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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 02:34 GMT 03:34 UK
Spitting Image sale boosts charity
Michael Heseltine
Michael Heseltine meets up with an old friend
Celebrities and politicians have paid tribute to their latex likenesses from the satirical television series Spitting Image at a charity auction.

Several puppets and memorabilia from the show went under the hammer to raise funds for a 15m revamp of the Hackney Empire theatre in east London.

More than 200 others are being auctioned over the internet by Sotheby's of London in a separate sale organised by the show's co-creator Roger Law.

Former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, who was transformed into "Hezza" by his gung-ho rubber caricature, said: "In a sense, Spitting Image made me.
Peter Fluck (left) and Roger Law
Puppet creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law get physical with Baroness Thatcher's caricature

"I was an obscure member of the British Government, a common or garden Cabinet minister - and suddenly wherever I went, Hezza or Michael. I was a celebrity."

Wednesday's event was compered by impressionist Steve Nallon - the voice of Baroness Thatcher through Spitting Image's 12-year run - and raised nearly 14,000 for the appeal.

Among those present was former MP and diplomat Lord Owen, who said he had been a great fan of the series.
Ian McCaskell puppet
Weatherman Ian McCaskell is one of the puppets up for grabs in the Sotheby's internet auction

"Politicians have got that touch more power than most of us," he said. "It's great to take them down to size."

He said he would not be bidding for his own rubber likeness, but added: "One of my friends is threatening me."

Celebrity bidders included film director Michael Winner, who snapped up the late Sir John Gielgud's caricature for 5,400.

Event host and theatre appeal chairman Griff Rhys Jones pledged 600 for a drawing of himself and long-time TV partner Mel Smith.

Rubber versions of Lord Lloyd-Webber and Sir Michael Caine, complete with Harry Palmer-style glasses, each went for 2,000.

An energetic Mr Nallon, wearing Mrs Thatcher's trademark blue business suit, introduced the auction in a strikingly authentic Thatcher voice, saying: "We are here, as you know, to raise money, to restore the Empire.
Michael Winner
Michael Winner greets his own image

"Some people say Michael Heseltine is his own worst enemy," added the impressionist. "Well not while I'm around, he's not."

Later, he accidentally dropped a ceramic cruet set modelled on the Blair family - but it still fetched 400.

Spitting Image producer John Lloyd read out letters written by irate viewers when the controversial series first appeared in 1984, but added:

"It reached more viewers every single week than, in fact, it took for the Tories to win the general election while we were doing it."

Other celebrity guests included former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Paddy Ashdown, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and TV chef Gary Rhodes.

The BBC's Lisa Holland
"You knew you had made it when you became a target"
See also:

30 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Spitting Image puppets up for sale
05 Jun 00 | Media reports
Kremlin pulls strings on TV puppets
07 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Online sale for TV puppets
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