Tuesday 19 November 2019

Sir Ken Dodd lived to perfect his art, says comic’s widow

Sir Ken’s widow described the star as life-enhancing and brilliant.

Sir Ken Dodd (Matt Crossick/PA)
Sir Ken Dodd (Matt Crossick/PA)

By Sherna Noah and Ellie Cullen, Press Association

Much-loved comedian Sir Ken Dodd was being mourned on Monday following his death aged 90.

His widow, Lady Anne Dodd, who the funnyman married on Friday, echoed the thoughts of Sir Ken’s millions of fans, describing the star as “a most life-enhancing, brilliant, creative comedian”.

Sir Ken died on Sunday at the home where he was born, in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash.

Sir Paul McCartney, Dawn French, David Walliams and Ant and Dec were among those paying tribute to “the tattyfilarious Ken Dod”, with ex-Beatle Sir Paul saying he had “tears of sadness”.

The star was hailed as a “true professor of comedy” and an “all-time great” by fellow comics.

Speaking outside their home, where floral tributes and tickle sticks were left outside, Lady Anne Dodd said she had “lost a most wonderful husband”.

She said she had been “overwhelmed by the love and affection” which she had received after the star’s death was announced in the early hours of Monday.

Lady Anne gives a statement outside her Liverpool home (Peter Byrne/PA)

“The world has lost a most life-enhancing, brilliant, creative comedian with an operatically trained voice, who just wanted to make people happy,” she said.

“He lived to perfect his art and entertain his live and adoring audiences.”

Floral tributes outside the Liverpool home of Sir Ken Dodd (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Liverpool comedian, famous for his epic stand-up shows, his tickling sticks and Diddy Men, left hospital at the end of February following a six-week stay for a chest infection.

He wed Lady Anne, his partner of 40 years and a former Bluebell dancer, on Friday and an announcement was due to go out later this week about the marriage.

In general, a person’s marital status can make an enormous difference when it comes to inheritance tax bills – meaning that Sir Ken, who was famously acquitted following a long trial, accused of tax fraud, in 1989, may have had the last laugh when it came to his financial affairs.

Sir Ken, known for his unruly hair and teeth, performed his very last show just months ago, in his native city, at the end of December.

But all dates for this year were cancelled when the star became unwell “because when Ken goes on stage he’s up there for about four hours,” his publicist Robert Holmes said.

Sir Ken Dodd, surrounded by Diddy Men, leaving hospital (Peter Byrne/PA)

He told the Press Association: “With Ken gone, the lights have been turned out in the world of variety.

“He was a comedy legend and a genius.”

He said: “To my mind, he was one of the last music hall greats. There is no-one else that comes close.”

Holmes said of Sir Ken’s marriage: “He asked Anne if she wanted to marry. They got the registrar and were married in the house on Friday.

The star with his partner Anne Jones (Yui Mok/PA)

“He died two days later on Mother’s Day. Anne is obviously very upset. They had been together for 40 years.

“It’s a love story to beat them all.”

The star with his partner Anne Jones (Yui Mok/PA)

Sir Ken, brandishing a tickling stick and greeted by his Diddy Men, had vowed to carry on with his tattyfilarious comedy when he left hospital last month.

“Once I’ve recovered myself I’ll get back to doing the job, which is the only job I’ve ever had,” he said at the time. “While I was in here, I wrote some new jokes, so it should be all right.”

The Diocese of Liverpool said it would be announcing details of Sir Ken’s funeral at a later stage.

A book of condolence has been set up at Liverpool Town Hall (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes said: “He brought joy and delight to millions, and although so many of us are in grief and sorrow here, I’m sure that there will now be a fresh gale of laughter in heaven.”

Former TV executive Lord Grade told Sky News that Sir Ken was the “greatest I’ve ever seen on the stage”, a “comic genius” and “absolutely peerless”.

Their meetings were “usually about a timesheet” but Sir Ken’s quips left thousands of people “in rows of seats rocking and begging for mercy,” he said.

“He was basically addicted to making audiences laugh. ….There will never be another…. Whenever anybody is thinking about British comedy and British culture, the first name that will come up will be Ken Dodd.”

The prolific comic entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest joke-telling session ever – 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours – during the 1960s.

His TV shows included The Ken Dodd Show, Ken Dodd’s Laughter Show and An Audience With Ken Dodd and he entered the big time in 1965 with the longest-ever run at the London Palladium – 42 weeks.

Ken Dodd poses backstage with the Bluebell Girls in 1976 (PA)

Also a well-known singer, in 1964 the star released his first single, Happiness, followed by smash hit Tears in 1965, and then Promises.

He was knighted in honour of his decades-long showbiz career and charity work in March last year.

His first fiancee, Anita Boutin, died of a brain tumour in 1977 aged 45.

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