> Guest Character
Douglas Blake James Condon
Douglas Blake 1985, 1986
Occupation: Con Man
When Helen Daniels started displaying her work at the Pacific Bank, she found herself attracting the attentions of a charming man named Douglas Blake. He told Helen how wonderful her artwork was, and assured her that he could help her make a name for herself by staging an exhibition.
Helenís son-in-law, Jim Robinson, was suspicious of this man, with whom Helen was slowly becoming besotted. He struggled to keep his feelings to himself, especially when neighbour Max Ramsay realised that he knew Douglas. He told Jim that he had recently done some plumbing work for Mr. Blake, and that he already had a wife living with him, and was stringing Helen along. Jim decided not to tell Helen about this, but rather to visit Douglas and confront him. Jim was amazed when he saw Douglas leaving his house with a woman and immediately warned him off Helen. Douglas was quick to explain that the woman was actually his sister and Jim was left embarrassed at having not trusted Helenís judgement.
Meanwhile, Douglas was busy planning the exhibition, insisting that Helen paid not one cent towards it. Helen was touched by his generosity, but became concerned as weeks went by, and they still hadnít found a venue. Douglas explained to Helen that he was a perfectionist, and hadnít found anywhere that could do justice to her art. However, she was delighted when, soon after, a gallery was found and the plans began to really take shape. Unfortunately, shortly before the exhibition was due to take place, Helen phoned the gallery and found out that Douglas had pulled out. She confronted him, and he explained that he hadnít felt that the gallery owners were truly that keen on Helenís work. Helen admitted that she hadnít been that keen on the exhibition in the first place, as fame and fortune were never her reasons for painting.
Helen and Douglas maintained their friendship, despite having abandoned plans to exhibit her work, and they began to grow closer. Douglas took Helen to see a country cottage that he was thinking of buying and suggested they stay in a guesthouse for the weekend. Helen admitted that things were moving a little too quickly for her, but, after a frank discussion, she realised that this may be her last chance for happiness. Before long, wedding plans were being made and Douglas announced that he was going to put in an offer on the idyllic cottage they had looked at.
Shortly before the wedding, Douglas announced to Helen that the sale on his house had fallen through and that he would no longer be able to purchase the cottage. Helen was heartbroken, so Jim suggested that he put up the money as a bridging loan until Douglasí own place was sold. Helen wasnít keen on this idea, but Douglas talked her round, insisting that he would put all of the documents in his name and get his solicitor to make it all legal. Before long, Jim was lending Douglas just under $60,000. Only days after the documents had apparently been drawn up, Douglas vanished. Jim, who had been trying to contact Douglasí fake solicitor, was left to break the news to Helen, who was furious that he had not only stolen her heart, but Jimís money, leaving the family with serious financial problems.
Unable to put the whole business behind her, Helen decided to hire a private investigator, Rawlings, to track down Douglas Blake. He was eventually tracked down to the Regal Hotel in the city, using a sketch that Helen had drawn of him whilst they were still a couple. She managed to get Maxís sister, Madge Mitchell, to agree to help her in a plot that would see Jim reunited with her money, and Helen with her self-respect. When she managed to sell one of her paintings, she decided to use the profits to fund the entire plan.
Posing as a rich, but recently separated, woman, Madge checked in at the hotel where Douglas was staying, making sure that he overheard her complaining about standards and wanting to be upgraded. Later on, he approached her, using his new alias of Douglas Manning, and they got chatting. Madge explained that she was having trouble paying her bill, but that she had some diamonds that sheíd kept after leaving her husband. Douglas told her that he had a keen interest in jewellery, and would be happy to value the diamonds. Madge Ė who had only one real diamond, which sheíd had removed from her wedding ring Ė explained that the rest of the diamonds were in a bank deposit box. Douglas asked her why she didnít simply sell her diamonds in order to settle her bill, to which she admitted that she was afraid of how her husband might react. Eventually, Douglas convinced her to give him the diamond, so that he could have it valued.
Although the real diamond, from Madgeís ring, was worth $10,000, Douglas came back to Madge with a price of $5000. She pretended to be amazed that it was worth so much, and Douglas continued to press her to sell it, along with the other nine diamonds she had. Madge explained to Douglas that it would be impossible, as her husband was keeping an eye on her and knew just about every gem dealer in the country. Douglas then came up with a new solution. Explaining that he occasionally traded in gems, he told her that he would buy all ten diamonds from her. Later, he told her that he had found a buyer prepared to pay $50,000 for all ten diamonds and Madge was delighted. They arranged to meet up so that he could hand over the money, whilst she gave him a bag containing ten pieces of glass.
Helen was still slightly anxious about the whole deal, so decided to apply some extra pressure to keep Douglas on his toes. As Douglas arrived at the hotel that day, Helenís private investigator, Rawlings, approached him in the lobby. He explained that he was working for Helen Daniels, who was trying to track him down. Douglas panicked, and, quickly made the exchange with Madge, before, he believed, disappearing for good. However, as he left the scene, in the park, he suddenly heard Helenís voice calling his name. He turned around and pretended to be happy to see her, until she revealed that she was behind the entire scenario with Madge. She told him, with great pleasure, that he had just paid $50,000 for ten fake diamonds, before walking away, happy that she could finally move on with her life.
Notes: James Condon was Anne Haddy's real-life husband. He returned to Neighbours in 1995 in the guest role of Reuben White. To read our interview with James, click here.
Biography by Steve