[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Anniversary of Tommy Cooper's death
Tommy Cooper
Tommy Cooper died on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1984
Twenty years ago Caerphilly-born comedian Tommy Cooper collapsed on stage in London.

It was a dramatic end to the career of one of Britain's most unique comedy talents, whose unlikely combination of fez and failed magic tricks booked his place in entertainment's hall of fame.

Two decades ago, on April 15 1984, a national TV audience had been watching the star perform on the Live from Her Majesty's programme when he suffered a heart attack - all efforts to revive him failed.

Two decades after that shock, Cooper's popularity remains unbowed and his cult status continues to rise.

His story began in 19 Llwyn Onn Street, Caerphilly, in March 1921, where his family was lodging.

The house belonged to the Shaddicks, and their son Ivor - now a member of the Tommy Cooper Society - revealed that his family were more than just landlords.

My mother lived in a little council house in Trecennydd, and he had to bend to get under the door
Betty Jones, Cooper's cousin

"It was my mother's house, and she attended Tommy's birth and acted as midwife - she is on his birth certificate," he said.

Tommy spent his early years in Caerphilly, before his father, an army recruiting sergeant, was relocated to England.

Ivor Shaddick met Tommy, when he returned to Caerphilly - and the house he was born in - years later.

"He played darts with me and handed me a present - a pen which said "Stolen from Tommy Cooper" on the side," said Mr Shaddick.

Tommy's cousin Betty Jones, who still lives in Caerphilly, also remembered nights with the star at the town's well known Double Diamond club.

"He would sit with us after his show - I never thought of him as famous," she said.

Tommy Cooper
Tommy Cooper's popularity remains undiminished

But Tommy's stature was to prove a problem on his return.

"My mother lived in a little council house in Trecennydd, and he had to bend to get under the door," she said.

Ms Jones added that the Coopers had been a talented family.

"His father was funny, and our uncle was a comedian and conjurer too," he recalls.

"Our uncle would come to our house and do tricks with eggs - but my mother was always worried that he would break them because they were rationed," she said.

Comic genius

A plaque now marks the house where he was born, but plans for more memorials to the fez-wearing magician are under way.

The Thomas Cooper Society, which carries out charity work for children in the area, is also aiming to raise 45,000 for a Tommy Cooper statue to be erected in the town.

On Sunday 25 April, the society is appealing for runners, possibly wearing fezzes, to take part in a sponsored run.

Chairman Angus Donaldson said Cooper's appeal was that he could bring people together.

He was a big awkward-looking guy, a big oaf, and people loved him for that
Stan Stennet

"He was a genius for making people laugh, and he was a Welshman," he said.

Veteran entertainer Wyn Calvin said Cooper was a natural entertainer.

"He was a funny man, not a man being funny - there is a big difference," he said.

Calvin also said Cooper would have been pleased with the nature of his departure: "Every pro says the same thing - 'what a way to go'. He went out making a nation laugh."

Another of Cooper's friends and fellow comedians, Cardiff-born Stan Stennet said audiences naturally connected with Cooper.

"And in real life, he was more or less as he was on stage and TV - always trying a gag out, and getting it wrong," he says.

"Lots of people have used his catchphrases and fez since, but it just reminds people how good he was."

Tell us your favourite memories of Tommy Cooper.

I saw the master in Ramsgate one summer. The house lights went down, the announcement was made "Ladies and gentlemen, Tommy Cooper!". Nothing happened and the stage stayed unlit for quite a few minutes. The audience started whispering, "What's happened to him?" Suddenly there was a large sigh over the speakers, "Aah, dark in 'ere, innit?" The spotlight came on, a struggle to get through the curtains and there he was, looking very surprised and confused. As you can guess, we were all in hysterics and this was before his act had even started. The man was pure comic genius.
Jon Smith, Belper, England

I was staying with a friend in Chiswick London. Went to a pub for a drink one night and this very tall man came to order a drink at the side of me, it was Tommy Cooper, I dashed back to tell my friend and stood on this poor Alsatian dog's paw, it was Tommy's dog! he came to sit down and sat on my knee! and said sorry about that, he left soon after people kept coming up to him for his autograph, what a nice man.
Judith Sandiford, Manchester

i remember that night when Tommy sadly passed he came on the stage making me laugh i was very young at the time. now i am older and go out with friends and family it seems Tommy is in all of us when we have had a few drinks yet everybody laughs thanks to him.
Lea Perry, Didcot Oxon

My mate was working in a petrol station, one of the old served ones, and once filled up Tommy Coopers car. When leaving, Tommy put a little something in his shirt pocket, saying "have a drink on me". When my friend checked, he found a solitary tea-bag !!
Jonathan Morgan, HONG KONG

I remember watching the show when he collapsed it was so sad I can hardly believe it was 20 years ago. What a genius he was
Bev, Cardiff

Many years ago I was an accountant and one of our clients was a large menswear shop in Shaftesbury Avenue, London. Whilst visiting the client to do their annual accounts I was regaled with the tale of how Tommy Cooper had been in recently to buy a suit...

He tried the suit on and turned to the staff who were attending him and said "Do you mind if I take it for a walk around the block" - "Of course not, Mr Cooper" was the reply... At which point Tommy 'magically' produced a small block of wood, placed it on the floor, walked around it and said "I'll buy it" - Exit Tommy with suit and staff in stitches...
Robert Agar-Hutton, UK

Tommy Cooper's brother had a Magic shop in Slough High Street, as boys we used to go along just to see his brother, who was a spitting image
David Rayner, Abingdon,UK

One of the funniest things I ever saw was Tommy sanding there mid joke, laughing to himself and saying "I can help laughing, I know what's coming next" try it yourself, it won't work you'll get blank stares. Show the same people Tommy doing it.. enough said. Genius
Peter Watson, Burscough, England

Tommy Cooper- Glass, Bottle, Bottle, Glass. "It's my wife's birthday next week. What shall I get her. A nice, new Mercedes car. Or a lovely new designer dress, with diamonds all down the front. Or how about a nice box of chocolates. (Thinks for a moment.) Yes, she'll love a box of chocolates."
Paul Clark, Hornchurch, England

Tommy can only be described as a comic genius. He always seemed to be enjoying himself which always rubbed off onto his audience. We are very proud of him and his achievements.
Stephen, Caerphilly, Wales

I was brought up in Eastbourne, where Tommy also lived. Every time we drove past where he lived, my Dad always said 'Tommy Cooper lives there'. Funny thing is - now I live in Caerphilly, where Tommy was born! I remember when he collapsed on TV that day, I can hardly believe that it is twenty years ago. Although I was very young at the time, I can recall feeling very sad that the world had lost such a great entertainer.
Julia, Caerphilly, Wales, UK

He was a great man and a greater entertainer I managed to get a video copy of his LAST show, I do magic, I got a fez, the same as Tommy, also bought in Egypt, and that's as far as I, or anybody can compare with Tommy he was the greatest, admired by audience, and fellow artist's, there will never be another Tommy, oh yes! I also was born in Wales
magic David, Gold Coast Australia

I'll bet that this'll make a few people chuckle - "Spoon, jar, jar, spoon". What more can I say?
Andrew, Swansea, Glamorgan

When I was about seven, my parents took us to see Tommy Cooper at the London Palladium. My mother was laughing so hard at him that the audience ended up looking at us instead of the stage. I can still see the tears of joy running down her cheeks, and feel my youthful embarrassment at my mum being the centre of attention. I have finally forgiven her, though. Favourite Tommy joke? Apparently, 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese. And there are 5 people in my family, so it must be one of them. It's either my mum or my dad. Or my older brother Colin. Or my younger brother Ho-Cha-Chu.
Nick, Cardiff, Wales

A man walked into a bar ----- Ouch! an iron bar. When Tommy Cooper told it, it was hilarious. I've tried it hundreds of times since. I get blank stares.
Gareth Hughes, Wells. USA

Tommy Cooper statue campaign
11 Jun 03  |  South East Wales
Not just for laughs
14 Aug 98  |  Entertainment
Comic genius is licked
23 Apr 98  |  UK News
Comic brain works just like that
27 Nov 99  |  UK News


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific