Just before Christmas, as the gales and the sirens blew wildly outside, I heard the sad news of the death of comedy’s number one mover-and-shaker, Addison Creswell. Ruthless, abrasive and extravagant, Addison was beloved by (most of) those who knew and worked with him and he engendered almost as many outlandish stories as his old mucker/rival, Malcolm Hardee.
Yes, he was an arch capitalist with a taste for cigars and smart members clubs but I met him first when he was organizing benefits for the miners during the strike of 1984. He was only in his early twenties then but his character was already fully formed – the gushing energy, the East End gangster persona, the designer suits, the head-locks…..
Addison had an acute eye for new talent and how best to promote it. He offered his clients total loyalty but demanded they take his advice on what to wear, which gigs to do, which parties to attend and the best people to schmooze at them. If you had become a comic in order to get rich and famous (and, as far as Addison was concerned, you surely must have) and you had the talent then he was the man who could make it happen. And he was right. You need only Google the list of comedians he represented to see what a crucial role he played in the growth of comedy in the last 30 years
Most comedy agents and TV producers are not extravert; they stand back and make it possible for the big, show-off comedian to shine. Not Addison, who, despite having no desire himself to caper in the limelight, was more charismatic than many of his acts. You did not forget encounters with Mister Cresswell…..
I used to see him in my Soho days , gleaming and glinting in the Groucho club or hustling in the Atlantic bar near Piccadilly Circus. He was always warmly welcoming and would soon be recounting his latest adventures with producers, commissioning editors, lawyers, PR girls and film stars. His speech, delivered in a sort of cockney geezer twang that belied his middle class upbringing, was exhilarating but exhausting; he didn’t talk to you, he beat you up with words and gesticulations.
Every sentence contained words which would be banned on Radio 4 and was accompanied by a repertoire of shrugs, cuts in the air, indignant waves and punches. The features on his face leapt around such that several expressions passed across it every second. Yet he delivered all his speech from one side of the mouth, – the other side clamped shut as though appalled at what its partner was up to. The overall effect was to lend everything he said an air of drama and breathless significance.
Addison was popular with media moguls because he possessed a kind of street-wise glamour that they envied. Even those who found him repellent detected occasional flashes of self-parody that redeemed him and made possible all the deals he cut.
There are those who might suggest that Addison coarsened comedy, making it all about money and status, that he lacked any finer artistic instincts and undermined the comedians who were not in his stable, but I knew him from the off and I can tell you we are saying goodbye to a man with a huge vigorous spirit, a bloke who gripped life by the throat and delighted his friends, a man who added to the gaiety of the nation, a man whose life and work will be remembered and celebrated for a while to come. Seeya Addison.