I was very pleased to receive my drawing of British actress Susan Hampshire back yesterday, signed and dedicated. I have been a big fan since I first saw her in Disney’s THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA in 1964. Most people will know her as Fleur in THE FORSYTE SAGA TV series for which she won the first of her three Emmy Awards. Susan’s most recent major role in a series was as Molly MacDonald, Lady of Glenbogle in MONARCH OF THE GLEN, which ran from 2000-2005.
Now 80 and retired from acting, Susan was thirty when she discovered she had dyslexia, which was the subject of her memoir ‘Susan’s Story’. She has been a prominent spokesperson for dyslexia ever since and was awarded an OBE by the Queen for her work. Along with my signed sketch, Susan also included a photo of herself with a very complimentary note about the drawing, so I’m extra pleased she liked it.
British actor Peter Firth will be known to TV viewers as Sir Harry Pearce in the BBC spy series SPOOKS – the only cast member to appear in every episode of its ten series. My favourite role however was his stage and subsequent film appearance as the disturbed equine-worshipping teenager Alan Strang, who blinds the eyes of horses in Peter Shaffer’s EQUUS, which ran at the National Theatre in London in 1974 and transferred to Broadway the following year, earning him a Tony nomination.
In 1977 he reprised the role for the film adaption, opposite Richard Burton who played the psychiatrist Dysart attempting to find the root of Alan’s equine worship. He won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. EQUUS is one of my favourite plays and I had the honour of meeting its author and the privilege of directing it in New Zealand many moons ago. I left this sketch of Peter as Alan with London agent and was very pleased to get it back signed.
British actress Pauline Collins rose to prominence as the maid Sarah Moffat in the popular TV series UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS during the early 70’s, but it was her portrayal of the title character in Willy Russell’s SHIRLEY VALENTINE that won her all the accolades.
Pauline played Shirley on stage and screen, originating the role with the West End production at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1988, reprising the part a year lateral the Booth Theatre on Broadway and in the film version. She won the Laurence Olivier, Tony and Drama Desk Awards for her theatrical performance and the BAFTA for her screen adaption as well as Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
I left this drawing for Pauline at her London agents office for her to sign which she kindly did.
British actor Anthony Head is probably best known globally as the stuffy Librarian Rupert Giles in TV’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but his stage beginnings were much more elevated, debuting as Jesus in GODSPELL, which lead to his complete role-reversal at the opposite end of the character scale, the sweet transvestite himself, Frank N. Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at London’s Piccadilly Theatre in 1998. He later claimed his Frank was much more demonic than any of the Franks that went before.
I drew this montage of Anthony which includes him as Frank, Captain Hook in the PETER PAN at the Savoy Theatre in 2003 and his latest outing as Cabinet Minister Sir John Fletcher in Trevor Nunn’s critically acclaimed production of Rattigan’s LOVE AND IDLENESS, which has just completed its run at the Apollo after transferring from the Menier Chocolate Factory. He happily signed it for me at the stage door, after a Saturday matinee last month.
“Americans have different ways of saying things. They say ‘elevator’, we say ‘lift’ – they say ‘President’, we say ‘stupid, psychopathic git'”. One of comic legend’s Alexei Sayle’s infamous and now most apt one liners.
Voted 18th on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-up Comics in 2009, Alexei was a central figure in the alternative comedy movement of the 1980’s. His satirical style was based on cynicism and political awareness. The Emmy-winning British actor appeared in numerous TV shows but he was best known for his involvement in the iconic THE YOUNG ONES alongside Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Christopher Ryan. He played a many characters, but his main role was the apparently Russian landlord Jerzy Balowski.
Alexei was doing a few nights of ‘work in progress’ gigs at the Soho Theatre last week so I took the opportunity to meet him and get my drawing signed.
On my way to SW19 to catch a few tennis stars practicing for the Wimbledon Championships on Sunday, I detoured to South Kensington to visit the Royal Albert Hall, where one of the biggest names on the planet, Woody Allen, was appearing with his jazz band that evening. My intention was to try and catch him in person or failing that, leave a drawing for him to sign. I gave myself a window of an hour. I had a letter written and a stamped-addressed envelope already to go. What I didn’t have was the sketch. I had plenty of tennis players but I had left Woody on the drawing board. Bugger.
So, not for the first time, I quickly looked up an image on my phone and did this literal two-minute scribble. The concert notes said there would be no set list and the band would go with the Woody flow, described as ‘an energetic collection of improvisation’ …a bit like my drawing.
Woody was labelled “a treasure of cinema” by Roger Ebert, but jazz has been his lifelong passion, playing clarinet from an early age. Apparently his stage name is based on the American clarinetist and Big Band legend Woody Herman. A regular on Monday nights for the past 40 years at the upmarket Cafe Carlyle on Manhattan’s Upper East side, Woody and the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band have been part of the fabric of New York since the 1970’s. When he won his first two Academy Awards in 1978 for writing and directing ANNIE HALL, Woody was not present at the ceremony. It was Monday, 3 April and he was playing jazz. His priority may also have something to do with his dislike of awards and he’s on record saying ANNIE HALL was not his favourite film, which also picked up Best Picture.
Anyway my hasty and rough rendering made it to Woody, as the kind gentleman at the stage door desk promised, because it came back signed and dedicated in two days.
Australian actress Annette Andre appeared in a number of high profile British TV shows in the 1960’s and 70’s, including THE AVENGERS, THE SAINT and THE PRISIONER, with her longest running role as Marty Hopkirk’s widow Jeannie in the Private detective series RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (DECEASED). She starred alongside Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope who played private detectives Jeffrey Randall and Martin Hopkirk respectively, the later returning as a ghost after he was murdered while investigating a case. Annette was speaking at the Museum Of Comedy in London a couple of weeks ago about the show and her career. I managed to catch up with her afterwards and she signed this Jeannie portrait for me.
Monty Python’s Michael Palin is referred to as ‘Britain’s nicest man’. In his 2009 Telegraph interview with Marc Lee, entitled ‘He’s not a Messiah, but a very nice man’, Michael said it was because of his “amenable conciliatory character.”
After university he teamed up with fellow Oxford graduate Terry Jones to write for TV shows such as the RIPPING YARNS, DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET and THE FROST REPORT, which was the first time all the British Python’s – Michael, Terry and John Cleese, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman worked together before creating the iconic MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS. They were joined by Terry Gilliam who was an American citizen.
After that Michael journeyed to all corners of the planet many times over as a travel writer and documentarian. His career has also been sprinkled with notable film appearances, including his BAFTA-winning supporting role as Ken Pile in 1988’s A FISH CALLED WANDA. It was the first of four BAFTA’s awarded to Michael. In 2013 he was the given the Fellowship the British Academy’s highest honour. I did this Python/Wanda montage and dropped it into his London agent’s office where Britain’s nicest man signed it for me with a nice inscription.
“She’s absolutely hysterical,” said Jimmy Carr about fellow comedian, Wendy Wason. The Sunday Times added “charming, clever and funny.’ The Edinburgh-raised actress and writer’s initial career was in film and TV, appearing in TAGGERT, SHERLOCK, MIDSOMMER MURDERS, THE IT CROWD and in feature films such as THE LIBERTINE with the three Johnnies, Depp, Malcovich and Vegas. She branched out into stand-up comedy in 2004 at Edinburgh’s Guided ballroom, followed by successful shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – THINGS I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW (2008), OTHER PEOPLES SECRETS (2010), FLASHBACKS (2011), HOTEL CALIFORNIA (2014) and last year, TINY ME, which she performed at the Soho Theatre in London for three nights last week. On one of those nights she signed this sketch for me.
Jenny Agutter won a BAFTA Award for her performance as Jill Mason in Sidney Lumet’s 1977 production of Peter Shaffer’s psychological drama EQUUS, one of my favourite, if not my favourite play. In the 2007 London stage revival of the play featuring Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe at the Gielgud Theatre she portrayed magistrate Hesther Solomon. A couple of weeks ago I did this sketch of Jenny in both roles and sent it to her. She signed and sent it back with this dedication.