Was there anyone who did not love Barbara Windsor? The so-called second Queen of the United Kingdom and British acting royalty. I do not know anyone who did not shed a tear on Thursday 10th December 2020 following the loss of the world’s most bubbly blonde, despite her death being expected. We will never forget that infectious, suggestive laugh and the talents of the ‘cockney bird’.
Dame Barbara Windsor was best known for her role in EastEnders and The Carry On films.
She was BAFTA nominated for her acting role in Sparrows Can’t Sing and Tony-nominated for her Broadway role in Oh! What a Lovely War.
Barbara became a Dame not just for her work in the entertainment world, but for the incredible amount of charity work she participated in. Her charitable work included collaboration with Age Concern, Age UK, The Amy Winehouse Foundation, and Great Ormond Street. The true list of charitable work, however, is endless.
I cannot honestly say that Barbara was a good friend of mine, although the phrase is used so liberally these days. But over the years we crossed paths many times, and I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with her. You never forget a chat with Barbara, who was refreshing and straight to the point.
My first outing on the London showbiz scene was with the journalist, Lester Middlehurst. When I arrived, I was a little nervous, and Barbara Windsor, who knew Lester, was there among the celebrities. My Dad was a huge fan, as was I, of the Carry On films, and I was feeling a little star-struck and out of my depth.
Before you knew it, there were around five flamboyant men all craving Barbara’s attention. On the side next to me was a very handsome, dark-haired man called Scott. It was a relief to chat with him as he was down to Earth, funny, and put my nerves at ease; I started to relax. It was not long until Barbara Windsor approached us. Of course, Scott was Barbara’s partner, and she was just as lovely as him; they were a beautiful couple. Being keen on theatre productions, I asked her what it was like to work at the Royal Court with Joan Littlewood. She looked at me a little oddly.
“What did you ask me, darling?” I repeated it. By this time the admirers were back around her. “Shhhhh”, she said, “I am talking to Steven.” She led me and Scott off. “That’s not the usual question I get asked,” she laughed. We had a lovely time chatting and Lester commented: “Well, Barbara seemed to like you”.
Barbara made anyone she liked feel special, and she had the ability to make others feel good.
Over the next few years, I chatted more to Scott as we share the same humour. The next meeting with Barbara was at the 50th birthday party of the Irish singer Rose-Marie, a dear friend of mine, at a pub on Edgware Road. Barbara made a beeline for me.
“You’re always chatting to my Scott. You know, darling, some people who ought to know better aren’t always nice to him.”
We spent ages talking about relationships, my partner and the 28-year age gap between us, and people’s reactions. I remember asking her, “Are you looking forward to becoming a Dame?”
Barbara replied, “Never, not with my history with Ronnie and the boys.”
She laughed, but it was right and a Dame she deservedly became.
On a camp trip to Marbella with a selection of the Coronation Street cast, including the wonder that is Denise Welch, we came across the EastEnders crew and cast, who were filming there, and Barbara, Scott, and Rula Lenska joined us for dinner. What a wild night that was.
The last time I saw Barbara and Scott was at June Brown’s book launch for, Before the Year Dot. The executives were desperately trying to get Barbara back into the show and even spent that night pitching it to her. Barbara was not budging, she had had enough, as she told me and singer Rose-Marie.
Something hit me when the news broke of her death. Everyone began their descriptions of her with the details of her height. As I am not concerned with size, maybe it did not cross my mind. Barbara seemed huge in stature as she filled the room with personality and talent. Barbara was an industry giant and did not suffer fools gladly.
Barbara was a true professional; she always had a smile on her face at every event. Her on-screen daughter, Daniella Westbrook, recently said: “Barbara always said you owe it to the public to always have your happy face on. Don’t go out if you’re not going to be at your best.”
Daniella added, once home she liked to pop the kettle on for a nice cup of tea, take her shoes off, and sit on the sofa where she became just Babs.
We all miss Babs. For a little nostalgic dip into her life, I recommend having a look at the BBC biopic about her, with the excellent Jamie Winston and Samantha Spiro stepping into her shoes.