Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"The most picked-over corpse in broadcasting history"

So said Bob Monkhouse of Simon Dee, long before the latter passed away. Well, I'll correct that. "Simon Dee" died about 39 years ago. It is perhaps more correct to record that Nicholas Henty-Dodd (known, apparently, as "Nicky" to his family and friends) recently, sadly, died.

I understand that the media are reporting the man's demise accurately, within the gambit of his achievements in public life. But, really, it is, in a sense, ridiculous to get all that Simon Dee "Icarus" nonsense all over again. The man lived for 77 years. For 8 per cent of that time - 6 years - he was known as "Simon Dee" the radio and TV star.

What did he do with the rest of his life? Judging from his three wives, four children and four grand-children, he had a very active family life. Also, looking at pictures (for example, right) of him at the 2004 Radio Caroline 40 year reunion, he looked very happy and healthy for a 72 year old. It seems that his family and friends found him endlessly lovable.

Roger Blackhouse, a friend who is a QC, said:

He was a national treasure and his passing is very sad. I have very fond memories of him. He was a good friend, great company and a pleasure to be around. Simon enjoyed his time as a celebrity and had a lot of fun but he never showed any bitterness about it coming to an end. Like a war veteran, he only spoke about his past when he was asked. He was very much living for the moment.

Doing a bit of digging, I found this interview with Brian Viner from 1999. It at least answers some of the questions I had, perhaps over-inquisitively, about the fellow - what he do with the 39 years after he was famous? How did he make ends meet?

And what has he done for income for the last 30 years? "I have had no income," he says. "When my father died in 1980 I inherited a vast sum of money, but it was taken from me by death duties." Financially, Dee depends on his third wife, a teacher, and spends his days looking after their four-year-old son, Cyril George.

(At the time he was living in Winchester, as he did for the final 15 years of his life). There is an excellent tribute to Simon Dee on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame.

His old pirate radio theme tune was "On the sunny side of the street" (by the Tommy Dorsey orchestra). Perhaps that song title provides a better epitaph to Simon Dee/Nicholas Henty-Dodd than many of the inevitable media stories we've read.

As my little tribute to the man who made many people happy, provided an icon for the Sixties (indeed, the unrewarded model for Austin Powers) and set a standard for informal, cheery broadcasting which many followed, here is that theme tune from YouTube:

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