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Johnny's long goodbye to Mike Baldwin; Television IT'S bye-bye Johnny as soap star veteran Johnny Briggs bids an emotional farewell to Coronation Street next week after 30 years. TV writer MARION McMULLEN looks back on the popularity of the Midlands-based actor.

Byline: MARION McMULLEN

THERE won't be a dry eye in the house next week when Coronation Street's Mike Baldwin takes his last breath.

He's been the rogue of Weatherfield, the bane of Ken Barlow's life and the factory boss who's always had an eye for the ladies.

He's dated a staggering 25 girlfriends over the years in his search for love, been through four marriages, seven illicit lovers and fathered three illegitimate children. But it's his old rival Ken who will be with him in his final moments.

Alzheimer's sufferer Mike dies of a heart attack in Ken's arm next week believing it is the 1980s and he is still having an affair with Deirdre.

The 1983 affair first sparked the feud between the two men, but all the rows, brawls and bitterness are forgotten in Mike's final moments.

The emotional tear-jerker is expected to be watched by millions of viewers on Friday and marks the end of a marathon stint on the ITV soap for actor Johnny Briggs.

He first joined Corrie back in 1976 and expected to stay for just a few months. Instead, the acting job lasted for 30 years.

But now Johnny has decided to retire at the age of 70 and will be trading in Weatherfield for his West Midlands home at West Stourbridge.

The Weatherfield Romeo will be walking the Coronation Street cobbles for the last time and Friday's episode will be followed by TV special Farewell Mike.

Bill Roache, who plays Ken, says the long-running feud provided some of the best moments on Corrie.

"Ken is a nice guy, a loyal guy, reliable guy. But he isn't terribly exciting," says Bill. "So the exciting guy comes along and he's a bit flash.

"But I've always liked the physical side of acting, so my punch ups with Johnny were probably the best bits. I shall miss those terribly."

Producer Maire Tracey says: "The fact that Mike dies in Ken's arms says it all. For most of Mike's life, it was his battles with Ken that kept him going. Like two cowboys, they spent their lives sizing each other up.

"Behind the scenes Bill Roache has even suggested to Johnny Briggs that they should make a version of Brokeback Mountain for the two elderly cowboys. Both Ken and Mike will miss the bust-ups."

Here's Johnny

JOHNNY ERNEST BRIGGS born in Battersea, south London, on September 5, 1935.

AUDITIONED for the Italia Conti Stage Academy when he was 12 and was awarded a scholarship. Millicent Martin, Anthony Newley and Nanette Newman were all in his year at drama school.

SANG with Audrey Hepburn in the London revue Sauce Tartare. WAS a gunner in the Royal Tank Regiment during national service.

MADE his TV debut in The Younger Generation and appeared in films such as Doctor In Love, 633 Squadron and Sink the Bismarck!

PLAYED Detective Sergeant Russell in TV's No Hiding Place and was taxi firm boss Clifford Leyton in Midlands soap Crossroads in 1973.

JOINED Coronation Street in 1976.

OPENED MFI's new range of carpets in Coventry at the company's Longford Road showrooms in 1985.

BACK in Coventry in 1990 to open the new East Midland's Electricity Board shop.

HELPED the Mini celebrate its 37th birthday at Heritage Motor Centre in 1996

CAPTION(S):

SAD DEPARTURE... Coronation Street's Mike Baldwin passes away with the retirement of actor Johnny Briggs, and (aboveleft) Johnny in 1961.' GOOD TIMES... (From left) Johnny Briggs with wife Christine and new-born daughter Jennifer Louise in 1978, at the opening of a Coventry electrical shop in 1990, and at Gaydon at the 37th anniversary of the Mini.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Words:605
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