Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

February 27, 2009

Wendy Richard - obituaries

This is from the BBC

Actress Wendy Richard dies at 65
Former EastEnders actress Wendy Richard has died at the age of 65, her agent has confirmed.
The star, who played Pauline Fowler in the BBC One soap opera for 21 years, had been suffering from cancer.
Her agent Kevin Francis said: "She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end."
Last October, Richard revealed she had an aggressive, terminal form of cancer. Soon after that she married her long-term partner John Burns.
Francis said the star passed away in the Harley Street Clinic in London with her husband by her side.
In an interview with the Sunday Express last year, Richard revealed she had already planned her funeral and written her will.
She discovered the disease had returned after her usual annual check-up, which revealed cancerous cells in her left armpit.
She told the paper: "Now I have a cancerous growth on my right kidney and the cancer has spread to my bones.
"It's more aggressive this time, unfortunately, and has spread to the top of my spine and left ribs."
Minder star Shane Ritchie, who played EastEnders' character Alfie Moon alongside Richard until 2005, said he was, "absolutely devastated" by news of her death.
"I send all my love to John and her immediate family," he added.
Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, said: "Wendy Richard is going to be incredibly missed by the BBC and by our audiences."
Veteran actress, June Whitfield, added: "She was always delightful.
"I'm very, very sorry. I did not work with Wendy. We met at dos. It's very sad."
'Funny and witty'
Presenter Dale Winton had known Richard for years.
"I'm very saddened to hear the news, she was a real fighter and actually a very kind and funny lady in her own right," he said.
"My thoughts are with her family, she will be missed."
In 2000, Richard was awarded the MBE for services to television and in 2007 she was given a British Soap Award for Lifetime Achievement for her role in EastEnders.
As well as her 21 years on Albert Square, Richard starred in sitcoms Are You Being Served?, Dad's Army and Grace and Favour.
She joined EastEnders when the programme began in 1985 and remained in it until 2006, when her character died.
The reason she gave for her departure was because she objected to a storyline that saw her character remarry.
"I left because I wasn't happy," she revealed in 2008. "Also, I couldn't believe in what they wanted me to do and unless I can find some truth in what I am doing, I cannot play it.
"Pauline remarrying was wrong. Some women never remarry. My mother never remarried after Daddy died. I always had it in my heart that Arthur was Pauline's husband and that was that."
Are You Being Served?
1965 Aged 22, joins the cast of soap The Newcomers
1970-73 Stars in four episodes of Dad's Army as Private Walker's girlfriend, Shirley
1972 Plays Miss Willing in Carry On Matron
1972-85 Stars as Miss Brahms in the series Are You Being Served? (pictured)
1985-2006 Appears in more than 1,400 episodes of EastEnders as Pauline Fowler
2008 Films her last TV role as Mrs Crump in Marple: A Pocket Full Of Rye

From The Guardian

Tributes have been paid to former EastEnders actor Wendy Richard, who died today of cancer at the age of 65.
Actor Gillian Taylforth, who appeared alongside Richard in EastEnders as her sister-in-law Kathy Mitchell for more than a decade, described her as "the loveliest of ladies and a dear friend".
"I was with her in EastEnders for 13 years and have many happy memories. I remember going out with her many times and she made the most wonderful chilli with chocolate in it from a recipe from a chef at the Dorchester and used to make up an extra batch for me as I loved it so much," Taylforth said.
"She was very generous like that and had a great sense of humour. I am very sad to hear of her passing and send my condolences to John and the family. She will be sorely missed."
Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale in the soap, said: "I have many fond memories of our time together at EastEnders and will remember her with affection. Knowing that she is no longer in pain and suffering is the only comfort and I hope she rests in peace."
Jon Altman, who plays 'Nasty Nick', added: "I always enjoyed working with Wendy, even though our characters were poles apart. I will always treasure the memories of a trip we shared together around the Mediterranean on the QE2 with her husband John and my mother Tina. The world of show business will certainly be a sadder place without her."
The BBC said tonight's episode of EastEnders on BBC1 would be dedicated to Richard and would be followed at 8pm by a special tribute programme.
Former EastEnders executive producer John Yorke, who is now head of BBC drama production, said it was impossible to overstate Richard's contribution to the BBC1 soap.
"For 22 years, whether she was bemoaning Arthur's bad luck, cursing her children's wayward nature or reminding us all once again that it was 'all about family', it was impossible for anyone to mention EastEnders without the iconic image of Pauline coming to mind," Yorke added.
"It is hard now to imagine the bravery of casting Wendy as Pauline, so successful and utterly identifiable in the role did she become. She was one of the foundation stones of the show, and with her death EastEnders is diminished. She will be much missed by all of us."
Scriptwriter Jeremy Lloyd, who worked with Richard on Are You Being Served?, said: "Wendy was not only a great friend but brought her extraordinary personality to Are You Being Served?, making her a star member of the cast. I shall miss her very much."
Richard worked with Macmillan Cancer Support following her diagnosis with the disease. The charity's chief executive, Ciaran Devane, said: "We are saddened by the death of Wendy Richards. Macmillan is very grateful for the support Wendy gave to us and to other cancer patients."
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, added: "We are very saddened by the death of Wendy Richard. Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time."
Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, speaking after a service of remembrance for the corporation's former managing director of television, Sir Bill Cotton, said Richard had lit up living rooms in many British homes and was like a member of the family to them. "Wendy Richard is going to be incredibly missed by the BBC and by our audiences," Thompson added.
Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, described Richard as one of Britain's greatest television actresses. "Wendy made an enormous contribution to British drama – she was hugely respected and will be much missed," she said.

from the Telegraph

Wendy Richard, who died on February 26 aged 65, became one of the best-known faces on British television during more than 20 years as the long-suffering matriarch Pauline Fowler in the BBC soap EastEnders; as a younger woman she had been cast in more glamorous roles, notably as the buxom Miss Brahms in the 1970s situation comedy Are You Being Served?
For years she endured a bumpy relationship with the tabloid press, which constantly feasted on EastEnders and regarded her as a soap diva; when an ex-boyfriend sold lurid stories about her to the News of the World, Wendy Richard was forced to take out a court injunction against the paper.
In 1994 her third husband, Paul Glorney, sold further information to the same newspaper for a reported £15,000, generating the front page headline “Wendy’s Boozing Sank Our Marriage”. On the studio set, too, life was seldom straightforward for her, and she survived more than one attempt to have Pauline written out.
Wendy Richard’s character had been in EastEnders since the opening episode was broadcast early in 1985; she rejected criticism that Pauline Fowler, manageress of the Albert Square launderette, was miserable, never smiled and dressed like a drab.
A convivial trouper who hugely enjoyed the trappings of soap stardom, Wendy Richard also believed that she was entitled to the same privacy as non-celebrities: in 1995, when she appeared on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs, she stopped an inquisitive Sue Lawley four times in the course of the recording after the presenter strayed from the pre-agreed, anodyne agenda; she was annoyed still further when she was not allowed to take her pet Cairn terrier to the mythical island as a luxury.
In February the following year she discovered a lump in her left breast and was diagnosed with cancer. After surgery and a course of radiotherapy, she was given the all-clear. But in July 2006 she announced that she would be leaving EastEnders at Christmas after nearly 22 years in the show.
Although she was to make her name as an actress, Wendy Richard first came to national attention, in 1962, on a novelty pop song, Come Outside, in which she had an attenuated speaking part (“Get lost... Give over”) duetting with the singer Mike Sarne in the role of an importunate young man on pleasure bent. To everyone’s amazement, including her own, the record shot to the top of the charts, where it remained for 19 weeks, selling well over half a million copies. It was her first real brush with fame, if not with fortune — she was paid a flat fee of just £15, and received not a penny in royalties.
Her first television break came in 1965 in The Newcomers, one of the BBC’s earliest soaps, designed to rival ITV’s Coronation Street for social realism. Wendy Richard played Joyce Harker, the teenage daughter of a London family relocated to a fictitious dormitory town in Suffolk.
After several cameo spots in Dad’s Army, Wendy Richard finally achieved stardom in 1973 when she was cast as the Cockney shop assistant Shirley Brahms in Are You Being Served?, set in an antiquated department store, and initially launched as a 30-minute pilot in the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse series. She soon made her mark as the love interest for the infatuated Mr Lucas (played by Trevor Bannister) and the daughter figure for the monstrous pussy-fancier Mrs Slocombe (Mollie Sugden).
Wendy Richard reappeared as Shirley Brahms in a follow-up series to Are You Being Served?, called Grace and Favour, which ran for two series in 1992 and 1993. The original Are You Being Served? episodes are still shown on television in America, where they have become cult viewing; her Shirley Brahms character is recognised as a gay icon worldwide.
Wendy Richard was born Wendy Emerton on July 20 1943 at Middlesbrough, where her parents were publicans and kept the Corporation Hotel. She was still an infant when they moved from the north-east, first to Bournemouth and then the Isle of Wight, before settling in the West End of London at the Shepherds Tavern in Shepherd Market, then a notorious resort of prostitutes. Among the raffish clientèle were Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Michael Wilding, and the photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones (now the Earl of Snowdon) .
With her parents preoccupied with the business, Wendy was raised by nannies and attended St George’s primary school in Mount Street. But her education was interrupted when the family moved again, to the Valentine Hotel at Gants Hill in Essex. Behind the hotel was a large restaurant where a local drama group staged amateur plays, and it was there that Wendy was bitten by the acting bug. Within a matter of months, however, her parents moved yet again, this time to the Streatham Park Hotel, south London, where, in December 1954, her father committed suicide: it was Wendy, then aged 11, who found him dead on the floor in front of a gas fire.
Because her father had been a Freemason, Wendy was enrolled at the Royal Masonic School for Girls at Rickmansworth, all fees paid, while her mother took a series of jobs as housekeeper to various bachelor publicans. When Wendy left school at 16 in 1959 she took a job as a junior in the fashion department at Fortnum & Mason, where the fashion buyer, a Miss Whiteside, later became the inspiration for the brassy, rainbow-coiffed Mrs Slocombe in Are You Being Served?
After only a few months her retail career was sidetracked when her mother bought a small bed-and-breakfast business opposite St Pancras station, and she went to help run it. The enterprise thrived to the extent that her mother was able to scrape together the money to send her to the Italia Conti stage school, where Wendy learned to act, dance and sing; she supplemented her mother’s income by returning to work part-time at various London department stores, including Selfridges, DH Evans, Dickins & Jones and Fenwick (whence she was fired on her second day after telling a woman customer that a coat she was trying on did not suit her).
She was not yet 17 when, on the strength of a glamour portfolio shot by the fashion photographer Michael Barrington-Martin, she landed her first modelling jobs for women’s magazines.
Her first television engagement dates from 1960, when she appeared with Sammy Davis Jr in Sammy Meets The Girls for ATV; speaking parts quickly followed in Dixon of Dock Green and No Hiding Place, the two top police dramas of the time.
A change of agent led to Wendy Richard’s first television series, Harpers West One (1961-63) for ATV, in which she played the receptionist at a department store — “God, I was dreadful,” she recalled; this was followed by spots in various comedy shows. After a chance meeting in the ATV canteen with the scriptwriter Johnny Speight and the actor Michael Caine, she was cast in The Arthur Haynes Show as Haynes’s daughter; when Haynes himself died not long into the run, Speight shelved the scripts, resurrecting them later (and morphing the socialist father into a Right-wing bigot) as Till Death Us Do Part for the BBC.
A turning point for Wendy Richard came when she appeared in a long-running BBC suburban sitcom, Hugh And I, starring Hugh Lloyd and Terry Scott: a few years later, in 1970, the producer, David Croft, would cast her in Dad’s Army, which he co-created with Jimmy Perry, and, three years later, in Are You Being Served? It was Croft who urged her to change her name from Emerton to Richard “because it was short and neat”.
Her film credits included On The Buses and Gumshoe, the latter starring Albert Finney (both 1971); Bless This House and Carry On Matron (both 1972); and Carry On Girls (1973). Her scene with Frankie Howerd in the Beatles’ film Help! (1965) was omitted from the final cut.
She was appointed MBE in the Millennium honours list of 2000. Among the few revelations contained in her memoirs, published in the same year, were her Conservative political sympathies and her daily habit of relaxing with The Daily Telegraph crossword.
Wendy Richard’s marriage, in 1972, to Len Black, a music publisher, ended in divorce; in 1980 she married Will Thorpe, an advertising director, but that marriage also failed. Her third marriage, in 1990, to Paul Glorney, a carpet fitter, ended in 1994.
Since 1996 she had lived with John Burns, a painter and decorator 20 years her junior. They married last October after her cancer had been diagnosed as terminal.

Very sad news

JAM star Wendy Richard, a regular on the show for five years, has died at the age of 65.

What a terribly sad day. Ms Richard had been suffering from cancer for some time, so it's not a huge surprise. But if anyone personified the phrase "full of life", it was Wendy Richard.

On JAM she appeared 41 times, firstly in 1988 in Kenneth Williams' last season. She was tapped as his replacement among the regulars when he died a few months later and even sat in his old seat on the far left of the stage, beside Clement Freud. She continued to appear regularly until 1994 when a subsequent producer decided to try someone else. But she appeared on TV editions of the show in 1995 and 1999, and on radio again in 2002 and 2003.

Her style made her one of the most memorable panellists ever. She loved an argument and argued about almost everything. Before Wendy joined the team, most women had been happy to play the role of "straight man" to the male panellists. Not Wendy. She was a star and she knew it. And in this she had a point as at that time she was one of Britain's best known actresses, and certainly a better-known name than Clement Freud or Peter Jones or Derek Nimmo.

So she played the role of diva to great effect. She talked about her life, her partners, her pets. She wasn't a natural comedian but she was usually very funny and was certainly capable of very witty and cutting remarks.

She added a touch of drama to a game show which has to be unique. She was all in all, great fun, and I think rather unlucky not to have appeared many more times. That so many of her shows have been put on the "Classic" compilations says something - she added a touch of class, a touch of drama, and was great listening.

Of course she is better known for her acting on Are You Being Served and East Enders and we can honour that work too. A wonderful comedy actor, an equally entrancing soap actor.

She will be very much missed, but perhaps she is already playing JAM in the heavens, telling Derek Nimmo not to talk so much about his travels. My sincere condolences to her family and friends.

February 25, 2009

This week's show

I didn't want to post this yesterday on the anniversary of Derek's death, but I was very impressed with the show. Clement was at his best, funny, grumpy, competitive. Sheila is always a delight and was again. David Mitchell - well, he was tops! He has the skills to be back time and time again - he just fitted in to the show like a glove. The best debut I can remember in ages.

Only three more shows to come this season sadly - Paul Merton (three shows), Sir Clement Freud (two shows), Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Chris Neill, Jack Dee, Josie Lawrence, David Mitchell and Justin Moorhouse - should be some laughs among that lot!

Just curious - I haven't seen much of him before - is David Mitchell gay? He sounds a bit camp... JAM has always enjoyed the camp chappies...

February 24, 2009

sad memories

Derek Nimmo died 10 years ago today - still missed...

February 23, 2009

Clue chairman/men announced

According to an email sent to fans, the chairing job in the new season of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue will be shared between Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon.

Jon Naismith says a permanent chairman will be appointed - but not till next year.

February 22, 2009

Kenneth Williams interviews Stephen Fry

They never appeared on JAM together but here's 10 minutes of this pair chatting together - great fun!

the magic of radio

This editorial was published in The Observer at the time of Humphrey Lyttelton's death last April. I did read it then but didn't copy it as I'd already posted a lot on Humph. But it's worth a read as it brilliantly sums up why we love radio.

In 1979, a one-hit-wonder pop song confidently predicted that video had killed the radio star. It hadn't.

While the world seems to fill up with ever more media platforms and shows no signs of saturation, radio, a technology originating in the late 19th century, holds its own among all the 21st-century interlopers.

So The Observer marks with sadness the passing last week of Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz musician and broadcaster. Lyttelton's career on air spanned 40 years. From 1972, he chaired I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, the gently absurdist panel game, more comedy collaboration than competition, in which were trained successive generations of aspiring British wits.

For many of its listeners, Clue was much more than a game - it was a reminder of the pleasures of being part of a club with its in-jokes and its ongoing themes, a club that anyone could join.

The benefits of membership were obvious: you could, for half an hour, eavesdrop on a conversation in which old friends were having the time of their lives.

That is a peculiar power that only radio seems to command. It can be enjoyed collectively, unlike a newspaper which, even when shared, absorbs people's attention one at a time. Radio suffuses the environment more completely than television, but without resorting to the seductive and stultifying hypnosis of the screen. It can capture the attention without holding it hostage.

The best spoken-word radio retains an uncanny kind of intimacy. It draws to our mind that other root of the word 'medium': an individual held to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and a world of spirits. Television is a diversion; radio is immersion.

And then there is the internet, which offers many strands of experience. But it so often demands immediate response and interaction. That, of course, is a magnificent innovation - a revolution in media. But we do not necessarily want revolutions to be playing as we fall sleep, or have them wake us up, or keep us company on long car journeys. That sort of relationship is something we generally reserve for radio.

Humphrey Lyttelton called his recent autobiography It Just Occurred to me ... It was a modest reference to the wisdom his voice always carried - that the best kind of broadcasting is not unlike the best kind of jazz: improvised, individual, entirely alive to the moment, something, within playful limits, that you happily make up as you go along.

February 15, 2009

BBC What's On Listings

There's been a problem for a few days where the listings don't link to programme pages. It's the sort of thing you might think reasonably easy to fix, but it's now been that way for about a week.

But here's the listing for JAM this week on this page -

Just a Minute
16 February 2009
Nicholas Parsons chairs the devious word game, with panellists Paul Merton, Chris Neill, Justin Moorhouse and Tony Parks.

Tony Parks? A new voice?

Well, no - actually it should read Tony Hawks.

Does anyone in the Light Ent section at the Beeb ever read these things and try to get them sorted... It's just so... lame...

February 13, 2009

Clement on "Today"

He was interviewed by John Humphrys on disrespect towards the elderly and stole the show with some very good lines.

Listen here.

February 12, 2009

last panel this season

was Paul Merton, Sir Clement Freud, Sheila Hancock and David Mitchell. Lovely to have Sheila back for the first time in four years. David Mitchell is a newcomer but probably needs little introduction I imagine.

February 11, 2009

I enjoyed that

I'm not exactly Liza Tarbuck's greatest fan and I do feel she doesn't contribute much to the comedy of the show. But all the same, it was great to hear her win today. She ended with 10 points to nine for Gyles Brandreth, Sue Perkins and Paul Merton so it couldn't have been much closer.

It was another very funny show too. All the other three had top moments.


February 08, 2009


Sir Clement Freud - one of just two regular JAM panellists - turned 85 a few months back. It's an age at which he could hardly be blamed for deciding it might be time to take things a tad easier. JAM of course is hardly a major demand on his time, especially when it is recorded in London when it is probably just two or three hours of his time. A trip to Edinburgh to record there might take up the better part of two days, once you include travelling there and back, so perhaps over a year his JAM work takes up say 10 to 14 days. Still even after all these years, the stress of "live" broadcasting must be there.

It's hard to overestimate how much he has meant to JAM over the years. He was for the first 30 years or so the competitive one - the one that took the game and its rules seriously. The show needed that if it wasn't to fall into total silliness. He was a marvellous straight man to Kenneth Williams - could anyone else have continued to talk while your neighbour was nuzzling your ear? For the first six years - 142 shows - he appeared in every show. And if he often resorted to lists and pedantic challenges to win, it was also true that he almost always said something witty, even if he had just a second to fill. He usually won too because he was fluent - once he started talking he seldom lost his way and hesitated. And of course he led the razzing of Nicholas, although Kenneth and Derek competed strongly with him in this area.

Typically a show, up to about 10 years ago, had Clement speaking in almost every round. Because he was that good.

These days he is prone to losing his way and he is slower on the buzzer than he used to. He is still capable of the witty remark, but they are less frequent. He's usually in third or fourth place.

Others have taken over the role of curmudegeon when it comes to the rules and points, principally Paul Merton, but also Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandeth and Marcus Brigstocke.

Dare I suggest that these days the better shows are those where Clement is missing? It seems a harsh remark to make but it might be so.

Over the past three years producers Claire Jones and Tilusha Ghelani have been cutting back on Clement's appearances. So far this season he has done 4 out of 10 shows, including those not yet broadcast. If he is not part of the last recording On Tuesday night, it will be his lowest proportion of shows in the show's history.

I doubt very much that Claire Jones will want to sack Clement. He is a link to the show's long history. But I wonder if the time may soon be there when he is just doing one recording per season and someone else (Tony? Gyles? Sue Perkins?) appears more frequently.

In a column 10 years ago, Clement wrote a perhaps unkind column suggesting Peter Jones was no longer capable of playing the game properly and was being retained as a "kind of favourite golden oldie". As with many of Clement's remarks, while unkind there was an element of truth in the comment. I wonder if Clement might be considering himself in this context.

And yes I know, Nicholas is only a few months younger. But to me Nicholas still looks and sounds fit. His voice still seems strong and he looks in good health. Clement is not that sprightly these days. But even in Nicholas's case, it is hard to imagine he will still be doing the show in his 90s.

February 06, 2009

Wasn't Josie good this week

I thought she was terrific - funny, gutsy and on to it. Clement had a good show too I thought. Jack Dee was a bit quiet though.

February 03, 2009

upcoming guest

further to a recent post, apparently the guest in the last recording of the season is not Justin webb, but ROBERT Webb, half of the comedy pairing Mitchell and Webb. You can read about him here.

February 01, 2009

Today in JAM History

I've put the entire list up on the website here. You can now see if you share a birthday with Kenneth Williams, what day Derek Nimmo died, and what shows were first broadcast on what day. I think it's more useful information - I hope you think so too.