Tommy Cooper's Real Name
Thomas Frederick Cooper
Magician, Comedian, Entertainer
Place of Birth
Caerphilly, South Wales, UK
Tommy Cooper possessed the ability to induce laughter in his audiences through his comedic genius and aptitude for slapstick comedy.
One evening in Cairo, during a sketch in which he was supposed to be in a costume which required a pith helmet; having forgotten the prop, Cooper reached out and borrowed the fez from a passing waiter which got huge laughs. It was from this incident that the hat became a trademark of his.
Tommy Cooper was born Thomas Frederick Cooper in Caerphilly, Wales on March 19, 1921.
He was born 2 months prematurely and the doctors warned he might not make it through infancy. However, his resilient nature allowed him to endure and survive.
His father, Thomas H. (Tom) Cooper, was a Welsh army recruiting sergeant, and his mother, Gertrude was from Crediton, Devon.
The Cooper family relocated to Exeter, Devon, in response to a job offer. Tommy was three years old at the time and eventually gained the West Country accent that would be part of his act.
The Cooper's lived in the back of Haven Banks, where Tommy attended Mount Radford School for boys. Apart from school, he helped his parents run their ice cream van, which attended fairs on the weekend.
At the age of eight, an aunt bought Tommy a magic set. Enthralled and eager, young Tommy would spend hours perfecting all the tricks. By the age of sixteen, he got a job as magician on a boat, however, his first performance was a disaster.
Due to stage fright, all his tricks went wrong, people started laughing and he ran away in tears. However in retrospect, he realized that if he concentrated on making people laugh he could develop a very good routine utilizing magic and comedy.
Incidentally, following in Cooper's footsteps, his younger brother, David, would eventually open his own magic shop called 'D. & Z Cooper's Magic Shop' in the 1960s.
After school, Cooper became a shipwright in Hythe, Hampshire, and in 1940 was called up as a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards regiment of the British Army in World War II.
He served initially in Montgomery's Desert Rats in Egypt. He became part of the NAAFI entertainment party and developed a magic act incorporating comedy.
In 1947, when Cooper was demobilized after seven years of military service, he took up show business. He would later add a popular monologue about his military days as "Cooper the Trooper."
He worked in variety theatres around the country and at London's Windmill Theatre, where he performed 52 shows per week.
Cooper had harnessed his conjuring skills and was a member of the prestigious Magic Circle. He polished his act; an ongoing delivery of "Failed" magic tricks, though he would keep audiences on their toes by performing a trick that worked when it was least expected.
He quickly became a top draw on the variety circuit with his incompetent conjuring act. He made his television debut in 1948, on the show 'New To You,' which proved so popular, he soon starred in his own TV shows.
Cooper was at his prime when he performed on Thames Television from 1968 through 1980, as millions tuned in to watch.
The latter part of the 1970s was marked by a deterioration in his health as his heavy drinking and smoking began to take it's toll. In 1977, he suffered a heart attack in Rome, however, he returned to the stage just three months later.
After 1980, Thames Television declined to give him his own show, but he remained a popular guest on other TV programs. He worked with scriptwriter and performer, Eric Sykes in 1982 on two shows: 'The Eric Sykes 1990 Show,' and 'It's Your Move.'
On April, 1984, while performing live to millions on ITV's 'Live From Her Majesty's,' Cooper suffered a massive heart attack. Some audience members thought it was part of the act, but it soon became apparent that Tommy Cooper was gravely ill.
He was rushed to London's Charing Cross Hospital were he was pronounced dead. He was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium in London, and was survived by his wife, Gwen and two children, Thomas and Vicky, and a two-year-old grandchild, Tam.
In 2008, a statue of Cooper was unveiled in his hometown of Caerphilly, Wales. The statue was presented by fellow entertainer Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is a patron of the Tommy Cooper Society.
Information credit: Pettinger, Tejvan, Wikipedia.
Photo credit: Jon Lyons
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