Rhodes, Miller, James. All three deaths were hard to take
but to learn that Miller, a great wit, had Alzheimers for some
time before dying seemed ironic in the nastiest possible way
Clive James had been dying for a decade. Living confirmation that doctors, faced with any patient, should routinely predict the sufferer hadn’t long to live. Confounding an expert medico quite outweighs a harsh prediction.
James was a great TV critic for The Observer who enlisted me by poking fun at the BBC’s all-purpose blabbermouth sports reporter, David Vine; someone who had ruined many a Ski Sunday. James crammed much good writing into ten years after discovering he had leukemia. Poetry, abstruse lit. crit., etc. Latterly a weekly column which borrowed from Mark Twain (“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”).
After appearing with Alan Bennet, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Beyond The Fringe, a university romp that ended up on Broadway, Miller directed operas worldwide. In a TV documentary about La Boheme, he predicted no one could watch the “your tiny hand is frozen” scene without seeping into tears; rehearsed the scene and lo, was among several with a streaming face. Was allowed a TV series to explain just what atheism is; a memorable personal declaration.
Forty years ago I watched TV cooking programmes, a tolerance that has since substantially withered. VR liked Gary Rhodes, a sort of cheeky chappie who affected extreme hairstyles and was good fun. I was mildly astonished when in “adding salt” he disbursed a whole handful. Yes, I know it’s bad for you. So’s breathing if you do it underwater. Rhodes died from banging his head in a fall; aged only 59. Quarter of a life left.