Rhodri Marsden's interesting objects: Comedian Tommy Cooper's trademark fez
Sophisticated men with style used to wear a fez as part of their luxury smoking garb. Cooper transformed it into a comedy prop
Rhodri Marsden is the Technology Columnist for The Independent; he has also written about crumpets, Captain Beefheart, rude place names and string. He's also a musician who plays in the band Scritti Politti, and won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival by playing a piece called "Silver Trumpets" with verve and aplomb.
Saturday 12 April 2014
* Thirty years ago this week, with his trademark fez atop his head, Tommy Cooper died of a heart attack while performing at Her Majesty's Theatre. He got big laughs throughout his career by putting on any item of headgear, but remained inextricably linked with the fez – and vice versa, despite a spirited challenge in the early Seventies from the shopkeeper in kids' cartoon Mr Benn.
* Sophisticated men with style used to wear a fez as part of their luxury smoking garb. Cooper transformed it into a comedy prop.
* When performing in Cairo during the war, legend has it that he swiped a fez from a nearby waiter, put it on, got a laugh and kept it in the show. In what may have been his only TV interview, he appeared without it; Michael Parkinson repeatedly asked him where it was, but Cooper evaded the question with an irrelevant story of how he'd lost £200 on a horse, punctuated with guttural sobs.
* As part of the Ottoman military uniform, the fez was something of a liability as it was too easily aimed at by the enemy. Cooper discovered this during an early performance, when a belligerent crowd tried to knock his fez off with bread rolls. “Stop!” yelled Cooper, according to Eric Sykes in his book Comedy Heroes. When one man asked why he should, Cooper said, “Because I haven't got an ad lib for people throwing bread rolls at my hat”.
* The superstitious, Cooper is said never to have left the fez with its top down (“in case it trapped the spirits”). The last fez from his estate (made of burgundy wool) was sold at auction in November 2010 for the princely sum of £4,750; if you fancy seeing a bronze replica, it's sitting on top of the bronze statue of Cooper that overlooks Caerphilly Castle.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
- 3 Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
- 4 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 5 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
The 1975 leave social-media after cryptic comic strip tweet hinting at possible break up
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Jules and Matisse used secret dog double for winning tightrope act
Top Gear to follow Have I Got News For You format with 'different host for each episode'
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Vote reveals Jules O'Dwyer beat Jamie Raven by just 2% despite using 'stunt dog double'
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: 90 viewers complain to Ofcom about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing' dresses
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history