Only a precious handful of stars from stage and screen need no introduction. Count Arthur Strong, heading to the city next month as part of his Command Performance tour, is just such a figure. But he’s given us one, just to be on the safe side.
Show business legend, raconteur, after dinner speaker and all-round giant of light entertainment, Count Arthur has worked with them all. With a career encompassing pivotal walk-ons in films as varied as Laurence of Olivier, Count Arthur is, quite possibly, Doncaster’s greatest (deluded) thespian export. But it’s for his Radio 4 series, Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show, offering a window on the Count’s singularly perplexing private life, that he’s perhaps best loved.
With his diary crowded with public engagements, gastric-pub openings and trout tickling championships to attend, the Count is one of the hardest working out of work actors in the business. So you can imagine SevenStreets’ delight when he agreed to grant us a private audience…
When me and ‘Sir’ Ken Dodd keel over then you can say that variety is dead. I always refer to him as ‘Sir’ because it’s a travesty he’s never been bloody knighted! And me of course.
It’s a travesty I’ve never been knighted as well. But you’ll not hear me saying that.
What can we expect from next month’s show? No expense spared? Anita Harris?
Well I can’t give too much away, but some of the top names in entertainment have been asked to join me for a night you’ll never forget. We should start getting their replies any day now. I’m delighted to say Anita is amongst them.
You’re something of a Renaissance man. Is there nothing you can’t turn your hand to?
Yes I am. And no there isn’t. What does ‘Renaissance’ mean?
You’ve been cruelly overlooked for many leading roles – what are your biggest career regrets?
I don’t do regrets or look backwards. The only time I’ve ever looked backwards I fell off Brighton Pier. I vowed never to do it again. They had to get the coastguard out and everything. However I would have loved to have played Lord Marchmaine in ‘Brightshead Revisited’. I did audition for it but the idiots hadn’t a clue.
The Liverpool Empire recently staged auditions for the upcoming series of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. If you were taking part, what would your audition piece be?
I can forsee no situation in which a star of my magnitude would audition for a show of that nature. However, if it was a quiet week I might give them My ‘Eidleweiss’.
What do you think of talent shows? Are you a big Susan Boyle fan? What about performing dogs?
If you want to see talent on show come and see mine. It’s overflowing with it. I regret that I’m not a great fan of Susan Boyle’s Performing Dogs. My neighbour has a Jack Russell that’s always yapping and that’s rather spoilt my enjoyment of dog acts. Plus the fact that it messes on my path with monotonous regularity.
I imagine you’d make a good judge. What advice would you give to those starting a life on the stage?
Get a proper job. Leave me alone.
If you weren’t available, who would you like to play you in a biopic of your life?
Well I am available, so I’d play the middle me. For the young me I’d like Harry Potter and for the old me Michael Caine if he’s still alive. If he’s not Bruce Forsythe or Ian McKellan.
We know this is a long time off, but how would you most like to be remembered?
As someone you’ll never forget.
Liverpool, of course, gave the world the Beatles. Didn’t you have a hand in their rise to fame?
Yes I did. In fact they used to call me the sixth Beatle. It was me that said to George McCartney, ‘You should try playing your guitar the wrong way round’. He did and the rest is history. I split with them when Ono Yoko wouldn’t stop coming round. I kept telling her to go away but she would just look at me as though I was speaking a foreign language.
Count Arthur Strong’s Command Performance
Liverpool Empire, March 21