What's the word then?
Gary Frederick Holton was born on 22 September 1952 in Clapham Common, London. He was Ernie and Joan Holton's first son, being followed by Tony in 1957 and Nigel in 1961.
As a child Gary attended the Beaufoy Institute, near the Lambeth Walk, and with being a talented musician he played in the Beaufoy school band. However it was a whilst attending the public Westminster School as an 11 year old that his big break came when he was picked as one of thirty kids by talent-spotters who were auditioning children for parts in "Quatermass & the Pit".
"Well I started out in opera, believe it or not. What happened was they wanted about thirty dead-end kids to appear in it. They came to our school in South London and I was one of the thirty chosen. From that, I just carried on into other things then I got what they call a 'Governer's pass'. At the time they were phasing out the 11 plus, they were doing all these educational experiments. I was going to your standard shitty comprehensive, but I did well in these IQ tests or something and they arranged to swap me with some public schoolkid. It was only for two terms and wasn't a big deal." Legend has it that Gary was expelled for some heinous crime whilst at the public Westminster school... "There was a bit of an event, for which I got the blame." So was it you Gary? "Not 'just' me..."
Speaking in 1985 Gary reminisced further about his early years as a budding actor: "I had the run of school, I always had lots of money from acting so I used to pay people to look after me. That's when I learned to give a lot of lip, I used to mince into school with me Max Factor bag and the previous night's stage make-up on me face. I had to be tough, otherwise the other kids would've beaten the hell out of me. Me Grandad was a totter, and me parents divorced so I was brought up by me Granny. She used to sing old music hall songs while I did her corns for her and that's how I got interested in show business. She's dead now, but she's still with me, tapping me on the shoulder every now and then..."
With Barbara Windsor as his mentor, Gary's stage career began with Sadler's Wells where he appeared in "Gloriana", "Thieving Magpie" and "Peter Grimes". He then went onto act with Sir Laurence Olivier in "Love For Love" for three seasons, he appeared in "Much Ado About Nothing", "Hansel & Gretel" and "Les Enfants". Gary even wore a blond wig and glasses to appear as The Milky Bar Kid in TV adverts. Following his childhood experiences at the Old Vic Theatre Company and The Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, Gary joined the touring company of "Hair" aged 17 and remained with them for two years. More theatre work came later in his career which included David Anderson's "His Master's Voice" for the Half Moon Theatre, playing Danny Zuko opposite Olivia Newton John in the West End performance of "Grease", playing Derek in "Once a Catholic" which was directed by Michael Bogdanov, he acted alongside John Stride in "There's A Girl In My Soup" and strapped on a bass guitar for "Pump Boys and Dinettes" in 1984.
After treading the boards in his teens, Gary's musical talents lead him to front, amongst other bands, the London based punk/rockers Heavy Metal Kids. The band had strong live following, and three studio albums were recorded. Following the band's final album "Kitsch", 1979 saw Gary playing the lead part as Ken in Stephen Frears' gritty film "Bloody Kids". Soon after roles in other films came along including "Savage Messiah", "Music Machine", appearing with Hazel O'Connor in "Breaking Glass" and after losing out to Phil Daniels for the lead role, he was cast as the rocker Wesley 'Wez' Brooks in Franc Roddam's 1979 film "Quadrophenia".
Gary's television work included playing Keith in David Hare's "Dreams of Leaving", starring alongside Toyah as the tragic Mole in "Shoestring", Eddie Hairstyle in "The Knowledge" and small parts in "Tiny Revolutions" for Granada Television, "The Gentle Touch" for LWT, "Water" for Central. Parts also came along as Bernard Scroop in ITV's "Bulman" followed by an appearance as "Barry" in the Minder episode "A Number of Old Wives' Tales". Most famously Gary's big break came with the character Wayne in the Witzend/Central Television production "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" in 1983.
Gary's "Shoestring" co-star Harry "Aitch" Fielder remembers: I’m off down to Bristol and Western Super Mare for ten days to work on this. I’m playing a baddie and Christopher Biggins is my boss. Also in the cast are, Toyah Wilcox, Chris Jagger (Mick’s brother) and Gary Holton. Gary was to go on and star in "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet". My main job on the show was to look ugly and hassle Gary and to make his character behave himself. A slap here and a slap there. In one night scene I throw him off the pier into the sea (Two takes) at Weston-Super-Mare. (We used stuntman Stuart Fell for the shot) A lot of the time I would help the crew keep Joe Public from staring down the lens of the camera. It was called public liaison work. The BBC has a policy that if someone is in the way of the shot the first words you say is ‘’Excuse me sir/madam’’…I spent a lot of time on the beach with those lines. Sadly Gary Holton died a few years later and still a very young man…
Speaking to author Shirley Thompson in 2002 Gary's Mother, Joan, explained that, like many actors, when Gary visited her he didn't talk much about show business, he preferred to catch up on family news and just relax. "He loved to curl up in a chair and go to sleep or pootle around in the garden. "What time's dinner?" - that sort of thing." Joan and Ernie Holton were landlords of pubs the Wellington in Welshpool and the Crown & Sceptre in Minsterley, where Gary grew accustomed to socialising with the customers. "We were living in Houndwood at the time, I was a pub landlady, later he served behind the bar and when he was eighteen all the customers sent him birthday cards. He'd go and sit with the customers and play dominoes...he'd come home and relax...".
In between a stage and screen career, Gary also had a successful music career with Norwegian rocker Stein "Casino Steel" Groven. Gary and Casino recorded four studio albums between 1981 and 1984, with all four hitting the number one spot in Norway and Gary's brand of rig-rock earned him gold and silver discs for the singles "Ruby", "Blackberry Way" and "Catch a Falling Star".
Gary in the ads...
"Another pint here, when you're ready..."
The Dog & Bear, a name associated with Bridlesmith Gate, was a pub to stand back and admire before you went inside. Its fine stone frontage boasted eighteen gargoyles and three wrought iron balconies. It got its name from the once-popular national pastime of bear-baiting which used to take place in nearby Weekday Cross. Its sandblasted windows depicted a dog attacking a bear, look into a four-roomed pub which was later converted and modernised into a large L-shaped bar where manager Bill Bowman and his wife Olive were mine hosts during the 1970s.
Several years later, locals were in for a surprise one night when they were served by Auf Wiedersehen, Pet actor Gary Holton, complete with trademark red-streaked hair. Gary would often call in to the Dog & Bear for a drink when the filming crew were on location in Nottingham. One day, Gary challenged then-landlord Rob Koschmann to a "Slammers" contest to see who could down the most vodka and tonics whilst they were still fizzing.
Sadly for Gary, he keeled over after eight as the no-nonsense landlord was still on his own two feet. Gary's forfeit was a four hour stint behind the bar. The shift earned him £7.20 which he promptly donated to the Bradford Fire Appeal...but only after he completed clearing up and emptied the ashtrays under the eagle eye of landlord Bob.
"Auf Wiedersehen star in driving ban..."
Gary Holton, star of TV comedy series Auf Wiedersehen Pet, was banned from driving and fined £450 yesterday (3rd June 1985) on a drink driving charge. Before facing Magistrates at Clerkenwell London, Holton 32, who plays Wayne the cheeky Cockney womaniser in the series, lived up to his screen image.
He arrived at court on a bycycle, wearing a white t-shirt, white shorts and no socks. And just to complete the picture - in true Wayne style - a pair of sunglasses was strung around his neck and a ring dangled from his left ear. But after a brief consultation with his Solicitor, Holton left the court with his manager. When they returned 20 minutes later, the actor was wearing a pair of brew slacks.
Holton told Magistrates he had drunk Port & Lemon during a West End show to soothe his sore throat. Police stopped him later as he tried to drive off outside the Piccadilly Theatre where he was starring in Pump Boys & Dinettes. "I didn't realise I was over the limit" he said. But the Magistrate, Mr. John Davis told Holton "You had two and a half times the legal limit of alcohol in your blood and could not possibly have failed to realise this."
After the hearing Holton sipped at a lager and said "I didn't realise I was drunk because I was still so high on adrenalin after the show. The Police did me a favour. If I had driven I would've killed somebody." Now Holton will say Auf Wiedersehen to motoring and will travel around town by bycycle.
Drinks note: A spokesman for Tennants Pilsner, whose lager commercial Holton appears in, said last night that the advert would continue for the time being.