KEN BARLOW IN THE CORONATION ST FILES: Angry Young Man who's turned into the bore next door.
THREE wives, 24 girlfriends, innumerable affairs, four children and 65 years spent in the same street make him the most extraordinary Corrie character ever.
Over the years he's been a social worker, a newspaper editor, a supermarket trolley pusher, and even a male escort. Now he's the exasperated head of the street's most dysfunctional family. He's a one-man Greek Tragedy, having buried seven family members - and he's had more thumps than Henry Cooper, not least of all from his former avowed enemy, Mike Baldwin.
But, against all the odds, he's still the Street's lynch pin. In the latest installment of our exclusive series on Coronation Street's favourite characters, scriptwriter and Street archivist DARAN LITTLE honours Ken Barlow, the greatest survivor in Weatherfield.
K ENNETH Barlow entered the world on October 9, 1939, just a month into the Second World War.
He was born under the kitchen table at No 3 Coronation Street where his mother Ida sheltered from Hitler's bombs. His father, Frank, an old fashioned bloke with a blind faith in authority, was a postman.
Ida was a house-proud woman who never joined Frank in the pub and spent her evenings knitting. Ken's younger brother David was football mad and worked in the local engineering works.
Simple folk living in simple times, but Ken never fitted in, always challenging the system.
He won a scholarship to university and soon upset his father with his socialist views. Frank was outraged when 21-year-old Ken, fresh from an affair with librarian Marion Lund who was 12 years older than him, organised a Ban-the-Bomb march.
It's hard to believe, 44 years on, that scholarly Ken Barlow was Coronation Street's original Angry Young Man.
As a woolly-jumpered student, he caused an uproar when, in a left-wing magazine, he accused his neighbours of being "lazy-minded, politically ignorant, starved of a real culture and stubbornly prejudiced". Local builder Len Fairclough thumped him.
Ken's life changed during the early 60s when his mother died under a bus, his father won the Premium Bonds and moved away and his brother signed with a football team in London.
Only Ken remained, moving down to No.9 which he bought for pounds 560 after marrying hairdresser, Valerie Tatlock.
By the time their twins - Peter and Susan - were born in 1965, Ken was teaching English to the local deprived children.
Val was blissfully happy, but Ken despaired at the normality of his life and embarked on an affair with local reporter Jackie Marsh. When Val found out she left him and he had to fight to get her back.
In 1971, the family was on the eve of emigrating to Jamaica where Ken had landed a plum job.
Dressing for their farewell party Val was electrocuted by a faulty hairdryer. Grieving, Ken gave the job up to remain in the Street but struggled to bring Peter and Susan up without Val.
After a few months he decided they'd be better off in Scotland with Val's family while he stayed in Weatherfield and started to live the life of a carefree bachelor.
Girls, girls, girls
He lodged at No.1 with Val's uncle Albert Tatlock while Bet Lynch harboured hopes to be the next Mrs Barlow, but instead he proposed to hotel receptionist Yvonne Marshall and headmaster's daughter Elaine Perkins.
They both turned him down, but Rita Littlewood (eventually the respectable toffee shop owner Rita Sullivan) took him to bed, as did shop girl Norma Ford. Rita was stunned when, on a whim, Ken married Town Hall clerk Janet Reid, deciding after all that the twins needed a mother.
Unfortunately, Janet hated children and insisted the twins be sent to an expensive boarding school. Despite running a successful mail order company, Ken's second marriage was doomed to failure and a year after the ceremony the couple split.
The late 70s found Ken working as a taxi-driver before becoming a social worker, causing outrage by moving married woman, Wendy Nightingale, in with him at No.11. They were the first unmarried couple to live together on the street and Albert was horrified. Ken and Wendy were happy for six months before she returned to her husband but when Ken rejected her again, she killed herself.
When plumber Ray Langton walked out on his young wife Deirdre, Ken was quick to ask her out, only to be cited in the divorce case.
Ken and Deirdre's relationship was a stormy one - he wasn't keen on another marriage, but she wanted a secure home for baby Tracy. They eventually married in July 1981 and Deirdre moved into No.1. Ken adopted Tracy, and settled to married bliss.
However, Deirdre embarked on a secret affair with factory boss Mike Baldwin who made Ken seem boring. She decided to leave Ken, but was amazed when her mild-mannered husband turned into a raging bull. Ken saw Mike off and Deirdre realised she still loved him after all.
Mike struck back when he married Ken's 21-year-old daughter Susan and when Ken took over the local newspaper he used it to take swipes at Mike's business practices - only to face ruin when Mike sued for slander.
Ken now embarked on an affair with his secretary Wendy Crozier, killing his marriage to Deirdre who threw him out.
He sought comfort in the arms of cafe owner Alma Sedgewick, but Mike struck again - and married her. Ken's next girlfriend, Maggie Redman, turned out to be the mother of Mike's son, Mark. As soon as Ken discovered this the relationship was doomed and Ken ended up above the Corner Shop, teaching at Weatherfield Comp.
Ken's darkest hour came on New Years Eve 1990 when, alone and broke, he decided to kill himself. Only the arrival of Bet Lynch forced him to reassess his life.
Ken had a new lease of life in the mid- 90s, and took a part-time job as a male escort, wining and dining lonely ladies. And he was delighted when hairdresser Denise Osbourne gave birth to his son, Daniel.
When Denise ran off with her brother-in-law, he was grateful when Deirdre suggested they tried again and Ken returned to No.1, but the couple weren't alone for long when Deirdre's dreadful mother Blanche moved in.
The past few years have been traumatic. His daughter Susan died in a car crash and he discovered he had a grandson, Adam. He was held captive during an armed robbery and ended up tied to Mike, where they had no option but to end their long-running feud.
Now aged 65 he's officially a pensioner and his love life has settled down - even if Deirdre couldn't resist hopping into bed with Dev Alahan.
Now it's Ken's kids who dominate his life - whether it's Peter's bigamy or Tracy's evil plotting.
Life has come full circle for the Street's elder statesman. The angry
young man has discovered that he couldn't change the world after all.
HOT GOSSIP: Ken's affair with an older woman, librarian Marion Lund, in 1961 shocked the Street; JOY: With first wife; LOVE: Elaine (Joanna Lumley); DEADLINES: Ken the editor; SURPRISE: Wife No 2 Janet; FEUD: Punch up with Mike
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Dec 2, 2004|
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