The Hollywood Fitter is the story of Mick Riley, a scruffy kid from Middlesbrough’s Thorntree council estate who is blessed with a winning smile and an inspirational spirit of adventure. After learning his trade at ICI, Mick was determined to avoid the humdrum existence that awaited the thousands of men who spent the rest of their lives keeping the wheels of Teesside’s heavy industry turning to pay their bills.
Spells at sea and in Canada followed before he returned to Teesside and forged a new career as a salesman. Mick’s easy-going charm made him a natural and he was soon able to enjoy afternoons working on his golf handicap and taking his young family on outings once he’d smashed his sales targets. After excelling at several sales jobs, a chance encounter in a nightclub led to him going into business with Jim Brennan. They sold anything they could find a buyer for, even travelling to post-revolutionary Iran on one unforgettable trade mission.
But it was when they landed an exclusive agency to sell a German-made filtration system used in the oil industry that they hit the jackpot. For a while Mick lived the high life, but he soon realised that family life was suffering and decided the time had come to end his business relationship with Jim. Going it alone, Mick named his new business Carbis – the maiden name of his wife and the love of his life, Margaret. At first the boom times continued, but when the recession hit he had to adapt from driving a Porsche 911 to getting around in a Ford van. Faced with mounting debts and unable to sleep at night, he was forced to lay off his loyal secretary, Samantha, and even son Simon, who had joined him in the business. But he started again from scratch and eventually rebuilt Carbis as a highly successful international company, now run by Simon.
Tragically, Margaret, Mick’s dark-eyed beauty, passed away from cancer in January 2013. Utterly heartbroken by her loss, Mick faced by far the greatest challenge of his life. Just a few months afterwards, at the age of sixty-nine, Mick joined a team of charity walkers on an emotional climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, where the tears flowed as he placed a heart-shaped stone in Margaret’s memory at Africa’s highest point. Five years later, with the unwavering support of his loving family – Simon, daughters Joanne and Charlotte and his grandchildren – he is finally finding happiness once again with new partner Elaine.
The Hollywood Fitter includes tales from Mick’s flirtation with the music industry, his voyage across the Atlantic and memorable trips to Siberia, Mongolia, Ireland and to film locations throughout the world with Charlotte and son-in-law Tom, as well as driving the Moroccan section of the Dakar Rally – in a £500 car called Mary!