TWO BOOKS ABOUT KENNY EVERETT

Two biographies of Kenny Everett were published in 2013. The first to hit the shops was:

Cupid Stunts - The Life and Radio Times of Kenny Everett
by David & Caroline Stafford.

Published 12th May 2013.

Kenny Everett
 

Kenny Everett on Radio London.
Photo from Beatwave.


Press release for ‘Cupid Stunts - The Life and Radio Times of Kenny Everett’:


The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame reviews ‘Cupid Stunts - The Life and Radio Times of Kenny Everett’:


“Kenny provided a kind of energising, benevolent, skewed commentary on the world in which he functioned as a pop-era Puck; an uncontrollable force of disorder.” Andrew Marshall, Kenny’s friend and writer.
 
Cupid Stunts is David and Caroline Stafford’s witty and affectionate biography of comedy legend and wireless wizard, Kenny Everett; a fizzing celebration of the man himself, and of the of glory days of pop radio and proper television.
 
In the fifties, wireless and TV were the two havens of peace and sanity that helped Maurice Cole, the boy who became Kenny Everett, endure his tough Catholic schooling in Crosby, Liverpool. As a teenager he became a tape-recording nerd, acquiring not one, but two tape machines in order to construct the cathedrals of sonic madness that obsessed him for the rest of his life. As a pirate on Radio London and a key figure in the founding of Radio 1, his sound, style and most of all his jingles defined pop radio. He was in the Beatles inner circle – hung with them in the dressing room at Shea Stadium, tripped with John on a Weybridge golf course, inspired a couple of lines in “I Am The Walrus”, even produced their Christmas fan singles. Then, just as he had reinvented radio, he did the same for TV, making it faster, tricksier, more stylish and definitely filthier – prompting Mary Whitehouse to describe his shows as “poison being poured into millions of homes”. Kenny was delightfully shameless about his prodigious drug intake and his very public flouting of anything remotely resembling authority meant he was routinely and often unceremoniously fired. Like many others in those punitive times, he tried hard to suppress his homosexuality and indeed sustained a relatively jolly marriage for 11 years before coming out. Then, with his ménage of two ‘husbands’ – Nikolai and Pepe - and a raft of celebrity pals including Freddie Mercury, he exploded on to the gay scene of the early eighties – tragically at the exact moment that AIDS first came to Britain. Kenny's liberation was also his death sentence.
 
Cupid Stunts is based on detailed documentary research as well as extensive and often revealing interviews with Kenny’s former colleagues, friends and enemies, including Barry Cryer, Alexei Sayle, “Whispering” Bob Harris, Ed “Stewpot” Stewart, and, the man who first ‘discovered’ him, Wilfred De'Ath.
 
In this highly entertaining book, the Staffords have captured the novelty and excitement of hearing all-pop radio for the first time, the explosion of youth culture, the blossoming of the gay scene, and the tragedy and hypocrisy that surrounded the AIDS epidemic. And they've got deep under the skin of the man who created Sid Snot, Marcel Wave, Brother Lee Love and Reg Prescott. As Kenny once sang: “Till we meet again please keep a little smile upon your face, / Remember there’s nothing quite as nice as being jolly all over the place / And any time you think of me, please try and raise a smile and then / Remember the Wireless Wizard’s name was cuddly Ken”.
 
About the authors:
David and Caroline Stafford have written extensively for TV, radio and print. David is also known as a radio presenter on Home Truths, Going Places and many other shows. Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’ Be, their biography of the composer Lionel Bart, published in 2011, was chosen as BBC Radio 4’s Book of The Week and nominated for a Sheridan Morley Award.
 



Following David Lister’s In the Best Possible Taste: The Crazy Life of Kenny Everett (1996) and the great man’s own (ghost-written) autobiography The Custard Stops at Hatfield (1982), you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything that could possibly be written about Kenny had already been put into print. His life story is probably better known than that of any other radio personality. Fortunately the tale is worth re-telling. His life may have been all too short but it was not uneventful and even someone who has read the previous books will find Cupid Stunts of interest.
 
Born in Crosby on Merseyside, the son of Tom, a tugboat captain, and Lily, the proprietor of a sweetshop, the young Maurice Cole was an unlikely star. Cupid Stunts takes us through his schooldays, including his time at a college for prospective missionaries, his first jobs, an early fascination with tape recording and, through a chance turn of events, his appearance on BBC radio. From there another lucky break brought him to the attention of the new offshore station, Radio London, where he made his debut as a DJ and acquired a new name just before his 20th birthday.
 
Despite the book’s title emphasising his “radio times”, Kenny’s television career is also included, possibly in even greater detail - not just the fondly remembered Kenny Everett Video Show but also his earlier programmes: Nice Time for Granada, three different series for London Weekend Television and Up Sunday for the BBC.
 
The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame would have liked to have heard more about Kenny’s time on Radio London (of course!) but as, by all accounts, he was a very shy and retiring lad who kept himself to himself on board the Galaxy, maybe there weren’t a lot more stories to tell. His time at Radio One was plagued by battles with the bosses. These are well reported here (someone must have spent many hours trawling through the internal memos) and, seeing it laid out in black and white, one can see that it was inevitable that his employment by “The Beeb” would end unhappily. Sadly we learn less about his brief stint with Radio Monte Carlo International and much longer time with London’s Capital Radio.
 
David and Caroline Stafford have done an enormous amount of research and dug up many fascinating facts about Kenny’s life so it is a shame that their hard work is let down by a few proof-reading errors. For instance, Big L engineer Russ Tollerfield’s name is spelt incorrectly, Capital Radio is occasionally referred to as Capitol and Clive Warner, one of that station’s early engineers, briefly becomes known as Clive Warren.
 
James Hogg, one of the authors of the other book about Kenny (see below), has listed all the people that he and his co-writer have spoken to for their biography. It is a long list. The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame feels that Cupid Stunts could possibly have benefitted from a few more interviews too. There is a tendency to rely on previously published material and a few commentators make repeated appearances throughout the book including, for no obvious reason, Bob Harris.
 
Kenny’s anguish over his sexuality has been written about before, and even been the subject of a television drama, but familiarity with the story doesn’t lessen the tragedy. It is so sad that Kenny, after years of struggle, finally came to accept his homosexuality at the very worst possible time – just as the HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its height. He died on 4th April 1995, aged just 50.
 
Cupid Stunts is thoroughly researched and well-written, has some excellent photos - including a couple courtesy of this website - and includes many memories of Kenny’s programmes. This reviewer had the pleasure and privilege of working with ‘Cuddly Ken’ for a time. He was a superb broadcaster who brought happiness to millions. What a shame he wasn’t able to enjoy a happier life himself.

Exactly four months later, along came....

Hello Darlings! - The Authorised Biography of Kenny Everett
by James Hogg and Robert Sellers.

Published 12th September 2013.

Kenny Everett
 

Kenny in his home studio in Sussex, 1973.
Photo from ‘Deejay & Radio Monthly’.


Press release for ‘Hello Darlings! - The Authorised Biography of Kenny Everett’:


The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame reviews ‘Hello Darlings! - The Authorised Biography of Kenny Everett’:


The authorised biography of the pioneer of radio and television comedy.
 
Spontaneous, hilarious, irrepresible and, of course, trailblazing - Kenny Everett was revolutionary in television and radio comedy. Chris Evans, Chris Moyles, Rob Brydon and Steve Wright have all cited Kenny as a huge influence on their work - even the great Spike Milligan called him a genius. It was Kenny who developed the radio show format with which we are so familiar today: a mix of music, jingles, funny voices and sound effects. When he seamlessly made the move to television in the seventies, he created unforgettable characters such as Sid Snot, Cupid Stunt and Marcel Wave. Rarely seen without a smile on his face in public, in reality, Kenny was a deeply insecure man who suffered severe bouts of depression. He also struggled with his sexuality, only coming out to the public in 1985. Diagnosed with HIV in 1987, Kenny died in 1995.
 
This in-depth and affectionate biography has been fully authorised by Kenny’s family and contains original interviews with Kenny’s sister, Kate (* see below) and with his former wife, Lee, as well as entertainment figures such as Barry Cryer, Sir Cliff Richard, Chris Tarrant and Paul Gambaccini. Packed with fabulous stories about the highs and lows of Kenny’s life, his great friendships with The Beatles and Freddie Mercury, this is a book that any fan of comedy and entertainment must read.
 
About the authors:
Having researched comedy since his mid-teens, James Hogg started writing in 2005. His first book, the biography of James Robertson Justice, What’s the Bleeding Time, Sir? was published in 2008. He also collaborated with Robert Sellers on Little Ern! The Authorised Biography of Ernie Wise. After an eight-year stint at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, James now devotes his time purely to writing and researching.
 
Robert Sellers is the author of more than ten books on popular culture, including the bestselling Hellraisers series, as well as the definitive book on the genesis of the Bond franchise, The Battle for Bond and the true history of Handmade Films, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. His latest book is the authorised biography of Oliver Reed.
 



It quickly becomes apparent that the authors of Hello Darlings! are Kenny Everett enthusiasts. This book is not a dry, objective overview of Kenny's career. It is a 400 page celebration of his genius - and why not? He truly was a broadcasting one-off and he deserves it.
 
It starts with probably the low-point of Kenny's performing career: his ill-judged appearance at a Young Conservatives rally. His cries of “Let's bomb Russia” and “Let's kick Michael Foot's stick away” may have gone down well with the Tory crowd at the event but looked crass and juvenile when they were shown on the television news that evening. But, as the book says, “Kenny's biggest crime, if you can call it that, was failing to engage his brain before speaking; in fact he was the master of that particular art.” And that was partly what made his radio shows such compulsive listening. You never knew what he was going to say or do next. And sometimes, you suspect, neither did he.
 
Hello Darlings! is an authorised biography - approved by Kenny's sister Cate - and it benefits greatly from her input, especially as she is able to report first hand on the beginning and end of his life. We learn that Kenny's own tales of his childhood - of poverty, dreariness and schoolboy bullying - were somewhat exaggerated but then he never was one to let the truth get in the way of a good story! Her memories of his final weeks are desperately moving.
 
James Hogg and Robert Sellers carried out dozens of interviews with Kenny's friends and colleagues for this book and many have great stories to tell, especially Jo Gurnett, his agent for many years, and Barry Cryer who, with the late Ray Cameron, wrote for Kenny's successful television shows. His pirate radio career is well documented with Tony Blackburn, Johnnie Walker, Pete Drummond, Big L ship's steward Mitch Philistin, Radio London engineer Dave Hawkins, Ben Toney (the original Radio London Programme Director), Philip Birch (the Managing Director), Ed Stewart and Dave Cash all sharing their memories, as does Swinging Radio England's Ron O’Quinn who was with Kenny when they accompanied The Beatles on their 1966 tour of the United States.
 
As mentioned above, The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame was a little disappointed that David & Caroline Stafford’s biography didn't reveal more about Kenny's radio career. This book more than makes up for it and we learn plenty about his time with Radio London, the BBC, Radio Luxembourg and Capital Radio.
 
There are a few niggling errors: BBC producer Teddy Warrick's name is spelt incorrectly, the book refers to Kenny's show following Rosko's on Radio One on a Saturday instead of the other way round and the use of the phrase ‘dead in the water’ to describe Radio Caroline after the Marine Offences Act seems odd considering how the station famously defied the new law and continued broadcasting for more than six months - but, by and large, the book is well researched and includes plenty of stories that will be new, even to those who have read the previous biographies.
 
Hello Darlings! is a book by Everett fans for Everett fans and, if you include yourself in that category, The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame has no hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending it - and not just because it mentions the very small part played by your webmaster in Kenny's illustrious career!
* Kenny's sister's name is spelt ‘Kate’ in the press release but ‘Cate’ in the book.



On 14th September 2013 a commemorative plaque was unveiled outside Kenny Everett's former home. We have pictures of the event and of the launch of Hello Darlings! which followed here.


           

 

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