“All in the best pahssible taste!”
DJ and comedian Kenny Everett created a cast of comedy characters, among them Quentin Pose, Sid Snot, Marcel Wave, Verity Treacle, US starlet Cupid Stunt and Mr Angry of Mayfair. His trademark beard made his character of ‘the baby in a pram’ even more disturbing; sporting a bonnet he’d say “When I grow up I’m going to be Kenny Everett – pathetic isn’t it?” BBC 4’s Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story has been a long time coming. A mischievous and playful hell raiser, Kenny defied authority at every turn, often getting himself sacked. Notoriously, he caused a mighty ruckus at the 1983 Tory Party Conference when he shouted “Let’s bomb Russia!”
Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story explores Kenny’s personal struggles to achieve fulfilment in his professional and personal life. Kenny’s iconoclastic oversized preacher hands are capably filled by Oliver Lansley. The drama spliced by asides from his comic characters, wonderfully observed, their signpost commentary provide the needed twist to remind you why Kenny was such a delicious enigma. Oliver is uncanny in his impressions, but not once do they venture into cartoonish copies; presenting a more Everett spirit distilled and infused representation, put simply, an amazing job from a talented actor. Katherine Kelly also provides a moving and stunning performance as Lee; both complement each other giving us an affectionate portrayal, showing us the complexity of their relationship.
Focusing on his unconventional but deeply loving marriage to Lee Middleton, Ken was homosexual but conflicted and guilt ridden about his orientation. There was no denying that the needy and eccentric Everett was tough to deal with– putting on irritating voices to deflect issues and jumping around like a child. But you can see that Kenny and Lee adored and loved one another, truly they were soul mates, Lee was quite long-suffering but every union is bittersweet. Their marriage was far from the sham the media purported it to be once Kenny officially “came out” to the public.
Also starring were Simon Callow as Dickie Attenborough and James Floyd as Freddie Mercury, their performances hitting the nail on the head. The writing by Tim Whitnall is slick and original and the style of the drama refreshing, the ending is not sugary but subtly moving, purveying gently the tremendous sense of loss felt for Kenny and how fragile we are as human beings.
So was he a shameless attention-seeker or a comedy genius, possibly an acquired taste? Many would argue the toss, but ‘Cuddly Ken’ as he liked to be known, will always be remembered affectionately in broadcasting, his zany enthusiasm and trend bucking made him a national treasure, but with everything that is a shining special flame, it has to burn out, and typically way too soon. Dying of an Aids-related illness at the age of 50, his unique legacy lives on, Maurice James Christopher Cole may have left us, but Kenny Everett is still entertaining us with his outrageous innuendos and wacky characters.
Disconcertingly vulgar and in bad taste as ever…? We wouldn’t have it any other way!