Bowled over by absence of top act to follow Hamlet

Off to the memorial service for ace gossip columnist Nigel Dempster last week.

Well not quite ‒ sadly Axegrinder’s application to attend was too late. There was just no room at St Bride’s in Fleet Street. Instead I did what gossips do, and “mingled” afterwards.

With many of Dempster’s friends such as Robert Sangster and Jimmy Goldsmith already dead, it was difficult to find a suitable second speaker to follow Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre’s excellent address. The actor Peter Bowles was approached ‒ he played Dempster in the Eighties TV series Lytton’s Diary.

Bowles was delighted to accept, saying it was a great honour and, to him, this was the equivalent of having to follow Olivier’s Hamlet. But no sooner had he been briefed by Dempster’s chums on the Mail and given lots of raw material to weave into his speech, he pulled out, saying he had an acting job that clashed with the memorial.

So much for loyalty. Former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks did the honours instead.



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