Sunday, 14 August 2011
Frankie Howerd at Blackshaw Moor- Titter Ye Not
The contestant who won the semi final of the Mastermind programme that I appeared in earlier this year went on to take Frankie Howerd as his final subject Ah Frankie, the double entendres, the verbal tics, the pout and rolling eye. Growing up in the 70s Frankie along with Benny Hill, Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper and Les Dawson were part of my TV experience. They had in common a craft acquired following long years of struggle in smokey clubs and draughty halls.
I was somewhat surprised to read that things were not always easy for him. I was carrying out some research and came across an advert promoting Howerd’s appearance at the Three Horseshoes on Blackshaw Moor in March 1969. Titter ye not! I have nothing against that pub or Blackshaw Moor, but the combination of these factors suggests to me that the comic must have been hard pressed .It seems his career was not a smooth one.
In fact one biographer described Howerd’s career as series of comebacks. After he left the army he was a regular feature on radio and TV but his career took a nosedive. He had begun to lose self-esteem, which culminated in a nervous breakdown. He entered into a lengthy period of psychoanalysis aided by taking LSD
A revival of interest lead to the appearance at the Three Horseshoes in 1969.
His greatest achievement was just around the corner. Someone had the brainwave of setting a comedy in the days of Ancient Rome. Frankie was a natural for the lead role of the slave Lucio. The pilot was first broadcast in September 1969. Up Pompeii re-established Howerd’s celebrity a position that never left him
His great secret only revealed after his death was his long-term relationship with Dennis Heymer. Being gay in the 1950s carried with it a possible criminal conviction. Heymer stayed loyal to the memory of Howerd’s who died in 1993 and on his own death 2 years ago was buried in a replica of Tutankhamun's sarcophagus, taking with him 18 personal items belonging to Howerd - including his chestnut-brown toupee.