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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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."
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’s underwriter named Clive who died from a virus caught in Madeira. Latterly she said that she had a long-time admirer. “We are very companionable,” she noted. But they did not live together. “Heaven forfend! I don’t mind cooking his meals, but wash his socks? No.”
Date of Birth: 14 September 1914, Salzburg, Austria
Birth Name: Maria Franziska von Trapp
Nicknames: Maria von Trapp
Maria von Trapp, was the last of the original Trapp Family Singers, whose story of musical success and subsequent flight from Austria during the Nazi regime in the late 1930s was the inspiration for the Broadway show and hugely successful 1965 film, The Sound of Music.
The Von Trapps were an aristocratic Austrian family headed by the decorated naval officer Baron Georg von Trapp and his wife, Agathe. In the wake of Baroness von Trapp’s death in 1922 the family moved to a villa in Aigen in the suburbs of Salzburg. and Maria Augusta Kutschera a young postulent a woman preparing for a nun’s life from the nearby Nonnberg Abbey, was appointed as tutor to the seven Von Trapp children. She was to become the Baron’s second wife (played in the film by Julie Andrews.)
In the mid-1930s the family’s finances were made precarious by the Baron’s investment in a bank which would later fail. Hardened circumstances caused the Von Trapps to stage paid choral concerts (previously a family hobby) with Maria Von Trapp singing second soprano in the choir.
With the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, Baron von Trapp was offered a commission in the German Navy. An ardent anti-Nazi he refused and decided to flee the country with his entire family. Not, as Hollywood immortalised their journey, overnight across the Alps to Switzerland but by train to Italy in broad daylight before taking a passage to America.
Maria Franziska Gobertina von Trapp was born on September 14th 1914, in Salzburg the third child of Georg and Agathe Von Trapp. Since personal telegrammes were not permitted to be sent to those serving in the military, her father learnt of the birth by a message from his wife in pre-arranged code: “S.M.S Maria arrived”.
Music was an integral part of her family’s life. “My father played the violin and the accordion, and I adored him I wanted to learn all the instruments that he played,” recalled Maria von Trapp late in life (she would play the accordion for the rest of her life).
In The Sound of Music, Maria von Trapp was portrayed as the character “Louisa” by the Canadian actress Heather Menzies-Urich (in her debut role). On the film’s release, Maria and her siblings were surprised by the level of dramatic licence taken in bringing their story to the screen. “We were all pretty shocked at how they portrayed our father, he was so completely different. He always looked after us a lot, especially after our mother died,” said Maria von Trapp. “You have to separate yourself from all that, and you have to get used to it. It is something you simply cannot avoid.”
On settling in America, the family, continued to perform choral concerts and opened a ski lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Here Maria was to play the accordion and teach Austrian dance, with her half-sister Rosmarie, one of three children by Georg von Trapp’s second marriage. Maria von Trapp became a US citizen in 1948 and in the mid-1950s worked alongside her step mother as a lay missionary in Papua New Guinea.
In the summer of 2008 she visited her childhood home in Salzburg, on the eve of the villa opening as a hotel. Staying in the house for the first time since the 1930s she found herself haunted by memories.
“Our whole life is in here, in this house,” she recalled as she walked its corridors. “Especially here in the stairwell, where we always used to slide down the railings.”
Date of Birth: 22 June 1928, White Plaines, New York, US
Birth Name: Ralph Waite
Ralph Waite worked as a social worker, Presbyterian minister, publicist and book editor before turning to acting and landing the part as patriarch of a struggling American family in the wholesome US television drama The Waltons (1972-81).
For nine series and more than 200 episodes from 1972 to 1981, as John Walton he was the quiet tower of strength bringing up a family of seven during the depression and second world war with his wife, Olivia (Michael Learned).
The barefoot Virginia hillfolk operated a sawmill on Walton's Mountain, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. Their trials and tribulations, based on Earl Hamner Jr's autobiographical novel Spencer's Mountain, were seen through the eyes of the eldest son, John-Boy (played by Richard Thomas for most of the run, then Robert Wightman), a character who eventually realised his literary ambitions by having his first novel published. Waite's "Good night, John-Boy" closing line was a catchphrase for millions of fans of The Waltons around the world. The actor himself directed 16 episodes.
The run ended with John selling the mill to his entrepreneurial son Ben (Eric Scott) and moving with Olivia to Arizona, where she could recover from tuberculosis. The series was followed by six television specials three in 1982, A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion (1993), A Walton Wedding (1995) and A Walton Easter (1997). Waite's character was voted third in a 2004 TV Guide poll of the 50 "greatest TV dads of all time". President George Bush Sr wished in 1992 that American families could be "a lot more like the Waltons, and a lot less like the Simpsons".
Waite was born in White Plains, New York, the son of a construction engineer. He described himself as "a show-off, a dreamer, a storyteller" who was never taken to a play or concert as a child.
He served in the US Marine Corps (1946-48) and graduated from Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, in 1952, before working briefly as a social worker in Westchester County, New York.
After gaining a master's degree from Yale University Divinity School, Waite became a minister with the United Church of Christ on Fishers Island and in Garden City, New York. Dissatisfied with what he saw as hypocrisy in the church, he left to become publicity director and assistant editor of religious books at Harper & Row.
Switching to acting at the suggestion of a friend, as his marriage went downhill and his drinking increased, he trained with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio and made his professional debut as the chief of police in a 1960 New York production, The Balcony. Broadway plays followed, including Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), which Waite and the cast reprised at the Aldwych theatre in London in 1966.
After his first film appearance, alongside Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Waite appeared in dozens of big- and small-screen roles. He played Slater, the slave ship's sadistic third mate, in the television mini-series Roots (1977) and Kevin Costner's father in the film The Bodyguard (1992).
He sobered up after realising that his life was at odds with the caring father figure he portrayed in The Waltons. He then had regular roles on television as the retired lawyer Ben Walker in The Mississippi (1982-84), a corrupt billionaire in the second series of Murder One (1996), and priests in both Carnivàle (2003-05) and Days of Our Lives (2009-13).
In 1975, Waite was founder and artistic director of the experimental Los Angeles Actors' Theater. Seven years later, he married his third wife, Linda East, an interior designer. They moved to the Coachella valley in Palm Desert, California, in 2002. With his late brother Donald and other family members, Waite opened Don and Sweet Sue's Café in Cathedral City.
Political ambitions, inspired, he said, by the example of Czech playwright Václav Havel, led the actor to run unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in 1990 and twice in 1998, when he tried to take the Palm Springs, California, a seat formerly held by the singer Sonny Bono. That campaign was hampered by a commitment to complete a run in the leading role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman for a theatre in New Jersey.
After shunning organised religion for half a century, Waite returned to it in 2010 as a minister with the liberal Spirit of the Desert Presbyterian Fellowship. He saw it as reflecting his own progressive and political views.
Date of Birth: 8 September 1922, Yonkers, New York, US
Birth Name: Isaac Sidney Ceasar
Nicknames: Sid Ceasar
Sid Caesar became the best-known comedian on American television in the 1950s; but while his innovative and influential Your Show Of Shows was credited with accelerating indeed arguably creating the postwar surge in sales of television sets in the United States, he subsequently spent two decades battling drink and drug addiction.
First broadcast in February 1950, Caesar’s live Saturday night variety series was an enormous hit with the American viewing public. At first blush the smorgasbord of ingredients seemed an unlikely mix: comic sketches, ballet, modern dance, popular music and even operatic numbers. Caesar would appear as an “interviewing reporter” in comedy skits with his co-star Imogene Coca, and alone in "double-talk" monologues or pantomime.
When Caesar made his breakthrough, television comedy as an art form was still in its infancy. A New York-based concept, the genre featured (mostly Jewish) comedians and writers whose edgy, urban sophistication did not always chime with the plainer fare preferred by the American mid-West, where many were only just starting to trade in their radios for television sets. With Caesar’s 90-minute weekly Saturday night show, small-screen comedy came of age.
Using mostly his own material, Caesar drew on his observations of everyday life, making use of the comedy of situation or character rather than the gag or wisecrack, so prefiguring the emergence of the sitcom. By modern lights, the humour lacked edge. “There were so many things we couldn’t do,” Caesar later recalled. “It was the 1950s. Everything had to be squeaky clean. So it made us work harder and made us think deeper.”
A talented cast of comedy writers, including Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, also contributed, cutting their teeth before setting the comic agenda for American popular culture for two decades to come. So did the playwright Neil Simon, and the authors of the two longest-running 1960s Broadway musicals, Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof) and Michael Stewart (Hello, Dolly!). Between 1954 and 1958 Caesar also starred in his own domestic comedy series Caesar’s Hour, the prototype of countless imitations, with his “wives” including Nanette Fabray and Janet Blair.
But then he vanished almost entirely into what he called his “20-year blackout” while he struggled with addiction. It turned out that (unbeknown to even his closest colleagues) Caesar was already an alcoholic when he burst through to television stardom. Earning $1 million a year at the age of 30, he later admitted to destroying himself with two bottles of Scotch a night, followed later by an addiction to barbiturates and tranquillisers.
As he battled his demons, an ordeal later chronicled in his memoir Where Have I Been? (1983), Caesar would tear basins out of the bathrooms in his mansion on Long Island. In 1978 he spent four months in bed, secretly ordering beer whenever his wife turned her back.
From time to time he would emerge to make a guest appearance on other people’s television shows and he remained a close friend of Mel Brooks, appearing in his films Silent Movie (1976) and History Of The World Part One (1981).
Isaac Sidney Caesar was born on September 8 1922 in Yonkers, New York, where his Austrian-born father, Max, owned a 24-hour diner. From his Riussian mother and the Italian and Polish building workers who patronised the restaurant, the youngster developed a good comedian’s ear for dialect. He learned his trademark “double-talk”, a stream of nonsense sounding plausibly like a foreign language, from listening to his parents’ immigrant clientèle.
Enrolling at the Franklin and Hawthorne junior high schools, he worked after classes to pay for lessons on the saxophone at the Juilliard School of Music. As a Yonkers high school student, he played at school dances and, in 1939, on graduating, went in search of work as a musician.
In 1942 he enlisted in the US Coastguard and was assigned to pier duty in Brooklyn where he wrote sketches for Six On, Twelve Off, a musical later produced as a coastguard show. He got a part in another successful coastguard musical, Tars And Spars, and was the only member of the cast to be used when Columbia made a film of it in 1946.
In 1945 he made his first nightclub appearance at the Copacabana in New York playing saxophone in a swing band. When he started adding jokes to his music-making, he became a regular cabaret fixture in the so-called Borscht Belt, the tourist area in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York where the resort hotels booked Jewish comedians like Jackie Mason and Jerry Lewis to entertain some of the toughest audiences in America.
Caesar appeared in the 1948 revue Make Mine Manhattan and won the Donaldson award for the best debut performance in a Broadway musical.
His television debut as a relative unknown in the 1949 hour-long weekly Admiral Broadway Revue, which included Imogene Coca, was abruptly cancelled after 19 weeks when the sponsors, the Admiral electronics firm, complained that they were having to retool their factory to meet the surge in demand for television sets 10,000 a week instead of the 500 they were geared up to produce on account of the show’s success.
But within a year this backhanded triumph had led directly to Your Show Of Shows. As the series grew in popularity, Caesar mentored many younger American comedy writers; Neil Simon later based his 1993 play Laughter on the 23rd Floor on his experiences. When Caesar took on the unknown Mel Brooks, and paid him $5,000 a week, the future star comedy writer introduced himself as a Jewish pirate: “You know how much they’re charging for sailcloth these days?… I can’t afford to pillage and rape anymore.”
Caesar’s Your Show of Shows ran for four years (1950-54), and was also the inspiration for the Peter O’Toole film My Favourite Year (1982). For Caesar’s Hour, the staff writers were augmented by, among others, Neil Simon’s elder brother Danny, and Larry Gelbart, who would later create the hit television show M*A*S*H.
Caesar’s other film appearances included Tars and Spars (1946); The Guilt Of Janet Ames (1947); It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963); A Guide For The Married Man and The Busy Body (both 1967); Ten From Your Show Of Shows (1973), Airport 75, Grease and The Cheap Detective (1978), and The Fiendish Plot Of Dr Fu Manchu (1980) in which he played an FBI agent trying to track down the Chinese arch-villain.
Caesar eventually overcame his addictions, thanks to a self-help regime he loosely described as “spontaneous Jungian analysis”. In a second volume of memoirs, Caesar’s Hours (2003), he admired the way his heroes, great comedians of the silent film era like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Date of Birth: 23 April 1928, Santa Monica, California, US
Birth Name: Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple was the screen’s most popular child star of the 1930s, receiving at the age of eight 135,000 birthday gifts from fans the world over.
Throughout the Depression years, her sunny disposition helped audiences forget their woes and a special Oscar was presented to her for “bringing more happiness to millions of children and millions of grown-ups than any other child of her years in the history of the world”. It might have turned many a tiny tot’s head, but Shirley had her mother constantly at her side to ensure she was kept on an even keel.
Gertrude Temple was the architect of Shirley’s career, masterminding every aspect, every contract, what she ate, when she slept. Before each take, she would coach her, ignoring the director, and give her last-minute instructions. “Sparkle, Shirley,” she would say. A shrewd businesswoman, she knew instinctively how to manipulate the studios and their publicity machines to her daughter’s advantage. For good or ill, she turned little Shirley into a phenomenon. Everything she did was news. In October 1936, the world gasped as a bulletin flashed over the Reuter wires: “Shirley Temple has been sent to bed with a slight fever resulting from a cold.”
She was acting in pictures from the age of four and rapidly captivated filmgoers with her blond ringlets and dimpled charm. Dolls, books and games were named after her in a merchandising campaign matched only by Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Yet her talent was modest. She sang off-key and cynics dismissed her dancing as “mere jigging up and down”. She liked to do impersonations but her acting was generally regarded as cute rather than compelling.
She had the child star’s built-in self-destruct mechanism what had seemed peachy in a moppet became arch in adolescence. Attempts to extend her career into young womanhood were unsuccessful and she made her last film in 1949 washed up in Hollywood at 21.
Yet that was not the end of the Shirley Temple story. Against all sceptics’ expectations, the little girl who had never had a normal childhood matured into a distinguished politician and diplomat. She stood (unsuccessfully) for Congress before representing America at the United Nations and serving as US ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia under her married name of Shirley Temple Black.
She was born on April 23 1928 in Santa Monica, California, the daughter of a bank teller. Like many a proud mother, Gertrude Temple enrolled her child in dancing classes at the age of three and promoted her vigorously. A talent scout from Educational Pictures, a small company specialising in shorts, spotted Shirley and invited her for a screen test, which led to her appearance in 1932-33 in a string of film spoofs known as Baby Burlesks. Among them were The Incomparable More Legs Sweetrick (as Marlene Dietrich), The Pie-Covered Wagon and Polly-Tix in Washington.
She alternated these performances with small parts in now forgotten feature movies such as The Red-Haired Alibi (1932) and To the Last Man (1933), opposite Randolph Scott. While filming a second series of shorts for Educational under the title Frolics of Youth, she and her mother were approached by the much bigger Fox Film Corporation (later Twentieth Century-Fox) with a view to Shirley featuring in the film Stand Up and Cheer (1934). She passed the audition and was signed up for $150 a week. When the film opened, she stole the show with the song and dance routine Baby Take a Bow.
Recognising her star potential, Fox swung its publicity department into action. But it did not have her under exclusive contract. Earlier in the year, the astute Mrs Temple had forged a two-picture deal with Paramount and it was that studio that initially reaped the benefit of her sudden fame. It rushed her into two pictures in 1934 to fulfil the contract Little Miss Marker, based on a Damon Runyan story, and Now and Forever, in which she was the go-between who reunites an estranged couple played by Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard.
On the strength of these pictures, Shirley’s Fox contract was renegotiated to $1,250 a week. She was cast in Bright Eyes, where she sang one of the songs indelibly associated with her, On the Good Ship Lollipop, and from then on vehicles were written especially for her. By the end of 1934, aged six, she was the eighth biggest draw in America.
A year later, she was number one and held that position four years in a row, attracting more fan mail than Greta Garbo and being photographed more often than the President himself. “I class myself with Rin Tin Tin,” she volunteered brightly.
She churned out pictures at a tremendous lick sometimes five a year through the late-1930s and the public clamoured for more. Features included, in 1935, The Little Colonel, Curly Top, a remake of Daddy Long Legs, and The Littlest Rebel, in which she told Abraham Lincoln that he was almost nice enough to be a Confederate. The 1936 clutch had Captain January, Dimples and Poor Little Rich Girl, while in 1937, the title role in an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Wee Willie Winkie was changed from boy to girl especially to accommodate her.
Her work in this film led to a notorious libel suit involving the future novelist Graham Greene, then employed as a film critic by the magazine Night and Day. At a cocktail party, after what he later described as “a dangerous third Martini” Greene dreamt up the idea of deflating the Temple balloon, but he peppered his review of her performance in Wee Willie Winkie with such litigious terms as “bilious coquetry”, “dimpled depravity” and “mature suggestiveness”.
Shirley and Twentieth Century-Fox sued. In court in March, 1938, Sir Patrick Hastings, counsel for the plaintiffs, was too mortified to bring himself to utter Greene’s words. “In my view”, he said, “it is one of the most horrible libels that one can imagine about a child. I shall not read it is better I should not but a glance at the statement of claim ... is sufficient to show the nature of the libel. This beastly publication appeared but it is right to say that every respectable news distributor in London refused to be party to its sale.”
The plaintiffs won; $5,250 punitive damages were awarded to Fox, $7,000 to the actress and Night and Day folded. But as a postscript to the episode, the mature Shirley Temple bore the novelist no grudge. In 1989, she sent him an inscribed copy of her autobiography, Child Star, and invited him to tea.
The year 1938 marked the high-water mark of her popularity. She appeared in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (without ringlets for the first time), in Little Miss Broadway and Just around the Corner at a fee of $100,000 a picture, which made her Hollywood’s highest-paid earner after Louis B Mayer. By 1939 he fee had jumped to $300,000, but public taste was changing. Susannah and the Mounties was disappointing and The Blue Bird was, by common consent, a “turkey”.
MGM had wanted to borrow her for The Wizard of Oz, but Fox refused, casting her instead in what it hoped would be a rival children’s attraction . But Maeterlinck’s arty symbolism in The Blue Bird found no favour with the public. It opened in selected cinemas a few days before Christmas 1939, but proved such a dud that it had to be withdrawn after only a few days and replaced by a Sonja Henie ice-skating musical. When generally released in 1940, The Blue Bird met with no warmer response, becoming Shirley’s first unmitigated flop.
Gertrude Temple blamed Fox and offered to buy out the remainder of Shirley’s contract. Fox raised no objections and, at the age of 11, she took a “sabbatical” from the cinema, ostensibly to repair gaps in her patchy education. Though her vocabulary was officially said to be 750 words, “all of which she can write”, she had trouble with numbers over 50. According to her teacher, she still thought 47 cents was more than 55 cents.
In fact, Shirley’s absence from the screen was an opportunity for her mother to negotiate a fresh contract with another studio. She picked MGM, but it was not a happy choice. The studio was grooming its own child prodigy in Judy Garland and found only one vehicle for Shirley, the lacklustre Kathleen (1941). Roger Edens, who was Garland’s coach, let it be known that Shirley would have to put in a lot of singing and dancing practice if she hoped to be worthy of the studio. Mrs Temple took umbrage and took off.
After a remake of a Mary Pickford picture, Miss Annie Rooney (1942) at United Artists, Shirley gravitated to David O Selznick, who signed her to a seven-year contract, but as a teenager she could no longer command lead roles. Selznick cast her only in supporting parts in Since You Went Away (1944) and I’ll Be Seeing You (1945). In that year, aged 17, she also completed her interrupted education by graduating from Westlake High School for Girls in Los Angeles. She then published her first autobiography, My Young Life, and was married to army sergeant-turned actor John Agar.
The last four years of her screen career were an anticlimax. Her infant precocity gave way to mere pertness (of which there is no shortage in Hollywood) in such films as The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947), That Hagen Girl (1947), with Ronald Reagan, and A Kiss for Corliss (1949), her screen swansong, opposite David Niven. This period also included the first film in John Ford’s cavalry trilogy, Fort Apache (1948), in which she co-starred, aged 20, with her husband.
When the marriage failed, she was married again (in 1950) to a wealthy San Francisco businessman, Charles Black. She largely retired from acting to concentrate on social work, though from 1957 to 1959 she narrated and appeared in a television series entitled Shirley Temple’s Storybook. This was followed in 1960 by Shirley Temple Presents Young America, a programme about the problems of high-school dropouts.
From 1960 she played a leading role in developing the San Francisco film festival, resigning in 1966 only over the decision to screen the Swedish film Night Games, which she denounced as “pornography for profit”. In 1967 she ran for Congress to fill a dead man’s shoes (Republican J Arthur Younger). Though her recording of On the Good Ship Lollipop was used as a theme song at rallies, she insisted that “Little Shirley Temple is not running. If someone insists on pinning me with a label, let it read Shirley Temple Black, Republican independent.” But in the era of Lyndon Johnson, her conservative stance on taxes, law and order and drug addiction lost her the seat.
After her election defeat, she continued to work for the Republican party, raising funds and urging Americans overseas to back Richard Nixon in the forthcoming presidential campaign. When elected, Nixon named her one of the five-member American delegation to the 24th session of the United Nations General Assembly. In this capacity she served in 1969 on the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. Her subsequent diplomatic career included US ambassador to Ghana (1974-76), sparking a trend for Ghanaian children to be named Shirley (including boys), and to the former Czechoslovakia, to which she was appointed by President Bush in 1989.
Date of Birth: 23 July 1967, Fairport, US
Birth Name: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Nicknames: Philip Hoffman
In a little over two decades Hoffman carved out a reputation for delivering strident performances that led to the New York Times describing him as the “greatest character actor of our time”. For many years he stood out in supporting roles from a louche playboy in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley to a lovesick high school teacher in Spike Lee’s The 25th Hour.
In 2005, however, he took the title role in Bennett Miller’s Capote, a biopic of the waspish author Truman Capote. As the notoriously tart chronicler of high rollers and transient killers, Hoffman caught the writer’s murky DNA, showcasing his talent for manipulation but also his latent insecurity. “Playing Capote took a lot of concentration,” Hoffman stated, “I prepared for four and a half months. I read and listened to his voice and watched videos of him on TV. Sometimes being an actor is like being some kind of detective where you’re on the search for a secret that will unlock the character. With Capote, the part required me to be a little unbalanced.” The performance was to win him that year’s Academy Award for Best Actor.
His appearance and in particular his weight remained a fall-back feature of most journalistic profiles. Hoffman’s wry approach to the veiled criticisms was reminscent of Cyrano de Bergerac’s parry to nasal put-downs. “A lot of people describe me as chubby, which seems so easy, so first-choice,” he said. “Or stocky. Fair-skinned. Tow-headed. There are so many other choices. How about dense? I mean, I’m a thick kind of guy. But I’m never described in attractive ways. I’m waiting for somebody to say I’m at least cute. But nobody has.”
He was instictively comfortable working with many of America’s cinematic auteurs. In particular, his collaborations with the director Paul Thomas Anderson provided many of his most distinctive roles. In Magnolia (1999) he provided warmth and heart as a kindly male nurse tending to a dying millionnaire to an otherwise bleak palette of human disarray and in The Master (2012) he held forth as a magnetically-charasmatic leader of a quasi-religious cult (a figure loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard). Likewise Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, Charlie Kauffman and David Mamet all drew idiosyncratic and memorable performances.
A dedication to the art of acting was to remain the one constant in a career that otherwise defied categorisation (he embraced drama, comedy and thrillers with equal zeal). “Acting is so difficult for me that, unless the work is of a certain stature in my mind, unless I reach the expectations I have of myself, I’m unhappy,” he said. “If you’re doing it well, if you’re concentrating the way you need to, if your will and your concentration and imagination and emotional life are all in tune, concentrated and working together in that role, that is just like lugging weights upstairs with your head. And I don’t think that should get any easier.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman was born on July 23 1967 in Fairport, a picturesque town on the Erie Canal in New York state. His mother, the former Marilyn Loucks, was a lawyer and civil rights activist and his father, Gordon, was a businessman.
Philip was first drawn to drama at Fairport High School, and when he was 17 attended a state-run summer school for the arts. After graduating he moved to New York City to pursue professional training, attending classes at a summer programme run by the Manhattan theatre, Circle in the Square, and finally graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in Drama.
While at NYU, Hoffman teamed up for the first time with Bennett Miller, who would later direct him in Capote, to launch a drama company, the Bullstoi Ensemble. Though its principals were undoubtedly talented, the Ensemble was notoriously short-lived, and after leaving NYU Hoffman entered rehab to tackle alcohol and drug problems. He then embarked on the classic career path of the hopeful actor, taking odd jobs, such as stacking supermarket shelves, while auditioning and hoping for his big break.
That break took some years to arrive. However, in 1992 he won his first major role in Scent of a Woman, which starred Al Pacino as a blind man whose lust for life (and the opposite sex), is only heightened by his “disability”. Hoffman played a boorish, treacherous friend of the student who is recruited to assist Pacino’s character.
More often, however, his pudgy frame seemed to recommend him to casting directors for roles that required self-doubt, self-loathing even. It was with just such a part that he made his leap into the big time.
Paul Thomas Anderson, the director, who had spotted Hoffman in Scent of a Woman, cast him as a boom operator, Scotty, in his epic recounting of pornographic film making in the 1970s, Boogie Nights (1997). The part marked Hoffman out as an actor of range but, typically, his reward was to be cast in formulaic fayre, such as Flawless (1999) a buddy movie with Robert De Niro.
Hoffman flourished in such illustrious company, and repeated the trick of stealing scenes from more established actors in The Talented Mr Ripley. Meryl Streep was among a gathering band of admirers, describing his performance as “fearless”.
Long a favourite of indie directors, Hoffman's rising star was confirmed in such films as The Big Lebowski (1998) and Almost Famous (2000). But the next five years, while providing steady work, did not see him find many great roles. It was with Capote (2005) that his mesmeric ability to metamorphise began to emerge. He lost weight and shifted the timbre of his voice, inhabiting the part completely without descending to simple mimicry.
He next shone in an unlikely role in Doubt (2008), that of a Catholic priest who may, or may not, have abused one of his pupils. The whole conceit of the film demanded that the audience remain undecided, and thus rested on the strength of Hoffman’s performance.
His ability to turn his hand to almost any role was displayed again in Jack Goes Boating (2010), his directorial debut, and also his first romantic role.
A long, inventive and daring career seemed to stretch before him, but in what turned out to be his last years he mostly starred in the mainstream features such as the Hunger Games series that he had always dotted between the expressive, idea-driven parts in which he truly excelled.
Other films included: Cold Mountain (2003); Mission Impossible III (2006); Charlie Wilson’s War (2007); Synecdoche, New York (2008); Moneyball (2011) and, most recently, A Most Wanted Man (2014).
It was a sign of his talent, however, that many viewed Hoffman as an even better actor on stage than on screen. Perhaps his best performance came in 2012, in the Broadway revival of Death of A Salesman, for which he received his third Tony award nomination.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, who announced last year that he was once again struggling with addiction, is reported to have been found dead in his apartment, possibly of a drug overdose.
Date of Birth: 8 February 1944, Islington, North London, UK
Birth Name: Roger Llyod-Pack
Roger Lloyd-Pack, the actor, who has died aged 69, will forever be associated with the slow-witted Peckham road sweeper Trigger, whom he played in the much-loved television series Only Fools and Horses.
As one of the regulars at the Nag’s Head pub, Trigger provided an immeasurably dim foil to the wit and wisdom of wheeler-dealer Del Boy (David Jason), used-car salesman Boycie (John Challis), landlord Mike (Kenneth MacDonald) and Del Boy’s younger brother, Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst).
The character was involved both in one of the series’ best running jokes, and its greatest slapstick moment. In the latter, he accompanies Del Boy on a mission to pick up a couple of “modern euro-birds”, only for Del Boy to fall through the bar after a waiter, unnoticed, lifts the hatch. In the former, Trigger persistently refers to Rodney as “Dave”. Even on the announcement of Rodney’s engagement, to Cassandra, Trigger raises a glass “to Cassandra and Dave”. When she discloses that she is pregnant, he suggests that the couple call the baby “Rodney, after Dave”.
Born with what he described as “an old man’s face”, Lloyd-Pack had to wait until his 40s to find success as an actor; once he found it with Trigger, however, the role would not leave him be. Such was his identification with the road-sweeper that passers-by, even policemen, would shout out “Wotcher Trig?” at him in the street. In conversation, he said, strangers assumed he was very thick. He described the role as “like an albatross in one way. If something becomes mega, like Fools, you’ve had it. I’ll never escape Trigger, I’ve learnt to live with that.”
But the role (which he nearly abandoned after two series, until his agent told he would be “mad”) provided him with a measure of financial security and also ensured that he did not have to worry about finding work again. Though he never subsequently secured the golden roles of Lear or Shylock, to which he aspired, he was sought after for smaller, plum Shakespearean parts, such as Buckingham (in Richard III) or Sir Andrew Aguecheek (in Twelfth Night).
Not that he was above playing a pantomime dame, or signing on to the Harry Potter franchise. Acting, he said, was “a silly job, in a way, especially when you get older. It’s just dressing up, playing at being someone else. It’s rather lovely, too, but it’s hardly life and death.”
Roger Lloyd-Pack was born on February 8 1944 in north London. His father, Charles Pack, had grown up a working-class lad in the East End before turning to acting and, in the 1930s, adding Lloyd to his surname. Roger’s mother, Ulrike, was an Austrian-Jewish emigrée who had fled the Nazis.
Roger was educated at St David’s (“a snobby little prep school run by a sadistic couple”) and Bedales, where he “coasted”. He did not shine at Geography (securing just nine per cent in his O-level), but did begin acting, eventually auditioning for Rada. After training there, however, he found jobs hard to come by.
In part he put this down to his looks. “It took a while for all my features to fall into place,” he said. “I didn’t come into my own as an actor until I was 40. I was not easy to cast.” He found bit parts in series such as The Avengers, The Protectors and Dixon of Dock Green, but spent much of his time drifting in rep waiting, with increasingly little confidence, for his big break.
In the mid-1970s his career got a boost when the director Bill Gaskill invited him to join the Joint Stock Theatre Company, which pioneered the idea of using collaborative workshops to inspire new material from playwrights such as David Hare and Caryl Churchill. But it was not until 1981, with the advent of Only Fools and Horses, that he secured his future as an actor. He was signed up after being spotted by the series’ producer, Ray Butt, while in a play alongside Billy Murray, who was being considered for the Del Boy role.
The series ran for a decade, with the character of Trigger appearing in nearly every episode and acquiring something approaching cult status, notably for moments of inadvertent wisdom that pierced the fog of idiocy. On one occasion, Trigger prompts a philosophical debate by revealing that he has used the same broom to sweep streets for 20 years. When asked his secret, he reveals that he has lovingly maintained it, replacing the head 17 times and the handle 14 times.
In interviews Lloyd-Pack was frank, sometimes disarmingly so, about the nature of his/Trigger’s rather peculiar brand of celebrity. He was also frank about the travails of his personal life, in particular the mental health difficulties faced by his eldest daughter, Emily.
Emily Lloyd, who was born when Lloyd-Pack was 26, was catapulted to Hollywood stardom while still in her teens after appearing in the film Wish You Were Here (1987). A decade in Hollywood followed, but she was increasingly afflicted by mental health problems. In an interview last year, Lloyd-Pack said that watching his daughter struggle with her condition was “absolutely heart-rending and painful”.
He was also forthright about the possibility that, having left his first marriage, to the actress Sheila Ball, when Emily was only two, he had somehow contributed to his daughter’s later difficulties. “I feel very sad about that,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t have a second chance. Forming good, trusting relationships with your children involves being with them when they’re very small and holding them. You can’t replace it. The thing you most want in your life when you’re little is for both your parents to love each other. If not, it can be the beginning of all your problems.”
Roger Lloyd-Pack, who died of cancer, was also clear-sighted about death, upon which, he said, even before his diagnosis, he reflected every day. A keen cyclist, recycler, and campaigner for Left-wing causes, he revealed he would like to buried in “a cardboard coffin”. As for his obituaries: “I don’t really care what [they] say, so long as they are fair. I know I will be best remembered for Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, but I hope all my other work will be acknowledged, too.”
His television credits included Spyder’s Web; Moving; The Bill; The Old Guys; and The Vicar of Dibley. Film credits included The Naked Civil Servant; 1984; Wilt; Interview with the Vampire; Vanity Fair; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Date of Birth: 15 August 1920, Mariampole, Lithuania
Birth Name: Natascha Sliviskas
Nicknames: Eva Tovarich
Eva Tovarich, was a post-war circus artiste who balanced Big Top drama with power and ingenuity in an act billed as “The World’s Greatest Equilibrists”.
As one of the foundations of The Tovarich Troupe, she entertained audiences in variety theatres and circuses across Britain, Europe and America, from the late 1940s through to the mid-1970s. Equilibrism involves performers balancing on props or, as often was the case in the Tovarich act, the bodies of their fellow acrobats. Each member then fits together into a towering human scaffold. It is a precarious art, to which Eva’s statuesque figure was well suited.
Her husband, Joe, was the troupe’s founder and linchpin, while Eva Tovarich was the “bearer” the person who lifted the other members into the air.
She proved a formidable and striking presence in the circus ring: “A marvellous physique, tall and large-boned, with not a hint of fat,” judged one Bertram Mills Circus employee. “So elegant and graceful, yet strong.”
Natascha Slivinskas (professionally known as Eva Tovarich) was born August 15 1920 in Mariampole, Lithuania. Her father was a miner who brought the family to Hamilton, Scotland. It was there that she later met Joseph “Joe” Slivinski, whose Russian family had gone into exile following the 1917 revolution. Joe formed the Zarovs, an acrobatic group, before creating the family act and, post-war, The Tovarich Troupe moved from the Blackpool Tower Circus to the famous Bertram Mills arena after being spotted by Cyril Mills, son of the circus’ eponymous founder.
To begin with their performances included Joe’s three sons from his first marriage. Later, Eva performed with two of the couple’s daughters in an all-female aerial act under the name “Eva, Toots and Eva”. Two of the sons went on to form The Two Harvards, a comedy routine performed on ice skates. In various incarnations the family performed at the Belle Vue Circus, Manchester (1955-56), the Boswell’s Circus in South Africa (1961), the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth (1964) and with the Cirque Pinder in France (1965). In 1967 they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in America.
The couple retired in the mid-1970s and settled in Benidorm, where Joe Slivinski died in 1992. Four years later tragedy struck when armed intruders broke into their villa. Their son, Jan Juri, was murdered and Eva Tovarich was left in a coma. However, with a constitution fortified by a career under the canvas of the world’s greatest circus tops, she recovered from her injuries and continued to live in Spain for the rest of her life.
Date of Birth: 19 January 1939, Chicago, Illinois, US
Birth Name: Phillip Everly
Nicknames: Phil Everly
Phil Everly, was the younger half of The Everly Brothers, the duo which helped to transform pop music in the 1960s before being eclipsed by the very bands that they had influenced.
The Everlys sprang from the traditional country music with which they had grown up, but in the late 1950s they took up the themes of teenage love and disappointment that became the staple diet of the emerging pop stars of the period. They never fully embraced rock and roll, but their breezy harmonies influenced many of the stars who followed them, including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Byrds groups whose popularity started to take off as that of the Everlys waned.
As they were overtaken by new musical fashions from the early 1960s onwards, The Everly Brothers continued to perform and record until 1973, when their relationship fractured publicly during a concert in California.
Phillip Everly was born in Chicago on January 19 1939, the son of Ike and Margaret Everly, who had a popular country singing act in the 1940s. He was almost exactly two years younger than his brother Don, but the boys’ parents brought them up as though they were twins. They shared birthday parties, and were dressed in the same clothes Don was not allowed to have a sports jacket until Phil was old enough to have one too.
Both boys attended high school at Shenandoah, Iowa, where their parents had a radio breakfast show, on which Don and Phil sang from childhood. After the family had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, the brothers met the guitarist and producer Chet Atkins and other figures on the local music scene. They were briefly signed up to Columbia, for which they made their first record, Keep a-Lovin’ Me, which was released in February 1956 but made little impact.
It was when The Everly Brothers were taken up by the Cadence record label that their careers began to take off. In 1957 they recorded Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s Bye Bye Love, on which Phil and Don played guitars alongside Chet Atkins and the Nashville session musician Ray Edenton. The song was an immediate hit, and established the brothers as the first successful pop act to come out of Nashville. Don and Phil bought a new Oldsmobile on the proceeds and embarked on a tour with Johnny Cash. They began sporting matching suits, and their growing army of fans had difficulty telling them apart (Don’s hair was darker, and his the deeper voice).
They followed this success in the same year with Wake Up Little Susie; This Little Girl of Mine; All I Have to Do Is Dream; and Claudette. Bird Dog and Devoted to You were released in 1958, and by now they were one of the most famous pop acts in the United States, as well known as Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson. They became close to Buddy Holly, who originally wrote his song Not Fade Away for The Everly Brothers they suggested that he record it himself.
After the release of Let It Be Me in 1959, the Everlys moved to Warner Bros Records. Cathy’s Clown, written by Don, remained at No 1 in America for five weeks in 1959 and topped the British charts for seven, selling more than eight million copies worldwide. On the back of its success Cadence delved into its archive to release When Will I Be Loved, which reached No 8 in the US and No 4 in Britain.
If the Everlys’ star burned bright, it also burned quickly, thanks to rapidly changing musical tastes in the Sixties. Indeed, by 1960 their best days were already behind them although in Britain that year they achieved three No 1s, with Walk Right Back, Ebony Eyes and Temptation.
In 1961 Phil and Don joined the Marines, serving for about six months, and then embarked on a European tour. It was while they were performing in London that Don’s addiction to amphetamines first began seriously to affect his career. Twice in 12 hours he was carted off to hospital, unconscious, and he was flown back to the United States, amid stories in the press that he had been struck down by food poisoning or a nervous breakdown. Phil had to finish the tour alone.
For three years the Everlys performed together only occasionally, although they continued to record, and their singles The Price of Love and Love Is Strange were successful in Britain. In 1968, with young music fans listening to bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and the West Coast acid rock fraternity, the Everlys came up with a concept album in which their own country music would be intercut with excerpts from old Everly Family radio shows from the early Fifties. The album, Roots, was a flop. Their deal with Warner Bros came to an end, and they signed with RCA, recording the albums Stories We Could Tell (1972) and Pass the Chicken and Listen (1973).
By now their relationship had become increasingly difficult, and on July 14 1973, when in concert at the John Wayne Theatre in Buena Park, California, Phil smashed his guitar and left the stage, leaving Don to announce the duo’s evident break-up. It was the start of a long estrangement. In 1981 Phil Everly said: “Although people looked at us like twins, we weren’t alike. Musically we were very closely educated, but we had different values. Everyone has the feeling that all you have to do is to achieve stardom and once you are there you can relax. It’s just the opposite. Once you get there, then the war really starts [and] the larger the odds are against you. We always had that feeling, will the next song be a success?”
At the same time he conceded that Don had been the more talented of the two: “His hands and ear for music are faster.”
For a decade they worked apart, making solo recordings. Phil released his first solo record, Star Spangled Banner, in 1973, to modest acclaim, and followed up with Phil’s Diner (1974) and Mystic Line (1975). He wrote Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me No More for the hit Clint Eastwood film Every Which Way But Loose (1978), performing it in duet with Eastwood’s co-star, Sondra Locke. He also wrote One Too Many Women In Your Life for the sequel, Any Which Way You Can (1980), in which he also made a cameo appearance.
In 1983 he released the solo album Phil Everly. The track She Means Nothing To Me, on which Cliff Richard was co-lead vocalist, reached the Top 10 in Britain. In June of the same year The Everly Brothers were reunited on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They recorded for Mercury in Nashville, and continued to perform well into the new millennium. They were admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and in 1997 received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Phil Everly was thrice married and had two sons, Jason and Chris, both singers and songwriters. He married his third wife, Patti Arnold, in 1999.