OBITUARY:Tony Monopoly

Share
Related Topics
Tony Monopoly was a former Carmelite monk who abandoned the contemplative life and went on to win six consecutive editions of Opportunity Knocks. Famous for his white suit, medallion and luxuriant chest hair, he was frequently compared with Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck. Monopoly was the youngest and least successful of this awesome triumvirate, but the only one with a sound grasp of the teachings of Saint Teresa of Avila.

Tony Monopoly's career illustrated the uncertainties of the light entertainment business. In the mid-Seventies, he could fill the Talk of the Town for a week, backed by a 25-piece orchestra. A few years later he was singing ``I Believe'' to elderly tourists on cruise ships, compering for a troupe of chimpanzees in a Majorcan night-club and appearing with Bernard Manning on The Wheeltappers' and Shunters' Social Club.

Monopoly's fortunes were briefly, but spectacularly, revived three years ago when he was cast as the lead in Moby Dick, the £1.2m West End musical produced by Cameron Mackintosh. (``What's he playing?'', Manning enquired, when he heard the news. ``The wooden leg?'') Monopoly starred as Dorothy Hymen, a headmistress who plays Captain Ahab in her school's end-of-term musical. He tackled the role with the determination you might expect from a man weary of public collaboration with the lower primates, but was ill served by a script which often struggled to reflect the subtleties of Herman Melville's original story. Audiences were unimpressed by characters such as Trixie Shedbanger, Fifi Clampwell and Sylvia Jocklick, who delivered lines like ``Queequeg - you're a good egg''; Moby Dick foundered after a few months.

Monopoly was born Antonio Rosario Monopoli in Adelaide, the son of Italian immigrants. A brilliant boy soprano, he was appearing regularly on national radio by the age of nine, on a show called Kangaroos on Parade. At 16 he entered the order of the Discalced (Barefoot) Carmelites where he was required to rise at 4.30am, observe silence, and perform self-flagellation three times a week. The rules, he recalled, were such that ``I could say , for instance, `May I borrow your pen?', but not `Have you heard the footy scores?' '' He was 21 when he made his dramatic re-entry into the secular world, getting a job as a fabric salesman and losing his virginity to a go-go dancer named ``Big Pretzel''. Monopoly toured the Hilton hotels of South-East Asia, then left for Vietnam, where he sustained a shrapnel wound in the course of his war effort, which he said mainly consisted of serenading American servicemen with the early work of Earth Wind and Fire.

In 1975 Tony Monopoly was appearing at Caesar's Palace (Luton, not Vegas - ``America'', Monopoly said, ``always eluded me''), when he was noticed by an impresario who persuaded him to go on Opportunity Knocks. Initially reluctant, Monopoly retired undefeated after his six appearances, and within months had a record contract, a mews house in Notting Hill and a Mercedes-Benz. Reporters were fascinated by his monastic apprenticeship. ``How,'' the Daily Mirror pondered, ``did he manage to keep that big, big voice quiet?'' Monopoly's response to interviewers was unassuming and often nave. ``I really believe I've got something to offer,'' he told one journalist. ``I don't know exactly what it is.''

By the early Eighties, his public were beginning to share his doubts, and Monopoly was frequently obliged to display his talents aboard cruise liners. ``I lived on one yacht for a year,'' he said. ``I went to 56 countries. I had champagne for breakfast. But I hated it.''

When fulfilling his increasingly rare engagements on dry land, Monopoly would divide his time between Australia and Britain. He was headhunted for Moby Dick while appearing in Cinderella at Hanley, near Stoke-on-Trent. ``I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression,'' said Monopoly, who was fond of theatrical metaphors. ``Then a glitterball dropped into my life.''

A less tireless advocate of his own merits than some of his more successful competitors, Monopoly reacted philosophically to the failure of Moby Dick. He insisted that he had had ``terrific fun'' leading a young and inexperienced cast, and went on to play Old Deuteronomy in a national tour of Cats.

In his last years, he returned to the Catholic Church, and seemed unconcerned that he had never achieved the emphatic domination of the pop business that his name had seemed to promise. ``I have been on a journey,'' he said, ``and come through practically unscarred. I have a relationship between myself and God. I am a peaceful man and a happy man. I believe that is all you can ask for in life''.

Robert Chalmers

Antonio Rosario Monopoli (Tony Monopoly), singer, cabaret artist: born Adelaide 1944; died Brighton 21 March 1995.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The author contemplating what could have been  

I was a timid, kind, gentle-natured child, later to be spurned and humiliated – in short, the perfect terrorist-in-waiting

Howard Jacobson
 

The centenarian age is upon us. History will now live for ever

Boyd Tonkin
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable