September 5th, 2009

sad kitteh

keith waterhouse

Not entirely unexpected - he was 80 after all, and, I understand, not in the best of health anyway - but I'm sad to hear that Keith Waterhouse has died.
I have to admit that I have neither read his most famous achievement, Billy Liar, nor seen the film based upon it. I knew Waterhouse from the column he wrote in the Mirror, which my father used to bring home from work. I sometimes read him after he moved to the Mail, but I thought some of the magic had gone from his work, as if he was writing spleen for spleen's sake - which in a lot of ways is a house signature of the Mail.
I also knew him from Budgie, the London lowlife television comedy-drama he wrote which starred Adam Faith and Iain Cuthbertson and was in many ways the template for the later and much more successful Minder.
Waterhouse was a legend when there were still legends on Fleet Street, a giant when giants still walked the Earth. Jean Rook, Marge Proops, Paul Callan, Anne Robinson (don't laugh; she was good) Whatever you thought about their politics or the things they wrote about, they were giants. All gone now, one way or another, and no one to replace them. Oh, I know the likes of Simon Heffer and Quentin Letts and the concatenation of evil thoughts that comprises Littlejohn might like to think they're up there. But they're not. No one ever will be again - it was a different age, and the age we live in now is not kind to giants, or even particularly desirous of them.
I never met Waterhouse - I never met any of the truly great journalists - but I used to work with someone who knew him, and I once asked him what Waterhouse was like.
He thought for a second or so, and then he just shook his head and said wonderingly, "Christ he can drink, Dave."
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