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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 11:59 GMT
Goons memories go on
The Goons
The Goons reunited on rare occasions
Spike Milligan's death means the last of The Goons has died, but the show lives on in the hearts of millions.

From backstreet pub to worldwide entertainers, The Goons were visionary comedians.

Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe got together in Grafton's pub in Westminster in 1949.

Michael Bentine
Bentine continued to entertain his fans
The pub was run by scriptwriter Jimmy Grafton was given the moniker KOGVOS - Keeper of Goons and Voice of Sanity.

Their unique comedy style was first heard on the airwaves on 28 May 1951 on the programme Crazy People featuring The Goons.

Within a year the title had changed to The Goon Show.

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.

The word baffled the aging establishment at the BBC, with one executive memorably demanding to know about the "Go On Show".

Madcap

The Sunday night recordings were made all the more madcap by the addition of brandies all round.

To warm the audience up Secombe would whip away Sellers' braces, making his trousers fall down.

Unfortunately, on one occasion Sellers wasn't wearing any underpants.

The show continued to cause a headache for BBC bosses, who tried to edit them on at least 30 occasions.

Sellers' impersonations of Winston Churchill and scenes depicting MPs sleeping in the House of Commons were eventually banned.

Bentine left The Goons after just two series, deciding to concentrate on a solo career and his family.

Announcer Andrew Timothy left in 1953, saying he feared for his "sanity". Wallace "Bill" Greenslade stepped into his shoes.
Peter Sellers
Sellers successfully crossed over into film

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

Sellers took over some of his characters while temporary replacements such as Dick Emery were called in to fill the void.

One of the most memorable sketches was in December 1953, when a spoof broadcast announced a UFO flying across London.

Anyone who spotted it was asked to ring a fictitious number. Thousands rang the line.

Secombe played Neddie Seagoon, a central figure in all the shows.

He was a cheerful but gullible character who's greed regularly landed him in trouble.

Sellers took a variety of characters including posh Hercules Gryptype-Thynne - a suave cad-type; boy scout Bluebottle - who read his own stage directions aloud and Willium "Mate" Cobblers - an elderly cockney who calls everyone "mate".

Milligan played, among many others, the extremely stupid Eccles, Miss Minnie Bannister and Count Moriarty.

All three took the roles of other characters when the script required.

Ying Tong

Sellers and Milligan, who had both lived in India, regularly slipped into Hindi accents for a succession of roles.

Spike Milligan
No growing old gracefully for Milligan
The show also featured the Ray Ellington Quartet, harmonica player Max Geldray and house band the Wally Stott Orchestra.

The Goon Show eventually wound up in 1960 after a total of 243 programmes.

The cult show also spawned hit singles in I'm Walk Backwards for Christmas and the Ying Tong Song.

Peter Sellers died of a heart attack July 1980, following an illustrious movie career.

Michael Bentine, who enjoyed solo success, died in November 1996.

Spike Milligan was awarded a British Comedy Award for lifetime achievement in 1995, and the Prince of Wales gave him an honorary knighthood in 2001, a year before his death.

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