14 April 09
TWENTY-FIVE years ago today, Tommy Cooper collapsed from a heart attack in front of millions of TV viewers, midway through his act on ITV variety show, Live From Her Majesty’s.
Most of the audience thought it part of his act and carried on laughing… until it was apparent he was seriously ill.
The 63-year-old comedian later died in Westminster Hospital. It was a sad day for the nation and one that changed the life of Poole performer Clive Greenaway forever.
Clive, 51, from Ashley Cross, was fortunate enough to meet Tommy, having gown up just round the corner from him.
“His comedy was timeless”, said Clive “because it was simple and inoffensive. Everyone can enjoy the humour. There isn’t a popular entertainer like him.”
In Clive’s living-room, I’m surrounded by Cooper memorabilia like fez-shaped table lights, giant posters and the Cooper tea mug I’m drinking from.
To say Tommy is Clive’s hero is a massive understatement.
Clive was a driving instructor for 25 years, but now travels the country as an after dinner speaker, performing as Clive The Magician in his show, Tommy Cooper Remembered.
He has amassed a wealth of Cooper’s personal possessions, especially the props he used for his magic tricks.
“Most were given to me by friends and colleagues of Tommy, including his wife and personal assistant,” said Clive.
“I also go to auctions, and have even been outbid by fellow fan and TV magician Paul Daniels!”
Clive re-enacts all Cooper’s favourite tricks like “bottle-glass, glass-bottle”, the mind-reading duck, the Chinese linking rings and the Indian rope trick. Most are performed using original props.
Clive uses his passion and knowledge in his act to answer any questions about Tommy’s life. He reels off countless anecdotes and favourite gags.
Using the kitchen hatch as a makeshift stage, he gives me a private performance – I’m in stitches as he conjures a never-ending supply of bottles from empty tubes.
“These are Tommy’s original bottles. It’s a great trick because people never guess how it’s done,” said Clive.
“It goes down especially well when I perform at breweries.”
In his time as a tribute act, Clive has performed for many famous people, including royalty.
“I met Sir Anthony Hopkins at the unveiling of the Tommy Cooper statue in his home town of Caerphilly last year. He does a very good impression of Tommy himself and is also the patron of the Tommy Cooper Society.”