May 2005

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The first of Robert Ross' regular contributions to the TellyNation site!

I was delighted when Anne-Marie asked me to pen a few comic thoughts for this cracking site but, the very first of these columns concerning the good, bad and ugly of classic comedy and I’m submitting it late!  Suffice to say that these ramblings will come along, on a fairly regular basis, at the start of every month. But as I say, this one is late. My excuse is simple…I’m, thankfully, very busy…and so my bank manager heaves a sigh of relief.

As I take a moment between the six o’clock news and the start of a new series of New Tricks (James Bolam and Dennis Waterman…what more do you want!), I’m still juggling a couple of Carry On commitments, plans for DVD commentaries, several potential new book outlines and my second Doctor Who audio script for Big Finish.

Apart from that, the very end of April and the very start of May ushered in two important events in the comedy calendar.  Firstly, on 29 April, it was a joyous occasion, naturally tinged with sadness, when Patsy Rowlands’ memorial service was held at the Actor’s Church in Covent Garden.  A fittingly packed house, Patsy’s many roles from the comic heights of the Carry On comedies to her final hurrah as the housekeeper in the revival of My Fair Lady, were celebrated with friends, family and fans alike.  It was a delight to be warmly greeted by that distinguished actor, Alec Bregonzi, who gave a double take and uttered the fruitiest ‘Ooh hello!’ this side of Charles Hawtrey.  Cynics amongst the show biz fraternity may judge the success or otherwise of a memorial service on the number of autographs they sign!  For me, I signed one; a vintage edition of The Carry On Companion proffered by an engaging and charming fan of classic British comedy. 

There is, I suppose, something slightly odd about autograph hounds foregathering outside a church in order to get the signatures of the rich or famous or both or, indeed, me, but I have no problem with it.  An actress like Patsy Rowlands lived her life in the limelight and, for her fellow entertainers, the show must go on.  A few kind words and a shared memory of Patsy made for a fitting farewell to a very special lady.

A very special man was honoured in Brighton on the following Sunday, 1 May.  Max Miller, the Cheeky Chappie and the ‘pure gold of Music Hall’ has enjoyed a loyal and very vocal fan base of late.  Although he died, in his beloved Brighton, in 1963, the Max Miller Appreciation Society has, over five years, managed to raise the monies to erect (ooh missus) a statue to the great man thanks to charity auctions, a gala show at the Theatre Royal, Brighton and sheer bloody minded hard work.  The unveiling was a treat, with George Formby and Max Miller lookalikes and a wonderful George Melly lookalike.  In fact, it was George Melly in the flesh!  He was joined at the party by Max Miller Appreciation Society president Roy Hudd, his radio co-star June Whitfield, the legendary Norman Wisdom, Monty Python’s Carol Cleveland, scriptwriters Jimmy Perry and David Renwick, faces from EastEnders and Heartbeat and Brighton veteran Dora Bryan.  All in all, a wonderful weekend with friends old and new, spent in the best way possible…saluting my comedy heroes with a smile and a song.

This coming Saturday, 14 May, I re-join my old buddy and TellyNation mega-hero, Henry Holland, for a launch of the new edition of my book, The Complete Sid James.  We return to the Bath House pub in the West End, in tow with Sid’s Bless This House colleagues Sally Geeson, Anthony Jackson and Vince Powell, and other favourites from the work of this beloved comedy actor.  A quick plug: the book is published by Reynolds and Hearn and priced at £19.99. 

On the DVD front, the good old BBC are releasing series three of the heady perennial Dad’s Army, complete with the mega-rare episode, Room at the Bottom, unbroadcast for many years thanks to the programme only surviving in black and white.  A rare treat indeed.  Talking of classic military comedy, the company that seems to have TellyNation’s ethos burnt in to it’s soul, Network, are releasing a little gem in June…but that, as they say, is something for another time.

Ta Ta For Now

Page Last Updated Wednesday, July 05, 2006 at 21:02:08