Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Writer Keith Waterhouse and Illusionist David Avadon R.I.P.

Keith Waterhouse

Writer Keith Waterhouse passed on September 4 at the age of 80. He is perhaps best known for his novel Billy Liar and his work in British television, particularly That Was the Week That Was.

Keith Waterhouse was born in Leeds on February 6, 1929. He served for two years in the Royal Air Force. He started his career as a roving reporter for The Yorkshire Evening Post. It was because of his reports from the Pennines that he received a job at The Daily Mirror in 1951. He wrote an extended style book for The Daily Mirror, entitled Daily Mirror, Waterhouse On Newspaper Style. It was during a newspaper strike that he wrote his first novel, There Is a Happy Land, published in 1957. In 1958 he left journalism to work as a full time writer of fiction.

Waterhouse's next novel, Billy Liar, became what could be his biggest success. Based on his own experiences, Billy Liar centred on a 19 year old living with his parents in Yorkshire, daydreaming like Walter Mitty in order to escape his dull existence. Billy Liar would be adapted as a play in 1960, a movie in 1963, and a TV series in 1973-1974. Waterhouse also wrote a sequel, Billy Liar on the Moon. In all Waterhouse wrote fourteen novels.

Keith Waterhouse also worked in television and movies. His first screenplay was for The Valiant, released in 1962. That same year he began a stint as one of the writers of That Was the Week That Was. Over the years he would write on such TV Series as The Frost Report, Inside George Webley, Budgie, Queenie's Castle, Billy Liar, and Worzel Gummidge. Waterhouse also wrote plays, including his own adaptation of Billy Liar (with Willis Hall) and Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.

Keith Waterhouse was a talented writer who did very well in four different media (books, television, movies, and the stage). He had a gift for biting satire and writing about losers with little to look forward to in life. Billy Liar centred on a constant daydreamer, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell on a journalist who lived life to excess, and Jubb on a man altogether seedy and unappealing. Waterhouse also fought against the decline of proper English, with the goal of improving modern grammar. Although there can be no doubt he will be best remembered for Billy Liar, he should be remembered for much more.

David Avadon

David Avadon, the illusionist with a talent for sleight of hand, passed on August 22 at the age of 60. The cause was a heart attack.

David Avadon was born David Hutchins in Inglewood, California on December 11, 1948. His father was an engineer. His mother had been an acrobatic dancer in vaudeville. When he was twelve, Avadon boasted that he could perform magic until a teacher, not believing him, set him to perform before his whole school. For the next week Avadon immersed himself in books on the subject. His performance before the school proved to be a hit and he became hooked on the art of illusion for life.

He was in his twenties when he adopted the stage name "David Avadon." It was in 1973 that he discovered what he called "theatrical thievery" when attending a show featuring British pickpocket Vic Perry. Picking pockets would become a hallmark of Avadon's act. In 2007 he published the book Cutting Up Touches: A Brief History of Pockets and the People Who Pick Them on the art of picking pockets.

David Avadon performed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood for over thirty years. He also toured the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan regularly.

David Avadon was a very talented illusionist. He was a master of sleight of hand and was incredible as a pickpocket. It was fortunate that Avadon was a honest man and only used his talent for entertainment, as he could easily pick pockets without the victim ever realising it. It is very sad that he had to die so young.


Holte Ender said...

I remember Keith Waterhouse as a very entertaining writer when he wrote for the Daily Mirror. Billy Liar was quite a movie for an impressionable 16-year-old to see. It introduced me to Tom Courtenay and the gorgeous Julie Christie, directed by John Schlesinger all three went on to wonderful careers.

Terence Towles Canote said...

I always wanted to read Waterhouse's pieces for the Daily Mirror. I have gotten to see his work on That Was the Week That Was through clips and retrospectives.

Holte Ender said...


That is a link to the Daily Mirror archives. Not cheap.

Terence Towles Canote said...

Wow. The Mirror's archives aren't cheap! Still, if I get any money ahead it could be worth it. I've always loved Waterhouse's work.