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Tuesday, August 10, 1999 Published at 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK


Two Fat Ladies star dies

Clarissa Dickson Wright and co-star Jennifer Paterson

TV chef Jennifer Paterson, known to millions around the world as one half of the celebrated culinary duo the Two Fat Ladies, has died aged 71, it has been announced.

The BBC's Clarence Mitchell looks back at Jennifer Paterson's colourful career
Ms Paterson, who co-hosted the hit BBC Two cookery show with Clarissa Dickson Wright, fell ill last month while filming the fourth series.

She had been diagnosed with cancer and died in hospital, a BBC spokesman said.

Dickson Wright said she had last seen her friend and colleague ten days ago, although they had spoken by telephone daily. She had been due to visit her on Wednesday to drop off a can of caviar.

"She didn't see the point of flowers - she'd rather have caviar," she said.

"She was totally larger than life and a constant source of fun."

The pair, who became cult figures, were filmed travelling around in a motorbike and sidecar.

[ image: Clarissa, Jennifer and their trusty motorbike and sidecar]
Clarissa, Jennifer and their trusty motorbike and sidecar
Ms Paterson's eccentric manner, her fondness for smoking and high-living made her one of television's most unlikely celebrities.

The Two Fat Ladies has been shown across the world and has been a particular success in Australia and America, where their cross-country adventures by motorcycle won legions of fans.

Birth of a double act

The pair were first brought together when producer Patricia Llewellyn discovered Clarissa Dickson Wright working in an Edinburgh cookery bookshop and thought of introducing her to Jennifer Paterson, who said she'd never had a cookery lesson.

The BBC's Chris Jones: "She found out last month she had lung cancer"
Dickson Wright recalled: "Jennifer was a good friend, a great trooper, and a constant source of surprise. I shall miss the fun of working with her more than I can say."

Ms Paterson's life was as unconventional as her on-screen persona suggested. She came from an army family and was expelled from convent school at 15 for being disruptive.

She later became a matron at a girls' boarding school near Reading before ending up as a cook for the Ugandan legation in London and becoming a well-known figure on the London party circuit.

She worked on the ITV show Candid Camera and later went on to become a food writer for The Spectator and provided weekly lunches for personalities including the Prince of Wales for 15 years.

Tributes from BBC bosses

BBC director of television Alan Yentob said he was "devastated" to hear the news.

"Jennifer was a unique individual, full of fun and mischief, and an enthusiastic latecomer to television.

"She was passionate about the show and utterly committed to her many fans who stretched across continents and language barriers. We'll all miss her terribly."

BBC Two controller Jane Root said: "She was a delight to work with on Two Fat Ladies where she communicated in a no-nonsense way her love of good food and her zest for life. BBC viewers will greatly miss her, as will everyone at BBC Two."

Will Wyatt, BBC Broadcast chief executive, added: "She came to television all too late, but she left some wonderful programmes behind which we will be enjoying for years to come."

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