Liam Rudden: Eric Sykes’ end of an era

Comic actor Eric Sykes, who died earlier this month. Picture: Getty Images
Comic actor Eric Sykes, who died earlier this month. Picture: Getty Images
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ERIC SYKES and his unlikely identical twin Hattie Jacques made me laugh. They still do. Like Laurel and Hardy, they perfected the art of producing moments of sheer comedy genius. All good things must come to an end, of course.

Hattie died in 1980 and last week Eric left to join her - I can just see him arriving at a heavenly 24 Sebastopol Terrace. Just the sort of dream sequence he might have included in his series, which ran from 1960 to 1965 and 1972 to 1979.

I met Eric in 1983. He toured to The King’s in Alan Ayckbourn’s Time and Time Again .

Afterwards, a queue stretched from the stage-door to Leven Street, waiting for a glimpse of the comedy legend.

Half an hour later, the queue diminished somewhat, he appeared in a silk smoking jacket, bottle of whisky and cigar in one hand, his glasses in the other.

His opening gambit was, ‘Just a minute, I need to put my glasses on to hear you.’ Deaf, his hearing aids were famously built into the arms of his specs.

He then invited everyone to join him in his dressing room for a whisky, chatting and signing programmes as he once more reduced the room to tears.

Even before that I had always felt an affinity with Eric, probably due to the fact we shared a birthday, albeit with a decade or four between us.

In 1986 I remember being over the moon when I spotted his cameo appearance as a stage-door keeper in the David Bowie movie Absolute Beginners and was reminded again of consumate skill as an actor in 2001 when he appeared with Nicole Kidman in The Others.

Although he was made a CBE in the 2004 Honours List, I find myself wondering why he was never knighted.

Sir Eric Sykes. Now that has a ring to it.