When I said I was going to become a comedian, they all laughed. Well, they’re not laughing now, are they?
Growing old is compulsory – growing up is optional.
- Bob Monkhouse 1928-2003
You may (or may not) have noticed that my quotes for the last several months have all come from funny people – which is ironic really since now we have arrived at the sign of Gemini, who is truly the jokester of the zodiac! So I would be remiss if I did not continue the trend and bring you a quote (actually two since Gemini is a “dual” sign represented by the symbol of the “twins”) from yet another funny person! Last year I chose Joan Rivers (who turns 80 this month!), so this time I decided to go with a British Comedian I grew up with, Robert Alan “Bob” Monkhouse, OBE (Order of the British Empire), a Gemini, born June 1, 1928 in Beckenham, Kent, England, and who died on December 29, 2003 aged 75 in Eggington, Bedfordshire, England.
An entertainer, comedy actor and writer, Bob Monkhouse was perhaps best known as a television presenter and game show host for most notably The Golden Shot, in which his infamous catchphrase was, “Bernie… the bolt!” I grew up watching this show. So the contestants had to aim a crossbow at an apple, which contained an exploding target. In the first round however, the crossbow was operated by a blindfolded cameraman, who had to aim and fire at the target using only the instructions given him by the contestant. [Left, left, up a bit… down a bit… fire!] And in later rounds, the contestants got to fire the crossbow themselves – something like that, anyway! Other shows he hosted that you may have heard of included Celebrity Squares (UK version of Hollywood Squares), Family Fortunes (UK version of Family Feud), Bob’s Your Uncle, Opportunity Knocks and Wipeout UK.
A lesser-known but quite delicious tidbit about Bob Monkhouse is that his grandfather was a prosperous Methodist businessman who co-founded a company called Monk & Glass, which made, of all things, custard powder and jelly! I mean all good comedians need custard pies, don’t they, so how perfect that he was a comedian who came from a family that already made the custard! And, last I checked, custard is what color? Yep, custard is Yellow, the color of Gemini! Notice I chose two (!) quotes for him – the first quote reflects the comedian in him, while the second reveals the “Peter Pan” syndrome – a Gemini never wants to grow up!
When I was doing my research, I found the BBC Obituary, so I thought I would share some of it with you [along with my own commentary!] especially since it demonstrates just how much of a Gemini he truly was:
“Bob Monkhouse’s critics called him bumptious, smooth and smarmy but, for more than 40 years, he was one of the most popular and assured performers on British television… …He began selling cartoons and jokes in his teens [already a natural jokester] and at Dulwich College public school he met another comedy hopeful, Denis Goodwin. They teamed up to write material for comedians including Max Miller and Arthur Askey.
Monkhouse was also writing and drawing strips for children’s comics such as The Beano [home of characters Denis the Menace, Roger the Dodger and Minnie the Minx, amongst others… FYI – the comic was first published in 1938 and is still going strong today] and The Dandy [we certainly grew up with both of these comics in England but I never knew that Bob Monkhouse was a contributor!] and, after leaving school, set himself up in business as the editor of his own publication. [Knock, knock, Gemini’s are literally the “newspapers” of the zodiac!] He commissioned artists and writers for his comic, paying them by postal order, and did all the production and distribution work himself. [I rest my case!]
His days as a publisher ended when he was called up for service in the Royal Air Force [notice he was in the “Air” Force, and he was an Air Sign!] and he returned to civilian life to earn a living as a radio gag writer and stand-up comedian. [Back to being a jokester again.] He appeared in revue with Benny Hill [you’ve all heard of him] in the late 1940s and later broke into television, writing and appearing with his old partner, Denis Goodwin, who [tragically] committed suicide in 1975.
Bob Monkhouse’s own life was [also] darkened by tragedy. At the age of 20, he was disowned by his parents after marrying his first wife, Elizabeth. His mother turned up at the wedding in mourning black. He never resolved his differences with his father and only spoke to his mother in the months before her death. And in 2001 his 46-year-old son Simon died from a heroin overdose in a Thai guesthouse. He and his father had not spoken for 13 years. His other son, Gary, who had cerebral palsy from birth, died in 1992 aged 40. [Now who knew all of that very sad stuff was going on under the smooth facade?]
He was awarded the OBE in 1993. Always in his element playing to small, intimate, audiences rather than at large venues, Bob Monkhouse enjoyed improvising and was quite often near-the-knuckle…” [Check out the size of his hands in his photo!]
Excerpt from the BBC Obituary Monday, December 29th, 2003