Leopardskin and leather as Loonies mourn Sutch

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The Independent Online
RETRO-BIKERS met retro-rockers, met Raving Loonies at the funeral of Screaming Lord Sutch in north-west London yesterday, where fans, friends and family bid a characteristically eccentric farewell to Britain's wackiest political figure.

A congregation of about 300 spilled out into the garden of St Paul's Church in South Harrow to hear the relayed service give thanks for the happiness and fun he generated by challenging political pomposity.

The yellow and black colours of his Monster Raving Loony Party were very well represented, particularly in the widespread wearing of fake leopard skin by everyone from peroxide blonde women to men with worn faces and thinning grey hair. One couple wore leopard skin arm bands in place of funereal black and even the pillars of the church were painted yellow.

In his eulogy to the rock and roll pioneer turned fringe politician, John Tempest, Sutch's election campaign director, looked back on the Loony policies that did eventually make it into the mainstream - such as votes for teenagers, all-day opening of pubs and commercial radio stations.

"What can you say about a man who posed the impossible question: `Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?' and who regularly gave his age as 10 years younger than he was, then added: `Plus VAT'," said Mr Tempest.

"Wherever he went, everybody recognised David Sutch," he added. "All were rewarded with a smile and a Loony million-pound note."

David Edward Sutch, 58, changed his name to Screaming Lord Sutch, the 3rd Earl of Harrow, by deed poll in the 1960s. He was found hanged at his home on 16 June after apparently committing suicide.

He is said never to have got over the death of his mother two years ago, with whom he had a very close relationship and whose funeral was held at the same church. Following the service Sutch was buried next to her at a nearby cemetery.

Reverend Alan Hulme, officiating, pointed out three pictures on the front of the order of service which he said illustrated Sutch's great passions in life - a tea cup, a guitar and a party rosette.

"His great love of cups of tea was not perhaps the standard image of a rock and roll star. But one of his friends last week said that a packet of tea would be a more fitting tribute than a bunch of flowers," said the Rev Hulme, as a ripple of amused assent went round the church.

Midway through the service, classic hymns and prayers gave way to the playing of Chuck Berry's hit "Roll Over Beethoven", with which Sutch used to open his concerts. Heads hung in sadness slowly began to move to the beat while serious expressions turned to smiles. Starting with a murmur at the back of the church a number of the congregation joined in with the words.

His coffin was carried out afterwards with a huge spray of white flowers on the top together with one of Sutch's trademark top hats. In the hearse it was flanked by an extreme pair of leopard skin boots and two highly polished brass loud hailers, other accessories from his decades on the Loony Campaign Trail.

The cortege, including a classic American limousine for members of the family, drew away past a line of motorcycles with engines gunning, which then turned and fell in behind.

Many more top hats, until then respectfully doffed, were worn again, together with jesters hats, cowboy hats and one man in a US army helmet. A weeping former girlfriend even had a tasteful leopard skin scarf on her broad brimmed black hat. "Lord David Sutch Lives On. Party Leader Extraordinaire," said a sign taped to several others.

Alan Hope, the Loony town mayor of Ashburton in Devon, said that he was the party's assumed leader until it holds its annual conference at his pub in September. "Either we will get stronger, or finish it in his memory," he said. "I think it should go on."

One greying fan, who would only call herself Jean, said she first saw Sutch perform at Southall Community Centre in 1959 when his dramatic act started with him emerging from a blazing coffin.

"But sadly he didn't come out of the coffin today," she said. "It's a sad loss."

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