Details are emerging about the fragile relationship between mercurial maestro and matador of avant-garde pop musicianship David Bowie, and Bond star Roger Moore.
"David, or 'Alan', as he liked to be called back then, met some pretty weird characters when he was becoming famous, and Roger was one of the weirdest", revealed Terry Merkin, yesterday. Merkin's mother Dolores was Bowie's landlord at "Sea View", Eastbourne, in the late 60s and early 70s.
"David, or rather 'Alan', was working in the seaside shows round here, like pantomime, and with his performing sea lions, and his impersonations of Gladstone and Disraeli singing Music Hall songs, while he practiced his banjo-playing in his spare time, but you could tell even then that he was destined for higher things", continued Terry, yesterday. "He wrote them all on that banjo - Life on Mars, Starman, I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman' - the lot.
"And then we started getting all the showbiz types coming round of a Sunday afternoon for tea and a round of whist. They'd all get together round the piano to sing songs from the shows. We'd have Arthur Askey, Jimmy Clitheroe and his mother, Noel Coward, and maybe Bob Hope would be there, - he often dropped round when he was in town visiting his Auntie Rita. They were a rum bunch. I could tell you things that would make your eyes water, especially if Jimmy Clitheroe's mother had been at the cocaine beforehand.
"I think my favourite was Rolf Harris, who used to let me play with his didgeridoo, but the weirdest was definitely Roger Moore.
"Oh he was weird, was Roger Moore", continued Terry.
When pressed to elaborate, he went on to elaborate. "One day after the others had gone, and Alan was having a rest before his evening show at the - I think he was doing the Gladstone and Disraeli routine at the Winter Gardens that night - there was a knock at the door and it was Roger Moore in his flat cap with his shepherd's crook. 'Is Alan in, eh?' he says. I showed him up and it's 'Hello Alan, old lad, how's thee fettle? Is t'kettle on?'
"Well, they had a grand old time, with Roger telling Alan all his stories about when he was a shepherd in North Yorkshire, and spinning yarns about the Bond films. But then the next afternoon, at the same time, Roger's back, with his 'Hey up, Alan, lad, get thee kettle on an' get t'Eccles cakes out!' and he ensconces himself in Alan's room again and tells all the same stories about the Bond girls and the shepherding all over again!
"This went on for a week, day in, day out, until poor Alan could stand no more, and he ended up hiding in Mother's coal shed one day when Roger turned up with his photograph album full of sheep and sheepdogs and shepherds standing in the rain. We told Roger that Alan had had to go up to Glasgow as he'd got landed the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar.
"I think Roger might have been upset, but it was hard to tell. He just stood there and lifted his eyebrow a bit, said 'Oh aye?' then went away on his pushbike with his photograph album in his pocket.
"When Alan came out of the coal shed he was absolutely caked in coal dust. Unfortunately he didn't have time to get cleaned up as he was late for his turn with the sea lions at the Hippodrome.
"Of course when he got there and they saw the state he was in they sacked him on the spot! Poor Alan! He did look pitiful when he got back, with his coal-dusted face all streaked with tears.
"But there was a silver lining to the coal-dusted cloud", added Terry, yesterday. "It just so happened that one of the producers of the Black & White Minstrel Show was staying with Mrs Clasper at Ocean Belvedere up the road and he caught a glimpse of Alan still covered in coal dust at our front door.
"Alan got a 12 week run in the Black & White Minstrels on the strength of that, and that really helped him survive at that time.
"If he hadn't had that run in the Minstrels it would have been touch and go for Alan", reflected Terry, yesterday. "He would have had to give up the banjo and go back on the whelk stalls, and he might never have had all those hit parade hit parade hits that he had hits with on the hit parade. I reckon it was all that shouting out about his wares on the whelk stalls that gave his voice its unique timbre, but it would have been a great pity if he hadn't been able to move on from selling whelks.
"Mind you", concluded Terry, "I shouldn't be telling you this, you know. I always promised Mother that I'd never tell anybody our secrets. She'd be turning in her grave if she could hear me now. If she hadn't been cremated, that is. Mind you she was deaf anyway, at the end. But it's the principle of the thing that counts."