Didn't He Do Well? - Bruce Forsyth Remembered With 2014 Interview
As far as TV legends go, Sir Bruce Forsyth was one of the nation’s most famous and adored entertainers. His death, at the age of 89 back in August, cast my mind back to growing up watching “Brucie” on television back in the 1970s but particularly interviewing him on the phone back in 2014 prior to a one-man show at Cardiff’s New Theatre.
Bruce Forsyth’s successful career has spanned over seventy years, with hit shows like Sunday Night at The London Palladium, The Generation Game and as a host on Strictly Come Dancing.
I recall on the day I interviewed Sir Bruce, I had to run home from my job in my lunch hour as he was due to call my home phone number. Out of breath, the phone was ringing as I ran through the door and even though I was slightly late, Bruce was lovely and checked I was okay.
Fifteen minutes later, as the interview drew to a close, we exchanged pleasantries and he ended with “... and do me a favour, stop all this running about, its not good for you!” What a legend! – to coin his catchphrase of many years earlier “I’m in charge!” and he was!
Here is my interview with Bruce from 2014 in which we discussed his fabulous career.
The Generation Game was a mainstay of Saturday evening TV back in the 1970s along with Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies and Doctor Who. What was it like to have a successful show in that era?
To me, it was a lovely show business, a period of top ratings and shows like Eric & Ernie and The Duchess of Duke Street all on before The Generation Game and finishing up with Parkinson and Match of The Day,
it was a whole evening of varied entertainment. Not shows that take two hours, it’s just too much and they're doing it in the States now, we've just got back from Puerto Rico and they're stringing things out. Of course, they're making them long because they've got nothing else to put on. We had all these shows that all followed one another; it was a variety of programmes. You could sit there all evening and watch different shows for different moods and different feelings and it all worked. I'm pleased I've got the memories of them.
You’ve given millions of television viewers so many great memories over the years too.
All my career I've been lucky, if there’s a secret to my longevity is that children have grown up with me, even if they grew to hate me later on in life (laughs). They knew me from the start, even people who watched me on The Palladium when they were 10 years old, you go on 50 years and they've grown up with me.
Even with Strictly now, kids come up to me with their mothers and fathers and want autographs. I've put that down to luck of been in programmes suitable for children. I'm like Uncle Bruce!
Bruce then continued to describe his show at Cardiff's New Theatre
It’s more or less the show I've done everywhere. I've even done it at Glastonbury. People were phoning me up and saying "Bruce is that right you're going to Glastonbury? What are you going to do there?” I said "I'm going to do what I've always done. Sing, dance, play the piano and involve the audience with a few things. I do impressions, all the things I've done all my life, I'm a family entertainer.”
I must say I was very scared, how would a young crowd who go there to see all these pop stars react? I think it was the most wonderful feeling I've ever had to be able to perform for these younger people. Forgetting that they'd all grown up with me, I went on there wondering what it would be like; it was very emotional for me afterwards.
One of the favourite things I saw you do on television was a TV special with Sammy Davis Jr.
The best thing I ever did on television was the hour with Sammy Davis Jr. We did all the things that we do, we sang together and danced together. I played piano for him when he sang and he did a whole comedy routine with instruments when I tried to sing. We did impressions together. I wish we'd been able to do more; he was starting to feel a bit ill when we did it. I'm sorry we didn't manage to do a couple of more specials in that time.
I don't think there was anyone else I could have done it with apart from Roy Castle. We were genuinely all-round performers. That term is used very loosely now.
What has been your career highlight?
Apart from the Sammy Davis Jr special, it would be doing my one-man show for the first time at The Palladium because a lot of people said I was wrong doing it at a London Theatre.
They had Cats on and I was doing odd nights there. I went touring and then brought it to the New London Theatre and then the Palladium. That means more to me than any other place and to do it as an all-round performer completely on my own with just an orchestra backing me was a very big thrill.