Malcolm Hardee was an anarchic British
comedian, author, club proprietor and compere.
Hardee came from a long line of River Thames lightermen
- who earned their living on tugs pulling barges. The
eldest son of Frank and Joan Hardee, he spent his first
two years in an orphanage while his mother was in hospital
with tuberculosis. He was educated at three south-east
London schools - St Stephen's Church of England primary,
Colfe's grammar and Sedgehill comprehensive.
Expelled from all three, he drifted into petty crime
- stealing Coke from a local bottling plant, burgling
a pawnbrokers and setting fire to a Sunday school piano
because he wanted to see 'holy smoke' - eventually
serving prison sentences for fraud and burglary. He
also had convictions for arson and once infamously
stole a Cabinet Minister's Rolls Royce.
During the late 1960s he worked as a mobile DJ - "Wolf
G Hardee" - in between stints at various detention
centres. After coming out of prison in 1977, he decided
to turn to showbusiness as a way of staying out of
trouble, saying: "Prison is like mime or juggling
- a tragic waste of time".
Hardee regularly performed at the Edinburgh Festival
and, with Martin Soan, he formed the Greatest Show
On Legs - at the time, an adult Punch and Judy
act. It became a regular at the Tramshed in Woolwich,
alongside the likes of Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson.
Soon afterwards, The Comedy Store opened in Soho, and
they became regulars there, too. Their breakthrough
came in 1981, when they did the balloon dance on Chris
Tarrant's OTT. He also became known for an act in which
he would use his own genitals to perform a unique and
unforgettable impression of Charles de Gaulle.
On 2 February 2005, Hardee's body was recovered from
Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe, by the River Thames
after he was reported missing from his barge on January
31. A post-mortem soon confirmed he had drowned. It
seems likely that he fell drunk, into the water on
the way back to his houseboat "The Sea Sovereign" (20
feet) from The Wibbley Wobbley, which was moored nearby.
About 700 people attended his funeral at St Alfege's
Church in Greenwich - and perhaps fittingly, was one
of the few funerals ever to get rave reviews the following
day in both the Daily Telegraph and Sun newspapers.
He was cremated at Hither Green in south-east London
and his ashes scattered on the Thames he loved.