Comedian Joan Turner dies aged 86

Patrick Newley

Joan Turner, one of Britain’s greatest comedians, has died at the age of 86. She died suddenly of a heart attack at her home in Banstead, Surrey.

At the height of her fame in the sixties and seventies she topped bills at the London Palladium and in nightclubs in New York and Las Vegas. Billed as “The voice of an angel – the wit of the devil”, she was renowned for her acid impressions of leading show biz stars. Her West End one-woman shows were always sold out.

One of the highest-paid entertainers in show business, the Belfast-born star’s career, however, was marred by a lifetime of heavy drinking and gambling.

Her public brawls were widely reported in the press and in 1977 she was declared bankrupt. “I couldn’t stop gambling,” she admitted. “The more I lost, the more I wanted to win it all back.”

In 1977 she co-starred with Roy Hudd in a West End revival of Oliver! but was sacked after two weeks following an argument with the management.

In the nineties, she made a triumphant comeback appearance on the Michael Barrymore Show and she briefly played Auntie Lou in Brookside. She also appeared in the film Scandal.

In 2001, she was discovered living destitute at a homeless mission in Los Angeles. Her daughters paid for her return.

Actor and close friend Harry Dickman said: “Joan was a great comic star who was loaded with talent but she had an incredibly chequered life and, sadly, was her own worst enemy. But she was huge fun to be with. They really don’t make ‘em like her anymore.”

A full obituary will appear in a future edition of The Stage.

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