Home » » Actor John Inman dies aged 71

Actor John Inman dies aged 71

Luffy | Thursday, March 08, 2007 | 0 comments
Video: John Inman, who died yesterday in a London hospital at the age of 71 after a long battle against liver disease, was probably responsible for raising the profile of the homosexual male to its highest level since the heyday of Oscar Wilde.

Yet, ironically, theTV role for which he will always be remembered infuriated the activists of Gay Liberation.
John Inman, who died after a long illness, was described as 'one of the best and finest pantomime dames working to capacity audiences throughout Britain'

They regarded his character, Mr Humphries - the outrageously camp floorwalker who minced through the menswear department of Grace Brothers, shrieking: 'I’m free!' - as the sort of demeaning sexual stereotype they were fighting to erase.

For years after the series ended , members of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality demonstrated outside theatres where Inman happened to be appearing.

But the star of Are You Being Served? took their taunts with Lancastrian sang-froid - and stoked the fire by revealing that his favourite hobby was sewing.

Much of the inspiration for Mr. Humphries undoubtedly came from Inman's own life.

The son of a male hairdresser, he was born in Prestonon on June 28, 1935, and brought up in a Blackpool boarding house run by his mother.

A timid wartime child, he remembered his father as “a drinking man who used to knock my mother about”.

By the age of six, John was escaping into theatrical fanatsies, occasionally taking down his mother’s blackout curtains and giving impromptu shows for the neighbours.

At 11, he made his professional debut at Blackpool’s South Pier in the melodrama, Frieda. He later said that he “knew instantly that this was the only life I ever wanted”.

But as he advanced into his teens - small and slight - the work dried up. In order to earn a living wage, he became a trainee window-dresser, eventually graduating to London, where he worked at Austin Reed in Regent Street.

There, like the character he would one day play, he liked to pose in the window, struggling to keep a straight face as he flaunted a sign that said: “Available in other colours”.

Then, a resting actor told him about a job going in Crewe - “the actor’s graveyard” - and Inman made his second start in the theatre.

For years, he played minor characters until the 1972 BBC television sitcom Are You Being Served? transformed him into a household name.

The writing was crude, the situations obvious and the characters at Grace Brothers - a broken-down department store - owed much to French farce. But viewers adored the series.

And all the leads became as well-known as the archetypes they played: Mollie Sugden, who was the matronly Mrs. Slocombe obsessed with her pet "pussy"; the future EastEnders star Wendy Richard, who brought considerable front to the bosomy Miss Brahms; and most of all, Inman himself, mouthing gap-toothed triple entendres as the camp floorwalker Mr. Humphries. Inman denied that Humphries was gay - but no one agreed with him. For the first time in living memory, the public had taken an overtly camp TV actor to their hearts.

The series was to run for 12 years and 69 episodes, making Inman a world-wide star - even in the United States, where a man once fell off his bike in shock after recognising him in the street.

Nothing else that Inman ever did replicated the magnitude of his fame as Humphries.

The 1977 film version of Are You Being Served?, which took the staff on holiday to the mythical Costa Plonka, proved a damp squib, and a 1980 Australian version of the series, in which Mr Humphries was promoted to head of the menswear department of Bone Brothers - lasted only a year.

In 1999, at the age of 64, Inman astounded his friends by announcing that he had been straight all his life and that, furthermore, he had been involved in a “serious relationship” with a woman for 28 years. No one seemed to know who she was.

In December 2004, suffering from the ravages of Hepatitis A, he pulled out of a London pantomime.

And, a year later, all pretence and denial cast aside, he "married" his male companion of the past 33 years, Ron Lynch, in a civil partnership ceremony at Westminster Register Office.

Both were heavy drinkers, and there had been numerous quarrels and separations. Many of Inman’s friends disliked and distrusted Lynch, slyly revealing that the star had met him on the rebound after being dumped by the man who was the real love of his life.

But as Inman’s health deteriorated, Lynch was on hand to support him.

Those who hoped that the star might make a final comeback were to be disappointed. A play - entitled There’s No Place Like A Home - was written expressly for Inman and Danny La Rue by the impresario Paul Elliott.

But La Rue, suffering from macular degeneration of the eyes, found himself unable to read the cue cards. And Inman, by that point, was too weak to walk across a stage.

His health declined steeply in the last few months, leaving him desperately thin and barely able to walk. The end came at four in the morning yesterday at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. Lynch, who now stands to inherit Inman's substantial fortune, is said to be “devastated”.

Poignantly, Inman’s official webpage announces: “John’s site has been temporarily taken offline. Thanks for your interest, please call back in a few days”.

But John Inman, that splendid trouper, is no longer available.
Share this article :


Support : Creating Website | Johny Template | Mas Template
Copyright © 2011. Celebs planet - All Rights Reserved
Template Modify by Creating Website
Proudly powered by Blogger