Why haven’t we cast Norwich favourite Mr Pastry in bronze?
PUBLISHED: 17:08 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:08 28 June 2019
Derek James asks why, 40 years after his death, there is still no statue in Norwich to honour one of the most famous comedians the world has ever seen...Mr Pastry?
It was King of the Jungle Harry Redknapp who hit the headlines in the last "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here" when he said his wife called him Mr Pastry when he was doing jobs around the house.
He explained to his younger friends in the "jungle" Mr Pastry was a bloke that, if he had a job to do, would mess everything up...which he did.
He certainly would.
And people around the world laughed, cheered and clapped at this extraordinary entertainer who was born in Norwich in 1908 to become an international superstar, who always found time to help others.
Yes there is a plaque at the Norwich Theatre Royal where he made his first public appearance when just a few weeks old but it would be good to see a statue in the city where he was born and raise the profile of a man we call all be proud of. He also did so much to help others.
With a bowler hat, glasses on the end of his nose , walrus moustache and flapping coat tails he would make a fine statue.
Mr Pastry, real name Richard Hearne, was born in Lady Lane where The Forum now stands and his parents were in show business. His mother an actress and his father an acrobat.
Dickie went to Crooks Place (now Bignold) before travelling the world with his mum and dad. He was a young clown and he said he was educated at the "university of life."
He worked out more than 40 ways of falling over while acting the goat and then took to the stage. His first London appearance was in Dick Whittington at the Hippodrome way back in 1932.
"I made my first TV appearance in 1936 at Ally Pally," he said and his famous "Lancers" act was screened in 1939.
It was after the war in 1945 that his Mr Pastry character appeared in a stage show, Big Boy, with Fred Emney who was rather a big boy himself.
Over the next few years the fumbling, bumbling Mr Pastry became a household name. How we loved this great character. This was what slap-stick was all about but behind the act was a clever and good-natured gentleman.
And his fame spread across the world. In Germany he was Mr Sugar Tart while the French called him Papa Gateau.
The king of slapstick had his own theme tune ,"Pop Goes the Weasel," but always had his standards during his TV shows.
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"Be clean. You are working in somebody's home. When you are invited to somebody's home for the first time, you try to be on your best behaviour; so you should every time you appear on TV.
"It's your first visit for thousands. Give them something which is self-explanatory. Ape them, if you like, but laugh with them. Make a bigger mess of things than they have ever made themselves he told The Television Annual in 1955.
It was a certain Ed Sullivan who turned Mr P into a household name across America. He saw him in a pantomime at the London Palladium and invited him to appear on his show.
How the Yanks loved Mr P and his antics especially The Lancers.
Ed later wrote: "To the young in heart of England, who have accepted Mr Pastry as a symbol of the qualities which they most enjoy, it should be spelled out that on the night of Sunday March 21, 1954, forty million Americans in all walks of life met him on their TV screens and hailed his Lancers pantomime as high art...
"No British Performer ever has scored the tremendous hit achieved by Richard Hearne on American national TV," he added.
And Sid Shalit, writing in the New York Daily News, the biggest paper in America at the time, added: "You missed a very great talent, a very great talent, if you failed to catch Richard Hearne the English comedian on the Ed Sullivan show last Sunday. His pantomime in his hilarious Lancers' dance was wonderful. Let's see more of him."
And that boy from Norwich became a regular on the biggest show in the States. He couldn't walk down the street without people shaking his hand and wanting his autograph. He was up there with the film-stars.
Back in this country he also made a number of films and was even offered the role of Dr Who but didn't get it in the end because he wanted to play him as Mr Pastry.
Away from the TV, movies and stage there was a serious side to Richard Hearne who worked overtime to help many different charities.
A keen cricketer, he was president of The Lord Taverners' charity and played in matches at Ingham in Norfolk with the Edrich family and celebrities.
At one match in 1963, in which wonderful Garfield Sobers played, Mr P used a bicycle to change positions at the end of each over.
He worked overtime to help many charities especially the Norfolk & Norwich Spastics Association. He raised thousands of pounds to build hydrotherapy pools to help children with special needs.
And, although he lived in Kent, loved returning to the city and county where he was born.
Wymondham historian Philip Yaxley recalls how in one day in 1961, during a four-day tour of the county, he spoke to hundreds of schoolchildren at Diss in the morning before appearing at an afternoon concert organised by Wymondham Over-60s Choir and then went to Morley Village Hall to prizes at a whist drive to raised money for the association.
Richard was awarded the OBE for his charity work in 1970 and then retired saying show business had become "too smutty." He died in 1979...a man worth remembering.
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