Kenny Everett - The best possible way to remember a true pioneer

A biopic of Kenny Everett should be compelling TV, says James Rampton

In 1984, Kenny Everett was the biggest star on British TV. His anarchic, groundbreaking BBC1 programme, The Kenny Everett Television Show, was pulling in audiences of some 20 million, a third of the British population, and his catchphrases were parroted in pubs and playgrounds up and down the land.

So when he contemplated coming out to the general public that year and admitting that he was living in a ménage à trois with two men called Pepe and Nikolai, his overwhelming fear was that he would be totalling his own career. A Catholic who once contemplated becoming a priest, he was so petrified about coming out that nine years earlier he had even attempted suicide.

Oliver Lansley, who plays the iconoclastic DJ in a compelling new BBC4 biopic, Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story, says: "He was terrified of what the press would say if he came out. He thought everyone would turn on him. But when he came out with the now celebrated announcement that 'two husbands are so much better than one', nobody was fussed."

In Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story, Katherine Kelly portrays Lee Middleton, his long-suffering wife, who remained devoted to him long after the break-up of their 12-year marriage. She agrees that, "He was really frightened about coming out, which is why he didn't do it for so long.

"But when he finally plucked up the courage to do it, nobody cared. His ratings didn't go down. His talent was so sublime that it didn't matter what was going on in his private life. That shows how flipping gifted he was!"

Tim Whitnall's drama, partly based on the biography by The Independent's David Lister, In the Best Possible Taste: The Crazy Life of Kenny Everett, shows Everett as the radio and TV pioneer he was, constantly reinventing those media. "He was an astonishing sonic innovator," says Luke Franklin, associate producer on the drama.

"He was a virtuoso when it came to running a radio studio and putting jingles together. When he started on the pirate station Radio London, all the jingles were imported pre-made from the US. Kenny very quickly started to make his own – he was the first person to do that." Everett also had eclectic musical taste and was the first DJ to play both "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" – which he once aired 36 times in one day.

That same questing spirit, however, frequently landed Everett in trouble. Pathologically averse to authority, he was fired from several jobs for failing to obey instructions. Most notoriously, he also caused an almighty row at the Tory Party Conference in 1983 when he ranted "Let's bomb Russia!"

During all this mayhem, the one constant in his life was his amazingly durable relationship with Lee. Kelly says that, "the problem in their relationship was that Kenny was gay. He loved her so much, but fantasised about Burt Reynolds."

Lansley is hopeful that Best Possible Taste will help bring the unique talents of the man who has influenced an entire generation of broadcasters to a whole new audience. "I hope it refreshes people's memories of what a dazzling performer he was. He should be mentioned in every conversation about comedy greats and in the same breath as Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan and Monty Python. He's right up there."

'Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story' is on BBC4 at 9pm on Wed 3 Oct

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot