The sad news that Billy Connolly has been in the wars of late reminded me of our time together, when he appeared in a play I produced with Howard Panter in 1981.
It was Billy’s first proper acting role, and an account of how it came about – and its aftermath – is recounted in my volume of autobiography Fulfilment & Betrayal, which is still available from Quartet Books.
Billy is a superb comedian and a man of extraordinary energy. His life has been punctuated with a multitude of events that were to shape and enhance his career to become an actor of exceptional talent.
His encounter with Pamela Stephenson, who rose to fame as a zany comedienne on television, and his eventual marriage to her was to prove a turning point in his life. He became more disciplined through her positive influence, and stopped his excessive drinking – which probably saved his life. He settled down contentedly, and through his now solid family base rose from one success to another and went on to father three more children with Pamela.
During the 1980s I saw a lot of Billy and Pamela and was always enchanted in their company. They make a very complementary couple and are supportive of each other.
I sincerely hope that The Big Yin, as he is affectionately known to his friends, will continue to entertain us with his usual élan and loony talent – which is prodigiously catching and uniquely personal. Life without Billy Connolly will be fearfully dull, and a great loss to our generation of admirers who grew to like him for what he is – and for his saucy and risky sense of humour that knows no boundaries.
I wish him well and a long life.