St Albans man recalls memories of Sir Norman Wisdom
THE LATE Sir Norman Wisdom sat on a sofa, eating a bowl of tomato soup, is not an image you would ever associate with the great comedian.
Yet for St Albans man Philip Day, who was his publicist for the last 41 years, the recollection of Sir Norman sat enjoying his favourite, modest pleasure, at his Vesta Avenue flat, is one of his great memories of his closest friend.
He said: “Norman used to stay at the flat when he was in the area or needed to be in London early the next morning. He made my couch his own. Not many people knew he was a soup fanatic! Even in top London restaurants he would ask if they served Heinz Tomato Soup. The waiters never knew whether he was being serious or not. He was very down to earth like that.”
Mr Day recalls when he first became “wise to Wisdom” in 1969, while he was working at the then named ATV Studios in Borehamwood as a press and publicity officer.
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He said: “I saw Norman sitting in the foyer reading a script. I thought it was bizarre as he was not scheduled to appear that evening. It turns out he was a last-minute replacement for another guest who had pulled out at short notice.
“I cautiously approached him and asked him if he would appear in an interview to promote a future appearance. He turned and said to me “I’ll do anything you want”– a line which I would hear thousands of times over the next 40 years.”
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Indeed, Sir Norman became a true friend and when Mr Day’s late father was taken ill, Sir Norman offered his Sussex home as a retreat – a gesture which was humbly accepted.
Sir Norman was also the godfather to Mr Day’s eldest daughter Natasha, now 30, who lives in Harpenden. He always made sure he had time to spend with her on his visits, no matter how busy his schedule.
However, despite his affiliation with the city, Sir Norman was not a familiar face in and around St Albans.
Mr Day said: “He would never go out in St Albans. We would only venture as far as the chip shop across the road. They didn’t know him in there – perhaps the only place that didn’t. The irony is that there is a tailors next door called ‘A Stitch in Time’, named after one of his most famous works. Norman mainly visited at night time when the shop was closed but I think it’s such a shame that he will never get another opportunity to visit.”
On one given week, Mr Day had four separate lunch liaisons with Roger Moore, Bette Davis, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro – but such is the modesty of the man, only his closest friends and family are aware of his vocation.
With the passing of Sir Norman on Monday at a care home in the Isle of Man, Mr Day has lost one of his best friends but his memories are fond.
He said: “I feel privileged to have known Norman. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”