I guess you must have seen the news that Jeremy Beadle has died. He was always derided for his crap TV series and the stupid surprise stunts he pulled on an unsuspecting public, and I’m sure that explained the mocking he received over his deformed hand. We always like to test whether those who give it out can also take it. And we delight in finding out when they can’t of course. I don’t know how many Beadle gags I got yesterday but it was a lot and my cheeky nephew can’t have got much work done!
I wasn’t going to do a posting about Beadle because I didn’t find him particularly likeable nor especially unpleasant but on reading his obituaries I became more intrigued. He final years and earliest years seem to have been a mirror of difficult circumstances. He died from pneumonia whilst suffering from leukaemia. I never knew that. Apparently he was diagnosed with it in 2005 not long after having a tumour removed. He was born with Poland syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, which caused the stunted growth in his right hand and spent most of the first two years of his life undergoing surgery to deal with the condition. He seems to have been devoted to his mother who brought him up single-handedly after his father ran off when he found out she was pregnant. Beadle, in later life, refused to meet/acknowledge him.
I read that and thought more carefully about him to be honest. But did you also know he was a significant fundraiser for kid’s charities? I’m not trying to be an apologist for him now. When I say significant, I mean significant; it is believed he raised more than £100m for good causes. £100m! Perhaps inspired by his own circumstances, the bulk of his fundraising was aimed at disadvantaged kids. Ironically one of his favoured charities was Children with Leukaemia, which he had supported long before his own condition became apparent. He got an OBE for this work in 2001. When you think that oddballs like Jimmy Saville and clowns like Norman Wisdom received knighthoods for far less, it makes you wonder about the point of the awards system doesn’t it?
I thought all Beadle’s TV work was dreadful to be frank. But he was acclaimed for his general knowledge abilities, writing many books and newspaper articles/features on odd and interesting facts etc. His personal library is supposed to be one of the most extensive in the country. He was regarded as an expert on the macabre and slightly weird. I remember back in the early 70’s listening to a late night radio show he hosted on LBC or BBC Radio London or something. He used to describe the strangest stuff – executions that had gone wrong, sexual proclivities of the famous, gruesome murder secrets and so on. You’re probably thinking that confirms your image of Beadle the wacko but trust me, it was fascinating stuff delivered with real insight and authority.
He was by that stage writing material for a host of TV stars and it wasn’t long before he made it in front of the cameras too. Sadly, virtually everything he did on-screen was gimp TV. He attracted criticism for that and he became the person you’d most want to punch if he tried any of those stunts on you. But there was another side to the guy, which rarely came to the fore and for which he deserves credit. At least from me.