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LGBT People of History 61 - Frankie Howerd
Frankie Howerd was a prominent comedian on British television renowned for his double entendres and appearances in series such as ‘Up Pompeii’. He was unable to keep a straight face and had the most tremendous banter with his audience. He loved the rapport as it perhaps made up for the negativity which was present in other aspects of his character.
Born Francis Alick Howard on 6th March 1917 in the city of York in Northern England, he was the son of Francis Alfred William and Edith Florence Howard.
He was educated at Shooters Hill Grammar School in Woolwich, London. He made his first stage appearance at the young age of thirteen. He had dreamed of being a serious actor, though unfortunately his dreams were shattered after he failed an audition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).
He began entertaining during the Second World War during his service with the British Army, and it was at this time that he changed his surname from Howard to Howerd – ‘just to be different.’
In 1946 he began his professional career with a touring show ‘For the Fun of It’. Later in the 1950s he became a regular feature in many shows on the radio and television.
He suffered a nervous breakdown in the early 1960s but he made a comeback and gained his popularity all over again after doing a season at Peter Cook’s ‘Establishment Club’ in Soho, London.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Frankie starred in many films and shows for the BBC and Thames TV such as a number of Carry on films such as:
Carry On Up the Jungle
Carry On Doctor
…and many more. He went on to star in his most famous TV role that he still remembered for today as “Lurkio” in the notorious comedy “Up Pompeii”. He soon became a household name.
In his later career, he appeared in the US musical version of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. He returned to the TV in ‘Superfrank!’ in 1987. Latterly he would perform one man shows for students in universities and in the Garrick Theatre in London. He had a huge young following.
Frankie was gay, but hated it probably because in his earlier life homosexuality was illegal (until 1967) and it could possibly have destroyed his career. He had weekend appointments with a psychiatrist, who gave him LSD in an attempt to ‘cure’ him. He also tended towards depression. His life partner was Dennis Heymer who spent over 30 years with him. He was notoriously promiscuous making advances to people in inappropriate places.
In 1991 he went on a trip up the Amazon River where he contracted a virus. The following year in 1992 he had respiratory problems and sadly collapsed and died on April 19th 1992. He was 75 years old.
He was the consummate performer and gave pleasure to very many people. Thankyou, Frankie.
Ian & Callum
With Thanks to Wikipedia.
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