by Keith Altham
Adam Faith’s death a few weeks ago hit Joe Public and me hard. Flowers arrived outside the Stockton Theatre where he had appeared the night before his fatal heart attack with the simple message “You were my teenage years” and the man who owned the local florist shop in Kent where he lived turned up at his house in tears with a floral bouquet from Sir Tim Rice declaring “I had to bring these myself – I am so sorry.”
John Donne once wrote that “each man’s death diminishes me” which is a noble thought but in reality it is each man or woman’s death whom we really care about which diminishes us and I felt a personal loss over the passing of Terence Nelhams whom I had known for forty years and so felt a huge number of the public whom he had charmed as an entertainer.
During a remarkable life he had been a pop singer (11 Top Twenty Hits including his only No l “What Do You Want” in the Sixties) an estate agent (selling houses kept him solvent when he surrendered his pop status in The Seventies), an antiques dealer, an actor (“Stardust” and McVicar”) a newspaper columnist, (Daily Mail financial journalist – “wrote every word cock”) a record producer (Produced Roger Daltrey’s first solo album), a manager (Leo Sayer and Sandie Shaw) TV presenter, helicopter pilot, financial advisor and a bankrupt.
After his financial management company “Faith” went “bottoms up” in l990 along with crooked tycoon Roger Levitt, one his clients, film director Michael Winner memorably declared “Adam Faith is to financial advice what Frank Bruno is to English literature.” Perhaps his most memorable creation was his TV portrayal of “Budgie” (The “cheeky loser”) this was the character whom Adam might have been had he not had real talent and intuitive intelligence. He also endeared himself to the public as “Frank Carver” opposite Zoe Wannamaker in the hugely successful “Love Hurts” series in the Nineties.
Adam was a chancer, a dreamer and a romantic. He was a regular attendee at my “Scribblers, Pluckers and Thumpers lunches” we hold in Barnes twice a year for writers, musicians and drummers and I last saw him just three weeks ago after a performance of “Love and Marriage” for dinner in Richmond. This was the play he was acting in a week later in Stockton when he had his fatal heart attack. He had been full of plans for a one man show about his life he was planning later for which he wanted me to write the programme notes and contribute.
I did my first interview with him when I was nineteen and my last when I was sixty. In between I became Leo Sayers PR briefly and his briefly when he tried a comeback with his “I Survived” album in the eighties but each time we met he never failed to remind me of “the five funniest days of our life” when we went on holiday to Tangier in the Sixties when I was commissioned to write up “A Holiday with a star” piece for “Fabulous” a teen magazine of the Sixties. It proved to be a riot which made our relationship so special in latter years. Adam his late agent Maurice Press, photographer Bill Francis and I started laughing the moment we met at Heathrow on that trip and virtually never stopped for an entire week.
“Tel” was amoral, unreliable, irresponsible and quite the most delightful, charming and disarming companion I have ever come across. He was the only person I have ever met to have the nerve to greet the maitre de of The Savoy Grill with a cheery “Got a table cock?” (It was the same greeting for Kings, Queens, Popes and Peasants) who promptly instructed a waiter to find a table for “Party of ‘Cock’. He also had the best table on a regular basis in one of the most exclusive restaurants in LA during the Eighties where Peter Sellers, Kirk Douglas and Sir Alex Guinness had been turned away while he was holding court a virtual unknown in Hollywood. This Michael Parkinson revealed at the funeral was because he had once taken time and gone quietly to the hospital where their oldest waitress was very ill, taken flowers and spent two hours talking to her every day until her demise. People seldom forget such kindness.
At his funeral there was a fascinating variety of people. An ex-chancellor of The Exchequer (Nigel Lawson) An Olympic gold medalist (Seb Coe) a premier division football manager (Terry Venables) “the king of TV chat shows” (Michael Parkinson) award winning actress (Zoe Wannamaker) arguably the singer from the best live rock band in the world (Roger Daltrey) two of his pop discoveries, (Sandie Shaw and Leo Sayer) and for some strange reason – Max Clifford (but then he knew everyone) and me. He was borne inside the chapel in what looked suspiciously like a wicker Fortnum and Mason’s hamper from which I expected him to pop out any minute and request the vicar cheerily if there was “any chance of a nice cup of rosie lea cock?”
Perhaps his greatest asset was his courage in adversity. He survived an horrendous car crash in the Seventies – a terrifying helicopter crash in the eighties and nearly drowning in a scuba diving accident. He was a risk taker and his last gamble was the digital TV 24 hour “Money Channel” which collapsed with millions he had invested. He was busted again. Never once did I ever hear him complain about his luck, his financial reversals or his heart bypass. He got up and dusted himself off and started all over again and went back on the road after another bypass with out the slightest hint of bitterness or recrimination.
Adam Faith was my friend, my first teen hero and the last.
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