Saturday 18 June 2011


How delighted we all were when Bruce Forsyth finally became Sir Bruce in the Queen's Birthday Honours last week.

I realise that this post will be largely inexplicable to my overseas readers, but here, in the UK, Brucie is nothing short of a National Treasure. He made his TV debut, aged 11, in 1939 ("Was there television in 1939?" asked one media commentator), before going on, three years later, to become 'Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom' playing the variety theatres with a song, dance, and accordion act.

Full-on stardom came in 1958 when he began hosting the hugely TV variety show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium with his famous maxim, "I'm in charge!"

As a TV host, he was the reason, in the 1970s, that we tuned-in in our millions every Saturday night to watch Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game with its nationally adopted catch-phrases ("Good game! Good game!", "Didn't he do well?" and, of course, "Nice to see you! To see you – nice!") and having adopted him, via 'the box', into our extended families, we followed his later successes on stage, occasionally on film, and on a succession of game and talent shows, Play Your Cards Right, You Bet, Bruce's Price is Right and, most recently, Strictly Come Dancing.

Bruce has been part of British life for as long as most of us can remember and I've always been an admirer: because he is one of that tough breed of multi-talented entertainers who got their break in vaudeville and can truly be described as 'survivors' – able to endlessly reinvent themselves.

I was delighted, therefore, back in 2009, to have the chance to meet and interview Brucie when I was making a duet of radio programmes as a tribute to the BBC impresario, the late Bill Cotton.

I visited the Forsyth home (just over the hedge from the famous Wentworth Golf Club!) and spent a couple of hours talking about various aspects of his long career. At the end of the interview, I asked him to sign my copy of his autobiography, Bruce, which he did, adding: "Try to believe it!"

Then I produced something else, tucked in the back of the book: a fan photo that I had requested in the 1960s and which, on its arrival, I had been bitterly disappointed to find had a printed signature!

"Now, I've finally got to meet you," I said, "would you mind if I asked you to do the job properly?!”

Laughing, Bruce explained how, when he first experienced stardom, he was totally unable to cope with the extensive fan mail. He recalled how, on arriving at his agent’s office one day, he saw a line of GPO mail-sacks stacked up along the hallway. When he asked what they were, he was told him, they were all for him! As with a number of stars, printed fan cards were an inevitable solution and, in many ways, a more honest option than those signed for others by agents' secretaries.

Anyway, Bruce was much amused that I had kept the photo (however unsatisfactory) for fifty years and happily did the deed, adding a dedication and a second signature – this time, as he noted, "in real ink”!


Thank you, Sir Bruce!

Caricature of Bruce Forsyth by Chris Sharrock.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see a piece on Brucie (if you'll pardon the pun). I'm no fan of the ridiculous honours system but if ever a man deserved the recognition, its him. I remember him best for 'The Generation Game' but I'm sure every age will have their own, different memories of him.Nice to remember remember him...

SEGAR A limited edition dog meat a few years ago.

Steven Hartley said...

Personally, I'm not a fan of Forsyth an I'm not keen on his "old jokes". But, this is some news and congratulations on Brucie!

It's nice to know that you got to interview Bruce, I know that he appeared in a Disney movie, "Bedknobs and Broomsticks".

SharonM said...

I suppose it goes to show that if people live long enough, they'll eventually get the knighthood many think they richly deserved.

What an interesting anecdote about the signature.

I remember my daughter, when in her mid-teens, wrote to an actor who is currently in Eastenders for the 2nd time, having returned last year. He was also in a couple of musicals.

She received a printed reply saying that he was far too popular to have the time to send/sign photos. If she sent £10 to join his fan club, however, a signed photo would be forthcoming.

Suzanne said...

I grew up with Brucie and the Generation Game, and now I am a big fan of SCR, so despite being sceptical about "honours", like Steven, I am pleased he see he is now a "Sir". We'll see how he copes with this next Strictly season...!

aniest: a very old, very used joke that nobody finds funny any more...

Gill said...

Is it blasphemy or maybe high treason to say that I cannot abide Bruce Forsyth?

I happily acknowledge his consummate professionalism, and admire his stamina! I am also pleased that he has a knighthood after so many people making such a fuss about it for so long. But the man himself? In his on screen persona at least, no thank you!

Brian Sibley said...

And after all the lobbying he has being doing for your damehood! ;)

Arts and Crafts said...

There was a time that I could see BBC Prime, in those days we had a lot of fun in home, BBC Prime was the best channel, even for my mother who don't speak english.. we enjoyed many series and programs like The Generation Game, that was wonderful, a lot of funny...