Monday, March 12, 2018

KEN DODD AND HIS MISSING MILLIONS - THE BIG RETORT



Your intrepid investigative reporter reveals the source of Doddy's Dosh and his missing millions. It was during the Christmas period of 1980/81 at Birmingham's Alexandra theatre. The panto was Dick Whittington. The Big Retort encountered that master of merriment then simply Mister Ken Dodd playing Idle Jack. Also in the cast was Jeffrey Holland, who had recently climbed to fame as Spike in the hit BBC tv comedy series Hi-de- Hi. And of course, somewhat further down the celebrity line-up - in the various guises of Dream People, Sailors, and Moroccan Guards - yours truly. TheBigRetort looks back on the king of comedy's licence to print the millions that the tax man never got his hands on... and reveals where it eventually ended up. 


The panto was a sell-out over its 6 week season. With matinees, the money going in and out of the cash tills was, I reckon,  in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds. However what the tax man didn't know is that an equal amount of money was being secreted out of the stage door into Doddy's jag from the lucrative and not so secret franchise that he was allowed to exploit during each sell-out performance.  Known as Ken's kickback, it was allowed by the company which looked the other way due to the magnitude of its star. 

In addition to his ample wage packet, Dodd, the undisputed star of the show, used direct selling marketing of the paraphernalia surrounding his Diddy Men creations. This franchise amounted to tens of thousands of pounds. 


“Could you ger us a pint, Kid. An' get one for yourself,” he said.

Between acts Doddy liked a pint to quench his thirst. However, because he was so famous, Ken couldn't simply walk into the nearby pub without causing a bit if a sensation.  I used to go for his bevvy regularly. Once off stage I used to pop into the pub in my costume, which caused a bit of a stir. Pints in hand, I would return to the theatre and see Ken sat in his dressing room reading one of the  many books on comedy that he regularly devoured. Or, more usually, counting out the spoils of his Diddy Men franchise. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, tickling sticks, colouring books, dolls of Doddy - you name it - Ken flogged the lot to a legion of fans... and raked in a veritable fortune. 

Ken retained two women who would stand in the foyer taking in thousands of pounds during the interval when the kids were all fired up on Doddy and his jam-butty mines.

Over the run of the show, whenever I would return with his pint, I would regularly see wads of cash stuffed into bags which would later go in the boot of his nearby Jag.

Doing the maths, I reckon Old Ken, who was then in his fifties, was probably pulling in about two thousand quid a day minimum - six days a week. 

And with matinees the takings would leap to phenomenal levels. 

Ken's stipend never went to the production company which looked the other way. They knew that this wasn't really Dick Whittington, but the Ken Dodd Show. 

Dodd was without doubt one of the most thrilling entertainers on the stage and had so much onstage charisma that he could light a city with it. 

However, the mask of comedy slipped on one occasion during that drive back to Liverpool.

The Lift to Knotty Ash

The trains weren't running out of Birmingham. I couldn't get home. However a former Bluebell dancer and singer was also appearing alongside Doddy under the stage name Sybie Jones. “Anne” (her real name) was also Ken's girlfriend. They seemed really close. They had been together for a couple of years. A really nice woman, Anne was then in her late thirties. She came in for a bit of stick due to her being cast in the pantomime as the Fairy of the Bells. But as nice as the fairy in the production she was, Anne was ten times nicer off the stage too... 

When she heard that I couldn't get home for Christmas, she would have none of it... and ordered Ken to give me a lift. 

I didn't hold out much hope because, whilst they lived in the other direction of the M62, my home was closer to the centre and out of their way.

There were also two Kens, the lightning-fast comedian, and the more staid and conservative loner.  

Ken like most stars I had met, was naturally protective of his privacy... and Anne his great and loving protector. However, to my great surprise and relief, Doddy said: “Annie says you need a lift. Ok, kid!” (He used to call me Kid as I was in my early twenties.)


Immediately after the curtain came down the colouring books and tickling sticks had been sold and the cash was firmly in the boot of Ken's Jag. Anne was behind the wheel. Ken had recently been banned from driving due to drink-driving. However, before we headed for the motorway he had arranged to stop off for midnight mass at a nearby church.

No matter where Doddy was appearing he did this every year and it was set-in-stone. Unfortunately lovely Anne got lost in Birmingham's then notorious one-way traffic system and with every turn of the wheel gone was the comic genius - and in his place was a very dark and moody Ken.

And as the clock ticked, and that midnight Christmas mass looked ever doubtful, Ken started to criticise Anne's driving. The king of quaint colloquialisms turned the air blue with four-letter invective

Finally, having enough of this, Anne slammed her foot on the brake. Nearly sending Ken through the windscreen, she stormed off in tears telling him to drive and giving a few expletives back.

Doddy looked at me; What's up with her – daft cow!”

He jumped in the driver's seat and took off after Anne, telling her to get back in the f-ing car. People looking on in amazement mouthing: 'Isn't that..?.'

Coaxed back, Anne remonstrated. She told him he couldn't drive: "You're banned!"

Ken would have none if it... He was headed for midnight mass and nothing was going to stop him.

Unfortunately as he steered this way and that through the city centre he was getting even more lost, and with mounting tight-lipped anger the devil had emerged.

Suddenly Doddy pulled up alongside this man, wound the window down and said “'Scuse me mate, do you know where the church is?”

This guy looks in the window and started to say. “Ermm... ermmm.'  His eyes went wide. He started to stutter: '”Hold on hold you you''re you're - Oh my god. You're you're... you're... hold on..”

--With that Ken floored the accelerator: 'Forget it!”he said. Leaving the man staring open mouthed and thinking.. I'm sure that was Ken Dodd.

When we finally arrived at the church we were late. Ken was really, as he might put it "discomknockerated". 

We rushed into the congregation. 



The Priest was in full flow and blessing his flock. However... murmurs were going all around the church “Doddy!” “It's Doddy!”

The priest, seeing Ken Dodd, stopped making the sign of the cross and rushed down the aisle.  The king of the Diddy Men had blessed one little church with his royal “plumtiousness”.

Doddy knelt. He placed his tongue out, and took holy communion. Ken, who had turned the air in the car blue, now looked as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He looked incredibly serene. And what was that? There was a halo around his head. It was from the flickering candles. A true master, he had somehow managed to find the limes, even in church. 

Ken Dodd was upstaging God! 


During the journey back to Liverpool, Ken started to have a bit go at my naive ambitions about acting. Anne told him off. But Doddy explained: 'You have to work hard if you want to make a success. That's all I'm saying, kid. It's the non-stop honing of your craft, falling down and' pickin' yerself up, that's the main thing. And even then you have to be lucky. Do that, Kid, and you're set.”

So said the man who had an instinctive timing and stage presence that electrified millions. I wasn't about to disagree.

The drive back to Knotty Ash should have taken just under two and a half hours. However, even though it was in the opposite direction, Doddy, who must have been absolutely knackered after his gargantuan performance and the drive, dropped me near my house. “Toxteth...hmmm OK” he had demurred.

I waived as they headed back to Knotty Ash after telling me where to meet on Boxing Day for the lift back to the show.


It was early morning. As I knocked at my mum's door she was waiting up for me.

"Ken Dodd just dropped me off,” I said chuffed.
"Yeas, sure,” she said. 

She was supposed to say 'Did he?' Then I could respond: 'No Doddy.' 

Mum wasn't falling for that one, "Ken Dodd... in Toxteth?"

But, anyway...

As for that dosh in the back of his car.... where did it end up?

Before his death Ken's house was raided in a search for his missing millions. Three hundred and thirty six thousand pounds was found in a suitcase. The rest was apparently secreted in 20 offshore accounts. 

But TheBigRetort can reveal where Doddy's millions lay buried... in a jam-butty mine in Knotty Ash. 

Kenneth Arthur Dodd OBE was born 8th November 1927. He died on the 11th March 2018, the undisputed King of Comedy. 

How tattyfilarious.



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