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Cult leader's mission to return to future

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1989-05-15 Glasgow Herald.jpg


ANDREW YOUNG speaks to Jon Pertwee, third of the seven Dr Whos, stepping out of the Tardis, summoned to save the world, during Mayfest when the President of the United States has been kidnapped and there is the danger of alien domination by the Cybermen and the Daleks.

HE may not have knocked them over in the aisles when, as a vaudeville comedian, he appeared at the Empire Theatre, Glasgow. But Jon Pertwee made me laugh as he recalled his appearances at what was described as the graveyard of English comics. A Tardis leaving for another time zone would have been useful.

J. B. Priestley took the dying a death aspect a little far in the novel, Lost Empires, with the ageing comic — played by Laurence Olivier in the television adaptation — shooting himself in his dressing room after being booed off stage in Glasgow.

"My experience did not make me want to commit suicide, although I did consider forming an escape party. It was many years ago, in the fifties I think, when I was touring the Moss Empires as a stand-up comedian. I was on a bill with Max Wall, Jimmy James, who was a wonderful comic, and topping it was Monte Rey. the big-voiced singer," says Pertwee.

He remembers doing his act to stony silence. "When I came off I said to the manager, a lovely old chap, Please sack me. Send me home because this is disastrous. But he said I was a great success. A success? How did he make that out? Well, I hadn't got the bird, had 1? Was that the criterion? Yes, it was, he assured me."

When Jimmy James — "one of the funniest men I've ever seen" — went on he died the death. When he came off he said with a stutter: "I told Cissie Williams (the booker of the shows) ... I bloody told them, there's only two types of people that go down here. That's piano accordionists and bloody negroes." He was referring to the Glasgow Jolson factor, and there was no race relations business then. One of the most popular accordion acts in Glasgow was Mackenzie Reid and Dorothy.

Max Wall, undoubtedly one of the greatest entertainers of all time, then went on and also died the death. He told a story far too rude to repeat even today, according to Pertwee, and someone told him what to do with himself. Max went into the wings and asked the stage manager: "What do 1 do now?' To which the reply was: "If you value your life, get into your funny walk routine. At least that way, you'll be a moving target."

Monte Rey, a kind-hearted person, had tried to reassure them, saying the important thing was to go out and bash the audience. So he went out and sang his first number and got an enormous cheer. Then he made a terrible error by saying: "Ladies and gentlemen, it's great to be back in Glasgow because, as you all know, I'm a Glaswegian, born and bred." Somebody stood up and shouted: "Liar." And then "they threw the theatre at him." He actually came front Chryston, Lanarkshire, which was a near miss.

Pertwee just collapsed after that, saying that if anyone thought he could stand another 10 performances they were crazy. But somehow he managed to get through to the end of the week.

A Londoner by birth, but of French extraction, his real name is Perthueis de Laillavault and his ancestors came over with the Huguenots. There is still a big French side of the family, and the British and French factions get together periodically. All the theatrical talents emerged on this side of the Channel. His father was a playwright, as is his brother, Michael. His cousin, Bill Pertwee is at the Royal Shakespeare Company, his daughter with Bristol Old Vic. Laurence Olivier was married to his first cousin, Jill Esmond.

Dr Who has been running for 27 years. He was the third of seven Time Lords and many say he was the most popular. He was in the role for live years, beaten only by Tom Baker who played it for seven. Did he find playing the Doctor influenced his life? "Good God, no. I'm an actor playing Dr Who. I'm often asked questions about what the Doctor thinks and I say: 'How the hell do I know?' I'm speaking somebody else's lines."

Pertwee appears regularly at Dr Who conventions in America and most of the English-speaking world, says: "I think sci-fi always draws cult followers. You get these other people, the Trekkies, all over the world, who follow Star Trek. There were only two series of this made and what you see now is endless repeats, but you still get these sci-fi nuts prepared to go anywhere for a convention."

As a youth, he was expelled from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, like he had been expelled from most of the schools he had attended, because he was a rebel. At RADA, he says, he didn't want to waste his time being a Greek wind. They were doing Greek drama and he found it was rather a waste of time howling and moaning like a wind. He wanted to get on with the acting. Kenneth Barnes, the then principal, said he had no future in the theatre. Later Charles Laughton said to him: "I understand you were thrown out of RADA. Splendid fellow, you're bound to do well. So was

Dr Who, sponsored by the Glasgow Herald, opens tonight for a week at the King's Theatre, Glasgow.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Young, Andrew (1989-05-15). Cult leader's mission to return to future. The Herald p. 15.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Young, Andrew. "Cult leader's mission to return to future." The Herald [add city] 1989-05-15, 15. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Young, Andrew. "Cult leader's mission to return to future." The Herald, edition, sec., 1989-05-15
  • Turabian: Young, Andrew. "Cult leader's mission to return to future." The Herald, 1989-05-15, section, 15 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Cult leader's mission to return to future | url= | work=The Herald | pages=15 | date=1989-05-15 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 April 2024 }}</ref>
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