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
Kenny Everett on Radio London.
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.
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.
Hello Darlings! - The Authorised Biography of Kenny Everett
Kenny in his home studio in Sussex, 1973.
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’:
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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