Saturday 19 January 2019

Sir Ken Dodd’s widow: The world has lost a life-enhancing comedian

The much-loved star died on Sunday in the home he was born in.

Sir Ken Dodd, (Ian West/PA)
Sir Ken Dodd, (Ian West/PA)

By Sherna Noah and Eleanor Barlow, Press Association

Sir Ken Dodd’s widow said the world had “lost a most life-enhancing, brilliant, creative comedian” as she paid tribute to her husband following his death aged 90.

The funnyman died on Sunday, at the home he was born in, just two days after getting married.

Speaking outside their home, in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, where floral tributes and tickle sticks were left outside, Lady Anne Dodd said she had “lost a most wonderful husband”.

“We first met when I was in the Ken Dodd Christmas Show in 1961 at the Manchester Opera House,” she said.

“I’ve had the supreme joy and privilege of working and living with him as a partner for the past 40 years.”

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

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

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

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and affection which I’ve already received from dear friends and the public and I thank you all for being here.”

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 on February 27 at the end of 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.

She was at his bedside when he died.

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

Sir Ken’s publicist Robert Holmes 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.”

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,” Holmes said.

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.”

Stars from Dawn French to David Walliams, Sandi Toksvig, Brian Conley, Les Dennis and Dara O’Briain paid tribute following his death.

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

The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes said: “Like everyone in Liverpool and like many across the world I am deeply saddened by Sir Ken’s death. His gentleness and his sustained commitment to the joy and delight of others will even outlive his jokes.

“His dedication to our city and in particular to the Knotty Ash community was never diluted by his enormous success.

“Sir Ken was a man with a quiet, deep faith, who was often seen at our Cathedral, where he loved quiet and peaceful worship. 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.”

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.

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

His TV shows included The Ken Dodd Show, Beyond Our Ken, 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.

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.

Sir Ken was acquitted following a five-week trial, accused of tax fraud, in 1989.

He would later joke about the case, which had transformed Liverpool Crown Court into a sell-out theatre, with fellow comics Eric Sykes and Roy Hudd called as character witnesses.

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

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