As the eldest child of the comedian and singer Harry Secombe, a career in showbusiness must have seemed an inevitability for Jenny Secombe.
However, choosing a career away from public view instead, Secombe worked as a theatre publicist before becoming a prominent figure in the BBC’s television publicity department, where she was responsible for promoting some of the Corporation’s biggest comedy successes.
Born in Swansea, South Wales, on one occasion after leaving school she visited her father backstage at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where he was starring in The Four Musketeers. Here, she met the legendary publicist Theo Cowan and his associate, Jane Harker, who offered her her first job.
In the early 1970s, she and Harker formed their own PR company, JJ Enterprises. Together, they enjoyed a long association with the agent Stella Richards, promoting many of her marquee-name clients.
Among a long list of West End shows they worked on were the original productions of Fiddler on the Roof, starring Topol, Stephen Sondheim’s Company with Elaine Stritch and Oh! Calcutta!. Later, Secombe worked at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford, where many productions started their pre-London runs.
On joining the BBC in 1985, she worked on established hits such as Last of the Summer Wine and Only Fools and Horses as well as helping to launch a run of new comedy successes that included Birds of a Feather, One Foot in the Grave and The Fast Show.
When she stepped down as head of comedy and entertainment publicity in 2001, Secombe joined Premier PR (formed by the merger between leading agencies Corbett and Keene and Joy Sapieka Associates) as consultant in charge of its television department before retiring in 2003.
She also acted as her father’s agent in the latter part of his career until his death in 2001, and had long managed his literary work, including several books.
Jennifer Secombe was born on April 11, 1949, and died on July 2, aged 70. She was married to music publisher Christopher Stock from 1976 to 1983 (with whom she had three children, Harriet, Emily and Sam) and the actor Alex Giannini from 1998 until his death in 2015.