"All the way from Great Portland Street"... It's the Kenneth Williams thread!

Discussion in 'Celebrity Scuttlebutt' started by Mel O'Drama, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Earlier this afternoon my day was made when, quite unexpectedly I stumbled across a hardback copy of his autobiography... signed by the man himself.

    Now, I'm not normally the kind of person who is too bothered about celebrity. I'm not one for hanging round back entrances with my autograph book. Nor, under most circumstances, would I consider paying a fairly healthy sum of money for a battered old book. But this isn't most circumstances, so how could I resist.

    I don't mind saying the man absolutely fascinates me in a way that very few human beings ever could.

    Even after reading his autobiography, the diaries and letters that were published after his death, watching endless interviews and exploring his body of work he remains an enigma. A hugely talented, riotously funny, poignantly tragic enigma.

    Yesterday while ironing I was guffawing heartily while listening to Kenneth go completely OTT on Just A Minute. With his braying, manic laugh and shrill voice still resonating in my head today and still making me grin, to finally see his handwriting before my eyes was an unexpectedly moving experience.

    So this is a space to talk about him and perhaps share some favourite quotes and videos of the man, the myth and the mystery.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior

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    Oh wow... This is freaky I was debating starting a similar thread the other night but I was too tired after work. I just recently bought The Kenneth Williams Diaries and his book Acid Drops. I haven't read them yet but I too have always been fascinated by him. He was such great wordsmith and verbalizer, I could listen to him for days. I bought the books after going on a bit of a YouTube binge and watching all his Parkinson appearances and his An Audience With show as well as many other random videos.

    I'm very slowly making my way through David Niven's The Moon's A Balloon at the minute then I plan on going on to read the Kenneth books.
     
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  3. Englishboy

    Englishboy Soap Chat Fan

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    Aside from his roles in the double entendre laden Carry On films in the sixties and sexenties, I can remember him as a stand in host on Wogan in the 1980s.

    As has been said, a supremely talented and much missed comedy actor.
     
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    You're in for a treat Alexis. I never get tired of reading the Diaries. The more that's revealed the more fascinated you'll be. Be warned: you'll never look at him the same way again. But you'll be glad you read it.

    His autobiography - Just Williams - is a wonderful read too. He writes so well (I used to have an audio version on cassette, too, read by Kenneth himself). But it's quite mindblowing to compare his take on events in that book with the entry in his Diaries for the same period. The style of writing is so starkly different. Both very entertaining. Then when you throw in The Kenneth Williams Letters, there are three very different styles of writing from the same person. It's like he's several different people. His public persona in the bio, the warm, courteous, sometimes brittle correspondent in the Letters and the dark, hopeful, narcissistic, self-loathing, contradictory enigma that is in the Diaries.

    He's so many different people in the Diaries - sometimes within the same entry. And he's so brutal about the people he comes into contact with. But it's the pain that comes across more than anything. I came away with so much empathy for this lost soul. Of course, he never meant them to be seen by anyone but himself, so there's a voyeuristic element to it that makes reading it feel a bit tasteless. But you won't be able to put it down.
     
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  5. Barbara Fan

    Barbara Fan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I got into kenneth Williams very young as my Dad was a round the horne fan and i found it quite funny too as i got older

    Bought his diaries when they first came out, and really enjoyed them. He was a talented man and a bit of a tragic soul off screen

    I was quite naive though and never used to get his closing line in his diary which was ofen "barclays and bed"
    Some one had to explain the cockney ryhming slang to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :embarrassed:
     
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  6. Angela Channing

    Angela Channing World Cup of Soaps Moderator

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    Almost every day I walk past the building in which Kenneth Williams had his flat and there is a blue English Heritage plaque on it. It's on a street off the Marylebone Road near to Madame Tussauds London. I mention this because it's not on Great Portland Street which is about a 10 minute walk away from where he lived. So when Kenneth Williams used to say "I've come all the way from Great Portland Street" it was a strange thing to say because he didn't live there, nor was it the nearest main road (which is Marylebone Road), nor the nearest well known road (also Marylebone Road), nor is it the nearest Underground station to where he lived which is Baker Street. Maybe saying Great Portland Street had more comedic value.

    I've read Kenneth Williams's diaries and they are such a fascinating and riveting read. Not read his autobiography or letters though.

    I never heard of the use of the word "Barclays" until I read his diaries, I always thought rhyming slang for w*** was "J Arthur" as in "I had a J Arthur". I've also heard of "Tommy Tank" being used but never Barclays. I did wonder whether it was his own variation.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
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  7. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior

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    Maybe he didn't want strange people turning up at his flat and gawking.
     
  8. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The blue plaque is at the flat he lived in during the Sixties: Farley Court on Allsop Place which, as you say, is very close to Tussauds.

    From 1972 onwards his residence was at Marlborough House at the bottom end of Onsaburgh Street. Onsaburgh Street actually joins on to Great Portland Street very close to where Marlborough House was. I suspect it was after moving here that he took on this catchphrase.
     
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  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Wonderful stuff. As you know, BF, I love a bit of RTH. Very funny - and I still wonder how they got away with so much of it back then. :D

    I was quite late discovering that great show. It was probably the late Nineties or early Noughties when I got the Jule & Sand tapes before upgrading to the full series. So many fantastic characters.

    A number of his diary entries are quite coded, particularly anything related to sex and homosexuality. A number of forms of slang such as Cockney Rhyming, polari or just plain old euphemism. Understandable enough, given the culture of the time.
     
  10. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ON THIS DAY:

    As I sometimes like to flick through the Diaries and Letters to see what KW was doing on this day in various years, I thought it may be fun to occasionally post a quote here.


    Sunday 6th April 1969
     
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  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    A bit geeky, but here is the item in question:

    [​IMG][​IMG]







    (It's times like these - fiddling about with uploading the pictures to my MacBook and then battling with stupid, evil Photof***it for the best part of an hour - that I desperately miss the convenience of Tapatalk).
     
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  12. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Warrior

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    I have to go through a silly process of posting the pic from my phone to a dead convo on Facebook sometimes and then copying it from there. It's all very strange.

    That book looks great too and it's signed but not personalised to some random Robert!
     
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  13. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I hear you, Alexis. I've got used to being without Tapatalk, but when I miss it I really miss it.

    Yes. When I saw it on display with the information about it being signed I had a feeling it was going to be personalised. Who knows - I may well have bought it regardless. But seeing it as it was it was a no-brainer.

    I do have rather a prosaic name, so the best scenario would have been for it to be made out to me. But that may have been asking just a bit much, don't you think?
     
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  14. Barbara Fan

    Barbara Fan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    oh I know, for the 60s it was quite risque.
    i think it was Julian and Sandy which got me hooked
    I still quote
    Ive been held back i have cos Im a grammar school boy
    and
    I wanna wear tights, here have a feel of my calves
    or parquet floor, bona, id have brought me tap shoes
    or Aint he bold in a kenny voice
    and it makes me chuckle, no matter what!

    I also loved kenneth Horne and his rich, deep, fruity voice

    His diaries were a revelation, about what he thought of his co stars and their lack of talent

    I also like how he loved Ingrid Bergman and thought she was possibly one of the nicest, most unassuming people he knew and once when he went round to her flat she was cleaning her windows, not quite Hollywood glamour

    [​IMG]

    he had a sad end to a life where he made so many people laugh, i hope he knew how much people appreciated that.
     
  15. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    :D Some great memories there. Jule and Sand are so quotable, aren't they? And they were always so funny screaming round while Kenneth Horne remained as grounded and reserved as ever when he stumbled into their latest venture:

    "Why, Mr Horne. What brings you trolling in 'ere."

    "You have a rummage, Mr 'Orne. Jule will follow you round and make suggestions."


    Bona Law was a cracker. All the legal double entendres:

    "We've got a criminal practice that takes up most of our time."

    "Sand and me have 'andled the most bizarre briefs."

    "He's looking up his tort. Sometimes it takes him hours to find what he's looking for."



    That's a great story. There are a lot of very warm friendships that he had in his life. Gordon and Rona Jackson. Sheila Hancock. Maggie Smith ("Mags" to Ken).

    He had some great Maggie Smith stories. My favourite was when he changed lines during a performance without telling her, throwing her performance off. They had a blazing row in his dressing room afterwards and he tried to apologise by telling her he couldn't wait to change the lines. She was standing by his sink, started sniffing and asked if he'd peed in the sink. When he paused and blushed, Maggie commented: "I suppose you couldn't wait for that, either." They both burst out laughing and all was well again.


    [​IMG]

    Here they are together on Parky, getting fired up again:

     
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  16. Barbara Fan

    Barbara Fan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    What else can i say but Fantabulosa @Mel O’Drama
    Im going to have to dust those diaries off the shelf once more for a read - its been a while
    xx
     
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  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ON THIS DAY:

    Wednesday 7th April 1971
     
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  18. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ON THIS DAY:


    Sunday 10 April 1955

     
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  19. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ON THIS DAY:

    Thursday 13 April 1967

    * Playwright Joe Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell. Both would be killed in a murder-suicide by Halliwell in August the same year.
     
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  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Twenty nine years ago to this day - on the morning of 15th April 1988 - Kenneth was found dead in his flat at 8 Marlborough House, Onsaburgh Street, London. He was sixty two years old.

    His last day was quite prosaic. He'd collected his mother's Timex watch from a shop in Oxford Circus where it had been for repair since the 11th (he'd knocked the cost down from £4.95 to £4.00). Then he walked to the bank with some documents. Did some shopping at Boots and M&S before going home.

    He was clearly in great discomfort though. Both physical and emotional:


    He'd died overnight from an overdose of barbiturates, taken with alcohol. An open verdict was recorded as it wasn't possible to confirm whether it was suicide or an accident.

    Either way, a tremendous loss.
     
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