When Gordon Bishop was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year, he hoped to perform the Max Miller tribute that had been a feature of his 50-year-long career one last time.
Thanks to a crowdfunding appeal, Bishop got his wish at the Court Theatre, Tring, in February with several West End stalwarts and four of his five children – including the actors Grace Bishop and Joseph Peters – participating.
It was a fitting finale for a man who had lived a double life as a bank clerk and as a performer in amateur and professional circles for half a century.
Born in Epsom, Surrey, he began performing in amateur dramatic societies in the late 1960s, quickly establishing himself as an audience favourite, notably for his colourfully ebullient pantomime dames.
He received his Equity card after forming his own music hall troupe, for which he often served as compere and developed his own variety-based act, tributes to Max Miller and Al Jolson his specialisms.
Bishop’s first professional roles came via adverts in The Stage. He had the peculiar distinction of having played Fagin in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! in the opening production of the Civic Centre Theatre, Aylesbury in 1975 and again, in its final offering before closing, in 2000.
After retiring from his banking job, he returned to the stage in earnest at the age of 64 and continued to perform into his 80s, most recently as Moonface Martin in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes at the Court Theatre, Pendley, a venue that loomed large throughout his acting career.
At his funeral, in a last moment of theatrical bravura, his coffin received a curtain call.
Gordon Bishop was born on March 22, 1935 and died on May 5, aged 83.