Former World Number One American tennis player Stan Smith was a special guest at last years World Tour Finals at London’s 02 because Group A was named after him in honour of his victory in the inaugural 1970 year-end Grand Prix in Tokyo.
Stan won two Grand Slams, The US Open in 1971 and Wimbledon the following year. He also formed a formidable doubles combination with Bob Lutz, winning five Grand Slam titles.
While I was waiting at the players’ entrance at the O2, I saw Stan arrive. I literally had less than three minutes to sketch this drawing of him, based on an enlarged image on the wall in the fan zone. By the time he reached me I managed to get this much done, which he signed for me before he went in to watch the day’s proceedings.
There’s not much Alistair McGowan hasn’t done when you skim through his bio. The English impressionist, comic, actor, singer, sports commentator, environmentalist, political activist and writer seems to have done everything in his 51 years on the planet… oh except sign one of my sketches. I gave him a chance to add that to his impressive CV during his run in 4000 DAYS at the Park Theatre.
Alistair’s life is a rich and varied tapestry from starring in the BBC’s top-rated THE BIG IMPRESSION for many years, winning a BAFTA in 2003, to stage work, including Shakespeare to an Olivier Award nomination for his role as Orin the Dentist in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, which transferred to the West End in 2007. He has hosted LIVE AT THE APOLLO and provided voices for the cult TV series SPITTING IMAGE. In 2011 he did commentary at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships for the BBC. In partnership with three other Greenpeace activists, including Emma Thompson. Alistair, a World Wildlife Fund-UK ambassador, bought some land in 2009, near Sipson in Middlesex, a village under threat from the proposed third runway for Heathrow Airport to prevent it’s expansion. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Continuing to extend his theatrical range, Alistair recently returned to the new, intimate Park Theatre in North London, where he last portrayed media personality and predatory sex offender Jimmy Savile to critical acclaim. This time he played Michael, a man who wakes up from a coma caused by a brain haemorrhage without any memory of the past 11 years in Peter Quilter’s new play 4000 DAYS. His character is at the centre of a struggle between his boyfriend Paul and Michael’s formidable, thrice-married mother Carol. Critic Dominic Cavendish described Alistair’s performance as exerting ” a strange, magnetic appeal.”
As the celebrated playwright and screenwriter Anita Loos once said “Memory is more indelible than ink.” Alistair remembered his name and inked my sketch with a less indelible but old-fashioned black biro.