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Billy Connolly. June 2014
When Billy Connolly was still reeling from the bombshell double diagnosis -- both on the same day -- that he had prostrate cancer and Parkinson's, he privately wondered whether it was time to give up his comedy and acting career. But when he confided his thoughts to his wife, Pamela Stephenson, she lost no time in talking him out of it. "It would have been really bad for him to burrow away and not come out of his hole," she says now. So I told him "Look, I'll support you 100% if you want to do that, but I'm not sure if you'll love your life if you do, because you're happiest when you're performing." It was the right thing to say to him, and I pushed him into doing some concerts. He bounced back better than almost anybody could and he's doing really well. This is the first time she's talked about the emotional effect Billy's illness has had on their close knit family. They have three daughters together, Daisy, Amy and Scarlet, and Billy has a son Jamie and a daughter Cara by his first marriage. It started when Billy had the odd memory loss -- searching for words -- and he was also having trouble hearing, but he shrugged these symptoms off for months. But when Pam finally persuaded him to see a doctor last September it proved to be what he later described as 'a funny week'. On the Monday he was prescribed a hearing aid. On the Tuesday he was given pills for a touch of heartburn. And on Wednesday he was told he had Parkinson's --but only after an earlier call to say that a routine check up had shown he had prostrate cancer. "He had all these diagnoses in one go because he had ignored the symptoms and refused to go to the doctor" She explains. "It was the hearing loss that worried me the most at that early stage. He was a nightmare, with me saying, "Billy, you've got to get a check up," and him saying "Get off my back" And of course he was on a tour a lot of the time. Finally he had some time off and I dragged him kicking and screaming to the doctor. Pamela recalls the moment he got the dreaded phone call at the couple's home in New York. I was physically holding on to him at that point to reassure him and support him. That's what marriage is about: You have your ups and downs and you have to see each other trough them. I also understand the psychology of illness and I knew it was not going to be easy on me either. Let's face it he was terrible patient! she says ruefully. "But you can't blame someone for that when when they're going through something you're not." As a result Pamela has felt the need to be the family rock on whom everyone could lean. "It was important to be strong for Billy and our family, very much so." Yet even her background in clinical psychology didn't make it any easier for her to look into the treatment when it was so close to home in her husband's case. "It's sort of scary and you fall into the trap of seeing horrible things that you don't want to read," she admits. "That's all you see at first; then you have to take a deep breath and go back and read it again and pick out the positive things. "I knew the hearing loss in particular was effecting his ability to perform on stage because he couldn't hear the audience feedback, which is important for a comedian. All those years on the circuit sitting on huge stacks of loudspeakers was bound to cause some damage. So persuading Billy to wear a hearing aid was more of a hurdle than anything else. It made a tremendous difference to his to his quality of life and he's been performing much better than he has for years. By October Billy's prostate had been surgically removed and he was given the all clear. He was told his Parkinson's was a mild, slow moving form, and no medication was needed. But Pamela now reveals, the crisis wasn't over: after the prostrate operation he developed a life-threatening blood clot on his upper thigh that at first him medical team had failed to spot. "I knew it was a clot but the doctors weren't listening to me" she says. "Eventually I spoke to an intern on the phone, who said, "Just get him to the hospital right away!" I threw him into a taxi; he was in agony and crying with pain as the driver drove up the highway from our home. The road was in a very bad condition, so the taxi was bumping over it, Billy was saying, "Uh-oh, he drives just like you, Pamsy!" I said "Billy, I'm saving you're life here, stop going on about my driving!" Even though he was going through so much pain, he never stopped being his hilarious, curmudgeonly, adorable self. Fortunately I don't take it personally; I just think it's funny that he'd choose that moment to run down my driving." The hospital dealt with the clot and he was discharged. But soon after, when he was back at work and filming his TV documentary about how he dealt with death, Billy Connolly's Big Send-Off, which was aired in May, Pamela said the blood clot was still a problem. Luckily their middle daughter Amy, 28, had been invited to work as a researcher on the show. "Thank god Amy was with him. She recognised what was what was happening and they got him back to hospital to deal with the clot. He's had all his check ups and is in great shape now. She describes herself as a "Glass half full person, while Billy's a bit the other way, so we have a good balance. The Parkinson's is mild but Billy still worries about it," she admits "It's actually bigger in his mind than it is in reality; he's always watching for symptoms." Now she jokes that all her wifely efforts have 'saved' Billy for his bed scene with Shirley MacLean in the movie Wild Oats. It's currently being filmed in Gran Canaria and Shirley is the one sowing the wild oats with silver fox Billy. "He sent me an email about his scene with Shirley and also mentioned in passing that Demi Moore, his other co-star in the film, is even more beautiful than before Ashton Kutcher left her.! But Billy had a bed scene with Sharon Stone too in Beautiful Joe back in 2000, so I'm fairly used to him jumping into bed with other women - on screen of course" Pamela laughs. "Am I ever jealous? of course humans are always jealous; if your husband is going off to a movie with Sharon Stone and there's a bedroom scene in it, you think, "Hmm, you'd better behave yourself boyo." Just because you're married it doesn't mean you're not going to be attracted to other people - and hopefully you can talk about that. It's what you do with that attraction that's important. But it would be much harder for a spouse who hadn't been in the business, who didn't understand acting and how things are. New Zealand born Pamela first burst into the British comedy scene 1979 in ground-breaking BB2 sketch show Not The Nine O'Clock News alongside Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. She went on to join the Comic Strip, a late night club that young comedians Rik Mayall, Ade Edmonson, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Alexia Sayle, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders set up in 1890. The Comic Strip transferred to TV for Channel 4's launch night in 1982. But Pamela grew disillusioned with the comedy scene and headed in a different direction. She made her West End debut in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance instead, pursued a Hollywood career in which she became the only girl to sleep with Clarke Kent's alter ego in Superman 111, and joined US Comedy Show Saturday Night Live but left after one series because of it's drug taking culture at the time. These days Pamela doesn't look back nostalgically at her Comic Strip days. She's saddened by the shock news of Rik Mayall's death at 56, but says she barely got to know him on the few occasions when the appeared on the same stage; in the competitive environment, she recalls, friendships just didn't flourish. "Doing stand up was like a war with everybody playing this game of "I can be funnier that you." You had to come in like a boxer with lots of chutzpah and try to scare the pants of people. I remember envying Rik and the other boys for being guys, because the Comic Strip was really hard: I was one of the few women doing it and the audience sounded like they were out for blood, so the boys would take their trousers down on stage and other stuff that I couldn't possibly do. As for the very few females on stage, it seemed there was precious little solidarity there either. French and Saunders said mean things about me so I didn't want to talk to them. I don't remember exactly what they said, and it's all water under the bridge now, but I can understand why - because we were all fighting for space and at each others throats," explains Pamela. She retrained as a clinical psychologist in California, using her knowledge of show business to write her thesis on the harmful effects of fame and later presented TV show Shrink Rap, a series ob probing psychological interviews with Hollywood stars such as Tony Curtis and Robin Williams. "Billy was so proud of me getting my doctorate: he said he liked the atmosphere of calm study that I brought to the house. Of course he also meant, 'As opposed to when you were a comedian and rearing around like a crazy person!" Frankly it was hard to have two comedians in the same house. But show business is still in her blood. In 2010, at the age of 61, she triumphed against all the ageist odds by reaching the final of Strictly Come Dancing, which turned her into a poster girl for the sexy older lady but left her with unfinished dance business. "I never got to perform my Tango in the final!" She mock-wails. Hence her new project: the world premier at next month's Edinburgh Festival of her 75 minute Brazilian dance-drama Brazouka, which she wrote and is co-producing with Arlene Phillips -- who she met through Strictly -- as a choreographer. Brazouka celebrates the Afro-Brazilian dance of Lambazouk. She predicts it's going to be bigger than Salsa because it's the one dance where women can ask men to dance without losing face. "It's sensual and fun without being sleazy because it's not a meat market dance -- and it's so brilliant for women of all ages and sizes," says Pamela, very conscious that she's put a few pounds back on since coming second on Strictly. it's 33 years since she was last at Edinburgh, doing a stand up comedy routine in 1981, and Pamela now 64, is nervous about taking a new show to the world's biggest arts festival. Yet, after all that's happened with Billy's illnesses recently, she admits she really need some Latin American fun in her life. "I discovered on Strictly that dancing could turn around the way I was feeling. You go through awful things and then something like dance helps you reconnect with the joy of life," she says "And Billy thinks my show is amazing too. He calls the male members of my cast "Brylcreem Lotharios!" I'll probably practise psychology again at some point, but basically I was sitting on my a*** after Strictly and my body needed to move. Although she isn't officially performing in Brazouka, bar a surprise appearance somewhere in the evening , you can;t keep a Strictly star down. And she's never thought of a role for Shirley MacLaine. Billy's coming to see Brazouka -- maybe he and Shirley can do their bedroom scene in the middle of Princess Street to help promote the show" she jokes.
Billy is Gig Yin. Comic's 14-date tour of Scotland Sun July 10th 2014
Comedy idol Billy Connolly yesterday announced his first Scots tour since beating prostrate cancer. The Big Yin, 71 -- Who's still battling Parkinson's disease -- will perform to thousands of thrilled fans at 14 gigs in the Autumn. Last night a source revealed Connolly was in 'fine form' despite his health problems -- and has no intention of slowing down. He added "Billy's not one to spend his old age looking out of a window" "There will be no pipes and slippers for him" The stand-up hero will play his first show at Aberdeen's Music Hall on September the 29th, then head to Perth, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow. delighted fans took to twitter yesterday to celebrate the news. One said: "Shall definitely go and see him" Another wrote: "I need to see Billy" The dad of 5 -- wed to Pamela Stephenson, 64 -- revealed last year he's been treated for incurable Parkinson's disease, which can cause memory loss. Experts told him he can still perform but earlier he admitted he struggles to remember punch lines. The star told fans in Belfast it was f****** terrifying after suffering mental blanks on stage. Billy is now the the Spanish isle of Gran Canaria filming Flick Wild Oats. Tour tickets go on sale tomorrow. Tickets for all gigs were sold out in an hour, amazing.
It's Tout OF ORDER Sell out briefs resold STAR 12-07-2014
Thousands of Billy Connolly fans were left fuming yesterday after tour tickets sold out within minutes -- only to be re-sold online by ticket touts. Tickets for the High Horse Tour went on sale at 9am but the majority missed out in the frantic scramble for seats. Fury erupted as the official booking web sites crashed and tickets emerged just hours later on unofficial websites, with price tags of hundreds of pounds each. Much of the anger was directed at the main seller, Ticketmaster, for selling inflated tickets through it's partner websites at grossly inflated prices. Touts sold tickets on sister site GetMein.com, which deals with the resale and exchange tickets, for as much as £440. Meanwhile StubHub, a subsidiary of ebay, priced tickets at more than six times their face value. Tickets for a stall seat in Edinburgh's Usher Hall, which originally sold for £33, commanded a whopping price of £193.52 on the website. The venue's own website crashed early in the morning because of the high volume of requests. Fan Ewan Campbell took to twitter to vent his frustration, saying: "Ticketmaster offering tickets to see Billy Connolly at £129 each instead of £33. Commonwealth games farce again. Fellow fan Scott Reid had better luck, saying: "website crashed, gave up and went to the actual box office, queued for an hour but managed to get Billy Connolly tickets, Yes." Fans started queuing at 4am yesterday for Connolly's appearances in Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee and Glasgow in September and October. The 71 year old comic was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but vowed to continue performing on stage.
How a speech therapist helped Big Yin become "best he's been for years." 18-08-2014
His gruff are instantly recognisable to millions of fans world wide. But it proved no laughing matter when comedian Billy Connelly started to dramatically lose his vocal ability during his battle with Parkinson's disease. And yesterday his wife Pamela Connolly revealed he even considered quitting the stand up routines that took him from the Clyde Shipyards to the forefront of British comedy. Realising that the 71-year old Glaswegian's voice was failing, she persuaded him to attend speech therapy. She said: "I felt he needed to get over the sensation that he was an invalid and that was the end of his comedy career. "He loves to be on the stage and it would be disastrous to be withdrawn from that." The couple sought medical advice after the Scot was initially diagnosed with the disease. There was a point where his voice started becoming a bit thin," Mrs Stephenson Connolly continued. "But there are now fantastic speech therapists who work specifically with Parkinson's. His voice is actually stronger now. I said to him, "You should have been doing these exercises all you're life." "Remarkably Connolly was diagnosed with prostrate cancer and Parkinson's disease on the same day last September, although he is now cancer free. Last week, the couple lost their friend, actor Robin Williams, who committed suicide after learning he had Parkinson's. Having been together for more that 30 years, Mrs. Stephenson Connolly revealed that her husband is on the mend. It was psychologically quite hard for him to deal with these health crises, having been healthy his whole life," she said. With the Parkinson's now under control, the comedian does not appear to be experiencing any effects. Mrs Stephenson Connolly said he had 'Complications after his surgery but when he got through that he went on tour in America and New Zealand and was better than I've seen him for years' Meanwhile Connolly is teaming up with actor David Tennnant to appear in a new comedy film aimed at selling Scotland to the world. The comic and the former Doctor Who star play a father and son in What We Did On Our Holiday. Filmed in locations such as Gairloch, Loch Katrine and Callander, the movie hits the cinema screens on September 26th. Mike Cantlay, chairman of visit Scotland, said: 'The production crew have done an amazing job of capturing the unique peace, tranquillity and the breathtaking landscapes of Scotland.'
Scares in new Big Yin act 07-09-2014
Billy Connolly is to use his recent health scares as comedy material for his upcoming Scottish shows. The comic's wife revealed he had been practicing routines about his cancer diagnosis and Parkinson's Disease. Pamela Stephenson said Connolly was now feeling "Stronger than ever" as he prepares to make his long-awaited to the stage in his homeland.
The Glaswegian begins his high horse tour in Aberdeen later this month and will play 21 dates in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee. Last year the 71 year old was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and had successful surgery for prostrate cancer. Come Dancing star Stephenson said Billy's has given him a glut of fresh material. She said: "He's come through and out the other side of this stuff. "He's been really funny about the Parkinson's, really funny about the prostrate cancer. He's got things like how the cancer was found by a routine finger up the bum test. "He's just riffing with that now, he's going crazy with it." Stephenson, 64, said Connolly had made a remarkable recovery and told how the effects of his Parkinson's is very slow moving. He's probably had it for ten years, but he's got one of those forms that is very slowly advancing. "I mean you know that people aren't going to stay healthy and young forever, so you always know there's always the possibility that someone's gonna get sick. And every couple has to look at that. But life goes on and he's stronger than ever now. Connolly has previously said how he got the news he had cancer and Parkinson's on the same day. "On the Monday I got hearing aids, on the Tuesday I got pills for heartburn which I have to take all the time.
John Bishop:- "Big thrill to meet the Big Yin"
It's a moment John Bishop has waited 25 years for -- a personal audience with his comedy hero Billy Connolly. The pair got together backstage after the Big Yin's opening concert in Glasgow, the first of 11 sell-out gigs at the Clyde Auditorium. Liverpool comedian Bishop, 47, who travelled from his home in Cheshire, said: "they say never meet your heroes - but I just did and couldn't be happier. "Seeing him in concert was like studying for a master performing a comedy workshop." Daily Star 22 10 2014 by Gavin Docherty
He began his working life in the gritty surroundings of a Clydeside shipyard. Having honed his storytelling and jokes there. Billy Connolly embarked on a career that has entertained millions worldwide. So it was hardly surprising he should attend Broadway musical The Last Ship, which is set in a shipyard. The Big Yin was also keen to support his close friend Sting, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show. The pair have been pals since appearing together on Parkinson's many years ago. A fit-looking Connolly met Sting backstage -- but couldn't resist grabbing a cuddle from Northern Irish cast member Rachel Tucker. The last ship came to the eil Simon Theatre on Broadway in September following it's June premier in Chicago. Set in Sting's native North-East England, and starring fellow Geordie Jimmy Nail, it focuses on a close-knit community where life revolves around the local shipyard. by Bill Craven. Daily Mail 06/11/2014
Big Yin is back on Road.
Scots comedian Billy Connolly is to defy illness by embarking on another stand up tour later this year. The Big Yin, 72, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, has announced a string of dates in Canada. He will perform 13 nights in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary for his latest Stand Up show, the High Horse Tour. He will travel round the country in October and November with tickets for his gigs expected to sell out quickly when they go on sale later this week. In a recent interview, he said: 'I'm starting to have problems remembering things but who doesn't when they get to my age. Connolly also recently announced he is to swap his HARLEY DAVIDSON for the train in a new TV series. he has signed up for a documentary when he journeys by train when he travels across the US by rail. The show is called Tracks Across America, is set to see him visit Glasgow - not that one - a city in Montana. The travelogue will be filmed this summer and shown on ITV next year.
Sad silencing of Billy's Banjo
Billy Connolly didn't need to be around fellow Humblebum Gerry Rafferty for long to recognise what a real musician sounded like. He surmised correctly that, even after a life time of practice, he wouldn't be in the same league as his friend and, wisely, adjusted his ambitions. That did not mean the lifetime was abandoned. Even as Connolly became on of the funniest men alive, the banjo work continued, day after day, decade after decade. There was no laughter, no-eyes-a twinkle as he played. Billy the banjo man was a study of concentration, a toiler determined to wring the best he could from the instrument. Few were surprised when the comedian told BBC's Desert Island Discs that his luxury item would be his banjo. Now, battling Parkinson's disease, Connolly confides the tremors are too severe for him to play the banjo or the guitar . It must be a devastating loss. Connolly proves that musical instruments are not just for maestros. They are for anyone who gets pleasure from teasing a tune out of them. It's fitting that a mural on a housing estate in Anderson, Glasgow, depicts him playing the banjo. That's the Big Yin up there with one of the loves of his life.
Daily mail 09 01 2016
Billy Connolly loves nothing more than being funny. As a wee boy he'd sit in puddles to make him people laugh. Being a comedian is, he says, his purpose. 'Not a golden shiny purpose, but if you're lucky enough to find out what you do well - what you think your here for - do it. Besides it allows him to get away with stuff. "A luxury you get as a comedian is if your walking along the street and there are guys down a manhole digging in the sewer, you can say. "Come on put your backs into it. No wonder the Country is in the state it's in." They'll say, Oh bugger off Connolly." If you were a normal guy saying, "Put your back into it..."" The sentence ends in laughter. Then he sobers, touches the left hand that's resting on his thigh. Billy doesn't walk down the street the way he used to. "My left doesn't behave like my right any more," he says. "If I'm walking down the street I find I'm holding on to the bottom of my jacket instead of swing my arm. "This one swings" he holds up his right hand. And that one stays there." He nods at his left. Two-and-a-half years ago Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a progressive degeneration of the nervous system. On the same day he was told he had prostrate cancer shortly after hearing he needed hearing aids. It was, as he says, "a f*****g grey week." "Cancer is such a creepy word, Isn't it? I remember I was on the phone. I kind of knew before the doctor said it just by the tone of his voice. He said, "I'm afraid you've tested positive for cancer." I said, "Well, nobody has ever said that to e before." Pamela "Stephenson, his wife) moved behind me. I think she thought I was going to fall." After that phone call, Billy sat on the sofa and blew a raspberry. When you're the irrespressible Big Yin, there can be hilarity in despair too. But when he was told he had Parkinson's, there were only tears. "That's on of the symptoms" he says. You get very emotional. It was very scary at first. It isn't any more. Looking from the outside it's worse, in so much as it's easier to deal with it actually happening to you rather than the thought of it. When I met people who knew me they knew about it, so it was always at the forefront of their mind. The spectre at the feast. Pamela and Billy met on the set of Not The Nine O'Clock News in 1979 and married ten years later. She's now an eminent psychotherapist and best selling author. She cane third on Strictly Come Dancing 2010 and wrote and produced her own Brazilian dance show in 2014, which toured South Africa and Australia. How on earth does she find the time to support him? "There's no supporting going on. You stand on your two feet in our house". He laughs. 'She's been all over the place working. Although she's very supportive in so much as she's become a mother, 'Now look here. This is how you get your medicine. Pick it up on Friday, don't leave it to Monday". I just wander off. I like to be alone. People mistake it for loneliness but it's not. I have friends I see from time to time.
Billy's award for a lifetime of laughs. The big Yin outshines them all. Daily Mail 21 01 2016
During his illustrious career in comedy, Billy Connery has never shied away from using the odd swear word. So when the Scottish funnyman came to collect a Special Recognition Award at the national Television Awards, It came as no surprise when he jokingly called fellow comic Peter Kay a B******. Accepting the award from close friend Dustin Hoffman who flew in especially from the US, Connolly, 73, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, had the audience rolling in the aisles with his trademark blue humour. Looking frail but with his wit still razor sharp, Connolly had a dig at Kay after the Lancaster comic dedicated his own best comedy award to Connolly hailing him as his own comedy hero. Kay, whose show Car Share beat Benidorm, Birds Of A Feather and Not Going Out in the comedy Category, added "I'm dedicating it to you but I'm going to keep it" After being presented with his own award, Connolly jokingly hit back, saying "see that, he dedicated it to me and took it away from me. B******. When he arrived on stage at the O2 arena in London flanked by the band of the Scots Guards and a lone piper, Connolly joked: "This is the best laxative I've ever known in my life" He added: "I would like to thank the Catholic Church for the rhythm method without which I wouldn't be here. I would like to thank Bill Tennant in Scotland, the first man to put me on television. And Mike Parkinson the first Englishman to put me on television. After thanking everybody from Hoffman to his agents to his parents to his lovely daughters, who accompanied him. Connolly paid tribute to "British Comedians", saying "The standard is rising all the time, from Chic Murray and Max Wall through to Reeves and Mortimer". He said "I love you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart" The night also belonged to former Coronation Street star Suranne Jones, who in August secretly wed her partner, magazine editor Laurence Akers, 46, after a six week romance. Asked last night if she was pregnant, Miss Jones pointed to he blossoming baby bump and confirmed the news. Doctor Foster may see the 37 year old actress play a jilted and vengeful wife, but family life seemed nothing short of blissful as she wore a stunning black gown that showed off her bump.
The Daily Mail 20/02/2016
Billy and his wife, Dr. Pamela Stephenson, put on, a united front in New York to scotch recent reports that their 26-year marriage may be on the rocks. Prior to their appearance at a film bash hosted by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein this week, the couple had not been pictured together for ten months. Pamela , 66, was away in Brazil when Connolly , 73, picked up the special recognition gong at month's National Television Awards ceremony -- and the comic forgot to thank her in his acceptance speech. Happily all seems to be back on track, although Connolly, who is battling Parkinson's disease, revealed how his relationship with Pamela, a psychologist and sex therapist, has changed since since his diagnosis. "She's become my mother," he said. How very Freudian.
Billy's Break in Gozo before stand-up tour Daily Star of Scotland 02 11 2016 by Gavin Docherty.
Billy Connolly prepared for a gruelling stand-up tour by spending the summer at his Mediterranean hideaway. The Big Yin accepted medical advice to 'fuel-up' on the sun's vitamin D to help combat the effects of Parkinson's disease. He spent the entire summer at his bolt-hole on the Maltese island of Gozo. Billy said: 'I took advice to scale back and enjoy the simple life when I'm not working. 'Gozo is a small island off Malta and it's kind of agricultural, it's quiet, I sail my boat, read books and smoke cigars. He was also working on new material for his hectic 25-night High Horse tour of England and Ireland, which begins tonight in Birmingham. The new stand up set builds on material he trialled this year in Scotland. In the show Billy talks about his condition and the charity Parkinson's UK has created a special on line tribute page to recognise the star's highlighting of the disease. Billy even gets laughs out of the shaking that effects one of his hands, which he stuffs in his pockets and tells the audience: "It might cause some problems at the art gallery while I check out paintings of nude women!" It has not been easy for the 73-year-old legend to appear on stage since he was diagnosed in 2013, and he admitted he can only perform with "a little outside help" He said: "You've got to get your meds just right. It's quite a complicated procedure." Instead of the manic energy that marked his stage presence for four decades he now tends to stand still behind the microphone, but does pepper his material with physical gestures. Connolly has also recently sold his his New York apartment for a reported 33.5 Million but ha apparently vetoed any move to Los Angeles for better weather.
Brave Billy still makes us all laugh
Great to see the big yin looking well and happy during a walkabout in Manchester this week before his latest tour, High Horse. Billy Connolly has had a couple of rough years health-wise, after battling with prostrate cancer and a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, yet he's still as sharp as ever. Walking on to stage with a rapturous applause, he told the crowd: 'ach, you're only doing that because I'm Ill.'
PS I thought of Connolly this week when the first flakes of snow (OK sleet) fell across the country. As the wise sage once said: There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter.
Sir Andy geared up for kids tournament with Big Yins CDs
Sir Andy Murray has revealed mum Judy used to play Billy Connolly's CDs FOR HIM SO HE COULD HAVE A LAUGH BEFORE youth tennis tourneys. The Wimbledon champ, 29, said he and brother Jamie, listened listened to the Big Yin and belted out his Welly Boot Song in the car while they headed to junior events. He said: "I used to listen to Billy's CDs when I was a kid, normally when we were travelling to junior events up and down the country with my mum. "If it wisnae Fur Yer Wellies was always a favourite so thanks for the laughs" Sir Andy was speaking on a ITV documentary about the comedy legends life. The tennis ace from Dunblane, Pershshire, is seen singing along to the Welly Boot Song (If It Wisnae Fur Yer Wellies -- from the 1974 album Cop Yer Whack For This. Celebs including Sir Elton John and David Tenent also Toast Connolly, 74, and share their favourite stories. Sir Elton, 70, recalls Billy's first US Tour in 1976 as his support act -- wher the comic was booed off the stage. He said: "He was wearing the big banana boots and nobody could understand a word he was saying. "He was so broadly Scottish but he did brilliantly. It was very intimidating." Broadchurch actor Tennent, 45, told how he was flustered working with Billy on 2014 comedy flick What we Did On Holiday. Tennent, of Bathgate, West Lothian, said: "I've been very Fortunate to work with all kinds of extraordinary people and I've got over being starstruck, but I was very starstruck by Billy. "It took me about a week to be able to talk to him because I was such a fan." In the revealing special celebrating 50 years in show business, Billy talks about his four year Parkinson's battle. He said: "The doctor said to me, 'you realise this is incurable' and I thought 'what a rotten thing to say' "I thought he should have said, 'We have yet to find a cure' and put a little light at the end of the tunnel" But he admitted he struggled with fame as he recalled a trip with his daughter. He said: "I remember walking down Buchannan Street with Cara and hundreds of people saying, 'Hi Big Yin', She asked, 'Do you know everybody?' I said. Yeah, I don't think I've ever got used to it." firstname.lastname@example.org
As a new show celebrates his 50-year career, Billy Connolly on how he copes with Parkinson's and why he needs his wife Pamela more than ever. Laughter really is the best medicine. Incorrigibly mischievous as ever, Billy Connolly says it's laughter that's helping him cope with Parkinson's, as a new TV tribute marks his 50 years in show business. By Rebecca Hardy. There's a whole lot of shaking going on!
Billy Connolly was in a restaurant with his daughter Daisy the other night. It was the sort of Australian steakhouse that serves deep-fried onions cut in two to look like flowers. Daisy, 33, who has learning difficulties so continues to live with Billy and his wife Pamela Stevenson, loves the restaurant. Billy doesn't. 'It's terrible. I have to sit there and pretend I'm enjoying myself', he sys with a merriment about his face that says he doesn't have to pretend too hard. Billy adores his five grown up children. So much so, you sense he'd pluck every hair from his distinctive lion's mane of flowing locks to see them happy. So I'm sitting there and I got a pain in my left side,' he says. 'I thought, "I'm not going to be able to get up from here and Daisy can't help me." So I was working out a way to say to the waiter, "Excuse me out of the seat?" I was concerned. It was a thing that never arisen in my life before. 'It was just one of these moments . In the end I found the table was fixed to the floor so I could use it to pull on. But it was a question I had never asked before. I was wondering what kind of words I should put it in. "Should I tell him I've got Parkinson's or will I just ask him to help me?" Billy was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder that effects the nervous system, three and a half years ago .Last year, when we met in New York to mark a national television Awards Special Recognition Award for his 50 brilliant years in comedy, film music and TV, the effects of this cruel disease wew barely noticeable. Today his left side shakes uncontrollably. Pamela has come with him to the hotel in which we meet, which is a few blocks from their home in Florida where they moved four months ago. We're here to discuss this Weeks ITV Special, Billy Connolly and me, to mark those five decades entertaining us. The one hour show features classic clips through the years: Billy bursting onto the stage in Glasgow in the black leotard and the big banana boots that lead to his showbusiness break in 1975, Billy danced naked around the statue of Eros in Trafalgar square for comedy relief, Billy on a boat, a bike and a bungee rope for his TV Travelogues. Billy dazzling . electrifying . Full of Vim. The change has been swift. A week ago, he explains, he was put on some medication that's 'shaken me up a bit' This is actually the first medication I've been on. The Specialist here in America kept me off it until I got t a certain point and then she put me on it. There's a whole lot of shaking going on. it's kind of weird, this instability. The only time it stops is when I'm in bed and then I can't roll over'. He pauses. Laughs 'I'm like a big log.' Billy's humour is a ridiculously contagious thing that's kept many of us laughing for most of our lives. He loves being funny. As a wee boy he'd sit in puddles to make people laugh. He's now 74 but still nothing more than to plonk his bottom in the funny stuff of life. 'I bought my kids a book at Christmas, The f??? it list ; All the things you can skip before you die', he says. 'It's the things you have on your bucket list but have no intention of doing, like Sky Diving. I always wanted to Sky Dive because I parachuted, but I'm not going to do it now. 'A sense of humour is absolutely essential. It's the only thing that gets you through. Sometimes I get kind of dark about it. It's because it's forever, you know. It's no like having pneumonia and you're going to get better. You're not going to get any better. A Russian doctor said, "It's incurable." I said: "Hey, try, we have yet to find a cure." In curable is so static and terrible. There's no escape. 'It's the first thing I think about in the morning because getting out of bed is quite hard. It's a weird thing because it stopped me playing the banjo and it stopped me smoking cigars. It seems to creep up on everything I like and take it away from me. It's like being tested, "Cope with that, cope with life without your banjo. Now I'm going to make your hand shake so you can't tie your fishing flies any more." in his darker moments does he ever think there's a stage at which he'd decide enough is enough as his old friend Robin Williams, who also suffered from Parkinson's, did three years ago. Billy was deeply upset by his suicide. Robin was 'a pal' who he loved dearly. 'Asking waiters to help you out from the table is one of those stages,' he says with an honesty that defines this brilliant man. 'It's like saying to your wife, "could you help me up from the chair?" Which he's done upon discovering a chair is too low for him when he arrives. 'It's weird. I'm trying to stay on the light side because the dark side is unthinkable.' Does he ever get angry? 'Aye,' he says. 'I apologised To Pam yesterday. I said, "I've been a bit gruff." She said, "Oh, you're okay", 'I just get fed up.' Pamela and Billy met on the set of Not The Nine Clock News in 1979 and married ten years later. She's now a eminent clinical psychologist and best selling author, but mostly, I suspect, she worries about Billy. She stopped him 'going down with the ship' with his heavy drinking when they first fell in love and would move heaven a earth to be able to do so now. So much so that last year she decided that they should leave their home of ten years in New York for a warmer climate in Florida. He likes nothing more than to spend his days 'on the boat fishing' or drawing. ' This one doesn't shake,' he says holding up his right hand. 'So I can draw. I've had exhibitions. the other day I drew a half man half frog. It's lovely here, it makes me feel good, plus when we moved it was winter in New York and I didn't want to be sliding all over the slide walk. I'm not very good with balance. I walk like a drunk man. You have to take all that into consideration. Pamela arranged it. Right now Pamela is off fetching him some tea and honey. This morning she brought him breakfast in bed. 'I'd already got up so I had to go back into bed, so I had to get out twice just to be nice.' He laughs fit to burst. Again, it's contagious. You just can't help yourself around Billy. Then he stops. Pauses. Reflects for a moment. 'It's kind of drawn us together ,' he says. I'm really dependant on her, you know physically, whereas I used to be the strong guy. which is kind of pleasant. It's a pleasant thing to lose the strong guy. You don't need it. Si it's nicer'. In the past time spent apart seemed to be the glue that held the two of them together. Billy has always been something of an island -- a man who likes to be alone. 'I don't really belong anywhere,' he says. I get along just fine on my own. Even in a crowd I sort of hind myself standing quiet, alone, observing. I don't like people I know next to me in the dressing room before I go on stage. 'My mind is always somewhere else. So I'd ask Pamela not to come. She never understood it. She always thinks it's because of the groupies -- she calls them floozies. She's off her head. It's nonsense. I don't floozie.' Did you ever? His eyes light up like a paparazzi flashbulb. 'That's one OF THE GREAT side dishes of show business,' he says. 'To deny you enjoyed it would be a sin. It's like saying you feel nothing for your ols girlfriends. I love them all. I think very fondly of them all and I think of them often.' Hang on, Billy. Rewind. Were there lots of floozies? 'Millions,' he says. 'It was lovely, smashing . Men lie to themselves with consummate ease. They just say, "Oh, It doesn't matter. It's not the same thing." I Always remember the floozies as great fun. Although I was drunk most of the time so I don't think I was a great lover.' The floozies stopped when he met Pamela. 'She's the real thing,' he says. It was good for me in so many ways. It was time to change. It was time to change what I was or go down with the ship and she helped me by spotting I was in trouble. I didn't think I was all. 'What it did was drag me into the new world by having children again. (Billy had two, Jamie and Cara, from his first to Iris Pressagh and three , Scarlet, Amy and Daisy, with Pamela) and having to face it. So I had to stop doing everything in order to have the energy to cope with these kids, and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Billy, born the youngest of two children in a tenement in Glasgow, was four years old when his mother Mary upped and left the family home. He and his sister Florence were bullied by two aunts who raised them and, when his father William returned from serving in the RAF in Burma, Billy was physically and sexually abused by him too. Such is Billy's way of looking at life, he's never really wallowed in self pity. There's no need to be bitter about anything because there are great examples all around you,' he says. 'I always remember going to my friends' houses and how different the atmosphere was there. So there was always hope .... in the distance'. Again he stops and thinks. 'this Buddhist thing (Billy, who was raised a catholic, explored Buddhism after meeting Pamela), this living in the moment is vey good for that. This is all there is. The past doesn't exist. You have to make it exist by thinking about it. Moments are all created. These moments have, by any measure, been pretty extraordinary even for a man gifted with an imagination as big as Billy's. Take for example the pals he's made along the way: legends such as Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John, Eric Lidle, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, the Duchess of York, 'Prince Charles is a nice bloke. He's got sole'. he says. Most of the Royals I've met have been really nice. I like toffs. It's like meeting PD Woodhouse. There was a doctor I knew in London who was real toff. He and I were having a cup of tea with friends and someone was saying something about the working class of Trade Unions. The doctor said, "Don't say that in front of Billy. He'll box our ears and call us clots." I was helpless.' Billy slips into a posh accent. 'You clot' His eyes are wet with tears of laughter. 'I remember Fergie's two girls Princess Eugenie and Beatrice were in our house in Los Angeles where we lived before moving to New York. They were with my girls playing in the dressing up box. They both came into the room and said, "Look, we're Princesses." " He rolls his eyes in humour. 'When I was working as a welder (Billy worked as an apprentice welder before taking up the banjo.) I knew I was going to be something. I just didn't know what it was, but I fancied being a somebody I remember sitting on the propeller shaft looking up the Clyde and designing my album sleeve. I didn't even play the banjo then but I I was designing it in my head." When Billy decided upon the Banjo instead of welding at the age of 23 his grandmother, one of the few people who showed him love in his childhood, told him his head was full full "full of daberties". Daberties were sort of stick-on tattoos that you licked and dabbed on your hand. It was the most Scottish thing I ever heard. A daberty is nothing, so she meant my head was full of nonsense, which of course it is." As ITV's Billy Connolly & me shows, It's a nonsense that has brought joy to many to stars such as Dame Judy Dench , David Tennant and Andy Murray to numerous everyday fans in the street. His career as he says, went 'whoosh' in 1975 when he told a bawdy joke on BBC's Parkinson chat show about a man who murdered his wife and buried her bottom up so he would have somewhere to park his bike. 'That was an incredible moment of my life,' he says. 'I knew when I did the show it was amazing. I go to Heathrow the following morning to go back to Scotland and a Chinese gut actually actually asks me for my autograph. I thought, Holy shit. Then I got to Glasgow and everyone was clapping. Can you imagine?. It was like a James Stewart film. I liked the fame. You're a somebody. loved. Billy is loved the world over. As interviews as interviews with his fans on his ITV special show they know him everywhere from his native Glasgow to Timbukto. But it's his enduring humility that makes him loved. Does he ever make ridiculous demands? 'That's a terrible trap to fall into,' he says. 'Apparently Elton does it.' He says this fondly. Elton is , of course, a dear pal. His eyes sparkle with humour as he warms to his theme. He get white roses with all the sharp bits, the thorns, taken off. The American Rock Band Three Dog Nights requested wheelchairs before a gig because they were going to be stoned when they arrived. 'Harvey Goldsmith, the rock concert promoter, was going to do a book of all the demands made by famous Scottish people because he saw all the contracts, but nobody would give him permission. He's a smashing guy. He's my brother. I like him.' His eyes soften. Aye, fame's great but if you're not careful you forget what your aim is in life because you're under such tremendous pressure. When I was about 40 I did this deal with myself. I wrote down the things I wanted in life on a card and stuck it in my wallet. You don't read it, but it's there poking you in the forehead. Remember, Remember. He says he began to relax a bit more after the success of Mrs. Brown, the Oscar Nominated film about Queen Victoria's relationship with her Scottish servant in which he co-starred with Dame Judi Dench. who sort of showed me. It was a lovely moment. we were doing the eight-some reel. She was opposite me in the circle and she was looking at me. I thought, "She fancies me. What am I going to do? Judi Dench fancies me." Then the penny dropped she was acting. She was just being that person. You have to give your own self and I did it after that. He pauses. 'Where was i?' Billy is beginning to tire. He thinks. Continues. 'I was looking at the card three weeks ago. Everything worked, so things have worked out pretty well. It happens because of the effort you put into your work. It pays off. Aye, moments are all created. They don't just happen. I always like it when I walk on stage and they laugh when I say hello.' Will we walk on stage again? 'Aye, well..' he stops. Starts the sentence again. 'I'll have to see how this medicine works out. Life's good fun. You must never forget it's good fun as well. We used to say in Scotland, "We never died a winter yet." Winter comes and Winter goes and it never killed us killed us before, so lets get on with it. Billy smiles at the thought of this. It's time for him to go. He needs to eat and rest. But as Pamela moves to help him up from his chair he says he'll try it himself. He manages it. Perhaps the medicationis sorting itself out? 'We live in hope,' he says. We Do.
Laughing in face of adversity
The so-called Greatest Living Scotsman went into retirement a few years ago and, I fear, won't be coming out. He can look back and reasonably conclude he was by a mile the best James Bond, even if he didn't get to say the best line in a Bond film. If Sir Sean Connery occupies the number one spot of still breathing Scotsmen, then Billy Connolly is a popular shoo-in for number two. But on the evidence of ITV's Billy Connolly and Me this week, it seems he, too, must embrace retirement. His Parkinson has left him unable to play his beloved Banjo and sometimes too unsteady to get to his feet. It was emotionally draining to watch the screamingly funny physically comedy from from his prime interspersed with interview clips of the weakened, wizened, yet wise figure he has become. Still joking, still funny, he's a force of nature. Perhaps that number two slot does the big yin a disservice.
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