The new film that everybody seems to be going to is Toy Story 3. I haven't seen it and I'm not sure I will, but what pleases me most is that one of the main characters is called Ken. The name Ken is long overdue a revival. That's not to say that it is old-fashioned, but when compared with the Darrens and Darrells and Connors, it can get overlooked these days.
Ken is a marvellous name, and has served me brilliantly. I think it is originally Scottish, and as my grandfather was Scottish, that's probably how I came by it. It means "leader of men", to which I always add "and follower of women". My second name is Arthur, which also fell out of favour a bit but I'm glad to see has made something of a comeback in fashionable circles. So let's have a Ken revival.
You never meet a Ken who isn't OK. The Welsh actor Kenneth Griffiths and I had a spell working at two theatres close to one another, when he was playing the role of Napoleon. He once said to me: "You don't tell jokes, Doddy. You sing them." And he was quite right. The timing that singers need requires an understanding of pacing and emphasis. It had never occurred to me before. So there's a Ken I learnt from.
Another was the marvellously talented Kenneth All-Bran, or is it Branagh, who cast me – in a flashback scene – as Yorick, the jester in Hamlet, a few years ago. He got all bashful when he wanted me to do a bit of a turn. Why he couldn't just say, "Will you tell a few jokes please?", I don't know. One of my favourite children's books is Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, and the wonderful set designer who designed all the houses for the Diddymen in Knotty Ash – and who sadly passed away a year or two ago – was Ken Lawson, again a hugely distinguished figure. And, of course, Ken Clarke – who I met at Downing Street years ago, when, bizarrely, he was dressed as Father Christmas – is a delight.
I've always been a Ken, not Kenneth or Kenny. The only person who used to call me Kenny was the late, great Bill Shankly, the former manager of Liverpool. Bill, famously, could be as hard as nails, but I remember once when I was putting on a show in Liverpool and I really wanted to get some publicity in the local paper. We arranged for the dancing girls in the show to go along to Liverpool's training ground at Melwood, even though Liverpool were preparing for a big cup game that week. Bill ordered a break for half an hour so that the girls could pose with all the players. "I wouldna do this for anyone but you, Kenny," he growled.
The names Sid and Bert have taken a back seat in public popularity, and if we're not careful, Ken will too. If I'm not Doddy, I'm Ken, and long may it remain the case. The world needs more Kens. We're solid folk, and won't let you down. If Bill Shankly thought so, then so should you. Call your son Ken, and he'll love you for ever.Reuse content