Keith Flint


Date of Birth: 17 September 1969, Redbridge, London, UK
Birth Name: Keith Charles Flint
Nickname: Keith Flint

Though he did not write the songs, Keith Flint’s demonic, hyperactive performances as the Prodigy’s dancer, singer and frontman made him one of the most charismatic and recognisable figures in British pop music.
Flint became the public image of the Prodigy with his unique horn-like hairstyle, body piercings and tattoos (including the word “inflicted” etched on his stomach), and ferocious vocal delivery.
The group’s live appearances harnessed the massed euphoria of the rave scene they grew out of with ferocious hard-rock energy, and it proved an intoxicating mix for audiences around the world. In the video for Firestarter (1996), the Prodigy’s first UK No 1 single, Flint’s Captain America shirt and black-rimmed staring eyes, coupled with speeded-up editing, created an aura of frenzied intensity. After being shown on Top of the Pops, it was banned by the BBC, which deemed it too frightening for children.

The high point of the Prodigy’s heady streak of success was their third album, The Fat of the Land (1997), the second in their remarkable streak of six consecutive UK chart-topping studio albums (or seven, if the 2005 compilation Their Law: The Singles 1990-2005 is included).
It topped the charts in nine countries including the US on the way to selling 10m copies worldwide, and was the most potent specimen of the Prodigy’s knack for mixing elements of the UK’s house and electronica styles with beats crushing enough to pull in the rock crowd. The album included three of the band’s biggest singles, Smack My Bitch Up, Breathe (another UK chart-topper) and Firestarter.
It was an almost impossible act to follow, but the Prodigy nonetheless kept scoring high international chart placings with Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (2004), Invaders Must Die (2009), The Day is My Enemy (2015) and their most recent release, No Tourists (2018). “We never sat down and looked at the music scene and decided to go for a rock crowd,” said Flint. “But I’m up for anything … I wanna shake those bastards’ brains out and have ’em screaming and jumping around by the end.”


Keith was born in Redbridge, east London, to Clive and Yvonne Flint. In the mid-1970s the family moved to Springfield, Essex, and Keith attended the Boswells school in Chelmsford. He recalled spending a lot of time listening to the Jam in his youth. He was dyslexic and struggled at school, which he left at the age of 15 and moved to Braintree, where he worked as a roofer.
It was in the town’s rave club the Barn that he first met Liam Howlett, who was the club’s DJ as well as a gifted keyboards player and songwriter. Flint was impressed when he heard Howlett’s tapes of mixes and some of his own songs, and the first version of the Prodigy came together when Flint and Leeroy Thornhill devised new dance moves to Howlett’s music. The lineup was completed by the MC and vocalist Maxim Reality (real name Keith Palmer) and the female dancer and singer Sharky.
They played their first gig at the Four Aces club, in Dalston, east London, and Howlett began hawking around a demo of 10 of his songs which secured the group a deal with XL Recordings. The EP Where Evil Lurks was released in 1991, but Sharky left the group shortly afterwards. Their next release, the single Charly, sampled extracts from the “Charley Says” animated information films produced by the government’s Central Office of Information in the 70s.
It caught the burgeoning tide of the UK rave scene and climbed to No 3 on the UK charts. As well as Charly, their first album, Experience (1992), contained the hits Everybody in the Place, Fire/Jericho, Out of Space and Wind It Up (Rewound). Thanks to a relentless schedule of touring, where Flint’s manic performances were the visual focal point of the group’s live shows, the album soon clocked up 100,000 sales.


In 2002, Flint commented: “I look back on our early days very fondly. We were doing something really special. It was a time of ignorance, innocence and no concessions towards a perceived commercial success and the ugly side of what we do.” Their follow-up album was Music for the Jilted Generation (1994), which gave them their first trip to the top of the UK charts.
Outside the band, Flint found time to indulge other enthusiasms. He kept fit by boxing or practising jiu-jitsu and was an enthusiastic motorcyclist who often rode with Lee Thompson from Madness.
In 2007 he rode 1,500 miles across Europe to attend the Spanish motorcycle grand prix in Jerez. He created Team Traction Control, his own motorcycle team, which raced in the British Supersport Championship and won two events in the 2015 Isle of Man TT races.
He took great pride in restoring the listed Tudor manor house with 10 acres of land that he had bought near Felsted, Essex, and even purchased the surface of a street in Bristol to obtain the right sort of cobbles for his driveway.

Karl Lagerfeld


Date of Birth: 10 September 1933, Hamburg, Germany.
Birth Name: Karl Otto Lagerfeld
Nickname: Karl Lagerfeld

As one of the most prolific and admired designers of modern times, Lagerfeld’s influence on the fashion industry is unparalleled. Known fondly in fashion circles as “the Kaiser” thanks to his German heritage, he was famously uncompromising in his design vision, once declaring: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
Karl Otto Lagerfeld was born (it’s thought) on this day in Hamburg to Otto, a businessman who imported evaporated milk, and Elizabeth, a lingerie salesperson, although his true age remains a mystery to this day.
Lagerfeld was known to misrepresent his birth year, claiming to be younger than his actual age, and to misrepresent his parents' background. For example, he claimed that he was born in 1938 to "Elisabeth of Germany" and Otto Ludwig Lagerfeldt from Sweden. These claims have been conclusively proven to be false, as his father was from Hamburg and spent his entire life in Germany, with no Swedish connection. There is also no evidence that his mother Elisabeth Bahlmann, the daughter of a middle-class local politician, called herself "Elisabeth of Germany". He was known to insist that no one knows his real birth date. In an interview on French television in February 2009, Lagerfeld said that he was "born neither in 1933 nor 1938"


Expressing an interest in fashion and art from a young age, Lagerfeld went to a private school in Germany before attending Lycée Montaigne, a secondary school in Paris, where he majored in history and art.


Lagerfeld began his career as an assistant to Pierre Balmain in 1955 and joined Chanel in 1983, spending 36 years at the house. In the interim, he has also held long-term design positions at the Italian house Fendi, the French house Chloé, and established his eponymous brand. He is credited with reinventing Chanel, taking it from a small house to an industry leader.



Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour said: “Today the world lost a giant among men. Karl was so much more than our greatest and most prolific designer his creative genius was breathtaking and to be his friend was an exceptional gift. Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind. I will miss him so very much.”


Over the years, Lagerfeld’s personal style became as famous as his designs, confirming his status as a cultural icon. His ice-white ponytail, dark sunglasses and black leather gloves became his style signatures, as did his black tailored suits.


While Lagerfeld had many friends, he kept his personal life private. His most famous companion was his cat, Choupette, who the designer made into a celebrity pet, complete with its own Instagram account. In June 2013, he indicated he would marry, if it were legal.


Lagerfeld had an 18 year relationship with the French aristocrat, model, and socialite Jacques de Bascher (1951–1989), though Lagerfeld said that the liaison never became sexual. "I infinitely loved that boy," Lagerfeld reportedly said of de Bascher, "but I had no physical contact with him. Of course, I was seduced by his physical charm."


Lagerfeld lived in numerous homes over the years: an apartment in the rue de l'Université in Paris, decorated in the Art Deco style (1970s); the 18th-century Chateau de Penhoët in Brittany, decorated in the Rococo style (1970s to 2000); an apartment in Monte Carlo decorated until 2000 in 1980s Memphis style (from the early 1980s); the Villa Jako in Blankenese in Hamburg, decorated in the Art Deco style (mid-1990s to 2000); the Villa La Vigie in Monaco (the 1990s to 2000), a 17th-century mansion (hôtel particulier) in the Rue de l'Université in Paris, decorated in the Rococo and other styles (1980s to the 2000s); an apartment in Manhattan, although he never moved into or decorated it (2006 to 2012); the summer villa El Horria in Biarritz, decorated in the modern style (1990s–2006); and a house dating from the 1840s in Vermont (from the 2000s). From 2007, Lagerfeld owned an 1820s house in Paris in Quai Voltaire decorated in modern and Art Deco style.
Despite his declining health, Lagerfeld kept tight control of his work.

Windsor Davies


Date of Birth: 28 August 1930, Canning Town, Essex, UK
Birth Name: Windsor Davies

It may seem unlikely, even in the world of British TV sitcoms, that an actor could raise a laugh simply by shouting “Shut up!” at the top of his voice. But that is what Windsor Davies, who has died aged 88, did week after week in the long-running BBC series It Ain’t Half Hot Mum between 1974 and 1981. The pompous Battery Sergeant Major Tudor Bryn Williams, played by Davies, was one of the central characters in the show and his eardrum-shattering bellow never failed to amuse viewers.



From this unpromising material, Davies managed to tap into a vein of comedy in the tradition of pantomime slapstick. He also coined the catchphrase “lovely boy”, liberally used by Williams as he delivers the latest ear-bashing to his troops.
Davies was born of Welsh-speaking parents in Canning Town, east London, but soon after the second world war began, in 1940, when he was 10 years old, he was sent to live with relatives at Nant-y-Moel in the Ogmore Valley of south Wales. He attended Ogmore grammar school and later Bangor teacher training college and had stints as a miner and as a factory hand before becoming a teacher in south London. Encouraged by his wife, Lyn, Davies then decided to take a drama course at Richmond College in 1961.


During two years of national service in the early 1950s with the army in North Africa, he had picked up the military manner that was to serve him well as an actor by observing and mimicking his commanding officers. He was good at letting his aspirates collapse as he tried to deal with the recalcitrant men of Deolali and he had one of the most eloquent moustaches in the business.
Stage work came his way, and after a season in rep at Cheltenham, he was introduced to John Dexter, associate director of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court in London. In 1961 Davies was the Tramp in the company’s production of Arnold Wesker’s The Kitchen and Wallace Morton in Gwyn Thomas’s The Keep.



He had small roles in numerous TV shows, often as police officers or authority figures, and was a paid heavy, Toby, in the Doctor Who story The Evil of the Daleks (1967), before landing the role in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, alongside Estelle, with whom he had toured in a club double-act. During its run Davies was in two Carry On films, Carry on Behind (1975) and Carry on England (1976), in the latter playing Sergeant Major “Tiger” Bloomer.

June Whitfield


Date of Birth: 11 November 1926, Streatham, London, UK
Birth Name: June Rosemary Whitfield
Nickname: June Whitfield

June Whitfield was the most extraordinarily ordinary of comic performers. Efficient, amenable and ultra-professional, she unselfishly supported star comedians for more than 50 years, often slyly outshining them. Yet buried deep in the screen image of sensible housewife or mum there was a wonderfully wild streak.
On radio, she was Eth to Dick Bentley’s Ron in radio’s Take It from Here for seven years and began her association with Roy Hudd in The News Huddlines in 1984, which lasted into the new century. She partnered Arthur Askey on television for six years and played Terry Scott’s wife in Happy Ever After, then in Terry and June, for an astonishing 13 years. And she captivated a new generation as Jennifer Saunders’s vague but sometimes acerbic mother in Absolutely Fabulous.
The success of her partnership with Scott she had worked with him before Happy Ever After in the TV series Scott On, gives a clue to her enduring comic appeal. At the time 1974 to 1987 Terry and June was derided by critics and the younger, more abrasive comedians as the epitome of cosy, middle-class BBC sitcom, but from today’s perspective it looks positively surreal. Scott, who previously toured a “naughty schoolboy” act in variety for years, essentially played a wilful child, and Whitfield seemed more like a patient mother than a wife. However, in most episodes there was a point at which she surrendered herself and wholeheartedly joined in whatever anarchic plan Scott had hatched, usually to save him from disaster. When this happened, the pair became quietly deranged, and the comic dynamic far from the conventional whimsy sniffed at by the critics.
At various times over the years Whitfield played wife or girlfriend to Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd, Dick Emery, Tony Hancock, Jimmy Edwards, Sid James, Ted Ray, Leslie Phillips, Stanley Baxter, Bob Monkhouse, Harry H Corbett, Tommy Cooper, Terry Thomas, Leslie Crowther and Ronnie Barker. The writer Barry Took said that she had supported more actors than the Department of Health and Social Security.



June Whitfield was born in Streatham, south London. Her father, Jack, was managing director of Dictograph Internal Telephones and her mother, Bertha, an incurably stagestruck woman who channelled her energies into amateur theatre and then into her daughter’s career. At the age of three June attended the Robinson School of Dancing, Elocution, Pianoforte and Singing, and when she was 12, her performance as Moth in an amateur production of Love’s Labours Lost elicited a favourable review in The Star newspaper. In 1942 she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and after leaving in 1944, she was almost never out of work for the rest of her life.
Whitfield always claimed that lack of confidence in her looks made her decide to concentrate on comedy: “I believed that, since the audience was going to laugh at me anyway, I might as well be in things that were meant to be laughed at.”
In the mid-1940s she toured Britain in several plays, and in 1945 worked with the Yorkshire comic actor and radio quizmaster Wilfred Pickles. Pickles taught her about timing; on her first night on tour in the comedy The Cure For Love there was a scene where she sat on his knee, gabbling her lines as Pickles hissed at her out of the corner of his mouth: “Wait for the laugh. Wait for the laugh.”
In 1950 she caught the eye of Noel Coward, who cast her in his unsuccessful revue Ace of Clubs. She asked Coward if she could wear a fringe in the show, and her doubts about her appearance were hardly allayed when he replied: “Good idea. It’ll hide that vast expanse of forehead.”
Whitfield understudied Mary Martin in South Pacific at Drury Lane in 1951 and went on to a bigger part in Daddy Long Legs at the Saville. While she was appearing in Love For Judy in 1953, she received a call from Frank Muir and Denis Norden, writers of the hit radio show Take It From Here, inviting her to audition for the part vacated by Joy Nichols. She got the job, and joined the cast just as Muir and Norden were trying out a new series of sketches involving the unpleasant and indolent Glum Family. For Eth, Ron Glum’s earnest and worried fiancee, Whitfield “borrowed” the whining voice of her mother’s daily help, who never suspected that she was being immortalised on radio. Whitfield’s breathy anxiety perfectly complemented Dick Bentley’s flat, Australian monotone in exchanges such as:
Eth: “Ooh, Ron, It’s not natural for hot-blooded people like you and me to remain unmarried indefinitely. Oh, dear heart, if only you knew how much I yearn!”
Ron: “I do, Eth, and it’s not enough for both of us to live on.”
The show made Whitfield a household name. When she married surveyor Tim Aitchison in 1955 one newspaper headline read “Ooh, Ron! Look what’s happened to Eth!” The marriage, regarded as one of the happiest in British showbusiness, endured until Aitchison’s death in 2001. Their daughter, Suzy, is also an actor.
She became a regular on Arthur Askey’s Before Your Very Eyes in 1956, then played his wife in the Arthur Askey Show in 1961. She also appeared in the Tony Hancock Show, the comic’s first series for ITV, and when he moved back to the BBC in 1961 she went with him.



Whitfield was a regular fixture in comedy films and television shows through the 1960s, and first appeared with Terry Scott in 1968. After the success of Scott On it was suggested that they team up in a situation comedy, and Happy Ever After, written by John Chapman and Eric Merriman, was introduced in 1974. It was an immediate success, but after five series Chapman thought the formula was exhausted and quit; the BBC wanted to persevere, however, and because of a dispute over rights, the names of the characters changed and the title became Terry and June, mostly written by John Kane. Over both series, Scott and Whitfield notched up a staggering 107 episodes, and became so identified as a couple that some viewers thought they were married in real life.
Offscreen, however, the discreet and fastidious Whitfield and the opinionated Scott had little in common. On the set she was content to acknowledge that her main function was to “drift the laughter towards Terry’s lines”.




Because of Whitfield’s cosy image, the idea of casting her as Jennifer Saunders’s mother in Absolutely Fabulous in 1992 was a comedy masterstroke. Whitfield and Julia Sawalha (as granddaughter, Saffron) provided the calm centre of this blisteringly funny series about two vodka-swilling, drug-addled friends Saunders as PR agent Edina Monsoon and Joanna Lumley as magazine editor Patsy. Mother, slightly senile and preoccupied with her puzzle books, and Saffy represented traditional virtues of consideration and respect for others. The show ran for five series, plus specials and a 2016 film, and is ranked as 17th in the greatest British TV shows of all time by the British Film Institute. In recent years Whitfield appeared in episodes of Dr Who, Last of the Summer Wine, EastEnders and Coronation Street.
Whitfield was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1994 British Comedy Awards and inducted into the Royal Television Society’s Hall of Fame in 1999. In 1985 she was made an OBE, and in 1998 a CBE. In her autobiography, published in 2000, she summed up her life: “Not a rags-to-riches story, or one bursting with revelations; there isn’t even an unhappy childhood, only a life full of love, affection and laughter, of gigs, gags and a couple of gongs.”

Burt Reynolds


Date of Birth: 11 February 1936, Lansing, Michigan, USA
Birth Name: Burton Leon Reynolds
Nickname: Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds, the mustachioed megastar who first strutted on screen more than half a century ago
An iconic Hollywood sex symbol in front of the camera, Reynolds also tried his directorial hand behind it, and later earned a reputation for philanthropy after founding the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre in his home state of Florida.
His roles over the years ranged and pivoted from Southern heartthrob to tough guy to comedy, notably in his role as Rep. David Dilbeck in the 1996 film "Striptease," which flopped at the box office but earned him widespread praise for his comedic prowess.
But it was John Boorman's 1972 thriller "Deliverance," which cast Reynolds as outdoorsman Lewis Medlock, that is widely credited for launching his early career.
Reynolds called it "by far" his best film.


Born in Lansing, Michigan, Reynolds and his family moved to South Florida when he was 5, according to his autobiography.
At Palm Beach High School, he first made a name for himself as a football star and earned an athletic scholarship to Florida State University. But when injuries derailed a promising athletic career, Reynolds turned to acting.


He then scored small parts in the late 1950s before landing a role in the New York City Center revival of "Mister Roberts" in 1957, as well as a recurring spot in the TV series "Gunsmoke."
By 1974, Reynolds had hit it big and starred as an ex-football player who landed in prison in the film "The Longest Yard." Two years earlier, he broke taboo and posed nude in Cosmopolitan magazine, which helped cement his growing status as a sex symbol.
He later said he regretted that centerfold image, which showed Reynolds spread out across a bearskin rug, and said it distracted attention from his "Deliverance" co-stars and likely cost them an Academy Award.


Reynolds' notoriety soared through the late 1970s and 1980s, during which time he spearheaded the "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Cannonball Run" movie franchises. He also earned People's Choice Awards in 1979, 1982 and 1983 as all-around male entertainer of the year.




But he also turned down some of the biggest roles in Hollywood history, including James Bond to Han Solo in George Lucas' 1977 blockbuster "Star Wars." Reynolds also reportedly was among Paramount Pictures' top choices to play Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 epic "The Godfather."



In 1998, Reynolds scored his sole Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor, after his portrayal of a porn film producer in the film "Boogie Nights," despite his dislike of the film and its apparent glorification of the porn industry.
Years later, with a mustache gone gray, he suffered from health issues that led to open heart surgery. Reynolds also checked into a drug rehab clinic in 2009. The purpose was "to regain control of his life" after becoming addicted to painkillers prescribed following back surgery, his manager said.
Once among Hollywood's highest-paid actors, Reynolds later fell into financial trouble amid private ventures in an Atlanta restaurant and a professional sports team, though he continued to make cameo appearances and teach acting classes.

Liz Fraser


Date of Birth: 14 August 1930, Southwark, London, UK
Birth Name: Elizabeth Joan Winch
Nickname: Liz Fraser

Liz Fraser specialised in comedy in a career that stretched from cough and spit parts in 1950s Ealing Studios films to a guest star suspect in the latest series of Midsomer Murders (2018). She also worked with Tony Hancock and Sid James, and starred in the classic I’m All Right Jack (1959) with Peter Sellers, but her long and varied career was almost inevitably overshadowed by her membership of the Carry On team.



The slap and tickle British film institution of innuendo and pratfall, awash with music hall one-liners, Carry On celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and remains as popular as ever, a reassuring never-never land of off-colour jokes, whose occasional sexism, racism and homophobia is somehow muted by the sheer exuberance of the performers. Typecast as a cheery blond bombshell, Liz appeared in four films, joining the established team of Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Kenneth Connor and Hattie Jacques for film number five, Carry on Regardless (1961).


Liz herself always maintained that her early glamour girl roles had a virginal quality about them. Indeed, even as a happy-go-lucky stripper in Doctor in Love (1960), the coquettish policewoman in The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1960) or the nautical fun-seeker Sandra in Double Bunk (1961), there was an endearing innocence at play.
Double Bunk remained her favourite film, allowing her to polish an effortless working relationship with Sid James that would enhance many a British comedy. She worked with him on Hancock’s Half Hour, and when the BBC gave James his own series, Citizen James, from November 1960, Liz played his hapless, ever-tolerant girlfriend.


However, more dramatic character roles eventually came, including the lead role of Delilah, an ageing model and actor, in the TV drama Sight Unseen (1977), an episode in the She anthology series. Here Liz essayed a touching performance of faded beauty.
In 1988 she again drew on personal experience she had cancer three times to bring poignancy to the character of Mrs Dewey, an elderly woman dying of cancer, in Eskimos Do It (1988), part of the BBC2 Screenplay series. The previous year she had had a small but intense role as the gin-soaked mother Mrs Brent in Miss Marple: Nemesis.
Other television roles included Doris Entwhistle in the sitcom Fairly Secret Army (1984-86), starring Geoffrey Palmer, and she had guest appearances in many series including The Avengers, The Goodies, Jason King, Robin’s Nest, Rumpole of the Bailey, Birds of a Feather, Last of the Summer Wine and Foyle’s War.


Born Elizabeth Winch in Southwark, south London, she was the daughter of a travelling salesman father, who died when she was 11, and a mother who owned a small shop off the New Kent Road that sold practically everything. In September 1939 she was evacuated to Crockham Hill in Kent, close to Winston Churchill’s Chartwell estate; the prime minister would often visit his evacuee neighbours. Next to having dinner with Judy Garland, this was Liz’s favourite name-drop.
Liz went to St Saviour’s and St Olave’s grammar school for girls and later trained at the London School of Dramatic Art. She made her stage debut with the Red Rose Players repertory company at the New Hippodrome, Accrington, in Lancashire in 1953, before joining the chorus in Babes in the Wood at the Brighton Hippodrome. Soon afterwards she adopted her stage name from a brand of biscuit.

Emma Chambers


Date of Birth: 11 March 1964, Doncaster, West Riding, Yorkshire, UK
Birth Name: Emma Gwynedd Mary Chambers
Nickname: Emma Chambers

The Vicar of Dibley, conceived by the writer Richard Curtis, began in 1994, the year in which the first female Church of England priests were ordained. The TV sitcom starred Dawn French as Geraldine Granger, the incoming vicar facing a mixture of bewilderment and prejudice in the sleepy fictional Oxfordshire village of the programme’s title, but Emma Chambers, who has died unexpectedly aged 53, proved to be a scene-stealer as Alice Tinker, the St Barnabas church verger scripted as dim but lovable.
“Just like Alice I am vulnerable, emotional and caring, but I am not thick,” Chambers once said. “I think she is gorgeously naive, like a child, and that is one thing I am not, I am a cynical old bitch!”


Her best remembered film role, in Curtis’s 1999 romcom Notting Hill, was the eccentric Honey Thacker, star-struck and overawed at meeting the Hollywood actor (played by Julia Roberts) who has fallen for her bookshop-owner brother (Hugh Grant).
Emma was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire to John, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and Noelle (nee Strange). The family moved around and, while attending St Swithun’s school, Winchester, Chambers acted in Winchester college productions – saying she “enjoyed showing off” and played lacrosse for Hampshire. Her parents eventually split up and she trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, where the former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp was one of her contemporaries.
Her sister, Sarah Doukas, and brother, Simon, went on to run Storm Model Management, which discovered Kate Moss at the age of 14.
Chambers made her television debut as Margaret, one of the young Brangwen children, in a 1988 BBC adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel The Rainbow. In between one-off roles on TV, she played Charity Pecksniff in a six-part serialisation of Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit, which began in the same week as The Vicar of Dibley.



The popular BBC sitcom, written by Curtis with Paul Mayhew-Archer, ran for two series, from 1994 to 1998, finishing with Alice’s marriage to Hugo Horton (played by James Fleet), her second cousin once removed. Geraldine described both as having the intellectual capacity of a cactus and the wedding was notable for the two bridal attendants dressed as Teletubbies. Chambers won the 1998 British Comedy Award for best actress and returned as Alice in various Vicar of Dibley specials between 1999 and 2007.
She had significant supporting roles in the sitcom How Do You Want Me? (1998-99) as Helen Yardley, sister of the newlywed Lisa (Charlotte Coleman) returning from London to be near her family in the countryside, and Take a Girl Like You (2000), Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Kingsley Amis’s comic novel, as Martha Thompson, the bored housewife hostile to her beautiful, northern lodger.
Chambers’ West End theatre debut came with the part of Geain, estranged daughter of Ian McKellen’s composer Jerome, in Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy Henceforward (Vaudeville theatre, 1988-89) after appearing in the original 1987 production at the Stephen Joseph theatre, Scarborough. In his casting notes for Geain, Ayckbourn stipulated: “Not a child, please. Just a very small actress.” Chambers lodged with McKellen for a while and said she regarded him as a father figure.


When, in 1989, she starred in the Scarborough premiere of Ayckbourn’s Invisible Friends as another teenage daughter, Lucy Baines, who has an imaginary companion to relieve the awfulness of living with her family, the critic Harry Eyres praised Chambers’ skill in “conveying Lucy’s kaleidoscopic emotional states with startling immediacy” and negotiating the tricky device of also acting as the play’s narrator. She reprised the role in London at the Cottesloe during two stints with the National Theatre company (1991-92) that included appearances in productions such as Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III.
She gave a hilarious performance as Orgon’s daughter Mariane in Tartuffe (Almeida theatre, 1996) and starred as Sheila in Michael Frayn’s Benefactors (Albery theatre, 2002), a performance described by one critic as “a touching study in parasitic helplessness”.

John Hillerman


Date of Birth: 20 December 1932, Denison, Texas, USA
Birth Name: John Benedict Hillerman
Nickname: John Hillerman

John Hillerman was best known for his role in the television series Magnum PI, playing Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, the English caretaker of the Hawaiian complex in which Tom Selleck’s eponymous private investigator was based. It was the culmination of a series of supporting parts in TV series in which he played characters who displayed officious arrogance or a stuffed shirt’s cold superciliousness. He was a conniving radio detective competing with Jim Hutton in the title role of Ellery Queen (1975-76), Bonnie Franklin’s cold boss in One Day at a Time (1976-80) and Betty White’s ex-husband, “old pickle puss”, who winds up directing her in a TV series in The Betty White Show (1977-78).


But his eight seasons on Magnum from 1980-88 allowed Hillerman to stretch beyond sitcom. He studied recordings of Laurence Olivier doing Hamlet to put on his English accent, and approached the part by considering Higgins “the only sane character where everyone else is stark raving mad”. Playing against Selleck’s laid-back performance, the formula worked. Hillerman was nominated five times for a Golden Globe award as best supporting actor, winning in 1982, and four times for an Emmy in the same category, winning in 1987.
Having come to acting relatively late, Hillerman’s career took a long time to take off. He was born in Denison, Texas, where his father, Christopher, ran a petrol station and his mother, Leona, was a housewife. As a teenager John would drive himself 75 miles to Dallas to see opera, but after high school spent three years at the University of Texas studying journalism, before joining the US air force.



He began acting in an amateur production of Death of a Salesman while stationed in Fort Worth, and after his discharge in 1957 moved to New York to study at the American Theatre Wing. He played on stage, mostly in supporting parts, for 12 years, but was unable to make a steady living in the theatre, and so moved to Hollywood in 1969.
He got his first, uncredited, film role the next year in They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, the sequel to In the Heat of the Night, as much for his southern accent as anything. His first credit was in Michael Winner’s western Lawman (1971), with Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan. Then he got lucky when the director Peter Bogdanovich, with whom he had been a struggling actor in New York, cast him as an English teacher in The Last Picture Show (1971). He would appear in three more films with Bogdanovich, including a dual role, as twins a sheriff and a bootlegger in Paper Moon (1973).



The sharp-eyed may have noticed Hillerman in acute character parts in a number of mid-1970s classics, most notably two 1974 films, Chinatown, where he is the water inspector Russell Yelburton, and Blazing Saddles, as Howard Johnson, but also in High Plains Drifter (1973), The Day of the Locust (1975) and Lucky Lady (1975). Then the television success of Ellery Queen propelled him not only into successive series, but frequent guest appearances and television films. By then he was looking for more serious parts; in 1977 he supported Alan Alda as Caryl Chessman in a TV movie, Kill Me If You Can.
Magnum made him rich and famous, and after the show ended, Hillerman wanted more serious work, but found himself being offered mostly sitcoms. However, in 1990 he played Dr Watson to Edward Woodward’s Sherlock Holmes in the Yorkshire TV/CBS co-production Hands of a Murderer. He joined the final series of Valerie Harper’s sitcom, retitled The Hogan Family, as the paterfamilias.
He played a character called Edgar Greenstreet in an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1992, and a former spy turned bar owner in cold war West Berlin in the obscure 1993 series Berlin Break. His character was called Mac; also in the cast was Jeff MacKay, who had played Magnum’s friend Mac in that series. His final appearance was A Very Brady Sequel (1996), a Brady Bunch reunion.

Hugh Hefner

Date of Birth: 9 April 1026, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birth Name: Hugh Marston Hefner
Nickname: Hugh Hefner

One evening in 1967 Hugh Hefner appeared on a TV special broadcast from the Playboy Mansion’s library. Puffing on his customary pipe, and flanked by Harvard theologian Harvey Cox and conservative editor William F Buckley, the billionaire porn magazine magnate and American men’s titillator-in-chief argued that the religious basis for morality was obsolete.


If America was to fulfil its manifest destiny and its citizens were to genuinely enjoy life, it needed to be liberated sexually. This, he said, was what Playboy Enterprises, of which he was the CEO and visionary founder, was patriotically supplying. In this, arguably, Hefner was fulfilling his mother’s wish that he become a missionary. True, his work involved more pool parties, voluptuous women pillow-fighting and wearisome boasts about sexual prowess (“I have slept with thousands of women, and they all still like me,” he told Esquire magazine in 2002) than previous missionaries found necessary, but he always imagined himself to be a proselytiser for hedonistic anti-puritanism.
In the foreword to The Century of Sex: Playboy’s History of the Sexual Revolution, 1900-1999, he wrote: “Sex is the primary motivating factor in the course of human history, and in the 20th century it has emerged from the taboos and controversy that have surrounded it throughout the ages to claim its rightful place in society.” Others saw his impact on human flourishing somewhat differently. The feminist writer Gloria Steinem, who went undercover as a Playboy Bunny in 1963 to write an exposé of working conditions, said of her experience: “I learned what it’s like to be hung on a meat hook.”
Whatever Hefner’s missionary pretensions, he certainly had business acumen. In 1953 he founded what would become a multi-billion-dollar industry with a few nude photos of Marilyn Monroe. The first issue of Playboy sold 50,000 copies nationwide. When, in 1963, he was arrested finally for selling obscene literature (after publication of an issue featuring nude shots of Jayne Mansfield), the jury was unable to reach a verdict.


His initial success fulfilled an adolescent fantasy. At high school he had written an essay criticising America for avoiding frank discussions about sex, and in his college newspaper he had hailed a study written by Alfred Kinsey called Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (aka the Kinsey Report, 1948), which shocked America for frankly discussing such issues as sadomasochism, homosexuality and the frequency of marital sex. By publishing a magazine with two transgressive breasts on its cover, Hefner started a revolution. “The magazine reflected hip, urban dissatisfaction with the stodgy conformism of the Eisenhower era,” wrote Steven Watts in the biography Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream.
According to’s Chris Colin: “America was seeing the advent of the urban single male who, lest his subversive departure from domestic norms suggest homosexuality, was now enjoying new photos of nude women every month.” That bachelor was seduced not just by nude women but Playboy’s post-austerity aura of sophistication. Not all of Playboy’s demographic had grotto hot tubs, nor could they be reasonably expected to be pawed hourly by scantily dressed Playmates like their favourite magazine’s publisher, but they could aspire. Hefner became a fantasy figure, a lucky guy who, unlike his readers, was probably having sex right now, possibly with four Playboy Bunnies on a revolving bed. His readers dreamed not just of emulating Hef sexually, but of the whole Playboy lifestyle, one premised on cashmere sweaters, good pipes, fancy cocktails, essays by Norman Mailer and crucially no balls and chains or bawling kids. The conservative group Concerned Women for America claimed Playboy “belittled marriage”. Naomi Wolf wrote: “A lot of men stay unmarried decade after decade because they bought the Hugh Hefner line that polygamist bachelorhood is ideal, and they lead largely empty lives.”


This irrepressible swinger and/or corrupter was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was raised by Grace and Glenn Hefner in what he later recalled as “a repressed midwestern Methodist home”. His father’s lineage was impeccably puritan: he was directly descended from the Plymouth governor William Bradford. Grace, whom the adult Hugh would describe as running an unimpeachably puritan household, instructed him and his friends on the facts of reproduction from an illustrated book. Hefner later complained she had only taught him about sexual biology, not its emotional aspects. But Grace had thereby done more than most of his friends’ parents dared to improve her child’s sexual education.
The primal scene of his adolescence came when his drums-playing girlfriend Betty Conklin invited someone else to a hay ride, after a perhaps steamy summer during which she and Hugh had jitterbugged together. Stung by rejection, he reinvented himself as “Hef”, becoming, as he wrote in 1942, “a Sinatra-like guy with loud flannel shirts and cords in the way of garb, and jive in the way of music a very original guy, he has his own style of jiving and slang expressions he calls everyone ‘slug’ or ‘fiend’.” Improbably, the makeover worked: classmates voted Hef “most likely to succeed”.
A decade later, though, success still eluded him. One bitter evening he stood on a bridge overlooking the Chicago river aged 26 and contemplated suicide to escape an unsatisfying marriage to Mildred Williams, whom he had wed in 1949 and a job that hardly fulfilled him. After a stint in the army and graduating with a BA in psychology from the University of Illinois, he had worked as a copywriter for Esquire. He quit in order to set up his own magazine, provisionally called Stag. Hefner took out a bank loan and raised $8,000 from 45 investors including $1,000 from his mother. “Not because she believed in the venture,” he told one interviewer. “But because she believed in her son.” Each issue featured nude photographs and a centrefold poster of the “playmate of the month”. But Playboy was not or not only what Tom Wolfe called a “one-hand magazine”. Hefner commissioned Lenny Bruce, John Updike and Jack Kerouac to write for him. Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X was born from his interview with the leader in Playboy.
His marriage to Mildred, with whom he had two children, limped through a decade in which his career blossomed. Theirs became a proto-open marriage when she allowed him to sleep with other women. Mildred did so because she felt guilt over having an affair while he was away in the army and hoped that would preserve their marriage. They divorced in 1959. Hef’s swinging then began in earnest. He claimed to be “involved” with maybe “11 out of 12 months’ worth of Playmates” during the 60s and 70s. He also acknowledged that he experimented in bisexuality. His Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, became a byword for sybaritic excess. He worked from his bed, often wearing silk pyjamas, happy to be, as he frequently was, distracted from running a global porn business by female employees.
Business boomed. Playboy Enterprises went public in 1971 at a time when the magazine was selling 7m copies worldwide each month. Hefner astutely diversified his brand: he hosted TV shows to proselytise for Playboy’s hedonistic male lifestyle, and ran a string of Playboy clubs staffed by that modern symbol of sexual infantilisation and female commodification, the Playboy Bunny. Each Bunny wore corset, bunny ears, collar, cuffs and fluffy cottontail. Clubs would have several sub-species of Bunny: Door Bunny, Cigarette Bunny, Floor Bunny, Playmate Bunny. There were even Jet Bunnies detailed to serve as flight attendants on the Playboy “Big Bunny” Jet. Clive James contended that “to make it as a Bunny, a girl needs more than just looks. She needs idiocy, too.”


“The training course was at your own expense,” recalled Steinem of the Playboy Bunny induction process. “It was horrible. There was nothing fun about it.” High heels and “costume so tight it would give a man a cleavage” were exhausting and demoralising, she reported. Steinem’s reportage helped make her a feminist: “In the sense that we’re all identified too much by our outsides instead of our insides and are mostly in underpaid service jobs, I realised we’re all Bunnies.”
Hefner, though, considered himself a proto-feminist. “In the 1950s and 60s, there were still states that outlawed birth control, so I started funding court cases to challenge that. At the same time, I helped sponsor the lower-court cases that eventually led to Roe v Wade. We were the amicus curiae [a friend of the court who volunteers information] in Roe v Wade [the 1973 US supreme court decision affirming a woman’s right to choose abortion]. I was a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism. That’s a part of history very few people know.” His feminism, if that’s what it was, stemmed from Hefner’s anti-puritanism. “Women,” he said, “were the major beneficiary of the sexual revolution. It permitted them to be natural sexual beings, as men are. That’s where feminism should have been all along. Unfortunately, within feminism, there has been a puritan, prohibitionist element that is antisexual. Playboy is the antidote to puritanism.”
That antidote to puritanism faced increasing competition from the 60s onwards. Magazines including Penthouse and Hustler battled for market share with Playboy. These were the years of the “pubic wars” in which rival porn magazines vied for how much skin and pubic hair they could get away with showing on their covers. Hefner, posturing as ever as putative sophisticate, declined to stoop to conquer in this battle.
In 1985 he suffered a minor stroke. His daughter Christie began to run the Playboy empire. In 1988 eight of his former lovers filed a $35m lawsuit against Hefner for that most Californian and thus costly of legal neologisims, palimony. The suit sought punitive damages to “dissuade him from maintaining long-enjoyed practice of seducing teenaged girls, supporting them for a few years and then discarding them”. Hefner told the press: “I’m the silliest possible target for a palimony suit, because I’m the most confirmed bachelor of the 20th century.”



In 1989, this confirmed bachelor married for the second time, wedding playmate of the year Kimberley Conrad. The couple had two sons, necessitating the transformation of the Playboy Mansion into a family-friendly home. After he and Conrad separated in 1998, she moved into a house next door. They divorced in 2010. During the couple’s separation, the Playboy Mansion and Hefner reverted to type. He kept a wide range of Playmates and became a devotee of viagra. The self-styled sex revolutionary was becoming a joke rather than a threat to American values.
In 2011 his planned wedding to Crystal Harris initially fell apart when his fiancee realised that “I wasn’t the only woman in Hef’s life.” She may have had a point. If he suffered after Crystal’s rejection, there were compensations: there always were for the oldest swinger in porn. He had once said: “I wake up every day and go to bed every night knowing I’m the luckiest guy on the fucking planet.” They reconciled and married in 2012.
At least half the planet’s population might have been excused for feeling less lucky. When he reopened a Playboy club in London in June 2011, 30 years after the original venue closed.

Bruce Forsyth


Date of Birth: 22 February 1928, Edmonton, Middlesex, UK
Birth Name: Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson
Nickname: Bruce Forsyth

Sir Bruce Forsyth, the veteran entertainer and presenter of many successful TV shows. The former Strictly Come Dancing presenter had been unwell for some time and was in hospital earlier this year after a severe chest infection.
His long career in show business began when he was aged just 14.


He became Britain's best-paid TV star, famous for hosting game shows like The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right and The Price is Right.
He also presented BBC One's Strictly with Tess Daly from 2004 to 2014.


He was what they used to call the triple threat, the full package: actor, singer, dancer. But he was actually so much more than that. He was the multiple threat. He didn’t just act, sing and dance, he could host, tell gags, play musical instruments, he could do anything.




He had this wonderful ability to make other people do what he wanted them to do. Without ever being malicious, he got them to be part of the gag, or to be the gag. They would laugh along with him because he didn’t make them feel uncomfortable, he made them feel included. That’s an incredible skill. Lots of hosts are able to do a funny line but often it’s a put-down to someone, so it feels unkind. Brucie was never like that. He made gags at other people’s expense but it always felt like they were in on it.
Forsyth met Puerto Rican beauty queen Wilnelia Merced, who was a fellow judge. They were married from 1983


Sir Bruce had not been seen in public recently, due to ill health. He was too frail to attend the funerals of close friends Ronnie Corbett and Sir Terry Wogan last year.
In 2015, the presenter underwent keyhole surgery after suffering two aneurysms, which were discovered following a fall at his Surrey home.

Robert Hardy


Date of Birth: 29 October 1925, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK
Birth Name: Thomas Sydney Robert Hardy
Nickname: Robert Hardy

To television audiences for more than 10 years, Robert Hardy was the cantankerous vet Siegfried Farnon in TV series All Creatures Great and Small. He was also the incarnation of Winston Churchill in eight different screen or stage productions over four decades and his talents were revealed to a younger generation when he played the bumbling, rule-enforcing Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, in four Harry Potter films.



Hardy had spent 20 years acting authority figures on TV when the role of Siegfried Farnon came along. The character from Alf Wight’s semi-autobiographical novels, written under the penname James Herriot, was based on his senior partner in a North Yorkshire veterinary practice, Donald Sinclair.
Frustrated at some of the programme’s scriptwriters simply resorting to making the eccentric, temperamental Siegried volatile in certain scenarios, Hardy sometimes irked them by rewriting his lines. “Out of these battles comes, if you’re lucky, quality,” he said. “It needs steel and a stone to make a spark.”


Hardy played Churchill on TV again in The Woman He Loved (1988), the mini-series War and Remembrance (1988-9), Bomber Harris (1989), The Sittaford Mystery episode of the series Agatha Christie’s Marple (2006), and Churchill: 100 Days That Saved the World (2015). There were also two stage portrayals. As Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films , Hardy said he was playing “high politics” again.
The actor was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, son of Henry Harrison Hardy, headmaster of Cheltenham College, and Jocelyn (née Dugdale), and attended Rugby school. His studies at Magdalen College, Oxford, were interrupted by national service in the RAF, but he returned to complete a degree in English.


From 1949, he acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, then at the Old Vic (1953-1956) and in the West End. On TV, he took the title role in David Copperfield (1956) and played Henry V in An Age of Kings (1960), Coriolanus in The Spread of the Eagle (1963), ruthless oil industry executive Alec Stewart in the 1966-1970 series of The Troubleshooters, Dudley in Elizabeth R (1971), Prince Albert in Edward the Seventh (1975), Mussolini in Caesar and Claretta (1975), Caesar in The Cleopatras (1983) and Franklin D Roosevelt twice in Bertie and Elizabeth (2002) and De Gaulle (2006).

Carol Lee Scott


Date of Birth: 19 December 1942, Bridgewater, Somerset, UK
Birth Name: Carol Waterman
Nickname: Carol Lee Scott

Carol Lee Scott, the actress best known for her role as children’s TV favourite Grotbags
The entertainer appeared in several children's programmes in the 1980s and early 1990s, including the Rod Hull hit Emu's World.


The character Grotbags was a witch, whose distinctive costume comprised green make-up and a witch's cape and hat. 
She originally appeared in Emu's World in the '80s. When that show was axed, she was given her own show in 1991, which revolved around Grotbags and her minions at Gloomy Fortress.


Created by Scott and puppeteer Richard Coombs, the show featured characters such as Colin the Bat, Doris the Dodo and Norman Nettle. It ran for three series. 
Carol was a great lover of music and comedy and one of the songs she used to like was 'Ain't It Grand To Be Blooming Well Dead' by Leslie Sarony and it was Carol's request that there be no sadness but music and laughter!


The Somerset-born actress's early career saw stints as a cabaret performer touring clubs in the north of England, a London pub singer and as a Pontins Blue Coat.
She spent 19 years working for the holiday park company before collaborating with Hull on a series of programmes in the 1980s. The pair created Grotbags while performing a summer season in Cleethorpes.

Peter Sallis


Date of Birth: 1 February 1921, Twickenham, Middlesex, UK
Birth Name: Peter John Sallis
Nickname: Peter Sallis

Veteran actor best known for playing Norman ‘Cleggy’ Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine and voicing Wallace in Wallace and Gromit
Often self-effacing and meek, but with a sly smirk and a beady eye that hinted at mischief, the actor Peter Sallis, who has died aged 96, played the cloth-capped widower Norman Clegg for 37 years in the BBC TV comedy series Last of the Summer Wine, and was also the voice of Wallace in Nick Park’s acclaimed stop-motion animated films based around the adventures of a cheese-loving inventor and his pet dog, Gromit.


Running from 1973 to 2010, Roy Clarke’s meandering series about three childish old men getting into all kinds of scrapes in a small Yorkshire town was gentle and often poignant, and the character of “Cleggy” absolutely fitted Sallis’s nasal, hesitant and semi-apologetic speech patterns. In Clegg’s wry utterances there were many stereotypical British qualities: understatement, calmness in the face of adversity, self-deprecation and, above all, a willingness to see the funny side of life.
And it was that wonderfully evocative voice that made Sallis first choice for the Wallace and Gromit films. He recorded the lines for Aardman Animation’s short A Grand Day Out in 1983 for a smallish fee, forgot about it, and it was six years later that Park rang him to say the film had been completed. From such modest beginnings came an industry that, for Sallis, climaxed with his attending the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, when the Aardman/Dreamworks full-length film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) won an Oscar for best animated feature.


Born in Twickenham, south-west London, he was the only child of Harry Sallis, a bank manager, and his wife, Dorothy (nee Bernard), and grew up in Palmers Green, in the north of the city. In his autobiography, Fading Into the Limelight (2007), he wrote that his parents did not get on at all well: “I had a little prayer that I used to say: ‘Please God, make Mummy and Daddy live happily together.’”
After his education at Minchenden grammar school in Southgate, he followed his father into banking, as a clerk, and during the second world war joined the RAF. Turned down in 1943 for aircrew because of a disorder that might cause him to black out at high altitudes, he became a wireless mechanic and taught radio procedures at RAF Cranwell.


One of his students was putting on a production of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever at a local YMCA, and Sallis agreed to play the leading male part, though he had never acted before. As he put it: “When I went on the stage and spoke the lines, people laughed that night, in my bunk, I couldn’t sleep. I just lay there going through the play over and over again. I knew everybody’s lines and after a while I thought to myself, yes, I know what it is: I’ve got what they call the acting bug.”
He appeared in various other amateur productions and still had the bug when the war ended. He was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, on an Alexander Korda scholarship, and when he left was offered work in the theatre almost immediately he had been taken on by the Myron Selznick agency while still at Rada.
The 15 years that followed contained what Sallis considered to be his best creative achievements: in spite of his later fame as a TV and film performer he always saw himself primarily as a serious stage actor. His professional debut came in Sheridan’s The Scheming Lieutenant at the Arts theatre in 1946, and notable subsequent appearances included Orson Welles’s Moby Dick (1955) at the Duke of York’s theatre, Coward’s Look After Lulu (1959) with Vivien Leigh at the Royal Court, and Welles’s production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (1959) with Laurence Olivier, also at the Royal Court. He spent two seasons at the Lyric, Hammersmith with John Gielgud in 1953 and the Fifty Nine Theatre Company in 1959.
He married the actor Elaine Usher in 1957, but it was not a happy relationship and she divorced him in 1965. They were briefly reconciled but she left him for good in 1983, describing him in tabloid newspapers as a devious, serial adulterer. Reflecting on his marriage in 2004, Sallis told the Daily Express that he was “not ideal as a husband”. The couple had a son, Crispian, who went on to become an Oscar-nominated film set designer.


Sallis was also frank about his inadequacies as a parent, saying he was “not good father material”. “I don’t know what it was but I never saw myself as a father figure,” he went on. “I didn’t understand children. I don’t actually like children. There was a distance between me and my father and now there is a distance between me and my son.”
Sallis began his television career at the top, with the title role in the 14-part BBC serial Samuel Pepys in 1958, and he also appeared in smaller parts in shows such as Doctor Who, Catweazle and The Persuaders! He became a busy film actor, too, with smallish parts in The Scapegoat (1959), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Doctor in Love (1960), The VIPs (1963) and many others. Able to look terrified very convincingly, he also carved something of a niche in horror films Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Scream and Scream Again (1970), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Frankenstein: The True Story (1973).
His was already a familiar face, and Last of the Summer Wine made Sallis a household name; he was the only actor to appear in all 295 episodes of what became the world’s longest-running comedy series. Clarke had already collaborated with him on various projects, and wrote Clegg with him in mind. Of the original trio of anarchic old men re-living their childhoods, Blamire (Michael Bates) was the figure of authority, the Nora Batty-besotted Compo (Bill Owen) was the funniest and most outrageous, and Clegg occupied a middle ground: a witty but timid little man who preferred to be observer and commentator on his friends’ follies but was invariably roped in to the stunts as a reluctant participant.


Bates died before the third series and was replaced first by Brian Wilde, as the ex-soldier “Foggy” Dewhurst, then Michael Aldridge as the former headteacher Seymour Utterthwaite and, finally, by Frank Thornton as the retired policeman Herbert “Truly” Truelove. Owen died in 2000, and was never really replaced, though Brian Murphy as Alvin Smedley became Nora’s new neighbour. In the final two series the physical action was undertaken by younger members of the cast and Thornton and Sallis appeared mainly in indoor or background sequences.


The first Wallace and Gromit short film, A Grand Day Out, was released in 1990 to tremendous acclaim. It was nominated for an Academy Award, and from the start the voice of Sallis was a vital ingredient in its success. The Wrong Trousers (1993), A Close Shave (1995) and the full-length The Curse of the Were-Rabbit followed. All three earned Academy Awards, and Sallis was awarded an Annie award for voice acting for Were-Rabbit.
Sallis was 84 when the film came out, and his sight was failing through macular degeneration. He had no immediate plans for retirement and adjusted his life to meet the challenges involved, moving from his cottage close to the Thames in Richmond to a central London apartment and using a talking portable typewriter with a specially illuminated scanner. With the aid of these devices he was able to voice Wallace in A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008) and the TV science show Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention (2010), and then had to step back from the role. Since 2011 Wallace has been voiced by Ben Whitehead.
Sallis was also able to complete work on the final series of Last of the Summer Wine in 2010 and shortly afterwards he formally retired. Just before doing so, he became happily reconciled to the fact that his enduring global fame lay with Wallace. “I realise now, though it’s taken me nearly a hundred years, that my voice is distinctive,” he said. “I’m very lucky indeed.” In 2007 he was appointed OBE.

John Noakes


Date of Birth: 6 March 1934, Shelf, West Yorkshire, UK
Birth Name: John W Bottomley
Nickname: John Noakes

Children’s TV presenter whose can-do attitude marked him out from his more sensible Blue Peter co-hosts
In 1977, the television presenter John Noakes climbed Nelson’s Column without safety harness or insurance, for an episode of the BBC’s enduring children’s show Blue Peter. After shinning up one ladder, Noakes swung himself dauntlessly on to another, tilted 45 degrees from the vertical. “At this level,” said Noakes in a voiceover, “the plinth on which Nelson stands overhangs the column. I found myself literally hanging on from the ladder with nothing at all beneath me.” Nothing, that is, but a 52-metre drop to the slabs of Trafalgar Square. Truly, they don’t make television presenters like Noakes any more. “It’s a long way up, really,” he said as he stood on the plinth with Britain’s naval hero, a remark so refreshingly banal as to prove that Blue Peter was not always scripted.
During his 12 years as a Blue Peter presenter, Noakes often climbed things and, for a while, held the British civilian freefall parachuting record 25,000 feet. Soon after Noakes joined Blue Peter in December 1965, his then co-presenter Christopher Trace, who had no head for heights, had baulked at taking part in an outside broadcast that included climbing to the top of a tower crane. The show’s producer Edward Barnes asked Noakes if he would do it instead: “Aye, all right, I’ll have a go.”
That daredevil can-do attitude stood him in good stead and marked him out from his more sensible co-presenters, such as Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves and Lesley Judd. There are some fans of the show who will always remember the moment that Noakes bared his bruised bottom after coming off his bobsleigh as he shot down the Cresta Run.
And then there were the animals. Initially, Noakes was charged with looking after Patch, puppy of the first Blue Peter dog Petra, before being given stewardship of Shep, a border collie, after Patch’s death in 1971. Shep remained proverbially beyond his control. As the pop parodists the Barron Knights put it in their 1978 novelty song Get Down, Shep, about Noakes’s relationship with the dog he called his “straight man” “John could never be alone no matter where he went Because Shep would always sniff around and soon pick up his scent.” Decades after he left the show, and long after the dog’s death in 1987, people would stop Noakes in the street and ask: “Where’s Shep?”


There was also that incident with Lulu the baby elephant visiting the Blue Peter set in 1969. When Lulu urinated and defecated on the studio floor, and her handler slipped over in the mess, but Noakes went with the madness of the moment, embracing the chaos that ensued. “Ow, he’s trod on my foot,” yelled Noakes, adding, as Singleton and Purves tried vainly to restore order, “Oh dear I’ve trod right in it!”
It is hard to explain the significance of Blue Peter during the golden age in which Noakes was its lord of misrule. There were only three TV stations and no dedicated children’s network, so Blue Peter was culturally central to its viewers in a way no kids’ TV show could be now. At the peak of its popularity, eight million watched the show, savouring its time-honoured format: a live demonstration of an activity (usually involving making a model from plastic bottles held together with sticky-back plastic), and a music or dance performance, followed by an edifying filmed report with one of the presenters and some risky live turn with an animal. A thousand letters a day arrived from children keen to earn one of the coveted Blue Peter badges, which made them the envy of their classmates. “It was a bit like an overgrown schoolboy’s job,” Noakes told an interviewer many years later. “I was Peter Pan really. I sometimes think I still am.”


Noakes was born in the village of Shelf, between Bradford and Halifax, in West Yorkshire. He was an only child and loved playing by himself in the woods or in the rain. His mother, he once said, thought he was mad. His parents divorced when John was nine and he was sent as a boarder to Rishworth school, Sowerby Bridge, where he was the rebel of Remove B, the class for under-achievers.
Although he excelled in cross-country running and gymnastics, he left school without qualifications, as a result of which he was turned down as a pilot by the RAF. Instead he trained as an engine fitter for the RAF and the airline BOAC, before deciding he wanted to become an actor. He attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, financing the lessons by working as a liftboy in a hotel and doing early morning cleaning work. After graduation, he joined a touring repertory company and was spotted by Blue Peter’s editor, Biddy Baxter, in a production of Hobson’s Choice at the Phoenix theatre in Leicester, where he was playing Willie Mossop, the gormless hero of Harold Brighouse’s play.
Baxter, who was on the lookout for a third Blue Peter presenter to join Singleton and Trace as the programme went twice weekly, recalled that Noakes was “incredibly fresh faced he looked about 14”. He was actually 29 at the time. His winning Yorkshire accent (refreshing at a time when received pronunciation was still de rigueur for TV presenters), smiling eyes and quizzical expression “all combined to make the most compelling personality and one we were sure would be right for Blue Peter even before we had seen him on camera,” said Baxter.
Noakes was later dismissive of those Peter Pan years, saying that playing Mossop on stage had given him more satisfaction than the entire Blue Peter experience. “Given my time again,” he told Radio Times in 1999, “I wouldn’t have done Blue Peter. I’d done theatre for six years and was tired. But the pressure was terrible. One year I did nine weeks with only one and a half days off. I collapsed and couldn’t go on. That’s the nearest I came to a breakdown.” Noakes even turned on the woman who had plucked him from obscurity. “Biddy Baxter was an awful woman. I don’t want to talk about her. It would upset my lunch.”


His falling out with Baxter revolved in part around Shep. On leaving Blue Peter in 1978, Noakes wanted to make money from adverts featuring him and the famous collie. “I think it would have been immoral,” Baxter told the Guardian. “How can you have a Blue Peter presenter on commercial television advertising dog food so children think ‘I must buy this’?”
But after Blue Peter, Noakes was not short of work. Since 1976, he had presented Go With Noakes, a BBC children’s show featuring him in various outdoor adventures, such as motor racing, rowing, aerobatics and painting, accompanied by Shep. It lasted for five series until 1980. In 1979 he published a book of stories for children, The Flight of the Magic Clog.
In 1982, with his wife, Vicky, Noakes set off for the Caribbean in his own boat, intending to live there. Sailing had become a passion ever since he bought a boat to use at weekends while he was working on Blue Peter. Somewhere along the voyage, however, the boat was hit by a 60ft wave; the couple were rescued by the crew of a passing tanker. Noakes broke two ribs and suffered a deep cut above one eye that left a permanent scar. The Caribbean plan was shelved and ultimately he and Vicky decided to settle in Majorca.


In 1983 he presented The Dinosaur Trail, a seven-part documentary for ITV. There followed a long period of estrangement from television. He was not invited to the 25th anniversary party of Blue Peter, it was said, because he had threatened to “knock the block off” one of the producers.
In 1998 he returned to Blue Peter for a programme celebrating 40 years of the show, and was back again in January 2000 when Singleton, Purves and Noakes dug up the Blue Peter time capsule they had buried in 1971. In 1999, he presented a LWT series, Mad About Pets, with a new sidekick, a Dalmatian called Sigh. He also made appearances on Pet Rescue (2003), Britain’s Worst Celebrity Drivers (2005) and, with Peter Purves, on the quiz show Pointless Celebrities (2013).
In later years, Noakes enjoyed tap dancing and gardening. He took up painting watercolours of the almond and carob trees near his Majorcan home. “I had one exhibition and made £150, so I was chuffed.”

Roger Moore


Date of Birth: 14 October 1927, Stockwell, London, UK
Birth Name: Roger George Moore
Nickname: Roger Moore

Sir Roger Moore who brought humour, panache and suavity to his starring roles in The Saint, The Persuaders! and seven James Bond films
He considered himself to be only the fourth best actor to have played Ian Fleming’s secret-service agent James Bond on screen: in his estimation, he came in behind Daniel Craig (whom he called “the Bond”), Sean Connery and George Lazenby. Though Moore was rarely regarded as the best or most definitive Bond, his inimitable humour and panache made him many viewers’ favourite. His tally of seven films beginning with Live and Let Die (1973) and ending with A View to a Kill (1985).




Irreverence and knowingness were integral to his interpretation. But he also seemed far more plausibly endangered as Bond than Connery had ever been. Part of the viewer’s affection and even concern for him could be attributed to his advanced age: Moore was already 45 when he was cast as Bond, whereas Connery made his debut at 32 and Craig was 37. This contributed to the sense that Moore’s wellbeing was actively at risk on screen. Subjected to punishing levels of G-force on a flight simulator in Moonraker (1979) or dismantling a bomb while dressed as a clown in Octopussy (1983), he looked uniquely vulnerable. Clambering up the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge in A View to a Kill seemed inadvisable behaviour for a man of 56.
His range was modest, as he was the first to admit. He credited his success to “99% luck”, and singled out the 1970 supernatural thriller The Man Who Haunted Himself, in which he played a businessman who appears to be living two lives, as “the only film I was allowed to act in”. Such self-deprecation only encouraged critics to contribute their own jibes: Anthony Lane of the New Yorker said that Moore “needed a stunt double for his acting scenes” in the Bond films.
Moore became an object of mild mockery after the 1980s satirical TV show Spitting Image featured a puppet of him that expressed its emotions solely through its eyebrows


He was born in London, to Lily (nee Pope), a housewife, and George Moore, a police constable whose responsibilities included drawing accident scenes to be used in evidence in court. Roger himself had artistic ambitions early in life. He left school at 15 to accept a job as a trainee animator at Publicity Picture Productions, but was sacked a few months later when he neglected to collect a can of film.
Tagging along with friends in 1945 to auditions for film extras, Moore was picked to appear in a non-speaking role as a legionnaire in Caesar and Cleopatra, starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains. The film’s first assistant director, Brian Desmond Hurst, took Moore under his wing and encouraged him to audition for Rada. When Moore was accepted, Hurst paid his fees. He left at 18 to become a supporting player in the repertory company of the Arts theatre, Cambridge, before he was called up for military service. Posted to Germany, he succeeded in getting a transfer to the Combined Services Entertainment unit. In 1946, he had married Doorn Van Steyn, a fellow Rada student.
After three years in the army, Moore returned to acting, landing small roles in theatre and film, as well as appearing as a model for knitting patterns and in photo stories. He moved to New York City in 1953 with his second wife, the singer Dorothy Squires (Moore and Van Steyn had divorced earlier that year), and began getting acting work on US television. He signed a contract with MGM and was cast in a series of unmemorable films, including The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) and Interrupted Melody (1955). Returning to Britain, he took the lead in a 1958 television adventure series adapted from Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe.
Other regular TV roles of increasing size followed, including two western series, The Alaskans and Maverick, before Moore finally became a bona fide star, playing the crime-fighter and playboy Simon Templar in the popular television crime series The Saint. Produced by Lew Grade, it ran from 1962 until 1969. Moore, who also directed nine episodes, brought a suavity to the part which makes it a clear precursor of his work as James Bond; even his habit in early episodes of looking directly at the camera prefigures the later Bonds, where he all but winks at the audience.
Two years after The Saint ended, Moore was cast once more as a playboy adventurer in another Grade TV series, The Persuaders!, in which he was teamed with Tony Curtis. The odd-couple pairing (Moore, as Lord Brett Sinclair, was dapper; Curtis, playing Danny Wilde, was a ruffian) and the action staged in glamorous locations made the series a hit. Moore also directed two episodes. During this period, he was appointed the head of Brut Films, an offshoot of the cologne manufacturer. He tried unsuccessfully to entice Cary Grant to make his acting comeback in a Brut production, but succeeded in recruiting him as one of the company’s advisers. Moore was also instrumental in the making of A Touch of Class, the 1973 romantic comedy for which Glenda Jackson won her second Oscar.
His brief tenure as a mogul was abbreviated when he signed a three-film contract to play James Bond, a part which demanded no adjustment to the persona he had already established. Live and Let Die, an attempt to modernise the series with gritty blaxploitation trappings, still had its share of daftness; in one scene, Bond escapes across water using a row of alligators as stepping stones. Moore’s performance here and in his second outing, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), was cool and confident.
But it is his third Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), which is rightly considered his pinnacle. The writing, direction and production design were impressive, the action more than usually taut, and the balance of comedy and suspense acutely judged as in the iconic opening sequence in which Bond escapes falling to his death by opening a parachute emblazoned with the Union Jack. (The film was released in the Queen’s silver jubilee year.) Moore appeared relaxed but never complacent. He even came up with some of the movie’s nicest touches, such as the moment when Bond, emerging from an underwater drive, deposits a small fish out of his car window.


In between the Bond films, Moore moonlighted in other roles, including Gold (1974), a mining adventure shot in Johannesburg, the romantic comedy That Lucky Touch (1975) and the war movie Shout at the Devil (1975), co-starring Lee Marvin. But nothing came close to eclipsing his day job.
Outside the Bond series, he rarely deviated from action, appearing in quick succession in Escape to Athena (1979), North Sea Hijack and The Sea Wolves (both 1980). The Wild Geese (1978), a clunky, crypto-racist thriller about ageing mercenaries, was unusual in showcasing a more brutal side to Moore. Though he was seen pushing villains to their deaths in The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only (1981), nothing compared to the opening scene of The Wild Geese, in which he kills a drug dealer by forcing him to ingest large quantities of cocaine at gunpoint.
Moore devoted much of his time to being a goodwill ambassador for Unicef; it was for this humanitarian work that he was knighted in 2003.

Erin Moran


Date of Birth: 18 October 1960, Burbank, California, USA
Birth Name: Erin Marie Moran
Nickname: Erin Moran

Erin Moran was already a seasoned child star when she was cast in the role that made her recognised worldwide as Joanie Cunningham in the American sitcom Happy Days. Joanie is the feisty kid sister of the clean-cut teenager Richie Cunningham, around whom much of the show’s action revolves, and takes a great interest in his attempts to attract girls.


Moran was only seven when she joined the children’s TV drama Daktari in 1968 for its final two runs, as Jenny Jones, an orphan given a home by the vet and conservationist Dr Marsh Tracy (played by Marshall Thompson) at his Wameru Study Center for Animal Behaviour in east Africa. The popular adventure series was based on the 1965 film Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion.


Ron Howard, who had appeared in the film, landed the starring role as Richie, with Tom Bosley and Marion Ross as his parents, Howard and Marion Cunningham, and Moran as his sister. However, this wholesome American family in 50s Milwaukee was upstaged by Henry Winkler’s cool, leather jacket-wearing Italian biker Arthur Fonzarelli, aka the Fonz, who liked to refer to Joanie as “shortcake”.
The programme’s creator, Garry Marshall, recognised that Howard and Winkler played off each other and resisted attempts to spin the Fonz off into his own series. Nevertheless, there were spin-offs. Laverne and Shirley and Mork & Mindy featured characters only briefly seen in Happy Days, but Joanie Loves Chachi (1982-83) gave Moran her own sitcom to reflect her character entering adulthood. Scott Baio played Joanie’s rock musician boyfriend, Chachi Arcola, Fonzie’s cousin in Happy Days, with the diner owner Al Delvecchio (Chachi’s stepfather), played by Al Molinaro.


All three stars continued to appear in Happy Days until the end of its 10-year run. On screen, Joanie and Chachi married, and Moran and Baio were in a relationship off screen for a while.
Moran was born in Burbank, California, to Edward, a finance manager, and his wife, Sharon. One of six children five sisters and a brother she appeared in a TV commercial for a bank at the age of five and made her film debut, uncredited, as a girl on a tricycle, in the comedy Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967). Then, she was seen alongside James Garner and Debbie Reynolds in How Sweet It Is! (1967). While pursuing her acting career, she was educated at Walter Reed junior high school and North Hollywood high school. After Happy Days finished, Moran had guest roles in The Love Boat (1980-85) and Murder, She Wrote (1986), and appeared in the reality TV series Celebrity Fit Club USA (2008), but she struggled to find acting work. Her last credited screen role was in the horror-film spoof Not Another B Movie (2010).

Bill Paxton


Date of Birth: 17 May 1955, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Birth Name: William Paxton
Nickname: Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton was a lively and endearing character actor. Stocky, with a knack for conveying bareknuckle vitality as well as a more considered intelligence and tenderness, he cropped up initially in some of the sparkiest pulp films of the 1980s, including Kathryn Bigelow’s highly original vampire movie Near Dark (1987).
After James Cameron had an unexpected hit with The Terminator (1984), in which Paxton appeared briefly as a blue-haired thug, he took the actor with him on to future projects, casting him as one of a band of rough and ready deep-space marines in Aliens (1986), as a dopey car salesman in True Lies (1994) and as a treasure hunter in the framing story that bookends Titanic (1997). As one of the beleaguered astronauts in Apollo 13 (1995) and the chief tornado-chaser in Twister (1996), Paxton was for a time Hollywood’s favourite down to earth good ol’ boy.


Such parts would on their own have been enough for a career. However, Paxton landed several demanding lead roles – two of them in emotionally weighty thrillers, the other in an offbeat television series which proved not only that he was capable of bringing subtle shadings to trickier material, but also that the industry had been remiss in not putting more of that sort of work his way.
In Carl Franklin’s One False Move (1992), he was Dale “Hurricane” Dixon, a goofy, garrulous Star City sheriff whose fate is inextricably linked to the vicious killers heading his way. For all that film’s suspense, it had a gentle side personified by Paxton, who played with delicacy several pointedly crushing scenes, such as the moment when Dale overhears the visiting LAPD detectives discussing what they really think of him.
Even better was Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan (1998), in which he played an ordinary Joe who stumbles upon $4m in a small plane crashed in the woods, only for the loot to have a pernicious effect on his life. It was a joy to see the subtleties of anguish, guilt and resentment played out in Paxton’s clenched performance as a man haunted by the suspicion that he has been dealt a rum hand. In the HBO series Big Love (2006-11), he was Bill Henrickson, another character who feels he should be enjoying life far more than he is. As a polygamist in a fundamentalist Mormon community in Utah, he spends most of his time refereeing between his three wives, his parents and the town elders.


Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Bill was the son of Mary Lou (nee Gray), a fashion director, and John Paxton, a lumber salesman who later followed his son into the acting business. (Paxton Sr had roles in six of Raimi’s films, including A Simple Plan and the Spider-Man trilogy.) Bill’s earliest brush with fame arrived when he was eight years old and was hoisted above the crowd outside John F Kennedy’s hotel only a few hours before the president was assassinated; a photograph of the moment is on display in the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, Texas.
As a teenager, Paxton became interested in film-making when he and his friends began shooting Super 8 shorts for which they built their own sets. He moved to Los Angeles and found work in various prop and art departments. He was hired by Cameron, who was then a production designer and second-unit director, on the no-budget horror Galaxy of Terror (1981). Together they created the interiors of spaceships out of everything from Winnebago parts to dishwasher racks.


When Paxton was rejected by film schools in southern California, he moved into acting; he had a walk-on part as a soldier in the Bill Murray hit Stripes (1981) and played a flat-topped bully in the bawdy comedy Weird Science (1985). He had more chance to shine in Aliens as the comically macho Hudson. “Being the hysteric of the group, I was always yelling and screaming,” he recalled. “I was worried the audience would think, ‘Oh God, when is this guy going to get killed?’” In fact, his character was a crowd-pleaser.



Subsequent film work included another horror sequel, Predator 2 (1990), the western Tombstone (1993), the black comedy The Last Supper (1995), the Terms of Endearment sequel The Evening Star (1996) and the enjoyable mountaineering adventure Vertical Limit (2000). But even after receiving acclaim for A Simple Plan, Paxton never really got his due as an actor. “I thought that one might be the role that put it all together for me, that connected the dots,” he lamented in 2002.
He made good on his directing ambitions with Frailty (2001), in which he also starred as a man who entreats his sons to join him in following God’s orders by murdering demons in human form. This disturbing film about religious fanaticism, adroitly handled by Paxton, was sadly overlooked, and he directed only one more, the golfing drama The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005). In recent years, he enjoyed success on television in the historical miniseries Hatfields & McCoys (2012) and the Marvel adventure Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, while returning to supporting roles in films such as the Tom Cruise action fantasy Edge of Tomorrow and the drama Nightcrawler (all 2014).

Tara Palmer Tomkinson


Date of Birth: 23 December 1971, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK
Birth Name: Tara Claire Palmer Tomkinson
Nickname: Tara Palmer Tomkinson

As a schoolgirl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson dreamed so she would later tell an interviewer of riding in the Grand National or becoming a concert pianist. Instead she became a 1990s version of the “It girl” (the original was the silent movie star Clara Bow), famous for being famous.
Partying frenetically throughout the period, affluent and well-connected to the royal family, Palmer-Tomkinson rapidly became a gift for the media, and not just the tabloids. She was glamorous but friendly, accessible and witty with journalists: usually good for a quote and always willing to pose, usually in designer outfits, for photographers, however undignified they made her look.
Her celebrity won her regular appearances in gossip columns during the 90s, a ghosted column in the Sunday Times Style section, headlined “Yah!” for a time, free sports cars and designer clothes from manufacturers keen to promote their brands, appearances on TV shows and confessional interviews with newspapers. There were also a couple of jokey books containing advice such as: “I would never go out with a man who turned right when boarding an aircraft.” Bizarrely, hers was even the face selling Walker’s Celebration crisps for a while and also Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Yet Palmer-Tomkinson, who has been found dead in her Kensington flat at the age of 45, insisted in more recent interviews that her brittle gaucheness hid deeper insecurities and a lack of self-confidence disguised through the greatest period of fame 20 years ago by the intake of copious quantities of champagne and a £400-a-day cocaine habit.
“They wanted a real Ab Fab person,” she told the Daily Mail in 2011. “That was only a small part of who I was.”
Palmer-Tomkinson was the youngest of three children of Charles Palmer-Tomkinson, a Hampshire landowner and former British Olympic skier, and his wife, Patti Dawson, an Anglo Argentin a former model who met her husband while working as a “chalet girl” in Switzerland. Tara’s father taught the Prince of Wales to ski in the 70s and the family have remained regular skiing and holidaying partners of the prince and his sons ever since. Patti was severely injured when during a holiday in 1988 the royal party was engulfed by an avalanche that killed Major Hugh Lindsay, an equerry, and injured the prince.


Tara’s first brush with celebrity came when she was photographed by the paparazzi while giving the prince a chaste kiss at Klosters in 1995. She later boasted, inaccurately: “I have kissed Prince Charles every day since I was four,” but she was a friend to his sons and counselled Kate Middleton during her temporary separation from Prince William in 2008 before their marriage.
Tara grew up on the family’s 1,200 acre Dummer Grange estate near Basingstoke, Hampshire, and was educated like her older sister, Santa, at Sherborne school for girls, Dorset, where she obtained nine O-levels and A-levels in English, art and ancient history. She was regarded as a talented pianist, though she never reached Grade 8, telling the Daily Mail last year that: “I couldn’t be bothered with all the boring technicalities of scales and arpeggios.”
Instead of university, she enrolled for a dance and drama course at the London Studio Centre and worked, briefly, for Rothschild’s bank before becoming a model and, increasingly, as her celebrity blossomed, a fashionable woman about town. Flitting between parties and nightclubs on the arms of a succession of wealthy but transient boyfriends, she caught the eyes of the tabloid photographers waiting outside and was soon given a column to chronicle her activities in the Sunday Times, staff on the paper crafting her words each week into usable copy. The Style section’s then editor, Jeremy Langmead, said: “She was amusing and self-deprecating in a bonkers way.”
The column was popular but her unreliability was problematic. Celebrity came at a price, advances against the column were used to fuel her cocaine habit, her credit cards were removed because of mounting debts, and in 1999 her parents paid for her to go into rehab in Arizona for a month. Later the drug habit would require the surgical reconstruction of her nose after the septum collapsed. “Every time I come out of a loo cubicle people ask what she’s been doing in there,” Palmer-Tomkinson observed later, insisting she had not taken drugs for 10 years.


The partying was gradually replaced by other media appearances on tele- vision, in which she displayed feistiness and wit. She was the runner-up in the inaugural series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here in 2002 and two years later she co-presented ITV2’s spinoff show with Mark Durden-Smith. She appeared on other popular TV shows such as Blind Date, Cold Turkey (about her attempt to give up smoking), Loose Women, Top of the Pops and Bognor or Bust. She was a patron of charities for the young bereaved and for autistic children helped by music.
There were still occasional appearances in the gossip columns, as in 2014 when she was temporarily arrested after creating a scene at Heathrow airport and having to be restrained, but last November she revealed characteristically in the Mail that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and a growth on her pituitary gland and was scared of dying. She had become frail and reclusive and said: “I am not the person I was. I’m much calmer… the party world scares me. I am a very quiet person now. I have a better perspective on life.”

Richard Hatch


Date of Birth: 21 May 1945, Santa Monica, California, USA
Birth Name: Richard Lawrence Hatch
Nickname: Richard Hatch

In the rush to emulate the success of Star Wars, there were many imitations and rip-offs. The 1978 television series Battlestar Galactica was one of the most charming, thanks in no small part to the actor Richard Hatch. He was the dashing and clean-cut Captain Apollo, the show’s equivalent to Luke Skywalker, opposite the more roguish Han Solo figure, Lt Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict. When Hatch first read the script, Apollo was named Skyler; other echoes of Star Wars were not so easily muted, however, and it was hardly surprising when 20th Century Fox, the studio behind George Lucas’s hit, sued Universal, the makers of Battlestar Galactica, citing 34 similarities between the two properties. The case was settled before reaching court in 1980, though by that point the series had already been cancelled.


With his dazzlingly bright teeth, glossy locks and boyish handsomeness, Hatch was almost ridiculously good-looking. Asked in 2012 if he thought his appearance had hurt his career, he said: “I think so. I had to prove myself over and over. When you’re good-looking, you struggle to prove that you can act.” There was a reassuringly uncomplicated air about him in Battlestar Galactica: he was essentially the boy next door in space. The limitations of playing the squeaky-clean hero, though, were immediately apparent to him. “I love Apollo he’s amazing but they weren’t challenging him enough,” he said. “He’s the true blue hero and the good guy never gets his due.”


The original show, in which some of the last remaining humans are pursued across the universe by an evil robot race known as the Cylons, ran for only one series but generated a sizeable fan base and considerable affection, with Hatch nominated for a Golden Globe. The extravagant cost of the show, rather than any lack of ratings, was said to have hastened its demise. British audiences got their first taste of it in cinemas when Universal re-edited the three-part pilot episode, Saga of a Star World, to create the feature film Battlestar Galactica (1978) as a way of recouping some of the show’s costs.


Although Hatch declined to take part in a short-lived follow-up series, Galactica 1980, he did accept a different role in the franchise when it was finally revived by the Syfy channel as a mini-series in 2003 followed by four series; the show ended in 2009. Hatch had spent many years trying to generate enough money and interest for a new Battlestar Galactica, even making his own trailers at great expense to try to convince Universal to give the show another shot, and writing spin-off novels continuing the saga.
He was initially sceptical of the writer and producer Ronald D Moore’s decision to discard the old Galactica characters entirely, but changed his tune when he was offered the role of Tom Zarek, a former rebel turned politician, which Moore pitched to him as “a political revolutionary, à la Nelson Mandela but a little bit darker”. The character appeared in 22 episodes, introducing Hatch to a new generation of fans and providing him with exactly the sort of texture that had been lacking in Apollo.
He was born in Santa Monica, California and attended Harbor College, San Pedro. He showed an early interest in ballet and in pole-vaulting, but traced his liking for acting back to a class at college during which he overcame his shyness to read aloud a report about the assassination of President John F Kennedy. He got his first acting experiences in Chicago and Los Angeles repertory theatre groups and in off-Broadway shows, before he became a regular on the US soap opera All My Children from 1970 until 1972.
His subsequent TV appearances included Hawaii Five-O, The Waltons, Dynasty and The Love Boat. In 1976 he replaced Michael Douglas for the final series of the cop show The Streets of San Francisco. “Even my girlfriend at the time liked Michael Douglas and missed [his] character,” he noted.


His best performance was as Jan Berry, one half of the pop duo Jan and Dean, in the above-par TV biopic Deadman’s Curve (1978). The most impressive scene shows Jan performing on stage for the first time seven years after the car accident that nearly killed him. A technical malfunction reveals that he has been miming along to a backing tape. After pleading for clemency from the braying crowd, he begins falteringly to sing on his own again. Hatch and his co-star Bruce Davison, as Dean, turned what could have been a purely cloying moment into something sincere and electrifying.
Hatch’s film appearances were infrequent, though in the wake of his Battlestar Galactica success he landed a starring role in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981), in which he was the grandson of the famous sleuth (played on this occasion by Peter Ustinov). But there were usually TV opportunities for him in guest spots on established series (Baywatch, Santa Barbara) or as the star of his own reality show, Who the Frak (2011), which followed him around as he worked as a life coach and motivational speaker. He also played a part in establishing, a dating website for science-fiction fans.

John Hurt


Date of Birth: 22 January 1940, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK
Birth Name: John Vincent Hurt
Nickname: John Hurt

Few British actors of recent years have been held in as much affection as Sir John Hurt. That affection is not just because of his unruly lifestyle he was a hell-raising chum of Oliver Reed, Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris, and was married four times or even his string of performances as damaged, frail or vulnerable characters, though that was certainly a factor. There was something about his innocence, open-heartedness and his beautiful speaking voice that made him instantly attractive.
As he aged, his face developed more creases and folds than the old map of the Indies, inviting comparisons with the famous “lived-in” faces of WH Auden and Samuel Beckett, in whose reminiscent Krapp’s Last Tape he gave a definitive solo performance towards the end of his career. One critic said he could pack a whole emotional universe into the twitch of an eyebrow, a sardonic slackening of the mouth. Hurt himself said: “What I am now, the man, the actor, is a blend of all that has happened.”
For theatregoers of my generation, his pulverising, hysterically funny performance as Malcolm Scrawdyke, leader of the Party of Dynamic Erection at a Yorkshire art college, in David Halliwell’s Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, was a totemic performance of the mid-1960s; another was David Warner’s Hamlet, and both actors appeared in the 1974 film version of Little Malcolm. The play lasted only two weeks at the Garrick Theatre (I saw the final Saturday matinée), but Hurt’s performance was already a minor cult, and one collected by the Beatles and Laurence Olivier.


He became an overnight sensation with the public at large as Quentin Crisp the self-confessed “stately homo of England” in the 1975 television film The Naked Civil Servant, directed by Jack Gold, playing the outrageous, original and defiant aesthete whom Hurt had first encountered as a nude model in his painting classes at St Martin’s School of Art, before he trained as an actor.
Crisp called Hurt “my representative here on Earth”, ironically claiming a divinity at odds with his low-life louche-ness and poverty. But Hurt, a radiant vision of ginger quiffs and curls, with a voice kippered in gin and as studiously inflected as a deadpan mix of Noël Coward, Coral Browne and Julian Clary, in a way propelled Crisp to the stars, and certainly to his transatlantic fame, a journey summarised when Hurt recapped Crisp’s life in An Englishman in New York (2009), 10 years after his death.


Hurt said some people had advised him that playing Crisp would end his career. Instead, it made everything possible. Within five years he had appeared in four of the most extraordinary films of the late 1970s: Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), the brilliantly acted sci-fi horror movie in which Hurt from whose stomach the creature exploded was the first victim; Alan Parker’s Midnight Express, for which he won his first Bafta award as a drug-addicted convict in a Turkish torture prison; Michael Cimino’s controversial western Heaven’s Gate (1980), now a cult classic in its fully restored format; and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.


In the last-named, as John Merrick, the deformed circus attraction who becomes a celebrity in Victorian society and medicine, Hurt won a second Bafta award and Lynch’s opinion that he was “the greatest actor in the world”. He infused a hideous outer appearance there were 27 moving pieces in his face mask; he spent nine hours a day in make-up with a deeply moving, humane quality. He followed up with a small role Jesus, in Mel Brooks’s History of the World: Part 1 (1981), the movie where the waiter at the Last Supper says, “Are you all together, or is it separate checks?”
Hurt was an actor freed of all convention in his choice of roles, and he lived his life accordingly. Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, he was the youngest of three children of a Church of England vicar and mathematician, the Reverend Arnould Herbert Hurt, and his wife, Phyllis (née Massey), an engineer with an enthusiasm for amateur dramatics.
After a miserable schooling at St Michael’s in Sevenoaks, Kent (where he said he was sexually abused), and the Lincoln grammar school (where he played Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest), he rebelled as an art student, first at the Grimsby art school where, in 1959, he won a scholarship to St Martin’s, before training at Rada for two years from 1960.


He made a stage debut that same year with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Arts, playing a semi-psychotic teenage thug in Fred Watson’s Infanticide in the House of Fred Ginger and then joined the cast of Arnold Wesker’s national service play, Chips With Everything, at the Vaudeville. Still at the Arts, he was Len in Harold Pinter’s The Dwarfs (1963) before playing the title role in John Wilson’s Hamp (1964) at the Edinburgh Festival, where the critic Caryl Brahms noted his unusual ability and “blessed quality of simplicity”.
This was a more relaxed, free-spirited time in the theatre. Hurt recalled rehearsing with Pinter when silver salvers stacked with gins and tonics, ice and lemon, would arrive at 11.30 each morning as part of the stage management routine. On receiving a rude notice from the distinguished Daily Mail critic Peter Lewis, he wrote, “Dear Mr Lewis, Whooooops! Yours sincerely, John Hurt” and received the reply, “Dear Mr Hurt, Thank you for short but tedious letter. Yours sincerely, Peter Lewis.”
After Little Malcolm, he played leading roles with the RSC at the Aldwych notably in David Mercer’s Belcher’s Luck (1966) and as the madcap dadaist Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (1974) as well as Octavius in Shaw’s Man and Superman in Dublin in 1969 and an important 1972 revival of Pinter’s The Caretaker at the Mermaid. But his stage work over the next 10 years was virtually non-existent as he followed The Naked Civil Servant with another pyrotechnical television performance as Caligula in I, Claudius; Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and the Fool to Olivier’s King Lear in Michael Elliott’s 1983 television film.
His first big movie had been Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons (1966) with Paul Scofield (Hurt played Richard Rich), but his first big screen performance was an unforgettable Timothy Evans, the innocent framed victim in Richard Fleischer’s 10 Rillington Place (1970), with Richard Attenborough as the sinister landlord and killer John Christie. He claimed to have made 150 movies and persisted in playing those he called “the unloved people like us, the inside-out people, who live their lives as an experiment, not as a formula”. Even his Ben Gunn-like professor in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) fitted into this category, though not as resoundingly, perhaps, as his quivering Winston Smith in Michael Radford’s terrific Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984); or as a prissy weakling, Stephen Ward, in Michael Caton-Jones’s Scandal (1989), about the Profumo affair; or again as the lonely writer Giles De’Ath in Richard Kwietniowski’s Love and Death on Long Island.


His later, sporadic theatre performances included a wonderful Trigorin in Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Lyric, Hammersmith, in 1985 (with Natasha Richardson as Nina); Turgenev’s incandescent idler Rakitin in a 1994 West End production by Bill Bryden of A Month in the Country, playing a superb duet with Helen Mirren’s Natalya Petrovna; and another memorable match with Penelope Wilton in Brian Friel’s exquisite 70-minute doodle Afterplay (2002), in which two lonely Chekhov characters Andrei from Three Sisters, Sonya from Uncle Vanya find mutual consolation in a Moscow café in the 1920s. The play originated, as did that late Krapp’s Last Tape, at the Gate theatre in Dublin.
His last screen work included, in the Harry Potter franchise, the first, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), and last two, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two (2010, 2011), as the kindly wand-maker Mr Ollivander; Rowan Joffé’s 1960s remake of Brighton Rock (2010); and the 50th anniversary television edition of Dr Who (2013), playing a forgotten incarnation of the title character.
Because of his distinctive, virtuosic vocal attributes was that what a brandy-injected fruitcake sounds like, or peanut butter spread thickly with a serrated knife? He was always in demand for voiceover gigs in animated movies: the heroic rabbit leader, Hazel, in Watership Down (1978), Aragorn/Strider in Lord of the Rings (1978) and the Narrator in Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2004). In 2015 he took the Peter O’Toole stage role in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell for BBC Radio 4. He had foresworn alcohol for a few years not for health reasons, he said, but because he was bored with it.
Hurt’s sister was a teacher in Australia, his brother a convert to Roman Catholicism and a monk and writer. After his first marriage to the actor Annette Robinson (1960, divorced 1962) he lived for 15 years in London with the French model Marie-Lise Volpeliere Pierrot. She died in a riding accident in 1983.
In 1984 he married, secondly, a Texan, Donna Peacock, living with her for a time in Nairobi until the relationship came under strain from his drinking: they divorced in 1990. With his third wife, Jo Dalton, whom he married in the same year, he had two sons, Nick and Alexander (“Sasha”); they divorced in 1995. In 2005 he married the actor and producer Anwen Rees-Myers, with whom he lived in Cromer, Norfolk. Hurt was made CBE in 2004, given a Bafta lifetime achievement award in 2012 and knighted in the New Year’s honours list of 2015.

Gordon Kaye


Date of Birth: 7 April 1941, Huddersfield, UK
Birth Name: Gordon Fitzgerald Kaye
Nickname: Gordon Kaye

Kaye’s most memorable role was as the owner of Cafe René in the hit BBC1 comedy, which made light of the German occupation of France during the second world war.


The series, which ran from 1982 to 1992, was based around his character’s struggle with daily life in the French town of Nouvion: maintaining a friendly face for the German soldiers, getting dragged into the French resistance and having numerous affairs with his waiting staff.
Kaye appeared in all 84 episodes of the popular series and was nominated for a Bafta. He appeared more than 1,000 times in the stage version.


Vicki Michelle, who played Yvette Carte-Blanche, paid tribute to her co-star. “So sad to hear news of Gorden Kaye. A brilliantly talented actor, consummate professional, loved the world over,” she said. “There’ll never be another René.”
Shane Allen, the controller of BBC comedy commissioning, said Kaye was a “terrific comic actor whose signature role, René Artois, earned his place in the comedy hall of fame”, adding: “He was instrumental in making ‘Allo ‘Allo! such a long-running and well-loved series.”


Born in Huddersfield in 1941, Kaye described himself in his autobiography as a “shy, gay and overweight boy” who turned to acting to help his self-confidence. He began with small film roles, including The Party’s Over in 1965 starring Oliver Reed, but he found his true calling in television, first landing a role in Coronation Street. In 1982, he was cast as the lead character in ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Kaye suffered serious injuries in the Burns’ Day storm of January 1990 when a plank smashed through his windscreen and knocked him unconscious. During his stay in hospital following five hours of brain surgery, two journalists from the Sunday Sport posed as doctors to sneak into his room, an incident that caused national uproar and was described by the appeal court as a “monstrous invasion of privacy”.


Despite the severity of his injuries, Kaye went on to film two more series of ‘Allo ‘Allo after the accident.
Kaye’s last television role was in the BBC sketch show Revolver, but he returned to the screen in 2007 for a one-off revival of ‘Allo ‘Allo to reprise his best known role.

Debbie Raynolds


Date of Birth: 1 April 1932, El Paso, Texas, USA
Birth Name: Mary Frances Raynolds
Nickname: Debbie Raynolds

When Debbie Reynolds, wearing a skimpy pink flapper’s dress, burst out of an enormous cake at a Hollywood party in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), she simultaneously burst into screen stardom.
In fact, it was the sixth film appearance of Reynolds, who has died aged 84, but her first starring role. The casting of the inexperienced 19 year old was a risk taken by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, the co-directors of the classic MGM musical about the early days of talkies. The gamble paid off, but not without some sweat and strain.
“There were times when Debbie was more interested in playing the French horn somewhere in the San Fernando Valley or attending a Girl Scout meeting,” Kelly recalled. “She didn’t realise she was a movie star all of a sudden.” Reynolds herself admitted later: “I was so confused. It seemed dumb to me reporting to the studio at 6am, six days a week and shooting till midnight. I didn’t know anything about show business.
“I learned a lot from Gene,” she added. “He is a perfectionist and a disciplinarian the most exacting director I’ve ever worked for every so often, he would yell at me and make me cry. But it took a lot of patience for him to work with someone who had never danced before. It’s amazing that I could keep up with him and Donald O’Connor. This little girl from Burbank sure had a lot of spirit.”


Daughter of Maxene (nee Harmon) and Ray Reynolds, she was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas. Her father was a railroad mechanic and carpenter, who lost his job at the height of the Great Depression. After living from hand to mouth for a while, the family moved to Burbank, California when her father got a job with the Southern Pacific railroad. While at high school, Reynolds entered and won the Miss Burbank beauty contest. One of the requirements was “talent”, which she fulfilled by lip-syncing to a record of Betty Huttonsinging I’m a Square in the Social Circle, which earned her a Warner Bros contract. (It was Jack Warner who gave her the name of Debbie.) But after a bit part in the Bette Davis comedy June Bride (1948), and playing June Haver’s bubbly young sister in The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950), she took up a contract with MGM, where she flourished, on and off, throughout the 50s and early 60s.
Prior to Singin’ in the Rain, Reynolds was noticed, in what amounted to a cameo, lip-syncing I Wanna Be Loved By You to the singer Helen Kane’s voice in Three Little Words (1950). In Two Weeks with Love (1950), as a younger sister again, this time Jane Powell’s, the cute 5 ft 2in Reynolds stopped the show with the 6ft 3in Carleton Carpenter in two numbers: Abba Dabba Honeymoon and Row, Row, Row, with her nifty tap dancing belying her statements of never having danced before Singin’ in the Rain.

Reynolds’s lively opening Charleston number in her breakthrough film has her singing and dancing All I Do Is Dream of You with a dozen other chorus girls; she keeps up brilliantly with Kelly and O’Connor in the cheery matinal greeting Good Mornin’, danced and sung around a living room even though during some of the more challenging steps, she stands by and lets the two men dance around her and she is touching in the lyrical duet You Were Meant For Me with Kelly, who switches on coloured lights and a gentle wind machine on a sound stage to create a make-believe atmosphere.
In the plot, a silent screen star, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen, unforgettable), has a risibly squeaky voice for sound movies and, unknown to the public, is dubbed by Kathy Selden (Reynolds). In reality, however, Debbie’s singing voice was dubbed by the uncredited Betty Noyes, and Hagen herself provided the speaking voice for Debbie, dubbing her on screen because Reynolds was then handicapped by what Donen called “that terrible western noise”.
An effervescent Reynolds went on to star in a series of charming youthful musicals, this time using her own pleasant singing voice. I Love Melvin (1953) was one of the best, with Reynolds paired again with O’Connor. The film opens with A Lady Loves, a musical dream sequence in which Debbie sees herself as a big movie star courted by Robert Taylor. This gives her a chance to be classy, in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Later she features in a witty acrobatic number entitled Saturday Afternoon Before the Game in which she is dressed as a ball being tossed around by a football team.


There followed The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, Give a Girl a Break (both 1953), Susan Slept Here, Athena (both 1954), Hit the Deck and The Tender Trap (both 1955). In the latter, a romantic comedy, Frank Sinatra is a confirmed bachelor and Reynolds is determined to trap him into marriage. In the same year, 23-year-old Reynolds married the 27-year-old crooner Eddie Fisher. They became the darlings of the fan magazines, and co-starred in Bundle of Joy (1956), a feeble musical remake of the 1939 Ginger Rogers David Niven comedy, which capitalised on their personalities as a happy young couple and the rumours of her pregnancy. (Reynolds gave birth to a daughter, Carrie, in October 1956.)

Meanwhile with the film musical in a moribund state, Reynolds showed that she could get by in straight acting roles, the first proof being in The Catered Affair (1956), a slice of Hollywood realism, with Reynolds as the daughter of working class parents (Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine). This failed at the box office, unlike Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), which was one of Reynolds’s greatest successes, the theme song of which (“I hear the cottonwoods whisp’rin’ above, Tammy! Tammy! Tammy’s in love!”) remained high in the hit parade for months. This entertaining piece of whimsy gave Reynolds, as a backwoods girl in love with a wealthy man (Leslie Nielsen), what was an archetypal role a naive girl thrust into a sophisticated world and triumphing.
In 1957, Eddie and Debbie were best man and matron of honour at the wedding in Acapulco of Fisher’s lifelong friend the impresario Mike Todd to Elizabeth Taylor. A little over a year later, Todd was killed in a plane crash, and Taylor sought solace in Fisher’s arms, causing a huge Hollywood scandal. Taylor, who had been cast as the Grieving Widow, now found herself in the role of the Vamp, while Reynolds was widely and sympathetically portrayed as the Wronged Woman. However, the outraged moralistic public was unaware that the Fisher-Reynolds marriage was already in tatters, although they continued to play America’s sweethearts in public, mainly because Debbie was pregnant with their son Todd (named after Mike) and they were worried that divorce would damage their popularity ratings. But divorce was inevitable and, on 12 May 1959, Taylor, who had converted to Judaism when she married Todd, married Fisher at a synagogue in Las Vegas.
Despite being the divorced mother of two small children, Reynolds was never more active. In 1959, she was among the top 10 Hollywood box office stars and appeared four movies that year: The Mating Game, Say One for Me, The Gazebo and It Started With a Kiss. None were world-beaters, but they got by on her effortless charm.
In November 1960, Reynolds married the millionaire shoe store magnate Harry Karl, and pursued her career with added vigour, though her roles hardly varied, whether she was playing Fred Astaire’s nubile daughter in The Pleasure of His Company or a feisty young widow with two children in The Second Time Around (both 1961) or a pioneer woman in the sprawling Cinerama western How the West Was Won (1962), in which she is the only character who makes it through from the first reel to the last, ageing from 16 to 90.
In The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), for which she was Oscar nominated, Reynolds throws herself around energetically in the title role of the backwoods girl (shades of Tammy, but with added robustness) who enters high society and survives the Titanic, displaying everything she had learned from past musicals, especially in the dance numbers Belly Up to the Bar, Boys and I Ain’t Down Yet.


After playing a man resurrected as a woman in the tiresome Goodbye Charlie (1964), and the title role in The Singing Nun (1966), the mawkish biopic of the guitar strumming Belgian nun who composed the hit song Dominique, she finally managed to bid farewell to her ingenue “tomboy” persona and portray a mature adult in Divorce American Style (1967). A rare Hollywood comedy with teeth, it cast Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke against type as a squabbling couple, who utter not a word as they prepare for bed in the best sequence. “That was a really hard part to get,” Reynolds commented. “The producer didn’t want me. He didn’t think I could play an ordinary married woman. I think he thought I had to be all ‘diva’d up’ and in a musical.”
When Reynolds, now in her mid-30s, saw her film career gradually slowing to a virtual halt, she reinvented herself as a cabaret performer, appearing most frequently on stage in Las Vegas. Reynolds also shifted her attention to US television starting with 18 episodes of The Debbie Reynolds Show (1969-70), a sitcom resembling I Love Lucy, in which she played a suburban housewife with ambitions to become a newspaper reporter. She continued to appear regularly on TV for the next four decades. What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971), a campy murder tale set in 1930s Hollywood in which Reynolds and Shelley Winters run a school for budding Shirley Temples, would be her last feature film for 20 years.
By the early 1970s, her marriage to Karl was heading for the rocks, mainly because of his infidelities but also because he had gambled away both their fortunes. Luckily, Reynolds was still bankable and, immediately after her divorce in 1973, she made her Broadway debut in a revival of the 1919 musical hit Irene. The show, which ran for 18 months, gained Reynolds a Tony nomination, and was the first of several stage musicals she would appear in over the years: Annie Get Your Gun, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Woman of the Year among them.


Reynolds returned to the big screen in the 90s, where she showed that she had lost none of her comic timing playing a number of sweet-voiced monster mums, having maintained her doll-like looks. These included Albert Brooks’s Mother (1996), her first leading film role for 27 years, In & Out (1997) and Zack and Reba (1998), as well as appearing in 10 episodes of Will and Grace on TV, portraying Grace’s mother, a would-be star whose propensity for breaking out into show tunes and impressions dismays her daughter. Reynolds was also known as Princess Leia’s mother, after Carrie Fisher found fame in the Star Wars movies.
Aside from performing, Reynolds had many other interests. In 1991, she bought a hotel and casino in Las Vegas, where she displayed part of her extensive collection of vintage Hollywood props, sets and costumes. But after her marriage to the real-estate developer Richard Hamlett ended in 1996, she was forced to declare bankruptcy the following year. She later reopened her museum in Hollywood. Reynolds was also an indefatigable fund-raiser for The Thalians (a charitable organisation that provides mental health services from pediatrics to geriatrics in Los Angeles).

Carrie Fisher


Date of Birth: 21 October 1956, Burbank, California, USA
Birth Name: Carrie Frances Fisher
Nickname: Carrie Fisher

Carrie might well have had an entire career eclipsed after playing one of the leads in the most successful movie franchise of all time. Fisher’s portrayal of the intergalactic rebel leader Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars series certainly made her a household name: “In the street, they call out, ‘Hey, Princess!’, which makes me feel like a poodle.” But the films never defined her as they did some of her co-stars.


If anything, her bristling humour and intellect made it seem in retrospect as though she had been rather slumming it in those trumped-up B-movies. Certainly the snappy writing in her autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge (1987) was light years ahead of anything she ever had to say on screen as Leia. She was unimpressed about her role in the first Star Wars (1977): “A lot of it was just running down corridors.”
It came as no surprise, then, that she enjoyed a successful writing career alongside her increasingly intermittent acting appearances, with other novels including Surrender the Pink (1990) and Delusions of Grandma (1993). Her most recent book, The Princess Diarist (2016), drew on diaries she wrote while shooting the first Star Wars film in 1976 and included the revelation that she and her married co-star Harrison Ford had been romantically involved.


Anyone lacking Fisher’s tenacity would surely have been capsized by a Hollywood childhood marked by turbulence and scandal. Her parents, the actors Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, divorced when she was 18 months old; her father ran off with Elizabeth Taylor while her mother turned to drink. Fisher grew up to have difficult relationships with each parent. As a child, she rarely saw her father; as an adult, they took cocaine together. Her arguments with her mother could be cataclysmic. As a teenager, Fisher once threw milk in Reynolds’s lap; Reynolds responded by putting baked beans in Fisher’s hair.
If anything, Fisher’s difficult background made her seem impossibly savvy and whip-smart. “I was going to be this nonchalant, seemingly tough kid,” she wrote in 1991. “I was going to handle it. I was going to put my head down and get through it as quickly as possible and get out.”
She gave off the impression of having no illusions about love, family or fame, and yet she would always be charmingly frank and self-deprecating about why another of her relationships or marriages had run aground her marriages to the singer Paul Simon and the agent Bryan Lourd each ended in divorce or why she had fallen prey to extended bouts of drug addiction.
She spoke widely of her bipolar disorder, declared herself “Joan of Narc, patron saint of addicts”, claimed that therapy had been “my only serious relationship” and said of relationships: “Sex is out of my element. I’m much more successful during the cigarette.”
It was this mix of candour, sweetness and wit that prevented her from appearing bitter. No matter how hard her life was, or how poor some of her personal choices had been, her wry observations always seemed suffused with hope. She was no cynic.
Fisher was born and raised in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and lived in the media glare from an early age. The first published photograph of her, in Life magazine, was taken when she was just two hours old. She was educated at Beverly Hills high school and began putting on razzle dazzle performances at friends’ barmitzvahs at the age of 13. By 15, her mother had roped her into performing alongside her, first in her nightclub act and then in 1973 on Broadway in the musical Irene. Fisher then enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
“She never played a grand game or pulled rank,” her classmate, the actor and director Selina Cadell, told the Guardian in 2015. “She was just a lovely person with this amazing sense of humour. We think of sharp, witty people as being very resilient but she had a striking softness and vulnerability.”


In 1975, Fisher made a brief but memorable film debut propositioning Warren Beatty in the satire Shampoo, before landing her big break on Star Wars, where she sported a hairstyle she described as “hairy earphones”. She was already drinking heavily and taking drugs (cocaine, LSD, Percodan) and her addiction only intensified, along with her fame, following the colossal success of the movie and its immediate sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), in which there was less running along corridors and more sparkling banter, particularly between her and Ford.


She later explained that drugs “managed something in me that I was too lazy to manage on my own, this thundering emotion and verbal excitement that would roar out of me. It still can: I can still take a dinner party hostage but I try not to.”
She had her stomach pumped after overdosing on Percodan in 1985. “I’m glad they did it,” she said, “because that was a very powerful piece of evidence that drugs and I had to part ways.” That incident, and a subsequent month-long spell in rehab, formed the basis for Postcards from the Edge. The novel was filmed by Mike Nichols in 1990 from Fisher’s own screenplay, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine playing characters based on the author and her mother respectively. She was also a highly paid Hollywood script doctor; films that benefited from her uncredited polishes or rewrites including Sister Act (1992), The Last Action Hero (1993), The River Wild (1994) and The Wedding Singer (1998).
Her non-Star Wars film appearances were sporadic and not especially notable, with the exception of parts in The Blues Brothers (1980), Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989) and David Cronenberg’s Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars (2014). In the last of these, in which she played herself, her face seemed oddly immobile, though rumours that she had undergone plastic surgery were never confirmed.
She was, however, an outspoken critic of Hollywood’s treatment of women, and revealed that she had been asked to lose weight to play Leia both in the original Star Wars and the seventh instalment, The Force Awakens (2015), nearly 40 years later. “They don’t want to hire all of me only about three-quarters! Nothing changes, it’s an appearance-driven thing. I’m in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up. They might as well say get younger, because that’s how easy it is.”


Latterly she had become a much-loved figure on social media along with her French bulldog Gary, whose Twitter account had around 16,000 followers to her 1.13m. She also had an acerbic cameo in the acclaimed Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe. Although Fisher did not shoot any new footage for the Star Wars prequel-cum-spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), she made a surprise appearance at the end of the movie in digitally manipulated footage drawn from her 1977 performance, and had recently finished production on Star Wars Episode VIII, to be released in December 2017.

George Michael


Date of Birth: 25 June 1963 East Finchley, London, UK
Birth Name: Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou
Nickname: George Michael

George Michael was Britain’s biggest pop star of the 1980s, first with the pop duo Wham! and then as a solo artist. After Wham! made their initial chart breakthrough with the single Young Guns (Go for It) in 1982, Michael’s songwriting gift brought them giant hits including Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and I’m Your Man, and they became leading lights of the 80s boom in British pop music, alongside Culture Club and Duran Duran. His first solo album, Faith (1987), sold 25m copies, and Michael sold more than 100m albums worldwide with Wham! and under his own name.


Michael remained a major figure in the music industry even when his record releases slowed to a trickle in the later part of his career, and a loyal fan base ensured that his concert tours always sold out. However, from the late 1990s onwards he was beset by a string of personal crises and clashes with the law caused by drug use. He had always felt ambivalent about the demands of stardom, and found it difficult to balance his celebrity status with his private life. After years of concealing his homosexuality, he eventually came out in 1998, after being arrested for engaging in a “lewd act” in a public lavatory in Beverly Hills, California.
He was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in Finchley, north London. His father was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, Kyriacos Panayiotou, who had married Lesley Angold, an English dancer. The family moved to Radlett in Hertfordshire, and George attended Bushey Meads school, where he became close friends with Andrew Ridgeley. The pair formed a ska-influenced quintet, the Executive, in 1979, then in 1981 re-emerged as a duo, Wham!. They recorded some demos of their songs (written by Michael), and were promptly signed by the independent label Innervision.


Their debut release was the single Wham Rap! in June 1982, one of the first singles by a British group to include rapping. It didn’t chart, but the follow-up, Young Guns (Go for It), in October 1982 reached No 3, thanks to a timely appearance on Top of the Pops featuring a nightclub-style dance routine by the Wham! duo and backing singers Shirlie Holliman and Dee C Lee. Wham Rap! was reissued as Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) and shot into the top 10, where it was followed by Bad Boys and Club Tropicana in 1983.
With Wham! blossoming into a full-scale phenomenon, their debut album Fantastic (1983) charged to the top of the charts. Wham! were now battling with Culture Club to be top act in Britain’s so-called “new pop” boom.
Michael and Ridgeley had become aware that their Innervision contract was bringing them a very poor return on their efforts, and having signed a deal with the Sony subsidiary Columbia Records for America, they chose to forfeit royalties from their debut album to sign with CBS (later bought by Sony) worldwide.
The decision proved wise, as their second album, Make It Big (1984), turned them into a global success story, spinning off singles such as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Careless Whisper, Freedom and Everything She Wants. In 1985, Wham! achieved a massive publicity coup by becoming the first western pop group to visit the People’s Republic of China. The visit was filmed by the director Lindsay Anderson as Foreign Skies: Wham! In China (1986).
However, Michael was already eyeing up a solo future. Despite being included on Make It Big, Careless Whisper was credited to “Wham! featuring George Michael” in the US and was issued as a Michael solo single in other territories. By the time Wham! called it a day with a spectacular final concert at Wembley Stadium in June 1986, Michael had already released his first solo single, the chart-topping A Different Corner. Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986) was the final Wham! album, and The Edge of Heaven their farewell single.
Michael topped the charts again in early 1987 with a duet with Aretha Franklin, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), and that autumn released his first solo album, Faith, to critical and commercial acclaim. Produced, written and arranged by Michael, it spawned hits including I Want Your Sex (considered too explicit by some radio stations), Faith, Father Figure and Kissing a Fool. In 1988 Michael set out on a world tour, which was a major commercial success but left him feeling exhausted, isolated and dubious about the entire rigmarole of superstardom.His follow-up disc, Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1, did not appear until 1990, and signalled Michael’s preoccupation with becoming recognised as a serious adult artist. Though Praying for Time brought him a chart-topping single in the US and the album reached No 1 in the UK, the level of sales was substantially lower than for Faith. He hardly helped his case by refusing to appear in any of the videos for the album’s singles. For the video for Freedom ’90, he recruited a batch of supermodels, including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, to lip sync the lyrics in his place.
In 1991 Michael and Elton John enjoyed a mutual triumph with their duet version of John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, a song they had performed together at the 1985 Live Aid concert and which they now recorded live at a Michael concert at Wembley Arena. It topped both the US and British charts. Michael was growing unhappy with his relationship with his record company, however, and in 1992 he began legal proceedings against Sony, claiming he was bound in artistic servitude to a company that “appears to see artists as little more than software” and claiming that Sony had failed to promote Listen Without Prejudice properly (it sold “only” 8m copies).


Panayiotou and others v Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd came to the high court in October 1993, and was seen as a test case that could have dramatic repercussions across the music industry should Michael win. Although the legal proceeedings shed light on various restrictive practices in the business, he did not, since Justice Jonathan Parker found that Michael’s contract was “reasonable and fair”. One casualty of the lawsuit was Listen Without Prejudice Vol 2, which Michael scrapped, donating some of its songs to the Red Hot + Dance charity project to raise money for Aids awareness.
In 1993, the Five Live EP (released on Parlophone in the UK and Hollywood Records in the US) included tracks from the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium at which Michael sang with Queen, along with some live tracks from Michael’s 1991 Cover to Cover tour. Proceeds from the EP went to the Mercury Phoenix Trust to help combat Aids.
The following year, Michael premiered a new song, Jesus to a Child, at the inaugural MTV Europe music awards. The long, melancholy piece was written after the death of his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died of an Aids-related brain haemorrhage in 1993, and when it was released in January 1996 became his first solo single to enter the UK charts at No 1. Another single, Fastlove, emerged in April 1996, followed a month later by his third solo album, Older, which was dedicated to Feleppa. It was on Virgin in the UK and David Geffen’s DreamWorks label in the US, where it went platinum. The album set a record in the UK by becoming the first ever to produce six Top 3 singles. That year Michael was voted best British male artist at the Brit awards, and received his third Ivor Novello award as songwriter of the year.
Intervals between releases of new material were growing ever longer, though Michael retained a powerful popular appeal. In 1998 came Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael, a compilation containing his best-known songs as well as duets and tracks from compilations not previously featured on his own albums. The album would become one of his biggest, going on to sell 15m copies. Nor was it entirely retrospective. The first single from it, Outside, was a new song, about Michael’s arrest by an undercover policeman in a public lavatory in Beverly Hills a few months earlier. The policeman in question, Marcelo Rodriguez, tried unsuccessfully to sue Michael for emotional distress caused by the video for Outside, which depicted policemen kissing. Michael now let it be known that he had been in a relationship since 1996 with the businessman Kenny Goss; they remained together until 2009.
In 1999 came Songs from the Last Century, a collection of cover versions spanning such disparate pieces as Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, My Baby Just Cares for Me and Wild is the Wind. It was his lowest-performing solo release, not even breaching the top 150 on the American Billboard chart, though it reached No 2 in Britain. He now embarked on a lengthy period of recording material for a planned album of new material, the first fruit of which was the 2002 single Freeek!.


He followed this with Shoot the Dog, a political piece attacking Tony Blair and George W Bush for their warlike posturing in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.Perhaps even more surprising was the news, in 2003, that Michael had re-signed with Sony. The studio released his fifth studio album, Patience (2004), and it jumped to the top of the UK chart, and, although it would not climb higher than 12 on the US charts, it was a hit throughout Europe. It also generated a batch of singles, including Amazing and Flawless (Go to the City). Although Michael announced that Patience would be his last disc to be given a physical release (as opposed to digital download), this apparently did not apply to compilations, since 2006 brought a chart-topping greatest hits album, 25, as well as the 25 Live tour, his first in 15 years.
After several arrests for drugs offences, in 2010 Michael was fined and given a five-year driving ban and a prison sentence after admitting driving under the influence of drugs, having crashed his Range Rover into a Snappy Snaps photo store in Hampstead.
Nonetheless, he had evidently rediscovered his appetite for performing and recording. In 2011 he made a cover version of New Order’s hit True Faith for the Comic Relief charity, and recorded an MP3 version of Stevie Wonder’s You and I as a wedding gift for Prince William and Kate Middleton.
He launched his Symphonica Tour in Prague in August 2011. However, it was cut short when he fell ill with severe pneumonia in November, after the tour had reached Frankfurt, and he was admitted to hospital in Vienna.
He spent a week in intensive care and was not discharged from hospital until 21 December. Two days later he made a public speech outside his home in Highgate, north London, saying that the staff at the Vienna general hospital had saved his life. He suffered a further medical emergency in May 2013, when he had to be airlifted to hospital after he fell out of a car travelling on the M1.


In June 2012 Michael released the single White Light to mark the 30th anniversary of Wham Rap!. In March 2014 he released Symphonica, which became his seventh solo album to top the UK chart. This month, it was announced that he was working on a new album with producer and songwriter Naughty Boy. Also in the pipeline was a film, provisionally titled Freedom: George Michael, due to accompany the reissue of his 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1. With Michael as narrator, the film would feature stars including Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Liam Gallagher and Mary J Blige as well as the supermodels who had appeared in his Freedom! ’90 video.

Liz Smith


Date of Birth: 11 December 1921, Crosby, Lincolnshire, UK
Birth Name: Betty Gleadle
Nickname: Liz Smith

Being “discovered” by the director Mike Leigh when she was about to turn 50 changed Liz Smith’s life. Bleak Moments (1971), his first film, seemed an appropriate title for an actress who was brought up in poverty after the death of her mother and lived a hand-to-mouth existence raising her own children single-handedly “hard labour” she called it.
Smith, whose face could go from doleful to riotously expressive with a sudden quirky or quizzical look, regretted never playing young female leads but was grateful for the long list of dotty old women that came her way, most famously “Nana” in The Royle Family. In the sitcom created by Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, she played Norma Speakman, mother of Barbara (Sue Johnston), the long-suffering wife of Jim (Ricky Tomlinson). She frequently feuded with Jim, especially after moving in with the family when her health declined. Smith appeared in all three series (1998-2000), but her character died in the subsequent Christmas special, “The Queen of Sheba” (2006).


The actress played a string of mothers on screen, beginning in Bleak Moments. Another was Maggie Smith’s in A Private Function (1984), Alan Bennett’s comedy about a pig being fattened secretly and illegally during the days of post-war food rationing. She landed the role after sending her son to Bennett’s house with a postcard asking for a part in the film. It won her the 1984 Bafta Best Supporting Actress award.
However, Smith did not become a star until the 1990s, when she played church  organist Letitia Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley’s’ first series (1994) and a 1996 Easter special. The batty old woman in a hat was renowned for the awful cakes she made the subject of a tricky question she asked Dawn French’s pioneering female priest when Smith was written out: “My cooking. Was I a great experimenter, a pioneer, whose rich command of unorthodox mixtures will be the stuff of legend in the new millennium, or was my food just ghastly? You can tell a dying woman the truth, vicar.” The Reverend Geraldine Granger looked up appearing to ask for forgiveness as she gave a diplomatic answer.
Despite suffering three strokes over two days in 2009 and announcing her retirement, Smith continued taking occasional television roles for another four years.
The actress was born Betty Gleadle, an only child, in Crosby, Lincolnshire, now a Scunthorpe suburb. When she was two, her Yorkshire-born mother, Nellie (née Foster), died in childbirth (the baby girl also died) and she was aged seven when her father, Wilfred, a butcher, abandoned her and moved to Lancashire to marry Ellen Webster, who was also a widow. Smith recalled him telling her that he would write, but he never did.
She was brought up by her maternal grandparents, but more heartbreak came when her grandfather died in a flu epidemic. In a 2008 television interview with Mark Lawson, Smith reflected on losing her parents and her lonely existence as a child: “I’m sure it’s made me odd  I’m very wary of people because you feel a reject you feel uncomfortable.”
Smith she took the name when her grandmother adopted her attended Scunthorpe Modern and Day Commercial Schools. Regular visits to the cinema, which screened silent films with stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy, and Scunthorpe’s Palace Variety Theatre made her want to act and she performed in church halls and in school plays at that theatre.
On leaving school, Smith worked as a seamstress before joining the WRENS (Women’s Royal Naval Service) in early 1940, months after the outbreak of war. She served in the Fleet Air Arm in Scotland, then in South Africa and India.


During this time, when she was 20, Smith’s grandmother died, leaving her £2,500 to buy a house and be independent. This helped her after the war when she found herself bringing up two children alone. In 1945, she had married Jack Thomas, known as “JT”, who worked in a tax office but aspired to write plays.
Smith bought a house in London’s Westbourne Grove area and did jobs from home, such as painting lead model soldiers. She also followed her plan of studying art for a year, at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, then training as an actress, at the Gateway Theatre.
In 1954, with two children, Sarah and Robert, the family moved to Epping Forest and Smith concentrated on bringing them up. Shortly afterwards, JT left her for another woman.
Seeking acting work again alongside daytime jobs, she joined London’s Unity Theatre, spent five years with Charles Marowitz’s company, which paid no money but gave her experience in improvisation that would be invaluable years later, and acted with the Forbes Russell Repertory Company at Butlin’s holiday camps for many summers, giving her children their first holidays.
While working at Hamleys toy shop in London, Smith received a telephone message that Mike Leigh was looking for an older woman to improvise the role of a mother. Bleak Moments opened the floodgates she ended her Butlin’s seasons and became a prolific bit-part actress on television.
There were also recurring roles in sitcoms as the matronly Mrs Brandon in I Didn’t Know You Cared (1975-79), Gran in Now and Then (1983-84), Mrs Anstruther in Mann’s Best Friends (1985), Mrs Giles in Valentine Park (1987-88) and the dual roles of Bette and Aunt Belle in 2point4 Children(1991-99), and in drama as Gran Turner in One by One (1984), Mrs Fisher in The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1986) and Zillah in the first series of Lark Rise to Candleford (2008). She also played Grandma Georgina in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and worked again with Mike Leigh in High Spirits(1988).


Smith won the 2007 British Comedy Awards Best Actress honour, a year after her memoirs, Our Betty: Scenes from My Life, were published, complete with her own drawings.
In 2008, Mark Lawson asked Smith whether she had had a happy life and she sadly responded: “No. I consider I’ve had too much struggle and too much loneliness and too much rejection, really, and I’m so thankful for the later half of it that it’s been so lucky, very lucky.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor


Date of Birth: 6 February 1917 Budapest, Austria, Hungary
Birth Name: Sári Gábor
Nickname: Zsa Zsa Gabor

Zsa Zsa Gabor the woman who probably inspired the term "famous for being famous."
Gabor followed her sister Eva from Hungary to Hollywood in the 1940s. Zsa Zsa scored some small movie parts from big movie directors, Orson Welles and John Huston among them and was also featured in some movies probably best forgotten, such as Queen of Outer Space.


But if she wasn't known for her skilled acting, dancing or singing, Gabor was an irrepressible performer and she excelled at playing herself, once endless rounds of Hollywood gossip and publicity made her own persona larger than any character.
She had charm, which made her jokes about marrying for money rather than romance more palatable right when women were starting to demand more financial control. Her oft-stated fondness for sex dented traditional expectations of passive femininity, Pullen says: "She paved the way for the sexual revolution."
And when Gabor slapped a policeman who pulled her over in 1989, she parlayed the incident into a full-blown comeback, without any apparent help from mangers or publicists. The incident put her back on the talk show circuit, where she chattered merrily about the challenges of maintaining a beauty regimen in the slammer.
Even as an older woman, Gabor tended her image as the glamorous starlet who married something like 10 times. She threw out lines like, "I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house."


As far back as the 1950s, when women were expected to be decorous, Gabor sought and got constant press for her juicy hookups, her fabulous bling and her public antics. She could dominate a newsreel about a movie premiere for a movie she wasn't even in just by showing up in a diaphanous gown. She was arguably the prototype for today's Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons.

Robert Vaughn


Date of Birth: 22 November 1932, New York, US
Birth Name: Robert Francis Vaughn
Nickname: Robert Vaughn

Many actors opt for long-term employment in television series, only to find their lucrative association with a “personality” difficult to shake off. Robert Vaughn, who has died aged 83, overcame that problem in not one but seven long-running TV series, beginning with The Lieutenant in 1963.
By far the most substantial of these was The Man from UNCLE, in which he played the suave Napoleon Solo, in more than 100 episodes (1964-68) and eight features cobbled together from the series. Eventually, that too ran out of steam (although it remained a cult, particularly in Britain) and he moved on to create the detective Harry Rule in The Protectors, filmed in London through the early 1970s.
He also starred in episodes of Emerald Point NAS (1983-84), and was General Stockwell in the fifth and final series of The A-Team (1986-87). Late in his career, he was appointed Judge Travis in The Magnificent Seven (1998-2000), a TV spin-off from the western film in which he had played the gunslinger Lee 40 years previously.
An astonishingly prolific actor, he guested in hundreds of television shows, from Gunsmoke to Police Woman and from Wagon Train to Law and Order, as well as scores of TV movies and miniseries, including the prestigious Washington Behind Closed Doors (1977), which won him an Emmy.
Vaughn also appeared in some 50 movies, following his uncredited debut as a spear-carrier in The Ten Commandments (1956). In tandem with acting he maintained an interest in politics, campaigning against the Vietnam war from the late 1960s until the US withdrawal from the conflict in 1973, and supported liberal causes as a Democrat and friend of the Kennedys, especially Robert.Vaughn was born in New York, son of actors, Marcella (nee Gaudel) and Walter Vaughn. He studied journalism at the University of Minnesota, transferring to Los Angeles City College to take drama and to LA State College for a master’s. His PhD thesis on the aftermath of the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation sympathetically examined its effect on members of the acting profession. It was published in 1972 as Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting.


Although he did not begin full-time acting until he was in his mid-20s, he started with stage work, television appearances and uncredited screen roles, and was soon cast as the lead in No Time to Be Young (1957), where the influence of James Dean, killed two years before, was apparent. When he played the title role in Roger Corman’s preposterous Teenage Caveman (1958), his character was promoted as a “prehistoric rebel without a cause”. The actor later described it as “one of the best worst films of all time”.
It led to an intriguing western, A Good Day for a Hanging (1959), in which he co-starred as a killer who charms the townsfolk into opposing the sheriff who wants him hanged. He got his break in The Young Philadelphians (1959), receiving an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor for his performance as an alcoholic who is framed for murder and defended by a calculating lawyer (Paul Newman).
That drama established Vaughn, but it was The Magnificent Seven (1960) that consolidated his big-screen stardom, four years before he debuted as Napoleon Solo. He played the gunfighter who has lost his nerve and joins the Seven to defend villagers from marauding bandits, simply for the money. In a climactic shoot-out, the jittery coward redeems himself, returning to help his friends in Ixcatlan, and sacrificing his life in the process.
After the tongue-in-cheek The Man from UNCLE series, to which David McCallum as his sidekick Illya Kuryakin contributed a cheery breeziness, the darker-toned Vaughn needed a change and moved back into movies with Bullitt (1968). Cast, in Pauline Kael’s words, as “the slimy Mr Big”, he was memorable as Chalmers, a crooked politician, who is a thorn in the side of the bullish detective (Steve McQueen). He was equally persuasive as the Nazi officer in The Bridge at Remagen (1969) and made a credible Casca in the dull 1970 version of Julius Caesar. He was a bossy senator in The Towering Inferno (1974) and a caring neurosurgeon in The Mind of Mr Soames, bringing his patient (Terence Stamp) out of a 30-year coma with terrifying consequences.
Soon after appearing in René Clément’s last picture, La Baby Sitter (AKA Scar Tissue, 1975), Vaughn was used to devastating effect as the voice of the rebellious computer Proteus in Demon Seed (1977), where his off-screen voice was a coolly intelligent reflection of his often menacing on-screen persona.
In Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), he reworked his gunslinger Lee in space, and a year later played a philistine studio executive (allegedly based on Robert Evans) in S.O.B. (1981), Blake Edwards’s blistering attack on Tinseltown. Few such literate scripts or talented directors were available during the later 1980s and 1990s and Vaughn contented himself with guesting as authoritarian figures, including judges, ambassadors and senior army personnel.
Often that was in movie dross, although television was kinder to him in prestige miniseries such as Backstairs at the White House (1979) and The Blue and the Gray (1982) or in lighter material such as Murder, She Wrote.


Throughout four busy decades he had reinvented himself as required by age and changing fashion. His early roles as outsiders, troubled lovers, cowards and alcoholics gave way to a mild debunking of his persona, particularly his well-groomed heroes. His somewhat cerebral acting style proved a perfect antidote to spoofs and he established a cult following, partly as the sole redeeming aspect in such later movies as Joe’s Apartment (1996, as a corrupt senator), Motel Blue (1997, as a police chief) and the sports spoof BASEketball (1998).
Despite a steady stream of work, Vaughn announced, aged 70, that he was “going to take it a little easier” and promised to complete his autobiography, tentatively titled, Christ, Shakespeare, Ho Chi Minh: As I Knew Them. This emerged in 2008 as A Fortunate Life and declared his enjoyment of a long and profitable career, his work as a liberal activist (even playing three Democratic presidents on screen) and a happy marriage.
He continued working steadily on television and occasional features, playing a judge in Cottonmouth (2002), villains in Happy Hour (2003) and Hoodlum and Son (2003), and a doctor in Scene Stealers (2004). However, it was in yet another successful TV series that he returned to form. Vaughn starred in 48 episodes of Hustle, produced by the BBC between 2004 and 2012, as the debonair Albert Stroller, member of a disparate group of con artists. Elegant and assured, he showed that he had retained his sense of humour and lack of pretension, something confirmed by his appearance in The Magnificent Eleven (2012), about a football team who go the aid of an Indian restaurant, harassed by local thugs. He had a recurring role, too, in the soap Coronation Street in 2012 as the businessman Milton Fanshaw, love interest of Sylvia Goodwin (Stephanie Cole), mother of Roy Cropper.

Jimmy Perry


Date of Birth: 20 September 1923, Barnes, Surrey, UK
Birth Name: Jimmy Perry

Jimmy Perry was one of the greatest British TV comedy writers best known for Dad’s Army, Hi-de-Hi! and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.
It was an uneasy start in 1968 but Jimmy Perry and his co-writer David Croft, still pulled out all the stops even when Mary Whitehouse was campaigning to clean up TV. The BBC’s senior executives felt under pressure to avoid causing offence. Market research was called for: three 100-strong focus groups each spent a day watching the earliest episodes before they were transmitted and, according to the laconic Perry, 99% said they hated them.
The first woman who was asked her opinion said the show was rubbish and no one was interested in the Home Guard any more. Others felt that the material ridiculed the Home Guard’s behaviour at a time when Britain stood alone in its finest hour, and should certainly not be broadcast.
Fortunately the then head of BBC comedy, Michael Mills, decided to go ahead regardless not with Perry’s title, The Fighting Tigers, but with his own, Dad’s Army. Perry was allowed to keep the song he had written for the series, Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?, which won him an Ivor Novello award. The programme ran until 1977, and is still regularly repeated.


Perry, an actor who had thought of the series when he was working for Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop company at the Theatre Royal, Statford East, London, also deftly accepted without resistance a piece of casting by Mills that transformed the approach to social class as shown in the relationship between Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson. Arthur Lowe had been cast as the officious bank manager who was commanding officer of the Home Guard platoon at Walmington-on-Sea.
The original intention was that the sergeant under him would be a rough-hewn cloth-capped type. But Perry accepted the elegant John Le Mesurier as the sergeant. Perry remade him into a relaxed ex-public schoolboy and ex-army captain who always tries desperately to underplay his patrician background. The show ran to 80 episodes and a 1971 feature film, and was eventually recognised as the very essence of British humour, involving realistic sympathetic characters, and a gentle mocking of class consciousness and its instability in wartime conditions. A film version starring Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon and Toby Jones was released earlier this year. But Perry and Croft’s attempts at an American version failed.
Croft and Perry bounced ideas off one another and wrote together for a period of over 30 years. Along with Frank Muir and Denis Norden, Alan Simpson and Ray Galton, they were among the dominant writing teams of the period. They contrasted in both primary function and temperament, Croft tough in negotiation and Perry coiffured and urbane, rather in the style of Le Mesurier’s Sergeant Wilson. He guarded his privacy jealously and was rarely photographed.
He was born and brought up in Barnes, south-west London. His father was an antiques dealer with a shop in Kensington. His grandfather had been a butler in Belgrave Square, and some of his stories found their way into Perry and Croft’s last television series, You Rang, M’Lord? (1988-93).


As a child, he was told not to play with “common” boys. He went to Colet Court, the prep school for St Paul’s, where he saw that all races were welcome as long as they were rich. As the antiques business slumped with the approach of the second world war, his mother gave cookery lessons to aristocratic women left without servants. He became, as he put it, a closet socialist.
The cinemas and theatres of nearby Hammersmith were his main solace as his schooldays became more difficult. Faced with a school report which said, “We fear for his future”, and asked by his father how he would get on in life without qualifications, he replied: “I don’t need any qualifications. I’m going to be a famous film star or a great comedian.” His father said, in tones more sad than hectoring, “You stupid boy” the same phrase that Captain Mainwaring would use years later to the rookie Pike in Dad’s Army, played by Ian Lavender
Perry left school at 14 and was sent to Clark’s college to learn shorthand, typing and a final irritant book-keeping. He was then apprenticed to Waring & Gillow, purveyors of high-class furniture, but moved out of London with his family when his father took over the shop of his uncle in (safer) Watford after hostilities broke out.


It was in Watford that the 16-year-old Perry served in the Home Guard, thriving on its concerts if not its drill, appeared in monthly talent shows at the Gaumont theatre, and generally gained the experience that would one day enable him to write Dad’s Army. He saw himself as a version of the muddled and mother-dominated Private Pike.
After call-up, he served in the Royal Artillery, principally as a concert party manager, and was drafted to the far east, where his experiences came in useful for his later series It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (1974-81). Once demobbed, he went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on a serviceman’s scholarship. To raise funds, he became a redcoat at Butlins holiday camps, which was to help him create another series, Hi-de-Hi! (1981-88).


From Rada he went into repertory, his height and easy patrician looks then proved to be an asset, and for several years from the mid-1950s onwards ran the Palace theatre, Watford. He was having a rather lean time when Littlewood thought he might learn through the improvisation techniques she had perfected.
Perry, like many other actors, found Littlewood a bit of a puzzle and felt that his talents were being underused. He was on his way to Stratford East one day in the 60s when, after 17 busy but none too prosperous years as an actor, he conceived the idea for a television series which would include a plum part for himself: Walker, the fixer of the home guard platoon, who was a comic spiv and hustler. In the event, he never played Walker because the BBC pronounced that he could not be both writer and actor. Dad’s Army confirmed that Perry would become better known in the former role. He was appointed OBE in 1978.

Pete Burns


Date of Birth: 5 August 1959, Port Sunlight, Wirral, UK
Birth Name: Peter Jozzeppi Burns
Nickname: Pete Burns

Originally best known for his 1985 chart-topper You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), made with his band Dead Or Alive, Pete Burns later became a reality TV star, coming fifth in the final of Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, as well as a living advertisement for the dangers of plastic surgery.
His heyday as a pop star in the mid-1980s coincided with the rise of the “New Pop” epitomised by Boy George and Culture Club, Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. With his ambiguous sexuality, androgynous look and spectacular fashion choices, Burns, after several years of trying, found himself in the right place at the right time. “Everything goes round in circles and luckily we’ve got the current sound of the moment,” he commented in 1984, a remark pointing to his inherent scepticism about fame, fashion and pop music.


Dead Or Alive’s first album, Sophisticated Boom Boom (1984), had paved the way for the group’s success by reaching the UK Top 30 and yielding a Top 40 single with a cover of KC & The Sunshine Band’s That’s the Way (I Like It). The following year they released Youthquake, which was produced by the upcoming hit-makers Stock, Aitken and Waterman and not only contained You Spin Me Round but also gave them a No 9 album in the UK and reached 31 on the US Billboard chart.
However, despite further hits with Lover Come Back to Me, In Too Deep and Brand New Lover, the huge success of You Spin Me Round was not to be repeated. Dead Or Alive continued through the 80s, but by the end of the decade had been reduced to the core duo of Burns and the drummer Steve Coy. Their album Nude (1989) gave them a belated chart fling by delivering a No 1 hit on the US dance charts with Come Home With Me Baby, while Turn Around & Count 2 Ten reached No 1 in Japan.


Burns was born in the model village of Port Sunlight in Bebington, Cheshire (now in Merseyside). His mother, Eva, Evelina Maria Bettina Quittner von Hudec was a German aristocrat who had been born in Heidelberg but fled to Vienna because of her Jewish background. There she met a British soldier, Francis Burns, who became her husband. The young Pete grew very close to his mother, speaking only German and a little French until he was five, and though she developed addictions to alcohol and tranquillisers, he recalled that: “I was brought up with an incredible amount of freedom and creativity.”He dropped out of his Liverpool boys’ school at the age of 14, after his red-dyed hair and huge earring provoked official outrage, and got a job at a record store, Probe Records, where he met numerous local musicians. He was briefly a member of the Mystery Girls alongside future Liverpudlian stars Julian Cope and Pete Wylie, before forming the Goth-influenced Nightmares in Wax in 1979. Their sole recording was the EP Birth of a Nation, including the track Black Leather, which incorporated That’s The Way (I Like It). The latter was reworked by Dead Or Alive, which was the new name Burns gave to an overhauled line-up of Nightmares in Wax the following year.


During the 90s, Dead Or Alive released several albums in various territories outside the UK, with limited success. In 1994 Burns sang and co-wrote the single Sex Drive for the Italian techno act Glam, and that same year Burns and Coy recorded David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel, calling themselves International Chrysis. Fragile (2000) was Dead Or Alive’s final album of new material, though some tracks were remixes and cover versions. The new century brought the compilations Evolution: The Hits (2003) and That’s The Way I Like It: The Best of Dead Or Alive (2010).
Burns’s decision to embrace reality TV came after he had spent years protesting that he would never do it (“I still have a career, and I don’t really do reality,” he said in 2003), but his outsized personality and caustic manner made him a natural. The sight of him dancing with the politician George Galloway, both of them dressed in lycra leotards, on Celebrity Big Brother was unforgettable for any number of reasons.


Burns triggered further controversy on Big Brother when he claimed to be wearing a coat made of illegal gorilla skin, though tests proved it was made from the skin of the colobus monkey, using pelts that pre-dated legislation outlawing their use.In 2007 Burns appeared on Big Brother’s Big Mouth and Celebrity Wife Swap, where he swapped places with Leah Newman, partner of the footballer Neil “Razor” Ruddock. Also on the show was Burns’s husband, Michael Simpson, whom he married in 2006 after his divorce from the stylist Lynne Corlett whom he had married in 1978. The three remained on good terms. In the series Pete’s PA, on Living TV, contestants competed to become Burns’s assistant.
In 2015, Burns was evicted from his London flat after running up £34,000 in rent arrears. Last month, Burns appeared on Channel 5’s Celebrity Botched Up Bodies and talked frankly about his horrific experiences with cosmetic surgery, which had given him near-fatal blood clots and pulmonary embolisms as he underwent further procedures to try to correct mistakes.

Jean Alexander


Date of Birth: 11 October 1926, Toxteth, Liverpool, UK
Birth Name: Jean Mavis Hodgkinson
Nickname: Jean Alexander

Hilda Ogden was Weatherfield’s answer to Carmen Miranda. While Miranda wore fruit in her hair, Hilda favoured curlers and headscarf, as if her hairdo were permanently in preparation for a glamorous invitation that never came. And when she warbled in a reedy, affected soprano (usually as she dusted the Rovers Return under the landlady Annie Walker’s patrician eye), those on the receiving end winced. And yet, against the odds, Hilda, conceived by Coronation Street’s writers in 1964 as a nagging wife and gossiping char, became much more than that and found a place in the hearts of millions of the enduring soap’s fans.
She was regularly confused with her alter ego. Once, Alexander reported she was coming out of Woolworth’s and a woman pinned her against a shop window. “I know who you are,” the woman said, and then, recalled Alexander, “backed away as though I were a priceless painting”. Fans frequently asked her “Where’s your curlers?” or “Where’s Stan, then?”


Hilda Ogden was born during Granada TV’s 1964 night of the long knives. Eager for ratings and worried that the four-year-old soap had become too cosy, the show’s new producer, Tim Aspinall, purged several actors including Frank Pemberton, Doreen Keogh and Ivan Beavis. The character Martha Longhurst, who had been the gossipy foil of Minnie Caldwell and Ena Sharples, had a heart attack and collapsed on a table in the Rovers snug (it’s how, perhaps, she would have wanted to go). In a bitter prefiguring of more recent employment practices, the press knew who was to be sacked before the actors.
In came the bracing new Ogden family. Stan was played by a former leading man and Granada continuity announcer Bernard Youens and his wife, Hilda, by Alexander, who was then 37 and whose acting career until that breakthrough had consisted of character parts in theatres at Southport and York, and minor TV roles. They were cast as stock soap characters, comedy proles, about whom the likes of Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner and Rita Fairclough would be insufferably snooty. Stan was a boozy layabout slob, she his common wife with laughable pretensions. Hilda had an Alpine mural on the living room wall which she called a “muriel” and three plaster ducks rising up it a vista Stan later ruined by letting his bath overflow.
But Hilda and Stan confounded that blueprint. Viewers loved them for their daily battles against their plight in the seemingly cursed 13 Coronation Street she destined to live on her wits, he dodging any task that didn’t send him in the direction of a pint. They were like us, or like what we feared becoming.


In a bittersweet storyline in November 1977, Hilda had a rare stroke of luck. She won a competition organised by Loving Cup Shandy with her slogan: “Be a mistress as well as a wife and your husband will always be your boyfriend.” The prize was a weekend’s second honeymoon at a four-star hotel with Stan. In their suite, after drinking freebie champagne, Hilda, in seventh heaven, sang Vera Lynn’s Room 504. “When Hilda reached the last line of the song,” Alexander recalled, “and gave him a wistful look, a slurred voice said ‘Shurrup!’ It was Bunny, putting on his own unscripted line, a piece of inspired improvisation that made a perfect end to a sad little comedy.”
And yet the Ogdens’ marriage was hardly loveless, as Alexander recognised. “Hilda could criticise him but she defended him furiously if anyone cast aspersions on his character,” Alexander wrote. “There was always a sense of deep pride when she talked of ‘my Stan’, just as ‘our ’ilda’ contained a tinge of awe. Together they formed an alliance against a world that was out to do them down.”
In 1979, the British League for Hilda Ogden was founded: its honorary life president was Sir John Betjeman, and Russell Harty, Willis Hall and Michael Parkinson were on the committee. They were proud to wear the BLHO’s lapel badge featuring Hilda in curlers.


She was born in Toxteth, Liverpool, the second child of Archie Hodgkinson, an electrician, and his wife, Nell, who lived in a terraced house very similar to Hilda and Stan’s (except it didn’t have a bathroom or indoor lavatory). Jean got the acting bug early after staying at a guesthouse in Barrow-in-Furness where her dad was working at the shipyard. In the guesthouse back yard, 12 dancing girls practised their routines. Jean was captivated: “Little Jean, skinny, crop-headed, scabby-kneed, standing on a stage and making people laugh or cry – it would have been too absurd. But not to me …”
At the Pavilion theatre, Liverpool, she saw variety acts that deepened that ambition Lucan and McShane, the Four Charlottes, Cavan O’Connor and Teddy Brown. The last act was “an enormous American, all girth and smiles, who played the xylophone”. She wanted to emulate him: “I began to wonder just where in Toxteth I could learn the xylophone.” As a teenager, she spent spare time at the Playgoers’ Club, an amateur theatre troupe where she became adept at stage management, set building and prompting. She also sought to obliterate her native accent with five-shilling weekly elocution lessons. They didn’t quite work: in later life, she reported, someone would always ask: “What did you say, scouse?”
In 1949, after five years working for Liverpool’s library service, she was hired to act at £5 a week by the Macclesfield-based Adelphi Theatre Guild. She made her professional debut in Somerset Maugham’s Sheppey as Florrie.


During the 1950s she worked in theatre in Southport and York. She took relatively minor roles, such as the front end of a pantomime horse and the bargewoman in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. At the end of the decade she headed to London where in 1960 she made her TV debut in Deadline Midnight. A string of minor TV roles followed, including in 1962 a small part in Coronation Street as a kidnapper’s landlady.
The year after leaving Coronation Street for good, Alexander made a guest appearance in the BBC’s long-running sitcom about northern gents in their dotage, Last of the Summer Wine. She played Auntie Wainwright, a money-grabbing local junk shop owner, a role she reprised from 1992 until the series ended in 2010. She also had minor roles in films: she was Christine Keeler’s mother in Scandal, the 1989 film about the Profumo affair, and voiced Mrs Santa in Hooves of Fire, the 1999 Robbie the Reindeer film.

Rod Temperton


Date of Birth: 9 October 1949, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, UK
Birth Name: Rodney Lynn Temperton
Nickname: Rod Temperton

Member of Heatwave who went on to become a successful songwriter creating huge hits for Michael Jackson such as Thriller
But despite his huge hits for Michael Jackson, above all the title track for Thriller, he was so low-profile that he was nicknamed the “invisible man”. His compositional skills led to him writing three songs for Jackson’s 1979 album Off the Wall, which went on to sell more than 20m copies. In 1982, he wrote three of the nine songs on Jackson’s Thriller, including the title track, and his contributions helped the album to shift 65m copies and become the biggest seller of all time.
Temperton, who had previously been a member of the funk-disco band Heatwave, was recruited to the Jackson team by producer Quincy Jones in 1978, as Jones was preparing to record Off the Wall. Temperton formed a fruitful partnership with Jones and the recording engineer Bruce Swedien, prompting the three of them to be dubbed the A-Team.
Of the songs Temperton wrote for Off the Wall, the title track reached the Top 10 of the US Billboard pop chart, while Rock With You topped it. Both were Top 10 hits in Britain. His third track, Burn This Disco Out, was released as the B-side of Beat It. When Thriller was recorded three years later, Temperton was seen as indispensable by Jones


He toyed with the idea of calling it Midnight, before he hit upon Thriller.
It was also Temperton’s idea to include the macabre spoken word section at the end of the song: “One thing I’d thought about was to have somebody, a famous voice in the horror genre, to do this vocal.” As luck would have it Jones’s wife was friendly with the actor Vincent Price. He was delighted to be offered the job. Temperton wrote out the text in a cab on his way to the recording session, Price (who took a flat fee) did only two takes, and the result entered into music industry folklore. The album also featured the Temperton songs Baby Be Mine and The Lady in My Life; only Jackson himself contributed more numbers.


The songwriter’s journey to the centre of the West Coast entertainment business began in the Lincolnshire seaside resort of Cleethorpes, where he was born. He would later describe how his father put a transistor radio on his pillow when he was a child and he would fall asleep listening to the pop station Radio Luxembourg.
He attended De Aston school in Market Rasen, where he formed a band in which he was the drummer. On leaving school he worked for a time at the Ross Foods frozen fish factory in Grimsby. Meanwhile he persevered as a musician. Switching from drums to keyboards, he played in several dance bands and in the early 1970s moved to Germany. With guitarist Bernd Springer he formed a band called Sundown Carousel, which played soul music covers in bars and GI clubs across Germany.


In 1974, having also been part of a group called The Hammer, he replied to an advert in the Melody Maker that had been placed by Johnnie Wilder Jr. He had sung with a number of groups while serving with the US army in West Germany and was putting together a new outfit. The band began performing in London as Chicago’s Heatwave before shortening their name to Heatwave, adding a funk beat to their disco sound and signing to GTO Records in 1976. They recorded a debut album, Too Hot to Handle, and in 1977 their third single from it, Boogie Nights (written by Temperton, as were all the songs on the album), reached No 2 on both the UK chart and the Billboard Hot 100.
The follow-up single, the ballad Always and Forever, reached the UK Top 10 and climbed to 18 on the Billboard pop chart. Luther Vandross recorded a version of it for his album Songs (1994). A second album, Central Heating, appeared in 1978, and another Temperton composition, The Groove Line, delivered another US Top 10 hit. It was in 1978 that Temperton decided to leave the group to concentrate on songwriting, though he would continue to contribute material to Heatwave. He soon received his priceless opportunity with Jackson and became a writer for countless major artists.
Among his credits are George Benson’s most successful single, Give Me the Night (1980), from the album of the same name, various contributions to Jones’s The Dude (1981), and several co-writing credits on Donna Summer’s album Donna Summer; Baby, Come To Me for Patti Austin and James Ingram; and tracks on Herbie Hancock’s Lite Me Up (all 1982). He also wrote for Manhattan Transfer, Siedah Garrett, Aretha Franklin, Jeffrey Osborne, Karen Carpenter, Mica Paris and many more.
In 1986 he was nominated for the Oscar for best original song for the track Miss Celie’s Blues, which he had co-written with Lionel Richie and Jones for the film The Color Purple. Temperton also wrote five songs for the Billy Crystal movie Running Scared (1986).
He remained self-effacing, though his success funded homes in Los Angeles, the south of France, Fiji, Switzerland and Britain. Tongue in cheek he summed up: “I watch telly, catch up on the news, and maybe the phone will ring.”

Gene Wilder


Date of Birth: 11 June 1933, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Birth Name: Jerome Silberman
Nickname: Gene Wilder

With his wide, quizzical eyes, his shock of curly hair and puckish features, Gene Wilder was a totally original comic actor, whose classical training lent his performances a sometimes disconcerting depth and whimsical irony. 
He first attracted major attention with a memorable cameo in the film Bonnie and Clyde, after which he was cast as the naive and gullible accountant in Mel Brooks’ classic comedy The Producers.


He went on to do some of his best work in further Brooks projects, including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, and later he scored a personal success on the London stage in Neil Simon’s comedy Laughter on the 23rd Floor. His private life in later years, though, was dogged by tragedy his wife Gilda Radner died of cancer in 1989, and last year Wilder was himself diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.
The son of an immigrant Russian who had prospered from the manufacture of miniature liqueur bottles, he was born Jerry Silberman in 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A bug-eyed and curly-topped child, he found his appearance caused chuckles and decided the best response was to be deliberately funny.


At the University of Iowa he attended drama classes, and upon graduation he travelled to England and enrolled at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, where he won the school’s fencing championship. Returning to the United States, he taught fencing for a while, then worked as a chauffeur and toy salesman while studying at the Lee Strasberg Studio in New York.
Wilder gave one of his funniest screen performances in Bud Yorkin’s Start The Revolution Without Me (1970), a frequently hilarious farce on the twins-switched-at-birth theme and the first of several pastiche films made by Wilder, who had loved movies since his childhood and delighted in parodying the various genres. In Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974), every cliché of the western was mercilessly lampooned, and in Young Frankenstein (1974), developed by Brooks and Wilder from an idea by Wilder, it was the monster-horror genre, with its highlight a song-and-dance rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” performed by Frankenstein (Wilder) and his creation (Peter Boyle). 


Taking inspiration from his mentor Brooks, Wilder himself wrote and directed a pastiche of detective movies, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), with Wilder also playing the lead as the manically jealous sibling who is determined to outdo his famous brother in everything, from fencing and inventing to fiendishly clever detection. (Other Brooks alumni Madeline Kahn and Dom DeLuise were among his co-stars in this enormously popular spoof.) Wilder’s quirky personality also found apt outlets in Mel Stuart’s musical version of Roald Dahl’s children’s book Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) as the enigmatic and wickedly mischievous factory-owner, and Woody Allen’s Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask (1972). 


He teamed up for the first time with the former night-club comic Richard Pryor (who had been one of the writers of Blazing Saddles) in Arthur Hiller’s Silver Streak (1976), an enjoyable comedy-thriller deliberately conceived in Hitchcock style by writer Colin Higgins, in which exhausted businessman Wilder finds mystery and murder on a cross-country train he has boarded hoping for relaxation. Wilder and Pryor complemented each other beautifully and were to make several more films together. 
In 1996 Wilder travelled to London to appear in a stage production of Neil Simon’s comedy Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Based on Simon’s youthful experience working on the Sid Caesar television show (with Wilder’s role a thinly disguised Caesar) it had been only a modest success on Broadway and fared similarly in London, though it was generally agreed that Wilder was better casting in the leading role than the more manic Nathan Lane had been on Broadway. 


Even before he became ill Wilder had slowed down on the performing front although he won an Emmy award for an appearance in comedy series Will & Grace. “I don’t like show business, I realized,” he said in 2008. “I like show, but I don’t like the business.”  But Wilder would later turn his hand to books. In 2005 Wilder produced a memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art; a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love? (2010); and three novels: My French Whore (2007), The Woman Who Wouldn’t (2008) and Something to Remember You By (2013).

James Gillbert


Date of Birth: 15 May 1923, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Birth Name: Cecil James Gilbert
Nickname: Jimmy

As a producer, and then as the BBC’s head of comedy, James Gilbert was adept at spotting winning formulas. Among many successes, he was responsible for launching two of British TV’s long-running comedy mainstays, The Two Ronnies and Last of the Summer Wine.
Gilbert and David Frost originally teamed up Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in the BBC’s satirical show The Frost Report (1966-67), winner of the 1967 Golden Rose of Montreux. Frost, the programme’s presenter, hired Corbett and John Cleese, then Gilbert, the producer, signed up Barker. “I had a tall one in Cleese and a tiny one in Corbett, so Ronnie seemed an obvious choice,” Gilbert told Barker’s biographer Richard Webber.
Those three actors’ variations in height were memorably used in the sketch satirising the British class system, with the bowler-hatted Cleese looking down on the trilby-wearing Barker, who looks up to Cleese but down on Corbett, in a flat cap, who says resignedly: “I know my place.”


Barker and Corbett were soon paired together once Gilbert recognised the chemistry between them. When the duo returned to the BBC in 1970 after a spell at ITV, they asked for him to be executive producer of the light entertainment show they were to make together, so he was taken off all other projects for a year to devise and oversee the first series of The Two Ronnies, which aired in 1971. Gilbert opened and closed each programme with the news desk format previously used by Frost. The show was an immediate hit and, during its 16-year run, attracted audiences of up to 19 million.
Shortly after his year with Barker and Corbett, Gilbert produced and directed the 1973 Comedy Playhouse pilot and first series of Last of the Summer Wine.


Gilbert known as Jimmy was born in Edinburgh, the son of Mabel (nee Crump) and Cecil. His father was a civil servant. Jimmy played the piano as a child and enjoyed performing in school productions of Gilbert and Sullivan at Edinburgh academy. He spent a year at Edinburgh University before serving as a pilot with RAF Coastal Command during the second world war. On demob, Gilbert trained as an actor at Rada in London and spent his early years with the Glasgow Citizens theatre company, acting alongside Fulton Mackay and Stanley Baxter, being directed by Tyrone Guthrie and writing music for pantomimes.
He moved to London, had small roles in films and on television and, with the lyricist Julian More, composed the hit West End musical Grab Me a Gondola (staged at the Lyric theatre, 1956-57), a satire based on the film star Diana Dors’s publicity stunt of wearing a mink bikini as she floated down the Grand Canal during the Venice film festival.
In 1957, Gilbert joined the BBC as a producer and director, making music programmes, including the popular Off the Record (1957), before launching Baxter’s TV career in the sketch series On the Bright Side (1959-60) and the first Stanley Baxter Show (1963), which both showed off the actor’s talent for mimicry. He also worked with the comedian Jimmy Edwards, seen in different guises every week in The Seven Faces of Jim (1961) and two sequels (1962 and 1963).
Various programmes followed before Gilbert produced The Frost Report, with a “dream team” of writers including Marty Feldman, Barry Cryer, Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall, Frank Muir, Denis Norden, David Nobbs, Antony Jay, Graham Chapman, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor. He also produced and directed the third series of Not Only… But Also (1970), starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and the first run of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973), which won a Bafta for best sitcom.


As a BBC executive, Gilbert was responsible for commissioning comedy successes such as Porridge (1974-77), The Good Life (1975-78), Fawlty Towers (1975-79) although he voiced concerns about it being based almost entirely inside a hotel, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-79) and Yes Minister (1980-84).
After leaving the BBC in 1982, Gilbert worked as a freelance producer for the corporation and ITV, making Tripper’s Day (1984), French Fields (1989-91) and Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1994-95), before retiring. Teaming up with More again, he also wrote the musical Good Time Johnny (Birmingham repertory theatre, 1971-72), based on The Merry Wives of Windsor and starring Barker.

Caroline Aherne


Date of Birth: 24 December 1963, Ealing, London, UK
Birth Name: Caroline Mary Aherne
Nicknames: Caroline Aherne

Caroline Aherne was responsible for some of the most distinctive and memorable comedy creations of the 1990s. From Mrs Merton to The Royle Family, her characters were waspish but warmly observed, and gave audiences an all-too-rare taste of comedy that reflected their relationship with television and love-hate feelings about celebrity. She was one of the few members of the British comedy pantheon not to be male, metropolitan and privileged, and her work often drew on her background. Aherne made her name with the Mrs Merton Show, a chat-show featuring the eponymous horn-rimmed, chintzy-sleeved northern housewife who fired faux-naive questions at her hapless celebrity guests: “What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” she once asked his wife Debbie McGee.


The Royle Family, the sitcom she co-wrote with Craig Cash, was groundbreaking in its portrayal of a working-class Manchester family watching TV in their front room. It was a sitcom that drew on the British tradition of 1950s kitchen sink dramas and the films of Mike Leigh, but it was more compassionate than either. The writer Jimmy McGovern said of it: “There is great love in that family, but it is never stated. That’s so true to life.”
Though the sitcom cannot be said to have ushered in a new era of comedy drawing on working-class experience British TV comedy remains, with a few exceptions, as dominated by ex-public school boys as it ever was it did pave the way for at least two subsequent TV series. Paul Abbott, creator of Shameless, the Channel 4 comedy drama set in a low-income northern milieu, said he owed his show’s success to The Royle Family. More recently, Gogglebox, Channel 4’s documentary series observing viewers watching television narrated by Aherne owed an obvious debt to its sitcom precursor.


There was more to her comic armoury than Mrs Merton and Denise Royle, though they were her best-known characters. In the 1990s sketch programme the Fast Show, Aherne played the Mediterranean weather girl Paola Fisch (catchphrase “scorchio!”), and a cheeky checkout girl who insulted customers. The comedy series Dossa and Joe, which she wrote and directed in the early 2000s while in self-imposed exile in Australia, focused on a couple who had been happily married for 40 years yet found their marriage floundering after retirement. The show was a critical success but a ratings flop.
Aherne was born in London to Irish immigrants, Bert, a labourer on the railways, and Maureen, a school dinner lady. When she was two, the family moved to Wythenshawe, Manchester. The Royle Family may well have been inspired by the Aherne family, with her father serving as unwitting prototype for sharp-tongued, moaning Jim Royle. She recalled later: “My dad was always going on about the immersion, and about lights being left on. ‘It’s like feckin’ Blackpool illuminations,’ he used to say.”Both she and her older brother Patrick were born with a rare cancer of the retina, retinoblastoma, that caused Patrick to lose an eye, and left Caroline almost unsighted in one eye. She became the family joker, impersonating TV characters like Margot and Barbara from The Good Life and celebrities such as Marti Caine and Cilla Black. “Nobody else in the family was like that,” Patrick said. “But she was funny from the time she was really little.” As a teenager, Caroline watched Mike Leigh’s television play Abigail’s Party (1977) and resolved she would become a writer like him.
Precociously intelligent, she scored 176 in an IQ test and received nine As in her O-levels at the Hollies Convent grammar school. She studied drama at Liverpool Polytechnic, and in the late 1980s took a job at BBC Manchester as secretary to Janet Street-Porter. During this time she began to develop an act on the Manchester comedy circuit, with characters including Mitzi Goldberg, lead singer of the comedy country and western act the Mitzi Goldberg Experience, and a nun called Sister Mary Immaculate, whose ambition was to kiss the Pope’s ring.
Mrs Merton was developed in collaboration with Henry Normal, then a performance poet in Manchester, Craig Cash, with whom she presented a show on Manchester radio station KFM, and the comedian Dave Gorman. But it was the late Chris Sievey, the man behind the outsize-masked comic character Frank Sidebottom, who ensured that their creation made it to the big time. Sievey asked Aherne, a friend of his brother-in-law, to voice the part of Frank’s neighbour Mrs Merton on his album 5:9:88 (1988), and later on his Piccadilly Radio show in Manchester.
The following year, Sievey invited her to reprise the character in Frank Sidebottom’s Fantastic Shed Show (1992) on ITV. She was supposed to be Sidebottom’s sidekick, but Mrs Merton overshadowed him and was so well received that Granada TV commissioned her to make her own comedy vehicle.
The result was the Mrs Merton Show, which ran from 1995 to 1998 on the BBC. It had an audience composed of real-life pensioners and an in-house band, Hooky and the Boys, led by her first husband, Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook, whom she married in 1994. The couple divorced in 1997. The Royle Family ran for three seasons from 1998 to 2000, followed by specials until 2012. Mrs Merton and Malcolm, with Cash as a 37-year-old son still living at home, had a single series in 1999.




For all that she was feted by critics and garlanded with awards, Aherne struggled with fame and with her health. In 1998, at her mews home in Notting Hill, she tried to take her own life. She was treated for depression and alcoholism at the Priory clinic in 1998, and was also treated there in 2002. In addition, she suffered bladder cancer related to her eye condition. In 2014, as part of a charity drive to raise money to treat other patients suffering from the disease, she announced she was suffering from lung cancer.
In 2001, she announced she was quitting showbusiness, because she no longer wanted to be famous. She moved for a while to Australia, returning in 2002 to collaborate with Cash one last time, on Early Doors, a fondly observed sitcom about the regulars of a Manchester pub, but she quit, leaving Cash to write and star in the hit show that some critics misguidedly called the British Cheers.
In later years, Aherne never equalled her earlier successes, still less the celebrity that came from writing and performing in two hit TV shows. She eschewed the media spotlight and lived quietly at a house in Manchester not far from her mother’s home.
She wrote such dramas as The Fattest Man in Britain (2009) and The Security Men (2013), as well as taking minor roles, such as a barmaid in a comedy called Sunshine (2008) with Steve Coogan. She also narrated programmes including Pound Shop Wars (2014), a BBC1 documentary, and voiced some of the characters in CBBC’s animated series Strange Hill High (2013-14). Perhaps fittingly, one of her last TV roles was to narrate Gogglebox, the weekly Channel 4 documentary series in which TV viewers watch other TV viewers watching TV.

Muhammad Ali


Date of Birth: 17 January 1942, Louisville, Kentucky US
Birth Name: Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
Nicknames: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was acclaimed by many as the greatest world heavyweight boxing champion the world has ever seen. He was certainly the most charismatic boxer. His courage inside and outside the ring and his verbal taunting of opponents were legendary, as were his commitment to justice and his efforts for the sick and underprivileged.
Three times world champion, Ali harnessed his fame in the ring to causes outside it. He was a convert to Islam and the personification of Black Pride. He anticipated the anti-Vietnam war movement of the 1960s by refusing to join the armed forces.
He made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea, delivered medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba, and travelled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 US hostages shortly before the first Gulf war. Repellent though he found many aspects of US foreign policy and repellent as the establishment found him when in 1967 it banned him from the ring for three years for refusing the draft – the nation embraced Ali as time passed, realising his unique ambassadorial value. In 2005, he received his country’s highest civilian honour, the presidential medal of freedom, from George W Bush, an incumbent whose views he must have detested.
But it all stemmed from boxing. His matchless magnificence, the self-proclaimed “greatness”, was invented early as a cheery prizefighter’s publicity stunt. It was a greatness that was to balloon and achieve near-universal acceptance as he became acknowledged as a beacon not only for downtrodden African Americans but for global Islam as well, not to mention the anti-war movement or poverty in developing countries. In the middle of press conferences, reporters would earnestly ask him about solving the Palestine problem, or if he could have a quiet word with Moscow about President Ronald Reagan’s star wars programme. Ali was a rebel with a cause lots of them.
He played the sovereign to the hilt. He played the victim. He played the clown. He played the camera. But, above all, he played the sport. He was the best heavyweight boxer there had ever been since the Marquess of Queensbury set down his rules in 1867, undeniably the best since Kid Cain KO’ed Sugar Ray Abel. First as Cassius Clay, then as Ali, this remarkable boxer totally reset the marks, utterly changed all inviolate techniques and tenets. Four years after winning the light-heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympic games in Rome, he won the undisputed professional world heavyweight championship, taking on all comers. He was to regain the title twice, an achievement that remains unmatched. His career in the professional ring spanned an astonishing 21 years. Of 61 contests, he lost only five, four of them when he was long past his majestic best. Thirty-seven victories were knockouts.
Ali’s fabled predecessors in his kingdom were Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano. Johnson was a puncher-boxer and dandy; Dempsey an uncomplicated hitter; Tunney had grace and nerve and fast feet; Louis’s fast hands punched in a blur of combinations, and he had a killer instinct as well as chivalry; Marciano had relentless oomph and steam-hammer cruelty. Ali had every single one of all those qualities in abundance, as well as timing, intelligence, wit and an extraordinary courage which, in the end, becursed his wellbeing. Yet, through the final third of the 20th century, rheumy-eyed, scarred and bent-nosed ancients would shake their heads at his virtuosities, sigh, and insist that the big, bold champions of their far tougher olden days would have ambushed, cornered, speared and most damnably done for the swankpot in no time. But as the fearless Ali strutted on, inventing new ways, new scenes, new angles, new endings, those croaking pronouncements of veterans petered out. No one believed them any more, not when Ali was in his prime, in his pomp.
He was born the eldest son of Cassius and Odessa Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, and named Cassius Marcellus after his father. His mother was listed on the birth certificate as a household domestic, his father as a signwriter. The family lived on Grand Avenue in the segregated city’s black west end. In the Kentucky state census rolls, all four of his grandparents were described as “free coloureds”. One of Odessa’s grandfathers, Tom Moorehead, was the son of a white man called Moorehead and the partner of a slave named simply as Dinah. Odessa’s other grandfather was a white Irishman, Abe O’Grady, born in County Clare, who married a “freed slave woman, name unknown”.
It was a small but happy family (there was soon a second son, Rudolph), in which penury was taken for granted. The brothers were both good boys, the neighbours recalled, unfailing attendees of the Baptist Sunday school. Odessa was a serene and saintly homemaker, though her husband was a rascally tale-teller and liked to drink. This led to occasional court appearances. He paid the fines and, as a self-imposed additional penance, painted religious murals for various Baptist chapels around the city. The two boys would sometimes help. “Louisville was more peaceful, less dangerous then,” Rudolph recalled many years later, “except if we strayed off-limits, then white boys would threaten: ‘Hey, nigger, get back to your own.’”
Young Cassius was no scholar, and by the end of his schooling, only an occasional attendee. He could scarcely read or write when he graduated from Central high school in 1960, and ranked 376th in the graduation class of 391. Long before then, however, his abundant energies had been devoted to boxing.
When he was 12, in October 1954, his cherished bicycle was stolen. The white policeman, Joe Martin, to whom he reported the theft, happened to be the organiser of a boys’ boxing club in the basement of the city’s Columbia auditorium. He never got his bike back, but it was a life-changing encounter. Encouraged also by a black trainer, Fred Stoner, within two months the spindly, sassy youngster weighing 90lb had won (on a split decision) his first official three-minute, three-round amateur bout against another rookie, Ron O’Keefe. Over the next six years he contested a further 107 junior bouts, won two national Golden Gloves titles and two national Amateur Athletic Union titles, and was chosen for the US team for the 1960 Olympics. He leapt to such glamour with relish and a nerveless, original skill and in the final of the 178lb (light-heavyweight) division, the 18-year-old defeated and bewildered and perplexed the three-times European champion Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, of Poland.


These were the first Olympics to be televised live around the world. And the world took notice. I did, for sure, and remember thinking: “This madcap kid doesn’t even hold up his guard. He just dances and sways and punches in lightning flashes.” I still recall Neil Allen’s prescient report in the Times: “The American has given the impression of being so much a showman that we have waited throughout the tournament for someone to wake him up with a solid punch. Nobody has, and in the final last night Clay, like some loosely strung marionette, put his punches together in combination clusters and pummelled the Pole about the ring. Only great courage kept the triple European champion on his feet. We still have not seen whether the new gold medallist can take a punch but I expect him to be among the professionals next year so we shall know his worth soon enough.”
And so it came to pass. In 1960 a consortium of old-money Kentucky businessmen were ready to launch the young Olympian’s paid career with a $10,000 down payment and a guaranteed $333 a month against ring earnings (the latter was split 50/50 for the first two years, then 60/40 for the next four of the six-year contract). It was a good, fair deal, and three days after signing, on 29 October 1960, Clay made his debut as a pro and defeated in six one-sided rounds Tunney Hunsaker, a former chief police officer, in Louisville’s packed Freedom Hall. Hunsaker lived off the history of it till his death 40 years later. The consortium hired a canny veteran, Archie Moore, as Clay’s trainer, but the two never got on and instead he went south to Florida, to Angelo Dundee’s celebrated Fifth Street gym in Miami. The skilled and caring Dundee was to be at Ali’s side and in his corner for the next 21 years.
As his fleet and rangy physique bulked up, his looks and build now matched his charm and cheek. The artist LeRoy Neiman observed: “Suddenly he resembles a piece of classical sculpture with no flaw or imperfection, his features and limbs flawless and perfectly proportioned.” The engaging nature, too, began to resonate as Clay cut a swathe through the well-selected heavyweights’ Second Division and he allowed his ego full rein on self-promotion. Imitating the white, vaudeville television love-to-hate wrestler Gorgeous George, his forecasts bragged the precise round he was going to win, sometimes combining such box-office larks with couplets of doggerel. One was: “I’ll Just Say ‘Boo!’/He’ll Go in Two” (Lamar Clark, KO 2); another was “Ol’ Mitt Likes t’Mix/He falls in Six” (Alex Miteff, KO 6). In 1963, Clay returned to Europe for his first foreign professional fight against Henry Cooper (“London’s a Jive/’Enery Lasts Five”), and although he was floored for the first time, he duly stopped Cooper in the fifth as he had predicted.
Spring 1964 was momentous for Clay in several ways. Dundee, daringly, deemed him ready for Sonny Liston, the world heavyweight champion. Liston smiled for once. The boxing fraternity chortled. This, or so the knowing forecast went, would be the end of a half-diverting saga of an appealing loudmouth. We would hear of him no more, for Liston and his ogre status made both an art and science out of first, intimidation, then sadistically inflicted pain. Hadn’t Liston not long before humiliatingly laid to waste, twice inside six minutes, the Olympic champion of 1956, Floyd Patterson?
Liston was presumed invincible and the greenhorn, fresh-faced challenger was an unprecedented 8-1 underdog odds that lengthened when, at the weigh-in, Clay’s apparent hysterics had doctors pronouncing him traumatised by fear. Come the bell, the upstart nervelessly played it cool, almost a laughingly gay matador, his speed of hand and foot totally nullifying Liston’s wicked jab, the key to his armoury. Dismantled brick by brick and tile by tile, Liston aged 10 years in less than 20 minutes and retired on his stool before the start of the seventh (the round in which the challenger had predicted “the ol’ bear would be trapped and wrap’t”). On 25 February 1964, Clay was crowned world heavyweight champion for the first time. In the rematch in May 1965, Liston keeled over in a fainting funk inside a round.


Two days after his first defeat of Liston, Clay announced his conversion to Islam, and on 6 March, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Liston later complained that the Black Muslims, a separatist sect, had threatened him in an attempt to throw the fight. Old ham boxing writers were happy to believe him, and so were America’s rightwing rednecks. Such a charge was at least given credence as the newly renamed boxer was a minister in the Nation of Islam, and the group’s self-proclaimed “messenger”, Elijah Muhammad, had, to all intents, become the boxer’s manager. (Ali was to convert to orthodox Islam in 1975.)
The US of the mid-1960s was a nation seething with racial undercurrents. (Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 and Martin Luther King three years later.) The rest of the world was comparatively oblivious to all of this, and while to a large, white tranche of the US, Ali became public enemy No 1, his televised contests with Liston had girdled the globe so, even by then, whatever name he chose, his sporting legend was assured.
However, for all his brilliance in the ring hands as fast and deadly as a cobra’s strike, feet in a riverdance blur never before seen in a heavyweight America’s inevitable white backlash to his religious defiance bit back with merciless retribution. This change of mood among white Americans coincided with Ali’s second US army call-up to serve in Vietnam. Although he had already failed in 1964 the draft’s preliminary intelligence tests in literacy and numeracy (placed at just 16 in an elementary attainment level of 30) “I said I was the greatest, not the smartest” fresh calls for his induction came in 1966.
Establishment outrage reached spittingly aggressive proportions when Ali, pleading deferment on religious grounds, told reporters: “I ain’t no quarrel with them Vietcong … no Vietcong ever called me ‘nigger’.” Within an hour, outraged, all US boxing bodies suspended his licence and stripped him of his title. In June 1967, a court confirmed the ban unanimously. Ali was prevented from boxing until 1970 – that is, between the ages of 25 and 28, which undoubtedly should have been the pinnacle and prime of his athletic resplendence. His really “greatest” years were arguably stolen. (The conviction for refusing to join the armed services was reversed in June 1971 by the US supreme court.)


When the three-year ban expired, he returned to the ring, in October 1970, with a three-round stoppage of Jerry Quarry in Atlanta, Georgia, although observers could already detect a glimmer of unease about his work. He knew the ravishing speed and the split-second timing of his punches were fractionally out of kilter. He never reclaimed the full package; lost property, stolen property. I was pleased, at least, to have witnessed his pre-ban splendours say, against Cleveland Williams at Houston in November 1966, or Zora Folley in New York in March 1967.
Nor, after the ban, it must be said, was Ali’s passing, nasty and vindictive side ever again in evidence, such as when he bullyingly and hurtfully “carried” the hapless, injured Patterson in 1965, or malevolently taunted to painful humiliation for the full 15 rounds Ernie Terrell, who had addressed Ali as Clay at the weigh-in at Houston in 1967. Those were not pretty sights.
If the two fights with Liston, epic in their theatricality and outcome, had begun to compile the legend, then the three contests with the uncomplicated, brooding warrior Joe Frazier, in 1971, 1974 and 1975, clinched the immortal deal. Here was an unmissably dramatic, defining, second act. Only six months after the exile’s return against Quarry, Ali squared up to the remorselessly committed hitter “Smokin’ Joe” to challenge for his own usurped title. After a thunderously pulsating, draining 14 rounds it was dead-level. In the last, a fearsome Frazier hook crunched into Ali’s jaw, broke it, and dumped him on the canvas, sprawling on his back. Frazier deservedly won the decision but the fact that Ali somehow gathered himself to his feet and attempted to fight back not only had the fans round the world swooning at the heroism, but it gave notice of the added, and unconsidered, ingredient that would embrace Ali for the rest of his life.
Should we call it adversity? Well, here is sheer, dauntless, leonine courage. Worldwide love of, and tributes to Ali today are not so much for his astonishing, upfront, youthful and winning talents, but for his bravery at heaving himself from the canvas that New York night in 1971.
Ali avenged that defeat by Frazier with a points victory in the return contest in the same New York ring three years later. In 1975, the last payday was generous enough for the two ageing fighters to meet for a third time in Quezon City, in the Philippines “the Thrilla in Manila”. The venom and pain of it was excruciating. To all intents, it was a requiem for both men’s illustrious prizefighting. It ended with Ali collapsing but, by minutes, the winnerbecause Frazier was mercifully retired by his cornermen at the end of the 14th and penultimate round. They had nearly beaten each other to death. The doyen of British sportswriters, Hugh McIlvanney, was at the ringside: “There was nothing morbid or sadistic about the thrill that their performances sent through the blood. What we felt was awe at the spectacle of two extraordinary men setting new limits for themselves, pushing back the boundaries of their courage, their physical and psychological capacity.”
A year before what should have been, by every doctor’s recommendation, the (sort of) triumphant last hurrah in the Philippines, Ali’s global ambassadorial obsessions saw him stripped for battle in the even more unlikely setting of Kinshasa (then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The posters for this contest dubbed it “the Rumble in the Jungle”. It was probably the seminal boxing match of all time, the dramatic unities perfectly in place: perceived goodie v baddie, impossible odds, totally unforeseen outcome.
The 25-year-old George Foreman was cast as the behemoth beast, but boxing had not seen a hitter of such concussive, one-punch power, demonstrated in Jamaica when he took the title from Frazier. Ali might possibly have had an answer in his prime, but not now, not at a fading, spent-force 32 years old. But as well as his wilful courage, in this (what we thought) would be the last chapter of his glories, we came also to marvel at the brazenness. For seven sweltering rounds, against all prognoses, Ali allowed Foreman, the brutish, one-blow Goliath, actually to punch himself out on his arms, as Ali himself lay on the ropes, head back as if out of a bedroom window to check if the cat was on the roof. Ali called it his “rope-a-dope” trick and the world caught its breath when finally he came off the ropes, feinted with his left and, with a single right hander, felled the bewildered Foreman.
Unaccountably champ again, Ali went on boxing. He had easily enough of a fortune left, however generous he was with it, and in the ring he was now being hit with increasing regularity and hurt. In February 1978, he lost the title to the workaday Leon Spinks and regained it once again that September but tiredly, for now the feet were flat, the reflexes dull, the senses dimmed. His speech was slurring badly.


He retired, came back, retired again and was just short of his 39th birthday when he allowed himself to challenge the giant he-man Larry Holmes in October 1980. He was calamitously, cringingly, beaten up over 10 rounds by a mercifully unvenomous Holmes but badly beaten up he still was. It was not till December 1981 just five weeks off 40 that sense and his friends coaxed him from the ring and quietly led him away after a last humbling from Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas.
Ali’s health nosedived almost at once. Soon he was seen scarcely able to talk or walk, his speech descending into inaudible mumbles, the once stimulating “Ali shuffle” becoming a harrowing shamble. It was pitifully obvious that Parkinson’s disease was severely debilitating his brain and limbs. Yet the soulful, mischievous brown eyes still spoke eloquently of his wit and charm. With pride, difficulty and a dignified, if silent, eloquence, he lit the torch to open the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. Thousands wept as he did so.
At the turn of the millennium, Ali was voted, far and wide and undisputed in umpteen countries, man of the century, sportsman of the century, and personality of the century. In 2005 he opened a museum built in his honour in Louisville. And in 2011 he made rare public appearance the funeral of his former opponent, Frazier. At last year’s opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, he seemed extremely frail and was only able to walk a few steps. However, he received a rapturous reception from the 80,000-strong crowd.

Burt Kwouk


Date of Birth: 18 July 1930, Warrington, Lacashire, UK
Birth Name: Herbert Tsangtse Kwouk
Nicknames: Burt Kwouk

Burt Kwouk, mostly seen in British films and TV, did manage to elevate many of his roles, finally transcending stereotypes such as his celebrated Cato, the foil to Peter Sellers’ bungling Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, to become a national treasure, this status being consecrated in 2002 by his joining the cast of the BBC’s longest running sitcom, Last of the Summer Wine.


Kwouk was born in Warrington, Lancashire, “because my mother happened to be there at the time,” but at 10 months old was taken back to the family home in Shanghai. There he remained until he was 17, when his well-off parents sent him to the US to study politics and economics. However, before he was able to graduate his parents lost all their money in the 1949 revolution, and he returned to Shanghai. A few years later, Kwouk took advantage of his dual nationality and returned to Britain, where he took various menial jobs before his girlfriend “nagged me into acting”. Capitalising on his oriental looks, he started getting roles mostly as villainous or comic Chinese or Japanese characters.
One of his first TV appearances was a comic one, in a Hancock’s Half Hour (1957), as a Japanese man presenting two bowls of rice to Tony Hancock, who has won a lifetime’s supply in a newspaper competition. A year later, Kwouk was fortunate, so early in his career, to have one of his better film roles in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, set in China but shot in Wales. Kwouk, one of the few genuine Chinese people in the cast, played Li, who helps Ingrid Bergman, as the English Christian missionary Gladys Aylward, escape from the Japanese with 100 children. After a long and arduous journey, he is shot and killed by Japanese soldiers when he tries to distract them from the children.
He was soon cast in a couple of Hammer Horror films, The Terror of the Tongs, as one of evil Christopher Lee’s hatchet men, and Visa to Canton (both 1961). Kwouk was subsequently to play the sidekick of Lee’s Fu Manchu in The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967) and The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969). But in The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu (1980), Sax Rohmer’s master criminal was played by Sellers, with Kwouk as his manservant. It was a best-forgotten, dismal ending to Sellers’ career, but it did give him and Kwouk a last chance to work together.


Their first chance had come 16 years before in A Shot in the Dark (1964), the second of Blake Edwards’s slapstick comedies featuring Sellers as the extraordinarily maladroit Inspector Clouseau, who seemed unable to cross a room without breaking something. Kwouk played Clouseau’s Chinese “houseboy”, whose sole function was to ambush his master with kung fu attacks at the most unexpected moments from the most unsuspected places. These brilliantly choreographed running and jumping gags, which always resulted in the destruction of Clouseau’s apartment and Cato coming off worst, were the highlights of all the Pink Panther films, which included The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and The Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).



“Peter and I fell about laughing so much that very often we were unable to complete the day’s work as scheduled, which the producers hated,” Kwouk recalled. “Cato and I are very different. He never stands still. I only move when I have to.” The death of Sellers in 1980 didn’t prevent Edwards from making The Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) by piecing together out-takes and clips from the previous films in the series. Kwouk was seen as Cato, bravely being interviewed about his boss, and again in Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), this time as proprietor of the Clouseau museum. Kwouk’s protracted association with the Pink Panther series ended with Son of the Pink Panther (1993), in which, in various disguises, he attacks villains on behalf of Roberto Benigni in the title role.


Kwouk also appeared in three James Bond movies: Goldfinger (1964), as a nuclear scientist sent to oversee the bomb that China has given to Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) to blow up Fort Knox, but who is later double-crossed and shot; Casino Royale (1967), as a Chinese general; and You Only Live Twice (1967), as one of Blofeld’s gang of Spectre henchmen.
His other roles varied from Chairman Peng of the People’s Republic in Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) to a corrupt Laotian general who’s hoping to save up enough money to buy a Holiday Inn in the US in Air America (1990), to the trustworthy contact in Paris of Jet Li’s Chinese cop in the formulaic martial arts thriller Kiss of the Dragon (2001).
Parallel to his film career, Kwouk made a niche for himself on British television in series including The Saint (1965-68), It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (1977-78), Doctor Who (1982), and as himself in The Kenny Everett Show (1983-84) and The Harry Hill Show (1997-2000). But the role that revealed his underused talents as a dramatic actor was Major Yamauchi, the strict but honourable commandant of a women’s POW camp in Tenko (1981-84).


In contrast was his Mr Entwistle, a philosophical electrical handyman from Hull in Last of the Summer Wine, a part specially written for him by Roy Clarke. “It is a very pleasant and easygoing programme, a lovely gentle comic show,” Kwouk remarked. “There is no one charging around, and even the slapstick is quite gentle certainly more gentle than I am used to.”


Kwouk’s voice was almost as famous as his face. It can be heard in the video game Fire Warrior, narrating the English version of the Japanese TV series The Water Margin (1976-78), the bizarre “interactive” gambling show Banzai! (2001-04) and in many TV commercials.
Kwouk was appointed OBE in 2011 for services to drama.

Barry Howard


Date of Birth: 9 July 1937, Nottingham, UK
Birth Name: Barry Fredrick Howard
Nicknames: Barry Howard

Barry Howard was best known to TV viewers for his role in the BBC sitcom Hi-de-Hi! as Barry Stuart-Hargreaves, who, with his wife, Yvonne, teaches ballroom dancing at Maplins holiday camp.
Set at the turn of the 1950s, Hi-de-Hi! was created by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, based on their experience of staging summer shows at Butlin’s. Howard had started his own career at Butlin’s after learning ballroom dancing at school.


Whereas once Barry and Yvonne (played by Diane Holland) had swept across the country’s top dance floors, they were now reduced to imparting their skills to holidaymakers in the fictional Essex seaside town of Crimpton-on-Sea and even taking part in what they saw as demeaning shows alongside the yellowcoats hired by the entertainments manager, Jeffrey Fairbrother (Simon Cadell). Having spaghetti stuffed down his trousers and dressing up as Percy the pixie were an embarrassing come-down for Barry Stuart-Hargreaves.
The dance instructors’ frustrations were compounded by strains in their own relationship, not helped by Yvonne’s previous infidelities. Howard played every situation deadpan, often with a sideways glance and flare of the nostrils, whether making caustic comments about Yvonne or the guests.


After the 1980 pilot and seven series (1981-86), Howard was written out and Barry was replaced as Yvonne’s dancing partner by Julian Dalrymple-Sykes (Ben Aris), one of her former lovers. “I used to drink more than was good for me in those days and got into trouble for shoving one of the yellowcoat girls into the pool,” Howard said. “I enjoyed any type of drink and made front-page news. I wasn’t well enough to continue for the last two series.”
However, the actor did return to his role for a 2010 stage tour of Hi-de-Hi!, one of only two original cast members to do so. Nikki Kelly, who had appeared as the yellowcoat Sylvia Garnsey in the series, took the role of Yvonne. Howard and the TV cast had originally appeared in the stage show Hi-de-Hi – The Holiday Musical, which was performed at the Victoria Palace theatre, London (1983-84), sandwiched between summer seasons in Bournemouth and Blackpool.

Barry Howard in Hi-de-Hi

Howard was born in Nottingham to Gladys (nee Booth) and Frederick, a butcher, and did national service in the Royal Air Force after leaving grammar school. Wanting to train as an actor but unable to get a grant, he worked backstage at the Alexandra theatre, Birmingham, for almost two years to fund himself through Birmingham Theatre School.
He then performed at Butlin’s Ayr holiday camp, followed by theatre summer seasons at other seaside resorts. After Howard and John Inman appeared together in a 1964-65 tour of the musical Salad Days, they formed a partnership as a long-running Ugly Sisters act in pantomimes and ran up their own costumes dresses of lime green and purple, puce and crimson, lemon and black, embroidered and trimmed with lace, feathers, net, fur or sequins.


The double act continued until Inman found fame as Mr Humphries in the TV sitcom Are You Being Served?, but Howard continued to play pantomime dames.
After his West End debut in 1964 as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night during a Shakespeare season at the Comedy theatre, he took the roles of Mr Sowerberry in the first national tour of Oliver! (1964-65) and Herr Schultz in Cabaret at Bristol Old Vic (1977-8), appeared in the Churchill musical Winnie at the Victoria Palace (1988), was the narrator of The Rocky Horror Show on tour (1991-92) and, between 2003 and 2013, was Jacob Marley opposite Tommy Steele’s Ebenezer in Scrooge: The Musical on tour and at the London Palladium.
His television appearances were few before he became a star through Hi-de-Hi!, but Howard subsequently had a cameo role as Count Zarkhov in a 1990 episode of the Perry-Croft “upstairs, downstairs” comedy You Rang, M’Lord? and played the footman Danny Jackson for the entire run of the royal household sitcom The House of Windsor (1994).
Later, he was seen in the 2009 Doctor Who story The End of Time as Oliver Barnes, one of the Silver Cloak group of pensioners also including June Whitfield, searching for David Tennant’s abducted Time Lord.



Date of Birth: 7 June 1958, Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
Birth Name: Prince Rogers Nelson
Nicknames: Prince, Jamie Starr, Joey Coco, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince

Prince was the prodigious hit-maker who synthesised an intoxicating mix of musical styles.
Typical of its prodigiously gifted composer, a multi-instrumentalist with a ferocious work ethic, the 1984 album Purple Rain, and accompanying semi-autobiographical hit movie of the same name, launched Prince, who has died aged 57, on to the global stage. It put him on track to become one of the greatest superstars of that decade and beyond.
The chart-topping Purple Rain sold more than 20m copies, delivering two US No 1 singles in When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy, and winning Prince the 1985 Oscar for best original song score. The anthemic title song could make it only to No 2, but it became the calling card of a compelling and glamorous performer who continued to dazzle and bewitch audiences.
His career as a hit-maker had begun five years earlier, with the single I Wanna Be Your Lover, and he followed up Purple Rain with further hugely successful releases including Parade, Sign o’ the Times, Lovesexy and Diamonds and Pearls. While his profile and commercial fortunes ebbed and flowed over the following decades, and he even changed his name temporarily to a mysterious symbol as part of an attempt to get out of his contract with Warner Bros, in recent years he had regained his grip on his career, and become acknowledged as one of the most inspirational artists of his era.
His ability to synthesise an intoxicating mix of musical styles, from funk, soul, gospel and rock to jazz, hip-hop and psychedelia, made him unique in rock music history, helped by his mastery of studio and audio technology. In addition, he presented his music and his persona with dazzling visual flair, and was always an enthralling live performer even when his record sales were not at their peak. After playing hours-long headlining concerts, he would often perform late-night shows with his band at local clubs; these became almost more sought after than the “official” performances.


Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis. His father, John Nelson, was leader of the Prince Rogers jazz trio, and met his wife-to-be, Mattie Shaw, when playing at community dances on Minneapolis’s North Side. Mattie joined the Prince Rogers trio as vocalist, but dropped out of the group after she married. The couple named their son after John’s stage name, though the boy was nicknamed “Skipper” when he was growing up. His parents’ musical leanings rubbed off on him, and at the age of seven he wrote his first song, Funk Machine, on his father’s piano. In 1960 his sister, Tyka, was born.
His parents separated when Prince was 10, and he would alternate between living with his father and with his mother – who studied for a master’s degree in social work and her new husband, Hayward Baker. It was Baker who took the boy to see James Brown perform, an event that had a profound influence on his approach to writing and performing. Prince eventually found a more permanent home with neighbours, the Anderson family, and their son Andre (later known as André Cymone) became a close friend and a musical partner. While attending Minneapolis’s central high school, Prince and Andre joined a band called Grand Central, which also included Prince’s cousin Charles Smith on drums. They played mostly cover versions, arranged by Prince. The group became Champagne, and acquired a new drummer, Morris Day, who later became lead singer with the Time and had prominent roles in Prince’s movies Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge (1990).


After making some recordings with Pepé Willie and his band 94 East, released in the 1980s as Minneapolis Genius: 94 East in 1976 Prince made a demo tape of his own material with the engineer Chris Moon, which caught the ear of a Minneapolis businessman, Owen Husney. He signed Prince to a management contract, forming the company American Artists, and funded the recording of high-quality demos which attracted interest from several record labels. Prince accepted the deal with Warner Bros, which gave him a rare degree of artistic control as well as ownership of his publishing rights.
On his first album, For You (1978), the artist wrote and performed everything himself. The single Soft and Wet, an early indicator of Prince’s fondness for suggestive sexual wordplay, sold 350,000 copies and reached No 12 in the US R&B chart. The following January, Prince unveiled his new band at the Capri theatre in Minneapolis, a funk-rock ensemble featuring Cymone on bass alongside keyboard players Gayle Chapman and Matt Fink, guitarist Dez Dickerson and drummer Bobby Z.
After Prince fell out with Warner Bros, he made his feelings towards the label explicit by writing SLAVE on his cheek whenever he appeared in public. Photograph: Brian Rasic/Getty Images
By the time his second album, Prince, appeared in October 1979, he had switched to Earth Wind & Fire’s management, Cavallo & Ruffalo. The album reached 22 in the Billboard 200, and would eventually sell a million copies as well as generating his first major hit with I Wanna Be Your Lover. The Dirty Mind album followed a year later, reaching the Top 50 in the US while provoking some criticism for the blatantly sexual nature of songs such as Head and Sister.
Aptly, his next release was the following year’s Controversy, which contained more sexually explicit songs, a chant of the Lord’s Prayer, and even an intervention in US foreign policy, with a plea to President Reagan called Ronnie, Talk To Russia. Prince’s ability to provoke an audience was illustrated when he supported the Rolling Stones in San Francisco, and was pelted with shoes and chicken’s innards.
But the music was flowing out of him in an unstoppable torrent, and the 1982 double album called 1999 gave him his first Top 10 entry as well as hit singles with the title track, Delirious, and, above all, Little Red Corvette. The last-named benefited from heavy rotation on MTV, one of the first tracks by a black artist to receive such intense exposure, so helping to change the station’s programming policies. It was also the first album credited to Prince and the Revolution, his band now including Mark Brown and Lisa Coleman in place of Cymone and Chapman. Prince undertook a six-month tour to promote 1999, where he was joined on the bill by his proteges the Time and a new all-female group, Vanity 6, the latter seemingly an embodiment of Prince’s sexual fantasies.
Filming of the Purple Rain movie began in late 1983, and took seven weeks on a budget of $7m. The Purple Rain campaign got off to a perfect start when the first single, When Doves Cry, topped the US charts (the Revolution now had a new guitarist, Wendy Melvoin, replacing Dickerson). The movie opened in July, the album arrived the following month, and in November Prince embarked on a 100-date US tour. At one point in 1984, Prince had the No 1 album, film and single in the US. Meanwhile he achieved another milestone of sorts when some of his lyrics, including those from Purple Rain’s Darling Nikki and his hit written for Sheena Easton, Sugar Walls, hit opposition from the newly formed Parents’ Music Resource Centre, which campaigned for a warning sticker on records containing sexually explicit lyrics.
Intense press scrutiny didn’t seem to agree with Prince, who shunned interviews and in 1985 announced his retirement from live performing. This didn’t prevent Around the World in a Day from topping the Billboard chart that spring and delivering the hits Raspberry Beret and Pop Life. A year later came Parade, along with the chart-topping single Kiss (and behind it at No 2 was the Bangles’ Manic Monday, another Prince composition). July brought Prince’s new film Under the Cherry Moon, for which Parade provided the soundtrack, though the film was a comparative failure. His performing ban apparently rescinded, Prince embarked on the Hit n Run – Parade Tour, which included three nights at Wembley Arena. This was the end of the line for the Revolution, which Prince disbanded at the end of the tour.


Music continued to pour out of him, and the epic double album Sign o’ the Times was released in March 1987. This produced a fresh batch of hit singles, including the title track, U Got the Look (featuring Easton) and I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man. Prince undertook an international touring campaign with a new band featuring the drummer Sheila E and dancer/choreographer Cat Glover, and a Sign o’ the Times concert film was released in November, though with limited commercial success.
Shelving what later appeared as The Black Album – whose mix of lewd funk workouts, free jazz and hip-hop Prince suddenly decided was “evil” – he instead released Lovesexy (1988), an exercise in spiritually inclined R&B notable mostly for its infectious hit Alphabet St. The album fared well in Europe but poorly in the States, while the lavish Lovesexy world tour lost money. Prince’s financial affairs were in some disarray: “He wouldn’t budget, he wouldn’t run a business, he just did everything on a whim and a prayer,” said one business associate. However, Prince – having co-written and sung on Love Song, from Madonna’s 1989 album Like A Prayer – found himself back in commercial clover that year with his soundtrack for Tim Burton’s Batman movie, a multi-platinum US chart-topper which gave him another US No 1 with Batdance.
His profile boosted by Sinéad O’Connor’s version of his song Nothing Compares 2 U, Prince embarked on another film and music project with Graffiti Bridge. The album went Top 10 but the film sank without trace, prompting another shake-up in Prince’s backing group. In 1991 he introduced the New Power Generation, who backed him on the Diamonds and Pearls album. This reached No 3 and delivered four hit singles, including his fifth US No 1, Cream.
In 1992 Prince announced a new $100m deal with Warner Bros, but the shine faded when he found that the contract deprived him of ownership of his master recordings. The Love Symbol Album (which reached No 5 in the US and No 1 in Britain) was a harbinger of things to come, since in 1993 Prince changed his name to what he called “that symbol on the album” (the so-called “love symbol”, combining male and female images). Prince wanted to set a faster pace of album releases, but Warners wanted a more controlled flow to permit maximum exploitation of singles and touring. Prince, now referred to as the Artist Formerly Known As Prince, made his feelings towards the label explicit by writing SLAVE on his cheek whenever he appeared in public. Meanwhile the label marked time by releasing the triple-CD set The Hits/The B-Sides (1993).
Prince reached a settlement with Warners in April 1996, by which time he had also released Come (a collection of material from his vaults), the notorious Black Album (1994), and The Gold Experience (1995), the latter providing a solid hit with The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. On Valentine’s Day that year he married a 22-year-old backing singer and dancer, Mayte Garcia, but in October their son Gregory died one week after his birth because of a rare skull defect, Pfeiffer syndrome. It drove the couple apart; they divorced in 2000.
After releasing the contractual obligation album Chaos and Disorder (1996), Prince celebrated his escape from Warners with the triple-album Emancipation on his own NPG label; it sold 2m copies in the US. Prince now embraced the internet era by selling Crystal Ball, a five-CD set of previously unreleased tracks, on his website, though the delivery process was chaotic. This won him a Webby lifetime achievement award in 2006, as the first major artist to release a whole album exclusively online. Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999) was designed to be commercial and accessible, but was a relative flop.
In May 2000, after the expiry of his publishing contract with Warner Chappell Music, Prince officially retired the love symbol and became Prince again. He now focused on internet distribution via his site, which brought The Rainbow Children, the instrumental album N.E.W.S. and the jazzy Xpectation. One Nite Alone ... Live! (2002) was his first live album.
In 2001 he had married Manuela Testolini, whom he met while she was working at his charitable foundation. They divorced five years later. In 2001 Prince joined Jehovah’s Witnesses, introduced by Larry Graham, who had played bass with Sly and the Family Stone and fronted his own band, Graham Central Station.


In February 2004, Prince made a spectacular appearance at the Grammy Awards with Beyoncé, performing a medley which included Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy and Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love. In March Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, playing a batch of his own songs before joining in While My Guitar Gently Weeps as a tribute toGeorge Harrison, who had died in 2001.
Musicology (2004) presented a relaxed, optimistic Prince making listener-friendly music with a new business model. He arranged distribution through Columbia Records, taking no advance payment but retaining complete ownership of the album. Anybody who bought a ticket for the Musicology tour received a copy of the album, which was also available though the online Music Club. “One advantage of writing SLAVE on my face back then is that when I meet with a label now, they already know they’re not going to be owning anything,” Prince said. “Maybe at one time they could get Little Richard for a new car and a bucket of chicken. We don’t roll like that no more.”
He scored his first US No 1 album since Batman with 3121 (2006), and in November that year was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.


He opened the 3121 nightclub under a deal with the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and performed there regularly.
In February 2007, at the Super Bowl half-time show in Miami, one of the highest-profile showcases a US artist can achieve, he played some Purple Rain songs alongside cover versions of pieces by Queen, Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Foo Fighters.
His Earth Tour brought him to London that summer, to play 21 nights at the O2 Arena. The Planet Earth album was given away free with the Mail on Sunday, to the dismay of music retailers (he was dubbed the Artist Formerly Available In Record Stores). In October 2008, he released the live album Indigo Nights, comprising music performed after hours at the IndigO2 nightclub, plus a matching book called 21 Nights.
The album 20Ten was released in 2010 as a free covermounted disc with various European publications but not available online; he toured the album in Europe in two separate legs with different bands. His appearance at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent in July 2011 was his debut at a UK festival.
In 2013, Prince formed a new backing band called 3rdeyegirl, which came to London on the small-scale Hit and Run Tour in February 2014. Even more surprising than his performance at the home of singer Lianne La Havas was news that Prince had signed a new deal with Warner Bros after an 18-year gap. The label announced the release of a 30th anniversary deluxe edition of Purple Rain, and returned ownership of his Warner recordings to the artist.

Victoria Wood


Date of Birth: 19 May 1953, Prestwich, Lancashire, UK
Birth Name: Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood, found success in the 1970s as one of Britain’s first woman stand-up comics and the plump chanteuse of bittersweet songs, often with a social point.
At the heart of her acerbic observations on human frailty lay her mischievous brand of witty musical epigrams that conjured a lost 1950s world of feeble men, gynaecological afflictions, split ends, corner shops and unsatisfactory sex.
In the days when almost all stand-up comedians were men spouting sexist, racist material, Victoria Wood counted herself fortunate that she narrowly predated the wave of alternative comedians. Indeed, seated breezily at the piano,  she seemed to frame her essentially Northern, self-deprecating view of life in the  old-fashioned cabaret style of Noël Coward.
It was perhaps in subconscious homage to Coward (who had fashioned his own version of the Cole Porter standard in the 1950s) that she wrote her most popular number Let’s Do It, putting her own twist on it by making it a marathon saga of inverted suburban lust with the wife, Freda, wanting sex and the husband, Barry, finding every excuse not to oblige.
As Freda’s demands are given full rein (“Bend me over backwards on my Hostess trolley… Beat me on the bottom with my Woman’s Weekly”), Barry’s excuses become more and more lame (“You know I pulled a muscle when I did that grouting… ”)
Having surfaced on the ITV talent show New Faces in 1974, Victoria Wood soon became a fixture on Esther Rantzen’s BBC One That’s Life show, warbling whimsical takes on stories in the news.
Although Victoria Wood herself cultivated a deliberately frumpy, roly-poly image, attracting such epithets as The Daily Telegraph’s “plucky, buxom singing blonde from Lancashire”, her origins were comfortably middle-class: her father was an insurance underwriter who played jazz piano and wrote plays and television scripts in his spare time. Her flair was to capture the speech-patterns of ordinary folk discussing subjects that were workaday but inherently amusing. As one television producer put it, “she manages to be extraordinarily ordinary”.


While her on-stage persona suggested the matey, if mumsy, girl-next-door, she earned a reputation for being  somewhat dour in private. She disliked publicity, was wary of journalists and gave interviews only when they served to promote her work. There were hints of a troubled childhood, and in the 1990s she underwent psychotherapy “to clear out things that might have been bothering me from my past”, although these were never specified.
Her appearance, too, was ambiguous: the baggy striped blazer, trousers, carelessly knotted tie and pudding-basin haircut underlined a camp style that attracted a large gay following. Later, when Victoria Wood lost weight, she shed the boyish uniform for more stylish jackets and brooches. At the same time, she moved from one-liners to longer formats.
Her first substantial success on television was with her series Wood and Walters (1982), starring with her close friend from drama school days, Julie Walters. In Victoria Wood – as Seen on TV (1985), she created a cult classic with “Acorn Antiques”, a soap opera parody in which the cast, featuring Wood and Walters, fluffed their lines on the wobbly set, a throwback to the days of Crossroads. Victoria Wood’s scripts were clever, quirky and original, and the show won Bafta’s prize for best comedy of the year, cementing her claim to be the funniest woman in Britain.
After a gap of several years, in 1998 she returned to the small screen with a new sitcom, Dinnerladies, about a group of women working in a northern factory canteen.


Untrammelled by political correctness, Victoria Wood’s scripts fizzed with sexual banter between the women and the canteen manager, Tony (Andrew Dunn). “Abuse and harassment are disgusting,” she conceded, “but when people go to work they talk about sex - it’s part of life.” The series was recommissioned the following year, but received mixed reviews and was subsequently dropped.
She turned again to the live stage, touring provincial venues and starring at the London Palladium and at the Royal Albert Hall, where with her stand-up show, Victoria Wood — At It Again, she held the record for the most sell-out shows for a solo performer.
Victoria Wood was born on May 19 1953 at Prestwich, north Manchester, the youngest of four children. Her father worked in insurance, underwriting cover for pharmaceutical chemists, and as the Liberal agent for Bury and Radcliffe, where he and his wife brought up the family.
When Victoria was five, they moved to Birtle Edge House, a dismal, isolated former children’s home overlooking moorland on the outskirts of Bury.
A year later Victoria saw the comedienne Joyce Grenfell on stage in Buxton, and decided she wanted to be an entertainer.
At Bury Grammar School for Girls she was talented but withdrawn and lazy, and in her spare time joined the local orchestra and played trumpet in a military band.
Tortured by low self-esteem, she also read voraciously, second-hand books that had either been acquired by her book-obsessed mother, a drama teacher and former communist, or stolen from Bury Library (in 1999, by then an established star, Victoria Wood sent the library £100 in cash and a letter of apology).
For her 15th birthday in 1968 her father gave her a piano, and in the same year she joined Rochdale Youth Theatre Workshop, where she impressed with her writing skills and comic invention. Called for an audition at Manchester Polytechnic’s school of theatre in 1970, she failed to secure a place but encountered Julie Walters for the first time.


In 1971 she enrolled at Birmingham University to study Drama and Theatre Arts and while working as a part-time barmaid in a pub frequented by BBC producers was invited to a party where she played a few of her songs. The following day she auditioned at the BBC studio, Pebble Mill, and was given a spot on a local television programme about Midlands life. This led to another audition, and two appearances on the ITV talent show New Faces, one of which she won.
But a major breakthrough still eluded her, and she spent four years on the dole, often depressed, staying in bed for 14 hours at a stretch, eating too much tinned mince but also writing stage sketches, some of which became vehicles for her satirical songs.
In 1978 her first stage hit, In at the Death (Bush), was a revue about mortality. The Daily Telegraph found the songs “successfully blend a gallows humour with an unexpected touch of humanity”.
She followed up with Talent (ICA, 1979), a largely autobiographical take on a dreadful talent show in which she deployed jokes about such preoccupations as corsetry and “barmy” nuns.
While The Daily Telegraph considered this “crude and chattermagging”, The Sunday Telegraph’s critic disagreed, saying Victoria Wood’s talent was “as ample as her frame”.
For years she had agonised about her weight, having envied her two older sisters who were thin and, to her mind, more attractive. As a young woman of 15 stone, she suffered from a compulsive eating disorder, which she overcame and later incorporated into her stage act.
She became a vegetarian, gave up smoking, drinking and sugar, but subsequently admitted to secret bingeing sessions, isolating herself socially in the process.
“If you have an eating disorder then food replaces almost any need that you have,” she explained. “But you have to do it privately. Personally I don’t like being fat. The fact is that I was overweight, but I’m not now.” She trimmed down to a size 14.


After undergoing a hysterectomy in 2001, she took up marathon running and in 2004 made a hard-hitting documentary for BBC Television excoriating the diet industry. The following year a musical version of Acorn Antiques, starring Julie Walters and directed by Trevor Nunn, opened at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.
She was irked when her 2009 television special, Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas, was moved (without reference to her) from the promised prime time Christmas Day slot to an inferior one the night before.
In 2011 she wrote and directed a musical, That Day We Sang, for the Manchester International Festival, about a middle-aged couple who find love after meeting on a television programme about a choir they both sang in 40 years previously.
The following year she wrote Loving Miss Hatto (BBC1), an “imagining” of the life of the concert pianist Joyce Hatto, who became famous late in life when unauthorised copies of recordings made by other pianists were released under her name, a fraud which only came to light after her death.


The following year she produced a documentary about the history of tea entitled Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea.
In the last three years she appeared in episodes of QI and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, and in  2015 took part in a celebrity version of The Great British Bake Off for Comic Relief, when she was crowned Star Baker in her episode. In December last year she co-starred with Timothy Spall in Sky television’s 3-part adaptation of Fungus the Bogeyman.
Her television work earned her many British Comedy and Bafta awards, including, in 2005, a tribute award and, in 2007, Bafta’s award for best actress and best single drama for Housewife, 49. She was the Variety Club’s BBC Personality of the Year for 1987.
She was appointed OBE in 1997 and advanced to CBE in 2008. She once beat the Queen Mother into second place to top a poll of “People You’d Most Like to Live Next Door To”.
Victoria Wood married, in 1980, Geoffrey Durham, the magician who entertained under the name The Great Soprendo. The marriage was dissolved more than 20 years later.

Gareth Thomas


Date of Birth: 12 February 1945, Wales, UK
Birth Name: Gareth Daniel Noake Thomas
Nicknames: Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas, best known for his role in the popular BBC science-fiction series Blake’s 7. He was an accomplished classical stage actor who gained television fame in the title role of the BBC science-fiction series Blake’s 7 in 1978. Conceived by the writer Terry Nation as a more adult alternative to Doctor Who, Blake’s 7 was hugely popular with the public, ran for four series, amassed 10 million viewers, sold worldwide and retains a loyal fanbase despite the disdain with which some critics treated it at the time.
Thomas’s character, the political dissident Roj Blake, framed for child abuse while on the run, gathers a motley bunch of outlaws to do battle with the evil Federation. The series explored complex morality Blake’s fanaticism made him a compromised hero and his relationships with the other characters, notably the scheming antihero Avon (played by Paul Darrow), were never entirely comfortable.
After two series, Thomas hankered to return to the theatre and departed. The character was still mentioned missing, presumed dead and so, fearing that casting directors would assume he was still in the show and so unavailable for other work, he requested that Blake be killed off definitively. His bloody demise at Avon’s hand precipitated a memorable series climax in which the regular cast were all shot dead.

Thomas was born in north London, the younger of two sons of Kenneth, a barrister who had been a junior at the Nuremberg trials, and his wife, Olga (nee Noake). A peripatetic childhood was spent in Aberystwyth, London, Edinburgh and Leamington Spa, when his father became a managing director for the John Lewis department store chain.
Thomas went to King’s college, Canterbury, and, in an attempt to extend his studies for as long as possible, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, in 1964. After a stint as an assistant stage manager and bit part player at the Liverpool Playhouse, he made his West End debut as an understudy in Three Months Gone at the Duchess theatre (1967), going on – at short notice and without rehearsal for the indisposed lead actor, Alan Lake, for one matinee performance.


He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company for its 1968-69 season, and played small parts for directors including Trevor Nunn and John Barton. Immediately fulfilling his wish to return to quality classic theatre upon leaving Blake’s 7 in 1979, he rejoined the RSC, giving a vigorous, aggressive Orsino in Twelfth Night (directed by Terry Hands), Cassio to Donald Sinden’s Othello and a strong performance as the Irish stoker Mat Burke in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. In 1987 he played Glendower and the Lord Chief Justice in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Fluellen in Henry V for Michael Bogdanov’s English Shakespeare Company.


Other theatre work included Frank in Educating Rita (on tour, 1983), the title role in King Lear (a favourite part, Northcott theatre, Exeter, 1989), Cliff in John Osborne’s Déjàvu (Comedy theatre, 1992) and Colonel Pickering in Pygmalion (Edinburgh Lyceum, 1996). He was Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Dundee Rep, 1997), Dysart in Equus (Salisbury Playhouse, 2000), Oberon/Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the drunk Mr Dearth in JM Barrie’s Dear Brutus (Nottingham Playhouse, 2000), Chebutykin in The Three Sisters (Nuffield theatre, Southampton, 2002) and Ephraim Cabot in O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms (New Vic theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 2010) in a performance described as “masterful” by the Daily Telegraph.



Blake’s 7 was not Thomas’s only brush with science fiction he was one of the workmen who discover mysterious remains in the London Underground in the Hammer film Quatermass and the Pit (1967). On television he was in Star Maidens (1976), an Anglo‑German co-production concerning a planet of domineering women, and he played the scientist Adam Brake in the memorably atmospheric HTV children’s series Children of the Stones (1976). In Knights of God (1987) he fought against a militant religious order whose leaders were played by Julian Fellowes and John Woodvine.


Thomas’s extensive small-screen career also included the BBC’s How Green Was My Valley (1976, with Stanley Baker) and semi-regular appearances as Area Commander Bulstrode in the popular London’s Burning (1989-94). He was twice nominated for a Bafta: for his first major screen role, in Jack Gold’s television film Stocker’s Copper (1972), and for his portrayal of a struggling hill farmer in the series Morgan’s Boy (1984).
A prolific radio actor, he was Mog Edwards in the 1988 production of Under Milk Woodwith an all-star cast led by Anthony Hopkins and starred in the Doctor Who spin-off Dalek Empire for the audio company Big Finish, for whom he reprised the role of Blake in 2011.

Ronnie Cornett


Date of Birth: 4 December 1930, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Birth Name: Ronald Balfour Corbett
Nicknames: Ronnie Corbett

Actor and comedian who became a national treasure as partner to Ronnie Barker in The Two Ronnies
It would be wrong to suggest, though, that Corbett’s huge role in British TV comedy from the 1960s onwards was due only to him playing on his diminutive stature. Over the years, Corbett, who has died aged 85, and his long-term professional partner, Ronnie Barker, created some of the most memorable and frequently repeated moments in British comedy.
In another, more celebrated Two Ronnies sketch, for instance, Corbett played an ironmonger confounded by Barker’s homophonically challenged customer. “Four candles,” demanded the latter. Corbett presented the customer with four candles. “No, fork ’andles. Handles for forks.” The sketch continued with more hilarious misunderstandings. In a version that was not broadcast, Corbett was to be replaced by a buxom woman who would ask the customer: “Right then, young man, what kind of knockers do you want?”


In an era of TV double acts Morecambe and Wise, Mike and Bernie Winters, Little and Large, Cannon and Ball, the Two Ronnies were different, not least because Corbett was more than Barker’s straight man and both received equal billing. “In fact,” argued Barry Cryer, who wrote for both The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise, “because they [alone] never regarded themselves as a double act, Corbett and Barker never saw themselves in competition with Eric and Ernie.”
For 16 years, and more than 93 episodes, from 1971 to 1987, up to 22 million British viewers regularly watched The Two Ronnies on Saturday nights, making the comedy duo household names and even national treasures. Corbett, unlike his diffident partner, enjoyed the fame. “I do find the ‘national treasure’ thing very touching,” he told one interviewer. “Actually, it brings a tear to my eye when people call me that.”


Corbett was under no illusion about why he was a national treasure. “It’s all down to The Two Ronnies,” he said. “Those years with Ronnie Barker were the spine of my career.” But he had other successes. In the BBC sitcom Sorry!, which ran for seven seasons from 1981, Corbett played Timothy Lumsden, a middle-aged librarian who lives at home with his mother. “He was a sort of Walter Mitty – he pretended to be bold and worldly but really he was just a timid mother’s boy,” wrote Corbett in his autobiography, High Hopes (2000). “I received a lot of letters from librarians saying: ‘We are trying to improve the image of librarians and we’re not sure Timothy Lumsden is a step in the right direction.’”
And then there were the late-career comedy turns in which Corbett gamely subverted his national treasure status. On Ricky Gervais’s sitcom Extras in 2006, Corbett played himself snorting cocaine with fellow actors in the loos at the Baftas. They were caught and hauled before the head of security, who said: “Corbett! It’s always bloody Corbett.” “Just a bit of whizz to blow away the cobwebs,” replied the comedian. Corbett explained why he took the role: “It did cause a stir, but I had the reasonable safety valve that Moira Stewart was my ‘supplier’. If I was in trouble, she was in more trouble.”


In Little Britain Abroad, broadcast on Christmas Day in the same year, Corbett appeared as unwitting suitor to Matt Lucas’s grotesque exhibitionist Bubbles DeVere, who stripped off and attempted to seduce the 76-year-old in his Monte Carlo villa. Corbett turned down another sketch on the show, though. “I was supposed to be having a massage at a health spa and the script said I came out afterwards in my towelling dressing gown ‘visibly erect’,” he recalled. “I wrote a letter saying: ‘You have to understand that after years of me being a cherished little soul in a Lyle and Scott sweater, I am not prepared to trade it all for one sweaty moment in a sauna.”


Corbett was born in Edinburgh, the eldest of three children of William, a baker at McVitie’s who worked night shifts for 29 years, and his wife, Annie, who worked in a telephone exchange. Ronnie was educated at the Royal high school, and after leaving took an office job at the animal feeding stuffs department at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. By then, though, he had a sense of his true vocation.
He was entering a world very different from that of his childhood. “Our parents taught us the value of hard work and discipline. They never borrowed money, never drank except for a sherry at Christmas and took us to church on Sunday.”
He joined an amateur dramatics company during his national service in 1950 and subsequently moved to London to start an acting career. He worked for a time behind the bar at the drag artist Danny La Rue’s nightclub, Winston’s, in Mayfair, and for many years did cabaret there. It was at Winston’s that he met and fell for Anne Hart, an actor and dancer who, at 5ft 8in, was seven inches taller than him. “But of course she was married, and in those days you didn’t fall in love with married people,” he recalled. “Sadly, her husband then died an untimely death.” The pair eventually married in 1965, and had two daughters, Sophie and Emma, as well as a son, Andrew, who died of a heart defect at six weeks.
Corbett’s first big break was doing standup on the BBC children’s TV show Crackerjack in the mid-50s. But he was also becoming a stage star. In 1963 he starred opposite Bob Monkhouse in Rodgers and Hart’s musical The Boys from Syracuse at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. In 1965 he was due to appear as Will Scarlet in Lionel Bart’s Twang!, a musical about Robin Hood, but the production collapsed. That was fortuitous as it left Corbett free to accept an offer by David Frost to appear in The Frost Report (1966–67). It was there that he met Barker, and the two men formed a bond: they were two grammar school boys who had not been to university, surrounded by writers and actors who were mostly Oxbridge graduates.
One sketch from the satirical show became a classic. In it, Corbett played a cloth-capped working-class man literally looking up to Ronnie Barker’s middle-class man (5ft 8in) who, in turn, looked up to upper-class John Cleese (6ft 5in). “I know my place,” said Corbett. “But I don’t look up to him” looking at the other Ronnie “as much as I look up to him,” nodding at Cleese.


Apart from being a satire on the sclerotic British class system, the sketch traded on Corbett’s size. He had been self-conscious about his height ever since his doctor recommended stretching exercises when he was 15. He recalled asking a girl to dance with him when he was in his teens. She looked down at him and said: “If you weren’t so short, you’d be quite good-looking.” The remark devastated him. “I felt like I’d been cut in half,” he said.
In the late 1960s he gave a revealing interview in which he said: “Being small is a bit like being Jewish you always feel you’re being discriminated against. I mean, could you see anyone employing me as a bank clerk or consulting me about an insurance policy? Whatever I did to seem dignified, they’d think I was the teaboy.” But at least he could play that sense of discrimination for laughs. Between 1967 and 1970, he starred in No, That’s Me Over Here!, a sitcom written by Cryer, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman, as a small insurance clerk with big ideas, always confounded by more adept office politicians (notably his lanky colleague Henry McGee).
Ronnie Corbett’s ‘I know my place’ sketch with John Cleese and Ronnie Barker traded on his height, about which he had been self-conscious ever since his doctor recommended stretching exercises when he was 15. 


During the late 60s, Corbett started to get film work. He appeared in the Bond spoof Casino Royale (1966) alongside David Niven, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress. It was a critical and box-office disaster. He also appeared in Some Will, Some Won’t (1970), as one of four people who go to great lengths to obtain the fortune left in a will, and in the film version of No Sex Please: We’re British (1973). In this, he was a small-town bank clerk horrified when he receives pornographic postcards in the post, rather than the calculator he ordered. His character spends much of the rest of the film trying to dispose of the package without courting scandal. “A pleasing performance from Corbett,” said the American TV Guide critic, “saves this otherwise average British farce from the usual doldrums.”
Corbett was destined to become more famous on the small screen. After No, That’s Me Over Here!, he appeared in two follow-up BBC sitcoms by the same writers, Now Look Here (1971-73) and The Prince of Denmark (1974).
After The Two Ronnies and Sorry! finished, he was never to repeat their successes. He appeared on game shows such as the short-lived Full Swing (1996), hosted by his golfing chum Jimmy Tarbuck, which involved general knowledge and golf. It was cancelled after one series. The following year he was reunited with Cleese to appear in another big-screen comedy flop, Fierce Creatures.
In 2000 he revived his armchair monologue routine on Ben Elton’s TV show, his still-innocent humour standing up well among younger, swearier and more political comedians.


He was reunited in 2005 for one last time with Barker, who in 1987 had retired from showbiz, for The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, a series of six programmes of sketches from The Two Ronnies, with new introductions by the two stars. The last episode was broadcast on Christmas Day that year, Barker having died in October.
The one Ronnie carried on. In 2010 he took a role in the John Landis film Burke and Hare, starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis as two 19th-century grave robbers in Edinburgh. In his 80s he starred in the cult hit When the Dog Dies (2010-14), a BBC Radio 4 sitcom written by Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent (who wrote Sorry!), as a retired man whose family want him to leave the house he shares with a lodger, Dolores (played by Liza Tarbuck), so they can move in. He resolves to do so only when his beloved companion, Henry the dog, dies.
Corbett celebrated his golden wedding with Anne in 2015. For many years he lived in Surrey in a house adjoining a golf course, where he could indulge his passion for the game. He was appointed CBE in 2012. 

Garry Shandling


Date of Birth: 29 November 1949, Chicago, US
Birth Name: Garry Emmanuel Shandling
Nicknames: Garry Shandling

Garry Shandling, the American comedian and actor, plundered his own neuroses to create a comic persona vain, self-centred and riddled with anxiety which he exploited brilliantly in The Larry Sanders Show, a fly-on-the-wall-style spoof about a chat show and its egomaniacal host.
The series inspired a new form of self-referential, realist comedy that would be developed by British comic performers such as Ricky Gervais. “Without comedy as a defence mechanism I wouldn’t be able to survive,” Shandling said.
Garry Emmanuel Shandling was born in Chicago on November 29 1949. His father ran a print business and his mother a pet shop. The family moved to the dry climate of Tucson, Arizona, because Shandling’s older brother suffered from cystic fibrosis; he died when Garry was 10. The event had a profound impact on comedian’s life.


Shandling did not at first aim for showbusiness but after school studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Arizona, switching to Marketing and eventually working at an advertising agency in Los Angeles. He studied creative writing for a year as a graduate student and, having received encouragement from the stand-up comic George Carlin, began writing sitcom scripts. In 1973 he sold one to Sanford and Son, the American adaptation of the BBC’s Steptoe and Son. He sold material to several sitcoms, but found writing formulaic jokes frustrating.


In 1977 he was involved in a car accident and while recovering decided to live the life he really wanted to. As a stand-up comedian he rose quickly. He did not do “shtick”; he was dead-pan and his jokes sometimes took a few seconds to roll around an audience before detonating.
By 1981 he was a regular guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Carson enjoyed Shandling’s work and the young comedian might have taken the presenter’s chair when Carson retired. But Shandling wanted to explore deeper themes, and was aware of the destructive effects of fame.
Shandling, in effect, turned himself into a sitcom character, first on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, about a sitcom star supposedly playing himself (aired in Britain in 1986 on late-night BBC Two) and then, in 1992, on The Larry Sanders Show (HBO and BBC Two).


Larry Sanders was set backstage at a late-night television chat show much like Tonight. Shandling was the highly strung host who is tactfully protected from network interference by his vodka-swilling producer Artie (Rip Torn). Much comedy derives from Sanders’s interactions both with Artie and with his insensitive “sidekick”, the announcer Hank Kingsley, played by Jeffrey Tambor.
Each episode was built around a work day and preparations for the arrival of a special guest. Real film-star guests playing themselves would willingly undergo the required humiliations, to rich comic effect. The tone was that of a documentary or “reality” television programme. Most of all, Shandling/Sanders himself was the wellspring of the humour; the scripts specialised in the comedy of insecurity, toe-curling embarrassment and the ever-present fear of unravelling under the pressures of performance.


The Larry Sanders Show gained a devoted cult following in Britain and its techniques were taken up by writers and performers such as Ricky Gervais, Armando Iannucci and Sacha Baron Cohen. Among the staff writers on the show was Hollywood’s current “king of comedy”, the writer and director Judd Apatow. It went off the air in 1998, the year it won a Bafta, and Shandling himself an Emmy award for writing.
Shandling appeared in films, such as Town & Country (2001) with his friend Warren Beatty and Iron Man 2 (2010), but never enjoyed the same success again. He became a mentor to younger comedians and in recent years he worked with Apatow and Baron Cohen, helping them sharpen up their scripts.

Paul Daniels


Date of Birth: 6 April 1938, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, UK
Birth Name: Newton Edward Daniels
Nicknames: Paul Daniels

Paul Daniels, was the most famous British magician of the past half-century, a skilful magician with a strong line in witty chat whose determination to succeed took him to the top of British show business.
From an extremely modest background he rose by professional brilliance and sheer force of personality to become one of television’s leading figures in the 1980s. A small man of indefatigable cheeriness, he was a straightforward but astonishingly skilful performer who also displayed a highly developed flair for comedy; the combination of magic and witty chat took him to the pinnacle of showbusiness and earned him a fortune.
The producer of BBC1’s The Paul Daniels Magic Show in the 1980s, John Fisher, said: “Having worked with him on close to a hundred shows, I never ceased to be amazed at his capacity for mastering new and often technically complex material week after week, a challenge non-existent in the lives of the old masters of magic on the halls. Moreover, he displayed an instinctive ability to entertain in a way few of the great hocus-pocus giants have matched.”
He was born Newton Edward Daniels in South Bank, a small industrial town between Middlesbrough and Redcar in North Yorkshire, and for most of his early life was called Ted by family and friends. His mother was Nancy (née Lloyd) and his father Handel Newton Daniels, known as Hughie, who was a cinema projectionist.
Daniels often described a poor but warm childhood, filled with laughter, in a little terraced house with a lavatory in the back yard. “The one big thing I remember about Christmases then is that it was the only time of the year that we ate a chicken,” he wrote in his autobiography, Under No Illusion (2000).


When he was 11 he won a scholarship to the Sir William Turner grammar school in Redcar, and it was around this time that he started to become interested in magical tricks after finding an old book at a friend’s house. Daniels had discovered the perfect way to distract bullies and gain social acceptance. “This new art was an attractive antidote to my shyness,” he wrote, “and the insecure part of me had found a bridge to enable me to communicate with people in a way that I would not have found possible by any other means”.
As a teenager he saw the famous Australian conjuror The Great Levante at a local theatre, and he made his own first appearance as a magician before a smaller audience at a Normanby Road Methodist Chapel Youth Club show when he was 14. He wanted to be a professional from childhood, but this seemed a remote possibility, so when he left school he went to work for Eston Urban borough council as a junior clerk, while helping his father as a trainee projectionist in the evenings.
Called up for national service in the army when he was 18, he served in Hong Kong and, on the journey there, was entranced by a gulli-gulli man, an eastern magician, who came aboard at Suez. This encounter provided more material for the shows he put on for his fellow soldiers. After returning to his job at the council offices in 1959, he developed his magic skills at local clubs. Capitalising on the quick-witted ability to make people laugh while he amazed them, he also formed a comedy act with his brother Trevor. It was in this period that he came up with the catchphrase for which he later became famous, used initially to quell a drunken heckler: “You’ll like this ... not a lot, but you’ll like it.”


Daniels left the council and ran his own grocery business, for a time from a mobile van, while in the evenings touring his magic act with his wife Jacqueline (née Skipworth), whom he married in 1960, as The Eldanis. His professional breakthrough came in 1969, when he was offered a summer season at Newquay. He made his first television appearance on ITV’s Opportunity Knocks in 1970 and, after extensive stage touring, was given a regular slot on Granada’s The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, hosted by Colin Crompton and Bernard Manning, in 1974. The following year he was on The David Nixon Show, on Thames TV, prompting Clive James to comment in The Observer: “One of [the] guests was a very droll ‘unusualist’ called Paul Daniels, of whom one hopes to see more.”
And we did, of course. ITV gave him his own series, Paul Daniels’ Blackpool Bonanza, in 1978 and he made his first series for the BBC, For My Next Trick, the same year. This led to The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran on BBC1 from 1979 to 1994 and made him a household name.
Some of the tricks he performed were astounding, recreating the stunts of Houdini, for example, or making a television camera in a crate disappear while transmitting what the camera is seeing in real time. In all these performances he employed old-fashioned conjuring techniques, never resorting to using television technology to cheat or enhance illusions. He had a strict moral code on such matters and had strong feelings about the new generation of TV wonder-workers, much of whose impact is achieved by preparations carried out by researchers ahead of the recording.
By now divorced from Jacqueline, with whom he had three sons, Daniels was the professional and personal partner of a former ballet dancer, Debbie McGee, always introduced as “the lovely Debbie McGee”, whose role as his assistant became a major feature of the act. The couple had been together for nearly 10 years when they married in 1988.


Daniels starred in It’s Magic at the Prince of Wales theatre from 1980 to 1982, London’s longest-running such show. In this newspaper Michael Billington wrote: “What makes him different from other magicians is his ceaseless sleight-of-tongue.”
He hosted several non-magic television series in the 1980s and 90s, including three BBC1 quizzes: Odd One Out, Every Second Counts and Wipeout. When the new breed of slick and toned TV magicians creating fantastical spectaculars, or  at the opposite end of the spectrum televised street conjurors emerged in the mid-1990s, the rumpled and bewigged Daniels’s cosy banter seemed old-fashioned, and he went back to touring live shows with his wife while also working behind the scenes designing illusions for West End shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Cats, English National Ballet’s The Nutcracker and the film Return to Oz. He and Debbie did appear on Channel 5’s The Farm (2004), however, and ITV’s The X Factor: Battle of the Stars (2006) and Wife Swap (2007).
In late 2015, shortly before being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, Daniels seemed content with his reduced status: “I’ve got so much going at the moment. We took this little tour out ... it all fits into the back of my estate car and that includes bits of scenery and props.”
He had travelled some distance from his glory days in the 1980s, but the admiring comment of the best-loved comedy magician of them all, Tommy Cooper, made when Daniels first burst on to the scene in the 1970s, still held true: “Paul Daniels is to magic what Muhammad Ali is to boxing.”

Sylvia Anderson


Date of Birth: 27 March 1927, Camberwell, London, UK
Birth Name: Sylvia Beatrice Thomas
Nicknames: Sylvia Anderson

Sylvia Anderson, best known as the voice of Lady Penelope in the TV show Thunderbirds.
Anderson co-created the hit science-fiction puppet series, which ran from 1965, with her late husband Gerry.
In a career spanning five decades, she also worked on shows Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet, and for US TV network HBO.
She died at her Buckinghamshire home. Her daughter said she was "a mother and a legend", who would be sadly missed.
"Her intelligence was phenomenal but her creativity and tenacity unchallenged. She was a force in every way," Dee Anderson said.
Her former husband Gerry Anderson died in 2012 after suffering from Alzheimer's.
Born in south London to a boxing promoter and a dressmaker, Sylvia Anderson graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in sociology and political science.
She spent several years in the US and worked as a journalist before returning to the UK and joining a TV production company, where she met her future husband.
When he started his own company, AP Films, she joined him, and the couple began making puppet shows.


They developed a production technique using electronic marionette puppets, called Supermarionation, in which the voices were recorded first, and when the puppets were filmed, the electric signal from the taped dialogue was hooked up to sensors in the puppets' heads.
That made the puppets' lips move perfectly in time with the soundtrack.
In 1963, the couple came up with the idea for Thunderbirds, which told the story of the Tracy family who form a secret organisation dedicated to saving human life, set in the future.
As well as co-creating and writing the series, Anderson worked on character development and costume design.


The character of Lady Penelope, a glamorous agent, was modelled on Anderson's own appearance, and she also provided her characteristic aristocratic voice.
The success of Thunderbirds led to two feature films and a toy and merchandise empire.
Three new programmes were made last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the series.


Other shows which the couple worked on include Stingray, Fireball XL5 and Secret Service.
However, the partnership ended when they divorced in 1981.
Sylvia went on to work as head of programming for HBO in the UK, and write several books.
Her last public interview was on the Graham Norton Show on BBC Radio 2 with actor David Graham, who also provided voices for Thunderbirds, in December.

Ken Adam


Date of Birth: 5 February 1921, Berlin, Germany
Birth Name: Klaus Hugo Adam
Nicknames: Sir Ken Adam

Sir Ken Adam, the Academy Award-winning film designer, who has died aged 95, awed a generation of moviegoers with his larger-than-life sets projecting megalomaniac power; such creations as the “War Room” in Dr Strangelove (1964) and the hollow volcano from which James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld launches spacecraft to provoke nuclear warfare in You Only Live Twice (1967) had an influence far beyond the world of entertainment.
Ronald Reagan, newly inaugurated, asked to see the “War Room” only to be told it had been a figment of Adam’s imagination. And the work of a generation of British architects led by Norman Foster and Richard Rogers was heavily influenced by schoolboy exposure to Adam’s Bond interiors.
Though he trained as an architect, Adam did so purely to get into movie design. Yet in a crowning irony Foster’s design for the reunified Germany’s Reichstag drew heavily on the work of Adam – who had persuaded his parents to flee Berlin after seeing the original gutted by fire. Adam’s influence can be seen in buildings worldwide, from the Lloyd’s building in the City and Canary Wharf underground station to the skyline of 21st-century Shanghai.


Stephen Spielberg reckoned the Strangelove set Adam devised for Stanley Kubrick “the greatest in the history of movies”. Bond aficionados might nominate Blofeld’s caldera, Dr No’s hideout at Crab Key or Goldfinger’s deadly “Rumpus Room”. Adam disliked the last because the script turned it into a gas chamber, reminding him of the fate suffered by many of his family in Auschwitz; he had also been one of the first British officers into Belsen.
Adam’s speciality was bunkers. His first, in 1948, was for Edward Dmytryk’s film Obsession, starring Robert Newton. He developed the combination of claustrophobia and menace further in Ten Seconds to Hell (1959), in which German soldiers defuse bombs beneath Berlin. Then came his first masterpieces, Dr No (1962) and Strangelove; in the latter he maximised the feeling of vastness by never displaying the entire set at any one time.


He won his Oscars with more conservative designs: for Barry Lyndon (1975) and The Madness of King George (1994). He was awarded Baftas for edgier work: Dr Strangelove and The Ipcress File (1965) Adam’s kitchen for Michael Caine influencing a generation of bachelors to grind their own coffee.
Though Adam dismissed his 007 designs as “complete fantasy,” he was grateful for the way the Bond films allowed him to indulge his imagination. Two designs stand out: Blofeld’s extinct volcano, and the supertanker that swallows up submarines in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
The volcano set, equipped with a full-sized rocket, helicopter landing pad and monorail, was built from scratch at Pinewood by 250 workers using 700 tons of steel. “Such a set,” said Adam, “represents both a dream and a nightmare in movie-making.” When it was torn down, he vowed that if he ever had to build another sound stage from scratch it would be a permanent structure.
His chance came 10 years later when he found himself back at Pinewood building the 60,000 sq ft 007 stage, still in use today. Adam collaborated with the sound stage expert Michael Brown to build what was then the world’s largest set, nicknamed Jonah after the prophet swallowed by the Biblical whale. The set boasting three 5/8ths scale nuclear submarines floating in their pens – was opened by the prime minister, Harold Wilson.


Adam liked to work for other directors between Bond films the most distinguished being Kubrick so as to return to 007 with a fresh approach. He contained his frustration when, having signed with Cubby Broccoli to design for Thunderball (1965), Kubrick asked him to do the interiors for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He felt obliged to decline; in the event Kubrick’s project took so long that he could have taken it on.
Klaus Hugo Adam was born in Berlin on February 5 1921 to Jewish parents. Fritz Adam had been a highly decorated cavalry officer in the Kaiser’s army and owned a fashionable department store; he had just commissioned Mies van der Rohe to design a modernistic new branch when Hitler came to power.
His father was arrested, and only freed days later through the intervention of one of his store managers, who had become an Obergruppenführer in the SS. The family escaped to Scotland before settling in London, Klaus taking a job as a glove salesman.


Ken’s schooling began at Le Collège Français in Berlin, continued at Craigend Park school in Edinburgh and was completed at St Paul’s. He was given the idea of going into cinematic design by Vincent Korda, who suggested he first train as an architect. He won a place at London University’s Bartlett School of Architecture in 1937, joining CW Glover & Partners shortly before war broke out.
He served in the Pioneer Corps until his sheer persistence earned him acceptance for RAF pilot training (one of very few German-born pilots). Adam flew Typhoons in support of advancing Allied troops after D-Day, then braved roaming German deserters to travel overland to Berlin, where he found the family’s apartment and store destroyed and their lakeside retreat commandeered by the Russians.
He had to wait until 1947 to get into films, as a draughtsman on Tim Whelan’s This Was a Woman. He spent the next nine years working as an assistant art director on undistinguished pictures, and only in 1956 picked up his first solo credit on Soho Incident, serving as production designer the following year on Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon. He gained a reputation for being innovative on a small budget and was always in demand, sometimes working on eight films in a year.
Adam first worked for Broccoli on The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960). Broccoli thought his futuristic style influenced by William Cameron Menzies, creator of the Art Deco utopia of Things To Come (1936) would be just right for Dr No, the first in the Bond series.



He skipped the next Bond film From Russia With Love (1964) to work on Strangelove. This won plaudits from a niche audience, but his designs for Goldfinger (1964) thrilled the masses. Its climax took place in the Fort Knox depository, so Adam knew the public wanted to see gold and lots of it. His genius was in building the Fort Knox of their imagination, not the gloomy, dusty vault of reality.
“Films, being a visual entertainment, should offer a form of escapism for an audience,” Adam said. “I can achieve more reality in terms of dramatic value for the screenplay by not copying nature, architecture or whatever really exists.” His final Bond film was the overblown Moonraker (1979) and most of his later work save for The Madness of King George was less memorable.
Ken Adam received the Hollywood directors’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He was appointed OBE in 1995 and knighted in 2003.

Nancy Reagan


Date of Birth: 6 July 1921, New York, US
Birth Name: Anne Frances Robbins
Nicknames: Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady of the United States who has died aged 94, probably exercised more power than any other president’s wife.
Edith Wilson usurped the executive function after President Wilson’s stroke; Rosalynn Carter sat in on Cabinet meetings; Hillary Clinton began by nursing the ambition of carrying Medicare reforms. But Nancy Reagan, operating under a public cover of wifely submission, was the crucial influence over her husband’s entire political career.
“If Ronald Reagan had married Nancy the first time round,” James Stewart once remarked, “she could have got him an Academy Award.”
As a politician, Reagan’s appeal was that of an easy-going, uncomplicated nice guy, whose forte was to bring common sense to bear upon the intractable problems of state. The image proved extraordinarily successful because in large measure it was based upon truth.
But nice guys, by definition, do not possess the ruthlessness and drive required to secure the presidency of the United States. Californian millionaires put up the money for Reagan’s attempt on the White House; Nancy Reagan provided the intensity of purpose that clinched success.
Her determination to see her husband on the pinnacle of power was unimpeded by imagination, idealism or humour or by any competing interest. Her desire had grown out of the insecurities of her youth, and was pursued with a deadly combination of wariness and suspicion.
“Ronald Reagan trusts everyone and likes everyone,” explained Nancy Reynolds, who handled public relations for the Reagans. “Nancy has a more discriminating antenna about people. She’s seldom wrong.
“And if she feels someone is hurting him she’ll speak out. She’s a tiger at such moments, and thank God for it, because her husband is the kind of man who never says no. She makes sure the sharks are kept at bay.”
Similarly, on the campaign trail she made quite sure that Reagan’s aides were kept up to the mark. In the White House particularly during the President’s second term, when his faculties were clearly on the wane her hostility meant political death, and her penchant for firing people earned her the nickname of “Little Gun”.
Donald Regan, chief of staff at the White House from 1985 to 1987, found himself continually harassed by the First Lady in his attempts to extricate the President from the ramifications of the Iran Contra affair.
Mrs Reagan exercised unchallenged sway over the President’s schedule. And, as Regan explained, “virtually every move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House chief of staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco (Joan Quigley) who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in favourable alignment for the enterprise.”
Nancy Reagan’s obsession with astrology did not become public until Regan published his memoirs in 1988. But long before that her performance as First Lady had raised eyebrows. In private she would hold her staff at bay with frozen stares; in public she would fix her husband with a gaze of rapt, not to say imbecile, adoration.
Yet she was always ready to take action at awkward moments. There was a press conference in 1984, for instance, where Reagan, asked about his plans for talks with the Russians on space weapons, suddenly seemed incapable of speech. “Tell them we’re doing everything we can,” hissed the First Lady through lips that barely moved. “We’re doing everything we can,” echoed the President.
Her devotion, however, remained constant. “My life began when I married Ronnie,” she said. “I think I would have died if I hadn’t married him ... He is my hero.”
The sceptical remained unconvinced. They were also surprised by Nancy Reagan’s commitment to social causes. They knew that she loved expensive clothes (and especially those that designers made for her gratis); and that she instinctively preferred the company of the super-rich.
As soon as she entered the White House she carried out extensive redecoration, and ordered a set of china costing over $200,000 this at a time when the President was stressing the importance of restricting expenditure.


In consequence, although Nancy Reagan put many hours into the campaign against drug abuse  visiting 64 American cities and eight foreign countries, and helping to found 3,400 Just Say No clubs she never succeeded in creating a compassionate image.
Her critics pounced on any slip up, such as when she telephoned from a fundraising event in Chicago in 1980. “Oh Ronnie,” she enthused, “I wish you could be here to see all these beautiful white people ... black and white people, I mean.”
She was born Anne Frances Robbins in New York on July 6 1921. Her father, Kenneth Seymour Robbins, was an insurance salesman, albeit from an old New England family. Her mother (née Edith Luckett), a loud-mouthed woman given to swearing and dirty stories, pursued a rackety theatrical career independently of her husband. Alla Nazimova, a close friend of Edith’s and one of the American theatre’s leading lesbians, was appointed the child’s godmother.
By the time Nancy was two, her parents’ marriage was virtually over. She was parked with a maternal aunt at Bethesda, in Maryland, while her mother pursued her theatrical ambitions; in the summer she would visit her father in New Jersey. Her parents divorced in 1928, and Kenneth Robbins remarried later that year. In 1929 her mother married Loyal Davis, an austere and forbidding Chicago neurosurgeon of tightlaced, unforgiving Republican views.
Edith Davis assiduously pushed her unprepossessing new husband’s career, while she herself worked in radio soap opera. Nancy, too, took to drama. At Girls’ Latin School in Chicago, she took one of the lead parts in First Lady, a play about two formidable women, each determined to put her man into the White House.
In 1938 Nancy Robbins was adopted by her stepfather, and thereafter featured as Nancy Davis, making no effort to see her real father. The next year she went to Smith College, where she continued to dabble in drama. In 1944, after graduating from Smith, she became engaged to one James Platt White Jr, but the match was soon broken off.
Nancy Davis now pursued an acting career, and landed a part with three lines in a show called Ramshackle Inn, on tour at Detroit; soon afterwards it came to Broadway. Then in 1946 she had another small part, as a Chinese handmaiden in Lute Song, with Yul Brynner and Mary Martin.
Her mother knew Spencer Tracy, who managed to fix her up with a date with Clark Gable. Tracy also obtained a screen test for her at MGM, and in March 1949 she signed a contract with that studio at $300 a week.
A number of small parts followed: as a psychiatrist required to unlock the memories of a traumatised six-year-old in Shadow on the Wall (1949); as  suitably enough the dutiful daughter of a prominent neurosurgeon in The Doctor and the Girl (1949); and as a meddlesome interloper who tells Barbara Stanwyck her husband is having an affair in East Side, West Side (1949).


It was in the autumn of 1949 that Nancy Davis first met Ronald Reagan, whose movie career was already in decline, but who had become President of the Screen Actors Guild. Reagan had been previously married to the actress Jane Wyman with whom he had two children.
Nancy Reagan recalled that she had known “right away” that Ronald was the man she wanted to marry. Certainly, she pursued him, asking him to sort out the embarrassment that had arisen as a result of another Nancy Davis having appeared among the list of those who had questioned the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Reagan, though, was involved with several other women, and it was only after Nancy Davis became pregnant that, in March 1952, he married her. Their daughter Patti was born that October.
Meanwhile Nancy Davis’s career had been foundering. As a heavily pregnant wife in The Next Voice You Hear (1950) she projected, according to Spencer Tracy, “all the passion of a Good Humor ice cream – frozen, on a stick, and all vanilla.”


She was a schoolteacher in It’s a Big Country (1951), and a gutsy war widow (her favourite part) in Night Into Morning. But she made no mark in these films, nor in Shadow in the Sky (1951) and Talk About a Stranger (1952). In January 1952 Warner ended her contract.
Ronald Reagan’s career was also at a low ebb in 1952, though he would be saved two years later by a lucrative contract to introduce General Electric Theatre on television. Before that Nancy had been in Donovan’s Brain (1953), as the wife of a mad scientist. Later, the Reagans appeared together in Hellcats of the Navy (1957), and the next year Nancy Reagan made her last film, Crash Landing (1958).
By the time that their son Ronald “Skipper” Reagan was born in 1958, the Reagans were becoming more closely involved with politics. Under the influence of Loyal Davis, Reagan’s views had hardened; he had developed a particular horror for “socialised medicine”. Though he campaigned as a Democrat for Nixon in 1960, he became a Republican – and a Right-wing one – soon after John Kennedy’s victory. Four years later Reagan was the one bright spot in Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.


Nancy Reagan was certainly behind her husband’s decision to run for Governor of California in 1966, backed by a group of Californian millionaires. Always at home with the super-rich, she formed an especially close attachment to Betsy Bloomingdale, wife of Alfred whose grandfather had founded the department store.
Reagan’s victory in California offered opportunities for internal decor that she did not mean to forgo. Calling on her rich friends for donations, she built a new governor’s mansion overlooking the American River outside Sacramento. She also had her first taste of press hostility, when Joan Didion penned a withering piece about her for the Saturday Evening Post.
It was certainly difficult to strike a human spark from her in interviews. “She just drove me nuts,” complained another journalist, Nancy Collins. “She just sits there with her legs glued together, her hands all white knuckles, teeth grinding and that face just a mask no animation, no laughter, no spontaneity, nothing. She was awful, just awful.”
Reagan made a cursory attempt at the presidency in 1968, marked by his wife’s claim that she was really much happier in California. It was as well, then, that Reagan was re-elected as Governor in 1970, albeit with a reduced majority.
Notwithstanding the emerging Watergate case, there was no chance of Reagan making a realistic challenge to President Nixon in 1972. But the fall of Nixon and the presidency of Gerald Ford offered new hope. “Nancy’s beam is like a lighthouse,” sang Frank Sinatra at Republican fundraisers in 1974, “she sees her husband in the White House.”


She proved a formidable force in Reagan’s campaign in 1976 to wrest the Republican nomination from President Ford, and though in the end the power of White House patronage proved too strong, failure stimulated rather than quenched her ambition. What with the failures of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and the well-honed efficiency of their public act, the Reagans enjoyed a relatively smooth passage to the presidency in 1980.
Of their two children, the elder, Patricia (“Patti”) became an actress and model, changed her name to Patti Davis and, in 1986, published a novel entitled Home Front, an obviously autobiographical tale about the daughter of a television star who becomes president of the United States. The character’s mother features as a distant figure obsessed with clothes and given to preaching the virtues of chastity. Their son, Ronnie, became a ballet star and later a television host.
Several years after he left office (at the end of his second term in 1989), Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy Reagan subsequently became an outspoken advocate for stem cell research and continued to protect her husband’s image. “Ronnie has a wonderful disposition, always has had, and still has. He’s a dear, sweet, wonderful man,” she observed. “I certainly wish it was different. But you learn something out of everything.”


Ronald Reagan died in 2004. During a seven day state funeral Nancy Reagan led the American nation in mourning, and at a sunset memorial service kissed her husband’s coffin and mouthed the words “I love you.”
As she became increasingly frail she withdrew from the public eye although she retained her links to the political community, including Margaret Thatcher whom she described as strong but with a “nice soft side”.
In an interview with Vanity Fair in 2009 she revealed that Michelle Obama had called her for advice on hosting guests at the White House.

Alan Rickman


Date of Birth: 21 February 1946, Acton, West London, UK
Birth Name: Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman
Nicknames: Alan Rickman

The world became fully aware of the sly, languid and villainous charms of Alan Rickman as the self-parodying Sheriff of Nottingham pitted against Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves(1991). However, the actor had already established himself as a star name at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the mid-1980s and as the hilarious German terrorist, Hans Gruber, in the action thriller Die Hard (1988) with Bruce Willis.


Rickman appeared as the cello-playing, dearly departed ghost in Anthony Minghella’s sensual, taut and wonderfully muted Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), with Juliet Stevenson as his grieving partner. At the RSC, he had been sensational as the predatory, dissolute Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Christopher Hampton’s brilliant adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’s 18th-century epistolary novel that started small in the RSC’s Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon and trailed clouds of glory to the West End and Broadway in 1987; Rickman was a pivotal figure in a company that included, at that time, and in that production, Lindsay Duncan, Stevenson and Fiona Shaw.


Having first trained and worked as a graphic designer, Rickman was a late starter as an actor, attending Rada between 1972 and 1974, and winning the Bancroft gold medal, before working in rep and the RSC in small roles at the end of the 70s. He began making waves as Anthony Trollope’s devious chaplain Obadiah Slope in BBC television’s The Barchester Chronicles in 1982.
Then he was, for a new generation entirely, the sinister potions master Severus Snape in the eight Harry Potter movies, for a decade from 2001. Snape had secrets, and this inner life infused one of the outstanding performances in the series as he stalked the corridors and back passages at Hogwarts like the ghost in Hamlet, smelling a rat at every turn, his noble face contorted with mysterious loathing and curious motivation.


However, it would be wrong to typecast Rickman as a villain. He was an outstanding Hamlet at the Riverside Studios and on tour in 1992, a mature student whose rampant morbidity masked an intense, albeit perverse, zest for life. And in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre in 1998, he was fabulous opposite Helen Mirren’s voluptuous serpent of old Nile – shambolic, charismatic, a spineless poet of a warrior. It was his misfortune to have both these great classic performances displayed in productions that met with considerable critical hostility and public indifference.
Tall, commanding, extremely funny when required, he was never above sending himself up either on stage or in the movies. He had talent to burn, a glorious voice that sometimes blurred in slack-jawed articulation, if only because everything he did seemed to come so easily to him. He was a central figure in the life of the little Bush theatre on the London fringe, at the Royal Court in the Max Stafford-Clarkera of the 80s, as well as at Trevor Nunn and Terry Hands’s RSC, and he was a continual source of inspiration, and practical support, to his colleagues. He proved also to be a fine stage director, and directed two films. In the second of them, A Little Chaos (2014), a handsome 17th-century costume drama of love among the landscape artists at the newly constructed palace of Versailles, Rickman himself presided in his bewigged pomp as Louis XIV, the Sun King.
The son of a factory worker, Bernard (who died when Alan was eight), and his wife, Margaret (nee Bartlett), he was of Irish and Welsh descent, raised on a council estate in Acton, west London, with three siblings (he was the second child), and educated at Derwentwater primary school in Acton, a Montessori school, and Latymer Upper. He studied graphic design at Chelsea School of Art where he first met, aged 18, his future life partner, Rima Horton  and the Royal College of Art. With three friends, he ran a graphic design studio for three years in Notting Hill before going to Rada at the age of 26.


Rickman made his first impact with the Birmingham Rep, the first regional company to visit the new National Theatre’s home on the South Bank, when he played the upright Wittipol, disguised as a Spanish lady, in Ben Jonson’s The Devil Is an Ass in 1976, and also at the Edinburgh festival. Small parts in the RSC season of 1977-78 were followed, in 1980, by leading roles as a distraught sponsor of a pop concert in Stephen Poliakoff’s The Summer Party at the Crucible in Sheffield, with Brian Cox and Hayley Mills, and in Dusty Hughes’s anatomy of the Trotskyite left in Commitments, at the Bush. Rickman was a lifelong Labour party activist, while Rima, an economist, with whom he lived from 1977, was a Labour councillor in Kensington and Chelsea for 20 years from 1986.
In the early 80s, he was an ideal, doggedly English Trigorin in Thomas Kilroy’s otherwise Irish version of Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Royal Court; a coruscating Grand Inquisitor in Richard Crane’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov at the Edinburgh festival; and a cheerfully stoned pragmatist on a Californian dope farm in Snoo Wilson’s The Grass Widow, also at the Royal Court, laying bare the capitalism of the drugs world as a sort of displaced Howard Marks, alongside Ron Cook and Tracey Ullman.
Everything about his acting came into sharp focus in the 1985-86 RSC season, when Les Liaisons Dangereuses was in repertory with three other plays. In As You Like It, he was the perfect “Seven ages of man” Jaques with Stevenson as Rosalind and Shaw as Celia; in Troilus and Cressida, Achilles never sulked so mightily in his tent; and in Ariane Mnouchkine’s superb version of Klaus Mann’s Mephisto, translated by Timberlake Wertenbaker, he nailed the dilemma of a creative artist in the censorious climate of the Third Reich: “What can I do? I’m only an actor.” He took the next big job. He was both rooted in his own theatre world and internationally curious. Guided by the producer Thelma Holt, he played a reclusive, abandoned actor in a derelict cinema in Kunio Shimizu’s Tango at the End of Winter, a beautiful poetic drama of memory and illusion directed by the Japanese maestro Yukio Ninagawa, at the Edinburgh festival in 1991; and buckled down to Hamlet with Robert Sturua, the great director of the Rustaveli theatre in Georgia who had made waves in western Europe.
In the earlier part of his career, Rickman had supervised several shows with the comedian Ruby Wax, whom he had met at the RSC, and had recommended a play by Sharman Macdonald to the Bush; he expanded his directing work with Wax into a new play he commissioned from Macdonald, The Winter Guest (1995, West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Almeida in London), a tone poem in a Scottish seaside town, with no plot, for the superb quartet of Phyllida Law, Sheila Reid, Sian Thomas and Sandra Voe; he also directed a film version (1997) with an overlapping cast.
But film had begun to take precedence, Robin Hood leading to big roles and billing in Tim Robbins’s satirical Bob Roberts (1992), about a rightwing folk singer running for the US Senate; as Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee’s fine version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1996), with a screenplay by Emma Thompson; and as Eamon de Valera in Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins (1996), starring Liam Neeson as the IRA founder.
Even with the Harry Potter franchise under way, Rickman managed a triumphant return in 2001 to the West End and Broadway in Noël Coward’s Private Lives, displaying what the New York Times called a virtuosity of disdain as the squinting, wounded egomaniac Elyot Chase opposite Lindsay Duncan’s blonde ice queen of an Amanda Prynne; this was the best pairing in the roles since Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith 30 years earlier. His last stage roles, both critically acclaimed, were as Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey in Dublin (with Duncan and Fiona Shaw) in 2010 and as a celebrity teacher in a writing workshop in Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar on Broadway in 2011.
In between, he directed My Name Is Rachel Corrie at the Royal Court, the West End, the Edinburgh festival and on Broadway in 2005-06. He compiled the show with Katharine Viner, now editor-in-chief of the Guardian, from the writings and emails of the American activist Corrie, who was killed by a bulldozer operated by the Israeli army in Gaza in 2003 while protesting against its occupation. This sense of political justice and civic responsibility informed his life as a citizen, too.
Rickman will be remembered latterly as Thompson’s husband in Richard Curtis’s Love Actually (2003), the voice of Marvin the paranoid android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), as Judge Turpin in Tim Burton’s wacky movie version of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (2007) and as (another voice) Absalom the Caterpillar in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010).
But he was a committed vice-chairman of Rada, a patron of the charity Saving Faces, dedicated to helping those with facial disfigurements and cancer, and honorary president of the International Performers Aid Trust, which works to alleviate poverty in some of the world’s toughest areas.

David Bowie


Date of Birth: 8 January 1947, Brixton, South London, UK
Birth Name: David Robert Jones
Nicknames: David Bowie

Until the last, David Bowie was still capable of springing surprises. His latest album, Blackstar, appeared on his 69th birthday on 8 January, and showed that his gift for making dramatic statements as well as challenging, disturbing music had not deserted him. Throughout the 1970s, Bowie was a trailblazer of musical trends and pop fashion. Having been a late-60s mime and cabaret entertainer, he evolved into a singer-songwriter, and a pioneer of glam-rock, then veered into what he called “plastic soul”, before moving to Berlin to create innovative electronic music.


In subsequent decades his influence became less pervasive, but he remained creatively restless and constantly innovative across a variety of media. His capacity for mixing brilliant changes of sound and image underpinned by a genuine intellectual curiosity is rivalled by few in pop history. Blackstar was proof that this curiosity had not diminished in his later career.
Bowie was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, south London. His mother, Peggy, had met his father, John, after he was demobilised from second world war service in the Royal Fusiliers. John subsequently worked for the Barnardo’s children’s charity. They married in September 1947, eight months after David’s birth, when John’s divorce from his first wife, Hilda, became absolute.
In 1953 the family moved to Bromley, Kent, where David attended Burnt Ash junior school and showed aptitude in singing and playing the recorder. Later, after he passed his 11-plus exam, he turned down a place at a grammar school and went to Bromley technical high school and studied art, music and design. His half-brother, Terry Burns, nearly a decade older than David, introduced him to jazz musicians, such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis, and in 1961 David’s mother bought him a plastic saxophone, introducing him to an instrument that would become a recurring ingredient in his music.
After a 1962 schoolyard punch-up, the pupil in David’s left eye remained permanently dilated, having the serendipitous effect of lending him a vaguely unearthly appearance (the thrower of the punch, George Underwood, remained a close friend and later designed Bowie’s album artwork).
At 15, David formed his first band, the Kon-rads, a primitive rock’n’roll combo that contained a fluctuating number of members, including Underwood. He quickly became disillusioned with his band’s lack of ambition and quit to form a new outfit, the blues-influenced King Bees. They released a single called Liza Jane, but when it disappeared without trace, David jumped ship again and joined the Manish Boys. Named after a Muddy Waters track, they too were blues-orientated. Their single I Pity the Fool proved no more chart-friendly than Liza Jane had done, after which the restless Davy Jones was on the move once more.


His next port of call was the Lower Third, an R&B band from Margate, Kent. The group thought they were auditioning for a singer and equal member, but once they had hired David, they were taken aback when he issued a press statement saying: “This is to inform you of the existence of Davie [sic] Jones and the Lower Third.” Moreover, David, abetted by his new manager Ralph Horton, a former tour manager for the Moody Blues, decreed that the band should be decked out in fashionable mod attire, in emulation of the Who. Fellow members of the Lower Third could not help noticing David’s flamboyant, even effeminate performing style. They released a Jones-penned single, the aptly named You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving, but despite receiving a handful of radio plays, it failed to chart.
It was clear that David’s talents and ambition dictated that he should go solo, and Horton provoked a split with the Lower Third by announcing that there was not enough money to pay their fees. David now adopted the name Bowie to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees, and put together a new group via an advertisement in Melody Maker, specifying that he wanted musicians “to accompany a singer”. The new band was named the Buzz.
He dropped Horton after a botched music publishing deal, and in his place hired Ken Pitt, a far more substantial figure who had had success with Mel Tormé and Manfred Mann. Pitt secured an album deal for Bowie with Decca’s Deram label, which resulted in an LP entitled simply David Bowie, released in June 1967. It was preceded by the novelty single The Laughing Gnome, a flop at the time but a top 10 hit when reissued in 1973. Bowie later said of his debut album: “I didn’t know if I was Max Miller or Elvis Presley.” But within its disjointed mix of styles, it found Bowie reflecting on issues such as childhood, sexual ambiguity and the nature of stardom. By the time the album was released, Bowie had already got rid of the Buzz, again citing lack of money.


For a time he studied theatre and mime with the dancer Lindsay Kemp, and in 1969 he started a folk club at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham, Kent. This developed into the Beckenham Arts Lab, and a variety of future stars, including Peter Frampton, Steve Harley, Rick Wakeman and Bowie’s future producer Tony Visconti, performed there.
In July 1969 Bowie released Space Oddity, the song that would give him his initial commercial breakthrough. Timed to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landing, it was a top five UK hit. The accompanying album was originally called Man of Words / Man of Music, but was later reissued as Space Oddity.
The following year was a momentous one for Bowie. His brother Terry was committed to a psychiatric institution (and would kill himself in 1985), and his father died. In March, Bowie married Angela Barnett, an art student. He dumped Pitt and recruited the driven and aggressive Tony DeFries, prompting Pitt to sue successfully for compensation.


Artistically, Bowie was powering ahead. The Man Who Sold the World was released in the US in late 1970 and in the UK the following year under Bowie’s new deal with RCA Victor, and with its daring songwriting and broody, hard-rock sound, it was the first album to do full justice to his writing and performing gifts. The title track remains one of his most atmospheric compositions, and songs such as All the Madmen and The Width of a Circlewere formidably inventive and accomplished. The album’s themes included immortality, insanity, murder and mysticism, evidence that Bowie was a songwriter who was thinking way beyond pop’s usual boundaries.
The Man Who Sold the World was significant in other ways too. Its producer, Visconti, became a long-term ally, and in the guitarist Mick Ronson and the drummer Woody Woodmansey, Bowie had found the core of what would become the Spiders from Mars. The UK cover pictured Bowie lounging in a long dress and bearing a striking resemblance to Lauren Bacall, playing on the theme of sexual ambiguity that he would exploit so successfully.
He followed it with Hunky Dory (1972), a mix of wordy, elaborate songwriting (The Bewlay Brothers or Quicksand), crunchy rockers (Queen Bitch) and infectious pop songs (Kooks). It was an excellent collection that met with only moderate success, but that all changed with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars later that year.


This time, Bowie emerged as a fully fledged science-fiction character an intergalactic glam-rock star visiting a doomed planet Earth – and the album effectively wrote the script for his own stardom. The hit single Starman brought instant success for the album, while Bowie’s ravishing stage costumes and sexually provocative performances (following his carefully timed claim in a Melody Maker interview that he was gay) triggered fan enthusiasm unseen since Beatlemania. Seeing Bowie perform as Ziggy on Top of the Pops was a life-changing experience for a generation of pop listeners in glum 70s Britain.
Everything Bowie touched turned to gold, such as his song All the Young Dudes which provided a career-reviving hit for Mott the Hoople, or Lou Reed’s album Transformer, which he co-produced with Ronson. He scored his first UK No 1 album with Aladdin Sane (1973), which generated the hit singles The Jean Genie and Drive-in Saturday. But Bowie was already planning fresh career moves, and in July 1973 he shocked his audience at the Hammersmith Odeon by announcing the retirement of Ziggy Stardust.
He made Pin Ups, a transitional album of cover versions, before embarking on the sinister concept album Diamond Dogs, intended as a musical version of George Orwell’s 1984. Bowie’s commercial instincts remained in fine working order, however, and the album brought further hit singles with the title track and Rebel Rebel.
He took his new music to the US in 1974 with the elaborately theatrical Diamond Dogs tour, which was filmed by the BBC’s Alan Yentob for the documentary Cracked Actor. However, professional pressures and an escalating cocaine habit were making Bowie paranoid and physically emaciated.
His increasing interest in funk and soul music came to the fore on the deliciously listenable Young Americans (1975), which gave him a US chart-topper with Fame (featuring John Lennon as a guest vocalist) and earned him a slot on the American TV show Soul Train. This was Bowie’s so-called “plastic soul” album, which he described as “the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak, written and sung by a white limey”.
But once again, Bowie’s frantic creativity was accompanied by crises in his business life. He fired Defries, which spurred long and tortuous litigation and cost Bowie millions, then hired his lawyer, Michael Lippman, as his manager. A year later he went through the sacking-and-lawsuit process all over again with Lippman.


Yet he was still breaking new musical ground. Station to Station (1976), a euphoric dose of what might be called synthetic art-funk, introduced a new persona, the Thin White Duke, which Bowie had carried over from his headlining performance as Thomas Jerome Newton, the melancholy space traveller, in Nicolas Roeg’s film The Man Who Fell to Earth.
But Bowie’s own connection to terra firma was looking increasingly shaky. He told Rolling Stone magazine about his admiration for fascism, and provoked outrage when his wave to the crowd while arriving in an open-topped Mercedes at Victoria station in London was interpreted as Nazi salute.
He found some breathing space by buying a home in Switzerland, where he rediscovered his interest in art and drawing, but by the end of 1976 he had taken up residence in Berlin, where he was accompanied by Iggy Pop with whom he was working on Iggy’s album, The Idiot and Brian Eno, who would be the catalyst for another of Bowie’s musical leaps forward.
The upshot was the so-called “triptych” of Low, Heroes (both 1977) and Lodger (1979), where Bowie mixed Krautrock influences with Eno-driven synthesizer mood-music, with at least some pop accessibility for good measure (such as Low’s Sound and Vision or Lodger’s Boys Keep Swinging). Lodger, though recorded in Montreux and New York, used the same personnel as the previous two, with Eno once again acting as creative ringmaster. Meanwhile, Bowie found time to film another leading movie role, appearing as Count Paul von Przygodski in Just a Gigolo (1978).


Bowie’s relationship with his wife had been disintegrating under the pressures of success and the couple’s hedonistic, promiscuous lifestyle, and they would divorce in 1980. This was a year of further creative triumph, bringing a fine album, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and its spin-off chart-topping single, Ashes to Ashes, followed by Bowie’s well-received stint as John Merrick in The Elephant Man on the Broadway stage. To make the accompanying video for Ashes to Ashes, he went to the Blitz club in London and recruited several leading lights from the New Romantic movement, a collection of bands including Visage and Spandau Ballet, who owed much of their inspiration to Bowie.
With hindsight, Ashes to Ashes can be seen as the point where Bowie’s cutting edge began to lose its sharpness, and he was never again quite the cultural pathfinder he had been in his heyday. This process expressed itself in the way he restlessly bounced between collaborators. He bagged a No 1 single with his 1981 partnership with Queen, Under Pressure, while becoming increasingly involved in crossovers between different media. He appeared in the German movie Christiane F (1981) and wrote music for the soundtrack, and his lead role in the BBC’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal (1982) was accompanied by his five-track EP of songs from the play. He registered another chart hit with Cat People (Putting Out Fire)from Paul Schrader’s movie Cat People (1982). Bowie continued to make progress as a screen actor with appearances in The Hunger (alongside Catherine Deneuve) and the second world war drama Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, both released in 1983. Musically, this was the year in which he marshalled his forces for an all-out commercial onslaught with the album Let’s Dance and follow-up concerts. With co-production from Chic’s Nile Rodgers, Let’s Dance moulded Bowie into a crowd-friendly global rock star, with the album and its singles Let’s Dance, China Girl and Modern Love all becoming huge international hits.


Tonight (1984) could not repeat the trick, though it delivered the hit Blue Jean, whose short accompanying film Jazzin’ for Blue Jean earned Bowie a Grammy. But his profile gained another boost from his appearance at the 1985 Live Aid famine relief concert at Wembley stadium, where he was one of the standout performers. In addition, he teamed up with Mick Jagger to record the fundraising single Dancing in the Street, which sped to No 1.


Bowie then returned to the multimedia trail with an appearance in Julien Temple’s shambolic film Absolute Beginners (1986), from which he salvaged some personal kudos by supplying the winsome title song. He also wrote five songs for Jim Henson’s fantasy film Labyrinth, as well as taking the role of Jareth the Goblin King. In 1987, a solo album, Never Let Me Down, performed reasonably well commercially, but poor reviews were endorsed by Bowie himself (he described it as “an awful album”). The follow-up Glass Spider tour was castigated for its soulless over-production.
After playing Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Bowie’s next move was the heavy-rock band Tin Machine, with which he sought to appear as a band member rather than as a solo star. Their album Tin Machine (1989) and tour earned a mixture of modest acclaim and howls of outrage. However, by the time they released a second album, Bowie had abandoned the pretence of being “one of the boys” by undertaking 1990’s greatest hits tour Sound + Vision, unashamedly designed to promote the reissue of his back catalogue. Tin Machine dissolved in 1992. A few days after his appearance at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley stadium in April 1992, Bowie married the Somalian model Iman, whom he had met 18 months earlier, and the couple bought a home in New York. This new start in his private life coincided with a search for fresh musical inspiration.


For the album Black Tie White Noise (1993), he reunited with Rodgers and sprinkled elements of soul, electronica and hiphop into the mix. It topped the UK album chart and yielded a top 10 single, Jump They Say. However, Bowie’s quest for new sounds to plunder began to evince an air of desperation. Outside (1995) found him reunited with Eno and was another commercial success, despite its laborious concept and clumsy adoption of grungy, industrial sounds, while Earthling (1997) borrowed elements of the drum’n’bass style practised by such UK artists as Goldie and Asian Dub Foundation. One of the album tracks was I’m Afraid of Americans, originally written for the movie Showgirls but remade under the auspices of Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. Released as a single, it sat on the US Billboard Hot 100 for four months. Bowie was demonstrating unexpected forms of creativity in other areas. In 1997 he made history of a sort by launching his Bowie bonds, whereby he netted $55m upfront by surrendering his royalties over the bonds’ 10-year term. In 2000, he delved into online banking with BowieBanc, giving customers an international banking service as well as cheques and debit cards with his picture on them. New media and technology influenced his recordings too. His 1999 album Hours… was based around music he had written for a computer game called Omikron, in which Bowie and Iman appeared as characters. Some listeners detected a return to the Hunky Dory days in the album’s reflective, self-analytical musings, though the songs could not match those former glories.


As an adopted New Yorker, Bowie was the opening act at the Concert for New York City in October 2001, where he joined Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, the Who and Elton John in a benefit show six weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Bowie sang Paul Simon’s song America and his own Heroes. He played himself in Ben Stiller’s fashion industry spoof Zoolander (2001). The following year, he was artistic director of the Meltdown festival on the South Bank in London, opening the event by performing the first concert of his own Heathen tour, in support of his album of the same name. The work reunited Bowie with Visconti for the first time since Scary Monsters, and sold 2m copies worldwide. It was nominated for the annual Mercury prize.
A re-energised Bowie was back in the studio with Visconti the following year for Reality, another successful outing welcomed for its energy and musical freshness. However, in the midst of his Reality tour in 2004, Bowie was stricken with chest pains while performing at the Hurricane festival in Germany and underwent an emergency angioplasty procedure in Hamburg to clear a blocked artery.
He took the medical emergency as a warning and reduced the pace of his activities. He made a handful of guest appearances, including a couple of live shows with the Canadian band Arcade Fire, then in 2006 announced he would be taking a year off from touring and recording. Despite this, shortly afterwards he appeared with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall, singing the Floyd classics Arnold Layne and Comfortably Numb. In February that year he was given a Grammy lifetime achievement award, having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In The Prestige (2006), Christopher Nolan’s film about two battling magicians, Bowie featured as the inventor Nikola Tesla. Nolan said he cast Bowie because he wanted somebody “extraordinarily charismatic”.
In 2007 Bowie was curator of the eclectic High Line festival in New York, and included among his choices Arcade Fire, Laurie Anderson and the comedian Ricky Gervais. In 2008 he contributed vocals to a couple of tracks on Scarlett Johansson’s album of Tom Waits cover versions, Anywhere I Lay My Head.
In 2010, a live double CD, A Reality Tour, was released on Bowie’s own ISO Records. Recorded in Dublin in 2003, it was a survey of most of the key moments in his musical career. Reviewers were enthusiastic, but could not help noticing the valedictory feel of the album. “Nobody really knows if Bowie is hanging up the spacesuit for good,” said Rolling Stone. “But if so, this is one hell of an exit.” But there was more to come. In 2011 he released the album Toy, which dated back to 2001 and comprised tracks from Heathen and their B sides plus versions of older material. Of far greater significance was The Next Day (2013), his first album of new material in a decade. Produced by Visconti, it was preceded by the single Where Are We Now?, which gave him his first UK top 10 hit since 1993. The album topped charts in Britain and around the world, reaching No 2 in the US. In 2014 Bowie was given the Brit Award for Best British Male, making him the oldest recipient in the awards’ history.

Shirley Stelfox


Date of Birth: 11 April 1941, Dunkinfield, cheshire, UK
Birth Name: Shirley Rosemary Stelfox
Nicknames: Shirley Stelfox

Shirley Stelfox appeared in virtually every major soap of the last 50 years, playing several different roles in Coronation Street, Madge Richmond in Brookside, and Melanie Owen’s mother in EastEnders, along with appearances in Crossroads and Albion Market.
But she was best known for her most recent role as the moralising village busybody Edna Birch in the Yorkshire soap Emmerdale.


The widowed Edna arrived in Emmerdale in 2000, along with with her two beloved dogs Tootsie and Batley, and pudding-basin felt hats, which she was hardly ever seen without. Although prickly and difficult one reviewer described Shirley Stelfox as “undoubtedly the Ena Sharples of the 21st century” Edna won public sympathy when, the following year, Batley had to be put to sleep, leaving both viewers and actress reaching for their hankies.
At that year’s British Soap awards Batley (aka doggie actor Bracken) won the “Best Exit” award, upstaging Coronation Street’s Amanda Barrie, who had the nation in tears with Alma’s cancer battle.
Although Shirley Stelfox was much warmer and less judgmental than her television alter ego, they were both straight-talking and independent, and Shirley was fiercely protective of Edna’s reputation, denying charges that Edna was a monster or a gossip.
“Gossips are people who talk behind people’s backs and that’s the last thing Edna does,” she told an interviewer. “She gives it to them straight between the eyes. And I’m not that keen on people calling her an old gossip, either.”
Possibly, also, her sympathy for her character owed something to her own experience of widowhood after her husband, the actor Don Henderson, died unexpectedly at the age of 65, in 1997.
The youngest of three children, Shirley Stelfox was born at Dukinfield, Cheshire, on April 11 1941 and caught the acting bug as a child, despite suffering from bilateral amblyopia, a condition which meant that she always found it difficult to read small print and had reading problems.
None the less she landed a place at Rada and by the time she began her training she had already made her film debut in an uncredited role in David Lean’s 1954 romantic comedy Hobson’s Choice, with Sir John Mills and Charles Laughton.
From Rada, where Edward Fox, John Thaw and Sarah Miles were contemporaries, Shirley Stelfox headed for the BBC, where she landed a role in The Case Before You, a courtroom drama in which she was cast as a 15-year-old arsonist. It was not a great success, she recalled. Her role as the accused required a long pause before she replied to a question, but on the day the usual prompt was replaced by someone else, who thought she must have forgotten her lines and interrupted her pause in an audible stage whisper.
From December 1960, when Shirley appeared in a small role in the first episode of Coronation Street, she was rarely out of work. She returned to the Granada Television soap many times over the years in various guises, including as the owner of a dating agency into which Jack Duckworth was comically lured in 1983.



During her career Shirley Stelfox moved effortlessly from television to theatre to films and back again. As well as appearing in all the major soaps, she appeared in numerous popular television dramas, including The Bill, Bergerac, Inspector Morse and the first series of Keeping Up Appearances, in which she played Hyacinth Bucket’s (Patricia Routledge’s) inexhaustibly randy and embarrassing sister Rose.
Other small screen successes included Wicked Women, Making Out, with Margi Clarke, Heartbeat in which she played Mrs Parkin and Jean in Common as Muck.
Her best known film role was as the “prostitute” in the 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, starring John Hurt and Richard Burton.

Shirley Stelfox Personal Services (4)



She played another prostitute in Personal Services (1987), Terry Jones’s comedy film based on the life of the sex-for-luncheon-vouchers madam Cynthia Payne. On stage she played the leading role of a stand-up comedienne in Amanda Whittington’s play Stand Up Cherry Pie, directed by June Brown - Dot Cotton in EastEnders  when it premiered at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1993.

Nicholas Smith


Date of Birth: 5 March 1934, Banstead, Surrey, UK
Birth Name: Nicholas Smith

Nicholas Smith was the last surviving member of the main cast of the Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft sitcom Are You Being Served?; although a classically trained actor, for millions he will always be the jug-eared Mr Rumbold, the well-meaning but inept manager of Grace Brothers department store.


Smith was picked for the role by Croft, with whom he had worked on an episode of Up Pompeii! with Frankie Howerd. For a time, however, it seemed unlikely that the show (also starring John Inman, Molly Sugden, Frank Thornton and Wendy Richard), would be screened.
“The pilot was only given its chance because of the 1972 Munich Olympics tragedy… With the Games cancelled, the BBC had hours of blank screens to fill. So the pilot was plucked from the shelf,” he recalled.


As the dim-witted but self-important store manager , Smith was a fixture on the show from its inception in 1972 until the final series in 1985. He took the same role in a film adaptation and in a spin-off, Grace And Favour (1992-93), in which five members of the original cast reunited to manage a country hotel.
Many critics disliked the show’s earthy humour and outrageously vulgar double entendres, generally involving the redoubtable purple-haired Mrs Slocombe (Mollie Sugden) and the travails of her celebrated pet cat, always referred to as “my pussy”. But audiences loved it and it won a regular following of up to 22 million per episode.
“People always say Are You Being Served? was from a more innocent time, but although we purposely played it absolutely straight, it was actually fairly filthy,” Smith recalled. “There were various occasions at the first reading of a script when we said, 'We’ll never get away with it’. But David Croft would reply, 'Deliver those lines with complete innocence, as though you haven’t the slightest idea there is any sense of a double entendre’. And it worked... Mary Whitehouse didn’t even complain.”


Smith knew instinctively how to play his character  not overbearingly, but rather as a middle manager who does not know what he is doing but applies endless enthusiasm and energy to doing it and getting it wrong. It was hard to imagine a character less like the urbane and witty actor who played him. For Smith was, among other things, an experienced Shakespearean actor, a published poet and an accomplished musician with an excellent singing voice  the composer of some dozen string quartets and other works.
He admitted, however, that he did not have to try too hard to be Mr Rumbold, recalling that it had been the first role in his life when he was allowed to speak with his own accent and wear his own glasses. The only physical change he needed was turned-up eyebrows, to give Rumbold a perpetually harrassed look. He had no regrets. Are You Being Served? he said, was “something I was proud to be in”.
Nicholas Smith was born at Banstead, Surrey, on March 5 1934. His father was a chartered surveyor and both parents were keen amateur actors.
Determined to be an actor from an early age, Nicholas took leading roles in school plays and, after National Service in the Royal Army Service Corps in Aldershot (“A miserable time, the worst I’ve had”), trained at Rada, alongside Albert Finney and Richard Briers.
He started off his career in stage musicals, and alongside his television career, spent two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appeared regularly in rep, on the West End stage, at the Bristol Old Vic and on Broadway, in everything from classical productions to pantomime.


Smith would continue to perform in musical theatre throughout his career, at various times playing the “old gentleman” in a musical production of The Railway Children, giving an acclaimed performance as Alfred Dolittle in My Fair Lady at Cheltenham and taking leading roles Gilbert and Sullivan operettas such as The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance. His film appearances included The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a 1975 American musical comedy film starring Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman.
His other film credits included Salt and Pepper (1968), A Walk with Love and Death (1969), Mel Brooks’s The Twelve Chairs (1970), and Pasolini’s The Canterbury Tales (1972). Most recently, he was the voice of Reverend Clement Hedges in the Wallace & Gromit film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005).
Smith made his television debut in an unscripted role in the 1960s sci–fi series, Pathfinder To Mars. His first speaking role on television was in three episodes of the 1964 Doctor Who series The Dalek Invasion of Earth in which he played Wells, a former slave of the Daleks who helps the Doctor (William Hartnell) lead a rebellion against them.
By the time he was cast as Mr Rumbold, he had appeared in dozens of television series, including The Avengers, The Saint, The Champions, and Z Cars in which he played the uncouth PC Geoff Yates. Later television credits included Worzel Gummidge (as the headmaster Mr Foster);
Martin Chuzzlewit (as Mr Spottletoe); Doctors and Revolver. His last television appearance was in 2010 as Professor Quakermass in the children’s series, MI High.

Robert Loggia


Date of Birth: 3 January 1930, Staten Island, New York, US
Birth Name: Salvatore Loggia
Nicknames: Robert Loggia

Robert Loggia was an American character actor best known for tough-guy roles in gangster films such as Scarface and in the television series The Sopranos.
Strongly built, balding and with a rasping delivery, Loggia suffered from typecasting during the 1970s, obliged to specialise in sharp-suited “heavies” (usually Italians, but also Greeks or Arabs) in television shows such as The Rockford Files, Columbo and The Six Million Dollar Man. But in 1982 he took on the role of Richard Gere’s feckless father in the hit film An Officer and a Gentleman; the part, though small, revealed Loggia to be a perceptive and subtle actor.
High-profile roles followed as mobsters in Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983) and John Huston’s Prizzi’s Honor (1985), and as the foul-mouthed private eye Sam Ransom in the courtroom thriller Jagged Edge (1985), for which he won an Oscar nomination.


Loggia was equally comfortable portraying benign figures, notably the avuncular toy company owner in the “age-changing” comedy Big (1988) with Tom Hanks.
The son of a Sicilian shoemaker, he was born Salvatore Loggia in Staten Island, New York, on January 3 1930 and brought up in Little Italy, where the family spoke Italian at home. He attended Dorp High School and Wagner College, then, with an idea of working in newspapers, started a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, later switching to study with the drama teacher Alvina Krause at Northwestern University.
After a stint in the US Army, he got a place at the Actors’ Studio, under Stella Adler, making his Broadway debut aged 25 in The Man With the Golden Arm. His entry into film came (uncredited) in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) but his breakthrough was as the New Mexican lawman Elfego Baca in the Disney mini-series The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca (1958).
In 1966, he starred in an unusual television detective show, playing Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat, a circus artiste and burglar turned private eye, in T.H.E. Cat. The audience did not take to its dark mood, however, and when the network, NBC, cancelled it after one series, Loggia made a “Dante-esque descent into the inferno of so-called mid-life crisis”, as he put it later.
Restless and self-doubting, he dropped out for six years and his marriage foundered. But encouraged by Audrey O’Brien, whom he would marry, he returned to full productivity. He took up directing, working on Quincy, M.E., Magnum, P.I. and Hart to Hart. He still carried on acting, and his friend Blake Edwards cast him in his Hollywood satire S.O.B. (1981) and in three dreadful Pink Panther sequels: Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982, cobbled together after Peter Sellers’s death from deleted scenes) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).


After An Officer and A Gentleman, which Loggia credited with transforming his career, he appeared in dozens more films, of varied themes, among them the Holocaust drama Triumph of the Spirit (1989) and David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997).
Hugo Davenport in The Daily Telegraph praised his “splendid” turn as a mobster-vampire in John Landis’s horror caper Innocent Blood (1993), and in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996) he was convincing as a general resisting an alien invasion.
An interesting later role came in 2003 in The Sopranos as “Feech” La Manna, a violent-tempered Mafia capo, just released from a 20-year stretch and struggling to adapt to a changed world.
Robert Loggia enjoyed cooking and playing golf.

Cynthia Payne


Date of Birth: 24 December 1932, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, UK
Birth Name: Cynthia Payne
Nicknames: Madam

Cynthia Payne, who has died aged 82, was the quintessentially English madam whose career as an eccentric suburban brothel-keeper led to a film, books and a career as a “naughty but nice” celebrity. Unrepentant to the end, in her later years she expressed the hope that her life story might be turned into a musical.
It was 1978 when police raided her home in Streatham, south London, which she ran to provide “personal services” for her mainly elderly clients. By the time she was convicted of running a disorderly house at her trial in 1980, she had become a household name and, although she had to close her establishment, she was able to use her cheery notoriety to make a living as an after-dinner speaker and commentator on sexual matters.


Born in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, to a strict father, Hamilton, who worked as a hairdresser on Union Castle liners, and a mother, Betty, who died of cancer when Cynthia was 10, she was a precocious child who “talked dirty” and was expelled from her convent school. This wild and rebellious early life on the south coast would later become the basis of the 1987 film Wish You Were Here, directed by David Leland and starring Emily Lloyd.
After training unenthusiastically as a hairdresser, Payne worked as a waitress and shop assistant before moving as a teenager to London for a job in the department store Swan & Edgar. She became pregnant by a much older man, and gave birth to a son who was eventually fostered but whose boarding-school education she financed and whose wedding she later attended. Another son was given up for adoption at a few weeks old, and three abortions, one very traumatic and painful, followed.


She slipped into prostitution to avoid eviction from her flat because she was behind with the rent. “I realised I could do it and make money at the same time,” she told her biographer, Paul Bailey, in An English Madam (1982). “It made me bloody determined. I was never going to go crawling for money again.” Initially, she ran “kinky parties for kinky people”, advertising in contact magazines, but her brothel, far from the fleshpots of Soho, attracted a word-of-mouth clientele of older men who liked to have their fantasies indulged, whether this involved straight sex, bondage, whipping or role-playing.
The reason that her case attracted so much attention was twofold: her clients and the method of payment. The former were said to have included a peer of the realm, vicars, barristers, ex-police officers, politicians and bank managers, not to mention a cross-dressing former RAF squadron-leader. Towards the end of his life, her father also became a client. She charged punters £25, which was exchanged for a “luncheon voucher” – a token that entitled the bearer to have sex with any of the women in the house who agreed and who could then use it as proof of services rendered; pensioners received a £3 discount.
An anonymous tip-off alerted police to strange goings on in Ambleside Avenue and, over a 12-day period, 249 men and 50 women were observed by undercover officers entering her house. The luncheon vouchers, presented as evidence, became an enduring part of the story.
Convicted of running a disorderly house, Payne was sentenced to 18 months and fined £1,950 with £2,000 costs. Her barrister, Geoffrey Robertson, asked for a non-custodial sentence, assuring the court that no “beardless youngsters (were) initiated into the fleshpots”.
She appealed unsuccessfully, although the sentence was reduced to six months. The appeal court heard that she had several high-profile clients but the presiding judge, Lord Justice Lawton, said there was “not a shred of evidence” that any of them was actually there on the night she was arrested, although he acknowledged that it had led to “some very amusing cartoons”. Payne’s solicitor, David Offenbach, suggested that the judge was “more concerned about the apparent respectability of customers rather than the plight of an unwell, middle-aged woman sent to prison ... This confirms the hypocrisy of the law by punishing the woman but letting her customers go free.”
Payne emerged from Holloway prison to be met by a former client in a Rolls-Royce and obligingly gave the waiting photographers a V-sign and a quote: “V for victory, V for voucher.” Throughout the case, the press treated “Madam Cyn” gently, portraying her as part of a bawdy tradition that stretched from Chaucer to Carry On films.


The 1987 film Personal Services, directed by Terry Jones and starring Julie Walters as “Christine Painter”, concentrated on the larky nature of her career. Walters recalled meeting Payne and being immediately asked: “Do you like sex, Julie?” During what Payne claimed was a party to celebrate the making of the film, the police raided again and she faced a further trial. This time she was acquitted. In the same year, her book, Entertaining at Home, with “101 party hints”, appeared. It included chapters entitled Remaining on Good Terms with Your Local Constabulary and Raid Etiquette for Policemen, with advice for undercover officers.
Campaigning for the legalisation of prostitution, she stood as a candidate for the Rainbow Alliance Payne and Pleasure party in the Kensington parliamentary by-election in 1988 and won 193 votes, and again, on her home patch of Streatham, in the 1992 general election, taking 145 votes. Her one-woman show at the Edinburgh festival in 1992 was a sellout and she made herself available for after-dinner speaking at which she promised “tasteful stories ... no crudity of any nature”.
Towards the end of her life, she approached both Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice with the suggestion of a musical. In fact, Lloyd-Webber chose a different tale of English sexual hypocrisy, that of the Profumo scandal, for his 2013 musical, Stephen Ward.

Warren Mitchell


Date of Birth: 14 January 1926, Stoke Newington, London, UK
Birth Name: Warren Misell
Nicknames: Warren Mitchell

Warren Mitchell was the actor who created the monstrous Alf Garnett; the balding bigot with his Kipling moustache and West Ham scarf became the vehicle for some of the most iconoclastic satire ever seen on television.
Indeed, so believable was Mitchell in the role that he was regularly congratulated on his views by those members of the pubic who were precisely the target of him and writer Johnny Speight.


The character first appeared in 1965 as “Alf Ramsey” in a one-off BBC play by Speight. Mitchell, not yet 40, was the third choice for the part; the first was Peter Sellers. Alf’s convictions were made apparent from the first line as he looked as his watch while Big Ben struck 10: “That blaaady, Big Ben… fast again.” A series, Till Death Us Do Part, began the next year and ran until 1975.
Each week, from his armchair, docker Alf would treat all within earshot to his substantial prejudices, his favoured topics being race, permissiveness, feminism and the monarchy. Particular ire was reserved for the long hair of his son-in-law and for Edward Heath, the prime minister, for not having attended a “proper” school such as Eton.
The plotting was thin and much of its success was due to the ensemble playing of the cast, notably Dandy Nichols as his wife Else – the “silly moo” – Una Stubbs as daughter Rita and Tony Booth as her abrasive husband. As satire it struck only one note, but its power lay in guilty laughter, in exposing to view what many Britons secretly thought. Those, like Mary Whitehouse, who complained about the bad language either missed the point of caricature, or did not want to hear.
The programme spawned two films and a stage production, The Thoughts of Chairman Alf, and was transplanted, in milder form, to Germany and America as All in the Family. It was revived between 1985 and 1990 as In Sickness and in Health, but Alf’s views now seemed dated and peevish rather than disturbing.
Mitchell was born Warren Misell at Stoke Newington, London, on January 14 1926. His grandparents were Russian Jews who had emigrated to Britain in 1910 and were involved in the fish trade. His father, a china and glass merchant, was so orthodox that he would later refuse to meet Mitchell’s wife, the actress Connie Wake, because she was not a Jew. He only relented when she took the part of a Jewish girl in a play.
Young Warren was influenced more by his mother, who fed him bacon at Lyons Corner House and took him to performances by Max Miller or The Crazy Gang. Is faith was dealt a further blow when he played football for his school First XI on Yom Kippur instead of fasting and was not immediately struck dead. He celebrated with egg and chips and was thereafter a fervent opponent of dogma and tradition.


He was educated at Southgate County School and in 1944 went up to University College, Oxford as an RAF cadet to read Physical Chemistry. His mother had sent him to singing and dancing lessons since he was seven and he soon fell into dramatic company in Oxford, making friends with Richard Burton. His studies were ended in 1945 when the pair were sent for air training in Canada, where Burton’s ability to impress girls by declaiming Shakespeare convinced Mitchell to take up acting. He was accepted by Rada in 1947.
He struggled to find work on leaving and was employed first as a porter at Euston Station and then making ice cream at the Walls factory. He made his first professional appearance at the Finsbury Park Open Air Theatre in 1950 and met his wife soon after while at the Unity Theatre. A spell standing in as a disc jockey on Radio Luxembourg prompted him to change his name when told he needed one “people could write in to”.


His break came when appearing on Hancock’s Half Hour, then transmitted live. When Tony Hancock dried on one occasion, Mitchell was quick-witted enough to fill for him while he recovered. A grateful Hancock gave him a regular role, often as an indeterminate, peculiar foreigner. Mitchell’s dark complexion also secured him numerous small roles as ethnic types in films from 1954, when he made his debut in The Passing Stranger. He had appeared in nearly 40 films, including the Beatles picture Help! and with Burton in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold before his apotheosis as Alf Garnett.
He continued to perform in the theatre and surprised many who had overlooked, amidst Alf’s bigotry, the quality of Mitchell’s acting. He was particularly drawn to playing life’s losers. In 1979 his Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the National Theatre brought him an Evening Standard Theatre award and an Olivier. Sir Peter Hall said it was one of the finest half-dozen pieces of character acting he had seen. Mitchell also appeared at the National in The Caretaker and in a tour of Pinter’s The Homecoming in 1991.
He played the miser Harpagon in Moliere’s play at Birmingham, although the critics felt his stab at King Lear in 1995 to be underpowered. He had more success as an excellent Shylock, both in 1981 BBC television production of The Merchant of Venice and for Radio Four in 1996.
He appeared in several other unmemorable films but despite increasing ill health in his later years he found his best roles on television and stage. In So You Think You’ve Got Troubles, a BBC series in 1991, he played Ivan Fox, a Jewish businessman caught in the religious crossfire of Belfast, and in the BBC’s ambitious adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast in 2000 he played the vicious bearded dwarf Barquentine.


On stage, he won a second Olivier award in 2004 for his role as the crotchety Yiddish furniture dealer, Solomon, in Arthur Miller’s The Price; he carried on with the run despite having suffered a mild stroke. His performance, aged 82, in Visiting Mr Green (again, playing an elderly Jewish man) in the West End was described by the Telegraph’s Charles Spencer as “incredibly touching”.
Mitchell lived in Hampstead but was a regular visitor to Australia, frequently appearing on the Sydney stage, and in 1989 he took dual Australian-British citizenship, saying he preferred its egalitarian culture to the hidebound structure of British society. He could be forceful, even aggressive, company, always seeing himself as something of an outsider. He loathed what he considered to be the cautious mediocrity of contemporary television, believing that “you can’t be funny unless you offend people. Comedy comes from conflict, from hatred.”
He had a wide range of interests, from playing the clarinet to sailing and yoga. Several hip operations made him more implacable at the tennis net, but he had to give up the game after developing transverse myelitis, a nerve condition. His chief passion was Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, first attending a game aged five. Fans were always astonished that Alf Garnett was among them rather than at West Ham.

Gunnar Hansen

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Date of Birth: 4 March 1947, Reykjavik, Iceland
Birth Name: Gunnar Milton Hansen
Nicknames: Gunnar Hansen

Gunnar Hansen, played the iconic villain Leatherface in the original "Texas Chain Saw Massacre,"
Hansen starred in the 1974 film that has become a classic among horror-movie aficionados and spawned a series of sequels. In the movie, friends visiting their grandfather's house are hunted by Leatherface, a chain-saw wielding maniac.

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Hansen's character in the movie "is one of the most iconic evil figures in the history of cinema."
In 2013, Hansen published his book "Chain Saw Confidential," which gave readers a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made.

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Hansen lived in Maine for about 40 years, where he worked as an actor and writer.
At the time of his death, Hansen was at work on a film called "Death House," his agent said. Hansen was a writer and producer of the film, which IMDB says is about how a secret government facility becomes ground zero for the most horrific prison break in the history of mankind. The film is scheduled to come out next year, Eisenstadt said.
Hansen was born in Reykjavik, Iceland. He came to the U.S. and studied at the University of Texas, where he majored in English and Scandinavian Studies.

Al Molinaro


Date of Birth: 24 June 1919,
Birth Name: Umberto Francesca Molinaro
Nicknames: Al Molinaro

Al Molinaro, was best known for playing Big Al Delvecchio, the owner of Arnold’s Diner in the nostalgic US sitcom Happy Days.
The series, set in Milwaukee, in Molinaro’s home state of Wisconsin, harked back to the 1950s as a happier and more innocent age. It ran for 11 seasons from 1974 until 1984, with Molinaro joining the show in its second year. With his Roman nose, hangdog looks and waddling gait, Molinaro brought physical presence and light relief to the diner. There he presided benignly over the antics of the youthful gang which included Henry Winkler’s leather-jacketed Fonz and the flame-haired Ritchie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard. He soon devised a catchphrase, introducing anecdotes with a muttered “Yep-yep-yep-yep.”



The programme’s creator, Garry Marshall, knew Molinaro from The Odd Couple, a previous hit series which they had made together. They had been introduced by Marshall’s sister Penny, who was later to star in a spin-off from Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley . Meanwhile, after some 170 episodes, Molinaro hung up his cook’s apron to appear in another off-shoot of the programme, Joanie Loves Chachi, although this only survived for a year.
By then, he had repaid the faith shown in him by Marshall by doing some star spotting of his own. When the actor slated to play an alien in an episode of Happy Days failed to show up at short notice, Molinaro suggested replacing him with a young, budding comedian called Robin Williams. Such was the reaction to Williams’s performance that it led to the creation of his own series, Mork and Mindy, which launched his acting career.


“I spent 20 years here before I got anything going,” reflected Molinaro towards the end of his career, “and from that I got lucky… You’ve just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time.”
“I spent 20 years here before I got anything going,” reflected Molinaro towards the end of his career, “and from that I got lucky… You’ve just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time.”
The youngest of 10 children, he was born Umberto Francesco (later Albert Francis) Molinaro, on June 24 1919, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where his father owned restaurants and hotels. He struggled at school but was a good clarinet player and discovered a talent for public speaking. At 21, encouraged by a friend who knew that he wanted to act, he took a bus to Los Angeles.
While working on the fringes of the television industry, he built up a debt collection agency and then began to buy land for property development. In the early 1960s he sold one lot to the builders of a large shopping mall, providing him with a financial cushion to pursue his acting ambitions.
Bit parts in shows such as Bewitched and Get Smart followed, but his break came when he joined an improvisational comedy class in 1970. There he met Penny Marshall, then an actress and subsequently the director of films such as Big. She introduced him to her brother Garry, who cast him as the slow-witted cop Murray in The Odd Couple, the television series he was producing based on Neil Simon’s play.


Starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall as the mismatched flatmates, it ran for five years. By then Molinaro’s battered features had become familiar to US audiences. In one episode, trying to ascertain whether Klugman’s character was in, Molinaro pushed his nose through the door’s peephole. “Oh, hi, Murray!” calls out Klugman at once.
After leaving Happy Days, Molinaro appeared in several short-lived series before retiring in the early 1990s. As Big Al he reappeared in 1994 in the video for the song Buddy Holly by the band Weezer. For more than two decades, he also promoted frozen dinners in television commercials.

He had opened a chain of diners in the Mid-West in the late-1980s with Anson Williams, who had played Potsie in Happy Days, but the venture was not a success. Garry Marshall repeatedly offered him roles in the films that he went on to make, notably Pretty Woman, but Molinaro turned these down.
“I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” he explained. “That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days.” None the less, syndication of Happy Days ensured that he was known even by younger generations of viewers, and he defended the show against charges that it sentimentalised the 1950s.
“In the industry, they used to consider us like a bubble-gum show,” he said. “But I think they overlooked one thing. To the public in America, Happy Days was an important show, and I think it was and I think it still is.”
His first marriage, in 1948, to Jacquelin Martin was dissolved. He married secondly, in 1981, Betty Farrell. She survives him together with the son of his first marriage.

Maureen O'Hara


Date of Birth: 17 August 1920, Ranelagh, County Dublin, ireland
Birth Name: Maureen Fitzsimmons
Nicknames: Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O'Hara, appeared in more bad films than she cared to remember but nevertheless emerged as a Hollywood star on the strength of her extraordinary flame-haired beauty and a successful screen partnership with John Wayne.
She appeared in five of his films, forging a strong bond of mutual admiration and respect. “I prefer the company of men,” Wayne declared, “except for Maureen O’Hara. She’s the greatest guy I ever met.” Her Irish roots led one critic to describe her as “Hollywood’s ultimate fiery colleen”.
With her creamy complexion, striking auburn tresses and haunting jade blue eyes, Maureen O’Hara was celebrated in her early films as the “Queen of Technicolor”, but she considered it a dubious accolade: it tended to imprison her in elaborate wartime features where she looked merely decorative or ornamental. “Almost every letter I receive,” she complained in 1945, “asks why Hollywood doesn’t take me out of those silly Technicolor pictures and give me dramatic pictures.”


Maureen O’Hara had become an overnight star in 1939 when she played Mary, the pretty niece of Sir Humphrey Pengallan (Charles Laughton), in Alfred Hitchcock’s film of Daphne du Maurier’s Regency romance Jamaica Inn. Later that year she was again cast opposite Laughton as Esmeralda in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.
Her third big success came in 1941 with How Green Was My Valley, the turn-of-the-century Welsh mining tale based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn and directed by John Ford. Her next three films, To The Shores Of Tripoli (1941), Ten Gentlemen From West Point and The Black Swan (both 1942), saw her embrace wartime romance, historical drama and buccaneering adventure.
In 1944 she signed a contract dividing her commitments equally between 20th Century Fox and RKO, and co-starred with Joel McRea in Buffalo Bill as the hero’s wife. A string of eminently forgettable films followed, excepting perhaps Miracle On 34th Street (1947), now a Christmas favourite on television . Initially reluctant to star, Maureen O’Hara relented when she read the script and returned to New York from a trip home to Ireland for location filming.
By 1950 she was back in John Ford’s fold to star in Rio Grande, her first film with John Wayne, followed by the pastoral comedy The Quiet Man (1952), in which she co-starred with Wayne as the tempestuous Mary Kate Danaher in the story of a disgraced American boxer who retires to Ireland. In Ford’s films she regularly played the thorny Irish rose who comes to appreciate the virtues and values of domesticity.
In The Quiet Man and also in Rio Grande, The Long Gray Line (1954) and Wings of Eagles (1957), Maureen O’Hara was the archetypal Fordian woman, embodying the shared values of duty, service and loyalty once taken for granted but in increasingly short supply in a modern world.


Although during the war she had complained that directors considered her to be “a cold potato without sex appeal” , in March 1957 the American scandal sheet Confidential ran a story about her indulging in a steamy “necking session” with a mystery South American man in the back row at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the famous Hollywood cinema (“It was the hottest show in town when Maureen O’Hara cuddled in Row 35”). She claimed the report was inaccurate and libellous, and produced her stamped passport to prove that she was abroad at the time.
Confidential, however, produced no fewer than three witnesses, including Grauman’s former assistant manager who said he had flashed a torch in the darkened auditorium to discover Maureen O’Hara, blouse undone and hair in disarray, sprawled across her companion’s lap.
The case ended in a mistrial and she was awarded only $5,000 damages (she had claimed $5 million); the question of just what happened on Row 35 was never incontrovertibly settled.
She was born Maureen FitzSimons on August 17 1920 at Milltown near Dublin. Her father was a clothier, her mother a one-time actress and contralto singer. Although her older sister Peggy became a nun, her other four siblings all had aspirations to make it in showbusiness. “We were an Irish von Trapp family,” she recalled. “A little eccentric but wonderful.”
During her school days Maureen acted in local amateur productions, studied music and dance, and took small roles with the Dublin Operatic Society as well as “spear-carrying” parts with the famous Abbey Theatre.
When she was 14 she enrolled at the Abbey’s theatre school and within a year was playing Shakespearean roles, winning the All-Ireland Cup for her portrayal of Portia in The Merchant Of Venice. She was the youngest student to complete the drama course at the Guildhall School of Music, and at 16 had been awarded a degree and an associateship by the London College of Music.
When she was 17, while considering an offer of a leading role from the Abbey Players, Maureen FitzSimons sailed with her mother on a steam packet for England and a holiday in London, where she was invited for a disastrous screen test at Elstree by an English film company, Mayflower.


A brief extract from her scene, however, attracted the attention of Charles Laughton and producer Erich Pommer, who cast her as Mary Yellan, the female lead in Jamaica Inn (1939). It was Laughton (acting as co-producer) who changed her name to Maureen O’Hara it was a better fit on cinema marquees and offered her a seven-year film contract, on which her signature was witnessed by her parish priest.
Assuming she would remain in London, she took a long lease on a house in Hyde Park, but lived there for only six weeks before her success in Jamaica Inn led to her being invited to Hollywood to play the part of the gipsy girl Esmeralda, opposite Laughton’s Quasimodo, in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (also 1939). She subsequently starred in A Bill Of Divorcement and Dance, Girl, Dance (both 1940).
When America entered the war in 1941, Maureen O’Hara found herself marooned in Hollywood. Unhappy and homesick, she plunged herself into her work, and was soon making five films a year, many of questionable merit.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Maureen O’Hara was often described as the “Queen of the Swashbucklers”; always capable of holding her own in a man’s world. Passive roles were not for her; she was an active, high-spirited and often athletic presence. When Paul Henreid stole a screen kiss in The Spanish Main (1945), she had him flogged, and when Tyrone Power did likewise in The Black Swan (1942) she knocked him out. In real life Maureen O’Hara scolded a drunkenly amorous Errol Flynn.
She co-starred with Alec Guinness in Our Man In Havana (1959) and as the mother in Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961). With John Wayne, she made a further three films including McLintock! (1964) and Big Jake (1971); after the latter she made no feature films for two decades.
In 1991 Maureen O’Hara returned to the screen with her old fire and energy for the comedy Only The Lonely, in which she played Rose Muldoon, the smothering Irish mother of John Candy’s Chicago policeman.
She became an American citizen in 1946. She had five homes and for much of her later life lived on the Caribbean island of St Croix. In 1993 Maureen O’Hara was honoured by the British Film Institute for her contribution to “moving image culture”. She published her memoirs, 'Tis Herself, in 2004.
“If you are proud of one in 15 films you’ve made you can consider yourself lucky,” Ronald Colman once told her. “Well,” noted Maureen O’Hara, “I’m proud of more than that and I know that I’ve been in some movies that’ll be played long after I’m dead and gone.”
Maureen O’Hara married, in 1939, George Hanley Brown, a British film director whom she met while making Jamaica Inn, and who subsequently, in another marriage, became the father of the journalist and editor Tina Brown. His marriage to Maureen O’Hara was annulled in 1941 and later that year she married Will Price, another director with whom she had worked, and with whom she had a daughter. This marriage was later dissolved.

Peter Baldwin


Date of Birth: 29 Jully 1933, Childham, Sussex, UK
Birth Name: Peter Francis Baldwin
Nicknames: Peter Baldwin

Peter Baldwin played the accident-prone chocolate novelty salesman Derek Wilton in ITV’s long-running Coronation Street and with his dithering on-screen wife Mavis (Thelma Barlow) became one of the comic mainstays of the serial when humour was an innate part of its popular appeal.
But in 1997 Baldwin was abruptly written out when a new producer, Brian Park, sacked him on his first day in the job as part of a wholesale purge of ageing male characters. Thelma Barlow was reportedly so upset by the removal of her on-screen partner that she resigned after more than 25 years in the cast.
“The Street is currently being terrorised by a smiling axeman,” complained the critic Victor Lewis-Smith. “Apparently it doesn’t matter that this is a first class soap, superbly scripted and flawlessly performed by a seasoned repertory company.” Baldwin himself was distraught. “The feeling was that Derek and Mavis had had their day,” he recalled.
For 21 years Baldwin had played Derek as a lovable if wimpish buffoon with the lightest of comic touches as he toyed with Mavis’s emotions. By the time they finally wed, the oddball couple were already middle-aged, and in the absence of children lavished their affections not only on each other but also on Mavis’s pet budgie and a pair of garden gnomes named Arthur and Guinevere, one of which became the subject of a notable comic plotline when it was stolen and a piece of its ear sent to Derek in a matchbox.


Baldwin made his Coronation Street debut in 1976 when, as a shy travelling salesman, he called in to the Kabin corner shop in the fictional Weatherfield to ask directions from Mavis Riley, the mousy spinster behind the counter. In the course of his stuttering 12-year pursuit of Mavis, Derek married his boss’s daughter Angela Hawthorne, while Mavis entertained a proposal of marriage from Derek’s rival Victor Pendlebury.
In 1984 Derek and Mavis became engaged, only to jilt each other at the church door. But in 1988 their romance was rekindled in a classic scene in which Derek, on his hands and knees, proposed to Mavis through the Kabin letterbox. Once married, they became one of the programme’s most enduring and eccentric double acts until Derek was written out, suffering a fatal heart attack in a road-rage incident in April 1997.
The elder of two sons of a primary school headmaster, Peter Baldwin was born on July 29 1933 at Chidham near Chichester in West Sussex. Taking an early interest in the stage, when he was 12 his parents gave him a toy theatre as a Christmas present which inspired a lifelong enthusiasm.
Leaving Chichester High School for Boys, he did his National Service in the Army before enrolling at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Baldwin worked in various repertory companies before joining the West of England Theatre Company at Exmouth in Devon in 1960 in a production of Congreve’s The Way of The World, appearing opposite Thelma Barlow for the first time and sharing a house with her and other members of the cast.


After a spell with the BBC Repertory Company, Baldwin made his television debut in 1969 in ATV’s Girls About Town, created by Adele Rose, a regular Coronation Street writer. In 1976, while appearing in The Browning Version at the Kings Head Theatre in London, he was invited by Granada Television to audition for the part of Derek Wilton. Another actor from the same agency had been asked but was unavailable, and Baldwin went in his place.
For the next 12 years he featured intermittently in Coronation Street while making other television appearances including the miniseries Goodbye Mr Chips (1984) and Bergerac (1987). He was playing Mr Birling on the West End stage in An Inspector Calls (Westminster Theatre, 1987) when he was asked back to Coronation Street, and offered a long-term contract as a regular character.
During periods of unemployment as a jobbing actor, Baldwin worked at Pollock’s Toy Museum in London and from 1980 managed Pollock’s traditional toy shop in Covent Garden. After the death of Benjamin Pollock in 1988, he took over the ownership of the shop and, as a recognised expert on 19th-century toy theatres, published a history of the genre, Toy Theatres of the World (1993).

Hugh Scully


Date of Birth: 5 March 1943, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
Birth Name: Michael Hugh Scully
Nicknames: Hugh Scully

Hugh Scully, hosted the Antiques Roadshow for nearly 20 years between 1981 and 2000, bringing to the role a naturally gentle manner that proved a perfect fit for the programme’s traditional Sunday evening slot.
Scully’s unflappable air also commended him for the job of current affairs anchorman, in which capacity he served from 1977 on the early evening news programme Nationwide and its consumer rights offspring Watchdog, launched in 1980, which later became a successful show in its own right.
But Scully’s relaxed style on-screen masked a steely business sense that stood him in good stead when, at key moments in his broadcasting career, he forced himself to make a change of direction. Facing a potentially disastrous drop in income when Nationwide was wound up in 1983, he formed his own production company, and when, in 2000, he finally left the Antiques Roadshow he launched his own internet antiques valuation service, a venture that reportedly made him Britain’s oldest dotcom millionaire.


As well as his television career, Scully had carved out a parallel one on radio presenting the long-running Sunday afternoon series Talking About Antiques. In 1970 this led to a television series with his radio confrère Arthur Negus, Collectors’ World, and in 1981 to the Antiques Roadshow, which in those days attracted an enormous weekly audience of some 15 million viewers.
One of the highlights of Scully’s stewardship of the Roadshow came in Barnstaple, North Devon, when a couple turned up with a painting while out walking their dog. The programme’s picture expert, Peter Nahum, was sure it was a long-lost watercolour by the 19th-century artist Richard Dadd, and sent it to London for a second opinion. Confirmed as Dadd’s Halt in the Desert by Moonlight, the painting was valued at £100,000 and how hangs in the British Museum.
Hugh Scully was born on March 5 1943 at Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, the son of a wing commander in the RAF, also called Hugh but known as Pat because he was Irish. Brought up in Malta and Egypt, where his father was stationed, the 11-year-old Hugh presented a monthly radio show for Boy Scouts on BFBS Radio, an experience that set him thinking about becoming a broadcaster. When he returned to England at the age of 13 he boarded at Prior Park near Bath.
He thought of following his father into the RAF, but failed his interview and at 17 took a job with the Steinway piano company, music having been a particular interest at school, where he had daydreamed of becoming a concert pianist. Sacked for bad time-keeping, Scully next tried his hand as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. But when an aunt left him £500 in her will, he determined to travel the world, in the event getting only as far as Paris, where he fell in with some journalists who spent each evening drinking at a particular café near the Arc de Triomphe. Envying the journalists’ lifestyle, and having soon frittered the money away on horses and high living, he returned to Britain and wrote to every newspaper in the country asking for a job. He received no offers.


In April 1963, and just turned 20, he wrote to the BBC, claiming quite falsely to have worked as a correspondent for the International Herald-Tribune in Paris, and setting out 10 good reasons why he thought they should employ him. By return of post, they invited him to an audition. The result was a two-week spell in Southampton as a newsreader, followed by a freelance contract with the BBC’s newsroom in Plymouth.
His big break came in March 1967 when the oil tanker Torrey Canyon ran aground off the Scilly Isles and started leaking oil. Having had a tip-off from the local stringer, Scully telephoned the BBC’s main newsroom in London and organised a twin-engined aircraft to get a camera crew aloft to film aerial pictures of the disaster.
Promoted a year later to be the frontman of the south-west regional news magazine Spotlight, Scully also began making regular appearances on the national television network through the Nationwide programme when it launched in 1969. In 1977 he moved to London to take over from Michael Barratt as its main anchorman.
Meanwhile, since the age of 24, he had also become a familiar voice as the presenter of Radio 4’s Talking About Antiques, a role he filled by chance after a BBC producer friend, visiting Scully’s Devon home for dinner, found it cheaply but tastefully furnished with antiques and bric-a-brac that Scully and his wife had bought at country auctions. With the furniture expert Arthur Negus already on board, Scully took on the job of demystifying the arcane and esoteric world of antiques for the enthusiastic but untrained listener. Beginning in 1967, Talking About Antiques ran on Sunday afternoons for some 17 years.
Following the demise of Nationwide in 1983, Scully formed his own successful production company, Fine Art Productions, and was executive producer and interviewer on such acclaimed television documentaries as The Falklands War with the British Task Force commander Admiral Sandy Woodward; Thatcher: The Downing Street Years (1993) with Lady Thatcher, and an analysis of the lost “wilderness years” of the Labour Party, pre-1997.


For his Falklands series, Scully remortgaged his house and set off for Argentina where he persuaded the military and members of the Argentine junta to take part. In Washington, DC, he filmed intervews with the former US Secretary of State Al Haig and the American Secretary for Defence Caspar Weinberger.
Commissioned by Channel 4, The Falklands War became an award-winning, four-part series of one-hour documentaries and was shown all over the world.
In 1992 he read that Margaret Thatcher was planning to publish her memoirs, and persuaded her to co-operate with a television tie-in. Waiting for the former prime minister in her Belgravia drawing-room, Scully noticed a collection of Worcester porcelain but when he ventured a conversational ice-breaker on the subject discovered that she had no small talk. “Yes, yes, yes… come and sit down” was all she said before barking: “What do you know about the Franco-Prussian war?” Despite this unpropitious start, Fine Art Productions got the job.
The resulting four-part documentary, Thatcher: The Downing Street Years was broadcast by the BBC to coincide with the publication of her memoirs, and was sold worldwide. It led in turn to a BBC commission to make Labour: The Wilderness Years, as well as a four-part series on the first Gulf War in 1996.
In 2000 Scully finally wearied of life on the Antiques Roadshow and signed a £3 million deal with the online auctioneer to host the Hugh Scully’s World of Antiques website.
In retirement he collected 18th-century political cartoons, marine watercolours and an enviable cellar of French burgundies. He also augmented his lifetime’s collection of LPs (he owned 10,000, most of which were in storage) and many thousands of classical music CDs.

Ron Bridle


Date of Birth: 17 January 1930, Abersychan, Wales, UK
Birth Name: Ron Bridle

Ron Bridle, was the Department of Transport’s Chief Highway Engineer from the mid-1970s to 1980 and oversaw the rapid expansion of Britain’s motorway network.
At 6ft 4 in tall, weighing more than 20 stone and with a big grey beard, he looked like a cross between Orson Welles and James Robertson Justice, and cut a colourful figure in the upper ranks of the Civil Service. He was also a talented artist and painted portraits of several presidents of the Institute of Highways Engineers, including himself when he held the office in 1982.
Ron Bridle was born on January 17 1930 at Abersychan, near Pontypool, the son of a bookmaker who was often in trouble with the authorities in those days of tight legal controls. Ron attended West Monmouthshire Grammar School, where he excelled at rugby. He was capped for Wales Schoolboys against England and by the age of 19 had established himself in Newport’s first team.
He spent his National Service in the RAF but his two years were spent playing rugby for the RAF and painting murals and officers’ portraits. “I don’t think I ever got near a plane,” he later said.
He then went to Bristol University to study Civil Engineering. His rugby career continued and he was offered the huge sum (for the time) of £5,000 to play rugby league for St Helens. To his father’s frustration, he turned the offer down and instead chose to head for Ghana to work on the construction of the Accra to Tefle road.
On the birth of his first daughter in 1958 Bridle returned home and found a job with Cwmbran Development Corporation. But the limitations of local government spurred him to seek a more exciting position, which he found as project engineer on the construction of the M1 between Sheffield and Leeds, where he made his mark by using computers to speed up the programme . He was appointed project manager (bridges) for all contracts and produced a computerised method of monitoring concrete quality to avoid failures.
After a brief spell as deputy county surveyor of Cheshire, in 1967 he was appointed director of the newly created Midlands Road Construction Unit, responsible, among other things, for “Spaghetti Junction”.
When in 1970 a bridge under construction at Milford Haven collapsed, Bridle was assigned as technical adviser to a government inquiry into box girder bridges. His investigations revealed that loading on another box girder bridge, the Severn Bridge, was not random as HGVs tended to cross in convoy, imposing nearly three times the design loading. A major re-strengthening programme on the bridge was begun.
In 1974 he was promoted to Chief Highway Engineer and, six years later, he was appointed director of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory at Crowthorne, Berkshire.
After three years at the TRRL he took a post as director of technical development for Key Resource Industries, a subsidiary of Mitchell Cotts. Among other projects he helped to restore tea plantations in Uganda after the fall of Idi Amin.
He eventually left the company, taking with him a patent for a technique for reinforcing earth embankments called soil nailing. Returning to Wales, he worked with Cardiff University on the technique giving the patent to the university when he was appointed honorary professor in the 1990s. He served as president of the Institution of Highways and Transportation (1981-82) and won its award for professional distinction in 1993.
In his later years he was a driving force behind the Motorway Archive, a collection of documents outlining Britain’s motorway achievement.

Jackie Collins


Date of Birth: 4 October 1937, London, UK
Birth Name: Jacqueline Jill Collins
Nicknames: Jackie Collins

Jackie Collins, was the British-born author of titillating blockbuster Hollywood novels, breaking into bestsellerdom with Hollywood Wives (1983), which sold 15 million copies and became her most successful book.
Her output never varied in format, every one of her 30-odd bestsellers featuring headstrong women and rampant men coupling for graphic sex in a whirlwind of lust, money, power and revenge. “It’s a good slam-bang story,” agreed one reviewer of Hollywood Wives, “punctuated with tongue-in-cheek naughty bits and without pretensions.”
Jackie Collins’s format, while scarcely original, was certainly a winning one; in a career spanning nearly half-a-century, she sold half a billion books worldwide.
Her elder sister, the actress Joan Collins, starred in film versions of two of her early books, The Stud (1969) and its sequel The Bitch (1979), and much was made of the see-saw relationship between the two siblings over the years, particularly when Jackie thought Joan had taken up with the wrong men.
During Joan’s marriage to Peter Holm and again during her affair with Robin Hurlstone, Jackie was distinctly icy, dispensing forthright sisterly advice along the lines of “How can you possibly marry Pete Holm are you mad?” and “Robin is the worst snob I ever met. How dare he correct my pronunciation?” The sisters were subsequently reconciled.


Having moved to Los Angeles from London in the late 1970s, Jackie Collins wrote of what she found there. “From Beverly Hills bedrooms to a raunchy prowl along the streets of Hollywood; from glittering rock parties and concerts to stretch limos and the mansions of the power brokers, Jackie Collins chronicles the real truth from the inside looking out,” observed one breathless piece of pluggery.
She claimed to offer her readers an unrivalled insider’s knowledge of Hollywood and the glamorous lives and loves of the rich, famous, and infamous inhabitants of an increasingly rackety Tinseltown. “I write about real people in disguise,” she declared. “If anything, my characters are toned down the truth is much more bizarre.” After one reviewer warned that Hollywood Wives should be read under a cold shower, the actor Roger Moore said he just hoped no one recognised him from one of the characters in the book.
Jackie Collins earned critical as well as popular acclaim, being hailed a “raunchy moralist” by the film director Louis Malle and, perhaps more gnomically, “Hollywood’s own Marcel Proust” by Vanity Fair magazine. Her fiction debut, The World is Full of Married Men (1968), set in “swinging” 1960s London, was said to have ignited the touchpaper of female sexual fantasy in much the same way as EL James achieved nearly half-a-century later with Fifty Shades of Grey. But, as Jackie Collins herself noted, there was one important difference: “My heroines kick ass. They don’t get their asses kicked.”
Her heroines certainly led voracious erotic lives. Jackie Collins wrote about empowered, rich and sexy women before mass-market popular fiction was considered ready for them. Fortunately for her, her early work coincided with the growing use of the birth control pill and the ascent of feminism.
In her eighth novel Chances (1981), Jackie Collins introduced her Mafia princess Lucky Santangelo, a character she placed at the centre of an Italian-American gangster series that progressed through Lucky (1985) and Vendetta: Lucky’s Revenge (1996), and which was still running in 2015.
As a writer she commanded enormous fees for her work, and in 1988 secured an advance of $10 million for three consecutive novels. Her agent, Michael Korda, described it as “the largest amount of money in American book publishing, about the same size as the Brazilian national debt”. Having sped through one of her novels, one Fleet Street critic sheepishly confessed to having rather enjoyed it. “It is a load of tripe, but who cares? This is Hollywood. This is showbusiness. This is Jackie Collins.”
Jacqueline Jill “Jackie” Collins was born on October 4 1937 in north-west London, the younger daughter of a variety agent, Joe Collins, and his wife, Elsa. Jackie started writing short stories when she was nine, which her elder sister, Joan, illustrated.
In an attempt to curb Jackie’s chronic truanting (using letters she forged from her mother) her parents sent her to the Francis Holland School in Baker Street, which bore the motto “That Our Daughters May Be As The Polished Corners Of The Temple”. When her teachers discovered her selling dirty limericks (which she had written herself) to fellow pupils at a penny a time, and instalments of her passionate saga Letters from Bobby, Jackie was asked to leave. “I was finally expelled after they caught me smoking behind a tree on the lacrosse pitch,” she recalled.
At school Jackie Collins aspired to study journalism but her father, counter to the traditional parental stance, insisted that she give up the chance of a steady job and follow Joan to Hollywood to become an actress. At 16, after a short period in repertory in Ilfracombe, Jackie Collins was sent to live with her sister in Beverly Hills. On the day she arrived she found Joan packing for a year-long location shoot in the Caribbean. “She left me alone in the flat with her car keys and some money,” Jackie Collins remembered, “and the one piece of advice she ever gave me: Learn to drive.”
Jackie Collins approached several casting directors and in the course of fending off the inevitable invitations to the casting couch was employed variously as a waitress, pin-up model and mechanic’s assistant in a Beverly Hills garage owned by two brothers. “I used to drag along Sunset Boulevard in an old roadster they gave me,” she recalled. “Of course, I was dating both of them at the time.”
After a less than successful attempt at becoming an actress, in 1960, when she was 23, Jackie Collins married Wallace Austin, a manic depressive and drug addict. Following the birth of her first daughter, Jackie Collins discovered that Austin was addicted to methadone. She began divorce proceedings in 1965, and the following year her husband committed suicide by taking an overdose of barbiturates.


In 1968 Jackie Collins published her first novel, The World is Full of Married Men. Her publishers, WH Allen, urged her remove all the four-letter words to prevent the novel from being banned. “Women didn’t write about sex then,” Jackie Collins noted, “they wrote about women going off to the Cotswolds to have a nervous breakdown over a man.”
In contrast to the rampant promiscuity in her novels, Jackie Collins’s home life remained remarkably incident-free. After the success of her debut novel, in 1969 she married Oscar Lerman, owner of the Tramp nightclub in London, whom she met on a blind date. They had two daughters.
The Jackie Collins fiction factory began in earnest with her second novel, The Stud (1969) and continued throughout the 1970s. Despite having to invent ever more lurid plots, her output was consistent, and she produced a novel roughly every two years. She denied that she wrote to a rigid “sex and shopping” formula with a bedroom scene every 20 pages, and insisted that she never made any plot outlines before starting a novel nor any corrections afterwards.
“I know I’m not always grammatical,” she confessed, “but if I changed the grammar it wouldn’t be authentic Jackie Collins. A lot of people think they can write like me, but they can’t.” Her writing schedule was fixed: at least 10 pages a day, seven hours a day, seven days a week. “I like to write by the pool, she said, “listening to Lionel Richie add surrounded by all those phallic cacti.”
In 1978 the Collins sisters collaborated for the first time on the film version of The Stud. Surprisingly, given that Barbara Cartland had described the novel as “disgusting and filthy” and had claimed to have lost sleep reading it, the film was tepid soft pornography. It told the story of a waiter, embarrassingly played by Oliver Tobias, who makes his way to the top by sleeping with his boss, Joan Collins (in the first of what was to become an apparently endless run of “rich bitch” roles).
Although the film flopped badly in cinemas, the producers felt sufficiently confident to invest in the sequel, The Bitch, also starring Joan Collins. This, too, was a box office failure.
By the late 1970s Jackie Collins had been a bestselling author for 10 years and declared that she wanted to broaden her interests. Disappointed by the failure of her early films, and perhaps inspired by one of her own characters, she determined to retain total control of production on her next film, The World is Full of Married Men (1979). “I like to have power,” she said. “I like to think of myself as strong and positive.”
In the 1980s Jackie Collins attained the kind of fame usually associated with film stars. Her novel Hollywood Wives was an immediate success and was followed by Hollywood Husbands, described by one theatrical agent as “the definitive book about Hollywood in the 80s”.


Jackie Collins claimed that her research was done either at her husband’s nightclub or at real Hollywood parties. “I have to keep nipping off to the loo to make notes,” she remembered, “and I have to tone it all down for publication.” She believed that her books were successful because the public wanted to know who her characters really were. “Often stars come up to me at parties and say: ‘Darling, I’ve got a wonderful story for you, but you must promise not to put me in your books’. I always tell them they’re already in one.”
When Jacqueline Susann died in 1986, the tabloids crowned Jackie Collins “The New Queen of Sleaze”, but by the late 1980s her daily routine was more like that of a corporate executive than a novelist. By 1989 she was simultaneously acting as a consultant on the planned film of her book Rock Star, producing two six-hour miniseries of her novels, Chances, Lucky and Lady Boss, and planning a further novel Hollywood Kids.
“It’s not the money I’m interested in,” she once said, “ and I certainly don’t think of my books as literature, more a mild send-up. It’s the success I love, and, of course, the power.”
Shortly after the death of her husband in 1992 she moved into a mansion in Beverly Hills inspired by David Hockney’s painting of a swimming pool “A Bigger Splash”. She wrote all her books in longhand with a black felt-tip pen. Every morning an assistant typed her previous day’s work into a computer, and she kept the original handwritten manuscripts in leather-bound books in her library.
Jackie Collins was appointed OBE in 2013. Her marriage to Oscar Lerman lasted 27 years until his death. She later became engaged to a businessman, Frank Calcagnini.

Brian Sewell


Date of Birth: 15 June 1931, London, UK
Birth Name: Brian Sewell

Brian Sewell, first came before the public as the loyal friend of Anthony Blunt when that traitor was publicly exposed in 1979; his celebrity, however, began when he was appointed art critic of the Evening Standard in 1984.
In that role, Sewell waged witty, unwavering and vitriolic battle against what he what he regarded as the posturing inanities of modern British conceptual art. His readers were at once amazed and gratified to discover that this seemingly effete highbrow, whose outrageously camp voice (“Lady Bracknell on acid”) they knew from radio and television, should reflect all their own prejudices.
Those inclined to scepticism over the artistic potential of formaldehyde rejoiced to find that Sewell thought Damien Hirst (whom he had initially admired) had degenerated into “a fairground barker, whipping us to wonder at his freaks”. Those who recoiled from the scabrousness of Gilbert and George were delighted to read of “the sheer vanity of this Tweedle-Dum and Dee”, which “must repel even those who want to like their work, or at least admire their ingenuity”.


There was satisfaction, too, in learning that “John Bratby paints no better than Rolf Harris”. And though few Evening Standard readers would have heard of John Bellany, they could not but gasp at Sewell’s reaction to an exhibition held in the aftermath of this artist’s recovery from a liver transplant: “Who died, I wonder, from not receiving this donated liver when Bellany’s was judged to be the more important life?”
Sewell was no less severe on the British art establishment which supported the works he found so repellent. The Arts Council was chastised as “an incestuous clique, politically correct in every endeavour, the instrument of the unscrupulous and self-seeking, rewarding the briefly fashionable and incompetent”.
A particular bugbear of Sewell’s was the Turner Prize, that “annual farce”, which, under the auspices of the Tate, exposed “a sad little band of late labourers in the exhausted pastures of international conceptual art”. The seemingly daring British avant-garde, Sewell loved to point out, was actually dated and provincial: “Such things have been done before (and better) in the golden ages of Dada and Surrealism.”
In dealing with conceptual art, Sewell saw himself as the lone voice which dared to point out that the emperor had no clothes; other critics, he claimed, were more interested in gaining the good opinion of their peers. “Nothing matters more than intellectual probity,” he thundered, “and on that altar the critic must sacrifice even his closest friends.”
Certainly Sewell attacked “the homosexual mafia in the art world”, who puffed their own kind without the least regard to the quality of their work. He reckoned, for instance, that David Hockney owed his fame “entirely to his homosexuality”. His own views, however, were tainted by a strong misogyny. “By and large,” he held, “women are bloody awful painters. Don’t ask me why; they just are.”
At the end of 1993, Sewell provoked a furore with his review of an exhibition at the Tate, in which various women writers had been asked to choose a favourite painting by a woman. Sewell took exception to most things in the exhibition, in particular to “a frightful female nude by Vanessa Bell; ugly and incompetent, it could hardly be the favourite of even a purblind lesbian.”


Had the choice been free, he concluded, “I am sure that all but the most doctrinaire of boiler-suited feminists among those writers would have chosen works by men.”
This review elicited a letter of protest to the Standard, signed by 35 worthies, including George Melly, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Bridget Riley, and Marina Warner. The signatories took “the greatest exception to Brian Sewell’s writing”, and concluded that “the capital deserves better than Sewell’s dire mix of sexual and class hypocrisy, intellectual posturing and artistic prejudice”.
Naturally, this outburst only increased Sewell’s popularity with the Evening Standard’s readers, whom he had always taken good care to please: “I think sincerely of the man or woman, for that matter strap-hanging home to Wimbledon. It is essential to tackle the topic with either an element of humour or such gusto as will hold the attention of someone at the end of their working day.”
For his pains in expressing his opinions Sewell was punched in the eye by a young painter, jostled at a “video exhibition”, and screamed at by feminists. But he stuck to his beliefs with admirable courage.
“If membership of the art world,” Sewell wrote, “implies that the critic must voice the views of the generality of that world and be its instrument, then criticism in this country is moribund, the contrary voice as stifled as it was in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany.”
On the other hand, Sewell reflected, the effort made to suppress his own writing “suggests a measure of insecurity that I find quite heartening.”
Brian Sewell was born in London on St Swithin’s Day 1931, and brought up in Kensington. At school he was nicknamed “Sewage”. His father, only latterly identified as the Old Etonian composer Peter Warlock, committed suicide before Brian was born but after putting out the cat. Brian would later share both his gloomy nature and his love of animals.
His mother brought him up in isolation, being more likely to take him to dinner with Augustus John than introduce him to another child. Brian visited the National Gallery every week, and grew up with an astonishing command of adult pursuits such as Greek mythology, Roman history and opera.
He was also a regular worshipper at the Carmelite church in Kensington Church Street. For the rest of his life he would feel guilty if he walked past that church “without nipping in for a quick genuflection and a dab of cold water”. He was also grateful for an upbringing which had enabled him to understand the intensity in Christian art.
On the other hand, he was also conscious, from an early age, of “the irredeemable nature” of his homosexuality, which set up an extreme conflict with the teaching of the Church. To complicate matters still further, the arrival of a stepfather, Robert Sewell, when he was 11 meant a sudden change to Anglicanism. It also meant being sent to Haberdashers’ Aske’s School in Hampstead, which he loathed.
After leaving school he spent a year painting, from which he discovered that he had some talent, but nothing whatever to say. For a while he toyed with the notion of going into the Church: “My ambition was to be Archbishop of Canterbury; certainly a bishop.”
He survived National Service, then turned down a place at Oxford in favour of the Courtauld Institute, where he experienced what he described as “a conditioning of the soul”. This involved losing his faith in God and learning to appreciate art.
“Anthony (Blunt) taught me how to look at architecture, but (Johannes) Wilde taught me what no other art historian did, that it is right and proper to enjoy looking a pictures. Looking at pictures is a sensuous activity, now out of fashion.”
Through Blunt, Sewell encountered Guy Burgess. “I found his hand on my knee. I thought, shit, I’m not into this. I have to scoot. He was smelly and dirty.”


Originally Sewell had no intention of following up his first degree by taking a doctorate. Blunt, however, persuaded him to continue with his studies, and took Sewell under his wing at the Royal Library at Windsor. “The only trouble,” Sewell observed, “was that he forgot to pay me.”
Even so, Blunt became a close friend, though never, Sewell insisted, a lover. Sewell rather saw himself as a was the court jester, eager to amuse Blunt with the latest gossip from the art world, without ever erring on the side of generosity. His companionship proved particularly valuable to Blunt, during the crisis of 1964, when the traitor was under interrogation by MI5. Sewell, however, claimed that he knew nothing of this.
In 1958 he joined Christie’s as a prints and drawings expert, and remained there until 1966. He seemed to have found his metier, until he resigned in a huff after failing to gain a place on the board. “I sleep with the wrong people,” he replied when asked why he had not been made a director. “I was tied to Christie’s with an emotional bond, and felt betrayed in the end.”
Next, he became an art dealer, for which, however, he was not well qualified temperamentally. On one occasion a potential buyer was informed that the picture he wanted to purchase was too good for him.
He moved into 19 Eldon Road, Kensington, in 1972, a road down which his pram had once been pushed. It was one of the most interesting and eye-catching houses in the area, adorned with higgledy-piggledy sculptures dating from the Coronation year. Former owners included the art collector Chester Beatty, who had once hung Van Gogh’s Sunflowers above the fireplace in the front room, and Arpad Elfer, a Hungarian photographer who had held full-scale orgies on the roof garden. Over the years Sewell shared the house, as he observed in 1994, “with four women (including his mother) and nine bitches”.
On November 14 1979 Anthony Blunt was warned that the next day Margaret Thatcher would reveal his treachery to the Commons. On the morning of November 15 Sewell drove him from his flat off the Edgware Road to a hiding-place at Professor James Joll’s house in Chiswick.
He then stalled relentlessly as reporters pressed him to divulge Blunt’s whereabouts: “I shall tell you what he had for breakfast, but nothing more.” It was outrageous, he said, that the government should have named Blunt after granting him immunity from prosecution 15 years before. Splashed all over the front pages, and photographed walking his dogs, Sewell instantly proved a natural for the media.
Tina Brown, then editor of Tatler, was so impressed by the performance that she employed him as art critic. Sewell was confirmed in this new calling what he called “the sad end to a once promising career” when he moved to the Evening Standard in 1984. “Under no circumstances must you get rid of that nice Mr Sewell,” Max Hastings’s mother told him when he became editor of the Standard in 1996. He wrote all his reviews on an old Adler manual typewriter.
That year The Sunday Telegraph employed Sewell as a general columnist. He was one of the first to attack Tony Blair’s deliberate blokeishness; suggested an army composed entirely of homosexuals would have certain advantages in mobility; crusaded against cruelty to animals; and wrote a fine article against abortion. The Evening Standard also employed him as a columnist as well as an art critic: he wrote an op-ed piece opposing same-sex marriage on the grounds that matrimony was a sacrament. In the winter of 1998, he left Eldon Road for a house in Leopold Road, Wimbledon, which he described as an “Edwardian monstrosity”. Here there was a lake, a coach-house and a vast walled garden for his rampaging dogs.
Rather surprisingly, Sewell was a great enthusiast for cars, ever ready to review the latest Land Rover, and eager to rhapsodise about the Daimler Sportsman (“4.5 litre straight cylinder engine and a pre-selector gearbox”) he had once owned. At the age of 22 he bought his first car, a blue and grey vintage Wolseley, and in later middle age claimed to have once driven his famous gold-plated Mercedes at 140mph.
He confessed himself unable to account for the viciousness of his reviews. “I am a church mouse,” he insisted. “I am essentially a sweet, kind, giving sort of person, but when I write it is as if I am possessed. I cannot reconcile my own nature with what appears in my writing. I just accept it.”
He published three collections of his criticism, The Reviews That Caused The Rumpus (1994), An Alphabet of Villains (1995) and Naked Emperors: Criticisms of English Contemporary Art (2012). Another book, South From Ephesus (1988) gave a good account of both the archaeology and of the sex in Turkey, and Sleeping with Dogs (2013) was an account of his lifelong affection for canine companions. But the great work on Michelangelo which he had once envisaged as his passport to immortality was never written.
Only in the second of his two volumes of memoirs, Outsider (2009) and Outsider II (2012), did Sewell fully explain his role in the Blunt spy scandal, revealing that he had known of Blunt’s treachery years before it became public, but remained loyal none the less. Moreover, Sewell suggested the identity of the fifth man in the Cambridge spy ring: Andrew Gow, a Cambridge don and friend of Blunt’s, who had told Sewell about Blunt’s clandestine career.
Sewell’s work for television included a programme about the North West Frontier in India, which he did not like a bit, and an attack on Leonardo da Vinci.
After suffering a heart attack in 1994 Sewell was always in doubtful health, which he confronted with the same steel that he had shown in resisting those who abused him as a critic.
“We’ve got you down as an atheist,” a Sister in the hospital told him the night before an operation. “No, no,” Sewell protested, “I’m an agnostic. But if something goes wrong, you must call a Roman Catholic priest.”

Lord Montagu


Date of Birth: 20 October 1926, London, UK
Birth Name: Edward John Barrington Douglas-Scott-Montagu
Nicknames: Lord Montagu

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who has died aged 88, was the founder of the National Motor Museum, a pioneer of the stately home movement and, as a hereditary member of the House of Lords, an active parliamentarian whose views on heritage and transport commanded widespread respect.
His name became more widely known, however, through his involvement in what became known as “The Montagu Case”. In 1953 Montagu, although engaged to be married, was arrested on a charge of sexually assaulting a boy scout at his beach-hut on the shores of the Solent. The charges were thrown out, but shortly after his acquittal the young peer was re-arrested, together with his cousin, the Dorset landowner Michael Pitt-Rivers, and the diplomatic correspondent of the Daily Mail, Peter Wildeblood.
This time the charges involved homosexual activities with two aircraftmen who had turned Queen’s Evidence and were prepared to testify against the accused. In a lurid and highly publicised trial at Winchester Assizes, Montagu vigorously protested his innocence. He was, however, found guilty, albeit on lesser charges than those against his co-defendants.
All three were sentenced to prison but there was widespread public disquiet. This was prompted partly by what was perceived as the unfair victimisation of a public figure, together with serious irregularities in police behaviour, which even involved tampering with Montagu’s passport.


There was also concern about the criminality of sexual acts between consenting adults. Unlike the discredited boy scouts in the earlier case the aircraftmen were adults and at no time complained that they had been forced to commit any acts without their willing agreement. As a direct result of the case a committee of enquiry was set up under the chairmanship of Sir John Wolfenden and, after a lengthy delay, the law on homosexuality was eventually reformed.
Montagu always believed that he and his friends were the victims of a reactionary conspiracy headed by diehards like the home secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, later Lord Kilmuir, and Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice. Montagu always maintained that men such as this not only saw “reds” under every bed, they saw them in every bed as well.
Montagu served almost a year in prison at Wormwood Scrubs and Wakefield before returning to resume the running of his family estate in Hampshire and to pursue his interests in motoring, journalism and politics. For many years he declined to comment publicly on the events surrounding his imprisonment but in 2000 he published a candid autobiography, Wheels within Wheels, in which he wrote frankly about all aspects of his life and declared his belief that bi-sexuality was a universal condition and one which would come to be acknowledged as such. As a result of the case and his unrepentant candour he became an unlikely icon of the gay movement, of which he himself was never an active member.
Indeed the trauma of the case was such that when it came to writing his memoirs he could still not face the prospect of reading the case transcripts and papers  stored away in a trunk in the vaults of Coutts Bank but instead retained a ghost-writer to read the material and write a draft, which he finally brought himself to correct.
Edward John Barrington Douglas-Scott-Montagu was born on October 20 1926. His father, the second Lord Montagu, had already fathered four daughters by his two wives, as well as another girl, born to his mistress Eleanor Thornton, his sometime secretary and the model for the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy .


His father had been trying for a son and heir for 36 years and according to legend the local euphoria was such that at dawn on the day of the birth the sleeping swans on the Beaulieu River suddenly took off and flew three times round Palace House.
The second Baron died when Edward was only two and a half so the boy succeeded to the title in 1929. Lord Montagu, a somewhat sickly blond child, cruelly nicknamed the white mouse, was brought up in an almost exclusively female household of mother, nannies, governesses and sisters. In later life he used to wonder whether this feminine domination contributed to his own ambiguous sexuality.
His conventional upper-class education at St Peter’s Court, Broadstairs, and Eton was interrupted by the Second World War. This led first to evacuation along with the rest of St Peter’s to a country house in Devon and later with a small group of other affluent refugees to the Canadian Ridley College, where he learnt to appreciate ice cream and jazz – two enduring passions. Returning to Eton two-and-a-half years later and with a noticeable Canadian accent he had some difficulty acclimatising, and was relieved to leave school and join the Brigade of Guards Training Battalion at Sandown Park.
After an enjoyable period with the Grenadier Guards in Windsor and London he was posted to the 3rd Battalion in Palestine. This he later described as no picnic, since he and his comrades found themselves caught in the middle of the early stages of the savage Arab-Israeli conflict. This made such an impact on him that it was the subject of his maiden speech in the House of Lords, when he returned to read Modern History at Oxford.
At New College he shared rooms with his old Etonian friend Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner, the founder of Mustique and, like Montagu, a friend of Princess Margaret. At university he pursued an active social life to the neglect of his studies and was never entirely able to reconcile his membership of hearty traditional dining clubs like the Bullingdon with part-time jobs such as photographer to the Opera Club and the Experimental Theatre Group.
He eventually left Oxford of his own accord when his rooms were “trashed” by the Bullingdon after an end-of-term party featuring Terence Rattigan and an entire cast of Santa Clauses.
Thanks to such connections as Tennant, Montagu quickly found himself employed by the public relations agency Voice and Vision, where he was involved in the launch of the Eagle, a famous boys’ magazine in its day; publicised everything from South Pacific to Cadbury’s drinking chocolate; and became a well-known figure in café society.
He had just been voted the most promising young PR man in Britain by the American Institute of Public Relations when nemesis struck and he was arrested on the boy scout charges. For the next year or so he became the subject of endless blue jokes and innumerable bawdy songs. But he enjoyed the support of his close family and a wide variety of friends.
Cyril Garbett, the Archbishop of York , was a regular prison visitor and Montagu received letters of support from fellow Guards officers such as Freddie, the Kabaka of Buganda. Even prison had its lighter moments and a highlight of his time in Wakefield was a Christmas concert where he sung Noel Coward’s The Stately Homes of England as a duet with the former butler to the Duke of Sutherland accompanied on the piano by an ex-organist from Norwich Cathedral.


After the jury’s verdict on March 24 1954, Montagu’s counsel told the court bleakly that he was faced with a bitter future. Montagu was, however, resolved that as far as possible he would return to normal life. At Beaulieu he worked assiduously to restore an estate which, though ably administered by his widowed mother and a conscientious land agent, had suffered from years of low investment. In 1951 he had displayed a handful of vintage cars in the entrance hall of Palace House, partly as homage to his father, an early motoring pioneer.
Thanks to Montagu’s enthusiasm and entrepreneurial skills the Motor Museum rapidly grew to such an extent that Beaulieu outstripped more naturally endowed rival stately homes such as Longleat, Woburn and Chatsworth, and become one of the most popular and lucrative tourist attractions in Britain.
In addition to motoring activities Montagu also staged a number of concerts and festivals in the Beaulieu grounds, most notably a series of jazz festivals which culminated in what became known as the Battle of Beaulieu when, on 1961, a crowd of 20,000 got out of control. Much of the blame was attributed to groups of drunken or drug-crazed beatniks, though Montagu maintained that this was unfair to beatniks and that they were simply hooligans. The situation was made worse by the ineffective policing, which Montagu ascribed in part to a continuing vendetta on the part of the homophobic local chief constable. Montagu delayed his return to the Lords until January 1958, when he took part in a debate on the lighting of main roads. Thereafter he became a regular participant in political life and, after the partial reforms of the Blair administration, he was one of the few hereditaries chosen by his peers to retain his parliamentary rights and privileges.
His advocacy of heritage causes in parliament as well as his crucial role in the establishment of the Historic Houses Association led to his appointment, in 1984, as the first chairman of English Heritage. In almost 10 years in this post Montagu established what he believed were solid foundations. This appeared to be questioned after his succession by the colourful and controversial Jocelyn Stevens, and it was a matter of widespread surprise that Montagu’s achievements went unrecognised by any honour.


He himself used to say, ruefully, that he was already a Baron and could hardly expect to be elevated to a Viscountcy.
By his 70th birthday (celebrated with one of his characteristically flamboyant parties). Montagu had handed over most of the day-to-day running of the estate to his elder son Ralph, the child of his first wife, a local girl called Belinda Crossley. This first marriage also produced a daughter, Mary, a successful interior designer. The Montagus subsequently divorced and he later married Fiona Herbert, by whom he had a son.
Unlike Peter Wildeblood, who wrote a brilliant, polemical book about the Montagu Case called Against the Law (1955), Montagu never became active in sexual politics . He continued to take a keen interest in the arts, especially in London . At the weekend at Beaulieu he found rest and solace at his isolated Beach House, designed by Hugh Casson in the wide-decked open-plan style of the American west coast. Ironically this isolated and tranquil retreat was built on the site of the more primitive structure in which the infamous events concerning the boy scouts were alleged to have taken place in the early 1950s.

Joy Beverley


Date of Birth: 5 May 1924, Bethnal Green, East London, UK
Birth Name: Joycelyn Chinery
Nicknames: Joy Beverley

Joy Beverley was the eldest of the Beverley Sisters, a singing trio that found fame in the pre-rock and roll era with novelty songs such as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Little Drummer Boy.
The girls, Joy and her younger twin sisters Teddie and Babs, were famous for the identical clothes in which they always performed and their carefully rollered blonde hair-dos. Millions of Britons grew up with their close-harmony rendition of songs including Ferry Boat Inn; Sisters (written by Irving Berlin); How Much is That Doggie in the Window?; and Little Donkey. For more than a decade they broke box office records as the highest paid female entertainers in Britain; they became the first British girl group to break into the American Top 10 and entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2002 as the world’s longest surviving vocal group without a change in line-up.
As well as pop hits, for seven years during the 1940s and 1950s they had their own BBC television series , and they frequently topped the bill at the London Palladium, alongside such stars as Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Max Bygraves, taking part in several Royal Command performances.
In later life the sisters were sometimes described as the Spice Girls of their day, and the parallels were not just musical. When, in July 1958, Joy married the Wolverhampton Wanderers star and England captain Billy Wright, it caused almost as much hysteria as the nuptials of Posh and Becks, although the venue, a register office in Poole, Dorset, was rather more modest than the medieval castle chosen by their modern counterparts.


The wedding was meant to have been secret, but news leaked out and thousands of people converged on the town. “Police, taken unawares, were unable to deal with the traffic, despite a call for reinforcements,” reported The Daily Telegraph. “People stood on walls, climbed fences and trees and sat on roofs of cars. They sang, 'For they are jolly good fellows’ and brandished football rattles. Two girls fainted. Several others, including one of the bride’s sisters, Teddie Beverley, lost shoes in the jostling crowd.”
Like the Spice Girls, too, the Beverley Sisters sometimes gingered up their performances with more risqué fare. Songs with titles such as We Like To Do Things Like That; It’s Illegal, It’s Immoral, Or It Makes You Fat, and British pop’s first covert paean to contraception, We Have To Be So Careful All The Time (which was banned by the BBC), helped to maintain their appeal into the 1960s.


Although Joy and her sisters went into unofficial retirement in favour of full-time motherhood in the late 1960s, they returned to performing when their children had grown up. In the 1980s they emerged as icons on the gay cabaret scene after appearing for a season of all-gay nights at Peter Stringfellow’s Hippodrome in London, where their cheerfully bitchy anthem Sisters (“Lord help the mister / Who comes between me and my sister / And Lord help the sister / Who comes between me and my man”) brought the house down. They continued to perform into the new millennium, singing for the Queen at her Golden Jubilee Concert in 2002 and taking part in the the 60th anniversary celebrations for D-Day in 2004 and for VE Day the following year.


Joy Beverley was born Joycelyn Chinery on May 5 1924, Bethnal Green, East London, UK.
Three years to the day before her younger sisters, Babs and Teddie. Their parents, George and Victoria, performed in musical halls as “Coram and Mills”, and the family lived in a two-up, two-down in the Homerton district, near Hackney, where the girls shared the same bed until they were teenagers.
During the war, the girls were evacuated together to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, where they amused themselves by singing close harmony. Spotted by a man recruiting for the “Ovaltinies”, the harmony-singing advert for Ovaltine on Radio Luxembourg, they soon caught the eye of Glenn Miller and went on to record with his orchestra at the BBC’s secret wartime studio in Bedford. Having signed their first contract, with Columbia Records, in 1951, by 1952 they were starring at the London Palladium. The following year they had their first Top 10 hit with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which reached No 6 in the charts.
In 1953 the sisters made their debut in the US, performing on NBC with the Glenn Miller Band (Miller himself being presumed dead in 1944, having disappeared after heading out over the English Channel on a small aeroplane bound for Paris). Three years later they broke into the US charts with their version of Greensleeves. In the late 1950s they made a coast-to-coast appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, their host pronouncing them “sassy, but classy”.


At the time Joy married Billy Wright in 1958, the Beverley Sisters were reportedly earning £1,000 a week. Billy, by contrast, was never paid more than £24 a week by Wolverhampton Wanderers , and in more than 100 matches for England he never walked away with more than £60. As Joy recalled, the life of a footballer’s wife in the 1950s was very different from what it became in the high-rolling 1980s and 1990s: “'We were boringly well behaved, and loyal. In marriage you have to keep telling yourself that your husband is very important. That is not fashionable now, is it? I am disappointed at the way some women behave.”
The disparity between their earning power seemed to have no effect on their relationship, however, and they remained happily married until Billy Wright’s death in 1994.



The Beverley Sisters enjoyed their late-blossoming status as gay icons, although Joy complained to an interviewer that their cabaret audiences wore “more make-up in an evening than we wear in a year”.
In later life the sisters lived in Totteridge, in three near-identical next-door houses. When in 2006 they were awarded MBEs in the New Year Honours, they turned up at Buckingham Palace in identical white suits with pink hats and scarves.

Wes Craven


Date of Birth: 2 August 1939, Cleveland, Ohio, US
Birth Name: Wesley Earl Craven
Nicknames: Wes Craven

Wes Craven, the film director, who made his living out of scaring the wits out of people in such films as A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), earning the nickname “Sultan of Slash”; later, as audiences became cynical about the franchise-driven genre, he served up horror with an ironic tongue in cheek.
Craven’s work left the critics divided. Some reviewers denounced him as a purveyor of gore with a dazzling technique and nothing to say; others compared him to Ingmar Bergman.
Craven himself recalled, during his early career, that guests would leave dinner parties upon realising who he was. But he always had fans among younger directors who appreciated the intelligence and psychological insight he brought to low-budget film making.


He created some of the most memorable bogeymen in film, culminating, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, in the blade-taloned Freddy Krueger, a murdered child molester in a moth-eaten sweater and filthy fedora who is brought back to life via the dreams of the teenage descendants of his killers.
Made at a time when Aids was coming to public attention and the prospect of environmental Armageddon had become a topic in classrooms, the film seemed to tap into deep-seated fears.
Craven, who had a master’s degree in philosophy, became a prominent defender of the horror genre which, he argued, gives people the mental equipment to deal with a frightening world. “You’re talking about the beasts in the forest that come after you during the daytime or during the night but in a way that’s under control. So in a sense, you can own the beast,” he explained.
His films were often inspired by true stories. Nightmare was inspired by reports in the Los Angeles Times about a group of refugees who had fled the Khmer Rouge, healthy young men in their twenties, who, after fleeing to the United States, were suffering disturbing nightmares, after which they refused to sleep. “They would try to stay awake, and they would describe the nightmares to their families,” Craven recalled. “Finally there would be a scream and the guy would be dead. Death by nightmare.”
The resulting film established Craven as a leading director . His producers established a franchise and went on to make several more Freddy Krueger films of varying quality, without Craven’s input, until 1995 when he released Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.


By this time, as he recalled, “horror had reached one of its sort of classical, cyclical stages of ennui on the part of the audience”. So Craven decided to poke fun at the genre. New Nightmare had the actors, studio head and Craven himself being stalked by Freddy Krueger as they worked on a new instalment of the series.
Craven subverted the horror genre again with Scream (1996), the tale of a high-school student who becomes the target of a mysterious killer known as Ghostface. Full of ironic self-reference (“This is like something out of a Wes Carpenter film,” one character observes), the film was a box office hit, taking $173 million worldwide, spawning a lucrative franchise and inspiring the “Scary Movie” parodies.
Wesley Earl Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 2 1939 to strict Baptist parents. Even though he was forbidden from going to the cinema, he claimed that his religious upbringing had shaped his talent as a film maker, encouraging him to “ask big questions about life and death”.
The character of Freddy Krueger, however, drew on an event in his own childhood when, one night, he heard a shuffling sound outside his bedroom window: “I crept over there and looked down. It was a man wearing a fedora.
“He stopped and looked up directly into my face. I backed into the shadows, listening and waiting for him to go away. But I didn’t hear anything. I went back to the window. He looked up at me again and then turned away. He walked into the door of our apartment building. I’ve never, ever been that scared in my life. I was terrified.”


Craven studied English and Psychology at Wheaton College, Illinois . He later earned a master’s in Philosophy and Writing from Johns Hopkins University, but it was while he was working as a humanities professor at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York state, that he first went to the cinema and fell in love. In 1971 he left his teaching job to work as a film editor at a post-production house in Manhattan.
After writing and directing pornographic films under pseudonyms, Craven made his debut under his own name in 1972 with the ultra-low-budget ($90,000) shocker The Last House on the Left, about a gang of psychotic killers who rape, torture and murder two teenage girls, only to meet a more horrific fate at the hands of the girls’ parents.
Marketed under the slogan, “To avoid fainting, keep repeating: It’s only a movie . . . only a movie . . .” the film was a grisly remake of Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar-winning Virgin Spring (1959) featuring sickeningly real scenes of sadism and violence. Released mostly on drive-in screens in America, the film was banned by the censors in Britain, though it has come to be seen as a classic .
His follow-up, The Hills Have Eyes, about cannibalistic mutants stalking a suburban family who have become stranded in the desert, established his reputation as a cult director, but it was A Nightmare on Elm Street that propelled him into the mainstream.


Craven’s other films included Deadly Friend (1986); The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988); Shocker (1990); The People Under the Stairs (1991); Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) and Red Eye (2005). In 1999 he made a rare foray outside the horror genre with Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep, who was nominated for an Oscar. His last film, in 2011, was the fourth in the Scream franchise. People were sometimes surprised to learn that Craven was not, in his words, “a Mansonite crazoid”, but a charming, humorous man whose hobby was bird-watching. When asked by an interviewer to name the thing that most terrified him, he replied “my ex-wife’s divorce lawyer”.

Yvonne Craig


Date of Birth: 16 May 1937, Tayorville, Illinois, US
Birth Name: Yvonne Joyce Craig
Nicknames: Yvonne Craig

Dancer turned actress who brought a spirited grace to the high-kicking antics of the superheroine Batgirl
Yvonne Craig trained as a dancer and became the youngest-ever member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; but it was on television that her athletic grace won legions of fans, as Batgirl to Adam West’s Batman.


Now fondly remembered as an example of 1960s camp, Batman, made by the ABC television network, was steeped in the Pop Art sensibility of the era. The storylines were comic, the sets garish, and colourful bubble words like KAPOW!, BAM! and ZOK! livened up the fight sequences. When audience figures started to pall towards the end of the decade, the writers decided to freshen up the show by bringing in the character of Barbara Gordon, a good-looking librarian who pursues a second career as the crime-fighting Batgirl.


The producer, Howie Horwitz, was anxious to preserve the character’s femininity, so Batgirl was forbidden to punch her various on-screen nemeses, relying instead on high kicks and handily placed objects. While Adam West had his black Batcycle (with a detachable self-propelled sidecar for Robin), Yvonne Craig drove a purple version with a large yellow bow. She did most of her own stunts, which were made all the more uncomfortable by the bat wings that had replaced the motorcycle’s shock absorbers “like jumping off a table stiff-legged”, as she put it.
Such dedication could not halt the show’s decline, however, and after one more series it was cancelled in 1968. Looking back, Yvonne Craig expressed disappointment in the way the character was handled after her initial test screening. “When we did the pilot, Batgirl was supposed to be not only as good as the guys but better,” she recalled. “She ended up being this cute little bland character, when she could have been more in the style of Katharine Hepburn.”
None the less, her performance was eagerly taken up by feminist critics as a spirited example of the hard-working career girl an ally to the hero, rather than his dependant. In 1972 Yvonne Craig stepped into the role once more, this time on behalf of the US Department of Labor. A 30-second skit had Batgirl swinging to the rescue of a captive Batman and Robin but not before demanding equal pay.


Yvonne Joyce Craig was born on May 16 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois, and aspired to a career in dance from an early age. While attending the Edith James School of Ballet she was spotted by the Russian ballerina Alexandra Danilova, who helped her win a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York. Aged 16 she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but left three years later and eventually fell into acting after a chance meeting with John Ford’s son Patrick. Her first starring role was as the beautiful yet spoiled Elena in The Young Land (1959), which the younger Ford produced.


By the mid-1960s she had moved away from temptress roles to play more traditional leading ladies, appearing alongside Elvis Presley in It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). The two of them hit it off and Yvonne Craig spent time with Presley at his home in Bel Air though, coming from the insulated life of the professional dancer, she had little idea of his rock-and-roll credentials. The reality was finally brought home to her when, trying to find the light-switch in his bedroom late one night, she accidentally hit a panic button and was greeted by several carloads of policemen at the front door.


On television she made a foray into the spy arena with a guest part in the original series of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1965), gave a passionate performance as the creatively named Ecstasy La Joie in The Wild Wild West (1966) and was painted green for a memorable turn as a psychotic alien in Star Trek (1969). In later life she swapped acting for a career in property, but continued to make regular appearances at comic and fantasy conventions in America.

Stephen Lewis


Date of Birth: 17 December 1926, Poplar, London, UK
Birth Name: Stephen Lewis
Nicknames: Stephen Lewis, Stephen Cato

In 1960, he wrote Sparrers Can’t Sing, a play about life in the East End that relied heavily on actors’ improvisations. It was a success and was released as a film (Sparrows Can’t Sing) in 1963, with a cast that included Barbara Windsor and Roy Kinnear – although even their talents could not sell the social realist dialogue to a global audience.
The New York Times sniffed: “This isn’t a picture for anyone with a logical mind or an ear for language. The gabble of Cockney spoken here is as incomprehensible as the reasoning of those who speak it.” It was the first English-language film to be released in the US with subtitles.


As Lewis’s career illustrates, a great number of the comedy stars of the 1960s and 1970s came from serious theatre with proudly socialist roots, while television and film started to tap into a growing appetite for working-class drama and comedy. Throughout the 1960s, Lewis took a series of small roles culminating in a large part in the 1969 television play, Mrs Wilson’s Diary, alongside another Theatre Workshop regular called Bob Grant.


That same year, he landed a role in a new series called On the Buses, which also featured Grant as a lascivious bus ticket-collector teamed up with Reg Varney, his equally Dionysian mate.
Although the show was undoubtedly rude, crude and occasionally prejudiced, it offered genuinely witty reflections on the nature of 1970s class conflict. In the world of On the Buses, workers were constantly on strike and after more money; managerial characters such as Lewis’s Blakey were exploitative snobs who thought they had authority just because they wore a badge.


It was plain where the audience's sympathies were supposed to lie: many was the time that a bus “hilariously” ran over poor Blakey’s foot or a bucket of water was tipped over his head. The cry: “I ’ate you Butler” was born of impotent rage. Although Varney the actor was Lewis’s senior, it was still Varney’s character, Reg, that got all the “crumpet”.  Lewis was only in his early forties when he took the role of Blakey, but playing ageing authority figures became his stock in trade. In the 1970s, he appeared in the television sequel to On The Buses, Don’t Drink the Water, three big-screen outings of On The Buses and two cinematic sex comedies (Adventures of a Taxi Driver, Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate). He later had parts in the films Personal Services (1987) and The Krays (1990).


In 1988, he played a new character in the long-running BBC series Last of the Summer Wine as the character Clem “Smiler” Hemmingway  which he thoroughly enjoyed. “It’s got so much charm,” he said of the show. “I don’t think any other country in the world has comedy like that.” From 1995 to 1997, he appeared in the equally gentle sitcom Oh, Doctor Beeching! In 2007, he stepped down from Last of the Summer Wine because of ill health.
Stephen Lewis remained a committed socialist. In a stroke of irony, however, in 1981 he was hired to promote CH coaches, in the character of Blakey; it was the first private bus company to break the public transport monopoly of Cardiff city council. This was exactly the kind of Thatcherite revolution of which Blakey would probably have approved.
In his diaries, Tony Benn recalled campaigning with Lewis in 1984, describing him as “very direct” and “extremely amusing”.

Jonathan Ollivier


Date of Birth: April 26 1977, Northampton, UK
Birth Name: Jonathan Byrne Ollivier
Nicknames: Jonathan Ollivier

Jonathan Ollivier, the dancer, was an internationally acclaimed star in British companies, particularly the choreographer Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and Northern Ballet.
With his vulpine good looks and rangy body, Ollivier could inject an ambiguous mystery into leading roles in contemporary ballet stories, such as Bourne’s male Swan in his celebrated Swan Lake rewrite, in which the Wall Street Journal’s critic considered that he had even more forceful charisma in 2010 than the role’s originator in 1995, Adam Cooper of the Royal Ballet.
Jonathan Ollivier had built up a rack of stage roles such as Stanley Kowalski, Dracula, Heathcliff and Romeo in productions at Northern Ballet, Leeds, where for seven years he was a major attraction as principal dancer, able to cut an appealingly romantic figure in a variety of costume roles.
Even though few of the ballets were highly rated by critics, Ollivier’s distinction as a performer was consistently given critical recognition and was twice nominated in the National Dance Awards as Best Male Dancer in 2003 and 2004.


Despite the success of his youth, it was in his thirties, and after he decided to become freelance, that Ollivier achieved a more complex and interesting artistic profile. This arrived mainly through his performing of three subtle character creations by Matthew Bourne, in which the mature Ollivier found a new dramatic range.
As the mysterious, dangerous male Swan in Bourne’s modern Swan Lake, as the amoral 1960s London “babe-magnet” Speight in Play Without Words, and this summer as the devilish mechanic in The Car Man, Ollivier deployed a memorable unpredictability and virile presence.
It was his ability as a dance-actor to fuse edgy vulnerability with fatal attractiveness that led to his being given the prestige of leading the last performance of The Car Man’s run, tragically prevented on Sunday.
Jonathan Byrne Ollivier was born in Northampton on April 26 1977. His father, a builder, left when Jonathan was two, and his mother brought him up on her own with his three sisters. Having an Irish grandfather, he had taken up Irish dancing young, but after being shouted at by his teacher changed to ballet aged six.
He asked his mother to let him stay to watch two of his sisters as they took ballet and tap classes, rather than go with her to the shops, recalling later: “I made up my mind from a very young age that it was exactly what I wanted to do.” He dealt with bullies at school by taking up karate and progressed to a black belt.
At 16 Ollivier considered himself fortunate to have failed the Royal Ballet School audition, since full-time training at the Rambert Ballet School opened up a range of possibilities in both ballet and contemporary dance that he would exploit later. Aged 19, he got his first job in South Africa with Cape Town City Ballet, where he met his future wife, the South African dancer Desiré Samaai.
Three years later he returned to Britain to join Northern Ballet Theatre, Leeds, where Desiré Samaai, whom he had married, joined him. Ollivier soon originated the role of Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire by the contemporary choreographer Didy Veldman and the main part in Michael Pink’s Dracula. He then attracted fans by dancing the more classical Romeo and Tybalt in Massimo Moricone’s Romeo and Juliet, he said he preferred playing the bad Tybalt to the good Romeo.
While in Leeds, Ollivier was a dancer of notable strength, though not always in works worthy of him. He proved his versatility by the range of the leading roles created for him: in Birgit Scherzer’s Requiem, Moricone’s Jekyll and Hyde, and in many by Northern Ballet Theatre’s choreographer-director David Nixon including Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream .


In 2005 Ollivier and his wife starred together in Veronica Paeper’s dance version of La Traviata.
Ollivier left in 2007 for the more classical atmosphere of Canada’s Alberta Ballet, but returned to Britain as a freelance in his thirties, with signal success. Soon after his first son was born, he caught attention in three highly varied roles, with Michael Clark in his New Work 2012, and in Britain’s first tour of the musical Dirty Dancing, in which he starred.
He was then hired by Bourne for his innovative Play Without Words, a dance production based on Joseph Losey’s film The Servant, in which Ollivier’s Speight was considered by one critic to be “as explosive as Elvis”.
After this, he took over the leading role in Bourne’s Swan Lake, hailed as exceptional in New York on the company’s 2010 tour, and then to The Car Man this summer.
Always an eloquent advocate for ballet for boys, in 2006 Ollivier was presented with an honorary fellowship from the University of Northampton. “I don’t think people understand how athletic dance is,” he said. “It’s actually very close to training for martial arts .”

Susan Sheridan


Date of Birth:  18 March 1947, Surbition, Surrey, UK
Birth Name: Susan Haydn Thomas
Nicknames: Susan Sheridan

Susan Sheridan, who has died aged 68, was an actress and voice artist who provided the voices of Trillian in the original radio production of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978), and a range of children’s television characters, most notably Noddy in the BBC’s Noddy’s Toyland Adventures (1992-94 and 1999-2001).
The mischievous doll in the red and yellow taxi first appeared in Enid Blyton’s book Noddy Goes To Toyland in 1949 and on television in the 1950s. Known as Oui-Oui in France, Doddi in Iceland and Purzelknirps in Germany, he was an immediate hit with children, though he tended to be sniffed at by the literati for shallow characterisation, and even found himself accused of racism and sexism.
By the 1990s, when Susan Sheridan was picked to voice the character, Noddy had been forced to clean up his act. The original stories had featured “golliwogs” who lived in Golly Town, including Mr Golly, the proprietor of Toyland’s garage. These characters had been dropped from the BBC’s television adaptation of the books in the 1980s and replaced by other soft toys. Also gone was Miss Rap, the schoolmistress who dished out spankings with a slipper.
Noddy’s Toyland Adventures featured a new character not present in the original books, Dinah Doll, a china doll described as a “black, assertive, ethnic minority female”, for whom, among several other minor characters, Susan Sheridan also provided the voice.


The animation studio Cosgrove Hall made the series and it did a superb job bringing the Noddy stories to life. Much of the success of the series was due to Susan Sheridan, whose voice had been selected out of some 200 audition tapes. Explaining how she came up with Noddy’s sing-song cadences, she explained that she had studied the illustrations in the original Noddy books: “He’s got eyebrows that look surprised or cross, so that’s how I found the voice. He talks up and down like that most of the time.”
She was born Susan Haydn Thomas in Surbiton, Surrey, and educated at the Brigidine Convent, Windsor, and at Ashford Grammar School.
After training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she cut her teeth in regional rep before making her West End debut in 1975 at the Phoenix Theatre as Christopher Robin in a production of the musical Winnie-the-Pooh.


Her voice skills led to auditions with BBC radio, on which she made her name as the astrophysicist Trillian in the radio adaptation of Douglas Adams’s cult sci-fi comedy. Other characters she voiced included Angus and Elspeth, the children who befriend a family of Loch Ness Monsters in the BBC cartoon series The Family-Ness (1984), Jimbo the talking aeroplane in Jimbo and the Jet-Set (BBC1, 1986), and Princess Sylvia in the BBC animated English language teaching series Muzzy in Gondoland (1987) and Muzzy Comes Back (1989).
She dubbed voices in several films, including Princess Eilonwy in the Disney cartoon The Black Cauldron (1985), the young Puyi in Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987) and one of the chickens in Chicken Run (2002). She also “voiced” video games, read audio books and in later years worked as a voice coach. She remained active on the stage with roles in touring productions and a one-woman show The Merry Wife of Wilton (2004).
In 2011 she made a rare appearance in front of the cameras as Mother Thomas Aquinas, a nun found strangled in a chicken coop, in Midsomer Murders.

George Cole


Date of Birth: 22 April 1925, Tooting, London, UK
Birth Name: George Edward Cole
Nicknames: George Cole

George Cole, the actor, who has died aged 90, was best-known as the devious and conniving Arthur Daley in the popular ITV series Minder and as Alastair Sim’s crooked accomplice Flash Harry in the St Trinian’s films of the 1950s.
One of the most endearing and enduring popular players of rueful light comedy, and once described as looking like “an amiable pall bearer”, Cole played numerous untrustworthy characters in a career spanning 70 years. He believed that his “crafty but sad” appearance was responsible for his repeated casting in what he described as “spiv” roles.
Apart from a weakness for strong-smelling cigars and a passion for horse racing, Cole had little in common with the roguish Arthur Daley. An inveterate punter, he confessed that “the ITV Seven was my downfall. I got it the very first time, about £1,100. After that I couldn’t leave it alone.” It was perhaps just as well that Cole’s portrayal of Arthur Daley had made him one of the highest-paid actors on British television.
Unlike his screen persona, Cole considered himself primarily a family man. After his unofficial adoption at the age of 16 by Alastair Sim and his wife, Naomi, Cole moved in with the couple. When he later married, he built a house on a five-acre plot of land next to the Sims’ home at Nettlebed in Oxfordshire and lived there with his own family.


Despite his long career Cole claimed that he had never been ambitious as an actor, insisting that he preferred “an afternoon pottering in the garden to almost anything”. He distinguished himself from later generations of artists by taking up acting at the age of 14 to avoid starting work as a butcher’s boy. Cole claimed that his success was based on a sense of timing and a talent for droll facial expressions, skills he had learned from Alastair Sim whom he described as “one of the most talented actors in the business”.
George Edward Cole was born on April 22 1925 in Tooting, south London, and adopted when he was 10 days old after being abandoned by his mother. Educated locally, he won a scholarship to the Surrey county council school at Morden, but his educational hopes were dashed when his father had to give up work because of illness. “My father was gassed in the First World War and was an epileptic,” Cole recalled. “He couldn’t hold down a job, and when we couldn’t pay the rent the council gave him a job pulling a road roller. That did for him in the end.”
Cole – who described his upbringing as “the poorest you could get” – left school at 14 to help support his family. He worked as a newspaper delivery boy before gaining an apprenticeship with the local butcher. Due to start at the butcher’s on Monday morning, he answered an advertisement in The Star on Friday night that read “Boy wanted for West End show”. He auditioned on the Saturday, declaring that he could recite a poem by Julius Caesar called Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Cole was offered a part and joined the touring company performing The White Horse Inn in 1939.
When the tour ended after six months, Cole returned home and made his London debut as a Cockney evacuee in Cottage to Let (Wyndham’s, 1940). Hailed in The Daily Telegraph as “a very youthful actor with spirit and a grand sense of the occasion”, Cole reprised the same role in the film version two years later, appearing for the first time opposite Alastair Sim. Sim and his wife were responsible for all Cole’s theatrical training, including the thankless task of eradicating Cole’s Cockney accent.


With Sim’s help he appeared in his second film, Those Kids from Town (1942) before joining the RAF the following year. Cole ended his service career running an officers’ mess bar in occupied Germany.
After the war Cole returned to acting, appearing in a variety of mediocre films including My Brother’s Keeper (1948), The Spider and the Fly (1949) and Gone to Earth (1950). He had greater success with Alastair Sim in the classic comedies Laughter in Paradise (1951) and Scrooge (1952).
Over the next decade, Cole and Sim repeated their screen partnership in a string of films, the most successful of which were the St Trinian’s series, directed by Frank Launder. In the first, The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954), Cole (as the spiv Flash Harry) received third billing after Sim and Joyce Grenfell. The film was extremely successful and was followed by five more, including Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1958) and Cole’s only films in the series without Sim, The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1961) and The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966).


Between films, Cole starred as the bumbling bachelor David Bliss in the long-running radio series A Life of Bliss (1952-67). The show was broadcast on Sunday afternoons. Cole recalled it as “wholesome to the point of nausea”, and insisted that the best part of the show had been Percy Edwards’s performance as Psyche the dog.
By the mid-1960s, along with the rest of the British film industry, Cole’s film career had stalled. Parts dried up and Cole turned to the stage to revive his flagging fortunes. He worked consistently throughout the 1960s and 1970s in productions such as Banana Ridge, The Philanthropist and Too Good to be True. He also appeared in several musical hits such as Front Page (1981), The Pirates of Penzance (1982) and as Captain Hook in Peter Pan (1987).
But his greatest success came on his move into television, in series like The Bounder (1976) and Minder (1979). Cole was offered the part of Arthur Daley in Minder while making Dennis Potter’s banned play, Brimstone and Treacle.
Minder was not an instant success, and the first two series flopped. But by 1984, the show had become a hit, with Cole becoming inseparably linked with the shifty second-hand car dealer Arthur Daley. He was not the first choice for the role, and recalled that the writer and most of the production team were unhappy about the casting. “Verity Lambert [the producer] was the only one who thought I’d do,” he remembered, “and she was right.”
Playing the part with droll understatement, he helped to revive Cockney rhyming slang and deployed many a fine malapropism “The world is your lobster, my son” being one of the most memorable.
He was unable to account for his enormous success in the part or the longevity of the series, which ran until 1991. “It’s a bit worrying really,” he said. “After all, Arthur is a crook. He nearly always lets [his boneheaded bodyguard] Terry down and yet he’s one of the most popular characters on television.” Cole appeared in each series of Minder, seamlessly adapting to a new sidekick when Dennis Waterman left the programme.
Cole became so identified in the public’s mind to the Arthur Daley character that even when he appeared away from the series as in television commercials for the Leeds Building Society – Arthur’s pork pie hat and sheepskin coat were in evidence. The series sold all over the world, making it (as Arthur himself would have noted) “a nice little earner” for ITV.


In 1991 Cole followed the final series of Minder with an appearance as Henry Root in the film dramatisation of The Henry Root Letters. Asked if he minded being typecast as a string of unscrupulous characters he replied: “I think it’s just marvellous to be in work. Before Minder I never really knew where my next job was coming from. Now I’m booked up for the next two years.” His later television work included appearances in staples such as Agatha Christie’s Marple, Midsomer Murders and Heartbeat. In the mid to late-1990s he played in two short-lived sitcoms, first as a lonely pensioner in My Good Friend and then as a cantankerous father in Dad.
He was appointed OBE in 1992.

Cilla Black


Date of Birth: 27 May 1943, Vauxhall, Liverpool, UK
Birth Name: Priscilla Maria Veronica White
Nicknames: Cilla Black

Cilla Black, broke through in the 1960s as a buck-toothed pop singer in the Merseybeat boom and went on to become one of the enduring stars of television light entertainment, hosting the brassy Saturday night favourites Surprise, Surprise and Blind Date. 
In August 1963 she was a 20-year-old typist in a Liverpool office. A month later, having left the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein smitten, she recorded her first hit, Love of the Loved, a Paul McCartney number. By 1965 she had become the female symbol of British youth  with two No 1 hits and a season at the London Palladium, and by 1968 she was a millionaire at 25. A quarter of a century later she was the highest-paid female entertainer on British television. 
She made a career out of what one critic described as “the phenomenon of ordinariness”. Indeed she would scarcely demur at the description “dead common”. “Class, I haven’t,” she conceded, “but style I’ve got.” As the Liverpool docker’s daughter and ingenue pop star trailing in the Beatles’ wake, Cilla Black resolutely adhered to type: lacquered mane of flame-red hair (the consequence of a sixpenny rinse at the age of 13) short skirts, long legs and a strong Scouse accent. 


After starring in her own BBC series Cilla in the late 1960s, she moved to ITV to star in a live Saturday night variety show, popping up “somewhere in Britain” with a camera crew to knock at someone’s front door. She once famously disturbed a man who skulked blinking on to his balcony followed by someone else’s wife wrapped in a sheet; another “Come on, luv, it’s Cilla 'ere” intrusion took her into a room where rows of embarrassed men on chairs who muttered one-word answers to her increasingly querulous questions turned out to be the clientele of the local brothel. 


It was her ability to combine mischievous curiosity with deadpan humour that sealed her success with Surprise, Surprise (1984) on ITV, the strangely gripping show for which she was paid £15,000 a week. As well as emotional reunions of long-lost relatives, the show featured “Cillagrams”, in which she again turned up at a location unannounced but this time marking some special occasion with a song. Invited to the run-down port of Holyhead by the local Mayor, she sang Hooray for Holyhead in the main street, the watching crowds swelled by the staff of Woolworths who trooped out to hear her while looters trooped in through the back door and plundered the shop. 
Unashamedly working-class, the show was panned by the critics as rubbish, but Cilla was unflinching. “I didn’t choose television. Television chose me,” she said. “I was a bit of fun and a bit of Scouse rough and everybody liked me, I was normal. I could have been the kid next door. And then I turned into the auntie next door. And now I’m the granny next door.” 
But accusations of bad taste followed when, at Christmas 1987, the show took her to a hospital at Zeebrugge where victims of the ferry disaster were being treated, and she led medical staff and survivors through the streets of Bruges singing Little Drummer Boy. 
“She really is a battler,” noted The Daily Telegraph critic, “and has honed to a fine edge her skills of cajolery, intimacy and self-deprecation .” 



Her second television hit, Blind Date, launched in 1985, was a game of flirtatious lucky-dip between the sexes featuring participants separated by a screen who paired off without seeing each other amid laboured, scripted repartee. She had seen the show while touring in Australia, thought it hysterical and urged LWT to make a British version. The programme was compulsive viewing for many, although it came to be criticised for its increasingly explicit sexual innuendo. 
The success rate for many of the couples was low, and most viewers tuned in to watch Cilla’s brilliantly scathing put-downs delivered (usually to the men) with robust Scouse grit. Three of the paired-up couples did, however, get as far as the altar after meeting on the show, and Cilla was guest of honour at all three weddings. In January 2003 she announced during a live broadcast that she was leaving Blind Date after 18 years. Paul O’Grady and Dale Winton were both lined up to replace her, but the show was cancelled after she left. 
Priscilla Maria Veronica White was born in Liverpool on May 27 1943, the only daughter of a Mersey docker. Her mother ran a market stall selling stockings and trinkets. The family lived in a four-roomed council flat above a barber’s shop on Scotland Road, the rough and ready “Scottie Road” of Liverpool folklore and an Irish-Catholic stronghold; until she was nine, they had no indoor lavatory and bathed in a tin tub in front of the kitchen stove. 


Priscilla Maria Veronica White was born 27 May 1943, Vauxhall, Liverpool, UK and educated at St Anthony’s Catholic secondary modern school nearby, she left at 15 to learn office skills at Anfield Commercial College. Within a year, she had taken a job at £4 a week as a filing clerk at British Insulated Callenders Cables, where she typed and deployed her 80wpm shorthand, supplementing her wages during her lunch hour by checking the coats at the Cavern Club, the up-and-coming music venue in Mathew Street in Liverpool city centre. At night she sang with some of the emergent Merseybeat groups such as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and the Big Three. 
At the nearby Iron Door club, she also sang with the still-unknown Beatles, courtesy of John Lennon who called her “Cyril”. In early 1962 Lennon introduced her to the Beatles’ new manager, Brian Epstein, who rejected her after she underwent an impromptu audition in the middle of a Beatles show at the Majestic ballroom in Birkenhead; she sang Gershwin’s Summertime but it was not in her key. 
Her luck changed when, accompanied by John Rubin’s modern jazz group, she sang a few standards at the Blue Angel club, not knowing that, again, Epstein was in the audience. By now the Beatles were on their way to stardom, and Epstein’s talent stable was expanding. “Why didn’t you sing like that before?” Epstein asked. He was convinced that Cilla would become a huge star. Having changed her name to Cilla Black (the local Mersey Beat newspaper had mistakenly called her by the wrong colour) she made her first proper appearance with the Beatles at the Odeon, Southport, on August 30 1963, watched by Epstein’s father, Harry, who predicted she would be “the next Gracie Fields”. 


A week later, over Sunday tea, Cilla and her father signed a contract with Brian Epstein. She was to be his first designer pop star and so was born Cilla black. 
Cilla’s first single, Love of the Loved, written by Paul McCartney, charted disappointingly at number 35. But in February 1964 she had her first number one with Burt Bacharach’s Anyone Who Had A Heart. The American singer Dionne Warwick, who had already released her own recording of the song in the US, was miffed; while her version sounded effortless it was apparent that, as one critic put it, “Cilla was straining her garters”. Cilla Black herself recalled 30 years later: “Dionne was dead choked and she’s never forgiven me to this day.” 
Epstein had heard Warwick’s record in the USA and had returned to Britain with a copy which he played to the producer George Martin. He immediately declared it would be perfect for Shirley Bassey. When Epstein insisted he had earmarked it for Cilla, Martin doubted that the Liverpool singer had the vocal ability to pull off such a powerful number. In the event Cilla’s recording sold a million copies. 
When in May she followed up with a second No 1, You’re My World, Cilla became the first British female singer to have two successive No 1 hits. She appeared in that year’s Royal Variety Performance, where she met Gracie Fields, who did not take to her. Nor did Noël Coward, watching in the stalls, who thought her “ghastly beyond belief”. 


In November 1966 she appeared with the comedian Frankie Howerd in Way Out in Piccadilly (Prince of Wales), the start of a long-standing friendship between them. The following year she signed a £63,000 contract to present her own series, Cilla, on BBC Television. Paul McCartney wrote the signature tune, Step Inside Love, and the critics loved her. “She’s ordinary and unassuming,” noted Philip Purser in The Sunday Telegraph, “and still tickled to death at being plucked out of the typing pool by the great god Pop.” 
Cilla Black married her long-time boyfriend and manager, Bobby Willis, in 1969 who later died in 1999.


An appearance on Terry Wogan’s television chat show in 1983 was followed by a similar date with Jimmy Tarbuck on ITV; this was seen by John Birt, then director of programmes for LWT, who was struck by her fresh, unaffected, and “delicious, naturally funny” style. Realising her potential as a game show host, he booked her for Surprise, Surprise. She became a regular guest at Birt’s lunches for fellow celebrity Scousers when, with the likes of Anne Robinson, Roger McGough and Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, she tucked in to chip butties, scouse stew with pickled beetroot and jelly and evaporated milk. 
Cilla Black never refused an interview request, the River Room at the Savoy being her venue of choice, and the presence of her beloved husband being a pre-condition a relic of her being invited, by one journalist in the 1960s, to stroke his war wound. 
Politically, she swung from supporting Harold Wilson in the 1960s to backing John Major in the 1990s. She was an enthusiastic supporter of Margaret Thatcher . In August 2014, she was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to the Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September’s referendum. 
Cilla Black was named ITV Personality of the Year for Blind Date in 1987 and Variety Club Showbusiness Personality of 1991. She won a Bafta in 1995, but disliked being labelled a television presenter. “I always think of myself as a singer. That’s what I want on my gravestone: Here lies Cilla Black, singer. Not TV presenter.” 
Appointed OBE in 1997, the proudest moment of her career, she once declared, was “absolutely rubbing shoulders with and meeting the Royal family”. At her own palatial 10-bedroomed house in Denham, Buckinghamshire, once owned by Sir Malcolm Sargent and bought in 1965 for £40,000, she enjoyed her 17-acre garden and, in keeping with her lifelong frugality, vacuumed it herself every Sunday (the housekeeper’s day off) “in case the Queen drops in”. 
She published her memoirs, Step Inside, in 1985. In 1994 she turned down an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University (formerly Polytechnic) when some of the students complained it would “devalue” their degrees. 


In 2014 the actress Sheridan Smith gave a highly acclaimed performance in Cilla, a three-part television drama about Cilla Black’s rise to fame, acted, noted The Daily Telegraph, with a “killer combination of warmth, mischievousness and vulnerability”. Cilla herself described the portrayal as “terrific”, adding, “but God knows how she sang so well with those false teeth in.” 
“I didn’t want to be Doris Day,” Cilla Black once reflected, “but I wanted what went with it. She’d talk about her backyard and it was three acres of lawn; our backyard was where we kept the coal. I wanted her backyard, the fame and fortune. If there had been Blind Date then, I would have been first in the queue.” 

Omar Sharif


Date of Birth: 10 April 1932, Alexandria, Egypt
Birth Name: Michel Demitri Chalhoub
Nicknames: Omar Sharif

Omar was introduced to the international screen in one of the most dramatic star entrances of film history. This was the scene in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) in which Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) first makes contact with the Arab chieftain Sherif Ali (Sharif), who will become his key ally in the desert fighting, and the latter, in a daringly protracted sequence, develops from a speck on the horizon into a towering, huge horseman, rifle at the ready.
Sharif was instantly elevated by this debut into a major box-office figure, and went on to star in a succession of big-budget films during the 1960s, most notably the contrasting blockbuster hits Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Funny Girl (1968), as perhaps the last of the “exotic” Hollywood heartthrobs in line of descent from Rudolph Valentino.
This situation, however, proved comparatively short-lived. Almost like the protagonist of a Victorian novel, Sharif was overtaken by his own success, to the extent that in order to service the debts incurred by gambling and a playboy lifestyle, he was thrown back on accepting any work that came his way, and entered a downward spiral into trivial and meretricious movies.


He was born Michel Chalhoub in Alexandria, the son of well-to-do Lebanese-Syrian Christians, Claire (nee Saada) and Joseph Chalhoub, and educated at a private school and at Cairo University. He worked briefly and reluctantly in his father’s lumber business but fell for the lure of acting, and was delighted when a friend, the director Youssef Chahine, offered him a role in the film Struggle in the Valley (1954). The female star was Faten Hamama, who was greatly taken by her leading man and in the same year became his wife, Sharif converting to Islam in the process. The marriage lasted for 20 years and the couple had a son, Tarek, who was to make a brief appearance in Doctor Zhivago in the guise of Yuri Zhivago’s childhood self.
Sharif became established as a principal figure in Egyptian cinema and also starred in the French-backed Goha (1958), which afforded him wider recognition, if only in the arthouses.


But it was his selection by the producer Sam Spiegel and the director David Leanto play Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia that proved the turning point in his career. As he later observed: “Maybe if I hadn’t made Lawrence, I would have gone on living in Cairo and had five children and lots of grandchildren.” He blamed the eventual failure of his marriage on the simple fact of his constant absences in Europe and the US.
The role of Sherif Ali was pivotal in the film’s dramatic scheme, and Sharif’s swarthy, romantic aura was played off to great effect against the blue-eyed blondness of O’Toole’s Lawrence. The two became close friends while making the film. Sharif’s performance won him Golden Globe awards as best supporting actor and most promising newcomer, as well as an Academy Award nomination, though he ruefully recalled that he had signed a contract with the studio that netted him only £8,000 for this and several subsequent appearances.


Fluent in English and French, he worked steadily for the next few years, though as an all-purpose “foreigner”, mainstream cinema never having been especially concerned about precise ethnicity. Thus he played a Spanish priest in Behold a Pale Horse (1964), the title role in a comic-strip historical extravaganza, Genghis Khan (1965), a Yugoslav partisan in The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), and even, a little later, a Nazi officer, complete with blond-streaked hair, in The Night of the Generals (1967).
But it was as the Russian hero of Lean’s Doctor Zhivago that he achieved his best-remembered screen role, a brooding, magnetic presence, even if some critics felt that the performance, like the whole film, manifested a degree of shallowness.
There was no doubt about his box-office stature, though, and it was revealing that the film version of the musical Funny Girl, which in the theatre had been an unabashed vehicle for Barbra Streisand, was marketed on the basis of her co-starring with Sharif. As the shady gambler Nicky Arnstein, by whom Fanny Brice (Streisand) was enslaved, Sharif was the essence of the homme fatal, and even weighed in with a couple of song numbers. There were rumours at the time that the stars’ relationship had blossomed off-screen too, a notion that was ill received in Sharif’s native land in the light of Streisand’s pro-Israeli sympathies.


Sharif later admitted that he had briefly imagined himself in love with Streisand, and also recalled being smitten by Ava Gardner, his co-star in Mayerling (1968), in which he brought a suitable intensity to the doomed Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, and Gardner, with some incongruity, played his mother.
Mayerling was hardly a distinguished film, but was considerably superior to some others in which Sharif went on to appear, not least Che! (1969), a dully temporising Hollywood account of the life of Che Guevara, in which at one point Sharif’s Guevara is confronted by Jack Palance’s Fidel Castro with the mumbled expostulation: “Che, sometimes I just don’t understand you.”
The Last Valley (1971) and The Horsemen (1971) were poorly rated would-be spectacles. It seems significant that in the French-made thriller The Burglars (1971), Sharif was cast opposite a contemporary European box-office favourite, Jean-Paul Belmondo, but in the guise of a stereotypical scheming villain, who ends up smothered by Belmondo in a deserted silo under tons of grain, an intimation of the fate that was to befall him professionally as he appeared in increasingly obscure productions.
But there were still one or two brighter spots to come. In 1975 he reprised the role of Arnstein in the Funny Girl sequel, Funny Lady, and the previous year gave one of his most effective, because downplayed, performances, as the captain of a stricken cruise liner in Juggernaut. Of his playing in this film, the American critic Pauline Kael percipiently remarked: “He is not allowed to smile the famous smile, or even to look soulfully lovesick. He is kept rather grim.”
At this time, Sharif was perhaps more readily associated with the game of bridge than with acting. Though he took it up in adult life, he developed into a world-class player. In addition to competing in international tournaments, he wrote a syndicated column on the subject for several years for the Chicago Tribune, was the author of several books on bridge, and licensed his name to a bridge computer game.
He was also an inveterate high-stakes gambler, a regular at the casinos of Paris and elsewhere, and at the racetrack in Deauville. He maintained that claims of his philandering were ill-founded, but his lifestyle certainly encompassed heavy drinking and smoking more than 50 cigarettes a day, at least until he underwent heart bypass surgery in 1993. And the cost was high in financial terms as well.
Professionally, he drifted from one minor role to the next in a run of TV movies and mini-series, often costume dramas of one kind or another, and mostly of the sort only liable to be found at off-peak hours on the more obscure channels. He candidly told a journalist in 2003 that “for 25 years I have been making rubbish movies”.
There were, moreover, some unedifying moments in his private life. In 2003, he headbutted a policeman in a Paris casino rumpus and was subsequently fined and given a suspended jail term, tactlessly telling the press that to assault a cop was “the dream of every Frenchman”. Two years later, he slugged a parking attendant at a Beverly Hills restaurant. He was placed on probation and ordered to pay restitution.
But at least he had returned into the realms of serious acting by taking the leading role in the 2003 French movie Monsieur Ibrahim, in which his characterisation of an elderly Turkish Muslim shopkeeper secured him a best actor César award, the French equivalent of an Oscar.
In 2006 he declared that he had abandoned gambling and even bridge in favour of family life, and described himself as semi-retired from the screen.
In the previous year he had been the recipient of a Unesco medal for contributions to world cinema and cultural diversity. Lawrence and Zhivago might by then have seemed a long way in the past, but despite or possibly even because of the intervening vicissitudes of his life, Sharif’s reputation remained undimmed.

Val Doonican


Date of Birth: 3 February 1927, Waterford, Ireland
Birth Name: Michael Valentine Doonican
Nicknames: Val Doonican

Val Doonican's gentle style made him a popular feature on Saturday night television for more than two decades.
He became famous for his sweaters and the rocking chair in which he invariably sat to sing the final number of his show.
At a time when the 60s pop explosion was stalling the careers of so many crooners, Doonican bucked the trend with eight Top-20 hits.
And songs like Delaney's Donkey and Paddy McGinty's Goat allowed record-buyers to indulge themselves in a touch of Irish-flavoured whimsy.
Michael Valentine Doonican was born in the Irish city of Waterford on 3 February 1927, the youngest of eight children.
His father died of cancer when he was 14 and he was forced to leave school and work in a packaging factory to supplement the family income.
He wrote music from a very young age, and formed a singing group with his friends when he was just 10.


With his guitar, he later took part in the town's first ever television broadcast and, after his first paid engagement at the Waterford fete, left his factory job to tour the country in a caravan.
In 1951, Doonican was invited to join a group called the Four Ramblers.
The band toured England where Doonican was introduced to the joys of golf, and also to his future wife, the cabaret star Lynnette Rae.
Doonican later moved to London, where he continued his entertainment apprenticeship in radio, television, cabaret and music hall.


He recalled that "it took 17 years to become an overnight success", when his appearance on Sunday Night at the Palladium prompted the BBC to offer him his own series in 1964.
He was given an initial series of six half-hour programmes which were broadcast live from a BBC studio in an old chapel in Manchester.
The Val Doonican Music show saw him become a mainstay of Saturday night television.
But he was always grateful that his career gave him the opportunity to meet his idols such as Bing Crosby and Howard Keel.
"You can't imagine," he later recalled, "that you're going along in your young life, buying records of people that you think are fantastic and, in my case, I ended up singing duets with them on my show."
The comedian Dave Allen also got his big break by appearing on the show.
In the 1970s, his fame spread when the programme was transmitted overseas.
Two of Doonican's most enduring props were his collection of multi-coloured sweaters - which became known as "Val Doonican jumpers" and his ever-present rocking chair.



In fact, the star swapped his sweaters for jackets back in 1970, so remained bemused when people everywhere continued to ask him where his jumper was.
Doonican went on to record more than 50 albums, and he appeared several times on Top of the Pops.
At a time when the charts were dominated by pop groups he had a string of hits including Special Years, Walk Tall and What Would I Be?
The television shows came to an end after 24 years, but Doonican continued to tour, choosing mostly intimate regional theatres, in the UK and abroad.
He eschewed television appearances, preferring to share his time between Buckinghamshire and Spain, and to spend his semi-retirement playing golf.
"Golf is like an 18-year-old girl with big boobs," he once said. "You know it's wrong but you can't keep away from her."
His other great hobby was painting, and his work was exhibited around the country.
A lot of his art was inspired by his Irish homeland, where he remained revered for his modest charm and embrace of original Gaelic values.

Patrick Macnee


Date of Birth: 6 February 1922, Paddington, London, UK
Birth Name: Daniel Patrick Macnee
Nicknames: Patrick Macnee


Patrick Macnee was cast to perfection as the imperturbable secret agent John Steed in the 1960s television series The Avengers, he brought etonian nonchalance and jaunty eccentricity to the part.
The programme began as unremarkable detective fare, with the raincoated Macnee playing second fiddle to Ian Hendry’s forensic surgeon. When Hendry left after the first season, Steed was pushed to the fore and Macnee threatened with the sack unless he breathed life into the character. Steed re-emerged as a lethal dandy, sporting boutonnière, sword-cane and curly-brimmed bowler. He was indubitably a gentleman and Macnee imbued the part with plenty of his own Etonian nonchalance and jaunty eccentricity.The Avengers became an unlikely farrago of Aleister Crowley and P G Wodehouse, a mix of the surreal and the camp set in an England of village greens and stately homes that concealed murderous marriage bureaus, sinister vicars and scientists over-boiling the white heat of technology. Produced with considerable visual flair, it became synonymous with the “Swinging Sixties” and was one of the first British programmes to do well in America.


Much of its success and enduring appeal lay in its ironic subversion of the conventions of the spy genre. Steed was not averse to fisticuffs, but he had none of Bond’s sadism and he eschewed guns Macnee had experienced too much real violence during the Second World War. The programme was also novel in the status given to Steed’s female partners notably Honor Blackman as the steely Cathy Gale and Diana Rigg as the coolly kittenish Emma Peel. Brought up by women, Macnee was willing to let Steed’s leather-clad partners demonstrate their mental and physical equality. He also thrived on the playful sexual tension between the characters.
The Avengers ran between 1960 and 1969; a lame sequel made in the mid-1970s, The New Avengers, also featured Macnee, but only served to show how charming and how definitive had been his performance the first time round.
Daniel Patrick Macnee was born in London on February 6 1922. His mother, a niece of the 13th Earl of Huntingdon and a rather giddy socialite, went into labour at a party and Macnee never discovered from her whether she reached hospital or if he was born in a carriage half-way down the Bayswater Road.


The rest of his childhood was no less confused. His father was a racehorse trainer, a diminutive man known as “Shrimp” Macnee whose dapper wardrobe his son later recreated for Steed. He had a taste for gin and enlivened his dinner parties by levelling a shotgun at those guests he suspected of pacifist tendencies.
Macnee’s mother took refuge in a circle of friends that included Tallulah Bankhead and the madam Mrs Meyrick, before absconding with a wealthy lesbian, Evelyn. Young Patrick was brought up by the pair and was instructed to call Evelyn “Uncle”. He managed to resist their efforts to dress him as a girl, wearing a kilt as a compromise. His father fled to India, from where he was later expelled for urinating off a balcony on to the heads of the Raj’s elite, gathered below for a race-meeting.
Evelyn financed Macnee’s education, at Summer Fields where he first acted, playing opposite Christopher Lee and then Eton. His corruption began when he was introduced to whisky by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, who had escaped into the garden with a bottle when brought in to consecrate Evelyn’s private chapel. Macnee was then expelled from Eton for running a pornography and bookmaking empire.
He trained as an actor at the Webber-Douglas school and began to get some repertory work. Cast more for his looks than talent, he was due to play his first West End lead opposite Vivien Leigh when he received his call-up papers in 1942. He served in Motor Torpedo Boats until 1946, rising to lieutenant. He caught bronchitis shortly before D-Day; while in hospital his boat and crew were destroyed in action.
Macnee made his film debut in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in 1943, and after the war landed several other small parts, appearing as a courtier in Olivier’s Hamlet and The Elusive Pimpernel. The latter starred David Niven, whom he mistakenly claimed as a cousin and who consequently found him work. Yet by now he had a family to support, and when promised better roles by the embryonic Canadian Broadcasting Corporation moved to Toronto, while his wife and children remained behind. It was a decision he later bitterly regretted.


For the next eight years Macnee drifted across North America. His breezily crisp accent brought him regular stage and television work, though he also played a sheriff in the Western series Rawhide. He continued to attract the bizarre. Once he rescued some chimpanzees from a fire at an animal trainer’s ranch; while driving them to safety, one monkey clamped its hands over his eyes, almost causing his car to plunge into a ravine. In Toronto itself for The Importance of Being Earnest, he was forced by Dame Edith Evans to strap her to a stretcher and drag her through snow 10 feet deep to her hotel.
In 1960 he returned to England, his marriage over. He decided he was too old not to have a proper job, a conclusion reached when he came home to find he had been replaced in the affections of a much younger girlfriend by a French thief and his team of huskies.
He was producing a television documentary series based on Churchill’s history of the war, The Valiant Years, when he was cast in The Avengers, having literally bumped into the producer in Piccadilly. Although he was a more competent actor than he gave himself credit for, he was content in later years to stroll through a series of unmemorable roles. He believed he might have been offered better parts had he not rejected the lead in Anthony Shaffer’s play Sleuth when offered it in 1970. He later played the part on Broadway.
Among his less forgettable film appearances were as a record producer in the seminal rock spoof This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and as Bond’s chauffeur in A View To A Kill (1985). He retired to Palm Springs, California, and cheerfully took well-paid cameo roles in American television series, among them the sublimely dreadful Thunder In Paradise, a vehicle for the wrestler Hulk Hogan. In 1996 he appeared in a video for the rock group Oasis.
Macnee made considerable efforts to escape the constraints of his own character and Establishment image. He felt strongly that he had been socially and sexually confused by his upbringing and schooling and found America a less repressed environment; he became an active member of a nudist colony in the mid-1970s.
Although he remained outwardly chirpy and chivalrous, he was prone to depression and guilt, particularly over his infidelities and the severe asthmatic illness of his daughter, which he saw as a punishment for deserting his family for Canada. He also fought lengthy, and ultimately successful, battles against alcohol and mounting weight.
He published a candid autobiography, Blind In One Ear, in 1988.

Christopher Lee


Date of Birth: 27 May 1922, Belgravia, London, UK
Birth Name: Christopher Frank Carandini Lee
Nicknames: Christopher Lee

Sir Christopher Lee defined the macabre for a generation of horror film enthusiasts with his chilling portrayals of Count Dracula; in a career that spanned more than half a century Lee played the sinister vampire no fewer than nine times in productions including Dracula (1958), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973).
With his saturnine glamour and striking physique at a gaunt 6ft 4in he was a dominating physical presence with an aristocratic bearing, dark, penetrating eyes and a distinctive sepulchral voice Lee was an ideal candidate to play the bloodsucking Count. “Dracula is a very attractive character,” he insisted, “he’s so heroic erotic too. Women find him irresistible. We’d all like to be him.”
After almost 20 years of playing Dracula, Lee eventually tired of the role. He moved to the United States where he enjoyed a lucrative career in both films and made-for-television mini-series such as The Far Pavilions and Shaka Zulu. While in America, Lee resisted all offers of parts in soap operas including Dallas and Dynasty.


After decades in the film industry, Lee remained as eager as ever to take on new roles. At one point in his early seventies he appeared in 12 different films within 14 months. “I get restless and frustrated if I don’t work,” he explained. “I like a continual challenge.” In his eighties he gained a new audience, bringing sulphurous intensity to the role of Saruman in Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings films.
Lee’s one regret, he maintained, was his decision not to become an opera singer. “I was born with the gift of a very good voice,” he said, “and I have been asked to sing in various concerts but I’m too old now.” Late in life, however, he was persuaded to lend his rich bass tones as a narrator to various heavy metal records including those of the symphonic power metal group Rhapsody of Fire. In 2010 he released an album of his own, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, followed two years later by Charlemagne: The Omens of Death.


Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was born on May 27 1922 in Belgravia, London, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope-Lee of the 60th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Lee’s father had fought in both the Boer and Great Wars and had later married an Italian contessa, Estelle Maria Carandini, a descendant of the Borgias whose parents had founded the first Australian opera company. Among Lee’s stories of his early life he claimed that his father was descended from a band of gypsies in Hampshire and that his mother was descended from Charlemagne.
Christopher’s parents were divorced when he was four and his mother remarried. Lee grew up in his stepfather’s house, where he was waited on by a staff of five (a butler, two footmen, a chauffeur and a cook). He attended Wagner’s in Queensgate and Summerfields, and sat for a scholarship to Eton before being sent to the more affordable Wellington College where he distinguished himself as a classical scholar.
Fluent in Italian and French, in later life Lee added Spanish, German, Russian, Swedish, Danish and Greek to his repertoire. When his alcoholic stepfather was bankrupted in 1938 Christopher was forced to leave school at 17 in order to find work. For the next 12 months he worked as a city messenger, licking stamps and making tea for a wage of £1 a week.
When the Second World War broke out, Lee joined the RAF and was promoted to flight lieutenant. He won six campaign medals, was mentioned in despatches and received decorations from Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. He also worked for British Intelligence. “Serving in the Armed Forces was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he insisted. “I did not know how other people lived.”


After the war, Lee served with the Central Registry of War Crimes, work that took him to concentration camps including Dachau, but when he was demobbed at the age of 24, he remained undecided about which career to pursue. He toyed with the idea of becoming a ballet dancer, opera singer and diplomat before his cousin (at that time the Italian ambassador to the Court of St James) suggested he try acting.
Greatly against his mother’s wishes (“Just think of all the appalling people you’ll meet!” she warned him) Lee met the Italian head of Two Cities Films, part of the J Arthur Rank Organisation, signed a seven-year contract, and joined the Rank Company of Youth (otherwise known as the Rank Charm School) in 1946. He made his film debut with a bit part in Corridor of Mirrors (1948).


A succession of “walk-on” parts ensued until, in 1951, he appeared in a speaking part as a swarthy Spanish sea captain in Captain Horatio Hornblower RN. It was one of Lee’s last films for Two Cities and when his contract ran out neither he nor the Rank Organisation were eager to renew it. Instead Lee accepted roles in a television series made in Britain but shown first in America Douglas Fairbanks Presents, appearing in some 40 half-hour productions.
After a series of military film roles in the mid-1950s, including a lieutenant in Innocents in Paris (1953), a submarine commander in The Cockleshell Heroes and a captain in That Lady (both 1955), Lee landed his first horror role for Hammer Films. He played the Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), a part which required him to be coated in artificial gangrene and which left him looking, in his opinion, “like a road accident”.
Described as “the first gothic horror film made by Hammer”, The Curse of Frankenstein was graphic in its depiction of large quantities of gore. The film was extremely popular and Lee, playing opposite the studio’s resident star Peter Cushing, was enormously successful as the monster. Realising that a film about Bram Stoker’s vampiric Transylvanian nobleman might prove equally successful, a Hammer executive, James Carreras, offered Lee the role of the Count in their next production, Dracula.
The film proved to be one of the seminal horror movies of the 1950s. Lee looked the part (tall and thin, as in Stoker’s novel) and imbued the character with a dynamic, feral quality that had been lacking in earlier portrayals. With his bloody fangs and bright red eyes ablaze, Lee made a frighteningly believable vampire. In contrast with Bela Lugosi’s eerie, somnambulistic count of the 1930s, Lee spoke his lines with crisp assurance and tried to portray what he described as “the essence of nobility, ferocity and sadness”.
With Cushing cast this time as the vampire hunter, Dracula (retitled Horror of Dracula in America) was a box-office success for Hammer and horror aficionados at the time labelled it “the greatest horror movie ever made”. Lee also regarded it as the best of the series of Dracula films which he made with Hammer. “It’s the only one I’ve done that’s any good,” he recalled. “It’s the only one that remotely resembles the book.”
With the success of his portrayal of the Count, Lee treated himself to a grey, second-hand Mercedes and became established as a horror star for the first time. He was swamped with offers of film roles and took leading parts in several films throughout the late 1950s.
In productions such as The Man Who Could Cheat Death, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Mummy (all 1959), Lee played characters ranging from Sir Henry Baskerville to a 2,000-year-old corpse. He later claimed that the make-up for The Mummy was so uncomfortable that he swore never to submit to special effects again. The exceptions were the essential red contact lenses for his appearances as Dracula. Lee found the lenses excruciatingly painful but, as he had worn them in the first film, continuity demanded that he wear them in all subsequent productions.
Lee continued to be in demand throughout the 1950s and 1960s, starring in more than 20 films in only six years. Although he accepted some unlikely projects (including The Terror of the Tongs and The Devil’s Daffodil, both in 1961), he was also able to make films in which he had a personal interest. He had long wanted to play the Chinese arch-villain Fu Manchu and in 1965 he was offered the title role in The Face of Fu Manchu. The film was so popular that a series of four more were filmed, including Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) and Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1968). After roles in horror films such as Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors and The Skull (both 1965), Lee returned to his earlier incarnation in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966).
He was less happy with this second film. He had become too expensive a star for the Hammer studios, and in a cost-cutting measure his scenes were kept to a minimum and remained devoid of dialogue. Lee was reduced to making a soft hissing noise which drew laughter from audiences when the film was screened. He enjoyed more success with the lead in Rasputin, The Mad Monk (1966). Although the film was badly flawed, Lee was convincing in the title role.
After The Devil Rides Out (1968), a suspenseful adaptation of a Dennis Wheatley novel with Lee as an aristocrat in pursuit of devil-worshippers, he returned to the role of Dracula in Dracula has Risen from the Grave, on the understanding that he would have well-scripted dialogue. The film made more money than previous Hammer productions and Lee was persuaded to appear in the 1970 project, Scars of Dracula. But he had by this time become disenchanted with the role. He feared he was being typecast and that the quality of scriptwriting had deteriorated to an unacceptable level.


Nevertheless Hammer were eager to continue with Lee as their horror star and persuaded him to make two more Dracula films that year. After rapidly completing Taste the Blood of Dracula and The Magic Christian, Lee devoted himself to non-vampire roles for a period.
Later in 1970 he played Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (“so commandingly good,” reported The Sunday Telegraph, “that this must surely be the end of shabby Draculas for him”) and followed it with a tiny appearance as Artemidorus in Julius Caesar in 1971. After four more Dracula films, including a modern interpretation titled Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula the year after, Lee was increasingly unhappy with the manner in which the character was being portrayed. “It’s ridiculous,” he complained, “you can’t have Dracula in a modern office block, it completely undermines the original idea.”
Taking another break from the Count, Lee appeared in one of his favourite films, The Wicker Man (1973), playing a Scots laird who practises human sacrifice in the 20th century. He then went on to play the evil one-eyed Comte de Rochefort in both The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) before appearing in his first Bond film as the assassin Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (also 1974). Lee was finally persuaded to make one more Dracula-style film in the 1970s, Dracula Père et Fils (1976), before giving up the role for good.
Despite his physical likeness to the Count, Lee’s affinity with his baleful character stopped there. Throughout his career he had a reputation for being a long-winded raconteur whose reminiscences tended to focus on himself. In 1976, when Lee left Britain for the US, the move prompted an acquaintance to joke that “the population of Los Angeles were dusting out their bomb shelters in anticipation of a barrage of anecdotes”. According to another account, on one occasion an actress got off an aircraft looking ashen and exhausted. Questioned about her health by airport staff, she explained that she had been seated next to Lee and that he had not stopped talking about himself during the 10-hour flight.
Through the late 1970s, Lee continued to make films at a prodigious rate, appearing in 10 in two years. He accepted roles as diverse as Captain Rameses in the science fiction film Starship Invasions (1977) and that of the head gypsy in the Second World War drama The Passage (1979).


In the 1980s, Lee combined his film career with a return to television, appearing in mini-series including Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982) and The Far Pavilions (1984). In 1985 he suffered a heart attack, returned to London and underwent heart surgery. Instead of seeing this as a signal to retire, Lee was back at work within a year and had returned to the horror genre for the dreadful The Howling II (1986), subtitled Your Sister is a Werewolf in America.
Although Lee continued to work prolifically throughout his life, he never again enjoyed the same success as when playing Dracula. He made some fatuous comedies in the mid-1980s such as Rosebud Beach Hotel (1985) and Jocks (1986), and continued into the 1990s with a starring role in the spoof horror film Gremlins II The New Batch.



He starred in the title role of Jinnah soon after the 50th anniversary of the founding of Pakistan in 1997, and was Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002). He returned to the same role in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith in 2005, and was the wizard Saruman in two of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films (2001-2002), in two of his Hobbit series (2012-14) and in various video games.
With Uma Thurman, Lee was due to appear as a retired surgeon in The 11th, a film about the lead-up to the September 11 terrorist attacks, to be shot this autumn.
Reflecting near the end of his life about the role of Dracula, Lee said: “There is a lot of misunderstanding about me in that role. It had never been played properly before that. With me it was all about the power of suggestion to make the unbelievable believable.”
He published two volumes of autobiography Tall, Dark and Gruesome (1977) reissued as Lord of Misrule (1997) and was appointed CBE in 2001. He was knighted in 2009 and made a fellow of Bafta in 2011.

Terry Sue-Patt


Date of Birth: 29 September 1964, Islington, North London, UK
Birth Name: Terry Sue-Patt

Terry Sue-Patt was a former child actor and star of the long-running BBC children’s television drama Grange Hill, in which he played Benny Green between 1978 and 1982; he appeared in almost 30 episodes of the series which was set in a comprehensive school in the fictional London borough of Northam and became one of its best-loved characters.
The small and somewhat vulnerable-looking Benny was the first child to make an appearance in the first episode of Grange Hill when he let himself in through the school gates and was caught kicking a football against a wall by an irate caretaker. But Benny was not one of the chief trouble-makers in the show; generally his role was that of the anxious side-kick to the mischievous Tucker Jenkins (played by Todd Carty, who has since gone on to a successful acting career in adulthood). Their various scrapes were the basis of many of the storylines, and prompted, on more than one occasion, the hapless Benny to exclaim: “Flippin’ ’eck, Tucker!”


During Sue-Patt’s time with Grange Hill (created by Phil Redmond, who also wrote and produced Brookside and Hollyoaks), the series tackled the problems faced by a group of pupils growing up in the capital in the late 1970s and early 1980s with a candour hitherto unseen on children’s television. It was regarded as controversial viewing by some parents with its frank approach to issues involving bullying, racism, teenage pregnancy and drugs. Mary Whitehouse spoke out vigorously against it, deeming the series “quite unacceptable for family viewing”. The social and political messages brought it media attention, but it was the day-to-day life of the characters football in the playground, lining up for disgusting school dinners and escaping the clutches of the bullying and self-righteous PE teacher “Bullet” Baxter which attracted Grange Hill’s young viewers. They came to regard Sue-Patt and his on-screen contemporaries with almost as much affection as their own schoolmates.


Terry Sue-Patt was born on September 29 1964 in Islington, north London, one of six children of African parents. He was educated at Sir William Collins Comprehensive School, and was also a pupil at the Anna Scher Theatre School.
Terry’s early acting experience included small parts in various Children’s Film Foundation productions, and in 1978 he landed the role of Benny after being spotted by a talent scout while playing football in a park. He went on to appear in General Hospital for ATV and the BBC’s Jackanory. In 1990 he played a gunman in the Channel 4 sitcom Desmond’s, and during the 1990s he appeared in the BBC Schools programme Scene. He also played Yusef in The Firm (1989), directed by Alan Clarke.
Grange Hill aired for 30 years until 2008 when it was felt that the show had run its course.
Latterly, Sue-Patt worked as an artist and photographer and exhibited his work which was influenced by graffiti and by artists such as Basquiat, Gilbert and George and Picasso in London galleries.
In 1989 Sue-Patt’s brother, Michael, was killed in a car crash. Terry Sue-Patt was sitting in the passenger seat next to him at the time of the accident and he subsequently struggled in his recovery.

Errol Brown


Date of Birth: 12 November 1943, Kingston, Jamaica
Birth Name: Lester Errol Brown
Nicknames: Errol Brown

Errol Brown was the lead singer of Hot Chocolate, the British soul band best known for the 1975 disco anthem You Sexy Thing; the group’s funky and harmonious sound was defined by Brown’s seductive voice and charismatic stage presence.
Bald-headed and slinky-hipped, Brown was a master of the art of the come-hither look (and gently come-hither lyrics) but when he originally wrote You Sexy Thing it was intended to be a B-side for Hot Chocolate’s single Blue Night. The band’s producer, Mickie Most, remixed the song several months later and it became an instant hit, reaching No 2 in the British charts and No 3 in America. It was, Brown later recalled, “a joyous song. I remember when I thought of the title I had a shiver go through me. Because it was such a nice way of using sex in a title without it being crude.”
In 1997 the track underwent a renaissance when it featured in the film The Full Monty, which told the story of six unemployed steel-workers from Sheffield who decide to form a striptease act. The scene in which the actor Robert Carlyle grinds his hips to You Sexy Thing attracted a new generation of fans and gave Brown’s career a major boost.


“There’s no doubt about it,” he said, “it relaunched my career and took me back into the Top 10. Then at my first gig in Scotland shortly after its release I was rushed on stage by about a hundred screaming girls it was like the old days. I played more gigs the year after the film than I’d ever previously done over a 12-month period.”
In 2005, buoyed up by the renewed adulation, Brown released an album titled Still Sexy. The promotional video for the single, Still Sexy (Yes U Are), showed a still dapper Brown, impeccably dressed in a grey silk suit and grooving in the back of a limousine with two attractive young women, while You Sexy Thing played in the background.
“You Sexy Thing is a hook that’ll last for decades and decades,” he explained, “because it’s such a nice, pleasant thing to say to somebody.”
Lester Errol Brown was born on November 12 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, where he spent his early childhood before his mother brought the family to London. When he was in his early teens his mother took him out of secondary modern school to attend a private school, where, as he later recalled, “everyone there was very wealthy and I came to appreciate good clothes and good food. You could say I was a teenage yuppy”.
At this stage, Brown showed very little interest in the music business, although he liked singing. He preferred the prospect of a proper job with a regular payslip and for a time did temporary clerical work at the Treasury, which he found unrewarding.
In his early twenties he met and became friends with Tony Wilson, a Trinidad-born musician, who suggested they should try writing music together. “Tony and I used to go out 10-pin bowling,” Brown recalled, “and while driving I’d start to sing. When asked what I was singing, I’d tell him it was just a tune I had in my head. This happened a few times and Tony suggested I try writing songs with him so we did and that’s how I got into songwriting.”
Brown could not play the guitar at this point, but he soon picked it up and within six months he and Wilson had cut a demo of John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance, performed in a reggae rhythm. He sent the tape to the Beatles’ label, Apple, and Lennon signed the pair called The Hot Chocolate Band virtually on the spot.


Their recording of Give Peace a Chance failed to make any impact on the charts, but the next single, Love is Life, proved more fruitful. Brown’s verve, flair and musical imagination were essential to the band’s success. He refused to be pigeonholed as a black musician, preferring his music to reflect the multi-racial mixture of West Indian and British influences in his cultural background. To this end he included strings and a rock guitarist in the band.
“It was never my intention to make black music,” he said. “I just wanted to make music. You have to understand, the only reason I’ve survived so long is because I make music that’s true to me… I’m influenced by all the things I listened to growing up and that’s what comes out in my music.”
The Hot Chocolate Band was quickly taken over by the British record producer Mickie Most and his Rak Records label. Most, who had a sharp ear for a hit, had been responsible for acts including The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Lulu and Suzi Quatro. The first thing he did was to shorten the name of Brown’s group to the snappier “Hot Chocolate”. Under Most’s tutelage the band for most of its life a five-piece led by Brown, with his distinctive shiny shaved head became a regular fixture in the UK Top 40 through the disco era of the mid-1970s, with Brown and Wilson writing most of the songs.
Harvie Hinsley was taken on in 1970 and the principal other members were Tony Connor, Larry Ferguson and Patrick Olive. Love is Life reached No 6 in Britain in September 1970. You Could Have Been a Lady fared less well, then I Believe (in Love) entered the Top 10.
All in all Hot Chocolate recorded more than 20 hits at a rate of roughly one a year, among them Every One’s A Winner, It Started With A Kiss, No Doubt About It and So You Win Again, a soulful, funky ballad which was, in 1977, the band’s only No 1.
By the early 1980s Hot Chocolate had become a treasured part of British culture: as an indicator of their status, they were invited to perform at a reception in 1981 at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the imminent marriage of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. Three of their singles reached the charts in the mid-1980s: No Doubt About It, Are You Getting Enough Happiness? and Love Me to Sleep.
By now, however, there were worrying signs of friction between band members. “We took everything pretty lightly for 12 years,” Brown recalled, “but at the end of the day, the laughter turned into animosity.” In 1987 he went solo for WEA Records.
He continued touring in later life and enjoyed the fruits of his fame, claiming to have made £2 million from You Sexy Thing before The Full Monty and the same after it. He voted Conservative, took up golf he was a member of Loch Lomond Golf Club and owned National Hunt horses, including Gainsay, trained by Jenny Pitman.
Errol Brown was appointed MBE in 2003.

Ruth Rendell


Date of Birth: 17 February 1930, South Woodford, East London, UK
Birth Name: Ruth Barbara Grasemann
Nicknames: Ruth Rendell - Baroness Rendell of Babergh

Baroness Rendell of Babergh, the novelist Ruth Rendell, was one of Britain’s best-selling celebrity crime writers.
She revitalised the mystery genre to reflect post-war social changes and wove into more than 60 books such contemporary issues as domestic violence, transvestism, paedophilia and sexual frustration. Her Inspector Wexford mysteries became an extremely popular television fixture in the 1990s.
Her work, mapping the manic and malevolent extremes of human behaviour, was distinguished by terse yet elegant prose and sharp psychological insights, as well as a talent for creating deft and intricate plots and believable characters.
With her friend and fellow crime writer PD James with whom she shared the accolade of "Britain’s Queen of Crime" (which she detested) Ruth Rendell redefined the “whodunnit” genre, fashioning it into more of a “whydunnit”.
But unlike the conservative Lady James, Rendell was politically to the Left and professionally far more prolific; she completed more than 50 novels under her own name and 14 writing as Barbara Vine, as well as two novellas and more than a dozen collections of short stories.


She remodelled the traditional detective story to explore what she considered to be the complex social causes of crime. Her books were largely gore-free, focusing instead on the unsettling details of ordinary madness. Ruth Rendell’s characters often lived on the margins of society and sanity; a recurring theme was how they integrated into their communities and how society controlled the quiet threat they could pose.
Ruth Rendell represented the bridge between the golden age of crime fiction, the formulas of Agatha Christie and her heirs and successors, and a new, more urban style. Even so, some critics took her to task for a perceived failure to keep up with the times. For her own part she insisted that she always strove to give a picture of contemporary life. “I try to be very, very aware of all sorts of changes in society, because people do tend to write the same book set in the time when they first started to write.” She kept ahead of the curve by being a good eavesdropper, and by walking everywhere instead of travelling by car, “a very good way of seeing things and people and hearing what they say”.
A small, neat woman with dark, intense eyes and a faintly disquieting air, she seldom allowed her privacy to be violated and when, reluctantly, she gave book-plugging interviews, she tended to be edgy and brusque. A staunch Labour supporter “I am very much of the Left,” she insisted she was active in CND in the 1980s before mellowing into a Christian socialist, although even her later novels betray a deep-rooted pessimism.
Sex was an abiding theme in her work; she considered it one of the most interesting things in life “and it’s grotesque the way some writers shy away from it”. She invariably took a liberal line: the murderer in her very first book was a lesbian with whom Wexford was sympathetic by the end of the novel.
Ruth Rendell herself was a lifelong feminist; her early novels feature women trapped in oppressive domestic settings. “I think if you’re a woman, you are naturally a feminist,” she once explained. “Unless you’re hiding something.”


She was born Ruth Barbara Grasemann on February 17 1930 at South Woodford in suburban east London. Her parents were teachers, and she was their only child. The marriage was unhappy, and her Swedish mother fell ill with multiple sclerosis and died while Ruth was still very young. She was raised by the family housekeeper at Loughton in Essex, where she attended the County High School for Girls. Ruth often spent Christmas and other holidays in Scandinavia, and learned both Swedish and Danish. Her upbringing, she said, was coloured by a sense of being on the outside.
Leaving school at 18, she determined not to become a teacher. Her first job was as a reporter on the Chigwell Times, but she was sacked after covering the annual dinner of the local tennis club by writing it up in advance in order to meet a deadline; her report made it into the paper, but overlooked the fact that, on the night, the chairman had dropped dead in the middle of his after-dinner speech.
In 1950, when she was 20, she married Donald Rendell, a fellow reporter whom she met at an inquest; he later became a financial journalist on the Daily Mail. The couple were together for a quarter of a century, until they divorced in 1975, only to remarry each other two years later. Having nursed her husband through his final illness, Ruth Rendell was badly affected by his death in 1999, but picked up her writing again, viewing her work as “a very separate world” from her personal trials.
Seized at a young age by a compulsion to make up stories, at 23 she began to experiment with different styles and genres. She completed at least six unpublished novels before the ingenious From Doon With Death (1964), her first published mystery featuring her enduring and popular yeoman detective (later Chief) Inspector Reginald Wexford, which was bought by the publisher John Long for £75. The Wexford books are traditional crime stories set in the fictional mid-Sussex town of Kingsmarkham, and if there was a certain sameness about them, more marked as Ruth Rendell’s interest in the orthodox detective yarn waned, she always sought to compensate by applying an unerringly astute eye and ear to the sights and sounds of life in middle England.
Indeed, Wexford himself “born at the age of 52” as she readily admitted is every inch the middling sort, old-fashioned and decent; in almost half a century striding through Ruth Rendell’s pages, her hero remained the eternal stalwart, clever, shrewd, engaged, always up-to-date. Ruth Rendell claimed that the character “has a bit of my father, a bit of me”. In Wexford, the crime novelist and critic Frances Fyfield noted, Rendell had created “a singular everyman. He regrets; he accepts.” In one of Wexford’s last cases, End in Tears (2005), he was old and tetchy but infinitely more tolerant.
In 1988, the Inspector Wexford series introduced Ruth Rendell’s work to a huge new audience of television viewers. The series starred George Baker in the title role and Louie Ramsay as his wife Dora.
Although her Wexford police procedurals and the television spin-offs represented her best-known work, Ruth Rendell herself preferred her second genre, a series of gruelling and violent psychological thrillers that explored crimes springing from some sexual or social obsession that was often rooted in childhood mistreatment or misfortune.
She admitted to having read Freud and Jung but not much criminology, and remarked that she often felt the imminence of personal disaster. “It is a neurotic state,” Ruth Rendell conceded. “I wish I didn’t have it. I have it.” Many of her characters have it too, and these neuroses splinter up in her books as a personality flaw leading to violence when subjected to emotional stress.
A Demon in My View (1976) and A Judgement in Stone (1977) are rated the best of her early stories about the psychology of killers. There were two less successful attempts, in A House of Stairs (1988) and Gallowglass (1990), but she found her form again in The Bridesmaid (1989), with its terrifying account of a doomed love affair. Other titles in this Rendell genre include The Killing Doll (1984), Live Flesh (1986) which was filmed by Pedro Almodóvar in 1997 Talking to Strange Men (1987), Going Wrong (1990) and Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (2001).
In the mid-1980s, under her pseudonym Barbara Vine (her middle name and her great-grandmother’s maiden name), Ruth Rendell created a third and wholly individual strand of literary noir with the publication of A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986). Together with A Fatal Inversion (1987), they were hailed by the veteran crime buff Julian Symons as “among the most memorable and original crime stories of the [20th] century”, constructed “with a cunning Wilkie Collins might have envied and Dickens would have admired”.
Although these and other titles such as King Solomon’s Carpet (1991) and Asta’s Book (1993) cover the same territory as her psychological suspense novels, they develop further Rendell’s recurring themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects of secrets kept and crimes committed. “They are about ordinary people,” she explained, “who are pushed over the edge.” Her 24th and last Wexford mystery, No Man’s Nightingale (2013) was followed a year later by her final stand-alone novel, The Girl Next Door.
Ruth Rendell is three fine writers, Julian Symons declared, but the best of them is Barbara Vine. Other critics, however, suggested that, as Vine, Rendell was more subtle, less black. “The Vine books are less violent,” she acknowledged, “and they lack the frightening qualities of the suspense books.”


An organised, businesslike writer, Ruth Rendell would arrive at the word processor and her tidy desk at 8.30 each morning already knowing “pretty much” what she was going to say. On a good day, she would write 2,500 words, on a bad day 500: there were very few bad days. The technicalities of writing fascinated her. She had a great facility for the right choice of viewpoint, and could shunt her stories back and forth in time: flashbacks, what she called her “great leap backwards”, were her stock-in-trade.
While she considered Agatha Christie to have been a bad writer, Ruth Rendell recognised that for many of Christie’s readers, her detective stories offered an escape from reality. She was at a loss to understand why some people found her own books depressing: “Bad things happen to good people,” she once explained. “Who wouldn’t want to write like PG Wodehouse? To be so light and blithe would be wonderful. But unfortunately, it’s not how things are, or what I’m like.”
She found it hard to relax, but when she did she read modern and Victorian novelists, although she was never herself a keen reader of crime. Indeed, she readily admitted to being not much interested in crime or criminals, and was perfectly content to confirm that she had never actually met one. She never researched. “Oh no,” she said, “I make it all up.”
A millionairess several times over, Ruth Rendell was remarkably generous with her phenomenal success. She donated about £100,000 a year to charities including the Royal National Institute for the Blind, but never bought flags in the street or gave to people at the door.
She divided her time between a London house in Little Venice and, at one time, a pink 16th-century cottage near Polstead in Suffolk, where she did most of her writing.
Ruth Rendell received many awards, including a clutch of Silver, Gold and Diamond Daggers from the Crime Writers’ Association and three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America.
She was appointed CBE in 1996 and created a Labour life peer the following year, choosing polar bears her favourite animals for her coat of arms. In 2008 she admitted to having had a relationship with an unnamed politician in widowhood, but declined to elaborate.

Ben E King


Date of Birth: 28 September 1938, North Carolina, US
Birth Name: Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson
Nicknames: Ben E King, Ben Nelson

Ben E King was one of the senior figures of soul music, having made his mark in the 1960s first as the lead singer of the Drifters and later with solo hits such as Spanish Harlem and, pre-eminently, Stand By Me.
The Drifters originally enjoyed considerable success in the mid-1950s when led by Clyde McPhatter, but after he left the band their fortunes declined and the remaining members fell out with their manager, George Treadwell, the former husband of Sarah Vaughan the jazz singer. In 1958, Treadwell, who owned the rights to the group’s name, abruptly sacked the entire line-up and replaced them with an up-and-coming outfit named the Five Crowns, one of whom was King.
The new Drifters toured for a year to a poor reception from audiences loyal to the earlier group, but their fortunes changed in mid-1959 when they recorded a song co-written and sung by King, There Goes My Baby. Produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it was the first R&B track to feature orchestration, and reached No 2 in the Hot 100. Its sophisticated, Latin sound became the group’s signature and propelled them to renewed popularity.


Other hits quickly followed, notably Save The Last Dance For Me, but then in 1960 King quarrelled with Treadwell over an increase in pay his contract gave him only £64.19 a week, however many concerts the band did, and no share of record royalties. He, too, therefore, left the Drifters and was replaced by Rudy Lewis, who went on to sing on the group’s later hits, including Up On The Roof and On Broadway. (Lewis, however, choked to death on the morning that they were due to record perhaps their best-remembered song, Under the Boardwalk, and had to be replaced by former member Johnny Moore.)
Having gone it alone, King teamed up again with Leiber and Stoller and in one afternoon recorded both the songs that were to be the cornerstone of the remainder of his career. Spanish Harlem, co-produced by Phil Spector, reached No 10 in the British charts (which were always receptive to King’s clear baritone) in March 1961.
Three months later he released Stand By Me. “It’s a love song, it’s a friendship song, it’s a song where you promise anybody in need to do anything you can to help,” King said. It reached No 4 in America.
Both songs helped to steer R&B away from its blues roots towards a more pop sound, and served as a template for the later work of both Spector and Motown, whose stars were soon to replace King in the public’s fickle affections.


King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, North Carolina, on September 28 1938. His first exposure to music was in a church choir, but in 1947 his family moved to Harlem, where he soon began singing doo-wop on street corners with three friends from school. They called themselves the Four Bs for Ben, Billy, Billy and Bobby. King later married Betty, the sister of Billy and Bobby.
After he did well in a talent competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Ben Nelson (as he was called until he began his solo career) was offered a place in the Moonglows, a well-known group of the time, but he found the pressure too great and returned to working in his father’s restaurant. There he was spotted singing by the manager of the Five Crowns, and persuaded to return to the stage.
Following his heyday in the early Sixties, King’s star gradually declined, with Don’t Play That Song (1962) being his last substantial hit in America, although his two best-known numbers were revived with great success in the 1970s, first by Aretha Franklin, who took Spanish Harlem to No 2 in the US chart, and then by John Lennon, who covered Stand By Me in 1975.


By that time King had been reduced to playing the veterans circuit (and to appearing on the Genesis LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), and it was while performing in a Miami hotel that he was spotted by Ahmet Ertegun, the head of Atlantic, his former record label. Ertegun was impressed once more by King’s voice, re-signed him, and helped him to score a Top 5 hit in the disco era with Supernatural Thing Part 1 (1975).This revival of King’s career proved to be short-lived, however, and he had to wait another decade until he once more returned to the limelight.
This came courtesy of the use of Stand By Me as the theme song to Rob Reiner’s 1986 film of the same name (based on a coming-of-age story by Stephen King). When the song was re-released that year, the single reached No 9 in the American charts, 25 years after its first placing there.
The track did even better in Britain the following year when it was used in a Levi’s television commercial, on the back of which it climbed to No 1 and exposed a generation of teenagers to classic American soul. Its success led to King recording a series of LPs in the 1990s, although there proved to be little demand for them.
Nevertheless, he continued to tour regularly, occasionally with various versions of the Drifters, finding a steady audience for his highly polished renditions of some of pop’s finest moments.

Keith Harris


Date of Birth: 21 September 1947, Lyndhurst, Hampshire. UK
Birth Name: Keith Shenton Harris
Nicknames: Keith Harris

The ventriloquist Keith Harris, designed and made more than 100 dummies during his career, but was most famous for creating Orville, the green duck who spoke in a high-pitched voice and wore a nappy held on by a gigantic safety pin. Such was his fame at a time when variety acts were the staple diet of many television programmes that he had his own Saturday evening series, The Keith Harris Show (1982-86).


His 1982 Christmas single Orville’s Song, opening with the wistful “I wish I could fly…”, reached No 4 in the charts and sold more than 400,000 copies. Harris’s other memorable character was Cuddles, a blunt-speaking orange monkey with a blue face who shouted: “I hate that duck!”



The ventriloquist once said: “I’m the best there is, technically. You can’t see my lips move. People don’t appreciate the cleverness of it.” But despite his success, Harris claimed last year that being dyslexic had caused him to lose millions of pounds because he was unable to read contracts properly. He said he had been labelled “thick” at school and that friends had read out the lines of scripts that he needed to memorise. With the demise of variety on TV, he became depressed, drank heavily and received a two-year ban for drink-driving but fought back to continue his stage and television career.


Harris was born in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, the son of Norman, a singer, comedian and ventriloquist, and Lilian (nee Simmons), a dancer. Growing up in Chester and attending the city’s secondary modern school, he was taught ventriloquism by his father, with whom he performed a double act in working-men’s clubs. The boy, as a pretend puppet called Isaiah “because one eye’s higher than the other” would sit on his father’s knee as both sang Sonny Boy.
From the age of 14, he developed his own act and began creating characters. Among the first dummies were Percy Picktooth the rabbit and Freddie the frog. A summer season at Rhyl, Denbighshire, in 1964 was followed by further work in variety, cabaret, overseas tours and pantomime, including his own production of Humpty Dumpty. He made his TV debut in Let’s Laugh (1965).
Some green fur left lying around while he was performing with the Black and White Minstrels on stage in Bristol gave Harris the idea for “a little bird that was green and ugly and thought he wasn’t loved”. Orville, named after the pioneering American aviator Orville Wright and insured for £100,000, was born, and appeared on dozens of programmes, alongside stars including Ronnie Corbett and Val Doonican.


Harris’s children’s series The Quack Chat Show (1989-90) finished as television was turning away from variety acts, so Harris switched to performing summer seasons at Butlin’s holiday camps. He also opened, in Blackpool and Portugal, clubs whose failure led him to declare himself bankrupt twice.
Appearances on Harry Hill and Louis Theroux’s TV shows, a 2004 detergent commercial, and a part in Peter Kay’s video of the Tony Christie hit (Is This the Way to) Amarillo (2005), established a new cult status for Harris and Orville and triggered a small comeback. The pair even won the reality show The Farm in 2005 and were cast in the drama series Ashes to Ashes (2009) and Shameless (2011). Harris also found new audiences by performing for the Big Brother housemates in 2012 and touring student union venues with Duck Off, a show whose adult humour contrasted with his previously child-friendly act. However, he refused to play a racist version of himself in the Ricky Gervais sitcom Extras.
Diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Harris returned to the stage after surgery and underwent a bone marrow transplant, but the cancer spread to his liver.

James Best


Date of Birth: 26 July 1926, Powderly, Kentucky, US
Birth Name: Jewel Franklin Guy
Nicknames: James Best

James Best was best known for his performance as Rosco P Coltrane, the childishly inept sheriff in the American television series The Dukes of Hazzard, which was a fixture of Saturday afternoons on the BBC during the early 1980s.
The role of Sheriff Coltrane probably did not do justice to Best’s talents as a serious actor, but the character with his rustic accent, high-pitched cackle and pet basset hound, Flash was well-loved by fans of the show. The highly formulaic plots typically featured Coltrane as the accomplice and comic foil of the show’s pantomime villain, the fat and avaricious county commissioner Boss Hogg.
Hogg’s criminal schemes brought him into conflict with the Duke family of good-natured country bumpkins Bo and Luke, their attractive cousin Daisy (known for her “short shorts” and played by Catherine Bach) and uncle Jesse giving a pretext for interminable car chases filmed in rural locations in Georgia and latterly in California.


The son of a Kentucky coal miner, James Best was born Jewel Franklin Guy in humble circumstances at Powderly, a settlement south of Nashville, on July 26 1926. He was the youngest of nine siblings, and the Everly Brothers, Don and Phil, were cousins. His mother died in 1929 and when his father struggled to support the family he spent time in an orphanage before being adopted, and renamed, by Esse and Armen Best, who brought him up at Corydon, Indiana.


Best began acting while stationed with the military police in Wiesbaden after the war, taking his first role, as a drunk, in My Sister Eileen, a play directed by Arthur Penn, later a leading Hollywood figure.
On his return to the US Best joined touring stock companies before being put under contract by Universal in 1949. Through the 1950s and 1960s he turned up in supporting roles in television series such as The Virginian, Wagon Train, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and The Andy Griffith Show. He also appeared in a number of films, including three notable westerns starring James Stewart, Winchester ’73 (1950), Shenandoah (1965), set during the Civil War, and Firecreek (1968). In The Left Handed Gun (1958), with Paul Newman, Best was reunited with the director Arthur Penn, making his debut as a feature film director.
In early 1979 Best appeared in the pilot episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, “One-Armed Bandits”. He enjoyed working on the show and formed a close bond with Sorrell Booke, the actor who played Boss Hogg; many of their scenes were improvised. The series ran until 1985, gaining large audiences in both Britain and America, with a film spinoff in 2005 and regular jamborees reuniting the cast members. However, Best fell out with the producers Time Warner reaching an undisclosed settlement over what he felt was his inadequate share of the multi-million dollar profits.


Best developed a sideline in teaching the technique of film acting; he had posts at the University of Mississippi in the 1970s and, some years later, at the University of Central Florida.
He continued working into old age. In Return of the Killer Shrews (2012) a remake of The Killer Shrews, a 1959 B-movie in which he had starred he played a ship’s captain hired by a reality television show to deliver passengers to an island populated by giant mutant shrews.
He wrote a play, Hell Bent for Good Times, a comedy about a family living through the Depression, and published a memoir, Best in Hollywood: The God, the Bad and the Beautiful (2009). James Best retired to Hickory, North Carolina, where he spent happy hours fishing on the lake.

Leonard Nimoy


Date of Birth: 26 March 1931, Boston, Massachusetts, US
Birth Name: Leonard Simon Nimoy
Nicknames: Leonard Nimoy

Few actors outside soap opera become defined by a single role to the exclusion of all else in their career. But that was the case for Leonard Nimoy, who has died aged 83. He did not simply play Mr Spock, first officer of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek he was synonymous with him, even after taking on other parts and branching out into directing and photography.
Star Trek began life on television, running for three series between 1966 and 1969, and later spawned numerous spin-offs, including a run of films of varying quality, two of which (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, from 1984, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, from 1986) Nimoy directed. “I’m very proud of having been connected with the show,” he wrote in 1975. “I felt that it dealt with morality and philosophical questions in a way that many of us would wish were part of the reality of our lives.”


In front of the camera, as the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock, he captured with delicious wit the tensions in the character. Spock’s logical, detached perspective could be infuriating to his more demonstrative colleagues; it also caused him to be amused or bewildered by the workings of humans. This could play out humorously or poignantly. He was uniquely placed, for example, to analyse coolly our emotional shortcomings: “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want,” he mused in the first series. His dry rapport with the more passionate, full-blooded Captain James T Kirk (William Shatner) was a pleasure that endured long after the Star Trek brand itself showed signs of having been around the galaxy a few too many times.
Once seen, Spock was never forgotten. The hair, boot-polish black, was snipped short with a severe, straight fringe; it looked more like headgear than a haircut, more painted on than grown. An inch of forehead separated that fringe from a pair of sabre-like eyebrows that arched extravagantly upwards. These came in handy for conveying what the reserved Spock could not always express verbally. “The first thing I learned was that a raised eyebrow can be very effective,” said Nimoy.


Spock’s defining physical feature, though, was his pointed ears. The actor’s first reaction upon seeing them was: “If this doesn’t work, it could be a bad joke.” Sharply tapered but in no way pixieish, the ears somehow never undermined his gravitas. Or rather, Nimoy’s sober disposition precluded laughter. Besides, in a show suffused with messages of inclusivity and tolerance, it would never do for audiences to laugh at someone just because he came from Vulcan.
Nimoy contributed key details to the character, including the traditional Vulcan greeting: a hand held up and the four fingers parted to create a V. This was inspired by prayer gestures witnessed by the young Nimoy at synagogue.
He would later title his 1975 memoir I Am Not Spock. “I was trying to illuminate the actor’s process in creating a character. I talked about the fact that I grew up in Boston and Spock did not. My parents were Russian immigrants; Spock’s were not. I’m an actor who portrays this character.” He conceded, though, that the title had been a mistake and had given the erroneous impression that he was trying to shrug off his best-known role. He made amends by calling the 1995 follow-up I Am Spock.


Nimoy was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Max, a barber, and Dora, and showed an interest in acting from a young age (though his father tried to persuade him to take up the accordion instead). He studied drama at Boston College and began to get small parts in theatre, film and television. At 20 he was cast in the lead role of a young boxer in the 1952 film Kid Monk Baroni, and discovered a kind of sanctuary in the prosthetics he was required to wear. “I found a home behind that makeup,” he wrote in I Am Not Spock. “I was much more confident and comfortable than I would have been, had I been told I was to play ‘a handsome young man’.”
Nimoy did military service from 1953 to 1955, during which time one of his duties was producing army talent shows. He continued acting after leaving the army and in the early 1960s began teaching acting classes, while also starring in guest roles on television series including Bonanza, Rawhide and The Twilight Zone. He established his own acting studio where he taught for three years.
Nimoy auditioned for an earlier Gene Roddenberry project, and when Roddenberry created Star Trek he thought of him for the role of Spock. “I thought it would be a challenge,” Nimoy said. “As an actor, my training had been in how to use my emotions, and here was a character who had them all locked up.”


After 79 episodes across three series, the NBC network cancelled the show because of its low ratings. Nimoy went straight into another regular gig a role on the light-hearted spy series Mission: Impossible and then began studying photography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He would later publish photographic studies including Shekhina (2002), a celebration of spirituality and sexuality in Judaism, and The Full Body Project (2007), focused on unorthodox female body sizes.


His acting work in the 1970s included a chilling performance in Philip Kaufman’s intelligent 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In 1979, he returned to play Spock in the rather leaden Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He would do so in a further seven Star Trek films. Among them were Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). He was the only original cast member to appear in JJ Abrams’s instalments of the revived or “rebooted” franchise, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). His appearance in the first of those Abrams films, as the older Spock coming face to face with his younger self (Zachary Quinto), was deeply affecting and played with characteristic restraint. He also revived Spock in two 1991 episodes (“Unification I” and “Unification II”) of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and in animated and computer-game incarnations of Star Trek.


If Nimoy never escaped association with Spock, it was not for want of trying. He wrote seven poetry collections, released several albums and established himself as a successful and varied director. Alongside his two Star Trek movies, he directed himself in a TV movie version of the one-man play Vincent (1981), about the life of Van Gogh. He scored an international box-office hit with 3 Men and a Baby (1987). He also made the drama The Good Mother (1988), starring Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson, as well as two disappointing comedies, Funny About Love (1990) and Holy Matrimony (1994).

Louis Jourdan


Date of Birth: 19 June 1921, Marseille, France
Birth Name: Louis Robert Gendre
Nicknames: Louis Jourdan

For audiences in the 1940s and 50s, Louis Jourdan’s incredible good looks and mellifluous Gallic purr seemed to sum up everything that was sexy and enticing about Frenchmen. As a result, he became the most sought-after French actor since Charles Boyer. Though perhaps this hampered him, stymying opportunities to extend his dramatic range, any actor who was constantly in demand by both French studios and Hollywood producers had a lot to be grateful for.


When Jourdan played the consummate bon vivant in Vincente Minnelli’s Gigi (1958), he became an international celebrity. The film, which co-starred Maurice Chevalier and Leslie Caron, won nine Oscars, including best picture. Though the best-known of its Lerner and Loewe numbers was Chevalier’s Thank Heaven for Little Girls, the title song went to Jourdan. He later widened the breadth of his work, and in old age was still one of the most handsome men on the screen, even if the films themselves seldom matched the fineness of his looks.
He was born in Marseilles, one of the three sons of Henri Gendre, a hotelier who organised the Cannes film festival after the second world war, and Yvonne, from whose maiden name, Jourdan, Louis took his stage name. The family followed Henri’s work, which accounted for the ease with which he was later able to perform overseas. He was educated in France, Turkey and Britain, where he learned to speak perfect English with an accent that he was clever enough to realise he should keep superbly French.

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Jourdan, who knew from early on that he was going to be an actor, studied under René Simon in Paris. Admired for his dramatic talent and a certain polish that no one could readily explain, he was cast in his film debut, Le Corsaire (1939), which starred Boyer, though the outbreak of the second world war prevented its completion. He went on to appear in L’Arlésienne (1942) before his career was interrupted by the Nazi occupation of France.
His father was arrested by the Gestapo, and Louis and his two brothers were active members of the resistance, whose work for the underground meant that he had to stay away from the studios. But it also resulted in his becoming a favourite of the resurgent French postwar film industry. At a time when many had worked on films that had served to help Marshal Pétain’s propaganda campaign and stars such as Chevalier were being accused of collaboration – it was easy to promote a star who had actively worked against the Nazis.
In 1946, Jourdan married Berthe Frédérique (known as Quique) and went to Los Angeles, having been persuaded by the movie mogul David O Selznick that he would be able to make more of himself in Hollywood than he ever could in Paris. He shone in his first American film, The Paradine Case (1947), directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Gregory Peck. This was followed by Max Ophüls’s masterly Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), based on the story by Stefan Zweig. Jourdan played the debonair, womanising pianist with whom Joan Fontaine falls hopelessly and tragically in love. He invested the performance with a vulnerability that saved his character from being simply caddish.


In Minnelli’s 1949 film of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, he starred as the lover of the adulterous anti-heroine, played by Jennifer Jones. He returned to France for Rue de l’Estrapade (1953) and La Mariée Est Trop Belle (The Bride Is Too Beautiful, released with the title Her Bridal Night, 1956), the latter with Brigitte Bardot, while in Italy he appeared in Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), its title referring to the Trevi fountain in Rome. His image as the light romantic lead was burnished in that film, and his status as such was sealed by Gigi, which made him the No 1 pin-up of sophisticated American women.
He had a similar role in Can-Can (1960), which starred Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine and Chevalier. There followed continental roles in Hollywood productions: as a playboy in The VIPs (1963) and a fashion designer in Made in Paris (1966).


He had made his Broadway debut, playing a repressed gay man embarking on marriage, in an adaptation of André Gide’s The Immoralist, in 1954. The production co-starred Geraldine Page and James Dean, before Dean’s movie breakthrough. The following year, Jourdan returned to the New York stage in Tonight in Samarkand. He soon let it be known that he wanted more serious film roles and was not getting enough of them. In 1961 he took the lead in Claude Autant-Lara’s Le Comte de Monte Cristo and, in 1975, he appeared in a British TV movie production of Alexandre Dumas’s novel, this time playing De Villefort to Richard Chamberlain’s Count. Two years later, he was D’Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask on TV, again opposite Chamberlain.
He played Dracula in a 1977 BBC TV adaptation and an Afghan prince in the James Bond adventure Octopussy (1983), but few of his later roles showed the range of his talents. Certainly, Swamp Thing (1982) and The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) were not the sort of movies that the Gigi star would want to be remembered for. In the mid-80s he returned to Gigi, this time in Chevalier’s role, for a touring show; he replied to the criticism that he lip-synched songs by saying: “If I sang them live, the fragile little voice I have would go.”
Jourdan’s final film appearance came as a suave villain in Peter Yates’s caper about a rare bottle of wine, Year of the Comet (1992). In 2010 he was appointed to the Légion d’Honneur.

Geraldine McEwan


Date of Birth: 9 May 1932, Old Windsor, Berkshire, UK
Birth Name: Geraldine McKeown
Nicknames: Geraldine McEwan

Geraldine McEwan, could purr like a kitten, snap like a viper and, like Shakespeare’s Bottom, roar you as gently as any sucking dove. She was a brilliant, distinctive and decisive performer with a particular expertise in high comedy whose career incorporated West End comedy, Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre, and a cult television following in EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia.
She was also notable on television as a controversial Miss Marple in a series of edgy, incongruously outspoken Agatha Christie adaptations (2004-09). Inheriting a role that had already been inhabited at least three times “definitively” by Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury and Joan Hickson she made of the deceptively cosy detective a character both steely and skittish, with a hint of lust about her, too.


This new Miss Marple was an open-minded woman of the world, with a back story that touched on a thwarted love affair with a married man who had been killed in the first world war. Familiar thrillers were given new plot twists, and there was even the odd sapphic embrace. For all her ingenuity and faun-like fluttering, McEwan was really no more successful in the part than was Julia McKenzie, her very different successor.
Although she was not easily confused with Maggie Smith, she often tracked her stylish contemporary, succeeding her in Peter Shaffer roles (in The Private Ear and The Public Eye in 1963, and in Lettice and Lovage in 1988) and rivalling Smith as both Millamant and Lady Wishfort in Congreve’s masterpiece The Way of the World in 1969 and 1995.
And a decade after Smith won her Oscar for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, McEwan scored a great success in the same role on television in 1978; Muriel Spark said that McEwan was her favourite Miss Brodie in a cluster that also included Vanessa Redgrave and Anna Massey.


McEwan was born in Old Windsor, where her father, Donald McKeown, was a printers’ compositor who ran the local branch of the Labour party in a Tory stronghold; her mother, Nora (nee Burns), was working-class Irish. Geraldine was always a shy and private girl who found her voice, she said, when she stood up in school and read a poem.
She had won a scholarship to Windsor county school, but she felt out of place until she found refuge in the Windsor Rep at the Theatre Royal, where she played an attendant fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1946. Leaving school, she joined the Windsor company for two years in 1949, meeting there her life-long companion, Hugh Cruttwell, a former teacher turned stage manager, 14 years her senior, whom she married in 1953, and who became a much-loved and influential principal of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1965.
Without any formal training, McEwan went straight from Windsor to the West End, making her debut at the Vaudeville theatre in 1951 in Who Goes There? by John Deighton, followed by an 18-month run in For Better, For Worse… at the Comedy in 1952 and with Dirk Bogarde in Summertime, a light comedy by Ugo Betti, at the Apollo in 1955.
Summertime was directed by Peter Hall and had a chaotic pre-West End tour, Bogarde’s fans mobbing the stage door every night and in effect driving him away from the theatre for good; McEwan told Bogarde’s biographer, John Coldstream, how he was both deeply encouraging to her and deeply conflicted over his heartthrob star status.
Within a year she made her Stratford debut as the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost and played opposite Olivier in John Osborne’s The Entertainer, replacing Joan Plowright as Jean Rice when the play moved from the Royal Court to the Palace. Like Ian Holm and Diana Rigg, she was a key agent of change in the transition from the summer Stratford festival playing Olivia, Marina and Hero in the 1958 season to Peter Hall’s new Royal Shakespeare Company; at Stratford in 1961, she played Beatrice to Christopher Plummer’s Benedick and Ophelia to Ian Bannen’s Hamlet.
Kittenish and playful, with a wonderful gift for suggesting hurt innocence with an air of enchanted distraction, she was a superb Lady Teazle in a 1962 Haymarket production of The School for Scandal, also starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, that went to Broadway in early 1963, her New York debut.
She returned to tour in the first, disastrous, production of Joe Orton’s Loot, with Kenneth Williams, in 1965, and then joined Olivier’s National at the Old Vic, where parts over the next five years included Raymonde Chandebise in Jacques Charon’s landmark production of Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear, Alice in Strindberg’s Dance of Death (with Olivier and Robert Stephens), Queen Anne in Brecht’s Edward II, Victoria (“a needle-sharp gold digger” said one reviewer) in Somerset Maugham’s Home and Beauty, Millamant and Vittoria Corombona in The White Devil.


Back in the West End, she formed a classy quartet, alongside Pat Heywood, Albert Finney and Denholm Elliott, in Peter Nichols’s Chez Nous at the Globe (1974), and gave a delightful impression of a well-trained, coquettish poodle as the leisured whore in Noël Coward’s broken-backed adaptation of Feydeau, Look After Lulu, at Chichester and the Haymarket.
In the 1980s, she made sporadic appearances at the National, now on the South Bank, winning two Evening Standard awards for her fresh and youthful Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals (“Men are all Bavarians,” she exclaimed on exiting, creating a brand new malapropism for “barbarians”) and her hilariously acidulous Lady Wishfort; and was a founder member of Ray Cooney’s Theatre of Comedy at the Shaftesbury theatre.
In the latter part of her stage career, she seemed to cut loose in ever more adventurous directions, perhaps through her friendship with Kenneth Branagh, who had become very close to Cruttwell while studying at Rada. She was a surprise casting as the mother of a lycanthropic psychotic, played by Will Patton, in Sam Shepard’s merciless domestic drama, A Lie of the Mind, at the Royal Court in 1987. And in 1988 she directed As You Like It for Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company, Branagh playing Touchstone as an Edwardian music hall comedian.
She then directed Christopher Hampton’s underrated Treats at the Hampstead theatre and, in 1998, formed a fantastical nonagenarian double act with Richard Briers in a Royal Court revival, directed by Simon McBurney, of Ionesco’s tragic farce, The Chairs, her grey hair bunched on one side like superannuated candy floss.
The following year, she was a brilliant but controversial Judith Bliss in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, directed as a piece of Gothic absurdism at the Savoy by Declan Donnellan; McEwan tiptoed through the thunderclaps and lightning like a glinting harridan, a tipsy bacchanalian with a waspish lust and highly cultivated lack of concern (“My husband’s not dead; he’s upstairs.”)
Other television successes included playing Jeanette Winterson’s mother in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1990) and Carrie’s War (2004), while her occasional movie appearances included Tony Richardson’s The Adventures of Tom Jones (1975), two of Branagh’s Shakespeare adaptations – Henry V (1989) and Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) – as well as Robin, Prince of Thieves (1991), Peter Mullan’s devastating critique of an Irish Catholic education, The Magdalene Sisters (2002), in which she played cruel, cold-hearted Sister Bridget, and Vanity Fair (2005).
She was rumoured to have turned down both the OBE and a damehood, but never confirmed this.

Steve Strange


Date of Birth: 28 May 1959, Newbridge, Caerphilly, Wales
Birth Name: Steven John Harrington
Nicknames: Steve Strange

Steve Strange, was one of the most influential figures in the London club circuit that launched the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s, and a hit-making pop star with his own band, Visage. Although his early success gave way to periods of drug addiction and poverty, Strange had recently been enjoying a revival in his fortunes and had re-formed Visage for live shows and a new album.
Strange will be most vividly remembered as the outrageously flamboyant host of a string of nightclubs that powerfully influenced the London fashion and music scenes in the aftermath of punk. In 1978, he and Rusty Egan (then drummer with the Rich Kids) began holding David Bowie nights on Tuesdays at Billy’s club in Soho, a squalid bunker situated beneath a brothel. “We played Bowie, Roxy [Music] and electro,” said Strange. “It was where our friends could be themselves.” Billy’s could hold only 250 people but swiftly developed an outsize reputation, numbering among its garishly clad clientele such stars-to-be as George O’Dowd (the future Boy George), Siobhan Fahey, later of Bananarama, and Marilyn.


In 1979, Strange and Egan scaled up to the Blitz club in Covent Garden, and “the ball really started rolling”, as Strange put it. As scenesters dressed as ghouls, witches, vamps and Regency libertines battled to get through the doors, and Boy George acted as “the coat-check girl”, Strange (in leather jodhpurs and long overcoat) stood at the door and judged who would be allowed in. He enjoyed a huge publicity splash by denying admission to Mick Jagger. “Mick got annoyed and said, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ before storming off in search of nightlife elsewhere,” Strange wrote in his autobiography, Blitzed! (2002).
As well as being frequented by the filmmaker Derek Jarman, Siouxsie Sioux and Depeche Mode and fashion designers such as Antony Price and Zandra Rhodes, the Blitz was the launchpad for the career of Spandau Ballet, who played there on Thursday nights. “We are making the most contemporary statement in fashion and music,” said the band’s songwriter and guitarist Gary Kemp.
Meanwhile, Strange, who had already played in the bands the Moors Murderers and the Photons, had formed Visage with Egan, Midge Ure and several members of Magazine, and they released the unsuccessful single Tar in 1979. It was the intervention of Bowie that put them on the map. He recruited Strange and some Blitz regulars to appear in his video for Ashes to Ashes, which hugely boosted Strange’s profile when the song went to No 1. Visage signed a new deal with Polydor and in 1980 enjoyed international success with their debut album and their career-defining hit, Fade to Grey.


In 1981, Strange and Egan opened Club for Heroes in Baker Street, then moved to the Camden Palace the following year. The 2,000-capacity Palace became a mecca for international clubgoers, and established Strange as the pre-eminent name among the new clubland elite. Bisexual, he was now in a relationship with Francesca “Chessie” Thyssen (daughter of the German steel tycoon Baron Heini Thyssen) with whom he skied in Gstaad and “played elephant polo in India with Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach”. Prince Andrew and his then girlfriend, Koo Stark, were frequent visitors to Strange’s flat in Chelsea.
He was born Steven Harrington in Newbridge, Monmouthshire, son of John Harrington, who joined the army soon after his son’s birth, and his wife, Gillian (nee Price). The family later moved to Aldershot, Hampshire, where his father was posted, and then, when John left the army, to Rhyl, where his parents ran a guest house and several seafront cafes. His parents divorced, and Steven lived with his mother in a council house in Newbridge, where he attended the local grammar school.



At 13 he began stealing drugs from chemists’ shops, and at 14 was cautioned by police for possessing amphetamines. After seeing the Sex Pistols play in Newport in 1976, he left Wales for London, where he worked briefly for Malcolm McLaren and shared squats with the future stars Billy Idol (William Broad) and Sid Vicious (John Beverley). He worked in clothes shops and as a roadie for rock groups, before joining the Moors Murderers. They released the single Free Hindley before Strange left the band and was briefly a member of the Photons.
Following the huge success of his various clubs and Visage, Strange began to find the pop business awash with cocaine and developed a taste for it. Then, on a trip to Paris in 1982 to model clothes for Jean Paul Gaultier, he was given some heroin and rapidly became addicted to it. “The biggest mistake I ever made was heroin,” he said later. “You don’t ever dabble with it, you stay clear away.”


Friends including Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp and the singer Sade tried unsuccessfully to help Strange get treatment for his addiction. He began spending periods of time in Ibiza, where he became involved in the developing trance music scene, but whenever he returned to London found himself dragged back to the addict’s lifestyle. On one occasion he was convicted of theft and fined for stealing a chequebook, intending to buy drugs.
Then he spent nearly five years living in Ibiza, where he hosted the Double Bass club, before returning to London in the 90s. He began hosting club nights again, but then hit a low after the deaths of his close friends Paula Yates and Michael Hutchence. His house in east London was destroyed by fire and Strange found himself back in Wales, living with his sister Tanya and two lodgers in the house in Porthcawl he had bought for his mother a few years previously. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was prescribed Prozac, Valium and temazepam.
In 2000, he was arrested in Bridgend for shoplifting. He was given a three-month suspended prison sentence, and attended treatment to wean himself off Prozac. There were signs that he was making positive progress when he re-formed Visage in 2004, and recorded the song Diaries of a Madman.
In 2006, he co-wrote and performed on the track In the Dark for the electronic duo Punx Soundcheck, and in 2013 a new Visage album, Hearts and Knives, was released (their first collection of new material for 29 years). The band played dates in the UK and Europe, and last year recorded a new version of Fade to Grey.

Demis Roussos


Date of Birth: 15 June 1946, Alexandria, Egypt
Birth Name: Artemios Ventouris Roussos
Nicknames: Demis Roussos

Demis Roussos, the Greek singer who has died aged 68, became an unlikely heart throb in the 1970s when his album sales earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
He scored his biggest success in Britain in 1975 when he had five albums in the top 10 simultaneously and in 1976 when his annoyingly unforgettable romantic ballad Forever and Ever was No 1 in the single charts. Worldwide he sold more than 60 million albums. “My music came right on time,” Roussos told an interviewer in 2002. “It was romantic Mediterranean music addressed to all the people who wanted to go on holiday. My music was liked by the people ... other artists of the same era, Mediterranean, like Julio Iglesias and Nana Mouskouri, followed me.”


His publicity people described Roussos’s songs as a mixture of “Byzantine psalms and muezzin prayer calls”, and there was something otherworldly about his tremulous, near-falsetto delivery. But there was much that was strange about Roussos. Even if his voice had not compelled attention, his Falstaffian 23-stone girth, beard, long hair and penchant for billowing kaftans would have marked him out.
Incredibly to some, Roussos, who became known as “The Phenomenon”, became seen as a sex symbol. In Britain the mostly middle-aged female audiences at his sell-out concerts became every bit as hysterical about his wobbling chins and zithery ballads as their teenage counterparts had been for the Beatles. In later life he recalled that women in the front row would sometimes try to grab his kaftans to see if he was wearing anything underneath (the answer, he claimed, was no).
Critics, though, were less easily smitten. The Sun called him “The Big Squeak” and likened him to a cross between Mickey Mouse and Moby Dick. Others called him the “The Love Walrus” or “The Singing Tent”, while The Sunday Times said he sounded like a spaniel that had been kicked. And after two years of British hits, Roussos faded from view. The coup de grace, according to some, was administered by Mike Leigh in the scene in his Play For Today, Abigail’s Party (1977), in which the monstrous Bev (Alison Steadman) sways gormlessly to Forever and Ever, consigning Roussos to the ranks of the irredeemably unhip. His next two singles struggled to gain entry into the Top 40.
Roussos, however, felt that his inadvertent role in the film was proof that he had left an enduring impression on the 20th century: “Nobody can deny that my name left a mark into the century’s music,” he told The Guardian in 1999. “Even if I die tomorrow, Demis Roussos left a card, a trademark, something that cannot be forgotten.”


Artemios Ventouris Roussos was born to Greek parents on June 15 1946 in Alexandria, Egypt, where his father was working as an architect.
The family was forced to flee Egypt for Greece during the Suez crisis of 1956, leaving all of their possessions behind, and as soon as he was old enough young Demis, who sung in a Greek Byzantine church choir as a child and learned guitar, trumpet and piano in school, began work as a cabaret musician to to help his family make ends meet. His teenage years coincided with a boom in the Greek tourism industry and he began singing in tourist bars. By the mid-1960s he was performing covers of British and American pop hits, such as House of the Rising Sun and When a Man Loves a Woman, with a band called The Idols.
Towards the end of the decade he hooked up with the future film music composer Vangelis, with whom he formed Aphrodite’s Child, a prog-pop combo who fled to France after the Greek military coup of 1967 made them unwelcome in their homeland. In 1968 they released the song Rain And Tears (derived from Pachelbel’s Canon) during the student riots in Paris. Referring to the tear gas used on demonstrators, it sold more than a million copies in France and managed to scrape into the Top 40 in Britain.
After half a dozen albums in three years, Aphrodite’s Child broke up in 1971 and Roussos went solo, cutting his first album, On the Greek Side of My Mind, the same year. He was already well known on the continent but little known in Britain until 1974 when a BBC documentary, entitled The Roussos Phenomenon, turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
His first UK single to make the charts, Happy to be on an Island in the Sun, reached No 5 in 1975. Other hits included My Friend The Wind; Goodbye My Love, Goodbye; Quand je t’aime, Someday Somewhere and Lovely Lady Of Arcadia.


By the time his star began to wane in Britain Roussos was a wealthy man with a mansion outside Paris, a private jet, an estate in the south of France and all the other trappings of success. But he did not remain idle. In the early 1980s, while living in California, he went on a diet, shed more than six stone, then published A Question of Weight, which sold a million copies. He remained constantly popular in Europe, where he continued to tour, through his fluency in Spanish, French, Italian, German and Arabic, as well as Greek and English. In later years he found new fans in the Middle East, Russia and central Asia, developing what one critic described as “a new-age, ethnic kind of sound, influenced by Africa and the Balkans”.
In 1985 he made an unwitting comeback into the British national consciousness when he was held captive for a few days in Beirut after his flight from Athens to Rome was hijacked by Hizbollah militants. The press reported that he had sung to his captors (not true, said Roussos) and had a bit of fun at his expense, one correspondent rejoicing that his captors “did not go unpunished”. In 2002 he enjoyed a mini-comeback when his “Best Of” collection, Forever And Ever, reached number 20 in the album charts and he undertook a tour of Britain.
Demis Roussos was married and divorced three times.

Rudolf Vrba


Date of Birth: 11 September 1924, Topolcany, Czechoslovakia
Birth Name: Walter Rosenberg
Nicknames: Rudolf Vrba

Rudolf Vrba escaped from Auschwitz in 1944 and was one of the first people to give first-hand evidence of the gas chambers, mass murder and plans to exterminate a million Jews. So horrific was the testimony from Rudolf Vrba, that the members of the Jewish Council in Hungary couldn't quite believe what they were hearing.
Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, who escaped with him in April 1944, drew up a detailed plan of Auschwtiz and its gas chambers, providing compelling evidence of what had previously been considered embellishment. It has since emerged that reports from inside Auschwitz, compiled by the Polish Underground State and the Polish Government in Exile and written by Jan Karski and Witold Pilecki among others, had in fact reached some Western allies before 1944, but action had not been taken.
Vrba and Wetzler's detailed, first-hand report about how Nazis were systematically killing Jews was compiled into the Wetzler-Vrba report and sent shockwaves around the world when it was circulated and picked up by international media in 1944.
It still took some weeks before the report was accepted and credited after it was written something that Vrba said had contributed to the deaths of an estimated 50,000 Hungarian Jews. Just weeks before their escape, German forces had invaded Hungary, and Jews there were already being shipped to Auschwitz. It wasn't until the report made the headlines in international media that Hungary stopped the deportation in July of 1944.


Rudolf Vrba, survived two years in Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland before escaping to warn the world of Nazi plans to exterminate one million Hungarian Jews in 1944.
But when he and his fellow escaper Alfred Wetzler made contact with the Jewish Council at Zilina in Slovakia, offering one of the first detailed eye-witness accounts of what had previously been unconfirmed rumour, they were treated with caution.
First they were asked to dictate their personal accounts separately and then rigorously cross-examined about their revelations.
The results then formed the 32-page report known as The Auschwitz Protocols.
Although Winston Churchill was to declare that Auschwitz was "probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world", their evidence met a tardy response.
The Hungarian Ministry of Justice, awaiting take-over by the Germans, actively participated in the deportations. The Allies, hard-pressed in the battle of Normandy, refused to divert aircraft to the difficult task of of bombing the railway line from Hungary to Poland.
Sharp criticism was to be levelled against some leaders of Hungary's Jewish community, who failed to warn their people what being "resettled" in Poland meant.
Vrba was disgusted by the excuse that these leaders were negotiating with Adolf Eichmann for the one million Hungarian Jews to be spared in exchange for cash and rail trucks which the Germans could use on the eastern front.
He said that there was no chance of the talks succeeding, and the resulting delay caused some 50,000 Hungarian deaths.


The son of a Jewish sawmill owner, Rudolf Vrba was born Walter Rosenberg on September 11 1924 at Topolcany, Czechoslovakia. He was expelled from school when anti-Jewish laws were enforced, but continued to study at home.
His mother regarded his decision to learn English as eccentric, and was so alarmed when he took up Russian that she took him to a doctor.
At 17 he left home to join the Czechoslovak Army in Britain, tearing the yellow Star of David off his shoulder and entering Hungary. However, he was soon arrested. He escaped and was then recaptured by a policeman on a bicycle who had become suspicious of the young man who was wearing two pairs of socks.
After being introduced to concentration camp life at Maidanek, near Lublin, where he met one of his brothers, whom he was never to see again, Vrba volunteered to do farm work. Passing under the brass sign over the gate, Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Brings Freedom), he entered Auschwitz on June 30 1942.
There he saw how new arrivals were divided between those consigned straight to the gas ovens and others fit for heavy work. His promised agricultural work consisted of helping to dig up the bodies of 107,000 already murdered or allowed to die, for incineration.
Vrba's luck changed when a Viennese prisoner, trusted by the SS, discovered he could speak German and transferred him to a store-room, named Canada, where the clothing and belongings of the dead were sorted.
Since it also contained food for the SS, he found not only enough to eat but plenty of soap and water to ensure there was no risk of disease.
Gradually he recognised the flickers of humanity hidden within some of the guards and trusties, and was inducted into their hierarchy of pilfering.


Although severely beaten after being caught smuggling some goods to friends, Vrba rose to become a camp registrar.
He calculated that some 1,760,000 were killed, a figure now considered probably rather high, and gave succinct descriptions of one of the four ovens at the sub-camp at Birkenau, where the gassings took place: "It holds 2,000 people. When everybody is inside, the heavy doors are closed.
"Then there is a short pause, presumably to allow the room temperature to rise to a certain level, after which the SS men with gas masks climb on the roof, open the traps and shoe down a preparation in powder form out of tin cans, a cyanide mixture of some sort which turns into gas at a certain temperature.
"After three minutes everyone in the chamber is dead… The chamber is then opened, aired and the 'special squad' (of slave labourers) carts the bodies on flat trucks to the furnace rooms where the burning takes place."



Vrba and Wetzel managed to escape after hiding in a building site under a pile of logs, the gaps between which they stuffed with Russian tobacco, dipped in petrol, to put off sniffer dogs. Some soldiers started to lift up the logs, but they had to halt when an air raid warning went off.
Three days later the pair slipped out at night and headed for Slovakia, giving pursuers the slip and sheltering with Polish peasants.
After crossing the border they reached Zilina, helping a swineherd to bring his pigs to market.
Having made their report, Vrba and Wetzel were taken to safety in the Tatras mountains but after some weeks they learned that Hungarians were already being sent to Auschwitz.
They returned to Bratislava, where they made four more copies of the report, which was hidden behind a statue of the Virgin Mary.
They gave one to a representative of the papal nuncio, who sent it on to the Vatican.
In September 1944, Vrba joined a Czechoslovak partisan unit, with which he fought for the rest of the war, winning the Czechoslovak Medal of Bravery.
On the return of peace, he changed his name officially to Rudolf Vrba, and read Chemistry and Biology at Charles University at Prague; he then produced a thesis on the metabolism of butryic acid.
After being invited to attend an international conference in Israel, he defected. But although he found work with the Weizmann Institute, Vrba felt that many who had let down the Hungarian Jews were in positions of influence in the new state.
He moved on to Britain, where he worked at the Neuropsychiatric Research Unit at Carshalton, Surrey, and then for the Medical Research Council.
It was as Eichmann's trial was about to start in 1960 that he wrote a series of articles for the Daily Herald, which led to his vivid memoir, I Cannot Forgive, written with the Irish journalist Alan Bestic.
It was to be translated into several languages, though not into Hebrew until 1998. Later he gave evidence at the trials of several Auschwitz guards.
In 1967 Vrba moved to the University of British Columbia, where, after a two year sabbatical at Harvard Medical School, he became professor of pharmacology.
He went on to produce 50 research papers on the chemistry of the brain, diabetes and cancer. Over the years Vrba was also asked to lecture on the Holocaust and to take part in several television documentaries.

Pauline Yates


Date of Birth: 16 June 1929 St Helens, Lancashire, Merseyside, UK
Birth Name: Pauline Lettice Yates
Nicknames: Pauline Yates

The gentle good nature of the BBC’s anarchic 1970s comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin that made it such a hit owed much to the innocent yet tacitly conspiratorial support of Reggie Perrin’s wife, Elizabeth, played by Pauline Yates, who has died aged 85. She was a spirit of domestic calm in the mayhem created by David Nobbs’s other characters, led by Leonard Rossiter as the erratic Reggie Perrin, whose bizarre behaviour she treated as normal and in need of no explanation.


The show ran for three series between 1976 and 1979, in the course of which Elizabeth became almost as serenely batty as Reggie. Although she was practically teetotal, Yates needed a large gin and tonic at the end of each recording.
Yates’s career path was almost like a route map through British television comedy in the 70s and 80s. She was a consummate comic foil, appearing in The Ronnie Barker Playhouse on ITV in 1968, but also taking on central roles as the Tory MP in the BBC’s My Honourable Mrs (1975), opposite Derek Nimmo, and the divorcee finding a new life after marriage in Thames TV’s Harriet’s Back in Town (1972).


She was born into a working-class household in St Helens, Lancashire (now in Merseyside), the eldest of three daughters of Thomas Yates, a commercial traveller, and Marjorie (nee Blackie), who ran a corner shop. Raised in Liverpool, Elizabeth was determined to be an actor, much against her parents’ wishes. When she left Childwall Valley high school at 17, her mother gave her an ultimatum: get a job within a year or train as a teacher.
In two weeks she had found work as an assistant stage manager at Chorley theatre, before moving on to rep companies throughout the north and in London, where she shared digs with the actor Peggy Mount. She met the actor and writer Donald Churchill when both were working in Liverpool in 1960, and they were married later that year.
Yates’s looks and ability to learn lines quickly, a trick perfected during her years in rep, made her a popular choice for TV casting directors. In 1957 she was in the one of the first hospital soap operas, ITV’s Emergency Ward 10, and she appeared in the BBC police series Z Cars and Softly Softly, and, on a number of occasions, in ITV’s Armchair Theatre, for which Churchill wrote several plays.


Later, she was in four series of the Thames Television sitcom Keep It in the Family (1980-83) as the put-upon wife of a cartoonist, Dudley Rush (Robert Gillespie), and in 1985 appeared with Julie Walters in the film She’ll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas as one of a group of middle-aged women at a survival school. Her last TV appearance was in the 2002 pilot for the ITV crime series Rose and Maloney, starring Sarah Lancashire and Phil Davis.
On stage she was Mrs Bennett in a Liverpool Playhouse production of Pride and Prejudice, and toured as Lettice in Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage (1991).
Domestic life in the Churchills’ Primrose Hill, north London, home could have been a sitcom script. They loved to entertain, and the house was often full of actors, writers and directors sitting around a drinks-laden table gossiping and laughing. Yates could sometimes be found in the kitchen pouring wine down the sink to encourage the guests to go.

Leon Brittan


Date of Birth: 25 September 1939, Cricklewood, North London, UK
Birth Name: Leon Brittan

Lord Brittan of Spennithorne, who has died aged 75, overcame a humiliating end to his ministerial career during the Westland crisis to become the longest-serving and most effective of Britain’s European commissioners.
Widely respected for his intellect and capacity for hard work, Leon Brittan made his reputation in the early 1980s as a formidable administrator with an unrivalled grasp of the details of his brief, a talent that had previously made him a successful QC.
Suddenly brought into Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet in 1981 promoted over the head of Nigel Lawson to chief secretary to the Treasury he proved highly effective in imposing detailed control on public spending, an intellectually demanding task that his predecessor, John Biffen, had found too unpleasant (or too difficult).
As home secretary after the 1983 election, Brittan imported a raft of ideas for updating criminal justice, including stiffer sentences, and easing restrictions on using tape-recorded witness statements and on independent prosecutions. He produced many reforming Bills and tried to streamline Home Office bureaucracy; senior officials reckoned him the only post-war home secretary to realise what was wrong with the department and try to remedy it.
Brittan was one of the few Cabinet members who could privately persuade Mrs Thatcher that her initial reaction on a particular issue was wrong, and his willingness to argue with No 10 contradicted the popular caricature of him as a placeman.
Yet though he was one of the most gifted of her ministers, he was short on political judgment and sensitivity. Myopic-looking and unashamedly intellectual, Brittan’s manner was widely interpreted, especially by press commentators, as patronising, even contemptuous. In her memoirs Mrs Thatcher recorded: “Everybody complained about his manner on television, which was aloof and uncomfortable.”
Where the public saw arrogance and coldness, Brittan’s friends noted precisely the opposite: a shy, humorous and exceptionally kind man and, improbable as it might have seemed to outsiders, the object of real affection. Even in a wider circle he was notable for being completely free of malice or spite. Yet the criticism that he was too clever for his own good and short on common sense dogged his career.


These failings came to the fore in 1985 when, in response to rising Tory anger at “Left-wing bias” in the BBC, Brittan tried to pressure the corporation’s governors to prevent the screening of a Real Lives documentary on Northern Ireland, an effort which, since he did not succeed, left him looking simultaneously authoritarian and ineffective. This episode prompted Mrs Thatcher to move him, against his wishes, to the Department of Trade and Industry in September 1985. She was also influenced by backbench Tory complaints that Home Office questions, in which Brittan was pitted against Labour’s Gerald Kaufman, who shared his Baltic Jewish origins, was “like being in a foreign country”.
The DTI should have been an easier billet, well suited to Brittan’s backroom talents, and his speech at the party conference soon after brought him an unexpected standing ovation. But then came Westland.
The Westland company of Yeovil, Britain’s only helicopter manufacturer, was in financial trouble and sought to be bailed out by Sikorsky, its American counterpart. The Sikorsky bid ran into immediate opposition from the defence secretary, Michael Heseltine, who claimed that the Americans would turn Westland into a “metal-bashing operation” and suggested the company look for a European buyer.
When Heseltine convened a meeting of the national armaments directors of France, Italy and Germany, as well as Britain, to agree a policy whereby they would only buy helicopters designed and built in Europe, he put himself at loggerheads not only with the Westland board but with the prime minister and her trade and industry secretary, who felt it was wrong for the government to prevent any particular solution to Westland’s problems.
This disagreement erupted into a political crisis, with the arguments played out in Parliament and the press, mostly to the advantage of Heseltine, lobbying frantically behind the scenes. Then extracts were leaked from a confidential letter in which the solicitor-general, Sir Patrick Mayhew, accused the defence secretary of “material inaccuracies” in the presentation of his case.
Following Heseltine’s dramatic resignation in mid-Cabinet on January 9 1986, it emerged that Brittan had authorised the leak, albeit with what he thought was No 10’s consent. On January 24 he offered his own resignation.


Brittan’s departure at the height of the worst internal crisis of Mrs Thatcher’s premiership was the direct result of his loyalty to a prime minister he regarded as a friend. Inevitably, he was seen as the fall guy, a necessary sacrifice to save Mrs Thatcher herself. “He meekly accepted the role of scapegoat,” Lawson recalled. “Had he made public all he knew, she could not possibly have survived.” Perhaps in acknowledgment of this, Mrs Thatcher broke with tradition in expressing a clear desire in her reply to Brittan’s letter of resignation to have him back in Cabinet as soon as possible. But he was never rehabilitated, and in 1989 left for Brussels.
Leon Brittan was born on September 25 1939, the younger son of Lithuanian Jews who arrived in the country as refugees in 1927 and settled in Cricklewood, where his father was a doctor. Leon’s elder brother, Sam, would become a respected columnist on the Financial Times.
From Haberdashers’ Aske’s School, Leon won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. His ambition to succeed in both law and politics was clear: he gained double Firsts in English and Law and became both president of the Union and chairman of the university Conservative association. After a scholarship year at Yale, he was called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 1962 and became a leading libel lawyer, taking silk in 1978.
Two years before, Brittan secured a change in the law of contempt of court in a case that involved The Daily Telegraph. Its reporter Nicholas Comfort had named a ward of court in the paper, and the Official Solicitor brought prosecutions for contempt against the Telegraph and the Slough Evening Mail, which had repeated the story.
After a three-day trial in the High Court both papers were found guilty. The Telegraph’s counsel advised the paper to accept the conviction, but Brittan, representing the Slough Evening Mail, insisted on appealing and so both papers had to contest it. He won, convincing Lord Denning that it was ridiculous there was no permitted defence against a charge of contempt. In the interval he told Comfort, whom as a young barrister he had taught at Trinity, “I don’t think we got this far in the syllabus, did we?”
After being rejected for 14 safe Conservative seats, Brittan was elected MP for Cleveland and Whitby in February 1974. The seat disappeared in boundary changes and in 1979 he won the far-flung Yorkshire farming constituency of Richmond, representing it until he resigned to join the Commission in 1989; the future Conservative leader William Hague took his place.
Brittan’s initial reluctance to go to Brussels owed much to his affection for his constituency. He may have been an improbable countryman but he became an enthusiastic one, with a passion for cricket. Whatever his defects as a national politician, he was a popular local MP.
Within two years of entering the Commons, Brittan became Opposition spokesman on devolution, then on industrial relations, and played an important part in framing Conservative trade union reforms. In Mrs Thatcher’s first government of 1979, he became minister of state at the Home Office under Willie Whitelaw who, with Sir Geoffrey Howe, became his main political supporter and mentor.


It was Whitelaw who recommended him to Mrs Thatcher as a suitable replacement for Biffen in 1981. His promotion as the youngest member of her Cabinet was announced at a party given by Sir Geoffrey in No 11 Downing Street to mark Brittan’s marriage to Diana Peterson, a divorcee with two teenage daughters. Lady Brittan would go on to chair the National Lottery Charities Board and be appointed DBE.
Although Brittan’s appointment as a commissioner was reckoned by some of his friends a poor and belated consolation for his loyalty to Mrs Thatcher, Brussels gave full rein to his talents. Serving first as competition commissioner, he demonstrated not only a lawyer’s mastery of detail but also a steely determination to force through the principles of fair competition against entrenched national interests.
His ability to plough through and absorb mind-numbing detail won him the admiration of staff at the Commission, and his willingness to learn languages (he became fluent in French and German) earned admiration from colleagues and European politicians; the president of the Commission, Jacques Delors, rated him “one of the most brilliant men I have ever met”.
In 1993 he was appointed vice-president of the Commission and given the crucial trade portfolio, a job that pitched him into the centre of the tortuous Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt). Brittan’s mastery of detail proved crucial in reaching agreement with the Americans later that year, a personal triumph which saw his reputation as a high-powered if aloof intellectual transformed into that of a deal-maker on a grand scale.
Yet Brittan’s successes won him few friends; his unshakeable faith in the power of reason left him little sympathy for emotionally tinged arguments in favour of French farming. The Gatt negotiations were notable for an explosive encounter with the French foreign minister Alain Juppé in which Brittan saw off French attempts to scupper the EC-US Blair House Accord limiting farm export subsidies.
Although this triumph kept the Uruguay round alive, the French never forgave him. “He was good,” a German official at the showdown was quoted as saying, “but maybe he was too good.”
French opposition effectively sank Brittan’s hopes of succeeding Delors, and put paid to his hopes of the crucial eastern Europe portfolio after the installation of Jacques Santer. Santer had assured Brittan the job was his, but at the last moment voted for the Dutchman Hans van den Broek, a volte-face which caused Brittan to consider resignation.
Brittan also paid the price for growing Conservative Euroscepticism under Mrs Thatcher and her successor John Major. He sought to counter this in speeches and articles despite personal attacks in the British press, some of which bordered on the anti-Semitic, and a relationship with Major which was no better than cool. But his support for Britain’s entry into the EMS and the Euro put him increasingly at odds with his own party and with sentiment in the country.


Brittan was among the commissioners who resigned en masse in 1999 following allegations of nepotism against their French colleague Edith Cresson. Within days of clearing his desk at the Berlaymont he was appointed vice-chairman of the merchant bank Warburg.
The last year of his life was overshadowed by rumours, including the allegation that as home secretary he had failed to act on a “dossier” prepared by the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens detailing alleged child abusers within the British establishment.
Brittan published two books on Britain’s role in Europe, The Europe We Need (1994) and A Diet of Brussels (2000), arguing for the nation to become more fully engaged.
Leon Brittan was sworn of the Privy Council in 1981, knighted in 1989 and created a life peer in 1999.

Bob Symes


Date of Birth: 6 May 1924, Vienna, Austria
Birth Name: Robert Alexander Baron Schutzmann von Schutzmansdorff
Nicknames: Bob Syme, Robert Symes-Shutzmann, Bob Symes-Shutzmann

Bob Symes’s inventive mind and considerable engineering skills made him a natural choice in 1965 to join the small team producing the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World, the series about new developments in science and technology. Bob appeared on screen regularly, first of all assisting Raymond Baxter and, in later years, with a regular feature in his own right. He continued to contribute to the programme for more than 30 years.
His special interest was in metal engineering, including developments in plumbing. His Tomorrow’s World colleagues particularly remember his presentations of a device that automatically removed air from central heating systems, an innovative ventilator for bathrooms and a process for relining broken water mains without having to dig up the road.


Alongside this, he developed a parallel broadcasting and film-making career. Bob contributed to BBC Radio 4, the British Forces Broadcasting Service, LBC and numerous local stations in the UK and Europe. His many television credits included The Man Who Started the War (1965) and the 1986 series ‘The Strange Affair of...’ that investigated intriguing mysteries from his central European heritage. His love of railways was reflected in such programmes as Model World (1975), The Line That Refused to Die (1980) and Making Tracks (1993-95). His concern for the environment found an ideal outlet in 1990 in the BBC’s The House That Bob Built, a pioneer project demonstrating the ecological benefit of rethinking how we construct our homes.
When the Waverley Line rail route between Carlisle and Edinburgh closed in 1969, Bob set up and chaired the Border Union Railway, a company established to keep the line operating. Though he was unsuccessful then, he did live long enough to see the rebuilding of the route between Edinburgh and Galashiels, now recognised as a key transport artery in the Scottish Borders.


Bob always had a preference for travelling by train. On one filming expedition for Tomorrow’s World in 1977, he and his small team were welcomed at the railway station in Cologne by a local oompah band organised by admirers from the German broadcaster WDR, with whom he regularly collaborated.
Bob was born into an aristocratic family in Vienna, the son of Herbert and Lolabeth Schutzmann von Schutzmannsdorff, and was educated at the Real Gymnasium in Vienna and later at a school in Switzerland. He developed his interest in railways by operating the private line that hauled timber around the family estate, and helping to keep it in good repair. Bob’s father died in 1937 and, as the influence of the Nazis took hold in his homeland, he left for a new life in Britain; his mother and younger sister, Eva, settled in the US.
During the second world war, Bob served in the Mediterranean with the Royal Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, and took part in the landings that led to the liberation of Crete. In 1947 he visited the BBC to seek out Monica Chapman, who was responsible for producing the request programme Forces Prom. He wanted to thank her in person for playing the choices that he had submitted. The story goes that Monica’s mother gave up her ticket that evening to a Beethoven concert so that her daughter could invite this naval officer to join her. The two were married six weeks later, and they adopted the surname Symes, one of Monica’s family names.


Bob quickly realised that his languages, French as well as German, English and Arabic, could be valuable to the BBC. Following his wartime naval career, he joined the corporation’s Overseas Service in 1953, focusing in particular on the German service. His London-based work was interrupted in 1956 by a two-year assignment as district officer in the Eastern Region Colonial Office in Nigeria, where he was in charge of broadcasting.
Bob’s many other responsibilities and commitments included chairing the Institute of Patentees and Inventors, and he stood twice for parliament in 1974 as the Liberal candidate for Mid Sussex. He was made a companion of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1959 but perhaps the recognition of which he was most proud was being awarded the Knight’s Cross (first class) by the country of his birth, in recognition of his tireless work in promoting Anglo-Austrian relations.


At his home in Surrey, he built both a gauge 1 and a larger, 10.25in-gauge garden layout and regularly hosted steaming afternoons attended by admiring railway enthusiasts from all over the UK and northern Europe. At his 90th birthday party, he drove his pride and joy, his newest locomotive, a scale model of a Great Western tank engine, the Lady Melrose.
Monica died in 1998. While visiting the Ffestiniog Railway in north Wales in 2006, Bob met Sheila, a plant physiologist, who was works manager at the line’s locomotive depot at Boston Lodge. They were married within two months.

Anne Kirkbride


Date of Birth: 21 June 1954, Oldham, Lancashire, UK
Birth Name: Anne Kirkbride

Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre, the bespectacled, careworn femme fatale in ITV’s record-breaking soap opera Coronation Street for more than 40 years, and became renowned for her cracked, throaty voice, caused by chain-smoking in real life, and straining neck cords that were even more alarming than her enormous glasses.
In 1998, during a bitter ratings war with the BBC’s EastEnders, when Deirdre was wrongfully imprisoned after a relationship with a con-man called Jon Lindsay, the nation reacted with the “Free the Weatherfield One” campaign. In Parliament, even Tony Blair passed comment on her sentencing. It was not, commentators agreed, the prime minister’s finest hour. Producers at Granada Television decided to free Deirdre after three weeks.


Anne Kirkbride first came to Granada’s notice in 1972 in the ITV series Another Sunday and Sweet FA and was offered the bit part of the teenage dolly-bird Deirdre Hunt in Coronation Street later that year. When the character’s popularity grew after a few appearances, Anne Kirkbride signed a contract in 1974 and had been in the soap ever since.
With her distinctive owlish spectacles, she played Deirdre with a passion, steering the character through a calamitous tangle of marriages, broken engagements and affairs that produced an on-screen daughter Tracy in 1977, 20 years later the programme’s most notorious wild child and the Street’s spectacularly dull husband, Ken Barlow (William Roache). Dumped, divorced and widowed, Deirdre’s edgiest moment came with her affair with Mike Baldwin (played by Johnny Briggs) only two years after her wedding to Ken in 1981, and which started a feud between the two rivals that ended only with Baldwin’s death 25 years later.


Anne Kirkbride’s Deirdre was nearly written out of the series in 1978, three years after her screen marriage to Ray Langton (Neville Buswell). When Buswell decided to leave the programme, the producers believed there were already enough single women in the fictional Street. After Buswell intervened, however, the writers decided that Deirdre the single mother would be an interesting concept, and Anne Kirkbride was asked to stay.
One of the highlights of her career was her on-screen wedding to Ken Barlow in July 1981, on the day the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer. But even this was eclipsed by Deirdre’s extra-marital affair with Baldwin in 1983. As Britain held its breath, a bishop in London warned Granada of the dangers of it all seeming too realistic; a woman in Halifax gave birth in an ambulance, having delayed her departure to hospital to witness the lovers’ first illicit kiss; and the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, one of the Street’s greatest fans, declared that Ken Barlow deserved better.
The fling excited the divided consternation of Fleet Street’s finest, with Jean Rook of the Daily Express advising Deirdre to “stick with Ken” and her Daily Mail rival Lynda Lee Potter urging her to leave boring Ken for exciting Mike.
In the showdown between the two, Anne Kirkbride thought Bill Roache had gone mad when unrehearsed and unscripted he grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the Barlows’ front door as Baldwin stood on the step. “I was literally fighting to get away,” she remembered. Tracked by the cameras, she ran to an adjoining room and burst into tears.
When Deirdre and Barlow were reconciled in the next episode, the Daily Mail hired the electronic scoreboard at Old Trafford and, to the approving roar of 56,000 fans watching Manchester United play Arsenal, flashed up the news: “Deirdre and Ken united again!”
In 1987, when Deirdre by now working as a shop assistant became Councillor Barlow, Anne Kirkbride complained at this improbable turn of events, but soon realised that it got Deirdre out from behind the bacon slicer and into the swim of mainstream Street life. However, she remained upset at the decision to have Deirdre divorce Ken over his affair with his secretary.

Coronation Street- February 1983

Her character received a fresh lease of life in 1994 when Anne Kirkbride returned from a six months’ absence due to illness; at 39, she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but, after chemotherapy, recovered. On screen, however, a planned reconciliation with Ken Barlow had to be scrapped, and instead Deirdre embarked on a holiday romance with a 21-year-old toyboy, a Moroccan waiter, Samir Rachid (Al Nedjari), whom she later married.


“Anne Kirkbride is celebrating her return to health with a crackling storyline, a marvellous performance and a whole new vocabulary,” wrote Margaret Forwood in the Express.
The marriage was short-lived, however, and in 1995 Deirdre’s third husband died on his way to hospital to donate a kidney to Deirdre’s wayward daughter Tracy. She was reunited with Ken in 1999 and married him for a second time in 2005, despite Ken finding out that she had slept with the supersmooth corner shop owner Dev Alahan.
Anne Kirkbride was called as a character witness in Roache’s trial on sex assault charges in 2014 (he was found not guilty): she said her colleague was “always a perfect gentleman”.
As an actress, Anne Kirkbride possessed a photographic memory; she could read through a page of script and almost instantly know it by heart.
Anne Kirkbride was born on June 21 1954 at Oldham, Lancashire, the daughter of Jack Kirkbride, a painter and decorator who became a cartoonist for the Oldham Evening Chronicle. It was her father who encouraged her to go on the stage, having spotted her acting talent when she was only seven.


She developed it at Oldham Rep’s junior theatregoers’ club, and at the age of 11 joined the Saddleworth junior players and then the Oldham youth theatre. On leaving Count Hill grammar school she took a job at Oldham Rep as a student assistant stage manager at £1 a week, combining buying props and helping to build sets with several small acting parts.
When the company’s director, Carl Paulson, took her aside and told her she would be acting full-time on £18 a week, she said she ran through the streets “as if I’d just won the pools”. A Coronation Street talent scout saw her in a Jack Rosenthal play and she was asked to read for a walk-on part.
She hated her gravelly voice but revelled in the nine-to-five routine of a soap star, and never wanted to play Shakespeare or longed for the peripatetic life of a repertory actress. “Sometimes I think I should have made more of an effort to get out and do other stuff,” she admitted in 2001, “but then again I’ve never been terribly ambitious.” In a television confessional, Deirdre and Me (2001), Anne Kirkbride admitted to a compulsion to scrub and clean incessantly (even the lavatories at the Granada studios), and to the depression that in 1998 almost ruined her appearance on This Is Your Life, an ordeal she managed to survive only with the aid of Valium.


She took a leave of absence from Coronation Street in September 2014 and was written out of the script, but had been expected to return.
A lifelong heavy smoker, she also confessed to suicidal feelings and to a compulsion to iron her knickers.
In 1992 Anne Kirkbride married the actor David Beckett, whom she met on the Coronation Street set when he briefly played a handyman in the soap.

Jeremy Lloyd


Date of Birth: 22 July 1930, Danbury, Essex, UK
Birth Name: John Jeremy Lloyd
Nicknames: Jeremy Lloyd

Jeremy Lloyd was an actor who became one of Britain’s most successful comedy writers; his sitcoms were the essence of Britishness.
Are You Being Served? (1972-85) presented life in a department store as a hotbed of sexual intrigue, class tension and high camp. ’Allo ’Allo! (1982-92) was set in France during the Second World War, and reflected enduring British comic stereotypes about the rest of the world: the Germans were kinky, the French sex-obsessed, the Italians all talk and no trousers.
All of this would be regarded by some contemporary comedians as conservative and regressive. But Lloyd’s comedy was democratic in its populism. All the world was on display; every character from bitter old maids to merrily gay tailors had dignity and, often, the last laugh. Everybody watching at home could imitate the catchphrases and recycle the gags at work or in the playground the next day: “I’m free!” “Good moaning!”
In 2011, Lloyd wrote: “Friends often tell me how much their grandchildren enjoy Are You Being Served? It doesn’t matter that they were not even born when it was broadcast, or that they belong to a very different world. Laughter crosses boundaries of class and age… Humour is universal.” The fact that ’Allo ’Allo! was eventually broadcast in Germany would seem to prove him right.
As an actor, Jeremy Lloyd tended to be cast as an upper-class twit thanks to his posh accent, blonde hair and aristocratic charm. In fact, he was the son of an Army colonel and a Tiller girl who had danced with Fred Astaire.
John Jeremy Lloyd was born at Danbury in Essex on July 22 1930 and dispatched to live with an elderly grandmother in Manchester at the age of one and a half. Many years later he told an interviewer: “I occasionally saw my father but he used to introduce me to people as the son of bandleader Joe Loss. 'You’ve heard of Joe Loss? Well, this is my son dead loss,’ he’d say… And he put me into a home when I was about 13 and a half. A home for elderly people, which was a wonderful experience.”
Living in the home, surrounded by retired colonels and vicars, “improved” Lloyd’s accent: it went from Mancunian to southern middle-class. He remained estranged from his parents: two sisters came along but he was kept away from them. On his father’s death bed, the old man finally told his son that he was proud of what he had accomplished. Lloyd later claimed to be suspicious of his motives: “I think [he said it] because he wanted me to get him a pack of cigarettes.”
To support his grandmother, Lloyd did everything from digging roads to selling paint. One job that would later be turned into fiction was as a salesman at Simpsons department store in Piccadilly, where he observed post-war British society at its most disciplined and repressed. He was sacked for selling soft drinks from a fitting room during a heatwave.


Eventually he decided that he would like to have a go at writing comedy and turned up at the door of Pinewood Studios with a script in hand. He was told that the American studio chief, Earl St John, never met anyone. Not one to take “no” for an answer, Lloyd went to a telephone box around the corner, found the mogul’s number and called him directly. St John, amused at being so boldly approached, invited him round for tea. To the surprise of everyone on the studio staff, the script turned out to be perfect. The film, What a Whopper, was released as a vehicle for singer Adam Faith in 1961.
Lloyd’s rise through the world of showbusiness is a story of 1960s meritocracy at its most dizzying. At various times he wrote for Jon Pertwee, Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth and Lionel Blair. As an actor he turned up in numerous British comic films of the 1960s, usually as a tall gangly fool. He made his debut in Robert Hamer’s School for Scoundrels (1960) and also appeared in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), Doctor in Clover (1965) with James Robertson Justice, and The Wrong Box (1966) with John Mills, Michael Caine and Peter Cook. As part of the group that hung around with the Beatles, he made an (uncredited) cameo appearance in A Hard Day’s Night (1964), and in Help! (1965) played a restaurant patron. In 1974 he was a British Army officer in Murder on the Orient Express.


Lloyd was engaged to the actress Charlotte Rampling, flirted with the Avengers star Diana Rigg and claimed to have been invited to Sharon Tate’s house for tea on the night that she was murdered by followers of Charles Manson. Perhaps the pinnacle of his on-screen career was as a performer on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, the fast-paced sketch show that was one of the biggest American television comedy programmes of the late 1960s. It featured Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and even Richard Nixon. For Lloyd the pay was poor but the perks were great. He estimated that he received 5,000 letters from women each week. He invited many to attend the show: “One day the producer came up to me and he said, 'It’s all very well Jeremy, but you’ve brought 42 girls in today and they’re better looking than what our casting agents have sent.’ ” So Lloyd was given the job of casting the dance section, too.
It was when he returned to England, relatively poor and at a loose end, that he decided it was time to write a proper sitcom. The original outline of Are You Being Served?, based in part on his memories of working at Simpsons, was sent to ITV. By chance, Lloyd bumped into David Croft, co-writer of Dad’s Army, who had worked with him on the Billy Cotton Band Show, and told him the plot. Croft begged Lloyd to retrieve the script from ITV and rework it with him, and a brilliant comic pairing was born.
They sold the idea to the BBC, which made a pilot but was not over-impressed. So the show was put into storage. It was only aired in 1972 as a filler when the Munich massacre disrupted programming during the Summer Olympics. The series that followed ran for 13 years, attracting audiences of up to 22 million. Viewers thrilled to Mr Humphries’s cries of “I’m free” and Mrs Slocombe’s epic tails of life with a high maintenance pussy cat.
The actress playing Mrs Slocombe, Mollie Sugden, was given a spin-off part in Lloyd’s space comedy Come Back Mrs Noah. It was a critical failure and was killed off. By contrast, ’Allo ’Allo!, which launched in 1982 and ran for 10 years, was a hit with viewers. Essentially a parody of resistance movies like Casablanca and, principally, the television series Secret Army, it was an exercise in vulgar and puerile, if good-natured, absurdity.
Every character was painted as a stereotype: René Artois, the tubby, cowardly bar owner; Michelle Dubois, the heroic yet pedantic guerrilla (“I shall say zis only once”); Lieutenant Hubert Gruber, the gay German soldier inexplicably in love with René. The English were parodied as strongly as the Continental Europeans, and the sympathy shown towards the occupying Germans was often affecting. All Colonel Kurt Von Strohm and Captain Hans Geering wanted to do was survive the war as rich men, which was why they conspired with René to steal a famous painting by Van Klomp called The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies.


Outside television Lloyd scored a notable success with Captain Beaky & His Band (Not Forgetting Hissing Sid!!!), two albums (1977 and 1980) of poetry by Lloyd, set to music by Jim Parker and recited by various British celebrities. The title track, Captain Beaky, reached No 5 in the charts in 1980 and the LPs generated numerous spinoffs, among them two books of poetry, BBC television shows, a West End musical and a pantomime. The Captain Beaky poems were revived in an all-star tribute show at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011.
Latterly Jeremy Lloyd looked back on his career and acknowledged that he had been very lucky to be writing at a time when humour was saucy but not indecent, aimed at ordinary Britons of all ages, and written by people who knew a thing or two about real life. Towards the end of his own life, Lloyd reflected: “You don’t actually get to make a pilot like when they said to David and I, 'Whatever you want to do, just do it.’ Now, they sit round a table and listen to what you want to do and they tell you if they think it’s funny. The people who do this have probably been to Oxford or Cambridge and they don’t really know what’s funny because they’re not the general audience who are going to watch it.”


Lloyd was appointed OBE in 2012.
He was married, first, to the model Dawn Bailey from 1955 to 1962 and, secondly, to the actress Joanna Lumley in 1970; the marriage was dissolved the following year. “He was witty, tall and charming,” said Joanna Lumley. “We should have just had a raging affair.” After many years of warily avoiding a third marriage, he married Lizzie Moberley in October this year. Of his third wife he said: “She is beautiful, clever and sent from heaven on mission impossible.”

Joe Cocker


Date of Birth: 20 May 1944, Sheffield, UK
Birth Name: John Robert Cocker
Nicknames: Joe Cocker

In a musical career lasting more than 50 years, Joe Cocker, who has died of lung cancer aged 70, bounced between the euphoria of chart-topping success and the misery of drug and alcohol abuse. In the latter part of his life, the singer had re-established himself as a soulful interpreter of material from a broad range of songwriters.
Cocker’s background and upbringing in Sheffield, where he was born, son of Harold and Marjorie, established his credentials as a ballsy, salt-of-the-earth performer cut from stalwart working-class stock. At first it seemed as if the young Joe was destined for an unglamorous future working as a fitter for the East Midlands Gas Board. As his mother commented: “When Joe left school at 16, I thought he was going to take up gas fitting as a career. I even got him a lot of books on the subject, and he was interested in gas for a time, but there was always the music. He told me he didn’t want a job where he worked for years and years and then got presented with a gold watch at the end.”
Cocker gained his first toehold in music with the aid of his brother, Victor. He sang with Victor’s band the Headliners at a local youth club, then later played drums in Victor’s skiffle group, the Cavaliers. By 1963, they were transformed into Vance Arnold & the Avengers. He took the opportunity to reinvent himself as the vocalist Cowboy Joe, as the Avengers played warm-up gigs for better known names such as the Hollies. He also made guest appearances with other local artists including Dave Berry and the Cruisers.


Cocker was already beginning to develop the intense, raucous vocal style which would make him an international name, and he was spotted by the record producer Mike Leander, who helped him to make a demo recording. This earned him a contract with Decca records in 1964, for whom he made his debut on disc with a version of the Beatles tune I’ll Cry Instead. Despite Cocker’s convincing performance, the single failed to chart and the Decca contract lapsed.
After touring as an opening act for Manfred Mann and the Hollies, Cocker reverted to his gas board job, persevering with music in his free time. He struck up a songwriting partnership with the bass player Chris Stainton and, in 1965, the pair put together the first incarnation of the Grease Band, which included the guitarists Henry McCullough and Alan Spenner. Two years of club and pub dates, mainly in northern England, earned the band a committed following.
In 1968, EMI’s Regal Zonophone label released the Stainton/Cocker composition Marjorine the performing credit read merely “Joe Cocker” and it reached No 48 on the UK singles chart. Much more spectacular was his version of the Lennon/McCartney song With a Little Help from My Friends Cocker’s friends on the recording session included the future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page which topped the UK charts that November. An enthusiastic public endorsement from the Fab Four themselves did Cocker no harm at all, and the song would become his unofficial theme tune.
With the British public converted to his cause, Cocker set about wooing the American market. A string of concert dates and TV appearances climaxed with his appearance at the Woodstock festival in August 1969, where his extraordinary performance of With a Little Help from My Friends, complete with unearthly screams, hideous grimaces and apparently uncontrollable bodily gyrations, became one of the most unforgettable sequences from the ensuing movie of the event.


The following year was another momentous one for Cocker. His album Joe Cocker!, produced by Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, earned critical raves and raced up the American charts. It also gave Cocker another hit, with a Beatles cover, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. Then the Grease Band split up after Cocker cancelled an American tour, but the singer was warned by the US Immigration Department that his failure to fulfil the dates could jeopardise his future ability to work in the US. Cocker duly assembled the 21-piece collective known as Mad Dogs and Englishmen and undertook a punishing 65-date campaign packed into only 57 days. It spawned a bestselling double live album and accompanying feature film, but the sprawling and chaotic project left Cocker exhausted and facing a crippling pile of bills.
He lapsed into a long period of hard drinking and heroin addiction, and it was not until 1972 that he returned to the stage as part of the 12-piece line up known as Joe Cocker and the Chris Stainton Band. However, he was having difficulty keeping control, and was drinking so heavily that often he was barely capable of performing. That October, he was fined $1,200 in Australia following his arrest for possession of marijuana, then had to make a rapid exit from the country to avoid a list of further charges, including assault.
Cocker stumbled through the rest of the 1970s as a shadow of his former self, still touring and knocking out uneven albums, including Jamaica Say You Will (1975), Stingray (1976) and Live in Los Angeles (1976). However, he did manage to notch up a big hit in 1975 with You Are So Beautiful (which enjoyed a renaissance when it featured prominently in Brian De Palma’s 1993 film, Carlito’s Way), while a switch to Asylum Records in 1978 spurred the singer to raise his game with Luxury You Can Afford. Better still was his 1982 release on Island records, Sheffield Steel, which featured powerful performances of songs by Jimmy Webb, Bob Dylan and Steve Winwood and remains arguably the definitive Joe Cocker album.
Cocker confirmed his resurgence with his duet with Jennifer Warnes on the schlocky power ballad Up Where We Belong, from the hit movie An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). The song won a Grammy and an Oscar.


Subsequently, his career saw him coasting along comfortably, enjoying respect from his peers and loyalty from a broad international audience, though somewhat lacking in further artistic landmarks. In his determination to stay on the wagon, he received unstinting support from his wife Pam, whom he married in 1987. As a diversion from the music industry, the couple joined the trend for celebs to get into the catering business by opening the Mad Dog Ranch café in Colorado.
Through the 80s and 90s, Cocker released a string of albums including Unchain My Heart (1987), One Night of Sin (1989) and Night Calls (1991), all of which sold respectably if unspectacularly. More convincing was Have a Little Faith (1994), which was well received internationally and generated a couple of minor UK hit singles with Take Me Home and Let the Healing Begin. A&M seized the moment to release a four-disc box set entitled The Long Voyage Home (1995), a thorough survey of his career, which helped to remind anybody who had not been listening closely of the breadth and longevity of Cocker’s catalogue.
Not that Cocker’s accomplishments had been overlooked by music industry insiders. He had become a regular guest at assorted big-ticket rockbiz shindigs such as the Prince’s Trust Rock Gala and Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute, both in 1988. In 1989 he appeared at an inauguration party for the new US president, George HW Bush. He popped up at Rock In Rio II in 1991 and at the Montreux jazz festival in 1992, and came full circle by joining the bill for Woodstock II in 1994.


In 2002, he joined Phil Collins on drums and the Queen guitarist Brian May to perform With a Little Help from My Friends at the Party at the Palace concert held for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. He was appointed OBE in 2007 and played concerts in London and Sheffield to mark the event.
In the same year, his 20th studio album Hymn for My Soul, a collection of songs by such greats as Stevie Wonder, Dylan, John Fogerty and the Beatles, took him back into the UK top 10. Hard Knocks (2010) topped Billboard’s independent albums chart.
In March 2011 Cocker performed at a benefit concert for the R&B guitarist Cornell Dupree, who had played with him live and on record, at BB King’s Blues Club in New York, and who died a few weeks later. During a concert at Madison Square Garden in September this year, Billy Joel paused to pay tribute to Cocker, surprising listeners by commenting that he was “not very well right now” and proposing him for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cocker will be remembered as one of the most soulful white rock singers to have emerged from Britain the only homegrown performers comparable to him might be Free’s Paul Rodgers or Family’s Roger Chapman.
Perhaps more importantly, he showed enough character to fight his way back after being written off as another casualty of 70s rock’n’roll excess.

Billie Whitelaw


Date of Birth: 6 June 1032, Coventry, UK
Birth Name: Billie Honor Whitelaw
Nicknames: Billie Whitelaw

“I could have easily have become a nun, or a prostitute, or both,” said Billie Whitelaw, who has died aged 82. Instead, she claimed that acting had allowed her to use both these sides of herself in a career that included theatre, films, television and a special place in the affection and inspiration of Samuel Beckett.
By the time the playwright died in 1989, Whitelaw had established herself not only as one of his favourite interpreters, if not the favourite, but also as one of his trusted confidantes.
Her voice had as big an effect on Beckett as that of the Irish actor Patrick Magee. When he saw her in his work Play in a National Theatre production at the Old Vic in 1964 occupying one of three urns alongside Rosemary Harris and Robert Stephens he determined to write especially for her.


The result was Not I, a 16-minute monologue for a jabbering mouth picked out in a dark void. Although Jessica Tandy played the first performances in New York in 1972, Whitelaw’s pell-mell, pent-up words of a lifetime were a sensation at the Royal Court theatre in London the following year. She called the experience “the most telling event of my professional life”.
Beckett then directed her in the premiere of Footfalls (1976), a rapt dialogue for a woman and her unseen mother; also in a revival of Happy Days (1979) in which the post-nuclear Winnie is seen buried up to her waist, then her neck both at the Royal Court. When Winnie sang her love song to the waltz of The Merry Widow, she did so just as Beckett had sung it to her, in a frail and quavering voice.
Rockaby, which Whitelaw first performed in New York in 1981, and in the following year at the National in London, was an entirely submerged Winnie, a gaunt human relic in a black dress covered in jet sequins, rocking herself to oblivion while listening to a recording of her own voice.
One of the attractions of Whitelaw for Beckett was her intellectual innocence. There was no attempt to justify the work. She performed what he wrote and became, much to her own surprise, a lecturer on the American college circuit, though she only ever talked about the plays she knew and had appeared in. “Like many men,” she said, “the older he got the more attractive he became at least as seen through a woman’s eyes.”


Billie Whitelaw was born in Coventry, on a housing estate owned by the General Electric Company, to Perceval, an electrician, and Frances (nee Williams). A shadowy “Uncle Len” lived in the same house, with Billie’s mother and her elder sister, Constance. In her autobiography, Billie Whitelaw...Who He? (1995), Whitelaw said that she always had two men in her life: two fathers, then husband and lover, later husband and son.
Her parents came from Liverpool, where Billie lived at the start of the second world war before the family moved to Bradford in 1941. There she went to Thornton grammar school and the Grange grammar school for girls.
In 1943 she was sent to the Bradford Civic Playhouse, then run by JB Priestley and the formidable Esme Church, in an attempt to rectify her stutter. She was soon playing children’s roles on the radio, and met Joan Littlewood and Ewan MacColl at the BBC in Manchester.
When Billie was 16, Littlewood asked her to join her acting group, but her parents would not let her. Instead, she joined Harry Hanson’s company in Leeds in 1948 and played in repertory theatres in Dewsbury, New Brighton and Oxford, where she worked with Peter Hall and Maggie Smith. She became one of the most familiar faces on television drama in the next two decades, usually cast as a battling working-class figure in either kitchen-sink dramas or what she called “trouble up at t’mill” plays.
Through John Dexter, who directed her in England, Our England (1962), a West End revue by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, she came to the attention of Laurence Olivier, and she joined his illustrious first company at the National in 1963, sharing a dressing room with Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Geraldine McEwan. Her time there included playing Desdemona to Olivier’s Othello.


Kenneth Tynan dubbed her “a female version of Albert Finney” (with whom she had a brief affair and longer friendship), and she had all those qualities of freshness, vitality and sensuality typical of the new postwar, beyond-London generation of actors on stage and screen. An unforced, gritty realism was complemented, in her case, with a natural voluptuousness.
For the Royal Shakespeare Company she appeared in John Barton’s 1980 epic ten-play cycle The Greeks as a grieving Andromache and the goddess Athene, sliding down on a cloud of dry ice, and in Peter Nichols’s mordantly brilliant Passion Play (1981) a favourite project in which her adulterous alter ego was Eileen Atkins. In 1983, she returned to the National as Hetty Mann, dipsomaniac wife of the novelist Heinrich Mann, in Christopher Hampton’s brilliant account of wartime European literary émigrés in Tinsel Town, Tales from Hollywood; the cast list included the movie stars Johnny Weissmuller, Chico and Harpo Marx, Greta Garbo, and dramatists Ödön von Horváth and Bertolt Brecht, but Whitelaw upstaged them all by entering a party bearing a birthday cake and wearing just a white mini-pinny.
Her last stage appearance apart from her unceasing cycle of Beckett solo shows and readings came in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Young Vic (1986), where she was a full-on slatternly Martha opposite Patrick Stewart’s intimidated, bespectacled George. In her autobiography she recounts how she was mysteriously struck by stage fright and struggled to complete the run.
She married the actor Peter Vaughan, nine years her senior, in 1952, and started a relationship with the writer and critic Robert Muller as the marriage failed; it ended in divorce in 1966. The following year she married Muller, and they had a son, Matthew.


Whitelaw’s film career was patchy; she made a more consistent mark on television, starting as a maid in an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1952) and as Mary Dixon, daughter of the police constable played by Jack Warner in the first series of Dixon of Dock Green (1955). She took the role of Countess Ilona in two episodes of Supernatural (1977), written by Muller, and her TV work continued until the start of the new century.


Film appearances included Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972); The Omen (1976), as the chilling nanny Mrs Baylock; The Krays (1990), as Violet, the mother of the East End gangster brothers; and the police comedy Hot Fuzz (2007). She was at her vibrant, blowzy best in two early films with Finney, Charlie Bubbles (1967) and Gumshoe (1971). In 1991 she was appointed CBE.
Whitelaw divided her time between a flat in Hampstead and a cottage in Suffolk, and never quite believed her luck: “When I wake up at dawn, and that grey cloud of work anxiety is there, I only have to get up and open the window to feel so free and happy that I think I’m going to go off pop.”

Phil Stern


Date of Birth: 3 September 1919, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Birth Name: Philip Stern
Nicknames: Phil ‘Snapdragon’ Stern

The photographer Phil Stern created portraits of stars of the silver screen including James Dean, Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe that were both iconic and intimate. His subjects looked natural, even self-absorbed or introverted.
The lower half of his most famous portrait of James Dean (1955) is a black cable-knit jumper; the upper half reveals Dean’s face only from half-way up his ears. His eyes are rolled up, framed by straight eyebrows. The white plane of Dean’s forehead under a shiny shock of tousled hair, and the pale background, inevitably draw attention to those mischievous eyes, bisecting the frame and challenging the viewer.


By contrast, one 1953 image of Marilyn Monroe shows her as wistful and withdrawn, looking into the distance with an air of abstraction, her hands nervously fingering the loosened bow at the waist of her gown. As Stern told Entertainment Weekly in 1993: “I was never interested in the glamour, I was interested in the tears and agony behind it.”
His friendship with John Wayne gave him access to perhaps his most subversively casual image. It shows Wayne lighting up, eyeline going straight to a woman’s bared leg. But it’s not what he’s doing but what he’s wearing that draws the viewer’s eye: the cowboy hat and loose jacket conform to type, but below the waist the over-constricting gingham shorts, plump legs and girly espadrilles are a risible disaster.
Stern’s pictures of musicians are very different in character. Formal ones such as of the Rat Pack on stage in 1962 are mainly of lineups. One senses his preference for the moodiness of Sinatra alone, shot from behind and dressed as if by Raymond Chandler in a hat and long mackintosh, pacing down a bleakly dirty corridor towards a dead end. Another Rat Pack member, Sammy Davis Jr, performed a rooftop diamond-shaped jump. Despite his tightly drawn up (and shiny) brogues, his white outfit and right-angled arms with their delicately spread fingers are reminiscent of a Hindu dancer (1947).


Stern loved jazz, and he photographed Louis Armstrong in a coincidentally similar pose, not jumping but perched on a stool, trumpet upended on his knee as he looks down and laughs into his chest (1957). Stern enjoyed the image so much that he made a lifesize cardboard cutout of it, and had his own portrait taken alongside. A less artfully composed shot shows Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald together, in full swing, singing at a studio recording.
There was more to Stern’s career than showbiz, however. He enlisted as a combat photographer in the second world war, and won a Purple Heart for his courage and willingness to risk his life picturing infantrymen under fire. Stern documented US troops advancing through north Africa, and was invalided home with severe shrapnel wounds to his arms and neck. In 1943 he returned to cover the Allied invasion of Sicily for Stars and Stripes, the US army magazine. According to his biographer, the journalist Herbert Mitgang: “His pictures of the invasion and its aftermath remain among the most outstanding documents in the annals of combat photography in any war, before or since.”
The postwar decades saw a media boom: the heyday of photo-magazines and blockbuster movies aimed at a predominantly young mass audience. Stern rode the publicity of a new generation of stars who became, at least in part through his attention, poster pinups. Interviewed later by the Los Angeles Times, he mused on his transfer from war to celebrity photography. “ [The war] very well might have helped me get access ... I don’t really know for sure, because some of them wanted publicity so bad that you didn’t have to have a Purple Heart for that. All you had to have was an expensive camera.”


Born in Philadelphia to Russian Jewish immigrants, Alix and May, Stern was later to reference Arthur Miller in describing his father as “a salesman, a la Willy Loman. I wanted to find the best way to avoid becoming my father.” The family went to live in the Bronx when Stern was 11, and he left school at the age of 16, preferring to experiment with a Kodak camera his mother had won in a free promotion. He took a job sweeping up at a Canal Street photo studio and soon acquired the skills necessary to supply “a readership that required a certain kind of picture” for the pulp Police Gazette.
At the age of 19 he shot his first reportage assignment on Kentucky coalminers for a new weekly. When Friday magazine opened a West Coast office, Stern moved to Los Angeles and started his stellar Hollywood career with a feature on Orson Welles shooting Citizen Kane. In 1941 Stern had his first spread in Life magazine, to which he contributed as long as it lasted. From the 1940s onwards, he expanded his freelance reach, regularly contributing also to Look, Collier’s, Vanity Fair and Variety.


Stern’s connections enabled him to work as a stills cameraman on more than 200 films, including Guys and Dolls, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind; to contribute pictures to hundreds of book and record covers, including those for albums by Sinatra, Armstrong and Fitzgerald; and to touch on the world of politics. When Sinatra assumed responsibility for President John F Kennedy’s inaugural gala in 1960, Stern paused in shooting stills for The Devil at 4 O’Clock to deposit a note in his dressing room. It read: “Read the news today. I hereby apply for the job of resident paparazzo on your inaugural project.” It worked, and Sinatra hired Stern for the inaugural ball. His shot of Sinatra deferentially lighting Kennedy’s cigarette in a swath of smoke went around the world.
Stern was ever careful not to get too close to the stars he befriended. In his heyday he acknowledged: “Someone who knows the scene might say I was part of the gang in that I was acceptable to them, but that’s the extent of it. I was not on their A-list, but from time to time I’d be invited. Technically I was one of them for an hour and a half.”
Stern lived most of his life in a modest bungalow near the Paramount studios, cluttered with decades’ worth of photographic prints, contact sheets and negatives. In 2001, he donated his library to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. When asked what made a good picture, he gave a puzzled answer: “I wish I knew. I could keep taking more.”

Chris Holmes


Date of Birth: 13 July 1942, Otley, West Yorkshire, UK
Birth Name: Christopher John Holmes
Nicknames: Chris Holmes

Few people can have worked in so many different parts of the housing sector as Chris Holmes, former director of Shelter, the housing and homeless charity, who has died aged 72 from respiratory failure. In each of many posts he demonstrated a passion for reform. Holmes helped to encourage both the public and politicians to be more sympathetic towards homelessness. He did this through powerfully argued messages about its causes and consequences. Even during the bleakest periods of the Thatcher era, he ensured affordable housing and homelessness remained on the political agenda.
Right to the end he liked to be known as a campaigner and activist. But he had also shown that he had the managerial skills to steer successfully one of London’s largest public housing departments Camden council’s through Conservative expenditure squeezes between 1990 and 1995.
It was his leadership of Shelter that brought him to national attention. In his seven years there, from 1995 to 2002, the charity’s income trebled to £30m, its staff increased to 500, and its 30 regional advice centres significantly expanded. Within his first year his political skills and persuasive arguments were already on show. A Conservative housing bill in 1995 would have restricted local councils to providing nothing more than temporary accommodation. He helped, with others, to shepherd an army of local authority associations, professional housing bodies, voluntary housing charities and hundreds of individuals to insist that crucial parts of the 1977 homeless persons act were restored.
The election of a Labour government in 1997 opened up new doors. Holmes was a member of the housing minister’s advisory group (1997-2002); a member of the social exclusion unit’s policy action team on housing (1998-2002); and chaired two separate housing commissions. The findings of the first, for London mayor Ken Livingstone in 2000 on how to increase “affordable homes”, were incorporated in the mayor’s strategic plan. The second commission, which he co-chaired with Richard Best, the director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, brought together two traditional antagonistic groups, private landlords and tenant organisations, to seek a new consensus on the private rental market. Not much emerged, but Holmes liked to try new things.


What did go well were two initiatives on homelessness. First came the social exclusions unit’s report on street homelessness in July 1998, which led to an extra £3.6bn to tackle disrepair in council housing stock. Even better was the 2002 Homelessness Act, in which Shelter was deeply involved and for which Holmes drew up a plan for his charity to advise and monitor local councils, which were required to draw up homelessness strategies. An independent audit of Shelter’s effectiveness commissioned by the charity at this time concluded that “virtually all respondents felt Shelter’s campaigning work was very dependent on Chris Holmes and his high-level relationships”.
Just five weeks later, he was dismissed by the charity’s trustees for alcohol problems. They tried to cover it up as a voluntary resignation, but Holmes ignored their “gagging order” and gave the Guardian the true story. It was not just alcohol but also the future direction of Shelter. He wanted to freeze plans for a new London office, relocate some London posts to the north and spend more on campaigns.
Holmes was born in Otley, West Yorkshire, where his love of walking was planted. His father, Gordon, was an insurance broker and a Methodist lay preacher. His mother, Doris (nee Waite), was the pillar of the local Methodist community. He attended Bradford grammar school between the ages of eight to 13 and then the Leys school, Cambridge. He gained an economics degree at Clare College, Cambridge, in 1964 and a postgraduate management diploma from Bradford university in 1966.
His entry into the housing sector came almost by accident. His first job was with John Laing, the construction group, in its personnel department, based in west London. He rented a home nearby in Notting Hill. It was the era of slum landlords, with the most notorious, Peter Rachman, based there. But the district had become a nursery for all manner of new community groups involving housing and legal aid. Holmes got sucked in too.


He moved from community work in Notting Hill in the late 1960s to community work in Islington, north London, then became director of North Islington housing rights project, and went on to Shelter as deputy director (1974-76). From there he became director of the Society for Co-operative Buildings for three years, director of East London housing association (1980-82), and then director of CHAR, the housing campaign for single people (1982-87). The next three years were spent with the priority estates project, which demonstrated how even the most run-down council estates can be turned round. The Camden and Shelter posts followed.
On leaving Shelter he became a research fellow at the IPPR thinktank, was appointed to the Youth Justice Board in 2003 and the Housing Corporation board in 2004. He persuaded the latter to help fund safer accommodation for the vulnerable clients of the former.
He wrote two books, A New Vision for Housing (2005), and a history of Notting Hill housing trust in 2006. His health began to deteriorate in 2008 and by the following year he was unable to walk. His wheelchair gave him a new cause to pursue: better access for disabled people.
Further health problems followed, but he was ably nursed by his wife, Hattie Llewelyn-Davies. They met in the early 80s when she was running the Piccadilly advice centre for homeless young people. They became partners and eventually married on his 60th birthday.

Jimmy Ruffin


Date of Birth: 7 May 1936, Collinsville, Mississippi, US
Birth Name: Jimmy Lee Ruffin
Nicknames: Jimmy Ruffin

Thanks to his 1966 hit What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, Jimmy Ruffin, who has died aged 78, is guaranteed a place among the greats of soul music. On hearing of his death, Motown Records’ founder, Berry Gordy, commented that this was “one of the greatest songs put out by Motown and also one of my personal favourites”.
The song was originally written by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser and James Dean for the Spinners, but when he heard it Ruffin managed to persuade Dean that he was the man for the job. In the event his supple and expressive tenor voice was perfectly matched to the stormy vocal and instrumental backing, which evoked the anguish and struggle in the lyrics (“Every day heartaches grow a little stronger, I can’t stand this pain much longer”). The music drew on hymns, gospel music and chain-gang songs, with some shrewd key-changes to prevent it from subsiding entirely into darkness.
The original release of Brokenhearted reached No 7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and No 6 on the R&B chart, and climbed to No 10 in the UK. Re-released in 1974, it did better still in Britain, rising to No 4. Meanwhile, the song propelled Ruffin to further chart success. In 1967, I’ve Passed This Way Before reached the US Top 20, while Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got went to No 29 (both of these were Top 30 hits in Britain).


However, subsequent releases such as Don’t You Miss Me a Little Bit Baby (1967) and I’ll Say Forever My Love (1968) described a downward trajectory. When Maria (You Were The Only One) just scraped into the Hot 100 in 1970, it was Ruffin’s last appearance on the chart for a decade.
He realised that the success of Brokenhearted had been a mixed blessing. “The problem was that everyone then expected my records to all sound the same,” he reflected in 1970. “The next couple were just extensions of Brokenhearted and I had become typecasted, if that’s the word. I wanted to change my style because I realised that I couldn’t go on doing the same old thing forever. However, the public didn’t accept my later discs and I was caught in the middle.”
Born in Collinsville, Mississippi, to Elias, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Ophelia, he was the older brother of David Ruffin, who would go on to become lead singer with the Temptations. As children, Jimmy and David, with another brother, Quincy, a sister, Rita Mae, and their father and stepmother (Ophelia died shortly after David’s birth), travelled as a family gospel group.


In 1961, Ruffin joined the Motown musical family in Detroit when he was signed to its subsidiary label Miracle, for which he released the single Don’t Feel Sorry for Me. His progress was interrupted when he was called up for military service. After being discharged from the army, he came back to Motown in 1964 and was invited to join the Temptations as lead singer. Aiming for a solo career, Jimmy instead recommended his brother David, who was reaching the end of a solo contract with Chess Records. Jimmy signed a solo deal with Motown’s Soul label, which led to his breakthrough with Brokenhearted.
In 1968, David Ruffin was ejected from the Temptations because of his temperamental behaviour (he had demanded that the group be renamed David Ruffin & the Temptations). The two brothers then teamed up to make the album I Am My Brother’s Keeper (1970), which enjoyed moderate success and included versions of Stand By Me and He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.
Jimmy, meanwhile, decided to concentrate on the more receptive UK market, and in 1970 he scored Top 10 hits in Britain with Farewell Is a Lonely Sound and It’s Wonderful (to Be Loved By You). Reissues of Brokenhearted and Farewell Is a Lonely Sound in 1974 brought further chart success. He enjoyed a major return to the limelight in 1980, when Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees produced his album Sunrise. A single from it, Hold on to My Love, reached No 10 in the States and No 7 in the UK.


Having moved to Britain, in 1984 Ruffin collaborated with Paul Weller on the song Soul Deep (attributed to the Council Collective), a disc aimed at raising money for families of striking coalminers. In 1986 he sang on Heaven 17’s songs A Foolish Thing to Do and My Sensitivity, and he recorded duets with Maxine Nightingale and Brenda Holloway. During the 1990s, Ruffin also branched out into radio work, and made the seven-part series Jimmy Ruffin’s Sweet Soul Music for Radio 2. After David died of a cocaine overdose in 1991, Jimmy became a committed anti-drugs campaigner.
A compilation of his hits, There Will Never Be Another You, was released in 2012, and Ruffin had reportedly been working on new songs for an album to mark his 77th birthday in 2013.

Warren Clarke


Date of Birth: 26 April 1947, Oldham, Lancashire, UK
Birth Name: Alan Clarke
Nicknames: Warren Clarke

Warren Clarke was one of Britain’s most recognisable and versatile actors, but was best known for his role as the splenetic Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel in Dalziel and Pascoe, the BBC television series based on the books by Reginald Hill.
Clarke may have been no casting director’s idea of a dreamboat, but his pugnacious features were perfectly suited to the part of the relentlessly insensitive, politically incorrect Yorkshire copper who made life difficult not only for the criminal fraternity but also for his young sidekick, the liberal, university-educated policeman Peter Pascoe (played by Colin Buchanan).
Dalziel’s abrasiveness and contempt for the pieties of the modern age made him one of the most distinctive fictional detectives on the small screen. Yet after he had played the part for five years during which he became a household name Clarke considered giving up the role, partly because he felt that the BBC was uneasy about the character: “You can’t have a series about policemen without showing them swearing occasionally,” he reflected, “but there was actually some bureaucrat at the BBC who wouldn’t allow me to say 'pillock’, even though I pointed out that Shakespeare used the word in King Lear.”
In the event, he decided to stay on, making a total of 61 episodes between 1996 and 2007.
Clarke’s own views, one suspects, were not that far removed from those of his alter ego: “I remember my parents telling me that the local bobby would give me a clip round the earhole if I didn’t behave. But nobody can smack anybody round the head now. What’s wrong with a quick clip round the earhole? In my day the local bobby was someone to be respected, but not any more.”
He was born Alan Clarke at Oldham, Lancashire, on April 26 1947, the son of a stained-glass maker and a secretary. His parents were keen filmgoers, and regularly took him to the cinema. “Saturday evenings we’d go and see a double feature,” he recalled. “I remember it being so amazing looking up at the big screen and I was totally seduced by it.”


His early ambition to become an actor did not impress the headmaster of his secondary modern school in Manchester, who told Alan to choose a more sensible career, such as plumbing; Alan, in magnificent anticipation of his role as Dalziel, told his headmaster to “sod off”. With the support of his parents, he left school at 15 and became a runner at the Manchester Evening News, where he was known as Nobby. Meanwhile he gained experience in amateur dramatics, and decided to change his first name to Warren (because a girlfriend had a crush on Warren Beatty).
Late in life he would recall: “I thought about being a star, very briefly, when I was 16, but after about a year of being in weekly rep, I lost interest in the idea of stardom and just got on with being a jobbing actor.”
He got his first break in a radio play for BBC Manchester, and his first significant television roles came in Coronation Street (first as Kenny Pickup, then as Gary Bailey). Then, in 1971, he secured a film part, as the vicious thug Dim, wearing red lipstick and a bowler hat, in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, starring Malcolm McDowell. Some 40 years later Clarke was in a Birmingham pub when he was approached by several young men who had just watched the film: “They tried to get a bit tough with me. I said, 'Look lads, 40 years ago I would have given you a bit of what you’re trying to give me, but at my age I can’t be arsed.’ ”


During the 1970s Clarke honed his skills on the stage, appearing in a multitude of plays including works by Shakespeare, Anthony Shaffer, Molière, Ibsen and Robert Bolt. After a gap of some 30 years, he would return to the boards playing Winston Churchill in Three Days in May (2011), about Britain facing the prospect of a Nazi invasion.
At the same time he was making his reputation on the small screen, in shows such as Softly Softly: Task Force (1973); Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974), a miniseries in which he played the young Winston Churchill; Our Mutual Friend (1976), as Bradley Headstone; The Onedin Line (1978); Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979); and Shelley (1980-82). In 1984, in one of television’s most successful ventures, The Jewel in the Crown, Clarke appeared very much against character as the openly gay Corporal “Sophie” Dixon, and played the role superbly.
His television work continued (Bergerac, Blackadder, Wish Me Luck among many others), but in the late 1980s Clarke considered abandoning his profession because he felt he was not making enough money even though he was then filming opposite Haydn Gwynne in the television drama Nice Work. “In those days,” he later explained in an interview, “the BBC didn’t pay you until you had done the first studio recording, so I had been working on the show for two months without any money. I went to the cashpoint, put my card in the machine and it spat it out.”
His bank refused to extend his overdraft, and the BBC advanced him £350; but he was forced to scrounge money from the rest of the cast: “ A few months later, I noticed that my wife wasn’t wearing her engagement ring. I asked her where it was and she explained it was being repaired.” It was only later that he discovered she had sold it to pay bills.
Thereafter, however, Clarke was rarely out of work. His television credits included The Manageress (1989-90); Gone to the Dogs (1991); Sleepers (1991); Gone to Seed (1992); The Secret Agent (1992); The House of Windsor (1994); The Locksmith (1997); Down to Earth (2000-1), with Pauline Quirke, about a couple faced with bankruptcy who decide to move out of London to run a smallholding in Devon; and Bleak House (2005), in which he played Lawrence Boythorn. He made a number of appearances on the big screen; Clint Eastwood cast him as a Russian spy in Firefox (1982).
More recently Clarke had appeared in the BBC drama The Invisibles (2008) and the Channel 4 trilogy Red Riding (2009). The last role he completed before his death was as Charles Poldark in the BBC’s revival of the 1970s television drama Poldark.
Warren Clarke died in his sleep after a short illness.

Trevor Pharo


Date of Birth: 6 april 1954, Croydon, Surrey, UK
Birth Name: Trevor Pharo

Trevor Pharo was a south coast sales executive who became better known to younger customers as Bingo the Clown.
As Bingo, Pharo made clowning history in 1985 by staging the first ever International Clown Convention, when, for a weekend, the staid seaside town of Bognor Regis became “Clown Town”. Local policemen wore red noses and some 100,000 visitors turned up to watch a huge street parade, led by Bingo, and enjoy seminars in slapstick, tumbling and custard pies given by masters of the craft.
The conventions continued for about a decade until funding ran out, attracting the support of stars such as Ken Dodd, Jeremy Beadle, and Norman Wisdom, who opened the 1988 convention. One year the local council estimated the event had attracted 200,000 visitors and as many as 700 clowns, 300 of whom had flown in on a specially chartered flight from the United States.
Bingo was the first British clown to entertain Arab audiences in Kuwait, and he made numerous stage and television appearances, most notably at the Children’s Royal Variety Show at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1988.
But his career was not without controversy. In 1989 he was accused by his fellow clown Bluey (alias Blue Brattle) of bringing their calling into disrepute after he had appeared in clown costume on Kilroy to discuss whether clowns were paid enough. He was said to have infringed the rule that a clown should never be serious when wearing motley, though some of his colleagues appear to have reacted badly to his suggestion that some involved in the business were more interested in profits than entertainment. Pharo brushed off suggestions that he should hang up his red nose. “Of course I’m serious from time to time even if I’m in full make-up,” he said. “I can’t forever be dropping my trousers.”
Trevor Pharo was born at Croydon, Surrey, on April 6 1954 and fell in love with the circus when Billy Smart’s came to town in 1972. After leaving school he helped Smart’s by persuading shopkeepers to put circus posters in their windows and, while working as a graphics and printing supplies salesman, eventually founding his own business, learnt the rudiments of clowning from Billy Gay, the circus’s advance publicity manager who doubled as a clown.
He began to take on weekend clowning jobs at children’s parties and local carnivals and amusement parks. As his reputation grew, he travelled abroad and appeared on stage and television.
He raised large sums for charities, including the Variety Club of Great Britain, the Anthony Nolan Trust, and the children’s charity Dream Flight, giving up his own holidays to accompany planeloads of children, many terminally ill, on a “holiday of a lifetime” to Florida. In 2000 he was presented with an award at an international clown convention for his charitable work.


In 2009, to raise money for a care centre in Brighton for people with HIV/Aids-related illnesses, he promoted two “adults only” nights of entertainment under the big top of Zippo’s Circus. The shows featured some of the circus’s top stars, led by ringmaster Norman Barrett, alongside a line-up of local cabaret regulars . Music was provided by the Brighton and Hove Gay Men’s Chorus and the “alternative” panto star Robert James, “the Naked Singer”.
Trevor Pharo’s marriage to his wife Angela was dissolved, and in September this year he married his partner, Ian Bromilow.

Maggie Boyle


Date of Birth: 24 December 1956, Battersea, London, UK
Birth Name: Maggie Boyle

Maggie Boyle was one of the hidden treasures of folk music. She was born and lived all her life in England, but her first and defining love was Irish traditional song and it served her well in a career of many highlights, including collaborations with the Chieftains, Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch and her former husband, Steve Tilston.
Maggie Boyle also appeared regularly with John Renbourn’s group Ship of Fools and the female vocal harmony group Grace Notes. Her recording career included three accomplished solo albums, Reaching Out (1987), Gweebarra (1998) and Won’t You Come Away (2012).
The apparent effortlessness of her graceful vocals and her instinctive musicianship on flute, whistle and bodhran not only endeared her to audiences but also made her a popular and influential figure among her fellow artists, with younger singers such as Fay Hield citing her as an important influence. At one point she collaborated with Van Morrison, setting a WB Yeats poem to music, although the track was never actually released.


She was steeped in Irish traditional music from birth. Her father, Paddy, was a singer and native Irish speaker from Co Donegal who did not learn English until he was 12; her mother was an Irish dancer from Co Longford. After relocating to London, both were active on the vibrant London Irish music scene, and their home became a stop-off point for a succession of passing Irish musicians .
One of four children, Maggie was born on Christmas Eve 1956. She learned her first song, My Lagan Love, from her father when she was nine, and went on to be tutored by the great Co Monaghan folk singer Oliver Mulligan, winning several competitions organised by Comhaltas Ceóltoirí Éireann, Ireland’s primary traditional music promotional body. At the time opportunities for Irish singers in Britain were scarce, and with little prospect of becoming a professional singer she joined the Civil Service, working in the social security office.
But after marrying the singer songwriter Steve Tilston in 1984 and moving to Bristol, her life took a different path when she was invited to sing and play the flute in Christopher Bruce’s folk ballet production of Sergeant Early’s Dream for the Rambert dance company. She ended up touring with the show on and off for several years, including to America, where she also toured with the Chieftains.
The biggest boost to her profile, however, came in 1992, when she was asked to sing the theme song (The Quiet Land Of Erin) for the Harrison Ford movie Patriot Games. The director, Phillip Noyce, originally wanted Clannad, but when they proved unavailable he turned to Maggie Boyle. After discovering that she was required to sing the track in Irish, she rang an aunt in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, for some speed coaching . Two years later she was singing and playing on the soundtrack of the Brad Pitt movie Legends Of The Fall .


Based at Keighley, West Yorkshire, Maggie Boyle played regularly in a duo with Tilston recording two fine albums with him and after their split in 1997 she remained an influential figure on the grass roots Yorkshire folk scene. Her 1998 album Gweebarra produced some of her best-loved tracks, among them Gweebarra Shore, Lady Margaret and Lord Gregory.
Always preferring to collaborate with other artists rather than perform solo, she embraced modern music alongside Irish traditional material, and experimented with different styles in the trio Sketch with the jazz guitarist Gary Boyle. She formed another group, the Expatriate Game, showcasing American music, with the guitarist Duck Baker and fiddle player Ben Paley, and toured with the singer/guitarist Paul Downes. She also appeared regularly with the female harmony vocal group Grace Notes, originally formed in 1993 with Lynda Hardcastle and Helen Hockenhull, and made five albums together with them.
Her final album, Won’t You Come Away (2012), was also her most personal. It was in part based on Kitchen Songs, an online project which evolved into a show on Radio Leeds involving informal chats and collaborations with songwriters and musicians from different fields. The result was an album that included guest appearances by, among others, Jon Boden, Paul Downes and Steve Tilston on a mix of traditional and contemporary songs. One track, Liza & Henry, was written by her son, Joe.

Acker Bilk


Date of Birth: 28 January 1928, Pensford, Somerset, UK
Birth Name: Bernard Stanley Bilk
Nicknames: Acker Bilk

Acker Bilk was a jazz clarinettist and bandleader who became a hugely popular figure in the wider world of entertainment; his recordings, in particular Stranger On The Shore, figured among the bestselling records of the 20th century.
Bilk’s popular appeal owed almost as much to his unaffected and avuncular manner as to the warm, sentimental sound of his clarinet. Similarly, his bowler-hatted figure was as instantly recognisable as his tone and style. Despite his great popularity, Bilk retained his commitment to jazz and led a series of excellent bands throughout his career.


Bernard Stanley Bilk was born on January 28 1929 in Pensford, Somerset, the son of a cabinet maker. His mother played the organ in the chapel where his father acted as a lay preacher. Bilk acquired the nickname “Acker”, a local word meaning “pal” or “mate”, as a boy.
His mother insisted on his taking formal piano lessons which, he claimed, almost killed his interest in music. His boyhood exploits around the village resulted in several injuries, including the loss of two front teeth and the top joint of a finger. He later claimed that these disabilities contributed to his individual style of playing.
Leaving school at 14, Bilk worked first at the Wills tobacco factory in Bristol, at a wage of £1 4s a week, and later as a builder’s labourer and blacksmith’s apprentice. He took up the clarinet in 1948, while on National Service in Egypt, and formed a semi-professional band in Bristol shortly after demobilisation.


Early in 1954 Bilk was invited to join the band of Ken Colyer, Britain’s leading New Orleans-style musician. He found life in London so disagreeable that he left after only a few months, returned home and took a variety of manual jobs. In 1956 he formed his Paramount Jazz Band.
Realising that the band’s only chance of establishing itself lay in having a London base, in 1957 Bilk braved the capital once more. Traditional, or “Trad”, jazz was now growing in popularity throughout Europe, and he secured a six-week engagement in Düsseldorf.
The long nightly sessions imparted a professional polish to the band and they returned home in perfect form to take advantage of the burgeoning Trad craze.
It was Bilk’s good fortune to have his advertising handled by the publicist Peter Leslie, who was later to play a role in promoting the Beatles’ early career. Leslie hit upon the idea of presenting Bilk and the band in the guise of Edwardian showmen or prizefighters.

They appeared dressed in waistcoats, shirtsleeves and bowler hats. Bilk himself was always billed as “Mr Acker Bilk”, while the band’s record albums, press advertisements and handbills came complete with yards of Leslie’s orotund, mock-Edwardian prose: “The notes flew out in that Style much favoured in the American City of New Orleans: so Spirited in its Execution, so Subtle and Melodious in Conception.”
Leslie’s strategy for creating a distinctive image worked well. Young Trad fans adopted the bowler hat as their identifying symbol and, somewhat to his alarm, Acker Bilk found himself a leader of pop fashion at the beginning of the Sixties. He played a prominent role in Dick Lester’s It’s Trad, Dad!, the archetypal youth film of the time.
In 1960 he recorded his composition Stranger On The Shore with a string orchestra, as the theme music to a BBC television play for children. The tune caught on and became the first-ever simultaneous hit in Britain and America, remaining in the Top 30 singles chart for 53 weeks, gaining an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.


The tune which he habitually referred to as “my old-age pension,” was subsequently recorded by dozens of other artists, including Duke Ellington, and continues to sell in prodigious quantities.
Although the boom in Trad jazz came to an abrupt end in 1963, with the rise of the Beatles, Bilk continued to pursue his double-sided career with great success. The band, freed from the need to conform to the strict Trad format, blossomed into a fine, open-textured mainstream jazz sextet.
Meanwhile, a long series of attractive, easy-listening albums emerged to supply an apparently insatiable market. The ubiquitous sound of Acker with strings, still to be heard in shops, bars, hotel lobbies, lifts and aeroplanes around the world, brought him numerous awards. Particularly successful were the albums Sheer Magic and Evergreen, both of which gained gold discs.
Although he did not have to, Bilk continued to tour the world with his Paramount Jazz Band. The generation which had taken to him as teenagers continued to flock to his performances as adults, often bringing their children and grandchildren with them in later years.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, he took care not to allow his show to harden into an ossified routine, but it would always end in the same way. He would don the bowler hat, which had been lying prominently placed on the piano throughout. This simple action invariably brought storms of applause which died away to silence as he played the first notes of Stranger On The Shore.


In recent years, Bilk began to limit the number of his appearances. A keen amateur painter, he spent more time painting and relaxing at his home in Pensford than in his big house at Potters Bar, north London. In 2000 he was treated for throat cancer.
He was appointed MBE in 2001.

Chris Bracey


Date of Birth: 25 December 1954, Walthamshow, London, UK
Birth Name: Chris Bracey

Chris Bracey was a fluorescent tube artist known as “the master of glow”, whose exuberant neon artworks gave a sleazy aura to numerous Soho sex shops, featured as props in films such as Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and were collected by sundry “celebs”.
Bracey was also a collector in his own right, running a studio-cum-warehouse called God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow, which housed one of the biggest collections of kitchy neon signs and sculptures outside America. The collection included vintage fair and carnival signs, girlie show promos and original pieces made on site.
Bracey’s 40-year career saw him transform neon signage into an art form. His commissions included a giant neon “Aladdin Sane” lightning bolt for the 2013 V&A Bowie exhibition; a neon “Roc Nation” sign for Jay-Z’s record label; and, for Kate Moss, a £100,000 hot pink artwork of her own name. For the rapper Professor Green, he created Saint and Sin, a 160 cm square neon sculpture featuring a pair of open legs at the bottom, and an angel in a cloud at the top.
Last year, he had staged his first solo exhibition, I’ve Looked Up to Heaven and Been Down to Hell, at Scream in London, to which visitors were greeted by a giant neon dagger appearing to burst on to the street through the windows of the gallery, and which featured a collection of works playing on religious iconography, including The Hands of God, a life-size statue of Jesus, clutching a pair of neon pistols.
“Neon has a soul, it lives at night creating poetry with light, promising love in Soho or hot bagels all night,” Bracey reflected.
Christopher Bracey was born on Christmas Day 1954 in Walthamshow where his father, a former miner from south Wales, had established his own signmaking business, Electro Signs, working mainly for fairgrounds and amusement arcades.


Bracey learnt to work with the glass tubes and gases at an early age and, after studying at art college and a stint at a Soho graphics agency, he joined the family business. The Soho landlord Paul Raymond became his first customer, commissioning a light for his Revuebar. The result, promising “Girls Girls Girls” set the tone for other commissions in the district such as “Love Upstairs”. “I did 99 percent of every sex establishment in Soho for 20 years,” Bracey told the BBC last year.
Bracey got his first opportunity to move away from selling sex when the art director for the film Mona Lisa (1986) saw him putting up a sex shop sign and asked him to do the neon for the film, which is set in the Soho underworld. This led on to commissions for Superman III, whose Oscar winning set director Peter Young introduced him to Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton. His neon artworks appeared alongside Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Jack Nicholson in Batman. Other credits included Blade Runner, Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale, Dark Knight, and Byzantium.
A visit to a Bruce Nauman exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1997, opened Bracey’s eyes to the artistic possibilities of neon tubing. He ghost-created Martin Creed’s white neon sign The Whole World + The Work = The Whole World, that lit up the front of Tate Britain in 2000 and, ith David LaChapelle he created Vegas Supernova, a set of pole-dancing and plastic surgery-themed window displays at Selfridges in 2005.

Alvin Stardust


Date of Birth: 27 September 1942, East London, UK
Birth Name: Bernard William Jewry
Nicknames: Alvin Stardust

Alvin Stardust was a leather-clad glam rocker who found fame in the 1970s with My Coo Ca Choo and Jealous Mind and he was one of the more bizarre glam rock sensations of the 1970s.
As an extravagantly quiffed, leather-clad rocker with preposterous sideburns and chunky rings worn over tight-fitting leather gloves, he inspired a generation of children to strut their stuff and perform strange contortions with their fingers as they responded to the invitation in his signature hit My Coo Ca Choo to “groove on the mat”.
Stardust went on to have four Top 10 hits in quick succession in the early 1970s. The most famous were My Coo Ca Choo and Jealous Mind, although Red Dress and You You You were not far behind. Yet his career breakthrough, on Top of the Pops in November 1973, came about after a chapter of accidents in which he twice found fame by inheriting a name never intended for him.
One month before his TOTP appearance, an entirely different Alvin Stardust had made his television debut. To promote his new record label, Magnet Records, the songwriter and producer Peter Shelley had invented “Alvin Stardust” and composed, sung and recorded a one-off single, My Coo Ca Choo. When, to his alarm, the song won the imaginary Alvin a slot on a television pop show, he felt he had no option but to bluff it out. “I dressed the part a glitter-suited recluse who had been living in Spain and to my surprise it went on the charts the next week,” Shelley recalled.
But he had no wish to repeat the performance, so he began to look around for someone else to assume the character in time for a fast-approaching booking on Top of the Pops. After Marty Wilde turned him down, he approached a less well-known pop star called Shane Fenton (real name Bernard Jewry), who had enjoyed modest fame in the early 1960s as the frontman of Shane Fenton and the Fentones.


Fenton’s chiselled features and striking blond mane had won him a select female following, so for Alvin Stardust he felt he had to reinvent himself. Modelling himself on Jack Palance in Shane, he clad himself in head-to-toe black leather and, the night before his date with destiny, dyed his hair black in his bathroom sink. When he looked in the mirror, however, he saw black streaks down the side of his face and purple stains all over his hands, which he found impossible to scrub off. “There was no way I could go on TV looking like that,” he recalled.
The next morning found him at a theatrical wigmakers: “They had these long black sideburns, perfect for covering up the stains on my face, so they fitted them right then and there.” Across the road in a ladies’ outfitters, the new Alvin Stardust bought a pair of black leather gloves to cover his stained hands.


With Shelley’s imaginary pop star now reincarnated as the enigmatic man in black, My Coo Ca Choo rocketed to No 2 in Britain , turning the quirkily theatrical Stardust into an overnight pop sensation. By the time his follow-up, Jealous Mind, reached No 1 in March 1974, he had won a Music Week award as best male live act. For a 31-year old who had been playing working men’s clubs, it was a dream come true.
Stardust’s time at the top was brief, but it won him a loyal following of fans who responded to his passion for music and his refusal to take himself too seriously. As a result, in later years he was able to make a decent living on the nostalgia tour circuit.
He almost did not live to enjoy it. On one of his early outings as Stardust he went on stage in a leather catsuit that covered him from throat to ankle: “The only place for the heat to escape was from my face, so three-quarters of the way through ... I just collapsed. They had to cut off my catsuit in the ambulance. My manager was saying: 'Not the suit!’ Then I stopped breathing, so they fed a pipe down my throat. All my manager could say was: 'You know he’s got to sing tomorrow, don’t you?’ ” 


An only child, he was born Bernard William Jewry in east London on September 27 1942 and grew up at Mansfield. He was educated as a boarder at Southwell Minster Grammar School, where he and a couple of friends formed the Jewry Rhythm Band. Meanwhile, he found work as a roadie for a group called Shane Fenton and the Beat Boys, which became Shane Fenton and the Fentones.
In the early 1960s the group recorded a demo tape and mailed it to the BBC, but while they were waiting for a reply the band’s 17-year-old singer, Shane Fenton, died from rheumatic fever. The rest of the band decided to break up, but when the BBC invited them to an audition, Fenton’s mother asked the band to stay together in honour of her son’s memory. Jewry was asked to become the new Shane Fenton.
In the early 1960s the group had a handful of hits in the UK singles chart: I’m a Moody Guy; Walk Away; It’s All Over Now; and Cindy’s Birthday, which reached the No 19 slot in 1962. At one point the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, approached “Shane” and offered to manage him. “He said he had a song called Do You Want To Know A Secret? which was ideal for me,” Stardust recalled. But he turned him down. A few weeks later the song launched Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas to the kind of stardom that eluded Shane Fenton and the Fentones.
Although Stardust’s successes in the 1970s tended to dwarf the rest of his career, he enjoyed a revival in the 1980s when he signed up to Stiff Records and found himself back in the Top 10 with Pretend, which peaked at No 4 in 1981. He went on to have three more consecutive hits for Chrysalis Records.
During the 1990s Stardust concentrated on acting, with television roles that included that of Greg Andersen in Hollyoaks. He later moved into musical theatre, starring as the Child Catcher in the West End hit Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


But the nostalgia rock circuit was his bread and butter. A review of an Alvin Stardust performance at Skegness in 2010 described him bursting on to the stage clad in black leather “in a roar of motorcycles” and doing “outrageously sensual things to Duffy’s Mercy and Johnny Kidd’s Shakin’ All Over”.
Stardust never lost his sense of humour. When asked recently by OK! magazine for his thoughts on Jimmy Savile, he replied: “If I’d known that Jimmy Savile was abusing children, I think I would have lynched him,” before adding: “[But] a lot of things were going on [at the time] that we didn’t know about. Nobody knew Gary Glitter was bald.”
Stardust was thrice married, first to Iris Caldwell; secondly to the actress Liza Goddard; and thirdly to the actress and choreographer Julie Paton.
Alvin Stardust, born September 27 1942, died October 23 2014

Oscar de la Renta


Date of Birth: 22 July 1932, Santa Domingo
Birth Name: Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo
Nicknames: Oscar de la Renta

Whether dressing stars from Sarah Jessica Parker to Amal Alamuddin or first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama, Oscar de la Renta was both an establishment favourite and a cult hero. The Oscars red carpet wouldn’t be the same without him. Guardian fashion writers celebrate his glittering life in fashion


Oscar de la Renta could never be described as a groundbreaking or challenging designer. Whether he was dressing Hollywood actors in ruffles and silk or creating luxe skirt suits for the Park Avenue set, De la Renta’s approach was measured, feminine and appropriate. Having worked with the creme de la creme of European couturiers in his early career, de la Renta is old school, part of the fashion establishment. And yet, unlike American contemporaries like Bill Blass and Anne Klein, he has remained a worldwide household name, with his high-profile red carpet work speaking of a deep and very contemporary understanding of the power of celebrity. He attitude to women was modern, too. In 2013, he said: “‘The ladies who lunch’ is one of the corniest phrases and one I deeply hate … it doesn’t exist, not any more. Whether the woman is working for a salary or working as a volunteer, what’s important in the modern history of American fashion is the emergence of a woman who is no longer a socialite.”
Born in Santa Domingo in 1932 to a wealthy family, De la Renta was an immigrant whose name become synonymous with the American upper class. The youngest of seven brothers, he arrived in the US via Madrid and Paris, where he had worked for Cristóbal Balenciaga, Lanvin and Balmain. The money his father sent him while he was in Spain he spent on fancy clothes and “senorita” suits. He remained joyously and impeccably dapper three-piece suits with starched collars to entertain influential friends at his various holiday homes until his death. His close friendships with the women of the White House and the fact that his label represents American society (in the way that big gowns and Upper East side skirts suits just do) underlines his journey as the designer who arrived and made it big.


The designer’s work became relevant to a wider audience thanks to Carrie Bradshaw. The fictional character spoke of “Oscar’s” dresses in hushed, reverential whispers. But the high point of the SatC/OdlR love-in came in season six when Carrie’s Russian lover buys her a hot-pink cocktail dress by the designer, with a tight shell top and a cropped debutant full skirt, which she ends up wearing to McDonald’s, dancing and eating fries. It became a small-screen sartorial cult moment. It wasn’t the only time De la Renta was name-checked in recent pop culture. In the notable The Devil Wears Prada speech, when fictional editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly explains to her assistant the fashion food chain and why she is wearing a blue Gap jumper, she namechecked De la Renta’s 2002 collection of cerulean gowns. Meanwhile, in real life, Sarah Jessica Parker was a regular exponent of the brand on the red carpet.


De la Renta took pleasure in a spat. In 2012, the then New York Times fashion editor Cathy Horyn described his 2012 collection in damning terms, saying: “Mr De la Renta is far more a hot dog than an éminence grise of American fashion.” In bombastic fashion, he bought a full page advert in the trade sheet WWD to publish his retort: “If you have the right to call me a hot dog, why do I not have the right to call you a stale three-day old hamburger?” For her part, Horyn said that she meant hot dog as in “showman” rather than as a derisory comment. But De la Renta didn’t stop at the fashion establishment. He criticised Michelle Obama in 2009 when she wore J Crew to Buckingham Palace (“You don’t ... go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater.”) And Flotus came under fire again in 2013 from the designer for wearing foreign labels to welcome the Chinese prime minister to the White House.


De la Renta has been associated with the corridors of power from the beginning of his career. His big break as a designer came in 1956, when Beatrice Cabot Lodge daughter of the American ambassador to Spain wore one of his gowns on the cover of Life magazine. In the 1960s, he dressed Jacqueline Kennedy. In the 1980s, he was firm friends with Nancy Reagan, who wore his tomato-red, shoulder-padded gowns to presidential dinners. In the 1990s, he was credited with creating Hillary Clinton’s signature suited silhouette during her husband’s second term in office. Clinton who now describes herself as a “pantsuit aficionado” on her Twitter biog has said: “He’s been working for 20 years to turn me into a fashion icon.”
Though he had been sick with cancer for almost eight years, De la Renta’s business had been booming it grew by 50% in the last decade. His frothy, feminine, highly photogenic gowns continued to rule the Oscars from Cameron Diaz in shimmering gold in 2010 to Amy Adams in dove-grey ruffles in 2013. Even more recently, De la Renta enjoyed publicity his competitors could only have dreamed of when human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin wore a lace, ivory dress for her spectacular wedding to actor George Clooney. It was this month, too, that Michelle Obama who had previously broken with White House tradition by declining to wear the designer’s work for seven years finally wore a De la Renta cocktail dress. The choice was perceived by some commentators as a goodwill nod to the brand and its history.


De la Renta flirted with controversy by working with John Galliano on his autumn/winter 2013 collection. But his design legacy is really in the hands of Peter Copping announced as creative director of Oscar De la Renta earlier this month. Copping is, appropriately perhaps, a quieter fashion talent. The English designer worked for Nina Ricci for five years before moving to the American brand, and made clothes that had a kind of delicate elegance that chimes well with his new gig. Copping is cut from the same cloth as De la Renta one that’s reassuringly expensive and fits into a tradition of champagne reception glamour but appeals to the next gen of young socialites with clean lines and pops of colour. His first collection, to be shown in February, will no doubt be chockablock full of brand references. We also predict that the Oscars red carpet taking place in the same month will be awash with starlets wearing vintage OdlR dresses. Always a Hollywood favourite, Oscars for the Oscars seems like a fitting tribute.

Tim Hauser


Date of Birth: 12 December 1941, Troy, New York, US
Birth Name: Timothy DuPron Hauser
Nicknames: Tim Hauser

Tim Hauser, was a founder-member of the vocal group the Manhattan Transfer, a four-part harmony ensemble which has survived for more than 40 years virtually without a break.
First formed in 1969 by Hauser (a one-time market researcher who worked on the Pepsodent toothpaste account) and three friends, Manhattan Transfer’s cool elegance and nostalgic aura enthused audiences in the 1970s, when they became one of New York’s most popular live acts.
Among the venues they played in those days was the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in the basement of the Ansonia hotel which included a disco, cabaret lounge, sauna rooms and swimming pool. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Continental Baths featured a host of famous entertainers, among them the Andrews Sisters, Tiny Tim and Bette Midler (known as “Bathhouse Betty”, and sometimes accompanied on the piano by Barry Manilow dressed only in a white towel). Manhattan Transfer went on to produce a string of hits and win 10 Grammies, and continued to record and tour into the new millennium.


Timothy DuPron Hauser was born on December 12 1941 in Troy, New York. When he was seven, his family moved to New Jersey, and he was educated at St Rose High School in Belmar. Music was his governing passion from childhood, and at the age of 15 he founded a doo-wop vocal quintet called the Criterions which recorded two singles for the Cecilia Label, I Remain Truly Yours and Don’t Say Goodbye. They also performed at many R&B revues and record hops around New York, appearing alongside Dion and the Belmonts, the Elegants and the Heartbeats. When he was only 17, Hauser produced Harlem Nocturne for the Viscounts, which reached No 3 on the Billboard chart in 1959.
At Villanova University, where he read Economics, Hauser sang in a folk group called the Troubadours Three, joined the Villanova Singers and also worked on the college radio station. After serving for a year (1964) with the US Air Force, he became a market research analyst with a New York advertising agency where his accounts included Pepsodent and Micrin mouthwash. From 1966 to 1968 he managed the market research department at Nabisco’s special products division, working mainly on cereals and pet foods.
Music, however, remained his true calling, and in 1969 he formed the first version of the Manhattan Transfer (named after John Dos Passos’s novel of 1925) with Gene Pistilli, Marty Nelson, Erin Dickins and Pat Rosalia; but after recording only one album, Jukin’, in the early 1970s they broke up after disagreements about future musical direction; Hauser wanted to take the group towards jazz and swing.
And there the story might have ended, as Hauser found himself working as a New York taxi driver. But one night in April 1972 he was flagged down by Laurel Massé, a waitress and would-be singer who admired the Manhattan Transfer having seen them perform at Fillmore East. They stopped for coffee and discussed music, and arranged to meet again. Shortly afterwards, again on his taxi-driving shift, Hauser picked up the conga player for the group Laurel Canyon, who invited him to a party at which he met Janis Siegel (a member of Laurel Canyon).


Hauser, Janis and Laurel Massé decided to re-form the Manhattan Transfer, and recruited as their fourth member Alan Paul, who was appearing in the Broadway production of Grease. The group was launched on October 1 1972.
Within two years Manhattan Transfer were performing regularly in New York City, at venues such as Trude Hellers, the Mercer Arts Center and Club 82, as well as the Continental Baths. In 1975 they were signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun, releasing an eponymous album in the same year; a single from the album, a remake of the Friendly Brothers’ gospel classic Operator, gave the group their first national hit. The group was soon invited by CBS to host a weekly show, on which Bob Marley and the Wailers would make their first US television appearance. Their next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, generated a string of Top 10 hits in Europe, and a No 1 in Britain and France with Chanson d’Amour.


In 1978 Cheryl Bentyne replaced Laurel Massé, who had been injured in a car accident and had decided to pursue a solo career. The first album featuring the new line-up, Extensions (1979), included Birdland, which was to become the group’s anthem. In 1981 Manhattan Transfer became the first group to win Grammy Awards in both the pop and jazz categories in the same year . The group has continued to record and tour, and in 2000 they released a tribute album to Louis Armstrong, The Spirit Of St Louis.
Hauser worked as a producer as well, and in 2007 he released a solo album, Love Stories.
Away from music, he enjoyed collecting and restoring classic cars; he also launched a brand of tomato sauce.

John Holt


Date of Birth: 11 July 1947, Kingston, Jamaica
Birth Name: John Kenneth Holt
Nicknames: John Holt

John Holt was one of Jamaica’s best-loved singers. Though chiefly known for romantic ballads and reggae renditions of pop and soul tunes, Holt was also an exceptionally talented singer-songwriter. He scored dozens of hits during a career that lasted more than 50 years, becoming a leading reggae star, enjoying success in the British pop charts in addition to having countless hits at home.
John Kenneth Holt was born in Kingston on July 11 1947. His vocal talent was nurtured by his mother, who encouraged him to sing at weddings and parties from the age of seven . Later, at Calabar High School, his friends coaxed the reluctant youngster into performing at school concerts .


At the age of 16, Holt entered a talent contest held by the journalist Vere Johns at the nearby Majestic Theatre, winning first prize with a rendition of Solomon Burke’s Just Out of Reach. As a regular in the contests, he formed a rivalry with Jimmy Cliff and other young hopefuls, taking first prize on 29 occasions.
As word of Holt’s talent spread , the aspiring producer Leslie Kong brokered a deal with the singer’s mother to record him for an upfront payment of £30. His debut single, recorded with the leading show band the Vagabonds, featured the original compositions Forever I’ll Stay and I Cried a Tear, the latter co-written with Winston Samuels. Holt then left school to concentrate on music full-time.
In 1964 he formed a short-lived duo with Alton Ellis, recording the chart-topping ska hit Rum Bumpers for Vincent “Randy” Chin, and providing harmony on Moutha Massy Liza. He was then invited to join the Paragons vocal quartet by Tyrone Evans, as a replacement for Leroy Stamp, reaching the group just in time to contribute to their Studio One recording Love At Last, which stayed at the No 1 chart position for five weeks. After Bob Andy left the group, the Paragons remained a vocal trio, with Holt as lead singer and chief songwriter .
The group reached Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle stable just as the slower-paced rock-steady style became the rage in Jamaica, and hits such as Happy Go Lucky Girl, On the Beach, Only a Smile, Wear You to the Ball and The Tide Is High made them one of the defining reggae acts of the era.


Holt returned to solo work in 1968 (though he also continued with the Paragons until 1970), scoring an instant hit with the sensuous Tonight for Duke Reid. He began working for rising producers such as Rupie Edwards and Keith Hudson, but a more significant partnership was brokered with Bunny Lee in 1969, yielding the broken-hearted Sometimes and It’s a Jam in the Street.
After cutting the A Love I Can Feel album for Studio One, My Heart Is Gone and Strange Things were exquisite singles for producer Phil Pratt. Another breakthrough came with his successful cover of Shep and the Limelights’ doo-wop classic Stick By Me, recorded for Bunny Lee in 1972.
Greater international exposure came after the English producer Tony Ashfield began orchestrating Holt’s material, helping to break him into mainstream markets in Britain with the albums The Further You Look and 1000 Volts of Holt. Holt’s cover of Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through the Night spent 11 weeks in the British pop charts in late 1974, peaking at No 6, and his orchestrated cut of Mr Bojangles was also popular. By contrast, the following year Holt’s rousing smash Up Park Camp, a song about a detention camp for gunmen in Kingston, proved he was still in touch with his Jamaican audience.
After the 2000 and 3000 Volts of Holt releases, and the tastefully orchestrated Time Is the Master set for Harry Mudie, during the late 1970s Holt released several extended-play showcase albums, including Holt Goes Disco, though none fared particularly well.


Then, at the start of the 1980s, as Holt began sporting dreadlocks and proclaiming a Rastafarian identity, Blondie’s hit cover of The Tide Is High sparked renewed interest, leading to a series of hit recordings for Henry “Junjo” Lawes with the Roots Radics band : first came the hard-hitting ballad Ghetto Queen, followed by the sensual love song Sweetie Come Brush Me, and then the massive Police In Helicopter, which described the potential acts of civil unrest that would greet a crackdown on Jamaica’s clandestine marijuana industry. Wild Fire, the duet Holt then cut with fellow star Dennis Brown for producer Tad Dawkins, was equally popular.
Though his output slowed during the late 1980s, Holt remained in constant demand for live performance work, whether with a standard backing band, or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Geoffrey Holder


Date of Birth: 1 August, 1930, Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago
Birth Name: Geoffrey Richard Holder
Nicknames: Geoffrey Holder

Geoffrey Holder, the Tony-winning actor, dancer and choreographer known to millions as Baron Samedi in Bond movie Live and Let Die.
Born in Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, Holder was also a composer, a designer and a celebrated painter.
He will be best remembered to many as the cackling Voodoo villain who dogged Roger Moore's footsteps in his first outing as secret agent James Bond.
His other films included 1982 musical Annie, in which he played Punjab.


Often cast in exotic roles, he played a tribal chieftain in 1967 film Doctor Dolittle and a sorceror in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).
More recently, his distinctive bass voice was heard narrating Tim Burton's 2005 film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Holder, one of four children, was taught to dance by his older brother Boscoe, joining his dance company at the age of seven.



He became director of the company in the late 1940s after Boscoe moved to London, before moving to the US in 1954.
Holder made his Broadway debut that same year in House of Flowers, a Caribbean-themed musical in which he first played Baron Samedi.


A top-hatted spirit of death in Haitian Voodoo culture, the character made full use of the actor's imposing physique and physical dexterity.
Holder went on to appear in an all-black production of Waiting for Godot and in the Tony Award-winning production of The Wiz, an all-black version of The Wizard of Oz.

Christopher Wray


Date of Birth: 8 March 1940, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK
Birth Name: Christopher John David Wray
Nicknames: Christopher Wray

Christopher Wray, was an out-of-work young actor when he discovered a passion for antique lamps; he went on to become the head of his own multi-million-pound domestic lighting business.
Trying to make ends meet during an actors’ strike in the early 1960s, he started selling vintage lamps from a stall in Chelsea Antiques Market. Having made his first sale with a Victorian paraffin oil lamp with a round white globe, he started buying similar ones from junk shops at the Fulham end of the King’s Road, giving five shillings (25p) each for them before polishing them up and selling them for £3.
“The people at the Chelsea end of the King’s Road would not be seen dead frequenting the shops at the Fulham end, so I was doing them a service,” he explained.
As the business evolved Wray started to sell traditional oil lamps that had been converted to run off electricity, but as these became increasingly difficult to find he began to make them himself.
In 1964 he opened his first shop on the King’s Road just as the famous thoroughfare was sprouting trendy boutiques and becoming a focal point and shop window for the new “swinging” London. Dudley Moore would occasionally drop in to play the harmonium that Wray kept in his store. Although a friend at the London School of Economics predicted Wray would go broke within a year, business was brisk from the outset, and when Wray found that his first week’s takings were enough to cover the rent for the year, he called a halt to his acting career, even turning down a permanent role in the ITV soap opera Emmerdale Farm.


The business continued to grow with Wray opening his own workshops in Chelsea and Birmingham. At one stage he had more than 20 shops around Britain, making his firm the largest dedicated lighting retailer in the country, and cornering the niche upper end of the market.
At his grandiose King’s Road shop, with its wide stairs sweeping down to the lower floor and enormous spreading palms, Wray was renowned for his vast range of Victorian lights and Tiffany-style shades, but with the arrival of low-voltage LED he also moved into retro and contemporary lighting.
The son of an agricultural engineer who serviced ploughs and tractors, Christopher John David Wray was born on March 8 1940 in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Sent to Abingdon School in Oxfordshire at the age of 11, he abandoned his A-level studies in 1957, planning, aged 17, to become Britain’s youngest professional magician. He took a summer job on the promenade at Bridlington as assistant to a balloon-toting clown called Windy Blow and performed magic tricks during his show.
When the season ended, he turned to acting, and after training at the Italia Conti school in London was cast in television shows such as Upstairs, Downstairs, Doctor Who and Z Cars. In 1963 he played the part of the Fat Boy in the West End production of the musical Pickwick, starring Harry Secombe.
During a spell organising stage props for Tommy Cooper and Arthur Askey, Wray developed a taste for antiques and bric-a-brac. As assistant stage manager for a repertory company touring Ireland, it was his job to scour junk shops for props, and, when an actors’ strike made it difficult to get work in London, a friend suggested he hire a stall in Chelsea Antiques Market and sell the bric-a-brac he had collected for himself.
A year or so later, Wray heard that a post office on the King’s Road was closing down. With a loan of £1,000 from his mother, he reopened it as a specialist lighting shop, but being unable to afford £4,000 to buy the freehold, rented it for £750 a year . Wray employed runners to track down new stock and was soon turning over £45 a week, most of it profit. He scoured flea markets in Paris in search of stock and in Ireland became known as the Lamp Man by tinkers with whom he haggled over price.
When customers started asking for replacement glass shades and chimneys for their antique lamps because originals were hard to find, Wray moved into manufacturing. He discovered old moulds at a Yorkshire glass works, Hailwood and Ackroyd, and persuaded the firm to produce shades for him. Another factory in Birmingham supplied replacement brass parts. As he expanded by buying up more shops around his own by the late 1970s he had no fewer than 10 outlets on the King’s Road alone he consolidated his business in a single large, purpose-built emporium in 1990.


By 1992 the Christopher Wray Lighting Emporium in the King’s Road was said to be the largest decorative lighting shop in Europe, selling a range of more than 5,000 different lamps and light fittings. The company owned 14 shops around the country, two factories and employed more than 240 people. In 2005 he opened a northern branch shop in Manchester, a theatrical space of glass and high ceilings where he also sold modern and contemporary classic furniture, as Christopher Wray became a “lifestyle brand”.
In his spare time he combined his love for adventure, travel and vintage cars by taking part in rallies to India, Iran, Pakistan and China.
With his personal fortune he bought a huge Edwardian house in Putney, moving some 10 years ago to a contemporary Thames-side penthouse apartment.

John Bardon


Date of Birth: 25 August 1939, Brentford, Middlesex, UK
Birth Name: John Michael Jones
Nicknames: John Bardon

When the actor John Bardon, who has died aged 75, took on the role of EastEnders' grumpy grandad Jim Branning, he succeeded in turning the figure of a lazy, selfish and bigoted Londoner into one of the BBC soap's most lovable characters. Jim was a regular in the Queen Vic pub, who had a weakness for gambling but married the fictional Albert Square's gossip and minder of morals, Dot Cotton, until ill-health saw her dispatch him to a care home.
The balding, crumple-faced actor, often seen wearing a cloth cap, first appeared in the serial in 1996, when Jim arrived in Walford for his daughter April's wedding. When she was jilted at the altar, his other daughter, Carol, and her boyfriend, Alan Jackson, got married in their place, but Jim stormed out because he disapproved of her marrying a black man.


Three years later, Bardon returned in the role as a regular. Jim worked in the Queen Vic as a potman and mellowed after meeting the Bible-thumping Dot. He proposed to her on the London Eye and the couple married on Valentine's Day 2002. He nursed Dot when she had kidney cancer, but himself became the patient after suffering a stroke in 2007. The storyline was written into the soap after Bardon himself had a stroke. The actor was unable to walk for six months, but returned to EastEnders for a short run in 2008 and permanently the following year. However, he was written out in 2011 as his health deteriorated.
Bardon was born John Michael Jones in Brentford, Middlesex, a week before the outbreak of the second world war, and brought up in Chelsea. His father became a shipping clerk for an insurance company after his building business went bust. On leaving school, Bardon had various jobs, including working at Austin Reed in Regent Street, London, before becoming an industrial designer. However, his ambition was to act and, after performing in pubs with an amateur group, The Taverners, and touring Germany and Austria with a civil service drama company, he turned professional at the age of 30. He adopted his grandmother's maiden name, Bardon, and his first work was with a repertory company in Exeter.
He progressed to small roles in Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon (1972) before playing Demetrius in its production of Antony and Cleopatra (Stratford, 1972, and Aldwych theatre, 1973). He also acted the spiv Private Walker in the stage version of Dad's Army (1975-76).


After appearing as Sgt Comrie Milbrau in the musical The Good Companions (1974), based on JB Priestley's novel a role played by the music-hall comedian Max Miller in an earlier film version Bardon had the idea of playing the Cheeky Chappie himself in a one-man show. The result was his tour de force, Here's a Funny Thing, written by RW Shakespeare, which Bardon performed at the Liverpool Playhouse and Edinburgh festival, then in the West End of London (1982). The stage show was also broadcast by Channel 4.
Further recognition came when he jointly won (with his fellow cast member Emil Wolk) the Olivier Award for outstanding performance by an actor in a musical for his role as the gangster Max O'Hagan in an RSC production of Kiss Me Kate (1987).
After making his television debut in the play A Man Against His Age (1970), Bardon took one-off character roles in dozens of dramas and comedies. He was a regular as the comedian Jim Davidson's father in the sitcom Up the Elephant and Round the Castle (1983-85) and Bernie Sweet Ray Winstone and Larry Lamb's father in the first series (1992) of Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran's recession comedy Get Back. He also appeared four times (1987-92) as the villain Fred Timson in Rumpole of the Bailey.
Bardon's films included One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975), Clockwise (1986), 84 Charing Cross Road (1987), Fierce Creatures (1997) and East Is East (1999).
Following decades of battling to keep in work before joining EastEnders, the actor was modest about his achievements. "I don't regard myself as a soap star there is no such bleedin' thing," he said in 2003. "I'm an actor who is appearing in a soap. They all think they are bleedin' stars, but they ain't when they leave here. More often than not they disappear."

Sir Donald Sinden


Date of Birth: 9 October 1923, St. Budeaux, Plymouth, UK
Birth Name: Donald Alfred Sinden
Nicknames: Donald Sinden

Sir Donald Sinden was variously described as “orotund and declamatory”, “magnificently resonant” and “a complete ham”; his talents, admittedly, owed little to method acting, but made him one of the best and most recognisable comedy actors on the circuit.
In a career which spanned 50 years of film and theatre Sinden, to his lasting irritation, became best-known for his work in television, a medium he deplored. But his establishment English demeanour provided perfect casting for comedies exploiting cultural or class differences.
He became a household name when he starred with Elaine Stritch in the LWT sitcom Two’s Company (1975-79), in which he played the feisty American grande dame’s inept English butler. He later repeated his success in the Thames Television sitcom Never the Twain (1981-91), in which he played an upper-crust antique dealer forced into business with a downmarket rival (played by Windsor Davies).
His success on television meant that Sinden’s other achievements, in the film and theatre world, were often overlooked.


During the 1950s, he immersed himself in cinema work, appearing in more than 20 films, including The Cruel Sea (1953), in which he shared top-billing with Jack Hawkins, and Mogambo (1954), a huge safari epic in which Sinden received fourth billing after Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, as Kelly’s cuckolded gorilla-hunting husband.
When the British film industry stalled in the 1960s, Sinden’s film career stalled with it. By the end of that decade, however, he had secured a place for himself at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gave critically acclaimed performances in leading roles including as the Duke of York in The Wars of the Roses (1963), opposite Peggy Ashcroft as Queen Margaret; Lord Foppington in The Relapse (1967); and as King Lear (for which he won the 1977 Evening Standard Award for Best Actor). In 1979 he played the title role in Othello, directed by Ronald Eyre, becoming the last “blacked-up” white actor to play the role for the RSC.
The theatre was always Sinden’s true home, and in the 1980s his passionate interest in its history led to the establishment of the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. Another great passion was English church architecture, his encyclopedic knowledge of which led to both a television series, The English Country Church, in 1988, and a book on the subject. “My grandfather was an architect,” Sinden explained, “and it was he who told me always to look up. That’s where all the best things are in churches.”
By the 1980s Sinden was firmly established as a television celebrity, a position consolidated by the regular appearances of a Sinden puppet on ITV’s satirical Spitting Image. The puppet represented Sinden as a grotesque parody of “the actor’s actor” posturing theatrically and endlessly pleading for a knighthood.
Sinden was not amused by the caricature. “When have I ever suggested I wanted a knighthood?” he asked. “I don’t watch the programme because I don’t find it in the least funny.” He would accept a well-deserved knighthood in 1997.
Donald Sinden was born in Plymouth on October 9 1923. He suffered constantly from asthma as a child and as a result missed most of his schooling. “I not only did not pass an examination,” he recalled, “I never took one.” At 16 he became an apprentice joiner to a Hove firm which manufactured revolving doors. “I earned 6s 6d a week,” he said, “and enjoyed it enormously.”
Sinden claimed that he had no aspirations towards acting until he was 18. “My cousin Frank was called up for the RAF,” he remembered. “He asked me if I’d do his part in an amateur production at Brighton Little Theatre.” Donald was talent-spotted by Charles Smith, who organised the Mobile Entertainments Southern Area company (known as MESA), a local version of the wartime entertainments service Ensa. “Of course I thought he wanted me because I was miraculous,” Sinden remembered, “but I know now it was because it was wartime and he couldn’t get anyone else.”
Rejected by the Navy because of his poor health, Sinden joined Charles Smith’s company in 1941. “I stayed an actor because I was awfully interested in girls,” Sinden explained. “Actresses were a lot better looking than joiners.” After four years with MESA he spent six months in Leicester with a repertory company and two terms at the Webber Douglas School of Dramatic Art.
Donald Sinden joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for the 1946-47 season. In October 1947 he made his West End debut as Aumerle in Richard II, and in 1948 joined the Bristol Old Vic. He left Bristol to appear as Arthur Townsend in The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square. Sinden had nine lines and appeared in all 644 performances of the show.


In 1952 he was noticed by the film director Charles Frend while playing the Brazilian Manuel Del Vega in Red Letter Day. “Charles Frend spotted me,” Sinden remembered. “He said he’d always wanted to meet a blue-eyed Brazilian.”
The following year Sinden joined the Rank Organisation and was offered the part of Lieutenant Lockhart in The Cruel Sea, for which he had to spend an uncomfortable 12 weeks filming at sea.
He recalled his time in Africa filming Mogambo as the least enjoyable of his career, largely because of its director, John Ford, whom Sinden described as “the most dislikable man I ever met”. He was particularly irritated by Ford’s peremptory direction techniques: “On one occasion he had Clark Gable backing towards a cliff. Ford kept shouting 'Further back!’ and Gable just disappeared over the edge. We found him stuck in a tree 15ft below.”
After playing Tony Benskin, a womanising medical student in Doctor in the House (1954), Sinden began to find himself being typecast in comic roles. He played Benskin and characters like him for the next eight years.
When the British film industry began to falter in the early Sixties, Sinden’s film career ended. “It was a bad time for me,” he said. “I was 40, married with two children and no work at all.” His first attempts at a return to the theatre were unsuccessful. He was turned down after Peter Hall had made him audition for the RSC. Sinden later described Hall as a “pipsqueak”.
However, after their initial differences Sinden joined the company and appeared in The Wars of the Roses, an epic amalgam of the relevant Shakespeare history plays, put together by Hall and John Barton, which lasted more than 10 hours and won ecstatic reviews.
Sinden went on to make a name for himself as a comedian and farceur. He appeared as Robert Danvers in There’s a Girl in My Soup at the Aldwych in 1966, and won Best Actor awards for his appearances in the Ray Cooney farces Not Now, Darling (1967), Two into One (1984) and Out of Order (1990). In 1976 he was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his performance on Broadway as Arthur Wicksteed in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.


In 1989 Sinden was offered the opportunity to play his long-time hero Oscar Wilde, whose work had always fascinated him, in John Gay’s one-man show Diversions and Delights. In 1942, at a poetry club reading, Sinden had met Lord Alfred Douglas and had been one of the few mourners at his funeral. Thirty years later, when Wilde’s London home was being demolished, Sinden bought the fireplace for his own house in Hampstead.
Sinden continued to perform well into his eighties. From 2001 to 2007 he played Sir Joseph Channing in BBC Television’s legal drama Judge John Deed (starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove), and he recently appeared in the Gideon Fell mysteries on Radio 4.
Donald Sinden published two volumes of autobiography, A Touch of the Memoirs (1982) and Laughter in the Second Act (1985).
He was appointed CBE in 1979.

Richard Kiel


Date of Birth: 13 September 1939, Detroit, Michigan, US
Birth Name: Richard Dawson Kiel
Nicknames: Richard Kiel

Richard Kiel, the actor, who was the orthodontically-challenged Jaws, the indestructible Bond villain who terrorised audiences in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).
Standing at a shade under 7ft 2in, Kiel’s natural presence was further enhanced by the set of stainless steel teeth which gave the character his nickname. “The character we have in mind is going to have teeth like tools, maybe like a shark. They’ll be made out of steel and he’ll kill people with them,” the Bond producer Cubby Broccoli told him. Several enemies and, in the final scene of The Spy Who Loved Me, a shark, met their ends at the hands of Jaws, who usually managed a sinister smile before biting his victims to death.
Originally Broccoli contemplated having Jaws bumped off by the shark; and until the film was test-screened, even Kiel did not know whether his character had survived. “They had shot the ending both ways and I didn’t know what version they were going to use,” he recalled.


When the film was finished, the two versions were tested on people who worked in the studio, and there was little doubt which ending they preferred: “At the end there was such a long time after I went into the shark-tank that I thought, 'I guess that’s the end of me’,” Kiel said. “Then, all of a sudden they cut to the surface of the ocean and Jaws popped up the audience just screamed and hollered and laughed and applauded. That was the defining moment, the moment that I finally made it big in the movies.”
The character proved such a hit that Broccoli gave him a reprieve and, unusually for a Bond baddie, Jaws was brought back for a second outing.
In the follow-up picture, Moonraker, however, Jaws became something approaching a comedy figure, and developed an implausible ability to survive any event unscathed. Audiences saw him fall several thousand feet from an aeroplane without a parachute, only to land safely on a trapeze net in a circus tent. Another time he crashed through a building on top of a runaway cable car but survived without a scratch. He also gained a girlfriend roughly half his size and eventually abandoned the villain, Sir Hugo Drax, to become Bond’s ally.


The metal-mouthed monster was last seen waving weedily at Bond from the bridge of a doomed space station as he and his tiny, bespectacled girlfriend set off on a happy, but presumably short, future together. The scene furnished Kiel with the only words he uttered in either movie: “Well, here’s to us.”
Richard Dawson Kiel was born in Detroit, Michigan, on September 13 1939. He took a variety of jobs in his youth, working as a cemetery plot salesman and nightclub bouncer, before being offered minor parts on American television in the late 1950s. His towering height and distinctive features were the result of the condition acromegaly, when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone, and ensured that he was rarely out of work playing a variety of freaks and aliens in programmes including The Twilight Zone and The Monkees. He also featured in the prehistoric B-Movie Eegah (1962) and showed some depth with a sensitive turn in The Human Duplicators (1964). Other credits included bit parts in the Jerry Lewis comedy The Nutty Professor and alongside Elvis Presley in Roustabout.
When he was first approached by Cubby Broccoli for the part of Jaws, he was initially hesitant about toothing up. He wanted to break away from rent-a-monster parts and play as he put it “regular henchman or villain roles”. It was Kiel who seems to have persuaded Broccoli to make Jaws a more sympathetic character in Moonraker: “If I was to play this role, I told him I’d want to give this character who kills people with his teeth a human side to make him more interesting, maybe have him be persevering and frustrated, so he wouldn’t become boring. A guy killing people with his teeth could easily become over the top.” But it was, of course, his over-the-top quality that made Jaws such a hit.
Kiel complained that the teeth he had to wear for the part were so uncomfortable they made him feel sick, and he could tolerate them only for short periods of time. “They were made out of chromium steel and they went up in the roof of my mouth and caused a little bit of gagging, so it was kind of difficult,” he admitted. “But it gave me a stoic expression, trying to keep from throwing up.”
After Moonraker Kiel’s career nosedived to the extent that on one occasion friends took out a full-page advertisement in Variety magazine, to let the film world know he was still alive.
But he went on to appear in a number of other films, among them Pale Rider (1985), Happy Gilmore (1996) and Inspector Gadget (1999), and appeared regularly on television. In between the Bond films, in 1978, he had been offered the role of the Incredible Hulk on television, but was dropped after two days in the studio for not being bulky enough in favour of the body builder Lou Ferrigno.
For some time Kiel struggled with alcoholism and, following a serious car accident in 1992, was forced to use a buggy or walking sticks to manoeuvre himself. In later years he set up a production company, became a born-again Christian, and wrote books, including an autobiography, Making It Big In The Movies (2002).
But he remained most popular for playing Jaws, and as acting work dried up he supplemented his income with appearances at comic book and film conventions, signing autographs for Bond fans.


Joan Rivers


Date of Birth: 8 June 1933, Brooklyn, New York, US
Birth Name: Joan Alexandra Molinsky
Nicknames: Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers, was best known for her acerbic, backbiting humour. Tiny and sharp-boned with candyfloss blonde hair and talon-like fingernails, she started her routines with her catchphrase “Can we talk?” and maintained that she only asked “the questions that truly obsess America”.
She insisted that she got most of her source material from the notorious American publication the National Enquirer (“I never go to the bathroom without it”), and often used headlines such as “Who chooses the Queen’s clothes?” as the basis for her insult-laden comments.
Described by fellow comics as having a “karate-like attack” and a “knee to the groin” delivery, Joan Rivers’s stage persona relied heavily on the quick-fire insult (“Mosquitoes see Liz Taylor and shout 'Buffet!’”) combined with an endless stream of self-deprecating satires (“I’m the tackiest person I know, and I haven’t forgotten Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter”). She claimed that she drew her inspiration from Lenny Bruce, whom she first saw in the early 1960s: “He confirmed my ideas about comedy, of using personal pain and insight to generate comedic material.”


Dismissed by some critics, who saw her masochistic routines (“Men who look down my dress usually compliment me on my shoes”) as a throwback to the 1950s, Joan Rivers nevertheless proved successful with audiences. After spending 15 years playing what she described as “mafia-owned strip joints”, she emerged as America’s most highly paid comedienne. In 1983 she became the first woman regularly to host the Tonight Show when presenter Johnny Carson was on holiday, establishing her firmly in the pantheon of the nation’s television entertainers. In 1986 she defected to Rupert Murdoch’s recently launched Fox Broadcasting Co to star in a rival to Carson’s programme.
Similarly, when she was signed by London Weekend Television for a series of six programmes (Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?) in 1986, the early shows attracted some 11 million viewers, but by the end of the series the public was expressing a preference for alternatives such as Gardeners’ World and One Man and His Dog.
Later, after the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, Joan Rivers returned to the cabaret circuit, touring extensively in both the United States and Britain. Following an appearance as a presenter of the 1987 Emmy awards and seasons at Las Vegas, she became a regular guest on ABC’s Hollywood Squares game show.


She was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn, New York, on June 8 1933, the younger daughter of Dr Meyer Molinsky and his wife Beatrice. Both her parents were Russian-Jewish refugees, and Rivers recalled that her mother never fully adjusted to life in the United States (her family had been responsible for supplying the Tsar with furs in pre-Revolution Russia). “She had a pathological fear of poverty,” Rivers recalled. “She spent her time talking about her childhood in Russia and forcing my father to pay for maids and governesses.”
She also remembered her childhood as being “full of domestic tension”. As a “fat, ugly child”, she felt that she could never fulfil her parents’ expectations, and that she was “outshone” by her elder sister. “It made me a manic overachiever,” she said. “I wanted to be better, smarter and thinner than my sister at any cost.” In later life, her horror of being fat and unattractive manifested itself in chronic dieting and plastic surgery.


Joan Rivers said that her earliest hopes were of becoming a serious actress after playing “the Healthy Tooth” in a production at kindergarten. She immediately encountered serious opposition from her parents, who considered acting an unsuitable profession for a girl. Her mother’s antipathy continued throughout Joan’s childhood and adolescence. At her private school, Joan took elocution lessons (though she would never lose her strong Brooklyn accent), and also learnt to play piano and violin.
Still against her parents’ wishes, at school Joan became involved in drama. Aged eight, she had sent a photograph of herself and her personal details to the casting department of MGM; and at 17 she landed a small part in the film Mr Universe. Threatened by her family with being cut off from her family and friends, she capitulated, agreeing to attend Connecticut College and later Barnard College, where she studied English and Anthropology.
On completing her course she turned down both an opportunity to study at Rada in London and an apprenticeship at a local drama company. This was to placate her mother, who was eager that she should marry and settle down. After working for a time as fashion coordinator for a large chain store (and taking the surname Rivers), in 1957 she married the boss’s son, Jimmy Sanger. The union was annulled after only five months. “We tried marriage guidance,” Joan Rivers recalled, “but the counsellor took one look at us and said 'No way’.”
Six months later she returned to her original plan of becoming an actress. As previously threatened, her parents disowned her, and Joan was forced to find work as a temporary clerk to finance her embryo acting career. But she discovered that she could earn $5 a night as a stand-up comic at a local club (50 cents more than she was earning as a clerk), and made her professional debut in 1960.
Now seeing herself as a primarily as a comedienne, Joan joined an improvisational theatre company in Chicago. A year later she returned to New York where, unable to find work, she began performing for nothing at a number of clubs in Greenwich Village, among them the Showplace.
By the early Sixties Joan Rivers had developed her confidential style of performance, saying that she wanted to speak “directly and personally to the audience”. After an unsuccessful year in the comedy trio Jim, Jake and Joan, she returned to solo performance in 1964 at The Duplex, where she was spotted by Roy Silver (who had earlier launched the career of Bill Cosby).
While Silver tried repeatedly to get her a booking on the Tonight Show, Joan wrote for television shows such as Candid Camera and The Ed Sullivan Show, and producing material for Zsa Zsa Gabor and Phyllis Diller. By 1965, agents had begun to dismiss her as “too old” to make a success as a solo comic, but after eight auditions Silver finally secured her a spot on the Tonight Show. She was an immediate hit, and was offered bookings in all the leading comedy clubs; she was placed under contract by NBC, and recorded her first comedy album for Warner Brothers (Joan Rivers Presents Mr Phyllis).


After a five-year engagement at Upstairs at the Downstairs in Greenwich Village, and a cameo role in the Burt Lancaster vehicle The Swimmer (1968), she was offered her own show by NBC. That Show was screened every morning and included Joan Rivers’s monologues and ad lib conversations with the audience.
Throughout the Seventies, Joan Rivers continued to gain popularity, despite occasional flops such as the Broadway comedy Fun City (1971). In 1971 she was the first woman to host the Tonight Show for a full week; in 1973 she wrote and produced the hugely popular television film The Girl Most Likely To…; and in 1978 she made her directorial debut in Rabbit Test. Although this film was panned by the critics, it made a profit and enabled her to set up her own production company, Shafta Productions.
She also wrote a thrice-weekly column for The Chicago Tribune from 1973 to 1976, and published her first book, Having a Baby Can Be a Scream (which she described as a “catalogue of gynaecological anxieties”) in 1975.
By the early 1980s Joan Rivers was established as one of the most popular comediennes in the United States, enjoying sell-out tours. She appeared as guest host of Saturday Night Live and released another album, What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?, which won a Grammy. In 1983 she was made permanent guest host on the Tonight Show, a slot she filled for the next three years. She distinguished herself from other chat show hosts by routinely insulting her guests.
On one occasion she claimed that she “had Victoria Principal [the Dallas actress] hysterical” when she inquired about the star’s proposed marriage to the Bee Gee Barry Gibb; Victoria Principal dismissed the rumour, at which point Joan Rivers claimed that Victoria had earlier shown her the engagement ring.


By now Joan Rivers was appearing on magazine covers; addressing the National Federation of Republican Women; and commanding fees of $200,000 for a five-night booking at Las Vegas. Her first novel, The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz, topped the bestseller list for 18 weeks. In 1984 she made her first appearance in Britain, in LWT’s An Audience With.
In 1986 Joan Rivers published an autobiography, Enter Talking. It was also the year she fell out with her mentor Carson over the Fox Network’s The Late Show with Joan Rivers. This was in direct competition with Carson’s Tonight Show, on which Rivers frequently guest hosted. As it turned out, the Rivers show was soon cancelled after dropping in the ratings; the critics had complained that Joan Rivers was “too kind” to the guests on her show. She fared little better when she came to Britain for Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?
Carson, meanwhile, hurt that Rivers hadn’t consulted him about her plans, banned her from appearing on his show. She responded in an allusion to Carson’s numerous divorces that she was “the only woman in the history of the world who left Johnny Carson and didn’t ask him for money”. The prohibition lasted until earlier this year, when the current host Jimmy Fallon finally invited the comedienne back. “The last time I was on the show, Melissa [her daughter] was in diapers,” Rivers joked. “Now, I’m in diapers.”
Joan Rivers believed that the cancellation of her talk show was what led to her husband’s suicide in 1987. Rosenberg had served as executive producer on the show and had been suffering from heart trouble. “The guilt never goes,” Rivers said in 2002. “For years and years I would suddenly stop and find myself thinking: you son of a b----! How could you?” She surprised some of her fans by embarking on what she called “a merry widow tour”, performing in clubs in Europe and the United States. It drew mixed reactions: in Los Angeles she was booed after telling gags about her husband’s death (“I couldn’t identify the body, I hadn’t looked at him for years. I said, 'I think it’s him, let me see the ring’.”) She also confided to friends that her relationship with Rosenberg had been a “total sham”, and complained bitterly about his treatment of her during their 22-year marriage.


The performer threw herself into her various business projects. As she entered her seventh decade there was no sign that her energy was flagging. She recalled that her aunt Alice used to say that “the person who is happy is the person who gets up wanting something”. In Joan Rivers’s case, the mixture of excitement and anxiety involved in making money, and avoiding penury, drove her on.
She was intermittently successful: her Joan Rivers Worldwide Inc business, selling opulent costume jewellery on television shopping channels, turned over more than $25 million a year at its height. However, that all went wrong when a partner in the business absconded with $37 million. “I used to wake up thinking of that number,” Rivers recalled. The partner went to jail but Rivers had to sell her name and jewellery designs to stave off bankruptcy.


In 2010 a warts-and-all documentary, Joan Rivers: a Piece of Work, showed a workaholic Rivers at 77 performing her one-woman show in the UK and being chauffered to gigs. It opened with alarmingly close shots of Rivers’s surgically enhanced face without make-up.
Joan Rivers’s career experienced an upswing during the last years of her life. She continued performing both live and on television. Recently she stirred up controversy by making tasteless jokes about the Israel-Gaza crisis. When a reporter told her that 2,000 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict, she raised her hands in mock shock and said: “They were told to get out. They didn’t get out. You don’t get out, you are an idiot.”
She enjoyed collecting antiques (“If Louis XIV hasn’t sat on it, I don’t want it”) and described her offstage persona as “shy, introverted and bookish” “That awful, vulgar, loud woman on stage, that’s not me. I wouldn’t want to be her friend.”

Lauren Bacall


Date of Birth: 16 September 1924, The Bronx, New York, US
Birth Name: Betty Joan Perske
Nicknames: Lauren Bacall

Tall, slim and sultry, with a hoarse voice and a cryptic personality, Miss Bacall was the perfect match for Bogart’s rugged cynicism, “a leggy, blonde huntress,” as one critic noted, “whose cat’s eyes never blinked before Bogart’s scowls”. In each film they created a special atmosphere of dry, terse comedy and tough-guy talk which masked their underlying affection for one another and seemed unique in popular cinema for the balance of power their roles created between the sexes.


Sensual but never sentimental, insolent, sharp-witted, laconic, cool and above all sophisticated, they seemed, as another observer put it, even to kiss out of the corners of their mouths.
Higher brows were moved to compare the tone of these mating games with that of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, though the style owed more to Raymond Chandler or Hemingway than to Shakespeare. At all events, they brought a new and personal chemistry to the screen which made the partnership refreshingly equal at every level.
Although Lauren Bacall was an actress of accomplishment in her own right, it was her acting in only four films with Bogart and their enduring marriage that turned them as a couple into the stuff of legend, and enhanced her own dramatic reputation more than any anything she did elsewhere in films or on stage.


One of her most famous lines was in To Have And Have Not when they were about to go their separate ways after bidding each other goodnight. At the door she turned and said: “You know how to whistle? You put your lips together and… blow.”
As the American critic James Agee wrote: “Whether or not you like the film will depend almost entirely on whether you like Miss Bacall. I am no judge... It has been years since I have seen such amusing pseudo-toughness on the screen.”
Lauren Bacall, who was born in New York City as Betty Joan Perske on September 16 1924, was the only child of William Perske, a salesman of medical instruments from Alsace, and his wife Natalia, of Romanian and German-Jewish extraction. They divorced when their daughter was six. The mother adopted the name Bacal; the daughter added an “l” to stop it rhyming with “crackle”. She always disliked “Lauren”, the name bestowed on her by Hollywood, preferring to be known as Betty.
Educated at the expense of wealthy uncles at a private boarding school, Highland Manor, Tarrytown, New York, and at the Julia Richman High School, Manhattan, Betty intended to be a dancer, having attended ballet classes since infancy. But in adolescence she was drawn to acting.
Inspired by Bette Davis films, she enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts when she was 15, dating Kirk Douglas, who was there on a scholarship; but as the academy precluded scholarships for girls, she was obliged to leave after a year before bluffing her way into a job modelling sportswear.
Sacked for being Jewish, or flat-chested (or both), she took another job modelling gowns for a Jewish dress shop and in the evenings worked as an usherette. In 1942 she made her stage debut at the Longacre Theatre, New York, as a walk-on in a melodrama called Johnny 2 X 4, and played the ingénue in a pre-Broadway tour later that year. Then she took a job modelling for Harper’s Bazaar.
Leafing through the magazine in 1943, Mrs Howard Hawks, wife of the Hollywood director, drew her husband’s attention to the girl on the cover. Hawks cabled the magazine asking if she was free; she subsequently turned up on their doorstep.
After a screen test she signed a seven-year contract with Hawks and the producer Jack Warner for $250 a week, changing her name from Betty to Lauren. Hawks went to work on her voice. Taking her to some waste ground, he made her shout Shakespeare and other writers for hours every day in order to lower the tone of what he called her high nasal pipe.
After the daily exercises in the open air her voice became for him (and for the rest of the world) what he called “a satisfactorily low guttural wheeze”. He then insisted that in future she should always speak naturally and softly. Above all, she should ignore suggestions for “cultivating” her voice.
Within a year of her discovery on the front of Harper’s, Hawks had cast her with Bogart in To Have And To Have Not and directed her in such a way that her acting, with its insinuating sexuality and offhand independence, caused a sensation.
Hawks had urged her to play each scene exactly as she felt her character would behave: to act as if she were living the part. If she were true to her own feelings, she would be true to the film.
One scene sprang entirely from her imagination. After an emotional episode in a hotel room with Bogart’s Harry Morgan, Bacall’s Marie left him, according to the scenario, and returned to her own room. Between takes, Bacall grumbled to Hawks: “God, I’m dumb.”
“Why?” he asked. “Well”, she replied, “if I had any sense I’d go back after that guy.” So she did.
At 19 she had become, in her first film, one of Hollywood’s most sensational, relaxed and dominating newcomers: husky-voiced, aloof and shrewdly impervious to insult. This was Bogart’s most interesting screen partner for years, in an otherwise hazy melodrama about the French Resistance at Martinique with Bogart as a sea skipper, edgy, grey-voiced, unsure of this strange girl called Marie.


Some of her lines entered film mythology, such as (after Bogart has kissed her for the second tentative time), “It’s even better when you help.” To everyone’s astonishment, she also sang (or rather croaked and growled, like a trombone) a suggestive song in a seamen’s bar.
She was promoted by Warner Brothers, her studio, as “The Look” because of her way of looking up suggestively with her lynx-eyes from under a high forehead (and through a haze of cigarette smoke) at the rugged, appreciative Bogart.
In 1945 she became his fourth wife; she was 25 years his junior, and the partnership endured until his death nearly 12 years later. Along with her husband, she actively campaigned for the Democrats and protested against Hollywood’s blacklist of suspected Communists.
Lauren Bacall was miscast in Confidential Agent (1945), a thriller derived from Graham Greene’s novel about the Spanish Civil War with Charles Boyer as a Spanish agent; she was, as one critic put it, about as English as Pocahontas, although her “very individual vitality made up for her deficiencies”. The following year, Hawks brought her back with Bogart in The Big Sleep.


The level-pegging of their partnership was curious, unusual and, in those days unexpected in films. One theory was that Hawks’s dislike of Bogart was behind it. Before The Big Sleep, the director was reputed to have said to Bogart: “You are about the most insolent man on the screen and I’m going to make the girl a little more insolent.”
And so it proved. In their second film together, in which she played the rich antagonistic daughter of Bogart’s employer, in a fine adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel, she proved every bit as cool and independent as she had been in To Have And Have Not.
Neither of their other two films together was a patch on their predecessors. In Dark Passage (1947), Lauren Bacall sheltered a heavily-bandaged Bogart in his attempt, as an escaped convict, to prove that he had not murdered his wife. All that Delmer Daves’s screenplay proved was that without sharp dialogue, an element of sexual rivalry or a more intelligent scenario, Bogart and Bacall were not themselves.


John Huston’s Key Largo (1948) was a far better film, but it still failed to find any of the old style of banter for them to exchange in its tense tale of a bunch of gangsters who invade a hotel run by Miss Bacall, a war widow.
It was as if, having awakened public interest in the pair as a screen partnership, Warner Brothers could not find material to keep their characters effectively together. This was the film in which, to get the right facial expression from Lauren Bacall, Huston twisted her arm. He got the right expression but he never got her into another of his films. Key Largo was also her last film with Bogart who, unlike Lauren Bacall, went on to make some of the finest films of his career.
In 1950 she was the socialite who married Bix Beiderbecke (Kirk Douglas) in Young Man With A Horn, and appeared with Gary Cooper in Bright Leaf. Her gift for acid comedy came out nicely in Jean Negulesco’s How To Marry A Millionaire (1953), with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, and in the same director’s A Woman’s World (1954).


As an occupational therapist and Richard Widmark’s mistress in Vincente Minnelli’s Designing Woman (1957), she was miscast as a scatterbrained fashion queen opposite Gregory Peck.
In Douglas Sirk’s Written On The Wind (1957) she was supposed to have been swept off her feet by an oil millionaire. Was the baby his (Robert Stack’s) or his best friend’s (Rock Hudson’s)? Nobody much cared, least of all Miss Bacall, for Bogart died that year .
Two years later, after playing a tough-talking American governess in the British melodrama North-West Frontier, with Kenneth More, Lauren Bacall decided to return to the stage after an absence of 17 years. As Charlie in Goodbye Charlie (Lyceum, 1959), the story of a man’s return to earth after death as a woman, she played with considerable success opposite Sidney Chaplin.
In 1961 Lauren Bacall married the actor Jason Robards. (There had been earlier talk of marriage to Frank Sinatra, “but Frank just couldn’t cope with the idea” she said years later).
In the 1960s her films became less reliable . In Shock Treatment (1964) she played a batty psychiatrist; in Sex and the Single Girl (1965) a squabbling neighbour (with Henry Fonda); and in Jack Smight’s Harper (1966) a vindictive wife in a film which paid homage to Bogart, with Paul Newman as a private detective.


After that she worked mostly on Broadway. Apart from more than a year’s run as Stephanie, the nurse, in Abe Burrows’s comedy Cactus Flower (Royale, 1965), which some admirers considered the best role of her career, she spent three years as Margo Channing, a stage star threatened by a young rival, in the musical Applause, first in New York (Palace, 1970), for which she received a Tony award, then in Toronto, Chicago and on tour, before making her London debut in the same part at Her Majesty’s (1972).
Her role in Applause was the one Bette Davis had filled more flamboyantly in the film All About Eve. Lauren Bacall’s stage acting showed the same agreeable insouciance as her film acting .
She returned to the screen in 1974 in the Agatha Christie derivation, Murder On The Orient Express; and two years later faced, with admirable and stylish antagonism, John Wayne in Don Siegel’s The Shootist. This brought together one tough hombre and one tough cookie, and was the sharpest match since Bacall had first met Bogart.
As an indefatigable journalist in the musical Woman of the Year on Broadway in 1981, she took a slight story, according to the The Daily Telegraph’s John Barber, and injected into it “all the dynamism of a fascinating personality”.
In 1985 she was back in the West End in Harold Pinter’s revival of Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth (Haymarket).
The Fan (1981) brought her back to the screen as a successful actress entangled with a young man in her first Broadway musical, and seven years later she contributed to another all-star Agatha Christie film, Appointment With Death. She also stole a child in a psychological film thriller, Tree of Hands (1989).
Of her many television appearances the most notable included Blithe Spirit and The Petrified Forest in 1956 and a role in the Frederick Forsyth Presents drama series.
Lauren Bacall was, perhaps, an actress more famous for whom she was thought to be than for what she actually did. “It was those pale eyes framed by a tawny mane, a way of walking that suggested a panther in her family tree, and a husky voice that could set a spinal column aquiver,” noted one reviewer.
She kept up the image of a sharp-tongued, no-nonsense feminist in interview after interview down the years. Journalists were slightly scared of her. But in truth — and unlike, say, Katharine Hepburn — she did not go on to create a substantial body of work. Her fame continued to rest largely on the early films with Bogart.


Her memoir, By Myself, appeared in 1978, followed in 2005 by And Then Some by way of an addendum. In this she described working visits to Paris making Robert Altman’s satirical Prêt à Porter (1994) and to Britain, where she starred in The Visit at the Chichester Festival in 1995.
Lauren Bacall received a Golden Globe and an honorary Oscar. In 1996 she was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. She continued to make occasional appearances on screen, including, in 2006, appearing as herself in an episode of The Sopranos. In 2004 she had a supporting role alongside Nicole Kidman in Birth, a psychological drama directed by Jonathan Glazer.

Robin Williams


Date of Birth: 21 July 1951, Chicago, Illinois, US
Birth Name: Robin McLaurin Williams
Nicknames: Robin Williams

Robin Williams, who has died aged 63, was one of America’s most versatile and successful comedy actors; brilliant at improvisation and mimicry, he made his name on the stand-up comedy circuit, while on screen he was able to portray anyone from a post-menopausal grande dame (Mrs Doubtfire) to a psychopathic killer (One Hour Photo).
Stardom came in the early 1970s after he had taken a cameo role as Mork, an extraterrestrial in the television sitcom Happy Days. Williams’s eccentric, largely improvised performance was a huge hit and spawned a spin-off sitcom, Mork & Mindy, in which Mork lands on Earth and ends up sharing an apartment with the quintessential girl next door. The series which ran on ABC from 1978 to 1982, and arrived in Britain in 1979 showcased the frenzied energy and amazing facility with voices and faces which he would later use in his films. Mork & Mindy eventually reached an audience of 60 million.
After making his screen debut in Robert Altman’s ill-fated 1980 version of Popeye, Williams’s breakthrough came in 1987, when he played Adrian Cronauer, a motormouth DJ who gets up the noses of the top brass in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).


He delivered an Academy Award-winning performance as a psychologist battling his own emotional demons in Good Will Hunting (1997), and won several Oscar nominations including one for his performance in 1993 as Mrs Doubtfire, the ex-husband who infiltrates himself back into the bosom of the family by disguising himself as a middle-aged Scottish nanny.
Hollywood directors sometimes found it difficult to harness Williams’s talents to a script and a storyline strong enough to take him. There were memorable flops, among them The Survivors (1983), Club Paradise (1986), Toys (1992), Patch Adams (1998), Jakob The Liar (1999) and Bicentennial Man (1999). But he won Oscar nominations for his roles as the mildly anarchic teacher in Dead Poets Society (1989) and as the deranged tramp who leads Jeff Bridges towards personal redemption in The Fisher King (1991).
His critics often complained that Williams’s characters were all the same: cuddly, waifish innocents with a mawkish need to ingratiate themselves with their audience. And there was, admittedly, something curiously sexless about his performances. One American columnist described his appearance as the owner of a gay club in The Birdcage (1996) as akin to “a hirsute construction worker halfway through a sex change operation who can’t afford to finish the job”. Of his performance as a psychologist in Awakenings (1990), one critic observed: “This is another of Robin Williams’s benevolent eunuch roles.” He certainly never got anywhere near a screen clinch.
Yet Williams proved he could play it straight; and he could play it nasty, too. In later life he revealed a darker, more interesting side to his acting. In Insomnia (2002) he put in a masterly performance as a sociopathic killer on the run from Al Pacino’s LAPD cop in the frozen wastes of Alaska. In One Hour Photo (2002) he was chilling as a photo lab technician who becomes obsessed with a family whose films he develops. And in The Night Listener (2006) he played a radio show host who realises that he has developed a friendship with a child who may not exist.


Williams first made his name on the stand-up comedy circuit, and the versatility which was so evident in his later career would have come as no surprise to those familiar with the virtuoso free-fall improvisation of his stage routines. One critic wondered whether the star of such sickly-sweet offerings as Jack (1996) or What Dreams May Come (1998) could be “the same Robin Williams who used to spend two hours on stage pretending to be a penis”.
An only child, Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21 1951 in Chicago. His mother was a former model, his father an executive with Ford. The family moved several times during his childhood, at one point living in a house with 40 rooms.
Williams was often portrayed as a lonely child who tried to use humour to build friendships and avoid being picked on. Perhaps, he once joked, it was “because my mother was a Christian Dior Scientist... I was not only picked on physically but intellectually people used to kick copies of George Sand in my face.” But he denied being the class clown, and claimed that he got into acting in his final year at Redwood High School simply “to get laid”.


After leaving school, and a brief spell studying political science, Williams won a place at the Juilliard Academy in New York to study drama. There he demonstrated such extraordinary gifts for improvisation and mimicry that his tutors advised him to concentrate on comedy. He became good friends with his fellow student Christopher Reeve, and the two remained close until Reeve’s death in 2004, nine years after the riding accident that had left him paralysed from the neck down. Their relationship demonstrated the loyal, decent side of Williams’s character. When Reeve’s medical insurance ran out, Williams picked up the tab for many of the bills; then, after Reeve’s widow, Dana, died in 2006, he provided practical and financial support for their 14-year-old son.
After two years at the Juilliard, Williams moved to San Francisco, where he worked in restaurants by day and on the comedy circuit by night until his lucky break on Happy Days. The live stand-up comedy circuit remained a consistent thread throughout his career, and he sometimes turned up unannounced at San Francisco clubs just to get up on stage and start “riffing” — a great way to “peel off any pretence”, as he put it.
In his films and television performances, Williams often ad-libbed his own dialogue. The story goes that his television scriptwriters on Mork & Mindy got so fed up that they took to sending blank pages down to the set, inscribed “Robin Williams does his thing”.
For some reason his stand-up routine did not go down so well on the other side of the Atlantic. “I went to a club in Windsor and I just died,” he recalled. “It was the worst night of my life. A friend was watching and laughing his ass off because all you could hear was the clink of glasses.”


In 1978 Williams married his first wife, Valerie Velardi, a former dancer; but as a result of life in the fast lane he had become addicted to cocaine (“God’s way of telling you you’ve made too much money”, as he remarked). In the early 1980s his marriage fell apart and he started to make bad career moves, choosing films that bombed. But the death from a drugs overdose in 1982 of his friend the actor John Belushi, just hours after Williams had been with him, led Williams to rethink his own lifestyle. He went into rehab and sobered up.
The critical success of Good Morning, Vietnam was followed by a voice role as the Genie in Disney’s cartoon Aladdin (1992), in which left in the studio with a microphone Williams spun off into imitations of everyone from Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson to Carol Channing. Disney ended up with 30 hours of his improvisations, to which the animation was adapted later to synch with his voice-over. What started as a small cameo role eventually stole the show and helped make Aladdin the biggest earner in Disney’s history. By the time of Mrs Doubtfire in 1993 Williams was one of the biggest box office draws in the world.
In August 2008 Williams announced a 26-city stand-up comedy tour entitled Weapons of Self-Destruction. Though he explained that the tour was his last chance to have fun at the expense of George W Bush, the title could just as well have applied to himself. In 2006 he had gone into rehab for alcoholism, and in 2008 his second wife, Marsha Garces, whom he had married in 1986 and who had become his producer, filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
Williams’s many other film credits include Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), in which he played the adult Peter Pan, and Flubber (1997), in which he was an absent-minded professor who invents a miraculous flying green gloop. He starred in Paul Mazursky’s Moscow on the Hudson (1984); appeared in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry (1997); and played Theodore Roosevelt in the three Night at the Museum movies, the last of which is currently in post-production. He also played President Eisenhower in The Butler (2013).
An avid video games player, and a fan of professional road cycling and Rugby Union, Williams owned a vineyard in the Napa Valley, California, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities, including Comic Relief. In addition to his Oscar award and nominations, he won six Golden Globes, two Screen Actors’ Guild Awards and three Grammy awards.
He belonged to the Episcopal Church (“Catholic Lite same rituals, half the guilt”), and was philosophical about death. “In your fifties, loss is a thing you live with a lot,” he told an interviewer . “Pretty soon friends will be checking out from natural causes. It’s the grim rapper, he’s comin’.”
Robin Williams, who had recently been suffering from depression, died at his San Francisco Bay home in an apparent suicide.

Henry Stone


Date of Birth: 23 June 1921, Bronx, New York, US
Birth Name: Henry Stne

Henry Stone was a record label supremo who spent almost 70 years working as a record distributor, talent scout and label owner, helping to launch the careers of Ray Charles, James Brown, Timmy Thomas and of course KC and the Sunshine Band.
Stone’s heyday came with his TK Records Label in the 1970s, as he rode the fledgling disco boom. With the teenage singer Betty Wright he scored with Clean Up Women, a big 1972 hit. That same year he scored again with Timmy Thomas’s Why Can’t We Live Together (No 12 in the UK charts in 1973), and then in 1974 topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby. Two TK recordings appeared on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever (1977).


The label’s signature style a light, Caribbean-flavoured dance music would come to be known as “the Miami sound”, the ultimate practitioners of which were KC and the Sunshine Band, a multiracial band led by Harry Wayne “KC” Casey and Richard Finch. Stone introduced the 21-year-old Casey to a teenaged Finch, already a skilled recording engineer with TK, in 1973, and together they wrote and produced Rock Your Baby for MacCrae. KC and the Sunshine Band went on to have 10 UK Top 40 hits, becoming the first band to have four No 1 pop singles in a 12-month period since the Beatles in 1964.


Henry Stone was born on June 23 1921 in the Bronx, New York City, and, aged eight, during the Great Depression, he was sent to a Jewish reform school upstate in Pleasantville for stealing some food from a street vendor. It was there that he learnt to play trumpet and developed a love for New Orleans jazz. While serving with the US Army in the Second World War he played in one of the military’s few mixed-race bands.
Settling in Miami in 1948, Stone began both distributing 78s with Modern Records and working with local blues and gospel musicians whom he signed to labels in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. By 1952 he had established his own Crystal Recording Company with a studio and two labels Rockin’ for rhythm and blues and Glory for gospel and in 1954 he had a No 1 R&B hit with Heart Of Stone, by Otis Williams & the Charms.


Even more notable was his signing of Ray Charles, then an unknown musician from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, whose piano playing had caught Stone’s attention at a Miami hotel. Together they recorded various songs St Florida Blues, Walkin’ and Talkin’ and I’m Wondering and Wondering for Stone’s Rockin’ label, though none of them enjoyed much commercial success. “I gave him $200,” Stone recalled. “He took the money and immediately bought some heroin.”
In a 2013 interview Stone put his recording of so many celebrated black American musicians down to location and luck. “I was the only guy down here. And they’d come to play the clubs. I turned down a lot of talent it’s just the ones that I signed that make me seem like a genius.”
By the 1960s, as soul music was holding sway, Stone was recording a new generation of black musicians, his business acumen allowing him to pick up an array of talent from Deep City, a bankrupt Florida label. TK Records and his own distribution company, Tone Distributors, occupied an 18,000 sq ft warehouse and employed more than 100 people.



Stone possessed not just a fine ear for talent but also an ability to fleece that talent his reluctance to pay full royalties was well-known throughout the industry. It may have been Stone’s business shenanigans that helped lead to TK’s sudden collapse in 1980 though Stone himself was quick to blame the burgeoning “disco sucks” movement that, from the end of the previous decade, saw disco records burned and American students don badges reading “death to disco”.


Not that the decline of TK kept Stone down for long. He provided the seed money for Sugar Hill Records, the New Jersey label that first popularised rap music, and set up Hot Productions, which licensed European house and techno recordings for the United States. Hot’s biggest success came with the Dutch group 2 Unlimited’s record Get Ready For This, which would become one of the most recognisable anthems in modern American sport.
Even as his sight failed him in recent years, Stone remained heavily involved in the industry, running his labels out of a Miami penthouse with walls covered in gold and platinum albums. When asked what kept him going, he joked: “I never learnt to play golf.”

Kenny Ireland


Date of Birth: 7 August 1945, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Birth Name: George Ian Kenneth Ireland
Nicknames: Kenny Ireland

The actor Kenny Ireland, who has died of cancer aged 68, crowned a long career on stage and screen by playing the outrageous, Speedos-clad Donald Stewart in the popular ITV sitcom Benidorm. He and Janine Duvitski played Donald and Jacqueline, members of the Middlesbrough Swingers Association looking for other sexually adventurous holidaymakers in the Spanish resort. The fictional couple were Derren Litten's first creations when he started writing Benidorm and they appeared in all six series (2007-14).


"Half the things I don't understand," Ireland said of his character's lines to Radio Times last year. "There was one episode where I had to say, '[Jacqueline prefers] the sausage in cider.' I said, 'What's funny about that?' and had to have it explained to me."
There was an innocent, straight quality to Ireland's acting that helped to bring laughs in the early series of Benidorm and continued despite the sitcom's descent into the realms of a freak show with new, less believable characters.


Ireland was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, the son of Ian, an RAF bomber pilot who was killed on a secret mission when Ireland was five months old, and Elizabeth (nee Cowie). On leaving Paisley grammar school, he worked as an apprentice at the town's thread manufacturer, J&P Coats. However, his ambition was to act and he eventually left to train at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Then, as an actor and assistant director, he helped to establish the Lyceum Youth theatre in Edinburgh.
He made his West End acting debut in Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy (Mayfair theatre, 1976) after the Traverse Theatre Company's Edinburgh production transferred to London. He was then a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1978-80), before work at the National Theatre (1979-84), where he was Apollo in Peter Hall's production of The Oresteia, and the Old Major and Pilkington in Animal Farm. By then, he was himself directing at the Traverse theatre.
Ireland first appeared on television as an Edinburgh bank manager in an episode of the police drama Strangers (1980). In between many other one-off roles, he played Sammy, alongside Simon Cadell and Carol Royle, in the first series (1987) of the sitcom Life Without George and the thuggish American media tycoon Ben Landless in the political drama House of Cards (1990).
He was also one of the regular group of actors in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985-87), best remembered in blue dungarees and cap as the handyman Derek in the much-loved Acorn Antiques sketches, which lampooned the soap opera Crossroads. "To this day, nice camp waiters quote my dialogue at me and are slightly disappointed that I don't remember any of the lines," Ireland said in 2007.


In the cinema, Ireland was in the Scottish film comedy Local Hero (1983), directed by Bill Forsyth, and Peter Greenaway's Drowning by Numbers (1988). With Hugh Fraser, he founded the theatre company the Wrestling School in 1988 to produce the works of Howard Barker, directing many productions himself.
From 1993 to 2003, Ireland was artistic director of the Royal Lyceum theatre, Edinburgh. Among the productions he directed were A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing, Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. On leaving, he made a stinging attack on the Scottish arts establishment for "providing theatre on the cheap" through underfunding. In 1997, he directed his first opera, Rigoletto, for Scottish Opera.

King Robbo


Date of Birth: 23 October 1969
Birth Name: John Robetson
Nicknames: King Robbo

King Robbo, who has died aged 44, was one of the founding fathers of London’s graffiti scene but came to wider attention in 2010 when he was involved in a feud with the street artist Banksy.
Creating images on private or public property is for the most part illegal, whether they are the work of graffiti writers who use spray-paint, “tagging” or “bombing” their names, or of “street artists” such as Banksy, who commonly uses stencils to produce representational images on walls. Graffiti writers like Robbo paint only for their peers, while Banksy paints for a much wider audience. The two camps are more rivals than allies.
Robbo, who stood 6ft 8in tall, had begun his career as a graffiti writer in his teens. In 1985, at the age of 15, he had sprayed ROBBO INC on to a wall under a canal bridge in Camden, north London. Twenty-five years later Banksy used the same site to create a series of four stencilled works, in the process obliterating part of Robbo’s original. Banksy’s image showed a workman applying what looked like wallpaper, but was essentially what remained of Robbo’s piece.


A Banksy (left), and the image as transformed by Team Robbo
London’s graffiti writers interpreted this is an act of disrespect towards one of their own. Robbo was by now long “retired”, and working as a cobbler in King’s Cross. But he was sufficiently offended, and on Christmas morning 2009 he decided to act. The wall in question was accessible only from the canal, so he dressed in a wet suit, approached the wall by means of an inflated air mattress, and got to work. Banksy’s workman, instead of applying wallpaper, was now painting the words: KING ROBBO. Robbo went on to alter all four Banksys along the canal, signing them “Team Robbo” (a reference to those who thought of Robbo as the King of London graffiti and were firmly on his side in the war against Banksy).
Other, similar, incidents followed. One of Banksy’s best-known works an image of three children hoisting a Tesco bag “flag” on the side of an Islington chemist’s shop was altered so the plastic bag bore the
tag “HRH King Robbo”.


For his part, Banksy denied painting over Robbo’s work: “I painted over a piece that said 'mrphfgdfrhdgf’. I find it surreal when graffiti writers get possessive over certain locations. I thought that having a casual attitude towards property ownership was an essential part of being a vandal.”
Robbo and Banksy had met one another in the late 1990s in an East London bar, and according to Robbo it was not a happy encounter. He told Will Ellsworth-Jones, author of Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall: “He was nothing at the time. And I said 'Hello, I’ve seen your name about although I hadn’t and he went... 'I don’t know who you are’... So I went bang and give him a backhander. I said 'You might not have heard of me, but you’ll never ******* forget me, will you?’... He was being disrespectful.” Banksy denied that this incident ever took place.


In the tradition of graffiti writers, Robbo opted for anonymity. He was born John Robertson on October 23 1969 into a working-class family in London. As a teenager he was a skinhead and football hooligan: “I used to hang out with the big boys and they used to write their names on walls,” he later said. “They’d always put an 'o’ on the end to let people know they were skinheads. That’s why I became Robbo.”
After he was expelled from school he went to work at his uncle’s building firm; by night, he painted graffiti: “My parents couldn’t understand why I did it. Why do it if there’s no money in it? I couldn’t explain to them that it was my passion for creating art. It was like a dopamine fix, all that adrenaline... I ended up [in 1984] doing a big piece just near [what is now] the Emirates Stadium, just under the bridge on Hornsey Road. I was as bold as brass. It said 'The Master Robbo’ with a Ghostbuster character and a big splat! It was really big.”


During a brief spell at a school in Northamptonshire (his fellow pupils “were all skinheads and mods on Lambrettas”), he started a graffiti crew called The Artmasters, and on his return to London he pursued his developing passion for “train writing”, which had the added attraction of making his work mobile and thus widely seen as tube trains travelled around the city: “I used to go maybe four-five nights a week to the train yard, as much as I could. I went back to using straight letters, New York style, so when the train went past at 40mph you could still read the Robbo... When it’s pitch dark and there are people trying to chase you, you hone your skills really fast. It’s the best art college I could have gone to.” Despite the efforts of the transport police, he claimed never to have been arrested, and he was soon a celebrity in the graffiti community.
Will Ellsworth-Jones recounts how Robbo and some of his fellow writers painted the tube trains at Aldgate East Underground station on Christmas Day 1988 (Christmas Day was a prime time for graffiti, since the rest of the world’s attention was elsewhere): “Robbo... did a recce of the station... locked up a ladder near the spot ready for when they needed it [and] packed a little boom box in his rucksack to provide the music while they painted... One by one they climbed over a high wall from the street, down the ladder, now extended, that Robbo had retrieved and on to the train roof. From the roof they were swiftly down beside the tracks. The CCTV cameras were put out of action, and then the train was all theirs. They chose a carriage each and went to work.” Robbo had even thought to bring along a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne.
By the early Nineties, however, the police were increasingly cracking down, and Robbo decided to get out: “I had achieved what could be achieved. I was quite happy to take the back seat and live another life.”
Over the past five years, the graffiti writers have started to enjoy a measure of commercial appeal, and Robbo too was tempted by this development. His work has been shown at four exhibitions, including at the Pure Evil and Signal galleries in London. One of his pieces was offered at £12,000.
In 2011 he was returning to his London flat when he apparently fell, suffering a serious head injury; he went into a coma from which he never emerged. The graffiti writing community rallied round to raise funds for his care. An auction raised £30,000 from donated works, and a sale of his own pieces later raised another £28,000.

Elaine Stritch


Date of Birth: 2 February 2 1925, Detroit, Michigan, US
Birth Name: Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch, the American actress, who has died aged 89, was the femme formidable of Broadway, famous for her foghorn voice and deadpan comic timing, and notorious for her filthy temper and “cut-the-crap” frankness; but like many who adopt an abrasive outer shell, underneath there beat a softer heart.
Brassy, skyscraper tall and with a voice once described as “like a corncrake wading through Bourbon on the rocks”, Elaine Stritch was a natural scene-stealer. Not strikingly beautiful, though with wondrously long and shapely legs, there was no one quite like her in showbusiness.


In Britain, where she scored an instant hit as Mimi Paragon, the cruise ship hostess in Noël Coward’s Sail Away, she became everyone’s favourite American actress. She will be best remembered for the long-running 1970s BBC sitcom, Two’s Company, in which she played a rich, demanding American in London, opposite Donald Sinden as Robert, her plummy-voiced butler.
But it was on the Broadway stage that she began her career and where she continued to perform on and off for six decades in comedies and musical drama. She understudied Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam; and brought the house down in Pal Joey singing Zip in the famous 1946 revival. Stephen Sondheim gave her one of his greatest songs, Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch, in Company, in which she played beady-eyed lush Joanne in the original 1970 production. One reviewer noted that “she can race through the gears from a savage purr to an air-raid siren howl in five seconds without ever losing a note of the melody”.
Elaine Stritch partied with as much energy as she performed. She knocked it back with such dedicated topers as Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason. “Elaine, I never thought I’d say this, but goodnight!” said Judy Garland as she made an 8am exit from one marathon session. She dated John F Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and even Rock Hudson, for whom she ditched Ben Gazzara a “bum rap”, she confessed.
The diva of the put-down, Elaine Stritch never learned the art of turning the other cheek. She always had the last word. “I’m sorry about what I said to you earlier today,” an interviewer heard her tell an assistant. “I meant every word.”
Yet underneath this spiky carapace there lurked a more fragile personality, at once addicted to, yet terrified of, performing a woman who fought a long-running battle with the bottle which nearly destroyed her altogether.
The youngest of three daughters, Elaine Stritch was born on February 2 1925 into an upper-middle-class Roman Catholic family in suburban Detroit. Her uncle Samuel was Cardinal Stritch of Chicago; her father a senior executive in Ford Motors. She was educated at a convent where “you daren’t speak in the lavatory and you bathed in your nightgown”.
Her more conventional elder sisters left school and got married, but Elaine’s tastes tended towards the bohemian. As a teenager she accompanied the family’s black maid, Carrie, to “Black and Tan” clubs, where she became familiar with “down and dirty” blues such as I Want a Long Time Daddy, which she sang without understanding the lyrics. She tasted her first whisky sour aged 13 and wanted more.
Her father sent her, aged 17, to New York, where she lived in a convent and studied acting at the New School in Manhattan. A contemporary of Walter Matthau, Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando, she made her student stage debut as a tiger. She “dated” Brando nothing more. When, after a night on the town, he took her back to his place, went to the bathroom, and reappeared in his pyjamas, the teenage Elaine Stritch shot straight back to the convent. “I kissed like a crazy woman,” she recalled. “But I was a virgin until I was 30. Somebody’d touch my breast, and I’d think I was pregnant.”
She was immediately successful. In 1945 she played the parlourmaid in The Private Life of the Master Race and, in 1946, Pamela Brewster in Loco and Miss Crowder in Made in Heaven. After Three Indelicate Ladies and The Little Foxes, she appeared in the review Angel in the Wings singing “Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo...”. In 1949 she played the part of Joan Farrell in Yes, M’Lord. Having kicked her heels as an understudy to Ethel Merman in the Broadway production of Call Me Madam, she left a show-stopping role in Pal Joey to do the Merman part on tour to enthusiastic reviews.
After that she starred in shows by Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim and Edward Albee, and was directed by such figures as Erwin Piscator, George Abbott, Harold Clurman and Hal Prince. Coward called her “Stritchie” and, after rescuing her from the flop musical Goldilocks (1958), gave her the lead in Sail Away, in which she sang Why Do the Wrong People Travel?


In his diaries, Coward saw her more vulnerable side: “Poor darling Stritch with all her talents is almost completely confused about everything. She is an ardent Catholic and never stops saying f*** and Jesus Christ. She is also kind, touching and loyal and, fortunately, devoted to me.” After “the Master’s” death, she attended his memorial service wearing a bright red blazer, and mistook Yehudi Menuhin for a busker friend of Coward’s.
Elaine Stritch began her film career inauspiciously with Scarlet Hour (1956). After attending a matinee, Richard Burton told her: “Halfway through your last number I almost had an orgasm.” “Almost?” she shrieked reprovingly. She contributed compelling performances to the 1957 remake of A Farewell to Arms, and Providence (1970). In 1971 she was offered a contract by 20th Century Fox but turned it down, not wishing to be typecast as the new Eve Arden the wisecracking girlfriend who never gets her man. Later she appeared in such films as September (1988) and Cocoon (1990),
On television, Elaine Stritch starred in the 1948 domestic comedy Growing Paynes, the short-lived 1960 sitcom My Sister Eileen, and co-starred as the star’s mother in The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986). She was a member of the supporting comedy troupe on the 1949 show Jack Carter and Company, a comic switchboard operator on the 1956 variety series Washington Square, and Peter Falk’s secretary in The Trials of O’Brien (1965).
Coward brought her to London in 1962 in Sail Away, and she returned in 1972 with Sondheim’s Company, winning more ecstatic reviews. She remained in London for several years, making her second home in the Savoy Hotel. Of her barnstorming performance in Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings, one reviewer described her “bashing through the play like a truck driver in a garage full of Minis”. “I love asking the way in London,” she told an interviewer. “A man actually left his shop to show me where to go. I thought 'I’m not that attractive and I don’t look like a hooker, so what’s in it for him?’ I finally realised he was simply good-mannered.”


By now she had triumphantly shed the title of the “oldest virgin on Broadway”, having lost her virginity aged 30 to the Fifties film star Gig Young, to whom she was briefly engaged before ditching him for Ben Gazzara. This was fortunate, as Young went on to experiment with LSD and ended up shooting his fourth wife and himself. Less percipient was her decision to get rid of Gazzara when she unwisely fell in love with Rock Hudson well known in green room circles as a rampant homosexual.
Eventually, in 1973 and aged 47, she met and married John Bay, her co-star in Small Craft Warnings. When they got engaged, Elaine Stritch called home to ask her father whether she should bring her fiancé home to see if he approved of him. “No, just marry him,” came the reply. “Don’t let him get away.” The marriage lasted a happy 10 years, until Bay died of cancer.
Since her early years Elaine Stritch had suffered from stage fright and, when prayers did not do the trick, she quelled her nerves with alcohol. By the late 1970s her opening gambit at every watering hole was “I’d like four martinis and a floor plan”. Sacked from shows and thrown out of clubs, she failed to stop drinking even after she became diabetic. But after suffering a severe attack in the hallway of a New York hotel (from which she was saved only because a passing waiter happened to be carrying a Pepsi), she went on the wagon and never touched another drop.
In 2002 she made a triumphant return on Broadway in her one-woman retrospective of her career, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, co-written with John Lahr, which played to sell-out audiences at London’s Old Vic the following year. “There’s good news and bad news,” she told her audience. “The good: I have a sensational acceptance speech for a Tony. The bad: I’ve had it for 45 years.” In a typical Stritchian postscript, when she really did make the speech after being awarded a Tony for her performance, it was so long that the orchestra cut her off in mid-flow. Afterwards she gave an angry, tearful press conference. The show also won her the Drama Desk award for best solo performance and a nomination for the Olivier Award for her performance at the Old Vic.
In 2003 she was made a “Living Landmark” of New York City for her contributions to Broadway, and in 2010-11 she appeared in a Broadway revival of A Little Light Music. She was the subject of a documentary film, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, released earlier this year.

Bobby Womack


Date of Birth: 4 March 1944, Cleveland, Ohio, US
Birth Name: Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack, was a rhythm and blues guitarist and songwriter and, despite a life that was luridly eventful even by the grand guignol standards of the milieu, the last great surviving exponent of the “testifying” style of soul singing.
“Testifying”, rooted in gospel music, came to the fore in the 1960s through the impassioned performances of such singers as Otis Redding, James Brown and Wilson Pickett. Womack’s own voice ran the gamut from a smooth, beseeching baritone to an urgent, gravelly growl, often rising to a piercing, full-throated scream that vividly suggested a man in the grip of powerful emotions beyond his control.
His songs, punctuated by moralising soliloquies on the subject of love and betrayal, saw him cast in the figure of “The “Preacher” a role which had been his childhood ambition when performing on the gospel circuit, “because all the preachers had everything in the neighbourhood, they had all the money and the Cadillacs and they got the best part of the chicken”.


But Womack was not a preacher. Instead his life was laced with drug addiction, gunplay, financial exploitation and chaotic personal relationships. Nonetheless, he managed to outlive all his contemporaries, and as a result billed himself “the Soul Survivor”. As one song, Only Survivor, put it: “They call me a living legend/But I’m just a soldier who’s been left behind.”
Bobby Womack was born on born March 4 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio, the third of five sons of a steelworker, Friendly, and his wife Naomi. Friendly was also a sometime gospel singer, but channelled his musical ambitions into his sons, organising Bobby and his four brothers, Harry, Cecil, Friendly Jnr and Curtis, into a group, The Womack Brothers, which performed on the local gospel circuit.
It was there that Womack met the two men to whom he would later attribute his singing style: Sam Cooke, then the lead singer of the Soul Stirrers, and Archie Brownlee, from the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. From the former, Womack took a dulcet, seductive crooning; from the latter the “testifying” screeches and yelps. A child musical prodigy, Bobby got first hand experience of Brownlee’s style at the age of 13, playing guitar for him.


“I modelled my screams on Archie,” he once recalled, “but I never could get them as clear as he did, because he’d mellow it in gin. He’d lie down on stage to sing because the drink had eaten the lining of his stomach so much. They’d kneel down there and put a microphone up close. He always said he wanted to die right there, wailing his head off, and he did, singing Leave Me In The Hands Of The Lord.”
Womack would look back on his short period with the Blind Boys with great affection. “I would take them to their hotel rooms, dress them, take their clothes and get ’em cleaned, and they’d let me get a little nooky on the side when their girlfriends would go for it.”
At the same time The Womack Brothers were also spotted by Sam Cooke, who was shortly to abandon gospel for the more lucrative pastures of secular Rhythm and Blues. In 1962 he sent for the Womacks from Los Angeles and, encouraging them to follow his example, signed them to his SAR label, renaming them The Valentinos.


The group’s first single, Lookin’ For A Love (1963), sold a million copies, and provided an early lesson in music business practice. “We didn’t know that we were supposed to get paid,” Womack would later recall. “We was just honoured to be with Sam Cooke’s company, an’ we didn’t get no royalties. He said, 'Well, that car you bought was your royalties. You stayed in a hotel; you know what that cost me? We took care of you guys, paid for the session. You may be gettin’ screwed, but I’ll screw you with grease. James Brown, he’d screw you with sand.’”
Cooke provided a further lesson with the release of the group’s fourth single, a Womack composition entitled It’s All Over Now. Cooke – who had a piece of the song’s publishing – gave the song to The Rolling Stones, whose version went to the top of the British and American charts, eclipsing The Valentino’s original. “I was still screaming and hollering right up until I got my first royalty cheque from the song,” Womack recalled. “Man, the amount of money rolling in shut me right up.”
Cooke took Womack under his wing, employing him as a guitarist in his touring group and treating him as his protégé. It was a relationship that would come to a violent end with Cooke’s untimely death in 1964, shot dead by the manageress of a motel where he had been enjoying a tryst with a prostitute.
Womack’s efforts at comforting Cooke’s widow, Barbara, resulted in them marrying three months after the singer’s death, angering Cooke’s friends who felt that Womack was exploiting a grieving widow. Womack insisted that the match had started at her instigation, and it was Barbara who put up the money to pay for Womack’s first solo recordings for the Chess label. But the marriage was to end catastrophically when she discovered he was having an affair with her teenage daughter, Linda, obliging Womack to beat a hasty retreat from the family home at the end of the barrel of a gun. Linda, in turn, would go on to marry Womack’s younger brother, Cecil, thus leaving Womack in the possibly unique position of having been the same woman’s stepfather, lover, and brother-in-law in short order. Cecil and Linda would later enjoy success as Womack and Womack with the singles Love Wars and Teardrops.
With his early solo recordings having passed without notice, Bobby Womack concentrated on songwriting and session work. As a member of the house band at the famed American Sound Studio in Memphis he played on recordings by a host of artists including Joe Tex, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, who recorded no fewer than 17 Womack songs in three years.
In 1968 he resurrected his singing career with the R&B hit What Is This. More hits followed with judicious covers of such songs as Fly Me To The Moon, Sweet Caroline and California Dreaming, and Womack’s own, rootsier compositions. The albums Communication, Understanding, Facts of Life and Lookin’ For A Love Again, established him in the vanguard of soul music and provided a run of hit singles including A Woman’s Gotta Have It, Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out and the million-selling Harry Hippie, a song written by Jim Ford but which Womack adapted as a tribute to his younger brother.
Across 110th Street was a highly-lauded soundtrack album for one of the classic “blaxploitation” movies of the time (and later for the Quentin Tarantino movie, Jackie Brown). And Womack also recorded a country album, BW Goes C&W. (His record company balked at his original suggestion for the title, “Step Aside Charlie Pride And Give Another Nigger A Chance”. Womack was also obliged to withdraw his interpretation of Gene Autrey’s song I’m Back In The Saddle Again, which he had retitled “I’m Black In The Saddle Again”, after Autrey threatened a lawsuit.)
But by the mid-70s Womack’s albums were showing signs of creative fatigue from his increasingly erratic lifestyle. He had become close friends with Sly Stone, playing on Stone’s There’s A Riot Going On, and proving an enthusiastic participant in Stone’s infamous drug-binges. And he was further undermined by a series of family tragedies.


In 1974 his younger brother Harry was murdered by a jealous girlfriend while he was staying at Bobby Womack’s house. The girl, happening upon some women’s clothes in the closet of the room where Harry was sleeping, assumed he was carrying on an affair and stabbed him in the neck with a steak knife. The clothes belonged to a girlfriend of Bobby.
Four years later Womack’s first child by his second marriage, Truth, died at the age of four months after suffocating in bed. Another son, Vincent, by Barbara Cooke, committed suicide at the age of 21.
Enveloped in what he would later describe as “the paranoia years”, Womack himself had taken to carrying a gun. Lying in bed one day he saw the handle on the bedroom door slowly turn. He reached for his gun and emptied it into the door. The door swung open to reveal his son Bobby Truth, “not yet in long trousers” standing there. The bullets had gone over his head. But the boy did not escape such an upbringing entirely without cost. Following his father’s troubled path, Bobby Truth would later be sentenced to 28 years imprisonment for second-degree murder.


In 1981 Womack returned triumphantly to form with the album The Poet, which couched the titanic passion of his voice in elegant arrangements. The album restored Womack to the R&B charts, but he saw none of the royalties, leading to a protracted, and fruitless, court case. “I owed money to everybody,” he would later recall. “The only reason they couldn’t sell my house is because I wouldn’t move; and the only reason I wouldn’t move is because I didn’t have a Master Charge to pay the truck. Things were bad.” He would later admit that it was only the timely intervention of his wife that prevented him from shooting firstly the record-company boss who owed him money, and then himself.
However, a follow-up album in 1984, The Poet II, featuring a guest appearance by Patti LaBelle, restored his fortunes.
Over the next 20 years Womack continued to record and tour, but with diminishing returns, until yet another surprising resurrection in 2010, when he was invited to perform with Damon Albarn’s loose aggregate of musicians, Gorillaz, singing live with the band and on two albums, Plastic Beach and The Fall. In 2012, Albarn produced Womack’s album The Bravest Man in the Universe. A 28th album, entitled The Best is Yet to Come, is to be released posthumously.

Isabella Dufresne


Date of Birth: 6 September 1935, La Tronche, Grenoble, France
Birth Name: Isabelle Collin Dufresne
Nicknames: Ultra Violet

Isabelle Dufresne, the French artist, actress and muse, who was better known to Warhol acolytes as Ultra Violet, one of his entourage during the late 1960s.
Arriving in New York at the age of 16 , Isabelle swiftly found her niche as a socialite in the art world, befriending and bedding the likes of John Graham and Salvador Dali. In 1963 the latter introduced her to Warhol while they were having tea at the St Regis hotel.
Isabelle initially mistook the 35 year-old Warhol with his slight frame, wispy voice and synthetic nylon wig for a woman. “He said, 'Let’s do a movie together’,” she recalled. “I said, 'Fine, when?’ He said, 'tomorrow’.” The next morning she arrived at The Factory, Warhol’s studio on 47th Street, which was then the gathering place for his “superstars” a motley retinue of young artists, musicians, misfits and assorted hangers-on, all eager for their fabled 15 minutes in the spotlight.


The years that followed were Warhol’s most prolific as a director. Between 1963 and 1968 he made more than 60 films, most of them shot without budget, editing or script, and starring his superstars. Among them was Isabelle Dufresne, rechristened Ultra Violet, who would feature in some 17 films in total.
When in character as Ultra Violet, Isabelle coloured her hair deep purple, tinting her lips with fresh-cut beetroot. She immersed herself in the wild counterculture of the Factory, vividly depicted in her fictionalised 1988 memoir Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol. Police made frequent raids on the building, acting on scandalised reports of what went on at the “dark end” of the loft. Isabelle Dufresne herself described it as a scene of “needles, sodomy, handcuffs, beatings, chains”. Warhol, she recalled, maintained an aura of detachment throughout.


Beneath it all, however, there lay a desperate thirst for publicity, to the exclusion of any personal considerations. It was a thirst that Ultra Violet, then a self-confessed exhibitionist, understood. One of the most disturbing passages in her book described the fallout from the “disaffected superstar” Valerie Solanas’s murder attempt on Warhol in 1968. On the morning of June 3, Valerie walked into Warhol’s new Union Square Factory and shot him twice in the chest. Warhol recovered, only to complain that the successful assassination of Robert Kennedy three days later usurped his place in the spotlight.
By 1973 Isabelle Dufresne had distanced herself from the Warhol scene . Following a brush with death due to an ulcerated colon, she came out in condemnation of the unchecked drug-use, egotism and staged orgies that had characterised her life over the previous decade. Plagued by recurring nightmares of an inhuman, “hologram” Warhol, she denounced his art as “repetitive” and “empty”, and found solace in her born-again Christian faith.
Later, Isabelle would credit her conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints with saving her from the unhappy fates that befell several of Warhol’s acolytes. In the two years prior to her break from the artist, fellow “superstar” Andrea Feldman had committed suicide by jumping from her family’s apartment window; while Edith “Edie” Sedgwick, whose cousin Paulita later directed Ultra Violet for her final screen appearance in Blackout (1994), had died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 28. “I survived by grace alone”, she told an interviewer.


Isabelle Collin Dufresne was born on September 6 1935 in La Tronche, France, into a family of strict Catholic faith. Her father Paul was a wealthy investor and manufacturer. Sent to a convent school upon the outbreak of war, she was ejected as a teenager for rebellious behaviour. Reform school followed and a period studying art in Grenoble, after which her exasperated parents dispatched her to live with her older sister in New York.
Upon her first visit to the Factory, Isabelle soon to be Ultra Violet was immediately taken by Warhol and his art. An early attempt to seduce him on a fire escape ended in an unseemly tussle as Warhol tried to break free of her embrace. “I thought he was afraid of heights”, she recalled mournfully, “but I realised he was afraid of me.”


She also appeared, in 1967, in a staging of Pablo Picasso’s surreal play Desire Caught by the Tail; it proved ill-fated, however, as the production was greeted with such hostility at its premiere in St Tropez that the director Jean-Jacques Lebel was forced to leave town with cast and crew. Later she made a brief foray into mainstream films with Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman (1978).
She continued to work as an artist under the name Ultra Violet for the rest of her life, with a 2006 solo show at the Stefan Stux Gallery in Manhattan and a mirror installation, entitled Self Portrait, in 2012. Three of her sculptures created in response to the World Trade Center attack currently reside in the permanent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Sam Kelly


Date of Birth: 19 December 1943, Manchester, UK
Birth Name: Roger Michael Kelly
Nicknames: Sam Kelly

Equally at home in panto and Pinter, sitcom and Shakespeare, Sam Kelly, was a quirky, instantly recognisable character actor, often playing beyond his natural age, and often peering through rimless spectacles like a mole pushing through to the surface. And once there, he quipped and cavorted with the best of them: Dave Allen, Dick Emery and Paul Merton on television, and the Two Ronnies, with whom he toured onstage to Australia, having partnered Ronnie Barker in the sitcom Porridge as the illiterate conman Bunny Warren, who couldn't decipher the words "burglar alarm" when it most mattered.


He enjoyed a long-time collaboration with the director Mike Leigh, dating from a "wiped" BBC television film, Knock for Knock, in 1976, right through to Leigh's latest, Mr Turner, starring Timothy Spall as the great painter. Like so many Leigh actors, he was a natural Dickensian, having played on television both Mould the undertaker in the 1994 Martin Chuzzlewit ("a face in which a queer attempt at melancholy was at odds with a smirk of satisfaction") and Snagsby the timid little law stationer in Bleak House (1985).
Porridge (1974-77) made his name on television and he built on that reputation with quality work in David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd's 'Allo 'Allo (1982-91), as the crooked-saluting German officer Hans Geering who, when asked what he felt about the Russian Front, replied, "She's a good cook", and as Dennis Waterman's chauffeur in Bob Larbey's On the Up (1990-92), co-starring Dora Bryan, Joan Sims and Jenna Russell.
He popped up in almost every TV series of note Casualty, Haggard (starring Keith Barron as a lascivious Georgian squire; Kelly played a sidekick called Nathaniel Grunge), the Poirot series and EastEnders he even spurned a long-term contract with Coronation Street, having made a cameo impression in 1983 as Bob Challis, the man who repainted the Rovers Return before it burned down.
Kelly was abandoned at birth in Manchester and adopted by a couple who moved to Liverpool, where he attended Liverpool Collegiate school and sang in the choir of the Anglican cathedral. After working as a clerk for three years with the civil service in Liverpool, he trained at the London Academy of Music and Drama (Lamda), graduating in 1967.


He played in rep for five years, working with the director Philip Hedley in Lincoln and the actor Nigel Hawthorne on a Macbeth in Sheffield which he felt had approached perfection. He spent a year in Beckett and Shakespeare at the Young Vic in London with the director Frank Dunlop. And in 1977 he co-founded the Croydon Warehouse, a buzzing fringe venue, with the actor Richard Ireson and the director Adrian Shergold.
In Leigh's TV film Grown-Ups (1980) he played "old Butcher", a grunting, eccentric schoolteacher (married to Lindsay Duncan's fellow teacher) who finds two former pupils (Philip Davis and Lesley Manville) moving in next door as sniggering newlyweds. His theatre work now ranged from pantomime, both in the commercial sector and with Ian McKellen at the Old Vic, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple at the Royal Exchange in Manchester and Terry Johnson's mordant comedy about comedian-fixated neighbours, Dead Funny, at the Savoy.
He featured in two greatly contrasted Leigh films, the colourful, tumultuous Gilbert and Sullivan saga Topsy-Turvy (1999) and the moody, atmospheric All or Nothing (2002), returning to G&S, and the Savoy, as Sir Joseph Porter in Martin Duncan's 2002 revival of HMS Pinafore, and followed in an early Richard Bean play, Under the Whaleback, cackling reminiscently as a garrulous old sea dog, directed at the Royal Court by Richard Wilson.


Having played wheezy old men all his life, he was obvious casting as Senex in Edward Hall's NT production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 2004, and he was a delightful, walrus-moustached Herbert Soppitt in a West End revival of JB Priestley's When We are Married (with Maureen Lipman and Roy Hudd) at the Garrick in 2010.
After playing a stint as the Wizard in the musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria, he returned to the role in November 2013 but retired as a result of ill health just before Christmas. It was his last stage appearance. But his valedictory performance was in Leigh's Grief (2011) at the National, as a Pooterish bachelor singing parlour songs in descant with his widowed sister (Lesley Manville) and facing a desolate retirement with no plans, no leisure pursuits and no new trousers.
Other recent film performances included playing Maggie Smith's husband in Susanna White's Nanny McPhee Returns (2010). which starred Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ralph Fiennes; and a mild old softie pensioner in Stewart Alexander's Common People (2013).

Rik Mayall


Date of Birth: March 7 1958, Matching Tye, Harlow, Essex, UK
Birth Name: Richard Michael Mayall
Nicknames: Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall, the comedian and actor, was terrible of alternative comedy with an anarchic line in over-the-top scatology; he later broadened his appeal with his portrayal of the egregious politician Alan B’Stard.
His breakthrough came in 1982 when he co-wrote and co-starred in BBC Television’s The Young Ones, a situation comedy featuring a group of revolting students on the breadline, squeezing spots, baring bottoms and sharing a filthy flat.
Arms flailing and eyes bulging, Mayall’s character, the angst-ridden loud-mouthed student Rick, chimed with the programme’s unpredictable “alternative” quality. The show tore up the established rules of comedy; the resulting 35 minutes of rampaging, violent slapstick struck some as having more in common with Warner Bros cartoons than with traditional sitcoms.


Mayall wrote The Young Ones with his then girlfriend Lise Meyer and another emerging alternative comedy star Ben Elton. Although it found a cult audience straight away mostly students, teenagers and twentysomethings others were slow to catch on and it was only when the series was repeated that it began to build a sizeable audience.
In contrast to his outrageous, rebarbative characterisations, Mayall was quietly-spoken and shy, with a reputation as the chameleon comedian: “fluent, funny, polite, informed” noted one of the comparatively few interviewers he spoke to, but “also evasive, slippery, canny, cautious and a tad self-congratulatory”.
“There’s a quality about me,” Mayall himself once confessed, “that you don’t quite trust”.
Although he became a defining part of the television landscape of the 1980s including a memorable turn as the rumbustiously randy Squadron Commander Flashheart in Blackadder Goes Forth (“Always treat your kite like you treat your woman ... get inside her five times a day and take her to heaven and back!”) Mayall always preferred working in the live theatre. His fellow comic actor Simon Fanshawe ascribed to
Mayall “a kind of pure energy as a solo performer on stage that, if you are prepared for the ride, is irresistible”.


In April 1998, when he was 40, a near-fatal accident on a quad bike left Mayall in a coma for five days; severe head injuries caused impaired memory, shaky co-ordination and speech problems. “The accident was over Easter and as you know, Jesus our Lord was nailed to the cross on Good Friday,” recounted Mayall in an interview last year. “The day before that is Crap Thursday, and that’s the day Rik Mayall died. And then he was dead on Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday until Bank Holiday Monday.”
But he appeared to have made a complete recovery, and returned to work in blustering form as Richie Twat (pronounced Thwaite) in Guesthouse Paradiso (1999), a film he co-wrote with his friend and long-time comedy partner Adrian Edmondson.
Although his part as Peeves the poltergeist in the first Harry Potter film failed to make the final cut, Mayall remained philosophical. “I’ve looked over the edge,” he remarked, adding that his brush with death had taught him that ending up on the cutting room floor hardly seemed so bad.
Richard Michael Mayall was born on March 7 1958 at Matching Tye, a village near Harlow, Essex, but brought up in Droitwich, Worcestershire. The third child of two Left-wing drama teachers, he made his stage debut when he was six in a crowd scene in his father’s production of The Good Woman of Setzuan.
Taking the name Rik from the comic strip character Erik the Viking, he passed the 11-plus aged nine as it was being phased out, winning a free place at the fee-paying King’s School, Worcester, the youngest boy there when he arrived a year early.
At Manchester University, studying drama in the late 1970s, his tutor noted that Mayall’s humour was “always pretty puerile”. Nevertheless Mayall undertook a student tour of America as Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors. Graduating in 1979, he arrived in London to work for a job agency on £29 a week.
With Edmondson, whom he met at university, he formed a comedy duo called Twentieth Century Coyote, and began making appearances at The Comedy Store. The pair went on to make their name at another club, The Comedy Strip, launch-pad for several so-called “alternative” comedians. Television work followed, with Mayall teamed with Alexei Sayle, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in the Comic Strip films.


Mayall also found work as a straight actor, making what The Daily Telegraph called “a brilliant debut” as the dashingly good-looking dandy Ivan in Gogol’s The Government Inspector at the Olivier Theatre in 1985. In 1988 he starred with Stephen Fry in Simon Gray’s The Common Pursuit at the Phoenix, and in 1991 was what one critic considered a “downright nerdish” Vladimir in Waiting for Godot at the Queen’s Theatre.
In Simon Gray’s ill-starred Cell Mates at the Albery in 1995 Stephen Fry famously walked out of the production after three performances and vanished for several days Mayall’s portrayal of the petty Irish criminal Sean Bourke was hailed as “brilliant” by The Sunday Telegraph’s John Gross: “At every stage he exerts a magnetic spell.”
Celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Covent Garden during the play’s six-week run, Mayall pulled a toy gun in the street and pointed it at two strangers. Police formally warned him but he was released without charge, Mayall himself conceding that he had been “a total prat”.
He came to national notice on television as the unemployable investigative reporter Kevin Turvey in A Kick Up The Eighties, a sketch show that he co-wrote. Mayall went on to co-write and star in The Young Ones with Elton, Edmondson and Nigel Planer. The show became a cult hit worldwide including in America and was his best-known project. The team’s feeble follow-up Filthy, Rich and Catflap was followed in turn by the critically-panned black comedy Bottom (1991), with Mayall starring as a sex-starved bachelor; a sell-out touring stage version of the programme was resurrected a few years later.


In The New Statesman (1987), Mayall portrayed a ruthless and corrupt Tory MP called Alan B’Stard who would stop at nothing to gain power; as part of Mayall’s character research, the Conservative MP Michael Portillo gave him a tour of the Commons. The scriptwriters Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran explained that they had taken Mayall’s persona from The Young Ones and poured it into a Savile Row suit.
He continued to blossom as a comic actor in a series of hour-long showcases for ITV Rik Mayall Presents (1993), in which, noted the Telegraph’s critic, “Mayall achieves high comedy”.
In addition to his occasional role in the BBC’s Blackadder during the 1990s, Mayall also provided the voice of a malevolent baby in the mini-sitcom How To Be A Little Sod (1995). His other film credits included both a Hollywood flop, Drop Dead Fred (1991), and a British one, Bring Me The Head of Mavis Davis (1997), in which he played a music industry manager plotting to kill his fading pop star client.


After his accident, Mayall’s output had been less prolific, but as well as Guesthouse Paradiso he starred in several video versions of Bottom, and as a camp DJ in Day of the Sirens (2002). He also starred in the ITV sitcom Believe Nothing (2002) as an egotistical Nobel Prize-winning Oxford professor named Adonis Cnut, a member of the Council for International Progress, an underground organisation that aspires to control the world. He reprised the role of Alan B’Stard in the stage play The New Statesman 2006: Blair B’Stard Project (Trafalgar Studios), in which B’Stard has left the Conservatives to become a Labour MP. In 2011, Mayall appeared on Let’s Dance For Comic Relief, attacking his old friend Edmondson with a frying pan as he attempted to perform The Dying Swan.
His autobiography Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ was published in 2005.

Pat McDonagh


Date of Birth: March 17 1934, Manchester, UK
Birth Name: Pat McDonagh

Pat McDonagh, was a fashion designer who led her own “British Invasion” when she moved to North America in 1966, introducing first Canada, then New York, to bell-bottoms, minidresses, jumpsuits and maxi-coats.
While studying at Manchester University and at the Sorbonne in Paris, Pat McDonagh had begun to make initial forays into the fashion world as a model for magazines and television. Yet the work failed to satisfy her and she turned instead to design, opening two style-conscious boutiques at Horwich and Worsley, Lancashire. Soon she was making costumes for the Beatles, and slinky leather numbers and python-buckled coats for Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in The Avengers “a very sophisticated, slightly fanciful take on what was happening in the swinging London club scene of the time”, as she put it.


Arriving in Toronto, by contrast, was “like landing in the Dark Ages”, at least as far as the outfits were concerned. Old-fashioned styles, long skirts and polyester dresses dominated, and there were no sheer tights to be found. The poor state of the country’s textile industry and its high import tariffs on European fabric further compounded the difficulty of creating innovative designs.


Pat McDonagh’s response was to open a new boutique on Bloor Street, christened in characteristically tongue-in-cheek manner The Establishment. Orders began to come in from across Toronto and New York, and soon she opened a factory for what she termed her “Re-Establishment” creations, selling to upscale North American store chains such as Bloomingdale’s and Henri Bendel. Her flowing designs for evening wear swiftly found favour with Toronto’s “glitter girls”, the elite group of socialites behind the city’s high-profile fund-raisers, and with celebrities such as Cher and Ella Fitzgerald.


Pat McDonagh was unstinting in her efforts to promote and redefine the “English look” abroad. A self-confessed perfectionist with a keen attention to detail, she drew heavily on the fashions of the 1930s and 1940s for inspiration, emphasising the feminine silhouette with bands of colour, ruffles or glitter beading. One pleated dress won her the 1982 New York Times Award for design excellence and became a long-running bestseller. Across the Canadian fashion world it was known simply as “the red dress” even though, in several of its later incarnations, it was no longer red.
The eldest of four children, Patricia McDonagh was born in Manchester on St Patrick’s Day 1934 into a family of Irish heritage. It was her mother who taught her how to sew and instilled in her a strong perfectionist tendency: “[She] never praised us”, Pat later recalled. “We were never good enough.” Prior to university she attended the Loreto Convent sixth form college, Moss Side, and drifted into the modelling industry under the employ of the fashion houses Jacques Helm and Maggy Rouff. From Paris she would bring home issues of Elle magazine, her mother replicating the designs with remnants scavenged from a fabric wholesalers.


An eye for style was not all that Pat McDonagh took with her to Canada, where she moved with her husband after he got a job with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. At a 1966 interview with the fashion editor of the Toronto Star she introduced a then unknown young model called Twiggy, who had posed for her in photoshoots back in England. Though the ­Star’s editor was not taken with the teenager’s waiflike physique, Pat remained one of her most enthusiastic backers during her rise to the international stage, insisting that Twiggy was “the right image for my clothes”.

Pat McDonagh also enjoyed a reputation for eccentric behaviour, often appearing on the streets of Toronto with a parrot on her shoulder. She befriended the local homeless population, and was prone to acts of sudden generosity. The television personality and fashion columnist Jeanne Beker recalled taking unexpected delivery of a pair of valuable python-skin platform shoes, to match the outfit she had worn to the premiere of The Lion King stage show on the previous evening.

Nigel Martin


Date of Birth: April 11 1928, Streatham, South London, UK
Birth Name: Nigel Stanley Ellis Martin
Nicknames: Nigel Martin

Nigel Martin, was the first general manager of Chessington World of Adventures, the Surrey theme park that has been a place of family entertainment since the late 1980s.
The original Chessington Zoo had opened in 1931, and after the war it was taken over by the Pearson Publishing Company; from 1978 it was managed by the Pearson subsidiary the Tussauds Group. Attendances, however, were declining, and in the 1980s one of the Tussauds designers, John Wardley, was asked to come up with ideas to revitalise the place. It was decided to open a theme park alongside the zoo, and Chessington World of Adventures was the result. Launched in 1987 , it featured attractions such as Dragon Falls, the monorail Safari Skyway, the roller-coaster Runaway Mine Train and the “dark ride” Fifth Dimension.


Martin had been appointed general manager in 1980, and was ideally suited for the task: as a former Royal Marines officer, he had an ability to organise people, while his passion for wildlife had been reinforced by six years’ working in South Africa. He felt strongly that zoos should have a purpose, that endangered species should be protected and nurtured; but he also appreciated that zoos could do this only if they attracted sufficient revenue.
The son of a colonel in the Indian Army, Nigel Stanley Ellis Martin was born in Streatham, south London, on April 11 1928 and educated at Wellington. On leaving school at 17 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines, going on to serve with 42 and 45 Commando in Korea, Suez and during the Konfrontasi in Indonesia. In Borneo he rescued a baby bear which had been caught in a trap and took it back to Singapore, where it lived with his family for two years before being put into the care of the RAF and subsequently of Singapore Zoo.
Martin reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and served as Amphibious Operations and Plans Officer on the staff of the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic before taking early retirement at the age of 45. He then emigrated to South Africa, where he worked for the South African Sugar Association as manager of its multiracial training centre at Mt Edgecombe, a suburb of Durban . In the early 1970s there were some in power in South Africa who already suspected that the system of apartheid was ultimately unsustainable, and this training centre was the first in the country in which people of all races were trained under the same roof and in the same circumstances. Martin ran it for six years, and is commemorated by Nigel Martin Place, a street in Mt Edgecombe.
While in South Africa, he also served on the board of the Wilderness Leadership School alongside Ian Player, brother of the golfer Gary Player, and would escort groups of students or businessmen on expeditions into the bush; they carried their own food and spent the night in the open in sleeping bags. These trips could be hazardous: on one occasion Martin and a group of students were charged by a rhinoceros and escaped only by climbing into some nearby trees.
After retiring from Chessington in 1992, Martin continued to serve on the boards of Marwell Zoo (now Marwell Wildlife) in Hampshire and of the Royal Marine Museum. He and his family settled at Abinger Common in Surrey.
In his youth Martin was a considerable all-round sportsman, playing hockey for the Royal Marines and rugby for United Services, Portsmouth, and representing the Navy in both polo and the British Pentathlon. He also enjoyed hunting, point-to-pointing and yachting. But wildlife was always his overriding passion.

HR Giger


Date of Birth: February 5 1940, Chur, Swiss Canton, Graubünden, Switzerland
Birth Name: Hans Rudolf Giger
Nicknames: HR Giger

HR Giger, was a painter, sculptor and set designer and the man responsible for the nightmarish, teeth-snapping, acid-dripping creature in the film Alien.
Set in a nearish-future, Alien tells the story of a relentless and apparently unkillable life form that terrorises Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the rest of the crew of the spaceship Nostromo. Vaguely humanoid, with a prominent, armoured skeleton, vicious dual sets of jaws and slashing tail, the hellish creature captivated audiences and helped make Ridley Scott’s picture both a critical and box-office success. As the director himself noted, Giger’s creature was “one of the best all-time monsters”. In its absence, he suggested, “I’ve got a nice, very well-acted, beautifully art-directed movie, but I ain’t got that f------ heart-stopping son of a b----.”
Yet it was not just the alien that Giger designed he fleshed out the creature’s life-cycle (which involved it forcefully implanting itself in host bodies) and developed for it a crepuscular, disturbingly erotic environment that fused elements of the natural and the mechanical. Blending elements of Surrealist and Futurist art, Giger’s world soon became instantly recognisable. It turned out that such representations were deeply rooted in his upbringing.


Hans Rudolf Giger was born on February 5 1940 in Chur in the Swiss Canton of Graubünden. By the time he was 12 he was studying the works of Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch with a sort of fascinated horror. “I was terrified,” he said. “I connected them with World War II atrocities.” He was long gripped by nightmares.
His father, a chemist, tried to steer Hans away from art towards a more stable profession. Yet his mother, Melli, encouraged him. In 1962 Giger moved to Zurich to study Industrial Design. After graduating he found that his work, and its obsession with sex and death, was not always appreciated. One gallery owner, hosting a Giger exhibition, reported having to begin each day by wiping the spittle of disgusted patrons from his window. Nor did Giger alleviate local suspicion by dressing always in black and working only at night. But it was precisely his fascination with the occult, and in particular the fictional Necronomicon, or “book of the dead”, described in the work of HP Lovecraft, that propelled him into the big time.In 1977 Giger’s first collection of drawings, also titled Necronomicon, was published. It found its way into the hands of Ridley Scott, who seized upon one fantastical sketch, Necronom IV, as the model for his new film’s alien. Fox Studios was not so keen on the phallic, fetishised image, but Giger was eventually hired influencing the entire look and feel of the film. As a result he won, with others, the Oscar for best special effects in 1980.


Yet it was not the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Hollywood. Giger was not asked to work on the film’s sequel, Aliens (1986). And when he did contribute to films, such as Poltergeist II, he hated his designs being modified. But he had a clear brand. When producers were casting around for someone to create a sexy yet lethal humanoid alien, called Sil, in Species (1995) they knew where to turn. “We realised that he [Giger] had been drawing Sil for basically his entire career,” noted the director Roger Donaldson. “Anybody else we hired would probably have just gone to take a look at his books.”





Beyond film, Giger was also famed for his album covers. His artwork for the Dead Kennedys’ album Frankenchrist led to the band’s singer being arrested for obscenity, but Giger’s vision of an impaled Debbie Harry on her 1981 album Koo Koo fared better, making a list of the best 100 album covers of all time.
Generally, however, his work did not win the admiration of mainstream critics. Undaunted, in 1998 he bought a chateau in Gruyeres and set up his own museum. But it proved expensive to run. He himself lived in far more modest circumstances, with every available surface covered by his drawings. Even after the success of the Alien films, he declared that what he most feared were his debts.

Bob Hoskins


Date of Birth: October 26 1942, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK
Birth Name: Robert William Hoskins
Nicknames: Bob Hoskins

Bob Hoskins, the actor, who has died aged 71, was hailed as the original tough guy of British film, but once described himself as “short, fat and bald, the only actor who had to diet and wear lifts to play Mussolini”.
His cuboid frame, villainous features and Cockney accent fitted him for a series of roles which he described as “animals, thugs and heavies”. These included the gangland boss Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday (1980) and the violent minder George in Mona Lisa (1986), a portrayal that earned him an Oscar nomination. Hoskins won critical success in both films, mainly for his ability to exude menace while suggesting the vulnerability beneath the violent surface of his characters.
Ultimately it was Hoskins’s versatility and eye for a good part that made him a star. He played Arthur Parker in Dennis Potter’s innovative and hugely successful Pennies from Heaven (1978); Nathan Detroit in the National Theatre’s first musical Guys and Dolls (1981); and cameo parts such as the police chief in The Honorary Consul (1983) and Robert de Niro’s plumbing partner in Brazil (1985).
Like his friend Michael Caine, Hoskins was one of the few British actors to become equally successful in Hollywood. Films such as The Cotton Club (1984), Sweet Liberty (1986) and the box office smash Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) consolidated his position as a British actor who could make the transition to the United States. A contributing factor in his American success may have been that Hoskins was one of a small minority of British actors able to produce a convincing American accent.


Robert William Hoskins was born on October 26 1942 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, but grew up in Finsbury Park, north London. His father was a clerk for the Pickfords removal firm, his mother a school cook. At Stroud Green secondary modern school, his dyslexia meant that he was often written off as stupid.
During his adolescence, the beatings he endured in street fights toughened him up, and a knife wound across the bridge of his nose left him with a hollow between the eyes. A life in the gangs beckoned he was once taken to meet the Kray twins who ran London’s underworld in the 1950s but he dreamed of becoming an actor.
Hoskins had never been formally trained, and was always proud that he had never attended a single acting lesson. Instead, on leaving school in 1959, he took on a series of temporary jobs, including as a merchant seaman in the Norwegian navy, a banana-picker on a kibbutz, camel-herder in Syria and porter at Covent Garden market.


In 1969, after an abortive attempt at going into accounting with his father, Hoskins claimed that he “fell sideways into acting by mistake”. While waiting in a pub with a friend who wanted to audition for the Unity Theatre, Hoskins was mistaken for the next candidate. “I was too pissed to argue,” he recalled, “so I got on stage and acted my socks off.” He was offered the lead in The Feather Pluckers, and at the play’s first night was signed up by an agent.
Hoskins spent the next 12 months in repertory, building up a reputation as an actor who was content to do anything, including fire-eating and running headlong at brick walls. “In those days we just passed round the hat,” he recalled. “I had a wife and kid to support on that, and so I wasn’t going to say no to anything that was for the good of the show.”
In 1975 he was offered his first television role, as an illiterate truck driver, in the BBC’s adult literacy programme On the Move. The programme established him as a “screen natural”, and attracted a wide following and an almost cult status. After his television appearance, offers of work on stage and screen doubled. One critic described Hoskins as having “cornered the market in the cheeky Cockney chappie”.


In 1980 The Long Good Friday established Hoskins as a global star. The film was enormously successful in the US, but Hoskins was angered by the fact that his speeches were dubbed into “stage Cockney”.
“They thought the Yanks wouldn’t be able to understand me”, he complained. “In the film I end up sounding like Dick Van Dyke.”
In 1981 Hoskins starred in the National Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls. It was the Theatre’s first attempt at a musical and was a major critical and box office success. As in Pennies from Heaven, Hoskins’s charismatic performance carried him over any deficiencies in his singing and dancing. “The choreographer convinced me I looked like Fred Astaire,” he remembered, “but I really looked like a little hippopotamus shaking its hooves.” Critics described Hoskins’s “animal appeal” and “considerable panache”. They began to compare him with Edward G Robinson and George Raft, and to call him “the Cockney Cagney”.


In 1983 Hoskins was miscast in The Honorary Consul, with Michael Caine, and gave an embarrassing performance as a South American police chief. Despite this setback, however, he received an early morning call from Francis Ford Coppola asking him if he would appear in Coppola’s next film. Hoskins thought it was a joke and shouted down the line: “It’s three o’clock in the morning and you’ve just woken up my kid, you bastard” before hanging up.
Coppola called back later and signed Hoskins as the nightclub owner in The Cotton Club (1984).
In Heart Condition (1990) Hoskins played a bigoted white policeman kept alive by a heart transplant from a black donor. He went on to make Mermaids (also 1990), a comedy in which he starred opposite Cher . In Hook (1991), a live-action version of Peter Pan with Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams, Hoskins played the fusspot Mr Smee.
Although largely self-educated, Hoskins co-wrote and directed the feature film The Raggedy Rawney (1988), a gipsy story set in central Europe, which was reckoned an ambitious failure and had only a limited distribution. On television he won critical approval for his portrayal of the Italian dictator in Mussolini: the Decline and Fall of Il Duce (1985); while his appearance in The Street in 2009 earned him the accolade of Best Actor at the International Emmy Awards of 2010.
In 2012, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Bob Hoskins announced that he was retiring from acting.

Edna Doré


Date of Birth: 31 May 1921, Bromley, Kent, UK
Birth Name: Edna Gorring
Nicknames: Edna Doré

Edna Doré, was not only an outstanding character actor, best known for playing the battleaxe Mo Butcher, mother of Mike Reid's character, Frank Butcher, in the BBC's long-running soap EastEnders, but also an outstanding character; she was an authentic south Londoner who never lost her accent, or forthrightness, and delighted everyone she worked with.


She once told a radio interviewer that she was so fed up with being labelled a virgin in her early days at the Croydon Rep in 1937 that she asked the director of the company if he would help her to shed this unwanted burden. He invited her round to his place at 2.30pm the next day: "It lasted about five minutes, and that was that. Job done."And 10 years ago she told Paul O'Grady, with whom she appeared in a television bingo sitcom, Eyes Down, as Mary the cleaner, that in all her 70 years in the business she had never been sent home from a rehearsal room before; she and O'Grady, who played the bingo hall manager, were expelled for laughing too much and "ruining" (ie, enlivening) a day's work for everyone else.


Her appearance in EastEnders coincided with her best film performance, in Mike Leigh's High Hopes (1988), in which, as the lonely and bereaved old Mrs Bender, living in the last council flat on a gentrified Islington street, she was named best supporting actor at the European Film Awards. At the ceremony in Paris, she was called to the stage as "Edna Door". As she left clutching her prize she muttered (all too audibly): "You'd think that at least in Paris they'd pronounce my bloody name right."
This hilarious, good-natured chippiness and transparent honesty of thought and reaction informed all of her acting, which ranged across the media and included a decade at the National Theatre, where she was a notable member of Bill Bryden's wonderful company in the Cottesloe Theatre, appearing in Keith Dewhurst's brilliant adaptation of Lark Rise to Candleford and Tony Harrison's magical, working-class poetical version of The Mysteries.
She was born Edna Gorring and raised in Bromley, Kent, the younger daughter of a porter at Crystal Palace station and his wife, a cleaner and housemaid. She attended a local ballet school in Bromley and was encouraged by teachers to train at the Croydon Repertory theatre, where she worked as a stage manager and actor. She was a chorus girl with Ensa during the war and also appeared as a dancer with Britain's first "legitimate" striptease star and "Queen of Glamour", Phyllis Dixey, at the Whitehall theatre.
Dixey formed her own company at the Whitehall in 1942 and produced a series of what she called Peek-a-Boo revues. This entrepreneurial spirit took hold of Edna when, in 1946, she married the actor and director Alexander Doré, and the two of them ran their own company for five years at the Little Theatre, Aberystwyth. This period stood out in the 17 years she spent in weekly rep, all over Britain, but predominantly in Wales, a country she grew to love.


She was busy in television from 1959 onwards, appearing regularly in Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars and numerous dramas. In the 1960s, she spent four years at the Albery theatre (now the Noël Coward) playing Mrs Sowerberry in Lionel Bart's Oliver! She returned to the role when the show was revived at the Piccadilly theatre in 1967, this time with Barry Humphries (the first Mr Sowerberry) as Fagin. Her other big West End show was John Barry and Don Black's Billy, starring Michael Crawford, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1974, in which she played Mrs Crabtree.
After her stint at the National, she was established as an "older" character actor in EastEnders (1988-90) and High Hopes, both roles signalling the onset of Alzheimer's. Her last stage role followed in 1990 when she played Anfisa, the nurse, in Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Queen's Theatre, produced by Thelma Holt and directed by the great Georgian director of the Rustaveli theatre, Robert Sturua, starring three Redgraves: Vanessa, Lynn and their niece Jemma.
She scored a personal success, too, in Gary Oldman's blistering debut as a film director, Nil By Mouth (1997), starring Ray Winstone and Kathy Burke as a married couple in a violent, alcoholic south London family of the sort she knew well. And, inevitably, she played a bag lady in the documentary composite of people on the underground system, Tube Tales (1999), as well as small roles in Leigh's All or Nothing (2002), with Timothy Spall as a depressed, philosophical taxi driver, and the equally downbeat Another Year (2010).
Doré was regularly to be seen on television throughout the 90s, in Casualty, Peak Practice, Hotel Babylon and Doctors. And she continued to exploit her vaudeville roots not only in Eyes Down, but also opposite David Jason in ITV's Diamond Geezer (2007). There were appearances in a Christmas Special of James Corden and Ruth Jones's Gavin & Stacey (2008), Shameless on Channel 4 (2010) and finally in an episode of Midsomer Murders (2011).
An enthusiastic gardener, Doré kept an allotment near her home in Barnes, south-west London, for 50 years, serving as chairman of the Barn Elms Allotment Society, regularly winning the flower class in the annual garden show, and was lately installed as life president.

Sue Townsend


Date of Birth: 2 April 1946, Leicester, East Midlands, UK
Birth Name: Susan Lillian Townsend
Nicknames: Susan Townsend

Sue Townsend, who has died aged 68, was one of Britain’s most celebrated comic writers: novelist, playwright and journalist. She was best known for the fictional diaries of Adrian Mole, a character who, unlike Peter Pan, was allowed to grow up, evolving from the penis-measuring adolescent who confided: “I was racked with sexuality but it wore off when I helped my father put manure on our rose bed” in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1982), to the middle-aged and, Townsend liked to insist, more evolved and better dressed bloke who survives prostate cancer in Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years (2009).
The glory of Mole is his inability to see the funny side, his self-importance and the way in which his diaries unwittingly accommodate his creator’s social commentary. The first book, which in the 80s made Townsend the decade’s bestselling novelist, took a shrewd look at Thatcher’s Britain. In Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years (1999) she took on New Labour with equivalent relish. Mole was a hapless Blairite, in love with Pandora Braithwaite, on-message MP.
He was last seen in the late Noughties living with his dissatisfied wife in a converted pigsty.
The Mole books have been translated into 48 languages and sold more than 10m copies. Adrian’s career has extended to radio and television adaptations and he has been a smash hit in the West End. “Adrian Mole, c’est moi,” Townsend said when I interviewed her in 2010.
Unlike Adrian she could spot a joke a mile off. Her ability to entertain without compromising her integrity was a gift that defined her and her writing. And she was not in the least self-important.
Townsend was born in Leicester, the eldest of five sisters. Her father worked in a jet engine factory and became a postman when it closed. Her mother was a housewife who worked in the factory canteen. At Glen Hills primary school Townsend was terrorised by a teacher who, when children had failed to master their lessons, would make them do handstands and slap their legs.
She could not read until she was eight. It was her mother who taught her with Richmal Crompton’s William books the inspiration behind Adrian. After failing the 11-plus she went to a secondary modern, South Wigston high school. She left at 15 but kept reading. She devoured Woolworth’s Classics (Jane Eyre, Heidi and co) and moved on to Russian and American literature.
As a chain-smoking teenager, dressed in black, she was fired from a job in a clothes shop for reading Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol in the changing rooms. From the age of 14 she was also writing in secret.
By the time she was 18 she had married a sheet-metal worker and, by 22, had three children under five: Sean, Daniel and Victoria. She lived on the Saffron Lane estate, not far from the house in which the playwright Joe Orton Leicester’s other claim to literary fame had grown up. When, after seven years, her marriage ended, she worked in assorted part-time jobs: at a petrol station, as a receptionist, for Bird’s Eye foods.
The toughness of that time is something she never underplayed. She remembered making pea soup for her children out of one Oxo cube and a tin of garden peas. Although her books later made her fortune, she said that no amount of “balsamic vinegar or Prada handbags” would make her forget what it was like to be poor.


It was through one of her many jobs, at an adventure playground, that she enrolled on a canoeing course where she found herself attracted to the man running it initially by the way he tried to take off a jumper while simultaneously smoking a Woodbine. This was Colin Broadway, who was to become her second husband and father of her fourth child, Elizabeth. It was he who encouraged her, in 1975, to join a local writers’ group at the Phoenix arts theatre in Leicester. There she wrote her first play, Womberang, set in a gynaecology clinic, which won the 1979 Thames Television Playwright award and gave her a bursary at the theatre. Soon afterwards she dug out Adrian or Nigel, as he was in his earliest incarnation from the cupboard in which he had, for years, been snoozing.
She showed the script to the actor Nigel Bennett, who recommended it to John Tydeman, then deputy head of radio drama at the BBC. It was first broadcast on Radio 4 and its success as a radio drama led Methuen to offer to publish the novel, but they insisted Nigel be renamed Adrian (to avoid clashing with Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Willans’s Nigel Molesworth).
For some years, in Who’s Who, Townsend listed her interests as “mooching about, reading, looking at pictures, canoeing”. But all these, apart from the mooching, were to be sabotaged by ill health. She had TB peritonitis at 23; a heart attack in her 30s; Charcot’s joint–degenerative arthritis, which meant she had to use a wheelchair. She described herself as the “world’s worst diabetic” finding the disease hard to manage. In the 1990s she started to lose her sight. In 2001 she was registered blind and although, characteristically, she made jokes about it, she also wrote about the sense of loss, the disappearance of detail, the misery of suddenly finding she could no longer distinguish between a daffodil and a tulip.
She talked about what it felt like to “throw words into the dark”. She dictated all her later books usually to her eldest son, Sean. In 2007 she suffered kidney failure (also diabetes related) and was put on dialysis. In 2009, after a two-year wait for a donor, she had a transplant (Sean donated a kidney). In 2013 she suffered a stroke.


She did not appreciate being hailed as “brave” pointing out she had no choice about the blindness. But her writerly staying power and the continuing buoyancy of her prose were remarkable. She used her ill health and failing sight in the novels (Adrian’s cancer, his friend Nigel’s blindness for starters). In addition to the Mole books she wrote half a dozen novels, most notably Ghost Children (1997) about the psychological effects of abortion, The Queen and I (1992), in which the Queen, after a revolution, is compelled to live on benefits (the novel became a play in 1994, starring Pam Ferris and directed by Max Stafford-Clark) and its sequel, Queen Camilla (2006) in which Britain is run by Jack Barker’s Cromwell party and talking corgis provide the commentary.
She wrote a dozen plays, two works of non-fiction and was a prolific journalist, writing for the Observer, the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail – and also contributing an Adrian Mole column to the Guardian, The Secret Diary of a Provincial Man, which ran between 1999 and 2001.
A lifelong socialist, she made no secret of her disappointment in New Labour. She wrote repeatedly about the way ordinary lives are disfigured by politics. While her books made her fortune, the money did not bring about any change of heart. She lived in a Victorian vicarage outside Leicester and championed the city (she also bought two pubs that would otherwise have closed down). She enthusiastically backed its bid to become City of Culture in 2017. In 2009 she was given the freedom of Leicester. She was an honorary fellow at its university, a Doctor of Letters at Loughborough University and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Her last novel, The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year (2012), was her darkest. It is about a middle-aged woman who, when her children leave for university, gets into bed and stays there. She has her bedroom painted luminously white (in contrast to Adrian’s all-black teenage bolt-hole) and decides to shed all her possessions. It is a fresh start of sorts. And as she did in the Mole books, she makes an invisible character visible quite a feat for someone who could no longer see.

Peaches Geldof


Date of Birth: March 13 1989, London, UK
Birth Name: Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof
Nicknames: Peaches Geldof

Peaches Geldof, who has died suddenly aged 25, was a journalist, model and television presenter. But her chief occupation was being Peaches Geldof, daughter of the celebrities Bob Geldof and Paula Yates.
This was by no means an easy task. Her parents divorced when she was seven; her mother, also a television presenter, then began dating the Australian rock singer Michael Hutchence, who was found hanged in 1997. Three years later Paula Yates herself was dead of a heroin overdose.
The daisy-chain of tragedy in which Peaches Geldof found herself enmeshed ensured that she was, even before she turned 12, projected firmly into the public eye. It was a spotlight from which she was never able, or never willing, to withdraw. Indeed, it was typical of her relationship with publicity that she gave interviews to rail against the media. Recently, with the rise of social media, she became a dedicated user of Twitter and Instagram, showering her hundreds of thousands of followers with personal thoughts and pictures. Her final tweet, written the day before she died, was: “Me and my mum”. It provided a link to a photo of the infant Peaches in Paula Yates’s arms.
Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof was born in London on March 13 1989, the second of three sisters, of whom Fifi Trixibelle was the eldest and Pixie the youngest. She would also gain a half-sister, Tiger-Lily, from her mother’s relationship with Hutchence.


Peaches’s upbringing was marked not just by her parents but also by the family nanny, Anita Debney, who reportedly helped provide a stable environment for the three girls. That stability was fatally undermined when Paula Yates went to live with Hutchence. The stress of the bitter divorce was exacerbated by Paula Yates’s drug taking. Anita Debney was fired, and “family friends” later told newspapers that Peaches “got the worst” of the fall out. “I can’t even begin to describe what that poor girl lived through,” said one, Gerry Agar.
On the day of Paula Yates’s death, Peaches and her siblings moved in with Bob Geldof and his French partner, Jeanne Marine. Living in south-west London, Peaches attended Queen’s College in Harley Street.
But it soon became apparent that she was not going to retreat into a normal, if privileged, adolescence. Instead she began writing a magazine column for Elle Girl; The Telegraph and The Guardian also published articles under her byline which revealed a clever, bombastic teenager with refreshingly unvarnished opinions. “At the prospect of spending time in the country, I shudder,” she wrote in this paper. “This feeling hasn’t grown on me gradually I’ve always hated it. Not only is it boring but, I also genuinely believe that it slowly drives people insane.” Her media career had begun.
By 2006 her fame was such that she was being interviewed in her own right, offering her thoughts on everything from Jane Austen to Tony Blair her plummy-toned musings peppered with the refrains “Omigod” and “like”. Even then, however, a large part of the fascination she held for onlookers appeared to be whether or not she would manage to avoid the fate of her mother.
“Some newspapers are saying she’s set on the same trajectory as her mother: hooked on fame, got her tongue pierced, goes to too many parties, blah blah blah. I can’t see it,” wrote Robert Crampton in The Times in 2006. Two years later, Giles Hattersley, in The Sunday Times, was more concerned. “I worry for her,” he wrote. “She missed her childhood and now has to cope with living on her own, dodging paps and having all her mistakes splashed on the front pages and she is still only 19. On reflection, I don’t think she’s like her mother. But this clever, troubled baby-woman would benefit from having her around.”
The person most aware of this was Peaches Geldof herself, particularly as she began to dabble with drugs something she was prepared to admit (though she denied taking crack, and said that one story of an “overdose” was “overblown”). Comparisons with her mother were, she said, “lame”, fears for her well-being, misplaced, voyeuristic even. “It’s like people almost wish it would happen. But if my mother died in a car crash, does that mean I would have to run out in front of a car and it would be history repeating itself? If I was photographed by a road, would it be: 'Peaches Geldof gets too close! She’s following in the path of her mother!’ every time?”
By then her media career had quickly moved from print to the screen, first with a documentary series (Peaches Geldof, Teenage Mind, 2005) and then, three years later, with the reality show Peaches: Disappear Here for MTV. She designed a collection for the fashion label PPQ and signed a lucrative contract to become “the face” of Ultimo underwear. But the deal was scuppered when scurrilous pictures of her and more rumours of drug taking began to circulate on the internet. In 2011 she presented the chat show OMG! with Peaches Geldof on ITV, but it was not a rating success.


In September the following year she married Thomas Cohen, a singer with the London band S.C.U.M. the wedding was held in Davington, Kent, in the church where her parents had married and where mother’s funeral had been held in 2000. Fulfilling a promise made in a Telegraph column to “carry on this ancient tradition of exotic yet pointless names” she named their sons Astala Dylan Willow and Phaedra Bloom Forever. The children’s arrival seemed to mark a new era in her life. “I’m in bed by 8pm nearly every night,” she said in October last year. “This is not what I thought I’d be doing three years ago when I was the poster girl for partying in London.”
It was her second marriage, following her first, brief, union, in August 2008 at the age of 19 to Max Drummey, a musician with the American band Chester French. They had known each other for a month and announced their split after nine months.
Peaches Geldof’s evident curiosity stretched far and wide. She declared herself fascinated by “quantum physics” and “wormholes” and “Stephen Hawking’s theories and Richard Dawkins’s theories. I’ve always been really interested in how we came to be and why. Which is how I guess I got involved in spirituality and stuff.”In 2009 she declared that she was “a Scientologist. I feel like I needed a spiritual path. I felt I was lacking something when I didn’t have a faith.” That November she attended the 25th anniversary of the International Association of Scientologists at Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex, with 5,000 other Scientologists reportedly including the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
She later flirted with elements of Judaism and then, last year, waxed lyrical about “a belief system to apply to day-to-day life to attain peacefulness”. The system in question was the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) founded in the early 20th century and indelibly linked to the occultist Aleister Crowley. She had the initials OTO tattooed on her left forearm.
Peaches Geldof seemed to be looking forward to getting old. Or at least older. “I have so much shit put on me,” she said in 2008. “I haven’t felt like I was a teenager since I was 12. I’ve felt like I was 30 since I was 13. I don’t think I had a teenage time. Maybe my twenties will be easier.”

Mickey Rooney


Date of Birth: 23 September 1920, Brooklyn, New York, US
Birth Name: Joseph Yule Jr
Nicknames: Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney was an icon of American youth and energy who was as prolific in his marriages as he was on screen
Mickey, was in the Thirties and for much of the Forties the very image of how Americans liked to think of themselves brash, energetic and eternally young.
As a child star and later a teenager, he epitomised American get-up-and-go, with a cheeky, cocksure arrogance that won him a wide following, especially in the United States. Though he never got an Oscar for his work, in 1938 he shared a special award with Deanna Durbin “for their significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement”. In keeping with their stature, the awards were pint-size Oscars.


Diminutive but pugnacious, Rooney managed to look like an adolescent until well into maturity. He was still playing Andy Hardy, the chirpy judge’s son which was his most famous role, until the late Forties, when he was nearly 30.
Like many young players renowned in their teens, however, Rooney found difficulty in landing suitable adult roles. He continued to work and was, indeed, prolific into his seventies and at the age of 90 he filmed a cameo for The Muppets (2011), but the parts were seldom challenging and many of his films barely received a cinema release even in America.
He became better known for his private life than for his work. A prodigious earner at the peak of his popularity, he amassed some $12 million but kept none of it. Most of it went in back taxes and to pay alimony to his many wives (he had eight, of whom the first, Ava Gardner, was the best known). By 1962, he was forced to file for bankruptcy.


Drink at one time was also a problem but it disappeared in remarkable circumstances. As he recounted it, he was dining in a Los Angeles restaurant when up stepped a heavenly messenger with bright golden hair. “God loves you,” the angel said. From that moment Mickey Rooney was a born-again Christian and mended his ways. None of his fellow diners saw the angel.
Mickey Rooney’s real name was Joe Yule Jr. He was born in Brooklyn on September 23 1920, the son of vaudeville performers Joe Yule and Nell Carter, who divorced when he was seven. He joined the act almost from the cradle and, at the age of only 15 months, appeared on stage as a midget, dressed in a tuxedo and sporting a huge rubber cigar. At six, he was a movie actor, making his screen debut (again as a midget) in Not to Be Trusted (1926).
His real screen career began when his mother saw an advertisement placed by the cartoonist Fontaine Fox, who was looking for a child to impersonate his comic strip character Mickey McGuire. Fox took a shine to the boy and he got the job, appearing in some 80 episodes between 1926 and 1932, when the series was wound up. In fact, he was so closely identified with the part that his mother wanted him to adopt the name Mickey McGuire professionally. Fox refused so he became Mickey Rooney instead.
In his early years Rooney worked for a number of studios and was eventually placed under contract by MGM because David O Selznick thought he would be ideal to play Clark Gable as a boy in the film Manhattan Melodrama (1934). MGM guaranteed him 40 weeks’ work a year but reserved the right to loan him out to other studios.
One such arrangement, with Warner Bros, resulted in the best performance of Rooney’s career, as the mischievous Puck in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Barely 15 at the time, he was perfect casting impish and with a gurgling laugh that might be construed as innocent or knowing; it was hard to tell.
At MGM, his career took off in 1937 when he first played Andy Hardy, son of Lionel Barrymore’s Judge Hardy in A Family Affair. Planned only as a programme filler, based on a minor Broadway play, it became an unexpected hit and exhibitors begged MGM for a sequel. In the end, the series ran to 15 episodes over the next 10 years, with one ill-judged afterthought in 1958, Andy Hardy Comes Home. Lewis Stone replaced Barrymore as the judge after the first film.


Rooney appeared in much else besides, often opposite the equally youthful Judy Garland. In such films as Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937); Babes in Arms (1939); Strike Up the Band (1940); Babes on Broadway (1942); and several of the Andy Hardy series, they became the most popular team in movies. He also played a juvenile delinquent opposite Spencer Tracy’s priest in Boys’ Town (1938) and its 1941 sequel Men of Boys’ Town and took the title role in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939).
The success of these films and especially of the Andy Hardy pictures was good for Rooney’s image but bad for his ego. Increasingly bumptious and swollen-headed, he was the only actor on record to have come to blows with MGM’s feared studio boss Louis B Mayer. Rooney wanted the rights to do the Andy Hardy series on radio as well and lost his temper when Mayer said no. Rooney got a hike in salary out of the fracas, but Andy Hardy was never broadcast.
During the war, Rooney served in the Jeep Theatre, entertaining more than 2,000,000 troops, but was unable to recover his popularity in peacetime. Summer Holiday (1948), a musical version of Ah Wilderness!, proved a dismal failure, while nobody had anything good to say of Words and Music (also 1948), in which he played lyricist Lorenz Hart to Tom Drake’s Richard Rodgers. What attracted particular criticism was that the script ignored Hart’s homosexuality, portraying him as a red-blooded American male.


Rooney’s subsequent film career was mostly a catalogue of further disappointments. Especially regrettable was his bucktoothed Japanese photographer in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and his contribution to Stanley Kramer’s leaden comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
Against these and many equally as bad, can be set only occasional high points, such as Baby Face Nelson (1957), in which he was cast against type as a Tommy gun-wielding gangster; Pulp (1972), again as a gangster, this time inviting Michael Caine to write his memoirs, and The Black Stallion (1979), for which he received an Academy Award nomination (but did not win) in his supporting role as a horse trainer.
In 1983 he was presented with a second Oscar honouring his lifetime’s work. By the end of his career he had appeared in several hundred films.
He enjoyed a big stage hit in 1979 with a nostalgic tribute to vaudeville called Sugar Babies opposite the dancer Ann Miller. It ran for five years on and off Broadway but failed to translate successfully to London.
In 2003 Rooney and his eighth wife Jan Chamberlin began an association with Rainbow Puppet Productions, providing voices for some of the company’s films. Four years later, in 2007, Rooney made a debut in British pantomime as Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire, a role he reprised in the subsequent two years at Bristol and Milton Keynes.
In 2011, as well as his role in The Muppets, he appeared in an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories, recalling how his dead father had appeared to him one night at a low point in his career telling him not to give up.
Rooney published two volumes of autobiography, of which the second, Life Is Too Short (1992), was conspicuously ungallant about such former movie queens as Norma Shearer and Betty Grable.
Mickey Rooney married first Ava Gardner; secondly Betty Jane Rase; thirdly Martha Vickers; fourthly Elaine Mahnken (all the marriages were dissolved). He married, fifthly, Barbara Thomason (who was shot dead by her lover in what may have been a double suicide pact); sixthly Margie Lang; seventhly Carolyn Hockett (both dissolved); and eighthly Jan Chamberlin, who survives him. He had seven children.

Bob Larbey


Date of Birth: 24 June 1934, Clapham, London, UK
Birth Name: Robert Edward John Larbey
Nicknames: Bob Larbey

Bob Larbey was a scriptwriter who mined the comic potential of suburbia in The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles
With a first major television breakthrough in 1968 with Please, Sir!, a series for ITV set in a tough south London secondary modern school; it would generate a feature film and a television sequel, The Fenn Street Gang. Frank Muir, then head of entertainment at LWT, cast John Alderton as the idealistic young teacher Bernard “Privet” Hedges who struggled to keep the unruly pupils of Class 5C in order.


As Larbey celebrated his 40th birthday, he and co writer John Esmonde devised their most popular and successful series, The Good Life. In the first episode, screened in 1975, Tom Good, a draughtsman for a plastics company (played by Richard Briers), himself turned 40, seizing this occasion to drop out of the rat-race by jacking in his job in favour of suburban self-sufficiency with his wife Barbara (Felicity Kendal).
Rather than give up their comfortable, semi-detached home in Surbiton, the Goods turned their garden into a smallholding, with pigs, a goat, chickens and assorted fruit and vegetables.


Although the couple’s lifestyle baffled and often appalled their social-climbing neighbours, Margo (Penelope Keith) and Jerry Leadbetter (Paul Eddington), the foursome always remained friends, and it was this rapprochement that commended the series to the middle classes, at whom it was poking fun. (Larbey himself confessed that he was too impractical to embrace self-sufficiency, but its general philosophy appealed to him.)
While The Good Life was attracting some 15 million viewers a week on the BBC, Larbey and Esmonde were enjoying further success on ITV with their RAF sitcom Get Some In! (1975-78). Starring Robert Lindsay in his first important television role, and featuring Tony Selby as the drill instructor barking orders at 1950s National Service “erks”, the series drew on the writers’ own experiences (Larbey had been in the Army, and Esmonde in the RAF).
After The Good Life, Larbey and Esmonde wrote three further series for Richard Briers, starting with The Other One (1977-79), in which the central character could not have been more different. Perhaps because Briers was cast as a compulsive and unscrupulous liar, the show failed to generate any of the affection viewers had felt for the wholesome Goods, and it was cancelled after only two series.
Larbey struck out on his own with A Fine Romance (1981-84), starring Judi Dench in her first television sitcom, alongside her real-life husband, Michael Williams. “From first to last,” one critic noted, “Bob Larbey’s scripts were well-written, providing not only laughs but also an underlying intelligence.”
He rejoined Esmonde to create another popular and long-running vehicle for Richard Briers in Ever Decreasing Circles (1984-89), in which the star returned to suburbia as Martin Bryce, an anally-retentive fusspot and do-gooder, with Penelope Wilton as his long-suffering wife, Ann.


In Larbey and Esmonde’s last series together, Down To Earth (1995), Briers played Tony Fairfax, an expatriate struggling to adapt after returning to Britain from South America; but once again viewers did not warm to his character, and it ran for just seven episodes.
The youngest son of a carpenter, Robert Edward John Larbey was born on June 24 1934 in Lambeth, south London, and educated at the Henry Thornton School in Clapham, where he was captain of tennis and became friends with John Esmonde, two years his junior.
On leaving school Larbey took a job in an insurance office in Soho, then did National Service with the Army, stationed in Germany with the Education Corps.
When he and Esmonde started writing sketches, working together at nights and weekends, they submitted a few to the BBC, which eventually accepted one for a programme starring the comedian Cyril Fletcher, earning them a joint fee of two guineas. Having saved money from their day jobs, they gave themselves three months to make a go of writing full-time.
Their first radio sitcom was Spare a Copper (1965-66), featuring the Carry On film star Kenneth Connor as a bungling policeman. The pair followed this with two further radio series, You’re Only Old Once (1969), with Clive Dunn as a spry pensioner, and Just Perfick (1969-71), adapted from the Larkin family stories of HE Bates.
Meanwhile, Larbey and Esmonde had established a toehold in television, starting with sketches for The Dick Emery Show in 1963. Their first full-scale television sitcom, Room At The Bottom (1967), for the BBC, was about a gang of factory maintenance men . It made little impact, but the following year the success of Please, Sir! (1968-72) propelled them into the front rank of television comedy writers. Turned down by the BBC, the show was snapped up by ITV, attracting a weekly audience of 20 million viewers .


As their careers prospered, the pair worked business hours in an office in the centre of Dorking, midway between their respective homes, often acting out scenes together and noting down spontaneous bursts of dialogue. Distractions were confined to occasional glances at televised cricket.
In the 1980s they created Brush Strokes (1986-91), in which Karl Howman starred as a womanising painter and decorator, with Gary Waldhorn as his boss. They wrote a second sitcom for Howman called Mulberry (1992-93), in which he played the manservant of a cantankerous old spinster Miss Farnaby (Geraldine McEwan).


Although in The Good Life Larbey helped to make Surbiton synonymous with suburbia, he never visited the town he made famous. “To be honest, we were just looking for something that sounded like suburbia in big capital letters,” he explained. “We just picked it at random.” The series was actually filmed in Northwood, north London.
In 2004, 30 years after its original screening, The Good Life was ranked ninth in a BBC poll of viewers’ favourite sitcoms.

Kate O'Mara


Date of Birth: 10 August 1939, Leicester, UK
Birth Name: Frances M Carroll
Nicknames: Kate O’Mara

The British actress was best known for her role as sister to Joan Collins' Alexis Colby in the US soap.
She also had prominent roles in the '80s series Howards' Way and Triangle, and in Doctor Who.
Her agent said she died in a Sussex nursing home following a short illness.
He praised her "energy and vitality" and her "love for theatre and acting".
Kate O’Mara was born in Leicester on August 10 1939, the daughter of John F. Carroll, an RAF flying instructor, and actress Hazel Bainbridge. After boarding school she studied at art school before becoming a full-time actress (her younger sister, Belinda, followed suit). Her early television appearances during the 1960s included roles in series such as The Saint, The Champions, The Avengers and Z-Cars.



"A shining star has gone out and Kate will be dearly missed by all who knew and have worked with her," said agent Phil Belfield, who labelled the actress "extraordinary".
O'Mara's first television roles were in the 1960s, but she came to public attention playing the manipulative Cassandra "Caress" Morrell in Dynasty.
She played a ruthless businesswoman in BBC drama Howards' Way and was briefly a regular on the North Sea ferry drama Triangle.


She also appeared in Doctor Who, opposite both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, as renegade Time Lord The Rani - a role she said she would love to return to.
"If you put a much older woman in Doctor Who, they can identify with it," she told Digital Spy ahead of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the show, where she tweeted images of herself with former co-stars.
"I think it's quite an interesting concept and if you remember things like Grimm's Fairytales, the older woman is often the villainess, often the terrifying figure why I do not know, but often she is. I think it's an idea to be exploited."


On hearing the news of her death, Doctor Who co-star Baker tweeted: "Oh my goodness. Kate O'Mara is no longer with us. Sad sad news. A delightful, committed and talented lady and actress. We are the poorer."
In the 1990s, O'Mara starred in BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous as Joanna Lumley's on-screen sister Jackie, and in 2001, she made a string of appearances in ITV drama Bad Girls.
More recently she had appeared in ITV soap Benidorm and a 2012 stage adaptation of Agatha Christie's Death On The Nile.



One of her final public appearances saw her hosting An Evening With Kate O'Mara in London last October.
She published two autobiographies and two novels, When She Was Bad and Good Time Girl.
She was married to actors Richard Willis and Jeremy Young and leaves a sister, actress Belinda Carroll. Her son Dickon died last year.
The actress last posted a message on Twitter on 17 March.
"Thank you so much for your kind tweets," she wrote.
"It's both humbling and completely overwhelming to read all of your messages. Much Love x."

Clarissa Dickson Wright


Date of Birth: 24 June 1947, St. John’s Wood, London, UK
Birth Name: Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmeralda Dickson Wright
Nicknames: Clarissa Dickson Wright

Clarissa Dickson Wright was a bombastic, outspoken lawyer brought to her knees by riches and alcoholism who rose again on the TV series Two Fat Ladies.
Clarissa was a recovering alcoholic, running a bookshop for cooks in Edinburgh when the producer Patricia Llewellyn was inspired to pair her with the equally eccentric Jennifer Paterson, then a cook and columnist at The Spectator.
The emphasis of the programme was to be on “suets and tipsy cake rather than rocket salad and sun-dried tomatoes”, the producer declared. Hence bombastic tributes to such delights as cream cakes and animal fats were mingled with contemptuous references to “manky little vegetarians”.
Not all the reviews were kind. Victor Lewis Smith in the London Evening Standard referred to the ladies’ “uncompromising physical ugliness” and “thoroughly ugly personalities”. Another critic quipped: “Perhaps handguns shouldn’t be banned after all.” Most, though, became instant addicts and predicted future cult status. By 1996 the programme was attracting 3.5 million viewers.
The Triumph motorbike and sidecar which sped the two fat ladies around the countryside might have appeared contrived (although Paterson was a keen biker), but their kitchen-sink comedy could never have been scripted. Clarissa Dickson Wright would come up with such lines as “look at those charming looking fellows” when describing scallops, and advise businessmen to come home and cook “to relax after the ghastly things they do in the City”.
Not content to confine themselves to the kitchen, the indomitable pair ventured out into the field, gathering mussels in Cornish drizzle using their motorcycle helmets as pails and perilously putting out to sea in a sliver of a boat to catch crabs.


Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmeralda Dickson Wright was born on June 24 1947, the youngest of four children. “My parents had great trouble deciding what to call me in the first place,” she explained about her abundant christening, “but then they were so delighted they had finally found a name, they got pissed on the way to the church.” To decide which name should come first, “they blindfolded my mother and turned her loose in the library, where she pulled out a copy of Richardson’s Clarissa”.
Her father, Arthur Dickson Wright, was a brilliant surgeon who was the first to extract a bullet from the spine without leaving the patient paralysed; he also pioneered the operation for stripping varicose veins and his patients included the Queen Mother, Vivien Leigh and the Sultana of Jahore. He had met Clarissa’s mother, Molly, an Australian heiress, while working in Singapore.
Growing up in Little Venice, Clarissa’s first memory was of eating a hard-boiled egg and a cold sausage on a picnic at Wisley at the age of three. Her father, though basically miserly, did not stint on household bills. He had pigeons flown in from Cairo and a fridge permanently full of caviar. From infant trips back to Singapore remembered consuming “deeply unhygienic but delicious” things wrapped in banana leaves.
When her parents entertained, Clarissa read recipes to the illiterate cook, Louise, who in turn would squabble with Clarissa’s mother about what they were going to serve. One day, Louise stood at the top of the stairs: “Madam,” she said, “if you make me cook that I’ll jump.” “If you don’t Louise,” Mrs Dickson Wright retorted, “you might as well.” (Clarissa also had memories from around this time of Cherie Booth “always doing her homework in school uniform in the middle of louche Hampstead parties — she was a swot”. Later she observed the budding union between Booth (“desperately needy”) and Tony Blair (“a poor sad thing with his guitar”). Later still she observed that the “wet, long-haired student” that she had known had been replaced by a man with “psychopath eyes. You know those dead eyes that look at you and try to work out what you want to hear?”)
Clarissa’s father became a progressively violent alcoholic, so that when he came home “one would take cover”. He broke three of her ribs with an umbrella and on another occasion hit her with a red-hot poker. She later confessed to poring over botanical volumes in search of suitable poisons and scouring the woods for lethal mushrooms.
Boarding school proved a wonderful refuge. She then did a Law degree externally at London (her father refused to pay for her to go to Oxford unless she read Medicine) and was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1970. It was while she was at home studying for her Bar final that a letter arrived for her mother while the family was at breakfast. It turned out to be from her father, announcing divorce proceedings. After her father left the house Clarissa Dickson Wright never saw him again.


She was by then a regular pipe smoker, consuming two ounces of Gold Block a week. The first woman to practise at the Admiralty Bar, she received excellent notices from, among others, Lord Denning, and was elected to the Bar Council as a representative of young barristers.
Things started to go awry, though, when her parents died in quick succession in the mid 1970s her mother in 1975, her father several months later. Her father left his entire £2 million fortune to his brother, explaining his decision in a caustic rider to his will. Clarissa’s mother, he wrote “never helped me and sought to alienate my children”. Clarissa’s sisters had married men either too old or too young, and her brother’s fault was to be “seeing Heather (one of Clarissa’s sisters) again”. As to his youngest daughter: “I leave no money to Clarissa, who was an afterthought and has twice caused me grievous bodily harm, and of whom I go in fear of my life.” The family contested the will to no avail.
It was Derby Day when Clarissa came home to find her mother dead. “It was a shock I quite simply couldn’t handle,” she recalled. She went to her boyfriend’s house and surprised everybody by pouring herself a large whisky: “I remember thinking 'Why have I waited so long? I’ve come home.’ I felt this enormous sense of relief.”
Her “habit” soon consisted of two bottles of gin a day, and a bottle of vodka before she got out of bed. “Suddenly it was as if I’d done it,” she remembered of her consequent loss of ambition. “I could hear the eulogies at my memorial service in my head, so what was the point of actually going through the mechanics of doing it.” In 1980 she was charged with professional incompetence and practising without chambers; she was disbarred three years later.
Financially this presented no immediate hardship since her mother had left her a fortune. Yet by the age of 40, Clarissa Dickson Wright had blown it all on “yachts in the Caribbean, yachts in the Aegean, aeroplanes to the races and drink”.
“If I’d had another £100,000,” she conceded, “I’d have been dead.”
At rock bottom she went to the DSS to ask for somewhere to live, only to be told: “We’re not here for the likes of you, you know. You’re upper class, you’ve got a Law degree.”
She began to cook in other people’s houses. “Of course it’s only the upper classes who will become domestic servants now,” she reflected. “Other people feel it demeans them.” One day, when preparing to cook for a house party, she was on her knees, cleaning the floor. “I looked up,” she remembered, “and said 'Dear God, if you are up there, please do something.’” The next day she was arrested for refusing a breathalyser. “I was carted down the long drive just as the house party was coming up it. From then on, I was inexorably swept into recovery.” It took place at Robert Lefever’s Promis Recovery Centre at Nonington, not far from Canterbury. She retained an affection for Kent ever after.


Clarissa Dickson Wright owed her proportions to drinking six pints of tonic a day over 12 years, leading to “sticky blood” (a condition normally associated with people taking quinine tablets over a long period) and a very slow metabolism. Of the ungallant nature of the Two Fat Ladies title, she said: “Well there are two of us. I have a problem with 'Ladies’ as it sounds like a public convenience. But which bit do you object to? Are you saying I’m thin?” Her size did not deter suitors. “I get more offers now than when I was slender,” she said. “Especially from Australians. They’re crazy about me.”
It could also be a formidable weapon. On Two Fat Ladies she was known as “Krakatoa” for her temper, and once put two would-be muggers in intensive care. “I didn’t go around beating people up,” she said, “but if people were aggressive to me, then I hit them.”
A knowledgeable food historian, she argued that the “use of anti-depressants is directly relatable to the decrease in use of animal fat (a stimulant of serotonin).” She did not own a television, but went across the road to watch the rugby. Her choice for Desert Island Discs ranged from The Drinking Song by Verdi to Ra Ra Rasputin by Boney M. The desert island of her imagination was “a Caribbean island during the cool season with lots of shellfish... and perhaps the odd hunky native that one could lure to the sound of music.”Following the success of Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa Dickson Wright was elected a rector of Aberdeen University and opened a restaurant in the grounds of the Duke of Hamilton’s 16th-Century Lennoxlove House.
Then, after Jennifer Paterson died in 1999, Clarissa Dickson Wright presented the One Man And His Dog Christmas Special. She later went on to appear (from 2000 to 2003) in the series Clarissa and the Countryman, with Johnny Scott. It was remarkably un-PC, but the real reason for the fact that the BBC dropped her, she claimed, was that she was too pro-hunting.


Her support for the Countryside Alliance did see her plead guilty to attending a hare coursing event in 2007. She had thought it legal as the greyhounds were muzzled and the magistrate gave her an absolute discharge. “I did not get a criminal record for that,” she said. “I was quite looking forward to going to jail in Yorkshire and writing the prison cookbook. It would have been a rest.” In 2012 she again raised eyebrows when she suggested that badgers shot in any cull should be eaten. Badgers, she noted, were once a popular bar snack: “I would have no objection to eating badgers. I have no objection to eating anything very much, really.”
Her autobiography, Spilling the Beans (in which she claimed, among other things, that she once had sex behind the Speaker’s chair in Parliament) was published in 2007. That and other ventures such as the “engaging county-by-county ramble” Clarissa’s England (2012), and a return to the small screen (filming a three-part series for BBC Four on breakfast, lunch and dinner) saw her finances steadily improve. One supermarket chain offered her an “awful lot of money” to promote it, but she could afford to turn it down. “I don’t regret it. I used to say that all I had left in life was my integrity and my cleavage. Now it’s just my integrity.”
Her faith was less well defined than her views on field sports. “I’m not a very good or compliant Catholic. I reserve my right to disagree. My ancestors fought with Cromwell. Other ancestors went with Guy Fawkes. So we’re bolshie on both sides.” She admitted attending Mass to “give thanks” and enjoyed AA meetings, describing them as “better than television”.
The love of her life was a Lloyd&