David Worboys – Big in their day

Many people become famous for a period but eventually become unknown to the wider public (Jacques Tati). Others endure for future generations.

From childhood days, during the War and its aftermath, a number of names registered with me, as I heard them over and over again. Some names are still heard frequently as they have stood the test of time. They include Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, George Orwell, Alfred Hitchcock and Don Bradman.

Other never-forgotten names from teenage schooldays are Marylin Monroe, Elvis Presley, Rocky Marciano and Charles de Gaulle. Most people today know who they were. But younger generations are less likely to know of Tommy Handley, Frankie Laine, Danny Blanchflower and El Cordobes – all big in their day. Several other celebrities, former household names, have disappeared into relative obscurity.

Jacques Tati stormed Europe’s cinemas with “Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday” in the fifties. He directed and starred in his films, with his revolutionary brand of humour. He took the art of mime to a new level and was the talk of European cinema.

Gilbert Harding was a former teacher, journalist and policeman who become a huge TV personality in the fifties, known for his irascibility. Many of his viewers watched his programmes in the hope of seeing one of his notorious outbursts. Although he suffered from loneliness, he was, in fact, a very generous and charitable person.

By contrast, Lord Robert Boothby (Eton and Oxford) was a Conservative MP and serial adulterer. Among his liaisons was a long affair with the wife of incumbent Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. He had a homosexual relationship with the sadistic criminal Ronnie Kray who arranged debauched orgies for him involving young boys and gross perversion. Despite all this, he associated with the rich and famous.

Eartha Kitt was the sexiest, most provocative of all singers, described by Orson Welles as the most exciting woman on the planet. Both her singing voice and her physical delivery were distinctive and “inviting”. Each Christmas she reappears with “Santa Baby”.

We may recall Lord Lucan´s disappearance but what about John Stonehouse? He was a cabinet minister under Harold Wilson who vanished in 1974. Accused of spying for Czechoslovakia, he appeared to have been drowned while swimming off a beach in Florida. This remained a mystery until he eventually “resurfaced” in Australia having faked his death.

There are still references to the disgraced and defunct “News of the World”. A much better newspaper was the “Sunday Dispatch” (1801-1961) which merged with the current “Sunday Express”.  It had become the UK’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper.

Jimmy Edwards was a radio comedian, star of the hugely successful “Take it from here”. He subsequently featured in a popular TV comedy series entitled “Whack-O!” Identifiable by a distinctive moustache, he was also a successful stage and screen actor.

Remember these? Konrad Adenauer, Eric Ambler, Winifred Atwell, Jack Brabham, Bernardette Devlin, Russell Harty, Arthur Haynes, Frank Ifield, Jean-Claude Killy, Alistair MacLean, Bob Newhart, Gerald Nabarro, Greg Norman, Roy Rogers, the Tiller Girls, Tommy Trinder?

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.