I was saddened to learn today of the passing of an old acquaintance: the actor, comedian, and political activist, Tony Booth.
He was 85 years old, not such a bad age, but had suffered from Alzheimers.
Our paths first crossed in 1975, if memory serves correct, in Leeming Road, Borehamwood. I was walking home from school, and he was taking a break from filming, and sheltering from the rain in a shop doorway. At that time he was famous for being Alf Garnett's son-in-law, the 'Randy Scouse Git', so I strolled over to wind him up. He told me to "fuck off home".
Tony's character was highly politicised, and reflected his own political views. He was, to put it bluntly, a Marxist-Leninist.
We maybe met half a dozen times, and it was always a great pleasure. I particularly enjoyed explaining to him in the Red Lion in Whitehall in the late 90's that the only half decent economic manifesto that his beloved Labour Party ever produced was the one written by Sir Oswald Mosley. He didn't take that so well - the Labour Party prefers to forget that the facist leader Mosley was once one of their MPs.
I once threw a firework at Tony, at a demo, again in Whitehall. I missed.... He told me to "fuck off" again.
The last time we met was when we both addressed the National Pensioners Convention, I believe in 2002. Bill Morris, the trade union leader, and Jack Jones - a former Communist Party commissar during the Spanish Civil War - were also on the bill. I was in seriously dodgy company that afternoon.
I think my speech went down well, but Tony gave a great one. Having taken his chair about 1 minute before he was due to speak, and despite being totally pissed, he got a standing ovation.
A lot of people suspected that Tony had a drink problem, but he would have strongly disagreed: for him it was no problem at all.
Tony will of course be best remembered for being the father-in-law of Tony Blair, something that will really piss him off. There was a love-hate relationship between the two.
There could not be two people more ideologically opposed than Tony Booth and myself, but he was a great character, and a lovely chap to be around. There are far too few people like Tony Booth in this world.
Rest In Peace, Tony.