Most people remember British funnyman Benny Hill for his slapstick, risqué humour.
But in real life, the multi-millionaire entertainer was riddled with insecurities about his self-worth and had a morbid fear of spending money.
In Hollywood journalist Craig Bennett’s new book, True Confessions of a Shameless Gossip, he recalls speaking at length about Hill with one of the comedian’s closest friends, the late Australian actress Sarah Kemp.
The comic would only buy groceries when they were on sale, and would walk to the BBC headquarters rather than pay for a taxi.
Owning a car or his own home was also out of the question, according to Sarah, as such a large expenditure would have upset Hill.
Hill, who died in 1992 aged 68, is best remembered for fronting The Benny Hill Show, which was popular across the world.
The program consisted of short, often risqué, comedy sketches and aired in more than 140 countries between 1955 and 1991.
Meanwhile, Sarah Kemp is remembered for playing Charlie Bartlett in the classic Australian soap opera, Sons and Daughters. She died of lung cancer in 2015 aged 77.
Benny Hill was born Alfred Hill on January 21, 1925 in Southampton, England and is remembered by family and schoolmates as a ‘class clown’.
He was apparently already earning money at the age of six by entertaining punters at the beach with popular songs.
As a teenager, he dropped out of school and worked as a milkman before seeking his fortune in London, where he found an entry-level job in the props department of a theatre company.
Hill made his theatrical debut after an actor showed up to work drunk and had to be replaced. The director was reportedly impressed by the young stagehand’s impressions backstage and decided to give him a chance.
He later served in the British Army during World War II. During this time, he entertained the troops in variety shows and adopted the professional name ‘Benny Hill’ in homage to comedian Jack Benny.
Following the war, he performed in London music halls and got his big break in television after MC’ing at a BBC entertainment show.
The Benny Hill Show (1955 – 1991) became a global success and eventually made him a star in America once it began airing there in the ’70s.
He was known for his raucous and racy sense of humour, involving scantily-clad young actresses, slapstick gags and cross-dressing.
However, his style of comedy eventually became unfashionable as tastes changed and The Benny Hill Show is remembered by some as vulgar and sexist.
Hill’s health declined in the late ’80s and he died in London on April 20 1992 aged 68, two months after suffering a mild heart attack. The cause of death was recorded as coronary thrombosis.
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