Today would have been the 68th birthday of the eternally cute Barry Evans, star of cheesy sitcoms Mind Your Language and Doctor in the House and various risqué movies of the 1970s involving dolly-birds such as Judy Geeson and Adrienne Posta in tight clothing and the hapless males who fail to bed them.
I always had a major crush on Mr Evans, despite his less-than-classic acting career, and on investigation as to what became of him was shocked to find out the mysterious circumstances of his untimely death in 1997…
Described by the press during his lifetime as “a loner”, it appears that the beauteous actor had a hidden gay life that he was reluctant to reveal, relying as he did on his “heartthrob appeal” to land screen roles. The tabloids of the time tended to make mincemeat of gay stars, and it is fairly easy to assume he tried everything to avoid this.
As is the wont of all thesps however, his real desire was to be treated seriously and to land some proper acting roles befitting of a more mature actor. However the combination of his youthful charming looks and his typecasting in “light comedy” roles worked against him. He was never given a serious lead role in his career.
Towards the end of his days, he was broke and worked as a cab driver. At the age of 53, he was found dead in his shabby house, a bottle of whisky next to him, and a spilled pot of out-of-date aspirins on the table. Police discovered the actor’s body after going to his house to tell him they had recovered his stolen car.
An eighteen-year-old supposed “friend” of Mr Evans was arrested for the theft of the car and in connection with his death. He told police he had visited him on the day he died to say he would not be calling round again, and the actor became upset and drank half a bottle of whisky. The youth was charged with murder/attempted murder and theft but all charges were eventually dropped due to “lack of evidence”.
The coroner’s report subsequently concluded that Barry Evans had died due to an alcohol overdose, but there remain unexplained facts about the case.
Apparently Mr Evans had some head injuries. There was no trace of aspirin in his body. More mysteriously, his phone lines had been cut. In addition to the car, credit cards were stolen. Later another young man was charged with breaking into the late actor’s house and stealing antiques and other valuables that he had collected over the years.
The press reported that Barry Evans committed suicide as a consequence of his declining fame, and that he had been drinking a bottle of whisky every two days in the run-up to his death (a bit strange for a cab driver, surely?).
So the mystery remains. What was the relationship between Mr Evans and these youths? What about the phone lines? A the time Michael Culver, a friend of his, said he found it very suspicious that Evans should phone a friend at five in the morning, ask to be called back, and then cut his own telephone lines.
I suppose we will never know, but we still have that beautiful smile to remember Barry Evans by…