This is a piece I wrote for the Doctor Who Appreciation Society just after Jon Pertwee's death. It still brings me to tears when I read it.
GOING THROUGH THE PICTURES
‘Now, will you look at that …’
Jon has just picked up a photograph from the top of the pile which rests on his lap.
‘That was at Billy Smart’s Circus, and the lady under the elephant is Jayne Mansfield. I was ringmaster at the time.’
‘That’s me scuba diving. The water was simply marvellous. Clear, blue … you could see for miles.
‘Now that … that is me, and David Jason, and Ed Stewart, and a famous motorbike racing driver whose name I can’t currently recall. We’re all lined up at the start of a race for charity.
‘Ah … there’s old Worzel. The warts were made from halved breakfast cereal that they stuck on my face. I had a grand time with Worzel, he’s like the Doctor, timeless.
‘Ah ha. That’s Ingeborg and myself with Phil Silvers. It was taken on the set of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I had appeared in the stage show on Broadway but the producers of the film wanted more ‘names’ in their production and so they got Phil Silvers in to play my part. I was given the part of a sea captain as a sop. Shame really.
‘Now that’s me outside the front door of my old house in Chester Row. I used to nip across the road to use the showers and one day the press caught me at it.
‘These two pictures are from an advertisement I did for Sharwood’s pickle. I was playing Mr Sharwood, who was visiting various restaurants and other food emporiums testing the various pickles – it was a little like the Man from del Monte, or that woman who tests the coffee. John Bluthal was in it and we had hoped it would turn into a series of advertisements all on the same theme, but it didn’t.
‘That’s me in the vampire cloak and teeth from The House that Dripped Blood. They had me hung up on a harness to film that end scene. Very uncomfortable.
‘You remember we spoke about when I was touring the Music Halls with my one man variety show …? Well that’s a picture of me with the dummy that I used to pull out of the pit with a pitch fork, pretending it was a member of the orchestra, before hurling him across the stage.
‘That’s Ingeborg and myself on our wedding day … was it really thirty years ago?
‘And that’s me skiing on the slopes in Kitzbuhel. As you can see, I hadn’t yet busted my leg.
‘I had the first Vespa scooter in London and that picture was taken in Chester Row. I remember being so proud of that scooter, but then I’ve always loved bikes.
‘There’s me and Sean on our bikes outside our house in Barnes. I had a new bike and Sean, as you can see, had a smaller version for himself. Like father like son!
‘That’s me and Bill Maynard in our tank during the Korean war. We lost it you know? The tank. It ended up at the bottom of a river that was too deep for us to cross although we didn’t realise it until it was too late.’
The pictures kept coming. The memories flooding back. What should have taken an hour or so was taking the best part of a whole morning. Jon kept stopping at images as they kicked off his memory, here there were more motor bikes, here was a picture of Jon with Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, here was a picture of Jon water-skiing at a charity do on the south coast. Worzel meeting the Queen; Jon with Frank Bruno; with Thora Hird; with Roger Moore and Joan Collins; with Bob Hope; Jon in cabaret in Australia; Jon at Doctor Who conventions all over the world; Jon with Patrick Troughton, water pistols drawn; Jon as the Doctor; Jon as Jon.
Eventually I had amassed a huge pile of pictures and an even larger number was returned to the musty boxes from which they had emerged. Jon seemed enlivened, enthusiastic. Our going through of all the images, snapshots of his life, had recalled so many memories. Some vivid, some dulled by time.
Eventually, armed with a bulging envelope full of images, I bade my farewell and promised to speak to Jon as soon as I could regarding the next stages of putting the autobiography together.
The date was Saturday 4 May 1996.
David J Howe