It was very sad to hear about the passing of Sir Bruce Forsyth last week, but what a legacy he left behind. He was the TV favourite, whose career spanned an incredible 75 years in show business, with hits such as Play Your Cards Right, The Generation Game, and of course Strictly Come Dancing.
However, Sir Bruce wasn’t an overnight success. From nine years old, he studied and worked hard at his craft, beginning with dancing lessons in Edmonton, North London and then creating his first song & dance act The Mighty Atom at just 14. He never stopped working and learning, from his early performances in regional theatres to the acclaimed compere role at the London Palladium which he began in 1958, and of course being television’s consummate game show host.
I’ve always felt Sir Bruce was an incredible role model for any performer, and having just re-read his biography (published in 2001), I believe there’s so much we can all learn from his incredible life in showbusiness.
Here are just some of his enduring qualities, which I think made him the master of all round entertainment with some quotes from some of the people he worked with over his long career.
1 – Work Hard
Sir Bruce always worked hard, both at his craft but also at staying fit. His mantra was “rehearse and rehearse”. He had a reputation for being a perfectionist and such was his determination to get everything just right, he’d still get nervous before going on stage.
As he said himself: “When a performer doesn’t get nervous, that is when you have to give up”
Arlene Philips, the choreographer and Strictly judge said of him:
“Bruce never stopped working, not just in terms of training but in rehearsal… going over things – he worked hard at being Mr Showbiz. To retain his balance, he used to spin 80 times a day, to the right and to the left.”
Former BBC Chairman Lord Michael Grade said:
“Nobody in the history of British show business had worked as hard as Sir Bruce while enduring in the public’s affection”.
2 – Be Yourself
So many people go in to performer mode when they go on stage and lose their authenticity – not Sir Bruce.
As Michael Parkinson said in his tribute:
“He loved entertaining people. There wasn’t a phoney part of him.”
The TV presenter Claudia Winkleman said of him:
“The Bruce you saw was the man he was”
3 – Connect with your audience
What stood out for me was his interaction with the public. He was someone who knew how to connect with his audience, and he did it brilliantly.
Lord Hall BBC director General said:
“I saw him perform and marvelled at the chemistry between him and his audience right from the moment he took to the stage – and, by the way, that was always well before any cameras were rolling”
Peter Bazalgette, former Royal Television Society president said in his tribute:
“He had this amazing ability to take the mickey out of the public and make the public enjoy the experience.”
For me Sir Bruce was a true all-round performer which is a rarity these days. He was and remains a real inspiration.
The last word goes to Emma Pryer a TV Editor who said “Sir Bruce was not driven by ego, he was not motivated by money, he was simply born to entertain.”