Freddie Starr

News broke overnight that the comedian Freddie Starr has passed away aged 76.

Starr was born in Huyton, Lancashire. Under his birth name Frederick Leslie Fowell, he appeared as a teenager in the film Violent Playground (1958). In the early 1960s, Starr was the lead singer of the Merseybeat pop group The Midnighters. The group was promoted by the manager of the Beatles, Brian Epstein, and was recorded on the Decca label by Joe Meek, the record producer of the single “Telstar”. During this period Starr performed in nightclubs in Hamburg and was an acquaintance of the Beatles.

Still relatively unknown to television audiences, Starr was “discovered” through the talent show, Opportunity Knocks where he appeared as part of comedy/beat act Freddie Starr and the Delmonts. He appeared on the 1970 Royal Variety Performance. From 1972, he was one of the main performers in the television series Who Do You Do? and also a regular on the TV panel show Jokers Wild. He later starred in his own series.

He was the subject of one of the best known British tabloid newspaper headlines. On 13 March 1986 The Sun carried as its main headline: “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster”. According to the text of the story, Starr had been staying at the home of Vince McCaffrey and his 23-year-old girlfriend Lea La Salle in Birchwood, Cheshire, when the alleged incident took place. Starr was claimed to have returned home from a performance at a Manchester nightclub in the early hours of the morning and demanded that La Salle make him a sandwich. When she refused, he went into the kitchen and put her pet hamster Supersonic between two slices of bread and proceeded to eat it.

When asked in a television interview with Esther Rantzen some years later whether Starr really had eaten a hamster, his reply was “Of course not”. In May 2006 the BBC nominated “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” as one of the most familiar British newspaper headlines over the last century. Starr’s frustration at being linked perpetually to the hamster story was expressed in a newspaper interview, when he commented: “I’m fed up of people shouting out ‘Did you eat that hamster, Freddie?’ Now I say, give me £1 and I’ll tell you. Then if they give me £1, I say ‘No’ and walk away.” Starr says that the story came about after he made an offhand joke about eating a hamster in a sandwich.

He appeared in Freddie Starr (1993–94) and The Freddie Starr Show (1996–98) made by Central. His appearances on LWT’s An Audience with Freddie Starr in 1996 and Another Audience with Freddie Starr in 1997 were critically acclaimed, although Starr admits in his autobiography that his television appearances often failed to capture the chaotic atmosphere of his live performances.

In 1999, he presented the game show Beat the Crusher. In 2004 he appeared on television as one of the celebrities in the second series of the ITV1 reality show Celebrity Fit Club, where he was made team captain, but was demoted three weeks later for not taking the role seriously.

In March 2009, Starr appeared in Living with the Dead, a reality television show about people being haunted by ghosts. Freddie claimed his 1930s house was being haunted by an evil entity which he called George. During the show it appeared that he was possessed by this entity. It is later revealed that the entity’s name is Roger. During the episode, Freddie says that since he was a boy he was always spiritual and firmly believed in ghosts.

Starr was due to tour in 2010, but the tour was cancelled when he suffered a major heart attack in April 2010, resulting in quadruple heart bypass surgery. The tour dates were rescheduled for 2011 after he recovered.

Starr participated in the 2011 series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, but withdrew for health reasons.

This is my favourite Freddie Starr sketch, it has me in fits of laughter every time I watch it.

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