Briton, comedian, satirist, lyricist, narrator, cartoonist, actor, writer and failed political candidate.
Best known as a panellist on the antidote to panel games: “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue”.
There was an old bugger called Rushton
Who I will not salute in a hushed tone…
-Beginning lines from a limerick by Barry Cryer
Willie Rushton was born William George Rushton in 1937 in Chelsea
. At Shrewsbury
school in Shropshire
he edited and illustrated the school magazine. On leaving school he entered the armed forces
, and upon emerging worked as a solicitor
. Despite a lack of training, he then became a freelance cartoonist
In 1961, Willie co-founded the satirical magazine “The Private Eye” – pioneering an anti-establishment style of humour that was to become extremely popular. At the same time he was working in theatre, then moved to television in David Frost’s “That was the week that was” – after producer Ned Sherrin spotted him doing impersonations in a review show.
The satirical and highly controversial TW3 expressed doubts about the British establishment, and went a few steps too far when the Private Eye team posted Rushton as a candidate in the Kinross by-election, as a protest against fellow candidate Alec Douglas Home's continuing career in politics. Rushton’s continuing impersonations of Prime-Minister Macmillan, combined with the candidacy, caused sufficient public complaint to have the show removed from the air.
The mid 1960s saw Rushton appearing in film (including “Those magnificent men in their flying machines”) and other television programs. Willie’s appearances as a television presenter continued into the 1970s.
In 1974, Willie Rushton joined the I’m sorry I haven’t a clue (ISIHAC) panel, becoming one of the 4 regular panellists. His immense talent for improvisation and his spontaneous humour made him irreplaceable…his long time teammate Tim Brooke-Taylor is now partnered by a series of guests.
Willie’s long list of accomplishments can be found below (from http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/R/htmlR/rushtonwill/rushtonwill.htm). He made time in his schedule to wed Arlene Dorgan, with whom he had three sons. He listed his hobbies as "gaining weight, losing weight and parking". He narrated the children’s television show “Trapdoor”, as well as doing voices for Winnie the Pooh, Asterix and Bananaman.
Willie Rushton died on 12 December 1996, at the age of 59, following heart surgery. His death was untimely and unexpected – he died a few days after the operation, having fully expected to be back at work within weeks. He had been overweight for many years, and developed adult onset diabetes, both of which could have contributed to his death.
In a truly fitting gesture, London Underground have honoured Willie with a plaque in the ticket hall of Mornington Crescent tube station. (Willie's position as a representative of the ancient and respected game of Mornington Crescent will be hard to fill. It has been suggested that his innovative variant on the Plankhouser opening be named in Willie's honour).
For further information and much hilarity you can listen to one of the four I'm sorry I haven't a clue compilations, or Willie Rushton At The Beeb - a collection of his funniest moments at the BBC
- It's All Over Town, 1963;
- Nothing But the Best, 1964;
- Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, 1965;
- The Mini-Affair, 1968;
- The Bliss of Mrs Blossom, 1968;
- The Best House in London, 1969;
- Monte Carlo or Bust/Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies, 1969;
- Flight of the Doves, 1971;
- The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, 1972;
- Keep It Up Downstairs, 1975;
- The Chiffy Kids, 1976;
- Adventures of a Private Eye, 1977;
- Adventures of a Plumber's Mate, 1978;
- The Blues Band, 1981;
- The Magic Shop, 1982;
- Consuming Passions, 1987.
- William Rushton's Dirty Book, 1964.
- How to Play Football: The Art of Dirty Play, 1968.
- The Day of the Grocer, 1971.
- The Geranium of Flüt, 1975.
- Superpig, 1976.
- Pigsticking: A Joy For Life, 1977.
- The Reluctant Euro, 1980
- The Filth Amendment, 1981.
- W. G. Grace's Last Case, 1984.
- Willie Rushton's Great Moments of History, 1985.
- The Alternative Gardener: A Compost of Quips for the Green-Fingered, 1986.
- Marylebone Versus the Rest of the World, 1987.
- Spy Thatcher (editor), 1987.
- Ffrench Letters. Every Cat in the Book, 1993.
- I'm sorry I haven't a clue - The official limerick collection