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The woman behind the forsyth saga

Bruce Forsyth once admitted that he has two personas: "On-screen Bruce and off-screen Bruce. The width of a studio door is all that separates them."

In Living with Brucie, David Nath's probing documentary, on-screen Bruce didn't even rate a cameo.

Off-screen Bruce, however, was all over Nath's film -- and indeed all over Nath and his crew, telling them what to do and what not to do, where to put the camera and where not to put it.

"The unscripted nature of the documentary seemed to unsettle Bruce," observed Nath, and in fact the most striking thing about the film was the way Bruce immediately tried to seize control of the situation.

He started to directly address the camera, as though talking to a live audience, and bossily offered his advice and opinions on a range of subjects, from the correct way to hang up a pair of wet socks, to the need for a return to national service, to the necessity of drinking plenty of water in the heat ("Do NOT get dehydrated -- you could blow up").

He frequently asked for retakes when he thought he'd made a mistake and at one point humorously berated the Puerto Rican cook for fluffing a line he'd given her to say.

"By the way, no real big close-ups, whatever we do during the next few days," he warned Nath, just before demonstrating his "Fountain of Youth" exercises, which are part of a daily regime his mother-in-law gave him on his wedding day.

"Close-ups of the toes, but no close-ups of the face," he continued. "The toes are much younger than the face."

I can't vouch for the youthfulness of Bruce's toes, but his face -- either in close-up or medium shot -- doesn't hide its age, even if the rest of him tries hard to do so.

Prior to the Fountain of Youth routine, Bruce had demonstrated a special way of walking that, he assured us, makes you look younger.

Or, maybe, he was reassuring himself.

Bruce is 82 now. His third wife, Wilnelia, a Puerto Rican former Miss World, is 30 years younger -- which is perhaps why Bruce's mother-in-law, who is also his junior, gave him that life-extending exercise plan.

Nath's film followed the couple, who have been married for 27 years, over several months at their homes in England and in an exclusive, gated resort on Puerto Rico, where the locals, who don't know Bruce is a star, call him Senor Mundo -- Mr World.

Despite the age gap, it appears to be a genuinely loving marriage.

Bruce, said Wilnelia, is a real romantic. But while he was off playing golf, she hinted, in the very gentlest of ways, that living with Bruce Forsyth requires a fair degree of patience.

And we saw this when Bruce took her and the crew for a whistle-stop golf buggy tour of the local beauty spots and ended up in a spat with an over-zealous security guard.

"Don't pull your car in front of me!" Bruce snapped. "I resent that and I am angered. I want your name, because I am going to report you."

The ever-charming and polite Wilnelia soothed the situation.

You suspect she has to do that a lot being married to Bruce.

You don't expect entertainers to be exactly like they are when they're working a TV audience, yet the gap between public Bruce and private Bruce is startling.

He's entitled, at his age, to be cantankerous, but he doesn't seem to do irony or self-deprecation; there's no evidence of a sense of humour.

Nice to see you, to see you . . . NICE! Nice to live with you . . . well, that might be a different matter.

STACEY'S STARS

LIVING WITH BRUCIE ****


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