Bru­cie broke my heart – but I adored him to the very end

From the Miss World whose af­fair with Bruce Forsyth

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - from Caro­line Gra­ham Ann Sid­ney nei­ther asked for nor re­ceived any pay­ment for this story.

IT COULD have been a scene from an Eal­ing com­edy. Un­der cover of dark­ness, ‘Fred Nurg’ sneaked out of his lover’s small flat in Put­ney, South Lon­don, draped in a scarf and trilby, a rain­coat mask­ing his long frame. Then a lone voice shat­tered the still night air: ‘Come off it, Bru­cie – we know it’s you. You’re not fool­ing any­one!’

For ris­ing tele­vi­sion star Bruce Forsyth, caught leav­ing the home of his young lover, a beauty queen, the mo­ment was not merely em­bar­rass­ing but po­ten­tially ca­reer-end­ing.

Be­cause this was the early 1960s, a dif­fer­ent era, and 35-year-old Bruce, al­ready a house­hold name, was mar­ried with chil­dren. The faintest whiff of im­pro­pri­ety would have been dev­as­tat­ing – hence the ab­surd name and heavy dis­guise.

‘It would al­most have been com­i­cal had it not been so danger­ous,’ Ann Sid­ney re­calls to­day.

‘Bruce told me his mar­riage was over and I had no rea­son to doubt him but he had three chil­dren and was not di­vorced. Back then a scan­dal would have to­tally de­stroyed him – and me.’

It is barely more than a week since Sir Bruce Forsyth passed away at the age of 89 and Ann, a former Miss World, is strug­gling to hold back her tears as she re­mem­bers the man she de­scribes, sim­ply, as her first great love.

Bruce, too, was very much in love, as he later ac­knowl­edged in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy – and there never was a scan­dal. Yet even so, their love af­fair was doomed.

‘It was the sneak­ing around and sub­terfuge which got to me,’ Ann says, sadly. ‘I couldn’t lie any more. The re­la­tion­ship had to end. He was a good man with a kind heart. I loved him but I couldn’t live like that.’ When news of his death was an­nounced she was – still is – dev­as­tated. She adored him to the end.

It was 1964 when the two first met at a beauty pageant in Bournemouth. Ann was just 19, a trainee hair­dresser, who had en­tered the com­pe­ti­tion for a lark. Bruce, work­ing Bournemouth’s sum­mer sea­son as the head­line act in the Win­ter Gar­dens, was a judge. Al­ready es­tab­lished as the host of ITV’s Sun­day Night At The Lon­don Pal­la­dium, he was on the cusp of star­dom, just a few years from his real break­through pre­sent­ing The Gen­er­a­tion Game, a show which es­tab­lished him as a fix­ture in Bri­tain’s liv­ing rooms.

But there was a prob­lem – he was still mar­ried to Penny Calvert, a former dancer, and mother to his three daugh­ters. Ann, now 73, says she knew this would present prob­lems from the out­set.

To­day, she re­mains strik­ingly at­trac­tive and prides her­self on main­tain­ing the same slim physique from those early pageant days.

As she sips tea in the Bev­erly Hills home of a friend, her ac­cent is still un­mis­tak­ably English, de­spite three decades in the Cal­i­for­nian sun­shine.

‘Fem­i­nism has changed the way peo­ple view beauty con­tests, call­ing them de­grad­ing to women,’ she

muses. ‘Back then, they were seen as harm­less en­ter­tain­ment for peo­ple who flocked to hol­i­day re­sorts like Black­pool and Bournemouth and for a girl like me they of­fered a way out. I wanted to travel and be a dancer.

‘I was mak­ing £10 a week as a hair­dresser but I could make £1,000 as the win­ner of a pageant.’

Bruce was in­stantly smit­ten by the pretty 5ft 9in brunette and whisked her off to a bistro when she won.

‘He was con­fi­dent, worldly,’ Ann re­calls. ‘Bruce was charm­ing and very funny. I’d never been ro­manced like that.’

Flow­ers soon be­gan ar­riv­ing at the hair sa­lon where she worked.

‘He would use fake names like Fred Nurg or Charles Forth­right, but the other girls knew who they were from.’

Bruce rather gave the game away, in fact, by driv­ing past the sa­lon in his Cadil­lac and wav­ing.

‘From the start, he told me his mar­riage was over but that it was “com­pli­cated”,’ she con­tin­ues. ‘He would go on and on about Max Wall.’

Fa­mous for his clown-like ap­pear­ance and funny walks, Wall was a huge star in the 1950s.

But when he left his wife and five chil­dren af­ter fall­ing in love with a Miss Great Bri­tain 26 years his ju­nior, Jen­nifer Chimes, his ca­reer was all-but de­stroyed. Pub­licly vil­i­fied, he suf­fered a ner­vous break­down.

‘Bruce was al­ways ter­ri­fied that would hap­pen to him.’

In­deed, a scare in Septem­ber 1964 nearly ended their re­la­tion­ship. Ann won the Miss United King­dom pageant in Black­pool and a reck­less Bruce wel­comed her back to Bournemouth’s Hurn Air­port with a but­ler in uni­form and cham­pagne on a tray.

A free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher sent pic­tures of the cel­e­bra­tion to the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard, which ran the head­line: ‘Is there a ro­mance be­tween Pal­la­dium star and the new Miss United King­dom?’

‘I was ut­terly shamed and hu­mil­i­ated,’ Ann said. ‘We hadn’t yet be­come in­ti­mate and all hell broke loose.’ Bruce’s wife ar­rived the next day by train to con­front her hus­band and Ann’s fa­ther de­manded to know whether they were sleep­ing ing to­gether, which Ann de­nied.

Ever the gen­tle­man, Ann says, Bruce turned up at the fam­ily home to ex­plain him­self.

‘He apol­o­gised to my par­ents for drag­ging my name through the mud. He told my par­ents his mar­riage had been strug­gling for some time but that noth­ing un­to­ward had hap­pened with me. I hid in my room the whole time.

‘It was very re­spect­ful. It made me feel more for him. I knew I was fall­ing in love.’

It was in­evitable that their re­la­tion­ship would in­ten­sify and, af­ter Ann moved to a rented flat in Put­ney, South Lon­don, to pre­pare for the Miss World con­test in Novem­ber 1964, Bruce bom­barded her with love notes, tele­grams and flow­ers.

‘Bruce was never short of girls, there were lots of show­girls. He was foot­loose and fancy free.

‘But I think he liked me be­cause I was young and in­no­cent. We laughed all the time. He was hi­lar­i­ous in pri­vate, al­ways crack­ing jokes, flirt­ing, hav­ing fun. He was ir­re­sistible.’

And, she says, a ten­der, funny lover. They con­tin­ued their af­fair as she jet­ted around as Miss World. She earned a small for­tune, in­clud­ing a £30,000 fee from the In­ter­na­tional Wool Sec­re­tariat to be their global spokes­woman.

When she was in Lon­don, Bruce would sneak into Ann’s flat in a se­ries of elab­o­rate dis­guises in­clud- one he called ‘Columbo’, af­ter the TV de­tec­tive, com­plete with dirty rain mac and trilby.

‘The night one of the neigh­bours recog­nised him was a wake-up call,’ says Ann.

‘Bruce laughed it off but we both knew how close we’d come to get­ting caught, which would have had dis­as­trous con­se­quences.’

The af­fair would last for 18 months but the cir­cum­stances were tense – and Ann wanted more from her lover.

In December 1965, she ac­com­pa­nied Bruce to South Africa, where he was ap­pear­ing in a va­ri­ety show. In his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Sir Bruce wrote of the trip: ‘It was re­ported she asked me… if I had any in­ten­tion of mar­ry­ing her and that I replied I wanted things to carry on just as they were.

‘It’s a long time ago now but I’m sure that’s not true. Ann knew I was hav­ing a hard time get­ting a di­vorce from Penny. She also knew, when I was free, it was very likely we would get mar­ried.’

Ann re­mem­bers it rather dif­fer­ently: ‘Be­ing young and in love, like any girl, I’d hoped we would end up in a per­ma­nent re­la­tion­ship.’

But it was be­com­ing harder to imag­ine that hap­pen­ing and Ann could no longer cope with the clan­des­tine na­ture of their af­fair.

The end came af­ter Ann’s fa­ther in­ter­vened and called Bruce.

‘Dad told him I was in a bad way psy­cho­log­i­cally and that if he truly loved me he would stop the af­fair. So he did.’ Dev­as­tated, Ann says she plunged into a deep de­pres­sion.

‘I’d stopped be­ing Miss World, then the re­la­tion­ship ended. I was lost for a long time. It was tough,’ she says.

Her ca­reer strug­gled, de­spite find­ing work as a singer and show­girl at the MGM casino in Las Ve­gas and stints in pan­tomime. There were oc­ca­sional small act­ing roles in tele­vi­sion shows like Are You Be­ing Served? and The Avengers.

Then, in 2005, she mar­ried West End pro­ducer Dun­can Weldon, former artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Chich­ester Theatre, and the pair now di­vide their time be­tween homes in LA, Chich­ester and Lon­don. Ann is now seek­ing a pub­lisher for her book, an ac­count of her ex­tra­or­di­nary life called Sur­viv­ing Miss World. As for Bruce – she never heard from him again. Ann says she tried to con­tact him af­ter his knight­hood and sent him let­ters over the years, but to no avail.

‘He to­tally cut me off when we split. He moved on. That’s how he was,’ she says.

‘To be as sin­gu­larly suc­cess­ful as some­one like Bruce, you have to be able to fo­cus and move on, both pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally.

‘When Bruce died, there were many sto­ries writ­ten and so many un­truths about our re­la­tion­ship.

‘I want to be able to tell the truth about what hap­pened but I don’t want to hurt or dis­re­spect any­body.’ She praises Bruce’s widow, Wil­nelia, also a former Miss World, as ‘a fan­tas­tic woman’ adding: ‘She was the per­fect wife for him and clearly the love of his life. I would never wish to hurt her or any of his chil­dren.’

Yet there was one pos­i­tive to emerge from their ill-fated re­la­tion­ship. In 1973, Bruce fell in love with host­ess Anthea Red­fern when they ap­peared to­gether on The Gen­er­a­tion Game and sev­eral years later, Ann met Anthea at a party. ‘She was lovely and thanked me,’ says Ann. ‘She said Bruce had truly loved me and told her he deeply re­gret­ted sneak­ing around in the shad­ows with me.

‘When Bruce and Anthea fell in love, he in­sisted on putting out a state­ment to the press, mak­ing it all pub­lic. He was still mar­ried to Penny but he fi­nally got a di­vorce and mar­ried Anthea the same year. He never wanted to skulk in the shad­ows again.’

Learn­ing of Sir Bruce’s death, Ann was hit by what she de­scribes as a tidal wave of grief and emo­tion.

‘We had a gen­uine love for each other and I never stopped lov­ing him. When you have a love like that, it never leaves your heart.

‘He was a won­der­ful man who helped shape and change my life. And what a life he had.

‘I shall for­ever be grate­ful for his love. And I shall never for­get him.’

A won­der­ful love like that never leaves your heart

Bruce Forsyth with the then Miss United King­dom Ann Sid­ney in 1964 SMIT­TEN: STRIKING: Ann Sid­ney in Bev­erly Hills to­day, above, and, right, the beauty who be­came Miss World and swept Bruce Forsyth off his feet

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