28 March 2009

"I Don't Really Know!" - How Les Dennis And Dustin Gee Became Vera And Mavis...

TV Times, July, 1985.

How did comedians Dustin Gee and Les Dennis come to double-up for Coronation Street's Mavis Riley and Vera Duckworth in the famous "Well, I don't really know!" sketches of the 1980s?

Well, it all started with Russ Abbot - who began his Madhouse era in 1980. Mr Abbot, his zany sketches and characters, and line-up of supporting stars, became one of the most popular shows on telly - and two of his supporting stars were Les Dennis and Dustin Gee.

It was during a Madhouse instalment that Mr Dennis and Mr Gee first "did" Mavis and Vera.

One particular sketch featured Russ Abbot selling sketches from a barrow.

"We had to pop up from behind the barrow doing particular impressions, but we got the sequence a bit wrong," explained Dustin Gee. "Russ had already got Mavis Riley beside him and he said: 'And what am I bid for a Bet Lynch?' I said, 'You can't have a Bet Lynch, but here's a Vera Duckworth,' because I was halfway dressed as Vera. I appeared and began talking to 'Mavis' in character. After that, we began to appear more regularly, eventually on Live From Her Majesty's as well as The Royal Variety Show."

Although I have hundreds of Corrie episodes on DVD, I don't have a single one in which the real Mavis actually says "I don't really know!" But, thanks to Dustin and Les, this phrase is still widely associated with her!

Tarty, worldly Vera and twittering, innocent Mavis were an excellent combination for some good, saucy fun. "You know what you need... cock," said Dustin's Vera to her unlikely pal. The slight pause turned Vera's familiar habit of calling everybody "cock" into something rather naughtier!

Sadly, whilst the Gee/Dennis partnership was at its height in 1986, Dustin Gee died of a heart attack, at the age of 43.

But the memories - and the laughter - remain.

1 comment:

Tara Lou said...

A lovely comic partnership. So tragic that Dustin died so young.