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Jeremy Beadle

Jeremy Beadle, presenter of TV light entertainment programmes such as Game For A Laugh and Beadle’s About, died on 30 January 2008. He was 59.

A major focus of all the newspaper obituaries is how Beadle could be simultaneously loved and hated. The Daily Telegraph sums it up best in the opening to its obituary:

[Beadle] achieved the paradoxical double distinction of being voted the second most hated man in Britain (after Saddam Hussein) and of being the most avidly watched presenter on television.

It’s not hard to see why. The Telegraph digs back into its archives for this quotation from Martyn Harris:

Like everyone who communicates well with children – such as Dickens or Kipling or Dahl – he understands the central fact of childhood, which is powerlessness, and he provides the compensating fantasy, which is revenge…

Hence the popularity. But the hatred arose from two causes: his ability to make the public laugh at often rather cruel practical jokes, for which they later felt ashamed for doing; and his love-hate relationship with the media. Here’s what The Times has to say about that:

Beadle never really reached an understanding with journalists, whom he lauded both as the most interesting people he knew and condemned as jealous liars. He fluctuated, too, between demanding decorum and telling every dark detail, between inviting questions and angrily saying that the line had been crossed.

He didn’t get off to the best start with journalists – even before he was born: The Independent tells us that his father was

a national newspaper sports reporter [who was married] who left Beadle’s mother on discovering that she was pregnant. He learned who his father was and later located him but never felt the need to meet. “I honestly felt that it was my mother’s business and what right have I got to go prying into that or to disrupt or possibly destroy another person’s life,” he explained.

Beadle had a charitable side to him that was relatively unknown to the public. The Guardian comments that

To his credit, Beadle never forgot his early difficulties, and put some of the memories to good use. He became a patron of Reach, the charity for children with missing fingers, hands and arms. He would tell sufferers that it was not the size of their hands that mattered “but the size of your heart”.

But even the private Jeremy Beadle was hard to pin down, according to the Telegraph:

The private Beadle evoked equally contradictory reactions. Some interviewers found themselves repelled by his boastful defensiveness and his love of childishly cruel practical jokes. But others, even some of those who had criticised him in print, found themselves won over by a wit, charm and consideration for others which he signally failed to show in his television persona.

(Jeremy James Anthony Gibson Beadle MBE, born 12 April 1948 in London, died 30 January 2008 in London.)

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