Gone but not forgoten

I’ve got no axe to grind this week. I had to send it to the ironmongers to be sharpened following a dispute with my next door neighbour. I can’t give you any details at this stage, but he’s expected to make a full recovery and he will be able to play the piano when he comes out of hospital. Which is odd, because he couldn’t before he went in…

No, this week I’ve got a question to ask.

Is God starting his own all-star repertory company to take on an endless tour of the Heavens? Because they’re going down like ninepins. Shuffling off this mortal coil to join the choir invisible…in their droves.

I’m talking about famous performers.

Consider this list of recently deceased stars and tell me you remember a year when so many who deserved to be called ‘stars’ left us…

Lauren Bacall,  James Garner,  Bob Hoskins,  Roger Lloyd-Pack,  Rik Mayall,  Kate O’ Mara,  Joan Rivers,  Mickey Rooney,  Elaine Stritch,  Shirley Temple,  Robin Williams, and we’ve recently lost two giants of the British film industry – Sir Richard Attenborough and Sir Donald Sinden.

They maintained their careers for more than 60 years and made their mark in many different areas of the business.

Sir Donald’s plummy, unmistakeable voice will be familiar to those who love TV sitcoms, from “Two’s A Crowd” to “Never The Twain”, while theatre lovers will know he was an outstanding Shakespearian actor and master of Restoration comedy.

One of the many tributes to him was from someone who met him at a village fete last year. He said, “He spent the afternoon happily talking to everyone who came up to him – with a glass of red in his hand the entire time!”

‘Dickie’ Attenborough played a wide variety of characters, from the strongly principled family man who was sent to Coventry by his fellow factory workers in “The Angry Silence” to the evil murderer Christie in “Ten Rillington Place”. And, of course, he was a accomplished director. “Gandhi” and “Chaplin” were just two of his successes.

When you compare them to the army of easily replaceable soap ‘stars’ who appear nightly on our TV screens – many of whom are never heard of again after they take their final taxi ride out of the Square or the Street – it beggars belief they’re in the same occupation as Donald and Dickie.

Then, last week, that gentle giant Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker” passed away. People who met him at autograph and memorabilia fairs report that he was a warm funny man who patiently talked to everyone who stopped by for a chat and a ‘photo.

I know some of the names I’ve mentioned were of a venerable age and mortality affects famous people as well as the rest of us. But in respect of many of them, the saying ‘We shall not see their like again’ has never been truer.

So next time you see a famous old actor, actress or comedian on TV, don’t say “Oh no, not him/her again! I didn’t know they were still alive! ” because by the time you’ve said it, there’s a good chance they won’t be!