Long resident in Britain, comedian and scriptwriter Roscoe Deane was a familiar figure in London’s theatreland where he was, from the sixties onwards, a renowned, if controversial, entrepreneur.
Like many Australian entertainers, he came to London in the fifties seeking work. He became friends with fellow comedy scriptwriters such as Mitch Revelly and Marty Feldman and sold gags to prominent comedians of the day. As a solo comedian, he worked under the name of Tommy Deane and quickly established himself as a performer of dry wit. He played clubs such as the Astor and featured on bills at Collins’ Music Hall and the Windmill Theatre. He lived and worked around Soho and numbered among his contacts the Kray Twins, Reggie and Ronnie.
In the sixties, he was engaged in promoting contemporary pop music, both in the newspapers and on radio, but in 1972 he was exposed as a key figure in the BBC payola scandal in which BBC disc jockeys had allegedly been bribed with sexual favours. He was arrested, together with vice queen Janie Jones. Charges against Deane and Jones were later dropped but Jones was jailed in May 1973 for seven years for running a call girl racket. The scandal tainted Deane’s career but he continued to work as an entrepreneur.
For many years, he promoted Barrie Stacey’s variety shows and pantomimes around the country and during the eighties was involved with the singer John Cortez’s career, heavily backed by millionaire businessman Terry Pope. A disastrous, ill-attended show featuring Cortez at the London Palladium, however, resulted in negative publicity and Deane eventually returned to Australia for some years.
More recently, Deane appeared an almost reformed character and, semi-retired, worked voluntarily at both the Actor’s Church, St Paul’s, Convent Garden and St Anne’s, Soho.
He had been in ill-health suffering from prostrate cancer and complications from malaria and died in St Thomas’ Hospital on January 17, 2009, aged 81. His funeral was held at St Paul’s, Convent Garden. He is survived by his daughter Jane and his son, the comedian Julian Deane.
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