Funny, Peculiar: The True Story of Benny HillHardback
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- Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd
- Format: Hardback | 544 pages
- Dimensions: 146mm x 236mm x 46mm | 939g
- Publication date: 1 June 2002
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0283063696
- ISBN 13: 9780283063695
- Illustrations note: 40 black & white halftones
Benny Hill's saucy smirks and lascivious glances at underdressed women are relished across all continents by all creeds. Yet he cut an unlikely figure of global admiration: he was a deeply private individual, a loner, uninterested in money and the trappings of success. With the circus and sex in his background (his father sold condoms worldwide from a Southampton backstreet shop), Benny combined the two in a career that, after many struggles, took off in the earliest days of television. Acclaimed in the 1950s as the first British TV comedy superstar, loved for his pioneering ideas and mild 'seaside-postcard' humour, Hill's popularity remained undimmed for decades. But in the 1980s, just as he became a hit in more than 100 countries, he was reviled in Britain. His innuendo-strewn humour was branded sexist, a charge he could not comprehend. Unmarried and emotionally enfeebled in his few meaningful relationships, Benny's primary aim was to be seen in the company of scantily clad women. His TV show enabled this, but its sudden end in 1989 was followed by a self-inflicted decline in his health. Benny died in 1992, his body lay undiscovered for two days and the destiny of his GBP7m estate was controversial.
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Critically acclaimed for works such as his encyclopaedic 'Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy', Mark Lewisohn has an enviable reputation as a meticulous and balanced researcher of popular culture: the Telegraph said of Lewisohn's 'The Complete Beatles Chronicle' that it 'borders on a work of genius'. With unprecedented access to archives, intensive research and interviews with friends, family and colleagues, this is the last word on the 'world's most popular comedian'.
Benny Hill will always be remembered for his salacious, sexy (some have said sexist) comedy The Benny Hill Show, in which he either failed to get the girl or was surrounded by scantily-clad women. Alfred 'Alfie' Hill was born in Southampton in 1924. His peers deemed him an ordinary child with no special talent except for clowning around and imitating variety stars. As an adolescent he became fascinated by radio and variety shows, doing impressions of the nervous customers in his father's shop, which sold condoms and other 'marital aids'. Here he learnt about sexual embarrassment at an early age, and used this awareness later on in his TV shows. Always interested in girls, he constantly fell in love with women who weren't interested in him. Over the years his disappointments in love and his own lack of commitment drove him to see women as trophies rather than partners. But there are fascinating contradictions: his close friendships with two disabled women contrasted with his seedy sexual encounters with factory girls whom he needed to dominate. The book is kind to Hill, though it does hint at shadier facets, like his shameless plagiarisation of other comedians' work, and his obsession, in middle age, with being surrounded by beautiful women in his shows or on his arm - women he could never hope to have, yet who flattered his ego and bolstered a shy and distorted sexuality. This book might well have been subtitled Hill and His Women, but it also describes his childhood in detail and his hard struggle to be a performer. He might have been a curious roue, but he was also a professional. Variously described as innocent, generous, mean, oversexed and undersexed, Benny Hill was a man who defies categorization. He earned millions yet lived on fish fingers and diet cola, he didn't even pay in his cheques and his awards were stuffed in a cupboard. And he died alone, undiscovered for two days. Accessible and thoughtful, the book reveals the man who captured the tabloid audience with his simple postcard humour.to be a strange enigma. (Kirkus UK)