Rebecca Tyrrel: 'Sir Bruce's marriage has survived his jokes'

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The Independent Online

Who knew that when Bruce Forsyth (31 years before he was awarded his knighthood) interviewed some beauties at a Miss World Gala he asked Miss Turkey, "And what do you eat for Christmas?"?

It is hilariously funny, although the response from Miss Turkey, Fahriye Funda Ayloglu, from Istanbul, is lost in the mists of time, so I cannot definitely confirm that she laughed. The chances are she had no idea what Brucie was talking about, the Turkish for "turkey" being "bir hindi", which would have given him a cracking religious confusion gag had he only taken the trouble to translate.

If it turns out that she didn't laugh, it might have been because she was too busy explaining that, what with 96 per cent of the Turkish population being Muslim, and only 1 per cent Christian, the birth of Jesus isn't a huge deal there. Or she might well have had a stab at ironic wit, and told him that on 25 December the Turks prefer to feast on doner kebabs with cranberry in place of the usual chilli sauce, and lashings of Turkish Delight for afters.

Unless some deranged Brucie historian had the time and ambition to plough through the pageant archive – and nice to see such archive material it would be, to see it nice – we will never know what she said.

What we do know, however, is that the future Sir Bruce did not marry Fahriye Funda Ayloglu. Instead, he wed another beauty queen, Wilnelia Merced from Puerto Rico. They met each other that very night and I like to think she fell in love when she heard him asking the turkey question. Despite their near 30-year age gap, their marriage has survived his jokes, and they live in some splendour near excellent golf courses in Virginia Water.

The survival of Miss World is at least as surprising. Like Sir Bruce, who joined Lady Forsyth on stage earlier this year to celebrate its 60th anniversary, it goes on after what might indulgently be called its best. Since it appears to have failed to achieve the prime wish of contestants, ie, world peace, its greatest achievement must be to have brought Bruce and Wilnelia together. For that alone, we wish it, the happy couple and indeed the people of Turkey, the merriest of Christmases.