TV comedian Harry Hill has paid tribute to his great friend the Morecambe entertainer Ronné Coyles.
Ronné, who has died aged 86, enjoyed a career renaissance in his twilight years when he starred with Harry on his television shows.
The ‘Harry Hill’s TV Burp’ star had great affection for Ronné and used to take him on tour around the country.
After Coyles suffered a stroke before Christmas, Harry secured him a place in a renowned London nursing home for retired entertainers.
But Ronné passed away just days before he was due to move in to Brinsworth House at Twickenham.
“He was a great bloke,” said Harry.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to see him before he died.
“We kept in touch. He used to send me postcards.”
Harry first met Ronné in 2001.
“I finished doing a series for Channel 4 in 2000 with Keith Harris and Orville, and afterwards I got a letter from Keith saying if you ever need a funny bloke have a look at this guy,” said Harry.
“Ronné had been on the Michael Barrymore show doing his impressions and tap dancing. So when I came to do another show about a year later I got in touch with Ronné and I knew straight away we would work well together.
“He had this great history of music hall and variety. He was an all rounder. He could sing and dance, and was up for everything.
“So we had him dressed up as Steve Redgrave. Then in my kids show ‘Shark Infested Custard’ he played my dad, Harry Hill Senior. I used to have a joke whenever I wrote to him, the letters would start ‘Dear Dad’.
“We had him dressed as Noel Gallagher too.
“It was great for me to bring him in front of a different crowd.
“When I went on tour he came with me. We had a lot of laughs on the tour bus.
“He used to like a drop of red wine.
“I remember once we were watching Elvis Presley on a video and we were all singing along.
“He had so many great stories.
“He used to tell me a story about when he was a trapeze artist. He had a silk line tied to his ankle to stop him falling, but one night he forgot to tie it and landed in the orchestra pit!
“One great story he told me was about when he was on the same bill as The Beatles, before they became mega.
“He was an impressionist at the time and he walked into the dressing room, and saw John Lennon playing with his comedy props.
“Ronné told him off! He grabbed John Lennon’s guitar and started strumming away on it.
“‘See how you like it!’” he said.”
Harry was also impressed with Ronné’s energy and enthusiasm for a man who was in his 70s at the time.
“He was always smiling.
“He was first on the dance floor at the ‘wrap party’ for the TV show. I remember doing a show with Rick Parfitt from Status Quo, who also died recently, and Ronné got up and danced with Rick!
“He worked with pretty much everybody.
“Once variety dried up his main work was panto. The last time I saw him in panto was with Keith Harris in Portsmouth.
“Barbara Windsor used to phone him every year. He did this amazing impression of Bette Davis. He was a real laugh. He toured with me until he was almost 80.”
Ronné became more reclusive after he retired from showbusiness and Harry thinks this was because “he lost a lot of confidence as he got older”.
“The last tour I did I asked him if he was up for it, but he wasn’t.
“I think it was also difficult for him to take that the variety age had gone. He loved showbusiness. He loved all that song and dance stuff.
“I also had real fondness for it and great respect for him as a performer. We had a mutual understanding.”
Ronné died on January 20, aged 86. Funeral arrangements are to be announced.
*Our video footage shows a 76-year-old Ronné dancing at an after-show party in 2007 after appearing in panto in Aladdin.
For more on the amazing life of Ronné Coyles see HERE.