Nationality: British. Born: Leeds, Yorkshire, 1929. Education: Osmondthorpe Council Schools, Leeds. Military Service: Served in the Royal Air Force. Career: Since 1950 freelance journalist and writer in Leeds and London; columnist, Daily Mirror, 1970-86, and Daily Mail since 1986, both London. Awards: (for journalism): Granada award, 1970, and special award, 1982; IPC award, 1970, 1973; British Press award, 1978; Evening Standard award, for play, 1991. Honorary Fellow, Leeds Polytechnic. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature. Member: Kingman Committee on Teaching of English Language, 1987-88. Agent: David Higham Associates, 5-8 Lower John Street, London W1; (theatrical) London Management Ltd., 235-241 Regent Street, London W1.
There Is a Happy Land. London, Joseph, 1957.
Billy Liar. London, Joseph, 1959; New York, Norton, 1960.
Jubb. London, Joseph, 1963; New York, Putnam, 1964.
The Bucket Shop. London, Joseph, 1968; as Everything Must Go, NewYork, Putnam, 1969.
Billy Liar on the Moon. London, Joseph, 1975; New York, Putnam, 1976.
Office Life. London, Joseph, 1978.
Maggie Muggins; or, Spring in Earl's Court. London, Joseph, 1981.
In the Mood. London, Joseph, 1983.
Thinks. London, Joseph, 1984.
Our Song. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1988.
Bimbo. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1990.
Unsweet Charity. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1992.
Good Grief. London, Sceptre, 1997.
Billy Liar, with Willis Hall, adaptation of the novel by Waterhouse (produced London, 1960; Los Angeles and New York, 1963). London, Joseph, 1960; New York, Norton, 1961.
Celebration: The Wedding and The Funeral, with Willis Hall (produced Nottingham and London, 1961). London, Joseph, 1961.
England, Our England, with Willis Hall, music by Dudley Moore (produced London, 1962). London, Evans, 1964.
Squat Betty, with Willis Hall (produced London, 1962; New York, 1964). Included in The Sponge Room, and Squat Betty, 1963.
The Sponge Room, with Willis Hall (produced Nottingham andLondon, 1962; New York, 1964). Included in The Sponge Room, and Squat Betty, 1963; in Modern Short Plays from Broadway and London, edited by Stanley Richards, New York, Random House, 1969.
All Things Bright and Beautiful, with Willis Hall (produced Bristol and London, 1962). London, Joseph, 1963.
The Sponge Room, and Squat Betty, with Willis Hall. London, Evans, 1963.
Come Laughing Home, with Willis Hall (as They Called the Bastard Stephen, produced Bristol, 1964; as Come Laughing Home, produced Wimbledon, 1965). London, Evans, 1965.
Say Who You Are, with Willis Hall (produced Guildford, Surrey, andLondon, 1965). London, Evans, 1966; as Help Stamp Out Marriage (produced New York, 1966), New York, French, 1966.
Joey, Joey, with Willis Hall, music by Ron Moody (producedManchester and London, 1966).
Whoops-a-Daisy, with Willis Hall (produced Nottingham, 1968).London, French, 1978.
Children's Day, with Willis Hall (produced Edinburgh and London, 1969). London, French, 1975.
Who's Who, with Willis Hall (produced Coventry, 1971; London, 1973). London, French, 1974.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday, with Willis Hall, adaptation of a play byEduardo De Filippo (produced London, 1973; New York, 1974). London, Heinemann, 1974.
The Card, with Willis Hall, music and lyrics by Tony Hatch andJackie Trent, adaptation of the novel by Arnold Bennett (produced Bristol and London, 1973).
Filumena, with Willis Hall, adaptation of a play by Eduardo DeFilippo (produced London, 1977; New York, 1980). London, Heinemann, 1978.
Worzel Gummidge (for children), with Willis Hall, music by DenisKing, adaptation of stories by Barbara Euphan Todd (produced Birmingham, 1980; London, 1981). London, French 1984.
Steafel Variations (songs and sketches), with Peter Tinniswood andDick Vosburgh (produced London, 1982).
Lost Empires, with Willis Hall, music by Denis King, adaptation of the novel by J.B. Priestley (produced Darlington, County Durham, 1985).
Mr. and Mrs. Nobody, adaptation of The Diary of a Nobody byGeorge and Weedon Grossmith (produced London, 1986).
Budgie, with Willis Hall, music by Mort Shuman, lyrics by Don Black (produced London, 1988).
Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (produced Brighton and London, 1989).London and New York, French, 1991.
Bookends, adaptation of The Marsh Marlowe Letters by Craig Brown (produced London, 1990).
Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, with Mr. and Mrs. Nobody and Bookends. London, Penguin, 1992.
Our Song, adaptation of his own novel. London, French, 1993.
Screenplays, with Willis Hall:
Whistle Down the Wind, 1961; The Valiant, 1962; A Kind of Loving, 1963; Billy Liar, 1963; West Eleven, 1963; Man in the Middle, 1963; Pretty Polly (A Matter of Innocence), 1967; Lock Up Your Daughters, 1969.
The Town That Wouldn't Vote, 1951; There Is a Happy Land, 1962; The Woolen Bank Forgeries, 1964; The Last Phone-In, 1976; The Big Broadcast of 1922, 1979.
The Warmonger, 1970; The Upchat Line series, 1977; The Upchat Connection series, 1978; Charlie Muffin, from novels by Brian Freemantle, 1979; West End Tales series, 1981; The Happy Apple series, from play by Jack Pulman, 1983; This Office Life, from his own novel, 1984; Charters and Caldicott, 1985; The Great Paper Chase, from the book Slip Up by Anthony Delaro, 1988; Andy Capp series, 1988; with Willis Hall—Happy Moorings, 1963; How Many Angels, 1964; Inside George Webley series, 1968; Queenie's Castle series, 1970; Budgie series, 1971-72; The Upper Crusts series, 1973; Three's Company series, 1973; By Endeavour Alone, 1973; Briefer Encounter, 1977; Public Lives, 1979; Worzel Gummidge series, from stories by Barbara Euphan Todd, 1979.
The Café Royal: Ninety Years of Bohemia, with Guy Deghy. London, Hutchinson, 1955.
How to Avoid Matrimony: The Layman's Guide to the Laywoman, with Guy Deghy (as Herald Froy). London, Muller, 1957.
Britain's Voice Abroad, with Paul Cave. London, Daily MirrorNewspapers, 1957.
The Future of Television. London, Daily Mirror Newspapers, 1958.
How to Survive Matrimony, with Guy Deghy (as Herald Froy).London, Muller, 1958.
The Joneses: How to Keep Up with Them, with Guy Deghy (as LeeGibb). London, Muller, 1959.
Can This Be Love?, with Guy Deghy (as Herald Froy). London, Muller, 1960.
Maybe You're Just Inferior: Head-Shrinking for Fun and Profit, withGuy Deghy (as Herald Froy). London, Muller, 1961.
The Higher Jones, with Guy Deghy (as Lee Gibb). London, Muller, 1961.
O Mistress Mine: or, How to Go Roaming, with Guy Deghy (asHerald Froy). London, Barker, 1962.
The Passing of the Third-Floor Buck (Punch sketches). London, Joseph, 1974.
Mondays, Thursdays (Daily Mirror columns). London, Joseph, 1976.
Rhubard, Rhubard, and Other Noises (Daily Mirror columns).London, Joseph, 1979.
The Television Adventures [and More Television Adventures ] of Worzel Gummidge (for children), with Willis Hall. London, Penguin, 2 vols., 1979; complete edition, as Worzel Gummidge's Television Adventures, London, Kestrel, 1981.
Worzel Gummidge at the Fair (for children), with Willis Hall. London, Penguin, 1980.
Worzel Gummidge Goes to the Seaside (for children), with WillisHall. London, Penguin, 1980.
The Trials of Worzel Gummidge (for children), with Willis Hall. London, Penguin, 1980.
Worzel's Birthday (for children), with Willis Hall. London, Penguin, 1981.
New Television Adventures of Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally (for children), with Willis Hall. London, Sparrow, 1981.
Daily Mirror Style. London, Mirror Books, 1981; revised, edition asWaterhouse on Newspaper Style, London, Viking, 1989.
Fanny Peculiar (Punch columns). London, Joseph, 1983.
Mrs. Pooter's Diary. London, Joseph, 1983.
The Irish Adventures of Worzel Gummidge (for children), with WillisHall. London, Severn House, 1984.
Waterhouse at Large (journalism). London, Joseph, 1985.
The Collected Letters of a Nobody (Including Mr. Pooter's Advice to His Son). London, Joseph, 1986.
The Theory and Practice of Lunch. London, Joseph, 1986.
Worzel Gummidge Down Under (for children), with Willis Hall. London, Collins, 1987.
The Theory and Practice of Travel. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1989.
English Our English (and How to Sing It). London, Viking, 1991.
Sharon & Tracy & the Rest: The Best of Keith Waterhouse in the Daily Mail. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1992.
City Lights: A Street Life. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1994.
Streets Ahead: Life After City Lights. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1995.
Editor, with Willis Hall, Writers' Theatre. London, Heinemann, 1967.
* * *
Keith Waterhouse's fiction is distinguished by a sharp comic sense, a facility that works on closely polished verbal, imagistic, and logical incongruities. For example, in the well-known Billy Liar, a character who is one of the two owners of the funeral establishment where Billy works, a man who keeps a copy of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One on his desk in order to get new ideas and who looks forward to the day when all coffins will be made of fiberglass, is introduced: "He was, for a start, only about twenty-five years old, although grown old with quick experience, like forced rhubarb," In Billy Liar on the Moon, a sequel to Billy Liar that both takes place and was written about fifteen years after the original, and which moves Billy from his Yorkshire locale of the late 1950s to a carefully designed community of shopping malls, motels, and perplexing oneway streets that lead only to motorways, a new housing estate is a "suburb of the moon" with "a Legoland of crescents and culs-de-sac with green Lego roofs and red Lego chimney stacks." In The Bucket Shop Waterhouse depicts the bumbling, self-deceptive owner of a tatty antique shop, unsuccessful alike in his business, his adulteries, and his efforts to make his wife and his nine-year-old daughter, Melisande, fit his trendy definitions of "interesting" people. After a long passage developing Melisande's fantasies about herself, Waterhouse adds, "She had William's gift for candid self-assessment." That kind of reductive comment, like the discordant contemporary images, the play with clichés, and the exploitation of grammatical incongruities, suggest comparisons with the comic prose of Evelyn Waugh.
Waterhouse builds his verbal texture on plots that often begin with a kind of adolescent humor. Billy, in Billy Liar, invents highly improbable and inconsistent stories, weaving a net of public and fantastic lies that is bound to be discovered by parents, bosses, and the three girlfriends to whom he is simultaneously engaged. He is full of elaborate compulsions: if he can suck a mint without breaking it or if he walks in certain complex patterns he feels he will escape the consequences of his stories. He is also a powerful leader in his fantasy land of Ambrosia. The point of view of the young boy in Waterhouse's first novel, There Is a Happy Land, is even more childlike. The boy plays at being blind, drunk, or maimed, mimics all his elders and delights in calling out cheeky statements that annoy or embarrass adults. Neither child nor adolescent, the central character in Jubb, a rent-collector and youth-club leader in a planned "New Town," is also full of grandiose schemes that others always see through and mimics others' accepted pieties. All these characters, inventive, iconoclastic, and living almost wholly within their disordered imaginations, assault an adult world that pretends it's stable.
Underneath the texture of mimicry and iconoclasm, Waterhouse sometimes gradually shows a world far more sinister than the one suggested by the escapades of adolescent humor. As There is a Happy Land develops, the tone shifts and the boy recognizes the sexuality, perversion, evil, and violence (including the murder of a young girl) in the abandoned quarries and behind the picture-windows of the lower-middle-class housing estate. The character of Jubb himself is gradually revealed as psychotic. Behind his fantasies and comic compulsions is the sexual impotence that has led him to become a peeping Tom, a pyromaniac, and a murderer. In The Bucket Shop William's incompetent management of money and women, as well as his incapacity to deal with the consequences of his fantasies, leads to the suicide of a dependent actress. Sometimes, as the humor fades from Waterhouse's novels, it leaves a melodramatic revelation of perverse and horrible humanity.
Later novels, generally set in the anonymous world of London, focus satire or an understated pathos on more restricted treatments of contemporary life. Office Life centers on a worker made redundant who is absorbed into the modern corporation where everyone is sustained in a network of gossip, affairs, and shuffling papers, and nothing is produced or accomplished. Maggie Muggins: or, Spring in Earl's Court chronicles a day in the life of Maggie, born Margaret Moon, a promiscuous and alcoholic drifter in London for the past 10 years in revolt from a square, stable Doncaster family. During the day, she learns of a close friend's suicide, her father's decision to marry and start a new family, and the fact that the father of her aborted baby could have married her, yet the clever prose, satirizing the social services and any pretense to reform, finally and tersely establishes her ratchety integrity and capacity to survive. Thinks is more experimental technically. Concentrating, as a deliberate fictional device, on the anxieties and fantasies in the mind of the central character, without reporting what he says, the novel charts the pressures on the last, long day of Edgar Bapty's life. Through train journeys, a visit to his doctor, a job interview he only dimly realizes he has fumbled, thoughts of his three former wives, numerous heavy meals, a visit to a prostitute, and several recognition's of his own sexual incapacity, Bapty's thoughts and fears build to "a magnificent Hallelujah chorus of sustained and bellowing rage" before his fatal heart attack. The compressed focus and the sharp writing give these novels immediacy and vitality.
The two novels concerning Billy Liar are lighter than Waterhouse's other fiction, although the persona of Billy represents Waterhouse's only perspective that attempts to alter circumstance. Billy lies less to cover horror or perversion than "to relieve the monotony of living on the moon," where the moon is his arid contemporary civic and domestic life. Both novels, as satire, also ridicule the parochial: in Billy Liar the target is, equally, romanticizing an old, rugged Yorkshire tradition and the "new" world of coffee bars, record shops, and the winner of the Miss Stradhoughton contest who delivers "whole sentences ready-packed in disposable tinfoil wrapper"; in Billy Liar on the Moon the target is civic pride, all the contemporary designs and shapes applied to experience and undermined both by their implicit fatuity and old-fashioned corruption. In both novels, Billy, the comic, the spinner of fantasies, uses the vision of "London" as his potential escape from provincial dullness, ineptitude, and self-seeking.
That any "real London" is no answer for Waterhouse is clear from other novels such as The Bucket Shop, Office Life, and Maggie Muggins. Yet the point in both books about Billy Liar is that he cannot, more than momentarily in the second book, manage the break to London, cannot do more than mimic, scoff, and invent within the limited world he is dependent on. Both as satire and as a potential means of revealing some deeply thought or felt version of experience, Waterhouse's comedy is thin, a covering for the sense of horror in experience in Jubb or Thinks, in which the latent pain seems unmanageable and unchangeable. Continuing themes explored in the preceding works, Our Song depicts a failed love affair between a married adman and a much younger girl in his office. The office also provides a setting of sorts for Unsweet Charity, a satire on the world of public relations and fundraising campaigns.
All the novels seem staged (and Waterhouse, in conjunction with Willis Hall, has written a number of plays characterized by sharply witty dialogue and clever invention). As Billy himself says, in Billy Liar on the Moon, he is still only a "juvenile lead" in a "comedy," not the central character in a "tragedy" he imagines, not equipped for any part in a drama of "real life." At the end of the novel, he returns to Ambrosia. Whatever the incapacities of his characters to alter or transcend experience, Waterhouse is invariably an excellent mimic, often cogent and terse, and has created a comic prose and a sense of the involuted logic of systematic fantasy that are strikingly effective and enjoyable.
Farewell Keith Waterhouse: King of Fleet Street and Daily Mail columnist dies aged 80. With a special tribute by his friend, Richard Littlejohn
By Sam Greenhill for the Daily Mail
Updated: 10:04 GMT, 5 September 2009
Cheers to a talented writer: Keith Waterhouse, who passed away quietly at home yesterday
Keith Waterhouse, acclaimed journalist, novelist, dramatist, raconteur and Daily Mail columnist, died in his sleep yesterday.
A legend of the golden age of Fleet Street and a man whose plays have filled theatres in the West End and around the world, he was at his home in London when he passed away. He was 80.
His former wife, journalist Stella Bingham, said: 'He died peacefully at home.'
They had divorced in 1989 but remained friends and in recent times she was a crucial figure in his life, looking after him in his final weeks.
Waterhouse had been unwell since earlier this year.
The revered writer, whose extraordinary career spanned 60 years, came from humble beginnings in Leeds and rose to become a luminary in the worlds of literature, theatre and film.
Waterhouse, whose brilliant works include Billy Liar and Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, wrote his final column for the Mail in May after 23 years.
Leading the many tributes, Paul Dacre, Editor of the Daily Mail, said: 'He was a genius, for whom the phrase "Fleet Street legend" could have been invented.
'A consummate journalist, scintillating satirist, and unrivalled chronicler of modern life and so much more.
'For almost a quarter of a century, and in more than 2,000 columns, he brought immense pleasure to Daily Mail readers with his unique talent.
'His characters became part of our national psyche. When he stopped in May he said that at 80 years old he felt it was time to give up working to deadlines, even though his columns remained - as always - exactly written to length and never lost their edge.
'Unrivalled chronicler of modern life': The Mail's editor Paul Dacre pays tribute
'The pleasure he gave to millions was immense, and we thank him for every word.'
Waterhouse's daughter Sarah said: 'It is a very painful time. All we can say is that we loved him so dearly. He was always so interested in everything one did. If you went to the theatre, or a film, or read a book or an article, he wanted to know about it, and whether you had enjoyed it.
'He was always asking questions and making quiet observations. He had a very witty take on life, always seeing the amusing side of things.'
Waterhouse's son Bob, artistic director of the New Phoenix theatre in Buffalo, New York, said: 'I would simply say, he was my father. I loved him.'
Author and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg said: 'His novels were funny, accurate and are now part of our literary history.
'As a columnist he had an uncannily fine finger on the pulse and a wonderful wit.'
Actor Peter O'Toole, who starred in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, said: 'England's writers' team has lost its superb all-rounder. Novels, journalism, the language, plays, lunch. Keith was master of all.
'My friend for 50 years, the bugger wrote plays for me that were razor edges he expected me to walk along as though they were three lane highways. It was a privilege to have had a bash.'
Waterhouse had more than 50 books, plays and TV scripts to his credit.
He left school to become a clerk in an undertaker's office - inspiring his book and play Billy Liar, the story of a daydreamer planning his escape from an undertaker's job.
Following National Service in the RAF, Waterhouse achieved his ambition to be a reporter and was a correspondent in America, Russia and Cyprus after landing his first job in Fleet Street in 1951.
The man with the champagne touch
By Richard Littlejohn
Fleet Street's finest died yesterday. When Keith Waterhouse hung up his typewriter in May, his friends feared it would kill him.
The end came quickly. Despite his prolific success as a novelist and playwright, Keith never gave up the day job. His twice-weekly column was his lifeblood.
Waterhouse on Monday and Thursday was a must-read for millions. For Keith, it was a must-write. While his exemplary copy continued to flow, he was indestructible.
His frail body disguised a ferocious work ethic and dedication to duty stretching back over half a century.
Those of us who have stumbled uncertainly in his slipstream remain in awe of his genius. To his readers, he was a friend. To his friends, he was an inspiration.
Keith never missed a deadline, however poorly he was, however hungover. His column was always immaculate and written to length. Quality control worked overtime at the Waterhouse words factory.
'Language affects values so much,' he once said. 'Your vocabulary includes everything you want, cherish, own or aspire to. Language is a great liberator.'
He was his own harshest critic. And everyone else's, too, with the ability to flatter and deflate in equal measure.
I have a memory of him at the opening night of his play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, a dishevelled figure pacing back and forth behind the stalls, swigging anxiously from his ubiquitous glass of champagne, utterly convinced the whole thing was going to be a complete disaster.
Not that he should have had any worries on that score. It was a deserved smash hit and went on to be performed around the world.
Waterhouse was fiercely competitive, especially when it came to young pretenders. I recall feeling rather too pleased with myself after I'd drawn up a spoof TV schedule based on newsreader Martyn Lewis's contention that there wasn't enough good news on TV.
Fleet Street legend: The money Waterhouse made from the novel Billy Liar enabled him to 'dabble at being rich'
Keith sidled up to me at the bar of Gerry's Club, in his beloved Soho, ordered a drink and whispered: 'You forgot Men Behaving Well.' I shrivelled like a scalded child.
Much later, I phoned to congratulate him on a particularly fine piece he had written. He was notorious for hiding behind his answering machine, so I thought I'd leave a message.
Halfway through, Keith picked up. 'I'm always in for praise,' he said.
And there was praise and awards aplenty. He was the yardstick by which all columnists must be judged.
When journalists were polled five years ago on who they considered to be the finest columnist on any national newspaper, there was only one winner. Even at the age of 75, Keith Waterhouse was peerless.
Before I wrote for the Daily Mail, I was a Daily Mail reader. And twice a week, Waterhouse was the page I would turn to first, never quite knowing what to expect, but assured it would be perceptive, waspish and, above all, funny.
Waterhouse in 2003, trademark glass of champagne in hand
He once told me the art of writing a column is not to say what the man in the pub is thinking, but what he will be thinking once he's read it.
Waterhouse didn't go in for polemic. He knew that if you want to make a point, it's best to make 'em laugh. Hearts and minds will follow.
Although Billy Liar, the hero of his seminal novel, stage play and movie, was his most celebrated character, his cast of comic creations was legion.
Clogthorpe District Council's Ways & Means Committee, the National Guesswork Authority plc, shop assistants Sharon and Tracy and the wonderful Arnold, British Rail's spivvy brother-in-law.
Through these caricatures, Keith parodied the nonsense and pomposity of petty officialdom and illuminated to devastating effect so many essential truths about society.
His breadth of knowledge was encyclopaedic, all self-taught. His appetite for books was voracious, even obscure volumes from his deprived, Yorkshire childhood that he kept for reference and a reminder of times past.
Sometimes he would be teased about his nostalgia, for trams in particular, but he believed you meet a better class of person down Memory Lane.
Though he could be caustic and curmudgeonly, he spoke for a gentler, kinder England, a quality that endeared him to his devoted readers, first at the Daily Mirror and, since 1986, at the Daily Mail.
When the late Robert Maxwell tried to dissuade him from defecting from the Mirror, Keith explained that he was like an actor who could perform on any stage, from the Leeds City Varieties to the London Palladium.
He had chosen to take his act to another theatre, to win over a new audience. And Waterhouse was a marquee name who always deserved to be up in lights.
When ill-health forced him to retire from this parish, shortly after his 80th birthday, he left a huge void.
Readers were desperately sad to see him stand down. They thought he would go on for ever. And so did he. Keith always said he had longevity genes on his side.
As with other great writers, such as the much missed Lynda Lee-Potter, people felt they knew Keith personally, even though he was a private man who rarely entered into correspondence with his fans.
'I write. They write. End of story,' he told me. And they wrote in their tens of thousands to express their appreciation. It was a mark of the affection in which he was held that Keith didn't get hate mail.
Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie in a scene from the 1963 film adaptation of Waterhouse's Billy Liar
When he mentioned in his column that he was finding it increasingly difficult to obtain ribbons for his ancient, battered typewriter - it was always a typewriter, never a newfangled laptop - they poured into the Daily Mail from all over the country.
The thought that Keith may have to stop writing for want of a typewriter ribbon was too awful to contemplate. Within days, he had enough to last a lifetime.
Though he was acutely aware of his own great talents and enjoyed his success, he didn't seek fame or wallow in the trappings.
In Who's Who, he listed his only hobby as 'lunch'. He even wrote a book about it. 'Drink' would have been a more appropriate title. Many are the times I have lunched with Keith, but I rarely saw him eat.
In later life he moved to a ground-floor flat, because he feared he might fall down the stairs after a particularly heavy session, like his friend Kingsley Amis.
As it transpired, he fell out of bed instead and broke his arm, which meant he couldn't type.
Even then, he soldiered on, dictating his column to his second wife, Stella, who cared for him until the end.
Waterhouse would have seen the funny side of falling out of bed. It would probably have turned up in his next play, like the egg trick in Jeffrey Bernard.
Keith was working on a book about his mum, Elsie, when he died and also writing a play about the end of Fleet Street set, inevitably, in a pub.
Fleet Street in the physical sense went years ago, but while Waterhouse was still with us its spirit remained.
In the past few years, he grumbled that he only ever saw old friends at funerals and memorial services, which would always descend into heroic drinking sessions.
Now it is his turn to be given a decent send-off. We shall raise a glass of champagne or two to our dear friend.
It's what he would have wanted.
Keith Waterhouse with Tony Blair in 1997
. . . And a reminder of the magic we'll all miss
Of all the topics that most concerned Keith Waterhouse, the misuse of apostrophes was perhaps his greatest bugbear. His determined campaign to make sure they were used properly gained nationwide support and spawned countless imitators.
Here, as a tribute to his brilliance, we republish the classic column in which, more than 20 years ago, he launched the Association for the Abolition of the Aberrant Apostrophe...
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first working breakfast of the Association for the Abolition of the Aberrant Apostrophe - the AAAA as it is known to our myriad town and country members.
The AAAA has two simple goals. Its first is to round up and confiscate superfluous apostrophes from, for example, fruit and vegetable stalls where potato's, tomatoe's and apple's are openly on sale.
Its second is to redistribute as many as possible of these impounded apostrophes, restoring missing apostrophes where they have been lost, mislaid or deliberately hijacked - as for instance by British Rail, which as part of its refurbishment programme is dismantling the apostrophes from such stations as King's Cross and shunting them off at dead of night to a secret apostrophe siding at Crewe.
Ladies and gentlemen, examples of the misuse of apostrophes abound.
In the AAAA's Black Apostrophe Museum in the basement, which you are welcome to visit (no children or persons of nervous disposition please), you will find an advertisement from The Guardian for Technical Author's; a circular from the National Council for the Training of Journalists, if you please, containing the phrase 'as some editor's will know'; an announcement from Austin Rover about the new Maestro's; a leaflet from Hereford and Worcester County Council called 'How the Council Spends it's Money'; and many other apostrophic atrocities too gruesome to describe while you are eating your Danish pastries.
In Memoriam: A selection of columns from Keith Waterhouse
How has this pestilence come about? The AAAA's laboratories have identified it as a virus, probably introduced into the country in a bunch of bananas and spread initially by greengrocers, or greengrocer's as they usually style themselves.
Apostrophe Interpolation, Displacement and Suppression - AID'S, as the affliction is known - recognises no frontiers.
It afflicts the highest and the lowest of the land alike, the educated along with the sub-literate. The Times (shortly to be renamed The Times's) as well as The Sun.
Why, even the Daily M**l itself, it has to be confessed between these four walls, is not immune. I hold in my hand a misprinting of who's for whose which was detected in its pages only a short while ago.
Ladies and gentlemen, when we find ourselves in a world where a newsagent's placard can read 'Gleny's Kinnock Lead's Teachers Strike', the Apocalypse is near and something must be done.
Apostrophic anarchists, deliberately disrupting the apostrophe's function as part of their wider plan to destroy English grammar, must be weeded out root and branch.
Innocent misusers of the apostrophe - for instance the Darlington bus company promising 'Shopping Trips to Leed's' - must be hustled off to night school in plain vans for a crash course in punctuation.
If necessary, children must be stopped outside the classroom and frisked for aberrant apostrophes, and the pushers identified.
But what can we, as individuals, do to stop the rot, bearing in mind that your Association will have no truck with the proscribed militant Apostrophe Abolition Army, whose declared aim is to stamp out the now universal use of 'it's' for the possessive 'its' by blowing up offending printing plants?
What we can do, ladies and gentlemen, is to be vigilant and relentless in our pursuit of the aberrant apostrophe.
We must write to each and every publication that trangresses in this respect. When they write back pleading that it was a regrettable printers error, we must reply by return of post that no it wasn't, it was a regrettable printer's error, or even more accurately, the error of a regrettable printer.
Waterhouse in the legendary Soho pub The Coach and Horses
We must boycott shops selling Co's lettuce, bean's and such like contaminated products.
Members of the AAAA are invited to forward examples of misplaced apostrophes to the Association for possible use in our touring exhibitions, provided that these do not infringe the Post Office regulations on the sending of obnoxious matter through the mails.
The AAAA regrets that its hardworking staff will be unable to acknowledge contributions individually but assures members that every apostrophe submitted will be scrutinised keenly and considered on its demerits.
The AAAA has no membership cards and no subscription. Members are, however, asked to donate at least one aberrant apostrophe when attending our meetings, rallies and conferences.
I have to point out that we are considerably overstocked on their's, it's and who's, and can consider no further examples until those we have accumulated have been ploughed into the Association's apostrophe dump at Devizes.
You are now asked to place the aberrant apostrophes you have brought with you in the offertory bags being passed among you by the ushers.
During the collection, we will all rise and sing the AAAA's battle anthem, 'Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts For Soldiers'. Anyone singing a misplaced apostrophe will be instantly ejected from the hall.
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