Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

April 17, 2009

More tributes

from the Guardian

Mark Damazer, the BBC Radio 4 controller, praised Freud's "style and content" over more than 40 years as a contestant on the station's panel show Just a Minute. Freud had contributed to every series of the show since taking part in the first episode in 1967.
"Call it what you will – dry, lugubrious, droll, deadpan – it was a unique way of dealing with the show's inherent verbal challenges – and with the other panellists," wrote Damazer on the Radio 4 blog this morning.
"And his richly varied life gave him a reservoir of knowledge from which he could pull out stories, one-liners, anecdotes, aphorisms and quotations. He was a very clever man indeed."
Damazer said Freud had attended a recent dinner for the Just a Minute team and was "vivid, funny, and gossipy", telling everyone how much he enjoyed the show.
"When I became controller of Radio 4 he was one of the first people to phone me up. We had not met. His opening line was 'I am a very young man, you know, and I intend to go on for decades.' He didn't quite achieve that – but he remained a terrific asset to Radio 4 throughout. He will be missed."
Freud remained on the Observer sports desk until 1964 and also became cookery editor of the left-wing literary and political magazine Time and Tide between 1961 and 1963. He contributed to the Observer Magazine from 1964 to 1968.
Echoing comments made today by the comedian Stephen Fry, who described Freud's "raffishness", an Observer piece by Freud from March 1964 hints at his knowledge of the seedier side of London with his characteristic wry wit.
"Much information can be gleaned from notices in shop windows. There are a few rules to remember," he wrote.
"'Tuition' tends to mean prostitution. 'French' and 'Swedish' have become dirty words. 'Models' don't. And 'Trousers pressed while you wait', though inspired as an advertisement, must not be taken literally.
"While a Turkish bath could be said to be the epitome of a metropolitan man's world, it is not always advisable to talk to other men there present ... "
Freud continued to work as a print journalist throughout his career, contributing to the Daily Telegraph magazine, Sunday Telegraph, Sun, News of the World and Financial Times during the 1960s; and the Daily Express from 1973 to 1975 during his first two years as Liberal MP for the Isle of Ely.
Freud left Parliament in 1987 when he was knighted, and continued to contribute to various publications including the Independent, Times and Radio Times. His funeral will be held next week.
As he wrote in the Observer in December 1964: "If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don't actually live longer; it just seems longer."
The prime minister, Gordon Brown, added to today's tributes, describing Freud's huge contribution to public life.
"I first met Sir Clement more than 30 years ago when he was rector of Dundee University and I was rector of the University of Edinburgh," Brown said.
"I was proud to have known him and the whole country should recognise the achievements in his life. My thoughts are with his wife and family at this difficult time."

from the Telegraph

Most men with such varied interests could be said to have enjoyed them, but Freud, having ruthlessly marketed himself as a celebrity, was unable to conquer a dyspeptic nature. This manifested itself in a lugubrious manner which made him less popular with those who knew him – even in that most tolerant of clubs, the House of Commons – than with those who heard him on the radio.
Freud’s near lifelong estrangement from his artist elder brother Lucian was not of his making, however. When the then Clemens Freud looked like winning a boyhood race round a Vienna park, Lucian called out: “Stop thief!” and Clemens was seized by passers-by.
In England, the bearded Freud, who possessed an uncanny resemblance to King Edward VII, became a household name appearing in dog food commercials alongside an equally mournful bloodhound named Henry.
His journalistic output was prodigious, running the gamut from the New Yorker to the pre-Murdoch Sun. He was at his best writing on food and drink (he had been an apprentice at the Dorchester and trained at the Martinez in Cannes). He generally wrote about recalcitrant head waiters, overrated chefs and curmudgeonly customs officers, waging a ceaseless battle against their arrogance while not always free of the trait himself .
Once, having waited 25 minutes for turtle soup, he told the waitress: “If you are making fresh turtle soup it is going to take two days, and we do not have the time. If it is canned turtle soup, I do not wish to eat here if it takes you 25 minutes to open a can.”
Writing on cookery did have a downside. Freud observed that there was nothing more depressing than “when you are served up some miserable, inedible dish and the hostess leans over proudly to announce: 'It’s one of yours.’ ”.
Freud broke into journalism in 1956 as a sports writer for the Observer, first tackling food in 1961 as cookery editor of Time and Tide on the back of his success as proprietor of the Royal Court Theatre Club; he wrote subsequently for the Observer and Telegraph magazines, doubling as a daredevil reporter who suffered frostbite on an RAF survival course.
He was a columnist and diarist for The Sunday Telegraph (initially on the City), News of the World, Financial Times, Daily Express, Radio Times, Times, Punch and the New Yorker. He wrote books for children, inventing 'Grimble’, the sensible son of criminal parents, and regaled adults with Freud on Food and The Book of Hangovers.
Though Freud did appear on television between commercials, his hangdog, oyster-eyed look was not deemed a success. On the radio, however, his spontaneity and capacity to amuse were tailor-made for any programme requiring a facility with words and a quick wit, with Just A Minute the ideal vehicle. He was, unsurprisingly, an award-winning after-dinner speaker, despite, or perhaps because of, his rudeness toward other guests.
He lived by his wits, not least at the backgammon table. He was — until sacked for betting illegally in his own casino — a director of the Playboy Club in London and of Playboy International. Yet despite his involvement in the racy side of life he said of Soho strip clubs: “As a piece of eroticism I prefer kipper fillets with brown bread.” He found the time and the nerve to be a jockey in his youth and owner of over 40 racehorses, was an accomplished pilot and once sailed from Cape Town to Rio.
Freud ('Clay’ to his colleagues) strove to be a serious politician but was never accepted as one. During his early years in the Commons he was greeted with barks whenever he rose to speak. Never at his best in the Chamber, he was a victim of his reputation as a funny man, which got in the way of determinedly serious performances. Though never short of a provocative opinion, he could seldom punch his weight.
Due to the Liberals’ limited numbers he served as their spokesman on several subjects. His one notable achievement was to promote in 1978 an Official Information Bill that would have repealed the controversial catch-all Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, and established the right of freedom of information two decades before the more timid measure promoted by Tony Blair’s government. Freud secured a Second Reading despite entrenched opposition in Whitehall; it was some way through its Committee Stage when the Callaghan government collapsed.
Despite his unfortunate manner with colleagues and staff — he got through him nine secretaries in eight years — Freud was revered in his Isle of Ely constituency. An apparently freak by-election victor in 1973 owing to his celebrity status and the Heath government’s unpopularity, he cultivated his constituents — who initially pronounced his name as “Fried” — and they re-elected him to his seat (from 1983 North-East Cambridgeshire) at four General Elections.
A grandson of Sigmund Freud, Clement Raphael Freud was born in Austria on April 24 1924 to the architect Ernst Freud and his wife Lucie. Freud — who never practised as a Jew — escaped with his family to Britain after the Anschluss of 1938 and earned an immediate reputation for bumptiousness at The Hall, Hampstead. He completed his education at Dartington Hall and St Paul’s School.
He worked at the Dorchester until called up for war service with the Royal Ulster Rifles; his introduction to Army life was, inevitably, bizarre. Apprised of Freud's origins, his CO sent for him and observed: “Mr Freud, I don’t quite know how to put this, but are you sure you’re on the right side?” By 1946 he was serving as a liaison officer at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. On demobilisation he headed for the Continent in search of haute cuisine, before becoming catering manager of the Arts Theatre Club.
In 1952 he became proprietor of the Royal Court Theatre Club, making it a highly successful avant-garde dinner-and-dance venue in still-drab post-war London. He pioneered a menu of quality, took the stage with a decidedly lewd cabaret turn, gave Dudley Moore his first break and honed his skill in attracting headlines. He won two libel actions — one against the Daily Sketch for reporting that he arranged “hot babies” for his members (they were in fact young actresses babysitting at £1 a night), the other against the Empire News for stating that he aimed to break the 4-minute mile on a diet of brandy.
Early in 1963 the Royal Court reclaimed the premises for its own use. Freud then ran a succession of restaurants — one at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park — and wrote and broadcast prolifically. He entered the realm of satire on David Frost’s Not So Much A Programme, the supposedly “safe” successor to That Was The Week That Was, but it was 1967 before his television career took off.
He was hired by Quaker Oats to appear with Henry advertising Chunky Meat Minced Morsels, a product made mainly from whalemeat which the firm’s executives said tasted “gritty, but quite good”. Freud accepted an “enormous fee”, declaring: “I get more than Henry. I don’t have a dog and I don’t eat dog food, so I can be neutral.”
The advertisement was a succès fou, winning awards in San Francisco, Tokyo and Berlin. The next year he began his association with Just a Minute, with Nicholas Parsons in the chair and Kenneth Williams and Derek Nimmo his initial fellow-panellists.
By now he was a celebrity in his own right. When George Best, at the height of his footballing fame, held a house-warming party, Freud was there, rubbing shoulders with Sir Matt Busby, Bob Monkhouse, Lionel Blair, Tommy Trinder and Imogen Hassall. The party — inevitably — attracted headlines, a police car allegedly having ferried in fresh supplies when the drink ran out.
Freud’s foray into politics came as a total surprise, giving rise to the suggestion that it was a stunt. Moreover with earnings he estimated at £55,000 a year, he did not need the Parliamentary salary. Stunt or no, Freud waged an effective campaign in the Isle of Ely following the death of the Conservative Sir Harry Legge-Bourke, whose most memorable act had been to urge Harold Macmillan to quit at the height of his troubles.
On July 27 1973 he captured the seat, not even contested by the Liberals at the previous election, by 1,470 votes, picking up £3,000 in winnings having backed himself at 33-1. His election, mocked by some as the “theatre of the absurd”, put the Parliamentary party back into double figures. And in February 1974 he was re-elected with a majority of 8,347. Freud inadvertently voted twice, having failed to cancel a proxy vote in Suffolk, where he had a home.
His first appearance in the House was unpromising, voting mistakenly with Labour on prices and incomes. But he made an impact as an impresario, setting up a saloon car race between MPs and peers, presiding over the formation of a Parliamentary cricket club and being co-opted to the Catering Committee. He blotted his copybook when the Berkeley Hotel, of which he was a director, advertised gourmet evenings at the Commons with Freud for £13 each — cancelled after complaints that they violated Parliamentary privilege. But he had Fleet Street behind him when he resigned from the committee over a £20,000 order for German crockery made without Wedgwood, the previous supplier, being asked to tender.
Freud was not a party man. He had a habit of throwing tantrums at the Liberal assembly, either with delegates or the management of the conference hotel; one appalled him so much that he sought volunteers for an escape committee. He was a passionate but fitful education spokesman, upsetting some colleagues by pressing successfully for legislation to let some children leave school before their 16th birthday.
He gave strong support to Peter Hain during his trial on bank robbery charges which turned out to have been concocted by South African intelligence. And when the Jeremy Thorpe affair broke in 1976, Freud was the only Liberal MP to urge that he stay on as party leader. He remained loyal to Thorpe, sitting close to him when the conspiracy charge against him came to court and being there to celebrate his acquittal.
With Thorpe forced to stand down, Freud backed David Steel to succeed him; Steel improbably made him spokesman on Northern Ireland, but he did the job soundly until moved to the arts portfolio after the 1979 election. More plausibly, he took the chair of the party’s finance and administration board.
His Parliamentary commitments did not limit his wider activities. In 1974 he was elected Rector of Dundee University, winning re-election three years later ahead of the soft porn star Fiona Richmond. He also used his political appeal to advance a lifelong commitment to children’s welfare. A former secretary of the Refugee Children’s Fund, he set up, with Jonathan Aitken, a Parliamentary Den of the Good Bears of the World, providing teddies to children in hospital, and was later president of the Down’s Children Association.
More controversially, he remained a director of the Playboy Club until, in 1981, the police blocked renewal of the licence of its Clermont casino on the ground that Freud had gambled there while a director; he was said to have called bets on the roulette wheel even as the ball was dropping. Sir Hugh Fraser, whom Freud had beaten in an amateur National Hunt race, was also named. The Playboy board sacked Freud despite his claim to have lost overall over the years, and Beefeater Gin dropped him from its commercials.
In 1983 Freud held his seat for the Liberal/SDP Alliance by 5,195 votes despite adverse boundary changes. A clue to his continuing local popularity came when he sponsored a management buy-out of March Concrete, the biggest concrete pipeworks in the country, saving 60 jobs. In 1987, with Alliance fortunes waning, he finally lost to a Conservative; Steel secured him a knighthood.
After briefly considering a comeback at a by-election, Freud became a consultant to THF (later Forte), and later to the InterCity division of British Rail, pioneering a more palatable buffet car sandwich. His first creations were poached salmon and dill with mustard mayonnaise and Chinese leaves on oatmeal bread, and corned beef with red tomato chutney.
For many years Freud lived in a house in Boundary Road, St John's Wood, which he bought from BR to turn into a “dream home”. With more than the purchase price spent on refurbishment, Freud and the designer Jon Bannenberg became embroiled in a complex lawsuit. In later years he lived in Wimpole Street, at Walberswick in Suffolk and in the Algarve.
In 1950 Freud married the actress Jill Raymond; she, their three sons and two daughters survive him.

also in the Telegraph

"If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don't actually live longer; it just seems longer"

"I used to ask women to come upstairs and have sex, but now it has to be one or the other."

"I think our police are excellent, probably because I have not done anything that has occasioned being beaten up by these good men."

"In moments of considerable strain, I tend to take to bread-and-butter pudding. There is something about the blandness of soggy bread, the crispness of the golden outer crust and the unadulterated pleasure of a lightly set custard that makes the world seem a better place to live."

"Congealed fat is pretty much the same, irrespective of the delicacy around which it is concealed."

"Breakfast is a notoriously difficult meal to serve with a flourish."

"Politically, I was an anti-Conservative unable to join a Labour party hell-bent on nationalising everything that moved, so when a by-election occurred in East Anglia, where I lived and live, I stood as a Liberal and was fortunate in getting in. Ladbrokes quoted me at 33-1 in this three-horse contest, so Ladbrokes paid for me to have rather more secretarial and research staff than other MPs, which helped to keep me in for five parliaments."

"In Vegas everything is done to make you gamble and forget all else. There is food and drink and music and women – who all play their part in eliminating Methodist principles from your mind."

"The Inland Revenue decide to audit Cyril, summon him to their office for an appointment with their most thorough auditor, who is not surprised when Cyril arrives with his solicitor. The auditor says: 'Sir, you cannot deny that you have an extravagant lifestyle, no full-time employment, and pay no taxes on the grounds of your contention that you win money gambling. I have to tell you that Her Majesty's Customs and Excise finds that explanation difficult to believe.'
"'I am a great gambler and can prove it,' says Cyril. 'Would you like a demonstration?'
"The auditor considers this for a moment and agrees. Cyril says: 'I bet you a thousand pounds I can bite my own eye.' The auditor thinks for a while, finally says: 'It's a bet.'
"Cyril removes his glass eye and bites it. The auditor looks sick.
"'I'll bet you two thousand pounds that I can bite my other eye,' says Cyril. The auditor can tell Cyril isn't blind, so he accepts the bet. Cyril removes his false teeth and bites the good eye.
"The stunned auditor now realises he has bet and lost £3,000, with Cyril's solicitor as a witness; he gets very nervous. 'Double or nothing?' Cyril says. 'I'll bet you six thousand pounds that I can stand on the righthand side of your desk and piss into the bin on the far side without getting one drop anywhere between.'
"The auditor, twice burned, is cautious now but examines the proposal carefully. Cyril is not a tall man, the desk is eight foot wide; he decides there is simply no way Cyril could do that, so he agrees again.
"Cyril stands at the side of the desk, unzips his trousers, strains for all he is worth but cannot make the stream reach the bin on the far side, and finishes up having urinated pretty well all over the auditor's desk. The auditor leaps with joy, realising that he has just turned a major loss into a sizeable win, then notices that Cyril's solicitor is moaning, with his head in his hands. 'Are you okay?' asks the auditor.
"'Not really,' says the solicitor. 'This morning, when Cyril told me he had been summoned to this audit, he bet me £20,000 that he could come in here, piss all over your desk and you would be happy about it . . . and I took the bet.'"

from the BBC

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg also paid tribute saying: "Clement Freud was part of a generation of larger than life figures who kept the Liberal Party alive through thick and thin.
"It is astonishing to remember all the things he did, all the things he was - wit, raconteur, politician, chef, advertiser of dog food, writer, comedian, a devoted father, husband and grandfather and someone who could never resist a flutter.
"They don't make people like that anymore and he will be sorely missed by millions," he added.


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