Matt Lu­cas

‘I was too scared to tell Dad I was gay. I later found out he knew all along’

The Guardian - Family - - Front page - In­ter­view by Donna Fer­gu­son

My mum is as proud of me now as she was when I was 10 and played a milk­man in our sy­n­a­gogue re­vue

All my hair fell out when I was six,

which was a bit alarm­ing. My par­ents were very sup­port­ive, so my child­hood was as happy as it could be, in those cir­cum­stances. I al­ways felt loved, and there was a lot of laugh­ter in the house. I have mem­o­ries of go­ing to bed and be­ing wo­ken up be­cause ev­ery­one down­stairs was laugh­ing. My par­ents had a very vi­brant so­cial life.

I was clos­est to my mum when I was grow­ing up.

My par­ents split up when I was 10 and, three years af­ter that, my brother moved in with my dad. So, for a time, it was just me and my mum in the house. Later, when I told her I was gay, she looked for a rea­son. She asked me: “Did I smother you? Did I make you gay?” This was nearly 20 years ago, when peo­ple be­lieved an event could turn you gay. I said no, no, no and not to worry about it. She didn’t smother me at all – she was lovely.

I looked up to my brother.

He was very pro­tec­tive of me. Some­times, peo­ple at school would tease me for be­ing gay. If he found out about it, he would go and have a word, and then it would stop. He looked out for me. We did squab­ble and bicker – if it was phys­i­cal, he would win, and if it was ver­bal, I would win – but it would be over in a minute, and for­got­ten. He and I share a love of foot­ball. As kids, we would go to matches to­gether. Now, I live in Los An­ge­les but I’ll What­sApp or call him and we can spend many hours con­duct­ing a post­mortem of a foot­ball match over the phone.

I was 12 when my dad went to prison

for six months, for fraud. It was a shock. It was un­usual for a mid­dle-class Jewish child to have a par­ent in that sit­u­a­tion, but I just got on with it. It made me re­alise that not ev­ery­one who goes to prison is a bad per­son. I knew six months wasn’t for ever and I got to visit him ev­ery three or four weeks. The strangest thing was to see him in there look­ing so dif­fer­ent. Dad wore a wig, but he wasn’t al­lowed it in prison. When I went to see him in prison, it was the first time I’d seen him with­out it.

I was too scared to tell my dad I was gay.

He died when I was 22 and he was 52. His death came out of the blue and I wished I had told him while he was still alive. Then, four years af­ter he died, I found out from my aunt that he had fig­ured it out for him­self – and he was OK with it. Even all that time later, that was a very heart­en­ing thing to learn. It re­solved a lot of things.

My mum is as proud of me now as she was when I was 10

and played a milk­man in our sy­n­a­gogue re­vue. But she wasn’t con­vinced I was do­ing well un­til I did a Cad­bury’s Creme Egg ad­vert. Un­til then, she was ner­vous that I might not be able to make a living from act­ing. That com­mer­cial al­lowed me to put a down-pay­ment on a flat, so she re­laxed then. How­ever, my suc­cess goes back to that sy­n­a­gogue re­vue in 1985. As far as she is con­cerned, that is when my ca­reer be­gan.

My grand­mother was a refugee from Ber­lin

who came to Eng­land dur­ing the sec­ond world war. She was a real in­tel­lec­tual, a very in­tel­li­gent woman. Even­tu­ally, she was given Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship. Un­der Hitler, she had been banned from study­ing to be­come a doc­tor, so she be­came a nurse and mar­ried one of her pa­tients – my grand­fa­ther, who had had po­lio and was in a wheel­chair. My mum was their only child. I spoke to my grand­mother ev­ery night for an hour on the phone in the last few years of her life. I was very fond of her. My child­hood was spent with her go­ing to clas­si­cal mu­sic con­certs and ex­hi­bi­tions. When I was young, I was a lit­tle bit scared of her – she was very strict. But as she got older, she mel­lowed a bit and we were just a great a pair. I miss those con­ver­sa­tions to this day.

Lit­tle Me: My Life from A-Z by Matt Lu­cas is pub­lished by Canon­gate, £20.

Matt Lu­cas and, above, with his mum

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