Cooper's fez fetches five times reserve price at auction - just like that

He whipped off a waiter's fez instead; the troops loved it and the headgear has been associated ever since with bungled magic tricks and legendary gags. Remember the one about the two aerials who meet on a roof, fall in love and get married (the ceremony was brilliant but the reception was rubbish)? Or the one about what you give a cannibal who's late for dinner (the cold shoulder)?

Tommy Cooper once described the fez as his favourite hat and came to be fiercely protective of those he used in his shows. So there was a certain poignancy to lot 114 at the Kendal Auction Rooms in Cumbria yesterday. Under the hammer was one of Cooper's own fez hats, given to a Blackpool gentlemen's outfitters, Ernest Flowers, in the 1950s or 1960s.

The fez was a gift in return for him measuring Cooper for a suit. Flowers, whose premises were near the Blackpool Hippodrome where Cooper appeared, left it for his widow who has decided to sell up. The hat made a surreal appearance amid pewter candlesticks, fishing rods and a signed Manchester United shirt worn by Ryan Giggs (reserve price £120 to £180).

It was not expected to reap a fortune for Mrs Flowers, coming in at a modest reserve price of £100 to £120. But, said David Brookes, a fine arts valuer, "with such an unusual item the price realised could indeed be much higher". In fact, the fez sold for £620 - five times the reserve price - to an undisclosed buyer. An auction house spokeswoman said: "We were really surprised by the interest that the fez generated. That's reflected in the sale price."

When Cooper suffered a fatal heart attack on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre in London on 15 April 1984, most of the audience thought it was another of his gags. Their confusion said everything about Cooper's brilliant line in apparent incompetence - kidding his audience that he really hadn't a clue what was coming next. He died on the way to hospital, 10 minutes later. Despite his apparent ineptitude, he was also a member of the Magic Circle's inner circle and worked endlessly to perfect the tricks that he used in his shows.

Perched atop the unforgettable Cooper features - the wild uncomprehending eyes and mobile jaw - the fez was as integral to his act as his catchphrase, "Just like that".

Cooper often told of how, on returning to Egypt later in his career, he tried a fez on discreetly in a shop. The proprietor marched up to him and shouted: "Just like that." It was hardly what the Turkish Sultan Mahmud Khan II expected in the 17th century when he ordered his subjects to start wearing the item as formal attire.

The appearance of the fez was the source of considerable excitement yesterday in Caerphilly, south Wales, Cooper's birthplace, where the Tommy Cooper Society is based. "We're aware that a member of his family has a fez that he used but I'm not aware of any others coming on the market," said the society's secretary, Tudor Jones. "You don't see much of Tommy's stuff appearing like this, though there was a suit he once wore which came up for auction a few years ago. We're more in the business of raising money than spending it so we won't be bidding."

The society's current preoccupation is the creation of a 9ft bronze statue of the great man near the town's castle.

A golfing event this week to help the fundraising effort will prompt the appearance of possibly more fez hats than the town has ever seen in one place. Every player will wear one while posing for photographs with a full-size cardboard cut-out of Cooper and the winner will take home a green fez. If he were alive to see them, Cooper would probably have the last laugh. At a Variety Club event to celebrate 30 years in showbusiness, he was about to address 400 guests when they each donned a fez. Right on cue, he pulled a battered fisherman's hat from his pocket and plonked it on his head. It brought the house down.

Comics' props

* Eric Morecambe's glasses: As much a part of his act as the blank looks to camera and the unorthodox dancing. Thick-rimmed and frequently hauled above eye-level for dramatic effect. Unfortunately, when researchers tried to borrow them for an exhibition celebrating the North-west's rich comic heritage a few years ago, it was found they were missing. Other glasses that deserve an honourable mention: Groucho Marx's.

* Ken Dodd's tickling stick: Dodd says his famous tickling stick is a direct descendant of the jester's phallic prop and he also highlights similarities between his Diddy Men and Shakespeare's clowns.

* David Brent's tie: Fiddled with in the wake of failed punchlines, or tightened to pompous effect, it's impossible to imagine Brent without it.

* Dave Allen's glass of whiskey: Allen was often to be found swigging from a glass of whiskey while telling risqué jokes about the Pope. The stool also added to the barroom bonhomie effect. Honourable mentions for drinking on stage: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

* Les Dawson's handbag: Tightly clutched to the waist in a manner suggesting infinite disapproval, the handbag was a key part of the wardrobe of Dawson's Ada character and was the basis of his career in pantomime. Ada first appeared with Cissie (aka Roy Barraclough) in 1974.

* Carrot Top (aka Scott Thompson): The American star has developed much of his material from his red hair. ("Some people even think I wear a wig. Do they think I went into a salon one day and said: 'Can you please screw this up really bad?'")

Dan McKerrell and Ian Herbert

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living