lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 27 16:55:58 MST 2002
The Guardian, Wednesday February 27, 2002
Spike Milligan dies at 83
Author and comedian Spike Milligan has died aged 83 at his Sussex
home, his agent announced today.
The last remaining Goon was surrounded by his family when he died of
kidney failure early this morning.
Milligan had suffered ill health for sometime and had been nursed by
his third wife Shelagh in recent months.
Norma Farnes, his agent and manager, said: "For 35-years he has been
the dynamo in my life and he was my dearest friend. I will miss him
One of the most unorthodox and consistently funny performers on the
British comedy circuit from the end of the Second World War until his
death, his writing and absurd sense of humour dominated the Goons.
With the other members - Sir Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Michael
Bentine - the team led the way in radio comedy for generations of
Jenny Abramsky, BBC director of radio, said: "He was a genius, one of
the critical people who put radio comedy on the map. He was unmatched
Eddie Izzard today described him as the "godfather of alternative
comedy", adding: "He was a great man and it's a very sad day."
On the Goon Show he could transform a mundane situation into the
heights of comedy, drawing fits of laughter from the audience, but he
was equally funny when speaking off the cuff.
Probably his most famous - or notorious remark - was in 1994 when, at
the age of 76, he was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Comedy Award.
A letter praising him from the Prince of Wales, an enormous fan, was
read out - and in front of a stuffed-shirt audience and millions of
TV viewers, Milligan declared: "Little grovelling bastard ..."
Charles, who was not present, saw the funny side, but many outraged
viewers complained to ITV.
Milligan later sent a fax to the prince saying: "I suppose a
knighthood is out of the question now?"
The prince said today he was "deeply saddened to hear the news", his
spokesman adding: "He knew Spike Milligan over many years and had a
great affection for him."
The pair met last year when he received an honourary knighthood,
Milligan not being entitled to call himself "sir" because he was an
On receiving an honorary CBE in 1992 from the then heritage
secretary, David Mellor, who made the presentation in his office, the
visibly frail Milligan had everyone in stitches, quipping: "I can't
see the sense in it really. It makes me a Commander of the British
Empire. They might as well make me a Commander of Milton Keynes - at
least that exists."
He was also an accomplished poet, an author with several volumes of
war memoirs which, though riotously funny, contained the bitter
after-taste of brutal conflict.
He wrote numerous books of "silly" poetry for children and other
volumes with such titles as Indefinite Articles and Scunthorpe,
Floored Masterpieces with Worse Verse, Sir Nobonk and the Terrible,
Awful, Dreadful, Naughty Nasty Dragon, as well as Spike Milligan's
Further Transports of Delight and Milligan's War.
Then there were his intense campaigns - against abortion, needless
noise, vivisection and factory farming.
In 1986, he was thrown out of Harrods when he tried to stuff 28lb of
spaghetti down the mouth of the food hall manager.
"I told him it might give him some idea of how a goose feels being
force-fed maize to make pate de fois gras. Everyone looked stunned
and their faces fell."
Even though the Goon Show was a hilarious success, Milligan found
that it became a millstone that had changed his life not always for
the better. He suffered moodswings, nervous breakdowns and bouts of
"I was so ill when I was writing them that I was in a mental home
three or four times, and they broke up my first marriage," he said.
"I had to write a new show every week for six months. If Hitler had
done that to someone it would be called torture. I was in such a
state of hypertension that I was unapproachable by human beings, and
I became a manic depressive."
Born in India on April 16, 1918, Milligan was 16 when he was brought
His Irish father was an army captain, and Spike adopted his
nationality after immigration laws declared him "stateless" in 1960,
even though he had spent seven years as a gunner on active service in
the British Army.
He obstinately refused to take the oath of allegiance which stood
between him and a British passport. Prince Charles pointed out to him
that even he had to swear the oath and urged him to think again.
"Yes, but it's your mother isn't it? You don't get board and lodging
at Buckingham Palace if you don't swear an oath," he told the prince.
Milligan was in two minds about the existence of heaven. Once he
said: "I'd like to go there. But if Jeffrey Archer is there I want to
go to Lewisham."
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 02/27/2002
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