One of the most shocking TV moments of all-time was the death of Tommy Cooper.
Midway through a live act on an ITV variety show in 1984, Cooper suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed.
The odd thing was that because Cooper’s act was full of clown-like moments, including falling to the floor regularly, most of the audience thought it was part of his act and were laughing until it finally became apparent he was seriously ill. The live show continued while efforts were made backstage to revive Cooper, not made easier by the darkness. It was not until a second commercial break that paramedics were able to move his body to Westminster Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Not a nice way to go, though then again Cooper, a born entertainer who lived his life on stages, would have probably had a wry smile at the very public manner of his demise.
Cooper had been entertaining audiences all his life but had an interesting off-stage life too, battling with a booze problem in his later years. Indeed on one appearance on Michael Parkinson’s chat show, Cooper forgot to set the safety catch on a guillotine illusion in which he had cajoled Parkinson to take part. Only a last-minute intervention by the floor manager saved Parkinson from serious injury or worse.
All of which means a brand new play coming to The Grand, called Being Tommy Cooper, and about Cooper the man as opposed to Cooper the performer, should make for interesting viewing.
Written by playwright Tom Green and starring Damian Williams (best known for presenting Sky One’s Are You Smarter Than Your 10 Year Old?), the play is embarking on a UK tour and stops off in Blackpool on Sunday June 2.
In a small hotel room in Las Vegas in 1954, the up-and-coming Cooper faces the prospect of his first big failure. With the show closing and a warring relationship with his manager, Tommy finds an offer on the table and a drink in his hand.
Powerful, provocative, painfully funny and true, Green’s play celebrates the brilliance in Britain’s most famous comic and explores the pressures and loneliness of fame.
Famed for his iconic red fez, Cooper made his television debut on the BBC in 1948 and went on to star in many variety shows in a career that spanned four decades - most notably on London Weekend Television from 1968 to 1972 and on Thames Television from 1973 to 1980. By the mid 1970’s he was one of the most successful and recognisable comedians in the world.
Tickets are £18 and concessions available. Go to www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk or call the box office on 01253 743339.