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Kenny Everett
Kenny Everett.jpg
Birth name Maurice James Christopher Cole
Born 25 December 1944(1944-12-25)
Seaforth, near Liverpool
England
Died 4 April 1995 (aged 50)
London, England
Medium Radio, Television
Nationality British
Years active 1962-1995
Genres Character comedy, surreal comedy, sketch
Influences Spike Milligan, Joe Meek, Delia Derbyshire, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Peter Cook, Viv Stanshall, Frank Zappa
Influenced Chris Moyles, Chris Tarrant
Spouse Lee 'Lady Lee' Middleton
Notable works and roles The Kenny Everett Television Show
Website [1]

Kenny Everett (born Maurice James Christopher Cole in Seaforth, Lancashire; 25 December 1944 – 4 April 1995) was an English comedian, radio DJ and television entertainer. He is best known for his career as a radio DJ and for the Kenny Everett television shows.

Contents

Early life

Everett attended the local secondary modern school, St Bede's Secondary Modern, which is now part of Sacred Heart Catholic College.

He attended a junior seminary at Stillington near York with an Italian missionary order, the Verona Fathers, but left under a cloud after, rumour has it, he broke into the sacristy and drank the communion wine.

After schooling he worked in a bakery and in the advertising department of The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph.

However, having revealed a natural comic and broadcasting talent, he began a career in entertainment. He adopted his stage name from film-star Edward Everett Horton, a childhood hero.

Broadcasting career

Radio career

Everett's first break (as Maurice Cole) came when he sent a tape to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1962. The BBC gave him an interview and offered him a job as a presenter on the Light Programme, the forerunner to BBC Radio 2. He declined, however, in favour of the less constrained world of pirate radio, where he began his career as a DJ for Radio London.

He teamed up with Dave Cash for the Kenny & Cash Show, one of the most popular pirate radio programmes. His offbeat style and likable personality quickly gained him attention, but in 1965 he was fired after some outspoken remarks about religion on air. Like most of the pirate stations, Radio London carried sponsored American evangelical shows and Everett's disparaging remarks about The World Tomorrow caused its producers to threaten to withdraw their lucrative contract with the station.

Everett returned six months later, however, before being given his own show by Radio Luxembourg in 1966. Within a year, he had joined the BBC's new pop music station Radio 1 after previewing The Beatles' new album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and interviewing the band. Everett had struck up a friendship with The Beatles and accompanied them on their 1966 tour of the United States, sending back daily reports for Radio London. He also produced their 1968 and 1969 Christmas records.

At Radio 1 Everett continued to develop his own unique presentation style, featuring zany voices, surreal characters, multi-tracked jingles and trailers, all of his own creation and compilation. It was ground-breaking radio material that has since been much copied.

Everett had a great love of sound recording equipment, in particular using reel-to-reel tape recorders, often adding sound-on-sound to his recordings and stereo/multi-track recordings of his pseudo-singing voice. These were broadcast on air regularly and he often created his own radio jingles. This skill was also transferred in some part to TV in his later career.

Everett is often cited as having coined the term 'Beeb' to refer to the BBC,[citation needed] although the corporation was occasionally referred to as the "Beeb Beeb Ceeb" in the seminal 1950s radio comedy series The Goon Show, and it is possible that Everett borrowed the expression from there (Everett cited Spike Milligan as a childhood hero and an artistic influence). The term is still in popular use; the BBC have used 'the Beeb' themselves. They previously used beeb.com), had a short lived 1980s children's magazine called Beeb, and named their digital channel for young children CBeebies.

Everett's shows on Radio 1 included Midday Spin, and in 1968 he took over a Saturday show from 10 am to 12 noon.

In 1970, however, Everett again found himself fired, this time after suggesting on air that Mary Peyton, the British Transport Minister's wife, had bribed her driving test examiner. The remark was a spontaneous quip, following a news item describing how Peyton had finally passed after many attempts. Kenny remarked "...she probably slipped him a fiver..." meaning a banknote for five pounds sterling, a substantial amount at the time.

Following an interview on the BBC Radio Solent children's show Albert's Gang, Kenny submitted weekly shows to the station that he had pre-recorded at home. This afforded the BBC the opportunity to vet the shows before broadcast. Everett was then heard on various BBC local radio stations before being reinstated at Radio 1 in 1972. Here he recorded a weekly show from his home in Wales and it went out on a Sunday afternoon.

During this time, legislation had been passed allowing the licensing of commercial radio stations in the UK. One of the first, Capital Radio, began broadcasting to London and the Home Counties in 1973. Everett joined the station and was given his own show, where he further developed his distinctive ideas. From 1973 to 1974 he presented the station's breakfast show, initially alongside Dave Cash, a friend and colleague from Radio London days, and later as the sole presenter.

Using reel-to-reel tape recorders and mixing equipment, Everett created many comedy characters on The Breakfast Show with Dave Cash on Capital, one of which was called 'Yasher the Smasher' referring to a character who smashed pianos. This was indicative of how many people went through a destructive period smashing traditional wooden pianos. The idea was first started with Pete Townshend from The Who encouraging the group to destroy their equipment on stage.

In 1974 he moved to a less high-pressure timeslot at Capital (a transfer made on medical advice and associated with complications in his personal life[citation needed]). Here he further developed his unique style and his cult following, and featured both what he thought the best in music (Queen, Chris Rainbow) and the worst, which led to the popular Kenny Everett's World's Worst Record Show programmes, later released as an album, with slightly different tracks. Several shows featured the "Bottom 30": compilations (from listeners' votes) of the world's worst records during this period, including some tracks by well-known personalities not known for their singing, notably William Shatner, Captain James T Kirk of Star Trek with his version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and "The Shifting Whispering Sands" by Eamonn Andrews.

In 1975 Everett played a pivotal role in getting Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" released as a single. He also presented a pre-recorded programme on Saturday lunch-time for Radio Victory in Portsmouth, later providing Captain Kremmen to the station for transmission in the Dave Christian's late show.

Recently, some of the best of Everett's "mad-hatter natter between the platters that don't matter" from this period has been repeated on BBC 7.

BBC Radio & back to Capital

In October 1981, Everett returned to BBC Radio, albeit this time on Radio 2, on Saturday from 11am-1pm. This lasted until 1983, when he was once again dismissed after making a rude joke about Margaret Thatcher: "When England was a kingdom, we had a king. When we were an empire, we had an emperor. Now we're a country ... and we have Margaret Thatcher". This remark reportedly led to the non-renewal of his contract with BBC Radio 2.

In May 1985, he was called in to replace Graeme Garden (who was ill) for one episode of the Radio 4 game show, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

He returned to Capital Radio, presenting the same slot as he had on Radio 2. After Capital split its frequencies in 1988 he was heard on Capital Gold, with a line-up that included people like Tony Blackburn and David Hamilton. Everett presented the afternoon show and then moved to the mid-morning show. He left in 1994 when his health deteriorated to the point that he was unable to continue.

TV career

Early television work

Besides the radio programmes, his first screen appearance was in the 1965 film Dateline Diamonds the plot based around the pirate ship the MV Galaxy, he also appeared in several television series. The first, in 1968, was a production for Granada Television called Nice Time, co-presented by Germaine Greer and Jonathan Routh. In 1970 he made three series for London Weekend Television (LWT): The Kenny Everett Explosion, Making Whoopee and Ev; and he also took part (along with such talents as Willie Rushton and John Wells) in the 1972 BBC TV series Up Sunday.

In 1973, Everett provided the voice of the cat 'Charley' in the Charley Says animated series of public information films.

(It is not currently clear to which of these efforts Everett was referring when, years later, he spoke dismissively of some early TV work: "We just used to turn up at the studio and try to be wacky". However in interviews, co-presenter Greer spoke of him as "a televisual genius".)

Everett was the announcer on the original version of ATV's "big box game" Celebrity Squares which ran on ITV from 1975 to 1979. Also in 1975, Everett featured in an uncredited cameo in an episode of The Goodies, entitled The Goodies Rule – O.K.?, in which he appeared as a political candidate in a (fictional) General Election.

The Kenny Everett Video Show and The Kenny Everett Video Cassette

In 1978, London's Thames Television offered him a new venture, which became the very successful and ground-breaking Kenny Everett Video Show. This was a vehicle for Everett's characters and sketches (his fellow writers were Ray Cameron, Barry Cryer and Dick Vosburgh), interspersed with the latest pop hits, either performed by the artists themselves, or as backing tracks to dance routines by Arlene Phillips' contemporaneously risqué dance troupe Hot Gossip (which featured Sarah Brightman).

Various pop and TV stars made cameo appearances on the show, including Rod Stewart, Billy Connolly, Kate Bush, Cliff Richard, Freddie Mercury, Terry Wogan and Suzi Quatro (see also "Friends" section below) and classical musicians such as Julian Lloyd Webber (clip).

These shows were also unusual in that there was no studio audience or laughter track. The only reaction sounds were those of the writers, staff and crew (given this small audience the shows were recorded at Thames Television House in small studios normally used for current affairs programmes, rather than at Thames's main site at Teddington, Middlesex.

Everett would often ad lib and deviate from the script; his bloopers were sometimes left in the final cut and on several occasions he pulled the camera around the studio revealing the crew not quite sure what was going to happen next. Quite often the crew were victims of his humour - on one occasion Everett encouraged the crew to sing "Happy Birthday" to a cameraman, presenting to him a cake which he duly pushed in the cameraman's face.

There were also the stories of Captain Kremmen, a science fiction hero voiced by Everett and originally developed for his Capital Radio shows, who travelled the galaxy battling fictional alien menaces, along with his assistant Dr Gitfinger and his voluptuous sidekick Carla. In the first three series these segments were animations created by the Cosgrove-Hall partnership (responsible for the successful children's cartoon series Dangermouse, among many others). In the fourth series (Video Cassette) Kremmen was featured as live action, with Anna Dawson playing Carla; the segments were comedy shorts, rather than the earlier stories.

Other characters included: aging rock-and-roller Sid Snot, unsuccessfully flipping cigarettes into his mouth - at one point Everett managed to catch one in his mouth, to the amusement of the studio crew; Marcel Wave, a lecherous Frenchman played by Everett wearing an absurdly false latex chin; and Angry of Mayfair, a middle-class City gent complaining of the risqué content of the show, banging the camera with his umbrella, only then to be revealed as actually wearing women's underwear.

He also created the never-seen character of 'Lord Thames', supposedly the owner of Thames Television (the company was actually owned by two conglomerates). The character was often the butt of Everett's rants and was said to symbolise his contempt for senior management at the company, claiming they lived behind an ancient, cobweb-covered door marked as the "Office Of Saying 'No'". Thames never disciplined him for these comments, unlike prior employers such as the BBC.

Everett's interest in (then primitive) video processing technology and electronic effects showed itself in such features as the appearances of a bobbing 'alien' entirely composed of a distorted video image of his own head ("Hello. I'm Spod, from Planet Thfnnnn. And this is all I do... Pathetic, isn't it?").

The series ran for four seasons on ITV, and was a big ratings hit, being required viewing for teenagers of the time. The last episode ended on a rather sour note (after Everett had locked horns with Thames management over his show and its scheduling) with Everett giving a restrained farewell speech as the set and scenery was being stripped down by the crew. The final shot before the closing credits was Everett himself being picked up and placed inside an oversized garbage can.

The Kenny Everett Television Show (BBC 1981-1988)

Everett fell out with Thames regarding the management of his show, including the scheduling against the BBC's top-rated Top of the Pops on Thursday evenings, effectively unbeatable in the days of three-channel television in the UK. The BBC offered him a live-audience sketch-format comedy programme, starting with a Christmas special on BBC One in 1981, followed by five primetime series. The writing team was bolstered by the addition of Andrew Marshall, David Renwick and Neil Shand, and the production standards were raised by the heavier investment from the Corporation.

Thames Television claimed copyright on Everett's characters, and tried to prevent their use by the BBC. Whilst this action failed, it led to the creation of new characters such as Gizzard Puke (intended to replace Sid Snot), and the spooneristically named Cupid Stunt, an American B-movie actress with pneumatic breasts, and played with no attempt to disguise Everett's beard, who told a cardboard cutout of Michael Parkinson lurid tales of life on set with Burt Reynolds and other male stars of the era. Her original name, Mary Hinge, was vetoed by the Corporation as too obvious, and announcers were encouraged to refer to her as Cupid to prevent mispronunciation. Inept TV handyman Reg Prescott became another firm viewers' favourite, as each week he managed graphically and bloodily to injure himself with tools whilst attempting to demonstrate DIY tips.

Brazilian-born Cleo Rocos co-starred in the BBC series, and became one of Everett's closest personal friends. She often appeared in nothing more than frilly underwear and high heels, and her figure was used to great comic effect as a focus for drooling, lascivious men.

Some fans feel that the move to the more traditional BBC watered down the anarchic spirit of his previous work. The Corporation assumed much tighter control over both content and production, and it is felt that this removed some of the spontaneity which had become a hallmark of the Thames series. However, the series performed equally well in the ratings, and the characters and their catchphrases endure more than 20 years later.

KE's VideoShow complete list of joke-making characters

Thames TV
  • Sid Snot, an aging rock-n-roller:

("Hullo Saddle-sniffers. Sid Snot ere!").

  • Marcel Wave, a lecherous Frenchman:

("Au-revoir my leetle Ros-bifs").

  • Angry of Mayfair, a City Gent with umbrella:

("Angry of Mayfair here!").

  • Disco Version, KE blacked up as an 'eggn':

("Hope all you 'honkies' had a white Christmas?")

  • Spod, an alien but really a early TV-video affect.
  • Helium Baby, with pram:

("My mummy says...").

  • Mary the Prude, sending up bespectacled Mary Whitehouse with inflating breasts
  • Lord-Thames (unseen).
BBC TV
  • Sid Snot, an aging rock-n-roller:

("Hullo mersey-tunnel mouths.").

  • Marcel Wave, a lecherous Frenchman
  • Gizzard Puke, a 70's punk:

("Hullo I'm Gizzard Puke... the first one that says Punk's dead, will be").

  • Cupid Stunt, an American sex-kitten B-movie star.

("(pre-laughter) Any way, let me tell you about my new movie. It's called 'Balclava' gang-bang and it stars Burt, my leading man!"...) ("Any way, I'm telling you the plot! Go see it - you'll love it! And its all done in the best puussible taste!" (legs crossed and then uncrossed revealing knickers)).

  • (Pastor) Brother Lee Love, with huge plastic hands and huge pointy hat.
  • Reg Prescott, inept DIY on TV-presenter.
  • a US Army Major, with huge shoulder pads with intercontinental ballistic missile launch-pads inside each shoulder-pad:

(Monologue blaming world Communism for various ills, always climaxing with: "We'll round 'em up – and put 'em in a field – and bomb the bastards!").

  • Super-Jew, bespectacled, in a kosher superman with star-of-David symbol:

("Up, up and Oi-vey!").

  • Julian Mince, a drunken, champagne-swilling upper-class twit, telling hoary jokes on what appears to be the lawn of a stately home.

Quiz shows

Everett hosted two short-lived quiz shows late in his career, Brainstorm[1], and Gibberish[2][3]. He was also a team captain on That's Showbusiness.

Friends and guests

Everett was very popular with his peers, and many major stars of television, radio, and pop music counted him as a friend. This led to many celebrity guest appearances across all his television work. Cliff Richard happily lampooned his clean image many times, as did Lionel Blair and many times Justin Hayward. Terry Wogan - a long-time colleague from the early days at Radio 1 - made numerous appearances on both Thames and the BBC shows, as did Billy Connolly and Lennie Bennett. Other stars who parodied themselves included Rod Stewart, Kate Bush, ABBA, The Police and Freddie Mercury.

Quotations and catchphrases

  • "It's all done in the best POSSIBLE taste!" -- regular punchline uttered by the character 'Cupid Stunt', accompanied by her swapping her crossed legs over in the most vigorous way possible.
  • "'Ello my leetle chickadees" (and variations, in heavy French accent) -- introductory remark uttered by character 'Marcel Wave'.
  • "Round 'em up, put 'em in a field, and BOMB THE BASTARDS!" -- all-purpose solution to any perceived social problem, declared by 'Marvin Bombthebastards', a handgun-waving US General with immense shoulders (equipped with retractable cannon) and chest to support many medals.
  • "Brother, Brother, Brother Lee Love!" -- gospel-style sung introduction to huge-handed US minister 'Brother Lee Love', whose frenetic sermons called for the 'congregation' to echo the last two syllables of some sentences, with amusing (and occasionally very rude) results.
  • "I hate pornography ... I haven't even got a pornograph!" -- 'Colonel Muriel Clean'.
  • 'This morning, I spilled coffee all over my wife's dressing gown! Serves me right for wearing it! -- 'Colonel Muriel Clean'.
  • "Colonel Muriel Clean here, of the Campaign for Nice Things on Television!' (A couple of bars of 'Hallelujah!' from the 'Hallelujah Chorus'.) 'We believe in goodness, truth and beauty! We believe that Julie Andrews should get her own series, and that Joan Collins should get her own breakfast! And remember: you don't have to watch this endless display of perversitude and fleshybollery! You've all got a knob there! SO USE IT!" -- Colonel Muriel Clean'.'
  • (Electronic rendition of Bach's choral prelude Wachet Auf) - reminiscent of and perhaps the work of Wendy Carlos - musical accompaniment to all sketches featuring 'Maurice Mimer', parody of French mime artist Marcel Marceau.
  • "Ello, I'm Gizzard Puke, mugger to the gentry, and anyone who says punk's dead, will be."

Bloodbath at the House of Death

Everett made one foray into film with 1984's Bloodbath at the House of Death, a spoof of Hammer horror films, which was penned by Everett's usual writing partners Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron (who also directed the film). Vincent Price featured as the villain, credited only as the "Sinister Man", and a number of other popular comedians and actors also appeared, most notably Pamela Stephenson, Gareth Hunt and Don Warrington. Several regulars from Everett's television series also appeared.

The film was not a great success, despite winning "Best Science-Fiction Film" at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film (tied with Videodrome), and Everett did not make a successful transition to film star.

Political controversy

In the 1983 election campaign, the Young Conservatives invited Everett to their conference in an attempt to attract the youth vote. Egged on by film director Michael Winner, Everett bounded onto the stage, wearing the enormously oversized foam rubber hands familiar from his mock-evangelical character Brother Lee Love. He shouted slogans like "Let's bomb Russia!" and "Let's kick Michael Foot's stick away!" to loud applause (Michael Foot was the elderly leader of the Labour Party at the time.)[4] [5] However, this was never a declaration of support for the Conservatives;[citation needed] his longtime collaborator Barry Cryer claimed in 2010 at a Q&A session at Arnolfini as part of the Slaptick festival in Bristol that Everett was always apolitical and "certainly hated Thatcher". Billy Connolly later said Everett did the stunt because 'the guy's a fucking nutter!'.[citation needed]

Later life

The radio shows continued in the same vein and were as popular as ever, but by the late 1980s the TV show format had run its course, and Everett's personal life was becoming increasingly complicated. He had married the singer Lee 'Lady Lee' Middleton (Billy Fury's former girlfriend) in 1966 ("Kenny proposed to me under a magnolia tree in Fulham", she later recalled).[citation needed]

By 1979 they had separated, and Everett came out as gay. He launched himself into the London gay club scene, and could often be seen in London club Heaven (then a very popular clubbing destination) on Saturday nights. He was an active campaigner for gay rights.[citation needed] He seemed never to fully come to terms with his sexuality, however, and suffered bouts of severe depression.[citation needed]

Everett had been told in 1989 that he had HIV. It is believed he caught it from Freddie Mercury's partner, with whom he'd also had a relationship.[6] He died from an AIDS-related illness, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London,[7] on 4 April 1995, aged 50.

Shows hosted

The following is a list of the main shows Everett has presented.

Radio

Television

Tributes and portrayals

On November 18, 2007, ITV1 broadcast a tribute show to Everett entitled Licence To Laugh. This celebrated the thirty years since he first appeared on ITV with the ground-breaking Kenny Everett Video Show (Thames Television, 1978 to 1980).

Friends and colleagues revealed what it was like to know and work with the man they affectionately dubbed "Cuddly Ken". Additionally, contemporary celebrities such as Chris Moyles and Chris Tarrant talked about their love for the outrageous entertainer, and discussed the ways in which Everett had influenced them and their work. It also featured archive footage.

In March 2010 the BBC confirmed it was working on a 90-minute TV biopic called Number One in Heaven to be written by Tim Whitnall and focussing on Everett's unhappiness at secondary school.[8]

References

Further reading

External links

General links
Radio
Television
Other languages







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