The discovery of a rare sepia photograph of ex-Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves covering legendary music hall entertainer Little Tich in cling film backstage at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, has revealed a secret relationship hitherto unrevealed, writes Entertainment & Gossip Columnist, Lionel "Liar" Twattehooke.
The photograph, according to a source close to Little Tich, was taken in 1891, when Little Tich was performing in the Christmas Pantomime Humpty Dumpty at Drury Lane. "Tich put everything into his performances", revealed the source, "and it was Peter who suggested the cling film caper. Tich would strip naked, and Peter would wrap him tightly in cling film. It would turn him on, but would also help him come down after the high of the show.
"It helped Tich as well, in a similar way."
All this will come as a shock to Blue Peter fans, who are used to Purves' squeaky clean image, but, as a source close to Purves revealed, it was far from being far from par for the course for the chunky, somewhat bland ex-presenter.
"Peter had a few flings in his day", the source revealed, yesterday. "He sowed a few wild oats. He was always hanging about the Music Halls, that's where the action was when he was a lad. He had a real thing for Marie Lloyd, but he could never get as close to her as he wanted. The family have a sepia photograph of Peter and Marie playing Hunt The Ring in Alfred Lord Tennyson's Rose Garden while Emile Zola eats a blancmange in the background.
"And there is a Sugar lift etching of Peter riding Florrie Forde bareback with a riding crop while she sings Oh Oh Antonio backstage at The Alhambra, Leicester Square. There is an indeterminate figure in the background, which has been identified as Marie Lloyd covered in clingfilm, but the provenance is uncertain, and we don't believe Marie went in for cling film."
The source close to Purves continued, yesterday. "Another one worth mentioning is the late daguerreotype of Peter and Nellie Wallace eating a Selkirk Bannock at Winston Churchill's Dumfries Hideaway, just after Nellie has sung Peter's favourite Let's Have a Tiddley at the Milk Bar. There is an unopened roll of cling film on the table."
As if all this were not enough revealing, the source close to Little Tich had more revelations to reveal, yesterday. "Though Tich and Peter Purves were very close", he revealed, yesterday, "their relationship could be turbulent. "Little Tich was a great campaigner for animal welfare. He would weep at zoos, slaughterhouses, and public hangings (fortunately for Tich, the last public hanging in England took place when he was only one year old, so he only had the zoos and the butchers' shops to cry about).
"Anyway", continued the source close to Little Tich, "Tich could never reconcile himself with Peter's association with the televised coverage of the Crufts dog show, which he hated, as he loved to see dogs roam free and unbridled through the streets.
"He famously called Peter a mercenary old queer in an interview with Mole Catchers' Quarterly. He was offered a column after that, but refused. He just could not stand the way farmers hang the corpses of the moles on their barbed wire fences.
"He thought it gratuitous. 'How is that supposed to deter the other moles?' he would ask.
"When he was a child (even 'Littler') and was out on a walk with his Uncle Skeffington, they once came across such a display of dead moles. His Uncle said they were 'just drying their coats after a long bath', but Little Tich was not convinced, as it was raining.
"The incident never left him, and it influenced the dance and tin whistle act that he developed soon after.
"Peter used to rib Tich about this, saying 'get the tin whistle out', and 'how are the moles hanging, Tich?' It was the beginning of the end for their relationship."
It seems that, after his relationship with Little Tich turned sour, Peter Purves turned away from the Music Halls, a wiser, if chastened, man. Soon afterwards, he auditioned for Blue Peter, and the rest is history.
The Music Halls' loss, it would appear, was Blue Peter's gain.
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