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EDITIONS
Monty Python Friday, 8 October, 1999, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Pythons that slithered away
Honorary Pythons: Carol Cleveland, Neil Innes and Connie Booth
Every success story has its unsung heroes and Monty Python is no exception.

The bulk of the credit must undeniably go to John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam. But they received substantial support from three, often forgotten, sources.

Life of Python
First there was Carol Cleveland who, as the main female performer, provided an ideal foil to the all-male team.

E-mail your questions to Carol Cleveland

Another actress, Connie Booth, the then-wife of John Cleese, made regular appearances and also co-wrote one famous Python sketch.

While the talents of eccentric singer/songwriter Neil Innes contributed to the success of the later Python years.

In the years since Monty Python, its six-man combo have attained almost God-like comedy status. Their three collaborators, however, have not shared in the full glory.

Tainted career

Of all of them, Cleveland has arguably fared the worst - despite being the one who could most legitimately claim a share of the limelight.

Cleveland was the regular "Python Stooge"
Former teenage model and beauty queen, Cleveland was recommended to the Pythons following her work with comedians Roy Hudd, Spike Milligan and the Two Ronnies.

She went on to become the only regular female in all four Python series and the films, cast mainly as the busty "glamour stooge" - a self-nominated tag.

But despite the success of her contribution, RADA-trained Cleveland says her subsequent career has been tainted.

"Python is still a ball and chain for me, 30 years on. Don't get me wrong: I loved every minute of it," she said in a recent interview.

Cleveland has never been allowed to forget her Python past
"But the Pythons didn't write good parts for women because they were public schoolboys not used to dealing with ladies.

"So now I'm well into my 50s and it's the age-old cry: I'm a glamour girl who wants to be taken seriously."

Cleveland now lives in Brighton with her second husband and works mainly in regional theatre.

She also has a one-woman show about, she says, "

"what happens to fading glamour girls".

Quiet success

Connie Booth would seem to have fared better.

Pretty and blonde, she too could have been used as a titillating sidekick.

Lumberjack: Booth appeared in a number of guises throughout her Python years
But with Cleese as her husband, her career took a different path.

Cleese met a leotard-clad Booth when, as an out-of-work actress, she was waitressing in New York.

They married in 1968 and moved to London. But her career took off when she became involved in Monty Python.

Between 1969 and 1975, Booth played a variety of roles, from herself to a witch.

But her most significant part was to co-write, with Cleese, the sketch of The Princess with the Wooden Teeth.

The collaboration fired the couple's imagination and led to their creation of another comedy classic, Fawlty Towers.

Booth made her name as Polly in Fawlty Towers
The drama about the shocking Torquay hotelier Basil Fawlty, played by Cleese, with Booth as Polly - the long-suffering maid - only ran for 12 episodes but it made her a household name.

Since then, and despite taking divorce from Cleese badly, Booth has notched up a number of small but steady roles.

They include parts in Leon the Pig Farmer, The Buccaneers and her critically-acclaimed performance as a schizophrenic in The Story of Ruth.

Now, after fulfilling a long-time ambition to study for a degree, she has put acting on hold to train in the field of psychotherapy.

Still laughing

Unlike the two women, musician and comic Neil Innes only appeared as part of the Python team during the fourth, post-Cleese series.

Innes was an established musical parodist
He toured extensively with the troupe, had roles in both the Holy Grail and Life of Brian films and his song How Sweet To Be An Idiot was a highlight of the Pythons Live at Drury Lane album.

Innes's gift for penning and performing burlesque, musical-style songs was established in the late 1960s.

He was then a key member of the zany Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, for whom he wrote the hit single I'm The Urban Spaceman.

He moved into television, supplying songs for the children's series Do Not Adjust Your Set and then started his association with Monty Python.

Idle's Rutland Weekend Television was just one of the TV projects Innes worked on
Post-Python, his career has been steeped in TV comedy, starting with acting and supplying musical parodies to Eric Idle's solo project Rutland Weekend Television.

The Rutles followed, and his career has since ranged from the Innes Book of Records, to writing for the children's series Rosie and Jim and presenting Book Tower, Away With Words and Puddle Lane.

Though still not exactly a household a name, Innes has a faithful following who revel in his one-man stage shows packed with examples from each phase of his varied career.

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Neil Innes enjoyed the silliness of the 1960s
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