Actor Stephen Lewis today revealed why he left the popular BBC comedy series "The Last Of The Summer Wine". This show written by Roy Clarke has been running continuously since it began back in 1973 and remains popular Sunday teatime viewing due to it's quiet rural and gentle nature.
Mr Lewis (78) played the miserable character of "Smiler" for ten years and is best known for the role as the miserable bus conductor "Blakey" in the 1970's hit comedy "On The Buses". Lewis told us, "There is a curse on the Summer Wine show and I wanted to try and escape it before I fell victim to it!"
This "curse" as Lewis describes it is, "it has become a retirement home for comedy actors and actresses and they end up dying because of their association with it!"
Mr Lewis has a point for over it's time on air, Dame Thora Hird, Brian Wilde, Bill Owen, and Joe Gladwin to name a few have all died. "I'm really concerned for the mortality of my old co stars Frank Thornton (86) and Peter Sallis (88)" mutters Lewis. "June Whitfield and Jean Alexander are no spring chickens either." he added. "We had Norman Wisdom in one episode and look at what's since happened to him... he's in a home on the Isle of Man suffering from senility... poor old Norman..."
"Writer Roy Clarke told me he wanted to write a part for my old co-star Reg Varney... Reg is in a retirement home now, aged 90 and unable to control his bowels, but Roy thought it might do Reg some good to appear in the show, but I rang Reg and told him not to take the job" reveals Mr Lewis.
"I was horrified when June Whitfield joined... I saw this list that Clarke had of all the stars he wants in the show and God help them if they accept!" We asked Mr Lewis to elaborate further and reveal some of the names on the list and he revealed the list included Bruce Forsyth, Patrick McNee, The Duke Of Edinburgh, John Noakes, Ronnie Corbett and Tom Baker.
Lewis quipped "Why not Jeremy Clarkson? Andrew Lloyd Webber? Eamonn Holmes? Or even Lily Allen? It's time we got rid of some lousy talent by inflicting the curse upon them!"
Shooting has just begun on the 79th series of "The Last Of The Summer Wine" which will be broadcast early next year... providing the curse doesn't take away any more of the shows' stars. "It's terrible" mumbled Lewis before we parted, "it ceased to be funny about 17 years ago, but on and on the show runs and on and on actors continue to fall to it's awful curse... please excuse me, I'm not feeling at all well myself..."
We would like to wish Stephen Lewis a speedy recovery from a heart attack he suffered seconds after we spoke to him. He is currently appearing in bed number 56 in the Fosdick Ward in Leamington Spa Hospital.