LIFE is the name of the game…and sometimes strange things happen when you play your cards right.
Having received his Bafta Fellowship – the last award of the night – Bruce Forsyth was rushed down to talk to the press.
But when he arrived, Cranford star Dame Eileen Atkins was still taking questions on the press stage after her Best Actress win.
Clutching his award, Bruce, 80, didn’t seem to mind the wait.
All became clear as Eileen, 73, finally left the stage and embraced him.
“I was at school with Bruce,” she laughed.
So the two final winners just happened to have both gone to The Latymer School in Edmonton, north London all those decades ago.
Obviously, not in the same year – but they clearly knew each other from those days.
Didn’t they do well?
As I reported in last night’s blog, Bruce got a round of applause from the assembled hacks.
In typical fashion, he turned it into a joke, telling us: “Just a minute. In the theatre, they all stood up.”
Watched by wife Wilnelia standing to the side of the press stage, Bruce explained how they had just come back from their annual three months in Puerto Rico.
Bruce said of his Fellowship: “This did come as surprise because the only other light entertainment people to have won this award are Morecambe and Wise, and I didn’t know about Charlie Chaplin.”
Asked how much he owed to Strictly Come Dancing, he replied: “An enormous amount.
“Before Strictly Come Dancing I was, shall we say, more or less dead and buried by ITV.
“And then along came Have I Got News For You.”
Bruce explained how he had rung Paul Merton and suggested he should be a guest host on the BBC1 show.
“Paul Merton, bless his heart, presented me with this. I phoned him up and said, ‘Do you know, I’d like to have a go on that. It’s marvellous.’
“And all of a sudden, people realised that a 75-year-old can still banter with people that are 30, 40 years, maybe even 50 years younger and have a bit of fun on screen.
“Then I got Strictly Come Dancing and, of course, that has become such a success. It’s all been incredible.
“Now the 80th birthday on top of that. Maybe I’m getting this because I’m getting so old. I don’t know. I feel a year older, that’s all.
“But showbusiness is still buzzing for me and I think Strictly Come Dancing kept it moving, whereas otherwise I’d have probably sailed into the sunset.”
Asked about speculation that the next series of Strictly will be his last, Bruce replied: “I know, I started that rumour.
“There’s no truth…I am doing this series coming up.
“They were saying that I wasn’t going to do any more Strictly Come Dancing the first year we did it.
“And then it was going to be my last series the second year.
“Every year they try and put words into my mouth, but I’m not saying them.
“All I’m saying tonight is that I will definitely do Strictly Come Dancing this year. But who knows what’ll happen in the future.”
Bruce gave his reaction to being presented with the Fellowship at the theatre where he first burst to TV fame as host of ITV’s Sunday Night At The London Palladium – and spoke about the standing ovation he had just received on stage.
“It was the most wonderful emotional feeling. I’m still shaking a bit.
“I didn’t expect everybody to stand up and for this wonderful theatre to be ringing with applause for me and for all I’ve done over the last 50 years, and 66 years in showbusiness.
“It really was very emotional – all of a sudden the whole audience seemed to capture a moment that will live with me forever.
“When you have done practically everything you can do in the business and then something as emotional happens to you like that, especially this being the most emotional year of my life….the press coverage of my 80th birthday was unbelievable. The newsreels I did, all the press people I spoke to, all the radio I did.
“And I made up my mind then, I don’t want to be a superstar, because the pace is too much,” he smiled. “I couldn’t do that every week.
“So it does mean so much, being at the Palladium. This is the place that taught me so much.
“I had 16 years experience before I got the job – I went from a 13-handed show in Eastbourne, I came from that to the Palladium that morning, with a 30-piece orchestra, a 2,000-seater, knowing it was going to be filled that night, and I thought, ‘Are you really going to make this?’
“But it all worked out wonderful, and within six weeks I was one of the biggest names on television.”
Bruce also commented on the campaign to get him a knighthood.
“Well, there again, the press has been marvellous. It’s very rare you get all the press on your side.
“Evidently, 42 MPs have put forward a motion in the House of Commons for this to happen.
“If it happens, it happens. But if it doesn’t, I’ve got a CBE and I’ve got my Fellowship to hold on to – I wouldn’t swap this for anything.”
Looking to the future, he said: “I’d like to see more young light entertainment performers, get up and perform.
“Personally, I’ve seen enough of reality shows in that way.
“I’d like to see young performers work and make us applaud then, make us laugh at them.
“I think there’ll always be room for that in our country.”
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