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Sunday, 15 September, 2002, 19:31 GMT 20:31 UK
Stars turn out for Spike Milligan tribute
Spike Milligan
Milligan: A household name since the 1950s
The life and work of the late Goons star Spike Milligan were celebrated with a star-studded tribute evening in London.

The event at London's Guildhall on Sunday was organised by Beatles producer Sir George Martin to raise money for a mental health charity.

Among the stars appearing to talk about their memories of Milligan, who died in February, were Eric Sykes, Michael Palin, Harry Enfield, Paul Merton, actress Kathy Burke and Monty Python writer and actor Terry Jones.

Comedian Eddie Izzard, singer Dame Cleo Laine and broadcaster John Sergeant also took to the stage to perform their own personal tributes through anecdotes and readings.

Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard called Milligan the "godfather of alternative comedy"
The performances were followed by a 150-a-head dinner that helped boost the coffers of the Square Smile charity, which supports various mental health projects, and the Barts Cancer Centre of Excellence.

Milligan died at home at the age of 83 from suspected liver failure after suffering ill-health for some time, during which he was nursed by his wife Shelagh.

He had been the last surviving member of the cult comedy quartet The Goons, which he formed alongside Michael Bentine, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers.

Prince Charles was one of the first to voice a tribute to the star, saying he had been "deeply saddened by his death".

Milligan refused to be pigeon-holed as his career spanned television, film, poetry, novels and children's books.

He was a major influence on British comedy, taking music hall ideas and weaving into them his own sketches, many of which verged on the surreal.

Izzard described him as the "godfather of alternative comedy".

He said: "He was a great man. He was a crazy, wonderful genius."

The Goon Show was first broadcast on 28 May 1951.

Depression

Milligan is said to have picked the word goon out of a Popeye comic and started using it as derogatory term for people he saw as idiots.

Milligan was credited with writing most of the Goon scripts but during series three he suffered a breakdown and had to miss 12 episodes.

He received an honorary knighthood from Prince Charles last year - Milligan held an Irish passport - despite making fun of him during a live television show in 1994 by calling him "grovelling".

He later sent a fax to the prince saying: "I suppose a knighthood is out of the question now?"

Plagued with mental illness and manic depression during his life, he suffered no fewer than 10 breakdowns, linked to shell shock he endured during the war.

The event will be broadcast on BBC Two on 5 October.



Fans pay respects

His comic art

AUDIO/VIDEO

LOCAL MEMORIES

TALKING POINT

Picture gallery
Spike's life in pictures

See also:

26 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
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