Tommy Cooper was one of the best comedians and many of his peers in the Magic Circle actually believed him to be one of the most outstanding magicians that existed in Britain.
A man who towered in at he was 6′ feet 4″ inches in size and stature – a giant of a man who was gentle and lent his bumbling appearance, always smiling, as he tried to appear comfortable in his ill-fitting clothing. He appeared to almost desire confidence, showing fear as each magic trick went wrong. However the truth was he has very confident and had worked out that for every 3 tricks that went ‘wrong’ he would delight the audience with the fourth that went right (he’d calculated and rehearsed his timing perfectly)
With his trademark Fez hat and the utterance of the words “Not like that, just like that” Tommy Cooper became world-famous and was probably the most impersonated man on the planet during the late 60s and 70s. as he performed his comic magic and often delighted audiences as he appeared to surprise himself at getting a magic trick correct was all part of the clever ‘appearance’ of the bumbling magician her portrayed – behind this facade was actually a very talented magician who practiced getting a trick right before he then re-engineered the trick to appear to make it go wrong.
Like the famous George Formby; Tommy Cooper’s wife Gwen Cooper handled and managed his affairs, she also was aware of Tommy Cooper’s string of affairs and mistresses.
Barry Cryer a long time friend of Tommy Cooper remember that he once famously whilst performing at the Water Rat’s (the Actors and Performers Club) charity do asked members of the audience to pick a card at random; in attendance was the Duke of Edinburgh who shouted out a card to which Cooper replied “No, I want a normal audience member, not a drunk at the high table” – as Cryer say’s only Tommy Cooper could have got away with such a remark as his humor was actually inoffensive and childlike.
Behind the fun that Cooper demonstrated on stage lay his personal life. Tommy Cooper was an alcoholic, who at times could have bouts of violence and deep depression, he battled with his drinking until his death even after he was warned to stop drinking by doctors or suffer damage to his heath.
His health, did in fact deteriorate; and his normal ‘slurred’ delivery in speaking became more pronounced as the effect of alcoholism took it’s toll, and whilst still having thew ability to perform his magic on stage, he started to increasingly either appear drunk or suffering from drink on stage. His audience not realizing this, but his friends could see the effect that drink was having on him.
His last performance, was in front of hundreds of people at Her Majesty’s Theater Haymarket in London at a Variety Performance. This performance was also televised to millions of people who watched him on “Live from Her Majesty’s” on London Weekend Television (LWT) at home. Tommy Cooper started his act, and after calling for an assistant help put on a coat he started to perform one of his tricks – taking items from within the coat – then sink to his knees in front of the audience who believing this to part of his routine howled with laughter – however, the truth was Tommy Cooper had suffered a massive heart attack. He was pulled through the stage curtains where St. Johns Ambulance failed to resuscitate him. He had died on stage.
To celebrate 30 years since his death, ITV will be showing a portrait of the great man on 21st April 2014 staring David Threwfel (an actor famous for his role as Frank Gallagher, the patriarchal drunk of the Gallagher Family in Channel 4’s “Shameless”)
Below is Tommy Cooper’s famous bottle trick