'EastEnders' 'Dirty Den' dies at age of 71
Actor Leslie Grantham, who became a British TV icon during the 1980s as arch-villain 'Dirty Den' Watts on the soap opera 'EastEnders', has died. He was 71.
Grantham's management company, Advocate Agency, said he died yesterday but did not disclose the cause.
'EastEnders' first aired in 1985, chronicling life in the fictional working-class London neighbourhood of Walford. Grantham's unscrupulous, adulterous character ran the Queen Vic pub with his wife, Angie, and their tempestuous relationship was central to many of the soap's most dramatic plots.
Half of Britain's population, some 30 million people, watched the 1986 Christmas episode in which Den handed his wife divorce papers with the words: "Happy Christmas, Ange."
"Everyone thought Den was a lovable rogue," Grantham said later. "He wasn't evil, he was just Jack the lad."
Grantham left the show in 1989, when his character was apparently shot - only to be resurrected in 2003. The character was killed off again in 2005, shot by his second on-screen wife.
Born in London in 1947, Grantham joined the British army as a teenager. While stationed in Germany he was convicted in 1967 of killing a taxi driver during a robbery attempt. He began acting while serving a decade in prison.
Grantham had a few small television parts before auditioning for 'EastEnders', which made him a star.
In 2004, he was ensnared in a tabloid scandal after taking part in webcam sex sessions with an undercover reporter from his 'EastEnders' dressing room. He left the show soon afterwards.
Outside the show Grantham performed onstage, hosted a TV game show, wrote a children's novel and appeared in a television series in Bulgaria.
Grantham is survived by his ex-wife, Jane Laurie, and three sons. His representatives said there would be a private funeral for friends and family.
Yesterday, Letitia Dean told of her "special memories" of working with her former co-star.
Dean, who appeared on the BBC programme as Sharon Watts - the adoptive daughter of Den and his wife Sharon (Anita Dobson) - said via the 'EastEnders' Twitter account: "I have very special memories of working with Leslie and will cherish them always.
"He and Anita looked after me in my early days and showed me the ropes, always with care and kindness."
Other 'EastEnders' stars, including Gillian Taylforth and June Brown, also paid tribute to their late co-star.
Taylforth, who appeared alongside Grantham from 1985, said she was "deeply saddened".
Dot Cotton actress Brown, another original cast member of the programme, said: "I was very fond of Leslie and am so sorry that he has gone. I always enjoyed talking to him. He made me laugh and always had a twinkle in his eye when he said outrageous things."