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The groovy rise and sad fall of Simon Dee, the real Austin Powers

'Poor Simon, he never gave up his belief that he would get a second chance at fame,' said one of Simon Dee's closest friends when I told her last night that Britain's first television chat-show legend had died at the age of 74.
For like Norma Desmond, the demented actress from a bygone age in Sunset Boulevard, Dee - despite a spectacular fall from grace - remained preened and ready for his close-up if his star rose again.

'He never gave up hope that a Cecil B. DeMille figure would appear on his doorstep and rediscover him,' said Patricia Houlihan, who had remained loyal to Dee since she worked on his classic 1967 chat show, Dee Time.

'I loved him. He was talentless, out of his depth, a fantasist, truly the first person famous for being famous,' she recalled. 'But he was the luckiest man I've ever known - until his luck deserted him, and never came back. But he never stopped thinking like a star.'

His friend Roger Backhouse QC said that he died in hospital near his one-bedroom flat in Winchester, where he had lived alone for 15 years.


John Bellamy Comments:

I remember the Simon Dee show and I remember it well. When I was a kid at the hairdresser I asked him to cut my hair like Simon Dees - and when I mention his mame to people these days - people of a certain age, they remember him but from a dark and very distant past as this was nearly 60 years ago and like Helen Shapiro or Monica Rose, there are certain people - one hit wonders - who have a brief fling with fame and then completely loose it and spend the rest of their lives in obscurity - like the rest of us - but after their brief brush with fame and fortune and public recognmisition, they can never forget and always hope for yet another chance, while we remember them from a bygone era of early TV.

These days with hundreds of channels and production companies, chances are, he would have moved onto another opportunity with another production crew selling to any one of hundreds of stations and could well have had a career in show business - but was 50 years too soon.

It's fun to be in on the ground floor, but also riosky if it goes bellky up, as it doid for Simon Dee and as it has doine so for thousands of 'one hit wonders' whose names we cannot even remember.

The price of fame, it seems, is high and leaves a very sad story in its wake.






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