Freddie Starr fans say farewell at comedian’s funeral

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Comedian Freddie Starr is being laid to rest on Merseyside, a month after his death at the age of 76.

Fans and family gathered at Prescot Parish Church to watch the service.

His coffin was carried into the church to the strains of Starr’s rendition of Elvis Presley’s song Don’t, and was applauded as it was carried back out to another Elvis cover, Trouble.

His coffin has the words “Liverpool legend” engraved on one side and “Return to sender” on the other.

Starr often performed as an Elvis Presley impersonator, and Return to Sender was one of the songs he covered on his 1981 album Spirit of Elvis.

Several dozen fans gathered in the rain to pay their respects, with more watching the arrivals from the lounge of Deanes House, the pub next to the church.

During the service, Canon John Taylor read tributes from family members, including the entertainer’s daughter Ebony.

“RIP to my hero, my father,” her message read.

“You’ve inspired me to be the best I can be, and be a good role model just like you. I will never forget you in a million years.

“I really wish you could have called me one more time before you passed away.”

‘Complications and controversies’

Reading a tribute from Starr’s sister Brenda, Canon Taylor said: “Freddie achieved a lot in his life and she has many memories of his kindness and generosity.”

In his own remarks, Canon Taylor said: “Freddie’s life wasn’t without its complications and controversies.

“But his comic genius brought side-splitting laughter and joy to thousands.”

There were fears the comedian and singer could have a pauper’s funeral in Spain, where he lived at the end of his life, until a UK funeral director stepped in.

‘Proper funeral’

Sheffield-based undertaker Michael Fogg offered to help after seeing reports about the entertainer’s possible resting place, saying a pauper’s funeral would have been “wrong”.

Starr’s family accepted his offer to cover the £20,000 cost of repatriating Starr’s body and organising the service in Prescot. Starr grew up in nearby Huyton and is being buried next to his mother.

“I just wanted him to have a proper funeral. I enjoyed watching him on TV. He made me laugh. And anybody who can make an undertaker laugh must be a bloody good comedian,” said Mr Fogg.

Starr’s niece Jean Fowell said his family had been happy to agree to let Mr Fogg bring him home.

“Freddie had no money left,” she told BBC News. “And the family accepted that offer.”

He was a “lovely, pleasant, generous, down to earth” man, she said, who should be remembered “for his fun and laughter and making everyone laugh”.

Friend Melvin Storer, from Colville, Leicestershire, said: “He lived above a karaoke bar in Spain and basically he died a pauper, penniless after paying all his court costs.

“But he was one in a million. There won’t be another Freddie Starr.

He was a “brilliant” person to be around, Mr Storer said. “You couldn’t stop laughing. Every time you saw Freddie he’d just make you laugh.”

“The main thing is that Freddie Starr has a send-off that he deserves, and the fans of Freddie Starr can also grieve properly for somebody who’s passed away,” Mr Fogg said. “And to grieve you need a funeral. So that’s what he’s having.”

Family members were expected to attend the funeral. Starr was married four times and had six children.

Fans were asked to wear a red tie or a red rose to honour his famous Teddy Boy jacket.

The entertainer rose to prominence in the early 1970s, becoming a fixture on TV in the 70s and 80s, and famously featured in The Sun newspaper’s “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” headline in 1986.

He later took part in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity but left the show after being taken to hospital following a suspected allergic reaction.

He suffered from ill health and in 2010 had bypass surgery after a heart attack.

In 2012, Starr was arrested by police investigating allegations of historical sexual offences, but he was never charged.

In 2015, he lost a defamation claim against an accuser who said he groped her when she was 15. Starr had denied the claims and sought damages for alleged slander and libel.

Delia Cainey wore a T-shirt bearing a photo of Starr below the letters “RIP”.

“We just wanted to show that he gave us hours and hours of endless fun in the 70s and 80s,” she said.

“A lot of people after the Yewtree case had forsaken him. When he was cleared he still couldn’t get back into the limelight.

“He had thousands of fans who still loved him, kept in touch with him and today we’re going to try to give him a really good send off. We’ve come from all around the country.”

Michael McGuinness, 22, from Prescot, had been introduced to Starr’s routines by his parents.

“Me and my mum, every time we’re in the house we always get a couple of beers and we always put his videos on YouTube,” he said. “He was hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. His Elvis impersonation, his Adam Faith impersonation – hilarious.”

Source:BBC

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