Obituaries

Remembering and celebrating the lives of those who have recently passed away.

Cliff Morgan, who has died aged 83, put some of his extraordinary rugby ability down to playing in his youth for Coedely Coke Ovens XV in South Wales. “Before the game we had to drive a herd of cows from the pitch. There was little we could do about the cow pats so that is how we learned to swerve and sidestep. Those who failed to develop these skills smelled horribly for weeks.” Many years later when Morgan, pictured, was in Hollywood with actor Richard Burton, the pair astonished staff at the Beverly Hills Hilton by ordering egg and chips, twice.

Alan Whicker, who has died aged 87, and traversed the globe “at least 97 times” was once voted the most envied man in Britain. He listed “reading airline timetables” among his interests and once caused a stir by saying that if he could take only six objects to a desert island he would choose “two blondes, two brunettes and two redheads”. When he was offered a cameo in a 1999 film, Whicker was asked by the costume department what he had worn in the 1970s. “You’re looking at it,” he replied.

In 1962 Sir David Frost, who has died aged 74, was seen by Ned Sherrin doing an impersonation of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at the Blue Angel in Upper Berkeley Street. Sherrin, who was looking for a linkman for That Was The Week That Was, decided Frost was the man to bring satire to late-night TV, and signed him up on the spot.

Squadron Leader Peter Tunstall, who has died aged 94, spent longer in solitary confinement than any other Allied PoW and was court-martialled by the Germans five times. After he was captured in 1940 and a German officer told him that his war was over, he replied: “It damn well is not.” He later explained: “As far as I was concerned, a different type of war had started. My first duty was to escape, my second was to be as big a bloody nuisance as possible to the enemy.”

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist with The Doors, who has died aged 74, recalled meeting lead singer Jim Morrison in 1965. “I’m sitting on the beach wondering what I’m going to do with myself. Who comes walking down but James Douglas Morrison? I said: ‘Tell me what’s going on?’ And he said: ‘Well, I’ve been living on a rooftop consuming a bit of LSD, and writing songs.’ And I said: ‘Whoa, writing songs. OK, man, cool, like sing me a song.’

“And so he sat down and began to sing. And I said: ‘Man, this is incredible. Let’s get a rock and roll band together.’ And he said: ‘That’s exactly what I want to do.’ And I said: ‘All right, man, but what do we call the band?’ He said: ‘We’re going to call it The Doors.’ And I said: ‘You mean like the doors of perception; the doors in your mind?’ He said: ‘No, no. Just The Doors.’ That was it. We were The Doors.”

Wrestler Mick McManus, who has died aged 93, developed a lasting rivalry with Jackie Pallo, often played out in bouts on FA Cup Final day in the Sixties which, according to some, drew more viewers than the football. Each man had a weakness: Pallo hated being pulled by his ponytail; McManus would beg:
“Not the ears, not the ears.”

Eddie Braben, Morecambe and Wise’s television scriptwriter during their golden period at the BBC between 1968 and 1978, was the man behind their hugely popular Christmas shows, which became more demanding each year.

As Braben, who has died aged 82, once explained: “The Morecambe And Wise Show became more important than Christmas. The real pressure came when I was sat in front of that typewriter with all those blank pages and nothing happening. That’s when you realised there were 20 or 25 million people looking over your shoulder – all saying ‘Make me laugh’.”

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