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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Obituary: Mike Reid
Stars of The Comedians
Mike Reid, top right, was one of the stars of The Comedians
Former EastEnders actor Mike Reid, who played wheeler dealer Frank Butcher in the BBC soap, died at the age of 67.

Reid was a real-life Londoner, born in Hackney, East London, in 1940.

A few months after his birth, his family were forced by the blitz bombings to leave their home and Reid spent his formative years in Tottenham.

According to his autobiography, the future comedian was a petty criminal in his youth, joining a North London gang which stole from scrap yards and settled scores with shotguns.

He also befriended notorious gangsters Charlie and Reggie Kray.

He married his first wife, Sheila, in 1958, with whom he had his first child, Jane, but their union soon ended due to his wild lifestyle.

Mike Reid in EastEnders
Mike Reid played one of EastEnders' most popular characters

A brief spell in Brixton prison eventually convinced him to turn his back on crime for the sake of his second wife, Shirley.

The couple went on to have two sons, Michael and Mark.

Reid started life in showbusiness in the 1960s as a stuntman, working on films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Spartacus, as well as working as Roger Moore's stunt double in TV series, The Saint.

The star went on to work as a stand-up comic in clubs and cruise liners, before finding fame on the 1970s stand-up show, The Comedians.

The popular TV series consisted entirely of short slots by other stand-up comedians such as Bernard Manning, Frank Carson, Jim Bowen and Charlie Williams.

Showbiz career

His success on The Comedians led to a one-off novelty hit record, a version of The Ugly Duckling.

His next major move was to host the sometimes chaotic ITV children's game show Runaround in the 1970s, which is still fondly remembered by many people in their 30s and 40s.

He was THE best stand-up comedian, a fine actor and one of the nicest guys in showbiz
Paul, Wales

Reid's career started to gravitate towards television acting and he appeared in minor roles in Minder and Doctor Who, before getting his big break in 1987 winning the role as Frank Butcher in EastEnders.

The character - a charmer who wooed Pat Evans and Peggy Mitchell - went on to become one of the most popular on the BBC One show.

In one of the soap's most memorable moments he attempted to win Pat (Pam St Clements) back, turning up on her doorstep wearing nothing but a flashing dickie bow tie.

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror newspaper in 2003 he said it took them both 40 minutes to complete the scene as they kept laughing.

"It was supposed to be a closed set, but all the other actors steamed in to have a look. It was a cold day, so there wasn't a lot to see!" he said.

Double tragedy

As the role propelled Reid to stardom, his personal life was dogged by tragedy.

In 1985 his son Mark accidentally shot dead his best friend and five years later he committed suicide by setting himself on fire.

Shortly after his son's death, Reid's granddaughter Kirsty - Mark's daughter - died in her cot aged just six months.

Despite Reid's personal problems he continued to act, but left EastEnders in 2000 when screen wife Peggy discovered his plans to run away with Pat and threw him out.

Mike Reid as Frank Butcher
One of Reid's most memorable moments in EastEnders

He returned to the programme twice, in 2002 when Peggy flew to Spain and in 2005 for Janine Butcher's murder trial.

After leaving EastEnders for the first time he played Doug "The Head" Denovitz in Guy Ritchie movie Snatch and was in Spanish film Oh Marbella! in 2003.

He had slipped from the public eye in recent years and was living in Spain at the time of his death.

'Very funny man'

His agent David Hahn described the former EastEnders actor as "a very, very, very, funny" man who would "see the funny side of any situation".

Fellow comedian Frank Carson said: "This is horrendous news. Everyone in showbusiness will be shocked."

John Yorke, controller of BBC drama series, said: "Albert Square, and British television, will be a far poorer place without him."

Pam St Clements added: "Somebody larger than life as Mike was a person and character, he seemed indestructible."

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