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.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever