Drawing: Windsor Davies

Windsor Davies001

I’ve had the good fortune to meet Windsor Davies on two occasions, both in Invercargill, New Zealand.

In 1986 , he performed at the city’s Civic Theatre in Ray Cooney’s Run For Your Wife with Robin Askwith and Geoffrey Hughes. He returned in 1994 with the Cinderella production in 1994.

On both occasions the cast attended mayoral functions after the opening nights. I drew this quick sketch of Windsor as his character, Baron Hardup at the latter. He signed it, referencing our previous meeting, in typical Batter Sergeant Major Williams ‘speak’ from TV’s It Ain’t Half Hot Mum with one of his classic statements. You can imagine his deep, distinctive Welsh voice saying it.

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Drawing: Sir Peter Ustinov

peter ustinov001

One of the people I had always wanted to to meet was Sir Peter Ustinov – actor, writer, noted wit and raconteur. In July 1990 I was privileged to see his one man show at the Civic Theatre in Invercargill, New Zealand and meet him afterwards.

In an interview, Sir Peter mentioned the Invercargill incident, “in a theatre that smelled of a furniture depository and made it very clear that it wasn’t very often used. Suddenly in the middle of my performance all the lights went out, including the exit signs.”

He continued performing in the dark, and got more laughs. He compensated for the lack of being seen by verbally expressing his actions in a more descriptive manner. After 20 minutes, the lights came back on, “I was dying for them to fail again,” Sir Peter said.

The interview was in 1992 – two years after the performance, when time allowed him to view the incident in a more positive way. But on the night his mood was colder than the Winter’s evening. At the time I was Deputy Mayor, and hosted a function for Sir Peter after his show. As you could imagine, he was not in a good frame of mind and his sense of humour had vanished. It took some coaxing by our City Manager, Richard King, to get him to the Mayoral Lounge, next to the Theatre.

Once there he was very charming. I asked him to sign my caricature. He looked at it for a while, then quipped, “yes, that’s me.”

My wife, Senga, had given birth to our son Ben the day before, so I asked him to add on “and wee Ben” to the inscription. He duly obliged, with ‘Ben’ in much smaller script. His sense of humour was restored, but no one mentioned the unscheduled black-out.

Cartoon: Billy Connolly

In February 2004 “The Big Yin” Billy Connolly played a gig in my home town of Invercargill, New Zealand. I was involved in Koru Care, which was an organisation established by Air New Zealand staff to provide holidays for terminally ill children. One of my pet projects, incorporating my ‘graph-ic vice’ was asking well known people to produce a doodle using a circle. The intention was to produce a book, entitle Celebrity Circles to assist our fundraising.

Anyway, back to Billy. He’s staying at the Ascot Park Hotel. On the day of his show, The Southland Times published this toon:

billy connolly001

I thought I would drop a copy of it to Billy to sign for me, along with a blank circle and an invitation to participate in the Koru Care project. The show was brill, and a couple of days later I received a package with my signed cartoon, and a drawing for Koru Care.

billy c KC

Buoyed by this success, I was spurred to try again and to ask him to write the book’s intro as well. Soon enough, this arrived in the mail, which made my day: Continue reading

Drawing: Sir Garfield Sobers

garry sobers001

Sir Garfield (also known as Gary or Garry, as the man himself signs) Sobers played for the West Indies cricket team form 1954 -1977 and is considered one of the games great all rounders. His legendary status was secured on 31 August 1968 when he was the first player to hit six 6s in one over of a first class match, captaining Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan in Swansea.

A prolific scorer, but not a great signer. I was keen to obtain a Sobers sig.

I remember discussing this with the great New Zealand opener Glenn Turner, who knew Sir Garry and played in a few invitational XI teams with him. He told me, it just wasn’t in his DNA. While others gladly accommodated the fans, he ignored them. And so, the story begins. Bear with me.

The West Indies were touring New Zealand in the summer of 1994/95. The second and final test match was at Wellington’s Basin Reserve. Glenn was part of the commentary team, alongside one Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira, the Caribbean commentating icon.

Glenn contacted me to say Reds was a close friend of Sir Garry and could get his autograph on my sketch. All I needed to do was get it to Glenn at the venue. First problem: The West Indies knocked over the Kiwis early, winning a close match by an innings and 322 runs. Reds left for the airport before the courier (who was delayed – but that’s another story) could deliver my package. A kind cricket official raced it out to Wellington airport in time to catch Reds before his flight to Australia. That was 13 February 1995.

In April 1999, I received my sketch, signed by Sir Garry and the attached letter from Reds, which explained the reason for the lengthy exercise. It was a long innings, but well worth the wait.

Letter from Reds

Drawing: Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

kath turner, bill irwin001

Kathleen Turner is the voice of the animated bunny Jessica Rabbit – Roger’s voluptuous wife. She is best remembered for the classic line “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way,” in 1988. In 2005 she played the role of Martha (I’m not bad, I just act that way) in the Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Bill Irwin played George, opposite her. Both were nominated for a Tony Award, with Bill winning the coveted prize. The production transferred to London’s Apollo Theatre the following year. Kathleen was certainly a big drawcard with sell out performances. I sent this sketch to the theatre. It was returned, signed by both, with a nice note from Bill thanking me. So I guess, I’m not bad… I just draw that way!

Drawing: Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp001

John Christopher Depp II, abbreviated to ‘Johnny‘, is not short of a bob or two. His films have grossed over $3.1 billion alone at the US Box Office, and $7.6 billion worldwide. He is reported to be the highest paid actor of all time.

I sketched this quick portrait, which he signed on his walk about in the current British heatwave at the UK premiere of The Lone Ranger at the Odeon Theatre in London’s Leicester Square. With his wealth, he could do a sequel entitled The Loan Arranger….

Drawing: Brian Lara

Brian Lara001

The former West Indian cricketer Brian Lara is arguable regarded as the best batsman of the modern era. He topped the test batting rankings on several occasions and holds several records, including the record for the highest individual score in first class cricket with 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston in 1994. He also holds the highest individual score in a test innings with 400 not out against England at Antigua in 2004.

He is the only batsman to have scored a hundred, a double century, a triple century, a quadruple century and a quintuple century in first class games. Lara also holds the test record of scoring the highest number of runs in a single over in a test match when he scored 28 off Robin Peterson of South Africa in 2003.

Lara’s match winning performance of 153 not out against Australia in Bridgetown, Barbados  in 1999 has been rated by Wisden as the second best batting performance in the history of test cricket, next only to the 270 scored by Sir Donald Bradman in the Ashes Test match of 1937.

I sent my sketch to Brian at Warwickshire in 1994, when he was captain of the county side.

Drawing: Hugh Jackman

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In 2004 ‘The Sexiest Man Alive’ according to a number of publications, including People Magazine, Australian actor and producer Hugh Jackman won a Tony Award for his role in The Boy From Oz – a jukebox musical based on the life of fellow antipodean singer/songwriter Peter Allen. After it’s world premiere in Sydney on 5 March 1998, it opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on 16 September 2003 with Hugh taking over the lead role from showman Todd McKenney and ran for a year. It also returned to Australia from August/September 2006 with a specifically designed arena production.

Hugh liked the sketch and amongst the madness and mayhem of screaming fans (mostly of the female persuasion) at the UK premiere of The Wolverine he signed it and interrupted his ‘graph to go’ speed signing to pass on complementary remarks.

Drawing: Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith001

Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van opened at London’s Queen’s Theatre in late 1999 with Dame Maggie Smith in the lead role as Miss Shepherd, an eccentric bag lady who lived in a van.

Bennett first became aware of ‘the lady in the van’ in the late sixties. She died in 1989, after spending two decades living in her broken down Bedford van in his driveway. She could most kindly be called eccentric, hearing voices and the Virgin Mary appeared to her on a regular basis. The play is the story… or, more accurately, a series of incidents… between the playwright and the delusional, failed nun, Miss S, who was reclusive but not opposed to publicity.

Dame Maggie is once again nominated for another primetime Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the ITV drama Downton Abbey. She is one of the few people to win the ‘triple crown of acting’ (Emmy, Oscar and Tony). Her impressive list includes seven BAFTAS, two Oscars, three Golden Globes and a Tony. She is the only person to receive an Academy Award for playing an Academy Award nominee – Diana Barrie in California Suite (1978).

Despite being nominated six times, she has never won the Olivier Award, the highest honour in British theatre. Her last nomination was in 2000 for her role as Miss Shepherd.

I was fortunate enough to see the play just before it ended in July 2000. Dame Maggie signed my sketch last week at her London office.