Kenneth Williams – his diaries – the private life as opposed to the public persona, and what a tragic and painful private life it turned out to be. Looking back on his career he was no great shakes as an actor, a dismal failure in fact with all the tricks, the voices, the grimacing, and he was as big a failure as a human being simply because he couldn’t accept himself for what he was. Maybe simply is the wrong word to use. When you’re that crazy and mixed up nothing is simple and, although he was 62 when he finally committed suicide in 1998, it had been on the cards for a very long time. It was not just his inability to have any kind of emotional relationship (except evidently with his mother) but, despite the many members of the public who were kind and lifted his spirits with friendly greetings there were always the real idiots who went out of their way to humiliate him which quite naturally he always found depressing. He did have a couple of lifelong close friends but for the most part people he met who he originally thought were wonderful soon fell by the wayside. Similarly plays he went into that he originally thought fantastic and exciting, as well as loving the casts, soon became a tedious hateful bore with talentless hateful actors that he couldn’t wait to get out of. Nothing satisfied him. On the 11th June 1969 he wrote – I wish I was dead. I would like to walk out of this existence for ever.
On the 17th August he wrote – The eyes full of tears. I am so lonely … There is never any peace …always the savagery, the nightmares, and horrible dreams.
23 September 1972 – In bed full of visions of an early death and prayed to God repeating my eternal cry ‘Help me, please help me.’
Sex was a no-no except for masturbation that he referred to as ‘the traditional’ or ‘tradiola’ or Barclay’s’ (Cockney rhyming slang) Barclay’s Bank – wank.
Although he could be highly critical, vicious in fact of other people, places and things, he did keep repeating himself even though he might have previously had an awful experience. For example he kept on going back to Tenerife for holidays although he always found it a great let-down. Was there something masochistic in this? “The room was disgusting … I went to the desk and had it changed but I don’t like this one either. The spirits sink … the tat of the place is quite awful.”
He was the same with religion, one minute fervently praying and all pious, the next – “Reading J.S.Mill: he’s the first man I’ve read to make the point that religion actually asks a man to stop his intellectual enquiries. It seems to question the very ability to think, let alone form moral judgments. What are we to make in the Bible of divine injunctions to slaughter people? It is a weird mess, Christianity, and it is even weirder that it worked after a fashion for a time! Of course now it’s as creaky as Byzantium before the onslaught of Mehmet.”
The strange thing is, despite his continuous put down of his fellow human beings (and sometimes their put down of him) and, although he was constantly worried about money, he was generous in the extreme when someone needed assistance or wanted a handout and he must be the only actor in the whole history of theatre who felt he was being overpaid and actually asked for his fee to be reduced! What a contradiction the man was, and so sad.