"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

6 Brits to Throw a Gong at: #4 Wendy Richard

In British slang the word "gong" means a medal. It originated in the military but now enjoys widespread use. When Blighty's Blog throws a gong at somebody it means we admire his or her achievements.

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Is there somebody you think we should throw a gong at? Send us your suggestion, with your reasons, using the "comments" link below this post. If we agree we'll send you a gift voucher redeemable by mail order or in person at Blighty's Tuck Store. Our only stipulation is that the person you suggest must be a prominent and well-known personality in Britain.

The Teesside Cockney
Wendy Emerton (Richard's birth name) is famous to fans of British theatre and TV as a cockney. In fact she spent most of her life in and around London, but she was born in Middlesbrough in the northeast of England.

Wendy played the role of a working class girl throughout her career but she was born into a middle-class family. Her parents were publicans and, after moving to the London area when she was very young, Wendy grew up in pubs.

Tough Childhood
Her father was a freemason. He took his own life when Wendy was only 11 years old. She suffered the trauma of finding his body. Further tragedy followed when her mother died of cancer.

Wendy left the private school at which she had been enrolled by her parents when she was only 15 and sought a career in entertainment. She enrolled at a prestigious theatrical school in London, paying the school fees herself from the proceeds of a job.

5th Floor Men's Wear
Those who remember Wendy's most famous role as "Miss Brahms" in the TV show "Are You Being Served" may be interested to hear that the job Wendy took was in the fashion department at Fortnum and Mason.

Come Outside
But Wendy's career started long before "Are You Being Served". She recorded a hit single, with singer Mike Sarne, called "Come Outside" in 1962. She also featured in a scene in the Beatles movie "Help!" but the scene was cut before the movie was released.

An Iron Lady
Following "Are You Being Served" Wendy devoted several years to the British soap opera "EastEnders". The show's writers produced a script in which her character, Pauline Fowler, strongly denounces former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The scene was never recorded. Wendy Richard was an ardent Conservative and a very strong supporter of Mrs Thatcher. She simply refused to act the scene.

Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 but pulled through and was declared cancer free. However, the disease returned and she succumbed in February 2009 at a Harley Street clinic where she was being treated.

Gong But Not Forgotten
Wendy Richard was married four times and received an MBE (Member of the British Empire) gong from the Queen in 2000. She is awarded another gong, posthumously, by Blighty's Blog for her fortitude in the face of a difficult childhood, for her strength in fighting three bouts of cancer and for the pleasure she brought to millions through her talent on-screen.

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