Pals' tributes paid to 'one of the greats'
TRIBUTES have been paid to former Torquay resident Max Bygraves.
The comedian, singer and variety performer died peacefully in his sleep at home in Australia aged 89.
The singer used to live in a once-trendy, 1960s-built, copper-topped, two-storey house in Torquay's exclusive Thatcher Avenue.
He returned in 2003 when appearing at his final 'birthday tour' but the building had been knocked down and replaced with new homes.
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Speaking to Herald Express entertainment editor JonPaul Hedge, he said: "It was a good place. We must have lived there for six or seven years back in the 1960s.
"We had to give it up in the end because of the motorway journey.
"Even in those days, it was a four-hour journey and, as much as I liked Torquay, it was simply too far to travel."
South Devon entertainment agent Trevor George was a neighbour.
Now 88 himself, Mr George said: "He was a jolly nice guy. He had a big heart. We had quite a lot to do with each other, his son Anthony owned the Babbacombe Theatre for a brief spell so we spent some time on working out who should go on to the show.
"I went to Max's 25th wedding anniversary which was held in the bar at the Princess Theatre. He was one of the greats."
The Krankies had a friendship with the singer spanning more than three decades.
Speaking from her Torquay home, Janette Tough said she had received an email from one of his daughters breaking the sad news.
She said: "We were friends. We knew him since the 1978 Royal Variety Performance. Over in Australia he lived only 20km away from our apartment so we would meet at dinner parties and for golfing. He was a good golfer.
"He was very warm and always had time for people. He wasn't one to shy away from the public.
"We went to his wife Blossom's funeral. Last time we were in Australia we were going to see him but his daughter said he wasn't in the best of health and was often confused.
"I just wanted to be able to remember him the way he was — full of life."
Mr Bygraves had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago.
The singer had urged Mrs Tough to get back on the stage after her near-death ordeal falling from a beanstalk in 2006.
Princess Theatre front of house manager Brenda Wallis said: "He is my favourite artist of all time. I would have paid to see him if I hadn't been working here.
"He was kind and pleasant and always chatty. He was short at the bar once and still owes me 40p."
Born Walter Bygraves in south London in 1922, he adopted the name Max after his hero Max Miller.
Martyn Jenkins, technical and stage manager at the Princess Theatre said: "I worked with him in 2003 and, for a man of 81, he looked and sounded fantastic. He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand and looked extremely sharp in his beige suit."
It is hoped there will be a memorial service and a celebration of his life and work in the UK later in the year.