I first became a fan of the late, great, Kenny Everett when I was around five or six, arguably too young to truly understand his unique brand of comedy. The television was on one evening, when a cartoon suddenly appeared. As with most kids I loved cartoons at that age, and assumed they were all intended for kids, so I couldn’t understand why it was on at night when the children’s programmes had finished long ago.
The cartoon in question was an episode of Captain Kremmen, which was an animated science fiction sketch shown as part of the Kenny Everett Video Show, Kenny’s first TV series which was shown in the late seventies on ITV. Captain Kremmen was an intergalactic space hero, and was a character originally created by Kenny for his radio shows, which is of course where he first found fame.
From then on I plagued my parents to let me watch more of this cartoon, they eventually gave in, and to their surprise I even sat glued to the non-cartoon parts of the show where this strange bearded man pulled funny faces and did odd things. I was hooked, even if I didn’t really understand what was going on.
In 1981 Kenny had jumped channels from ITV to the BBC, or the Beeb as he used to call it. I’m not sure if he invented this nickname or not, but he certainly used to use it a lot. Kenny went on to make five series of The Kenny Everett Television Show, and it is this show that I will always remember Kenny for most. Well, that and his appearances on Blankety Blank!
The format of the show was a mixture of comedy and pop music, which was kind of the norm for a comedy show back then. Top musical acts would appear on the show, and on most shows when this section came on I would lose interest. Kenny’s shows were different though, as he quite often lampooned many of the musical acts featured. One particularly memorable example was when he had Toyah Wilcox on, who wore a lot of thick make up and had bright orange hair at the time. Kenny bounded on to her song (I think it was I Wanna Be Free) and looked exactly like her, except for his beard.
Whilst some of the sketches involved Kenny dressed as himself, most of the show comprised the various characters he had created. Sid Snot was a leather clad rocker who kept throwing cigarettes and trying to catch them in his mouth, whilst Marcel Wave was a debonair French Man with cigarette holder and smoking jacket. Kenny wore a ridiculous looking fake plastic chin when he was being Marcel, to cover his beard.
Bizarrely enough though, Kenny made no attempt to disguise his beard when adopting the role of Cupid Stunt (be very careful when you say that name!) who was a Hollywood actress with enormous fake breasts. Cupid was always giving interviews (to a cardboard cutout of Michael Parkinson) talking about her latest film, in which some event would lead to “all her clothes falling off” (to misquote slightly), but we’d then be assured that it was “all done in the best possible taste“.
Then there was the Mime Artist, who would draw things onto the TV screen then interact with them, such as drawing a ladder which he would then climb up. When his head disappeared off the top of the screen it reappeared on the bottom, much to his own confusion as he could see his own legs.
Other favourites included Brother Lee Love, the preacher with enormous hands, the US Army General with the massive shoulders whose solution to everything was to “round ’em up, stick ’em in a field, and bomb the ba**ards” and Reg DIY Prescott, the Do-It-Yourself “expert” who normally ended up cutting off his own hand or putting a nail through his foot.
Funnily enough though, one of my favourite Kenny Everett sketches is the one where Kenny is dressed as Spiderman, who whilst out web slinging gets caught short and really needs to go to the toilet. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.
To bring this post to a close, here’s a little of his personal history. He was born on Christmas Day 1944 as Maurice James Christopher Cole, but took his eventual stage name from the actor Edward Everett Horton, of whom he was a big fan. In 1962 Kenny got his big break as a radio presenter, although he turned down a job at the BBC in favour of pirate radio station Radio London.
In the years that followed Kenny jumped radio stations many times, usually through being fired due to speaking his mind perhaps to freely on air. In 1966 he married Lee “Lady Lee” Middleton, Billy Fury’s former girlfriend, but by 1979 they had divorced, as it became clear that Kenny was gay.
Whilst a big campaigner for gay rights, it is thought he suffered from bouts of depression from not really accepting his sexuality. In 1989 he was diagnosed as being HIV positive, and he finally died from an AIDS related illness in 1995, aged 50.