Jeffrey Bernard is resurrected

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AT THE moment the legendary bon viveur Jeffrey Bernard's coffin glided past, his old drinking pal, Peter O'Toole, decided to resurrect him on the stage.

The Spectator columnist died almost two years ago at the age of 65, and yesterday the veteran actor returned to his friend's favourite Soho haunt to explain why he had decided to bring Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell back to the Old Vic in London.

O'Toole once declared: "I am deeply suspicious of people who do not go to pubs." Yesterday he was entertaining the crowd at the Coach and Horses, Mr Bernard's favourite watering-hole and the setting for the play that the 66-year-old actor performed to great acclaim in 1989.

Chain-smoking through a cigarette holder and sipping beer, O'Toole said: "Reports of my abstinence are somewhat overstated." He denied the play was likely to be his swan song, insisting he had no intention of dying on stage.