odd meaningless lines here and there over his 29 years on the soap.
Isn’t it about time he got some drama of his own?
5. Fat Elvis in EastEnders
A mythical figure for many years, Walford’s No.1 dodgy dealer and best pal of ‘Big’ Mo Harris finally showed his face in the Queen Vic earlier this year.
Often-mentioned but never seen, it came as a huge shock when he finally waltzed into the Vic, played by former Voice UK contestant Shenton Dixon.
It turned out that Mo and Elvis had finally discovered their true feelings for each other and got engaged - sadly it was a one-off appearance for Mo’s business associate, although a full-time return to the show hasn’t been ruled out.
6. Mr Papadopolous in EastEnders
Mr Oppodopulous. Mr Oppydoppy. Mr Olopolopous. The owner of the Bridge Street launderette’s main reason for existing between 1985 and 1992 was to provide a source of humour as Dot Cotton struggled to get her teeth around the Greek businessman’s name.
The original Mr P never appeared in the show, but his son Andonis turned up following his father’s death to check on how Dot was handling the business.
Mr P Junior was last mentioned on the show in 2009 when he arrived at Dot’s house to deliver a parcel – although he was never actually seen on screen.