Inside Les Dawsons life from TV and Prince Philip adoration to tragic death

Before finding fame he was in the army, but after leaving he moved to Paris to become a writer. When this failed and he struggled financially, he got a job as a pianist in a brothel in the French capital.

He also worked as a plastics sales rep and journalist, but shot to fame after wife Margaret encouraged him to apply for TV talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1967. He got the highest number of votes from the studio audience.

One of his best-known routines featured himself and Roy Barraclough as elderly women Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham. The characters mouthed rude jokes and were based on people Dawson knew.

He also wrote 13 books. His first novel, A Card For The Clubs, was about a comic trying to make his way in northern working men’s clubs.

  • Les Dawson's family believe he has been reincarnated as robin and visits them every day

He was known for being a heavy smoker and drinker – puffing on around 50 cigarettes and putting away a bottle of whisky a day.

Dawson was a regular at the Royal Variety Performance. Prince Philip was thought to have “adored” the comic and the pair even once had a jokey argument about whether you should fry or boil black pudding – Lancashire-born Dawson preferred it boiled.

He almost played Victor Meldrew in classic ­sitcom One Foot In The Grave. After Richard Wilson initially turned down the role, writer David Renwick was keen to have Dawson playing the part – but Wilson changed his mind before it was
offered to the funnyman.

Dawson’s last TV appearance was on Surprise, Surprise in 1993, when he sang a comic version of Sonny and Cher’s song I Got You Babe with female audience member Penny Morgan, who wanted to perform with him.

He almost died in 1985 after his prostate gland failed and he developed blood poisoning. But Dawson passed away from a heart attack on June 10, 1993, aged 62, while attending a medical check-up with his second wife Tracy, now 70. The pair’s daughter Charlotte, 28, is a reality TV star.

Les Dawson: The Lost Tapes airs tomorrow on ITV at 9pm.

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