Wo­man­iser who lit up our lives

Tony Booth Actor and Cherie Blair’s fa­ther BORN OC­TO­BER 9, 1931 - DIED SEPTEM­BER 25, 2017, AGED 85

Daily Express - - LIVES REMEMBERED -

CHERIE Blair’s long-suf­fer­ing mother Gale once likened her ex-hus­band Tony Booth to the di­vi­sive savoury spread, Mar­mite. “He’s a great char­ac­ter,” she said but “you ei­ther like him or hate him.” Cer­tainly he gave a cou­ple of his wives and long­stand­ing girl­friends enough am­mu­ni­tion to feel the lat­ter and yet most of them were sur­pris­ingly flattering about him.

The same could not be said of his co-star War­ren Mitchell in the BBC com­edy Till Death Us Do Part. While the role of Alf Gar­nett’s “Scouse git” son-in-law proved to be Booth’s big tele­vi­sion break, he and Mitchell had a fa­mously frac­tious off-screen re­la­tion­ship, punc­tu­ated by rows dur­ing re­hearsals.

But then the actor, who played roles in more than 20 films in­clud­ing The L-Shaped Room in 1962 and The Con­tender in 2000, had ear­lier con­fessed that he had spent most of his act­ing ca­reer “booz­ing, ar­gu­ing and crum­peteer­ing”.

The son of a Liver­pool mer­chant sea­man, An­thony Ge­orge Booth ini­tially wanted to be­come a his­tory lec­turer but after his fa­ther had an ac­ci­dent which left him in hos­pi­tal it fell to the young Booth to be­come the main bread­win­ner.

Fol­low­ing jobs in­clud­ing butcher’s boy, fin­ger printer and purser’s as­sis­tant on Cu­nard ship Bri­tan­nia, he de­cided to take up act­ing on ac­count of the “bloody for­tune” that could be made in reper­tory the­atre.

In 1951 he made his stage de­but and spent the next decade work­ing in the­atre pro­duc­tions, ap­pear­ing in mi­nor roles on TV and in films.

His big break in Till Death Us Do Part came about in 1964 when Booth, who had joined the Labour Party at 15, was at a party rally heck­ling Ge­orge Brown and caught the eye of scriptwriter Johnny Speight.

In what turned out to be a case of sub­lime cast­ing Booth was of­fered the role of Mike Rawl­ins and played the part to per­fec­tion for the next decade. But his out­spo­ken­ness was not re­served solely for the then deputy leader of the Labour Party.

Dur­ing his son-in-law Tony Blair’s pre­mier­ship he marched against the Iraq war and scorn­fully la­belled the peers Blair sent to the House of Lords as “Tony’s cronies”, while also dis­miss­ing Gor­don Brown as the “Scrooge of Down­ing Street”.

He fur­ther crit­i­cised the Blairs for choos­ing to send their el­dest son to a se­lec­tive and grant-main­tained school. While Booth’s pro­fes­sional life went from strength to strength dur­ing the 1960s it was a dif­fer­ent story for his per­sonal life.

His first marriage to ac­tress Gale Howard was over by the time he found small-screen fame and he had walked out on their two daugh­ters Cherie and Lyn­d­sey in 1962 after he had started an af­fair with US ac­tress Julie Al­lan.

Al­though they never mar­ried, the re­la­tion­ship pro­duced two more daugh­ters, Je­nia and Bron­wen. With his third part­ner Ann Gan­non he had a daugh­ter Lucy, al­though her ex­is­tence didn’t be­come public un­til 2002.

At the same time he was hav­ing an af­fair with Ann he was al­ready em­bark­ing on a 14-year re­la­tion­ship with model Susie Ri­ley which re­sulted in two more daugh­ters, Lau­ren and Emma.

In 1986 he mar­ried Corona­tion Street ac­tress Pat Phoenix, three decades after they had first had a fling while per­form­ing in the 1955 pro­duc­tion of A Girl Called Sadie.

She’d nursed him back to health fol­low­ing an ac­ci­dent in which he had drunk­enly fallen into a lit drum of paraf­fin, suf­fer­ing 42 per cent burns which re­quired 26 op­er­a­tions.

At the time of their wed­ding she was dy­ing of lung can­cer and would pass away a week later.

In 1988 he mar­ried third wife Nancy Jaeger, with whom he had daugh­ter Joanna, and a decade later mar­ried fourth wife Stephanie, who self­lessly cared for him after he was di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004.

Speak­ing in 2016, six years after he’d also had a stroke, Stephanie said of her hus­band: “‘He was a very ebul­lient char­ac­ter, he was out there and opin­ion­ated. Now we’re at the stage where he’s pas­sive and that in it­self is heart­break­ing. The hus­band I had, I no longer have.”

She sur­vives him as do his eight daugh­ters.

Pic­tures: GETTY; PA

FIGHT­ING TALK: Mike rows with Alf in sit­com. Be­low, with Cherie

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.