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Victor was a magnificent man, a wonderful man who was full of great stories... Liz Taylor and Richard Burton wanted him at their parties, The Beatles loved him - they wouldn't do a film without him; TRIBUTES TO LARGER-THAN-LIFE STAR SPINETTI WHO'S DIED AT 82.


[bar] E starred alongside Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and The Beatles reportedly wouldn't make a film without him.

And yesterday some of music and television's greats paid tribute to internationally-renowned Welsh actor Victor Spinetti after his death from prostate cancer at the age of 82.

Sir Paul McCartney paid tribute to the late star, saying: "Victor was a fine man, a great pal and a fantastic actor and someone I am proud to have known for many years.

"His irreverent wit and exuberant personality will remain in my memory forever.

"I will miss his loyal friendship as will all the others who were lucky enough to know and love the wonderful Mr Spinetti."

Ringo Starr also paid tribute to the actor, saying: "It was a pleasure the time we worked with Victor. He was a good man and I send my condolences to his family. Peace and love, Ringo."

Barbara Windsor described him as "a wonderful man who was full of great stories" while Ruth Madoc said: "He never forgot he was the boy who came from Cwm."

Comedian and actor Rob Brydon described him as "one of the funniest raconteurs there's ever been; a lovely man who I was lucky to call a friend".

Spinetti, who was from the small village near Ebbw Vale, revealed last month in an interview with Wales on Sunday that he had prostate cancer which he thought was unlikely to be cured.

He had been moved to the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff shortly before the interview, during which he admitted: "I'm crumbling." He said: "I'm waiting to find out more but they think it might be untreatable."

But he kept up his trademark joie de vivre that once led Mc-Cartney to describe him as "the man who makes clouds disappear".

He said: "I'll be honest, I've never felt better.

"I don't have to worry, I'm being checked and looked after so I'll stay here for a while.

"I don't want to go. I've never felt so welcome, God love them."

He said he was keeping busy with a new kind of touring - keeping fellow patients entertained.

"We were waiting to get tested and having a good laugh," he said. "I'm touring the hospice telling people stories from my career.

"I could have been so frightened, and I was, but now I'm sitting in my shawl and scarf with a book, the weather has improved and is quite nice, and I feel calm."

Spinetti, who died in Monnow Vale, the community hospital in Monmouth, yesterday, found out by chance about his tumour when he suffered a spinal fracture on Valentine's Day 2011 while starring in a play.

He was receiving radiotherapy at Velindre after being cared for by sister and brother-in-law, Gianina and David Hughes.

"That Christmas I came back to South Wales like I always do, but for the first time with a view to staying a bit longer," he said last month. "I saw a doctor here and told him about my prostate and they said they would check out if there had been any changes. But before they had a chance to do so, it all hit the fan, as they say."

Born in Cwm, Spinetti was a boarder at Monmouth School before attending the Welsh College of Music and Drama. He landed his role in the Beatles' films following the success of the London production of Oh! What a Lovely War, which was seen by George Harrison and John Lennon, as well as the producer and screenwriter for 1964's A Hard Day's Night, Walter Shenson and Alun Owen. He also starred in Help! and Magical Mystery Tour.

"I was known to them," he said. "But I wasn't prepared for the fantastic and wonderful reception I got from them, which was to be totally accepted.

"We just sat and talked to each other as if we'd known each other our whole lives."

Having hit it off with the group they insisted he appeared in their subsequent acted films. George Harrison was quoted as saying his mother wouldn't come to see the films unless Spinetti was in them.

He went on to make more than 30 film appearances, including The Return of the Pink Panther and Under Milk Wood with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, with whom he had also shared a screen in Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew.

He became known for his appearances in a Jaffa Cake ad campaign and won a Tony Award for his performance in Oh! What a Lovely War, one of the productions which came out of his six-year stint with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop.

It was during one of these productions that he struck up a lifelong friendship with Barbara Windsor. She said yesterday: "We were very close. He was another of my great friends from that era. He was such a great man."

Windsor said she and husband Scott Mitchell visited Spinetti at the hospital in Monmouth on Thursday. She added: "He had Jo Malone candles and sprays in the room - it had to be mandarin. I joked that it smelt like a tart's parlour. We laughed and laughed.

"We just chatted and chatted and talked about old things. But he said: 'Let's not talk about all that, let's talk about the future'.

"What he was trying to say was that everything was happy in his room. I was happy to see him. He didn't look ill. He looked great. He was swearing a lot, like that would get rid of the illness, and we just laughed. We were such very, very good friends. We were both on stage together on Broadway in Oh! What A Lovely War. We were both up for the Tony Award. He got it. I didn't but we had a great time.

"Liz Taylor and Richard Burton wanted him at their parties. He was a magnificent man, a wonderful man who was full of great stories. The Beatles loved him. They wouldn't do a film without him."

Ruth Madoc, who also worked alongside him, recalled a wonderful actor who never lost his common touch. The Hi-De-Hi star said: "I first met him in 1963 when he was in Oh! What a Lovely War in the West End. He was camp, he was very theatrical but on the other hand he never lost his common touch.

"He never forgot he was the boy who came from Cwm."

The pair last worked together three years ago, along with Madoc's former husband, the late Philip Madoc, at the Barbican in London, in a production of Stan Tracey's jazz interpretation of Under Milk Wood. She added: "He would always wake us up, always have a quip and was a great raconteur and a great friend to many, including Marlene Dietrich. He will be much missed by the acting community."

Spinetti's agent, Barry Burnett, said: "He had cancer for a year, but he was very cheerful to the end. I spoke to him on Friday and he was talking about his plans and everything."

Monmouth School, where he boarded at New House from 1943-47, paid tribute to him.

Headteacher Dr Steven Connors, who visited the actor a few weeks ago, said: "A true legend of stage and screen, Victor worked right up until his recent illness.

"He had a sell-out one man show and a highly acclaimed autobiography in which he affectionately outlined his time spent at Monmouth School, where his dramatic sensibilities began to take shape and where he was, in his own words: 'At Monmouth the worst rugby player they had ever had'.

"My wife and I visited him in hospital a few weeks ago where he entertained us with some fascinating anecdotes which even required a little impromptu acting!

"He was so full of life it is difficult to believe that he is no longer with us.

"He will be greatly missed and our thoughts and prayers extend to his family and all those who held Victor very dear. He truly was unique and we are very proud to be able to call him an Old Monmothian."

Actress Britt Ekland wrote on Twitter: "Just heard my wonderful friend, co-writer and director Victor Spinetti died. Am devastated to have lost a true acting genius."

And Welsh actor Sian Phillips told BBC Wales: "He was such a force of joy and vitality. When one saw him across a crowded room, one couldn't wait to get together with him and have a chat and a catch-up."

CLICK ON For more tributes to Victor Spinetti and pictures from his career, go to...


[bar] Victor Spinetti, circled, as a schoolboy at Monmouth School's New House in 1944 [bar] A life less ordinary... Spinetti with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1968; during the memorial service for Ned Sherrin, 2008; pulling faces in 1990; with the cast of Hair in Cwm in 1969; meeting a fan on the set of Under Milk Wood, 1971; outside the Palace Theatre, London, 1972; and still smiling in March this year [bar] Victor Spinetti and Sid James in the 1969 TV comedy Two in Clover
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 20, 2012
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