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Along with Eric Morecambe, Peter Cook and Spike Milligan, Kenny Everett is one of the funniest men who ever lived, and a childhood hero of mine. I was devastated when he died. This writeup concentrates on his career and is, of course, all done in the best possible taste.

Radio Kenny

"Hello! I'm Barbara Cartland. And you're all under arrest!"

Maurice James Christopher Cole was born on 25th December 1944 in Liverpool. He had always been interested in radio, playing with tape recorders and doing silly voices, and sent a 12 minute demo tape to the BBC in an attempt to break into the business. He didn't do well at the interview, but ended up working for Radio London in 1964, a pirate station. Taking his name from the actor Edward Everett Horton, Kenny Everett was born. Kenny had no idea how to present a radio show, so he made up his own rules, coming up with his own jingles, sounds and unique brand of silliness, which resulted in some groundbreaking work. The pirate station was based on a boat, to get around a legal loophole, and Kenny suffered terribly from seasickness. The format whereby two DJs are on at the same time was a completely new concept, and started by accident - during a handover, Ken stayed on the air and traded banter with Dave Cash, the other DJ. The idea was so popular, it became a regular thing. Many of the things we take for granted in radio now came from Kenny's work, although lately it has been diluted and abused horrifically - he would be staggered at the banality of radio today.

In November 1965, Ken was fired for making fun of the station's biggest advertiser. This was merely the first in the legendary number of sackings Ken would get over the years, which always seemed to amuse him more than anything else. Joining Radio Luxembourg, Kenny was swiftly sacked for admitting that he smoked dope. He went back to Radio London after a few months, and went on tour with the Beatles, sending in daily reports on the mop-topped antics. He became such good friends with them, later on they gave Kenny the exclusive first radio play of their new single, "Strawberry Fields Forever", and even recorded some jingles for him. He also edited together their exceedingly silly 1968 Christmas fanclub record.

He left the following year to join the BBC - interesting trivia fact: Ken invented the nickname for the BBC, "the Beeb". He helped to launch Radio 1, creating jingles and promotions and a weekend show which was extremely popular with the listeners, if not always with the management. When the wife of the then Minister for Transport passed her driving test, Kenny joked on air that perhaps she had bribed the examiner... yet again, he was sacked.

He drifted about for a bit, doing occasional work for Radio 4 and BBC local radio, Ken joined Capital Radio when it was launched in 1973. At first Ken would tape shows at his home and send them in, but was later persuaded to come back to London. There he was reunited with Dave Cash from Radio London, and together they presented the breakfast show. Kenny soon moved to weekends only, finding the constant early mornings difficult. The character of Captain Kremmen was created during those Capital days, who would later be a regular cartoon feature on his television shows. He moved over to BBC Radio 2 for a while in 1980, returning to Capital again in 1983 when the Beeb sacked him (again) for making a joke about then UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a very naughty joke that should never, ever be repeated. And the joke was: "When Britain was an Empire, we were ruled by an Emperor. When it was a Kingdom, we were ruled by a King. Now that we're a country - we've got Margaret Thatcher..."

Kenny on the Telly

"And remember, you don't have to watch this endless display of perversitude and fleshy bummery. You've all got a knob there - so use it!"

Kenny appeared on Nice Time, Ev and The Kenny Everett Explosion, but they weren't very successful. In 1977, The Kenny Everett Video Show exploded onto our screens, and the world was never the same again. Mixing comedy sketches, current chart hits, saucy dancing by Hot Gossip, innuendo and celebrity guests, the show was an instant hit. Kenny loved to experiment with television gadgets and gimmicks (like the Quantel video effects machine which had just been invented), and pushed the envelope as much as possible. The first series didn't have an audience or laugh track - the laughter you can hear comes purely from the camera crew and technicians, who were simply unable to keep it quiet when Kenny was on a roll.

The show moved to the Beeb in 1982, as The Kenny Everett Television Show. It ran until 1988, when Kenny grew tired of television, returning to radio. The TV show was agony to film, complex stunts and special effects took hours to set up, and often didn't work first time, requiring another long set up. During filming for the first series, Kenny met Cleo Rocos on set, who became his closest friend and ally. You'll remember Cleo as the girl with exceedingly large "chesticles", who wandered into sketches, usually scantily-clad, doing something saucy, exposing her cleavage, or going up a ladder in a short skirt. Later on she played a more active part in the show, being promoted, in her words, from "Girl Who Goes Up Ladders"...

Classic Ken moments: Finding a parking space more easily with a Sherman tank... Spiderman going to the toilet, finding no zip in his suit, and walking out slowly, shaking the drips out of his leg... Ken as all of the Bee Gees... The bizarre, rubber-chinned Marcel - the moment, at the end of the series, when Ken rips off the chin and says "It was me all the time!" as if it was some big secret, some really clever, subtle disguise... Kenny whipping Cliff Richard, who is strung up from the ceiling... The bizarre mime artist who draws things that become real... The angry man protesting at filth on television, only to be revealed wearing women's underwear... Sid Snot, the punk who continually tries to throw cigarettes in his mouth, but never quite manages it... Gizzard Puke... Cupid Stunt, the bearded rubber-boobied female starlet, always being interviewed by a cardboard cutout of Michael Parkinson - strangely, her movies always seem to end with all of her clothes falling off - but I'm telling you the plooo-oot!... Brother Lee Love, with the massive hands... The American general with the massive shoulders, with a unique approach to dealing with commies and gays - "bomb the bastards!"... DIY "expert" Reg Prescott, doing awful things to himself with power tools while trying to make some shelves... The Thames TV logo, made out of breasts... Captain Kremmen, the cartoon superhero with the amazing power of innuendo, charm, and Carla's massive breasts... "Rod Stewart"'s ever increasing bum that eventually makes him float away... "What? We're still at the BBC? Oh, bum!"... The sheer amount of gratuitous, unnecessary, glorious female flesh on display...

Kenny, the King of All Media

"Today, the BBC... tomorrow - the world!"

Ken wrote an autobiography in 1982 (The Custard Stops at Hatfield), and released Bloodbath at the House of Death in 1984, a spoof horror film. In 1991, Kenny appeared in the musical The Hunting of the Snark, by Mike Batt (of The Wombles "fame"). The show only survived a few weeks - the reviews weren't too good, but they all agreed that Kenny was great. In June 1994 Kenny received the Gold Sony Radio Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1983, Kenny appeared at a Conservative Party conference, shouting things like "Let's bomb Russia" and "Let's kick Michael Foot's stick away!". He was talked into it by Michael Winner, of all people, and hadn't a clue what to say. "Just fire them up," advised Winner. "What, like 'Let's bomb Russia'?" joked Ken. Winner seemed to like this idea, Kenny thought he was serious, and the rest is history. In Ken's defence, most DJ's at the time supported the Tories, partly because they had always been more tolerant of pirate radio stations, partly because Labour were a shower of arseheads. And the crowd seemed to go along with it, although the Tories distanced themselves from his jokes later on, describing them as "inappropriate"... Boring stiffs.

In 1975, Queen had just recorded Bohemian Rhapsody. EMI weren't happy about the length (nearly 6 minutes), saying that radio stations wouldn't play a song that long - but the band refused to cut it. Freddie was also worried that the record would flop, so he gave Kenny a test pressing of the record to see what he thought, insisting that it was not for broadcast on the air. Kenny listened to it, decided it was a work of genius, and reportedly played it fourteen times in two days - he later claimed that his "finger slipped". Fourteen times. This created such a demand for the song, EMI had to back down - they released it uncut.

A slightly less successful musical project was Captain Kremmen, in 1977 - the song reached no.32 in the UK charts. "Snot Rap", however, sung by Sid Snot and Cupid Stunt in 1983, reached no.9.

Kenny appeared on countless gameshows and interview shows (Parkinson, Celebrity Squares and so on), the most memorable one being Blankety Blank, back when Terry Wogan presented it. Wogan had these long, thin metal microphones, which Ken seemed to get an almost sexual pleasure out of destroying. It was like a recurring gag, when he was on you just knew he was going to get that mike at some stage. Kenny also presented Top of the Pops on and off, but then who hasn't? I'm waiting for the call any day now.

Catholic Guilt

"So this bus breaks down, and the driver gets out to try and fix it. The lady bus conductress gets out too, and says 'D'you want a screwdriver?' - and the driver replies 'Leave it out, I'm late enough already...'"

I don't want to dwell too much on the bad, as Ken brought so much fun and happiness to others, but he didn't always have it easy. Due to his strict Catholic upbringing, he believed that his homosexuality was sinful and wrong, although the fans didn't care which gender he preferred. He married Lee Middleton in 1969, hoping that the marriage would "turn him straight" - the marriage ended in 1970. Coming out was difficult - Kenny attempted suicide, he was so frightened. Although the public stood by him, Kenny was wracked with good old Catholic guilt - no matter how good and kind he tried to be, he was convinced that he would be denied a place in Heaven because of his sexual preference. He had planned to be a priest at one stage, but thankfully, for comedy's sake, he didn't go through with it. I hope he found peace before the end, I hope he realised that organised religion is a load of old cobblers, and that, as he often hoped, God was "not a vindictive git"...

Kenny was a very private man, uncomfortable off-screen or off-air, so I'm keeping to the barest minimum of non-career info here (apart from the next section, which is important). I will always remember him for the laughter, the kindness, the warmth, and the sheer, helpless convulsions of hysterical, screeching laughter that he always reduces me to. Few entertainers inspire such unconditional love from fans. Kenny is one of them.

HIV Positivity

"Haven't you heard? I'm dyyyyyinggg.... urrrrghghghghhh... I'm going... I'm fading... Quick! Get my wooden overcoat! It's all over!"

In 1993, when Kenny was still doing his daily show on Capital Gold, the story broke in the morning papers that he was HIV positive. Kenny just wanted to be loved, and was convinced that the public would turn on him at this new development. Back then, there was considerable stigma attached to HIV and AIDS. Some people were still convinced that shaking hands with sufferers would pass it on, or even drinking from the same cup - if anything was going to make Kenny unpopular, this was it.

The day the story broke, Kenny made his normal journey to work at Capital Gold, taking Cleo with him for moral support ("They'll be after me today.") He was apprehensive. Would there be hordes of angry protesters, demanding that he be removed from the airwaves? Would anyone ever want to touch him, even go near him again? To his amazement, when he got to the station, along with the television crews were loads of fans who had come along to wish him well. The amount of public support astonished him. I can still remember the news report, watching people grab him, hug him, touch him - on his way there, three people had just come up to him and hugged him in the street. He told the TV crews "I should do this more often!" Always joking, laughing, trying to make people smile. I can't watch that footage any more, I've even started crying just typing this, embarrassingly enough.

Kenny died on 4th April, 1995.

I really, really miss him. Please, please let there be a Heaven. Please let me find Kenny there when I go.

When Lady Penelope swoons,
Her boobies fall out like balloons
But her butler stands by
With a look in his eye
And pops them back in with warm spoons...



Sources:

My memory

The Radio Academy Hall of Fame - www.radioacademy.org/halloffame/everett_k

EverettWeb, a tribute to Ken - www.vakart.co.uk/everettweb

Kenny and Me, by Cleo Rocos - a wonderful, heartfelt, joyful read about their friendship

Record Collector article from December 1998, reproduced on the Queen Collector website - www.queencollector.com/Monthly/blueborap.htm

Musica Artist Database - www.musica.co.uk/musica/screen__ARTISTDB/shop__MUS/artist__Everett,~Kenny.htm

Go here for some video clips of the TV show - www.britishcomedy.co.uk/one_only2.asp?oneonlyid=1 - here for some clips of Ken messing with the Thames TV logo - www.users.totalise.co.uk/~simon.harries/thamesmain.html - and here www.stephensykes.com/kremmen_series.html for loads of Captain Kremmen audio from the Capital Radio days

Buy Kenny, take him home, and cuddle him forever! The BBC shop (www.bbcshop.com) has a VHS video of the telly show ("kenny Everett - In The Best Possible Taste"), and a tape (a *what*? is it made of wood??) of Kenny's fab radio stuff, jokes, jingles, and silliness ("Kenny Everett at the Beeb"). Most online shops have the videos of the TV shows, the tapes, the biography by David Lister ("In the Best Possible Taste: The Crazy Life of Kenny Everett"), Ken's autobiography ("Custard Stops at Hatfield"), and "Kenny and Me" by Cleo Rocos, which is fab. Kenny has not, as yet, made the leap over to DVD, but surely it's only a matter of time.

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