Les Dennis: I worry Dustin Gee thought he was alone when he died

Wednesday 8th May 2024, 5:40pm

Image shows left to right: Dustin Gee, Les Dennis

Les Dennis has opened up about the death of his late comedy partner Dustin Gee - lamenting what could have been for the beloved double act, while also revealing the heartbreaking final moments between the pair.

Gee died following a heart attack aged 43 in 1986 while appearing in panto in Cinderella alongside Dennis in Southport. Gee suffered a massive heart attack in the changing rooms on 1st January 1986, and passed away in hospital two days later.

Speaking to the Always Be Comedy podcast, Dennis has revealed his heartache that Gee feared he was "alone" moments before the fatal heart attack.

Speaking about the tragic passing of Gee, Dennis said: "I'd lost everything. I'd lost my future; people thought, 'Oh, he won't be able to do it on his own'. And I'd lost my best friend.

"We stood in that dressing room on New Year's Day. We had a little compartment between the rooms, so we always kept it open, and we were both shaving and chatting away about what kind of New Year's Eve we'd had. Dustin had a cardiomyopathy; he had enlarged heart muscle. But he loved life and he just lived his way.

"And I think he'd drunk brandy and been up till all hours, but he was shaving away and we were chatting. And then he went - because I must've been quiet - he went, 'I thought I was on my own then'. And it's always stuck with me that, you know, he felt alone. That moment, you know, and we lost him later.

"He collapsed. He literally stood in the dressing room, having come off stage laughing, and he held his left arm and said, 'I think I'm dying', and collapsed. He was revived and went two days later in hospital. But, you know, I lost a great, great, lovely man."

Speaking on the podcast, Dennis said he felt audiences had only seen "a zillionth" of what Gee was capable of. After all, the pair were all set to be 'the next Morecambe & Wise'.

"We were likened to The Two Ronnies. We were likened to Morecambe & Wise - the next Morecambe & Wise, the next Two Ronnies.

"We'd only seen a zillionth of what he was capable of doing. He had such a great smile; he could have done movies."

One thing that helped Les cope was the outpouring of love from fans - including a letter from one woman who had sent him a note that was clearly intended for someone else, much to his amusement.

"That was so moving when that happened," says Les. "The postman turned up with bags of letters, and it was amazing.

"I went through them. I've got to tell you - I've got to tell you a funny incident.

"One of the letters was from a vicarage and it was from a vicar's wife. She sent it to me saying, you know, how sad she was that Dustin had died. And then I opened another one that was in the same card and I thought, what's this?

"And she went: 'Dear Mary, I hate him. I can't stand him. He's getting on my tits.' This is about a husband! And the whole card was like this! I just thought it just, you know, I was in the middle of signing loads of... and it just, it made me laugh."

Life's Too Short. Image shows left to right: Keith Chegwin, Warwick (Warwick Davis), Shaun Williamson, Les Dennis

Les also revealed a spin-off of Life's Too Short was on the cards - but the untimely death of [l]Keith Chegwin] in 2017 scuppered the plans. Dennis, Chegwin and Shaun Williamson shone in the sitcom created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

"There was talk of a spin-off for the three of us and sadly we lost Keith," explains Dennis. "He was so excited about the idea of a spin-off."

Another showbiz icon Dennis loves working with is Michael Ball - the pair have earned rave reviews for their performances in the musical Hairspray. And Les pays Ball the ultimate tribute in the podcast, saying it's like working with Dustin Gee all over again.

"Whenever I go on stage with Michael Ball, I feel like I'm on stage with Dustin again.

"When we do Hairspray together - the gift of doing Your Timeless to Me with Michael Ball on stage and we are given free rein to enjoy and corpse is just the greatest gift - and the kind of gift that I used to have with Dustin.

"To be with Michael on stage, I'm not going to get Dustin again. I would love that if it was, if it was a choice, it would be, it would be to be on stage with Dustin and to be having the kind of laughs we had.

"But, with Michael, I get as near as I can to that."

Dennis will next be seen in Twelfth Night at Liverpool's Shakespeare North Playhouse. Tickets

The Always Be Comedy podcast is available everywhere you get podcasts. alwaysbecomedy.com/podcast

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