We have lost many wonderful celebrities over the years due to tragic circumstances. David Bowie, Patrick Swayze, and Farrah Foccett all died of cancer. Marylin Monroe, Robin Williams, and Kurt Cobain all sadly died of suicide. The list of terrible celebrity deaths is countless, but out of all of them, Tommy Cooper’s death was certainly the most tragic. Fans all over the world were shocked by how it happened, and it went down in history as one of the most famous deaths in the world.
Tommy Cooper, born as Thomas Frederick Cooper, was a magician and prop comedian. When most people think “magician,” they imagine a man in a suit performing tricks that have been clearly faked. However, Tommy Cooper brought charm, humor, and whimsy to his act. Truly, nobody like him has ever graced the stage before or since. This legendary comedian was a genius when it came to crafting his act, and audiences were never disappointed by his work.
Ultimately, Tommy Cooper lived to entertain; at least, that was the case onstage. However, you can never truly know a celebrity. Even if someone appears charming and friendly onstage, you’ll never know what they’re like behind the scenes unless you know them personally. Some of the warmest television personalities, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Mike Myers, and Rachael Ray, have been accused of being cold and cruel to others when the cameras aren’t rolling. As beloved as Tommy Cooper was by his fans around the world, he had a dark side that would ultimately lead to his death.
Still, while Tommy Cooper may not have been particularly kind to his loved ones and co-workers, he brought joy and laughter to millions of fans. Even several decades after his death, recordings of his act continue to make people double over with laughter. It’s always tragic to remember that someone with such a positive influence on the world ultimately left it in a very tragic way. We can only imagine the amazing things that Tommy Cooper could have accomplished had he not passed away when he did.
In today’s video, we’re going to walk through the legacy of the legendary comedian and magician Tommy Cooper. We’ll take a look at his humble origins, his successful career, and his devastating death. Of course, we’ll also delve into some of his more negative characteristics, which he only revealed to people behind the scenes. Make sure you stick around to find out the horrible reason why his wife left him!
He Became Involved with Magic at a Young Age
Tommy Cooper was born Thomas Frederick Cooper on March 19th, 1921, in Glamorgan County, Wales. His father, Thomas H. Cooper was Welsh, and worked as a recruiting sergeant for the British Army before later working as a coal miner. Tommy Cooper’s mother, Catherine Gertrude, was English.
Catherine bought her son a magic set when he was eight years old. While most children would be fascinated for a few weeks before ultimately moving on to some new toy or hobby, Tommy Cooper remained fascinated with the set. He’d spend hours every day learning and perfecting new tricks to impress his friends and family members. His younger brother, David, also became interested in magic, and he eventually founded D. & Z. Cooper’s Magic Shop, which stayed in business for several decades. Of course, Tommy’s parents could never have imagined that his intense childhood obsession with magic would actually turn into his life-long career.
He Discovered His Most Iconic Prop While in the Army
After he was finished attending school, Cooper found a job constructing ships in Southampton. After all, even if he enjoyed doing magic tricks, it wasn’t exactly easy to pay the bills while doing it. In 1940, however, was recruited as a trooper by the Royal Horse Guards, which was part of the British Army. He served various military forces, and he soon found that he was excellent at entertaining fellow troops. Before long, he found himself a member of the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes entertainment party. He performed sketches for the troops, and he decided to utilize his skills in magic.
One night, when he was acting as a character in his sketch routine, Tommy realized that he had forgotten his helmet prop for the character. Improvising quickly, he grabbed the fez hat off a nearby waiter, and the audience roared with laughter. Tommy soon adopted it as his major prop, and it became his signature look.
Nobody Knows Exactly How His “Failed Trick” Gimmick Came to Be
Tommy Cooper’s most iconic gimmick was the calculated failure of his magic tricks. This was one of his greatest gags, and he was great at keeping audiences on his toes by occasionally letting some of the tricks work out. Nobody knows exactly how this gimmick came to be in the first place, but there are three different theories as to its origins.
The first theory is that, while working as a shipwright, he would perform to his co-workers on occasion. He noticed that, when he accidentally messed up on his tricks, people were more likely to laugh. He then incorporated it in a purposeful act.
The second theory is that he started playing with making purposeful mistakes while he performed in the Army.
The third and final theory is that, during an audition after his time in the military, he accidentally messed up his act. However, the judge panel thought it was hilarious, and he decided to continually make it a part of his work. We may never know exactly how Tommy Cooper’s failed trick gimmick came to be, but we’re sure glad he found such a unique style!
He Was Cruel to His Family
Sadly, while Tommy Cooper was a wonderful entertainer on stage, he wasn’t a particularly loving husband or father. He became very dependent on alcohol, which would lead to horrible and terrifying mood swings. On one occasion, he hit his wife, Gwen Henty, in front of their two children, Thomas and Victoria. While this was the only reported instance of abuse from Tommy, it doesn’t take much to suspect that it wasn’t the only occurrence.
Tommy also cheated on his wife with numerous other women. Gwen, sick and tired of his cruel behavior, tried to leave him. However, she ended up getting back together with him. We can only hope that he treated her better after she returned.
Sadly, Tommy’s dependence on alcohol would ultimately ruin his health, and lead to his tragic death. Make sure you stick around until the very end of the video, where we’ll delve into his devastating end. And, if you’re enjoying this video so far, please leave a like on this video and subscribe to our channel for more!
He Wasn’t Very Nice Behind the Scenes
While Tommy was charming and bumbling onstage, his colleagues often found him difficult to work with. He was incredibly scrupulous, and went to extreme measures to avoid paying for anything. He would often “hire” people to write gags for his show, but he rarely even paid them for their work. He wouldn’t tip waitresses or taxi drivers, either. In fact, he would often hand his payment to a cab driver and say, “Have a drink on me.” However, rather than a tip, the cab driver would discover that Tommy had slipped a tea bag into the wad of cash. He also never gave people rides if they asked, or offered cigars. In short, he refused to help others, but would regularly take advantage of people.
The Slow Descent of His Career
Tommy’s alcoholism soon became apparent. He’d perform acts while slurring his speech, his face shiny from booze. His wife once saw him pour gin into his cornflakes instead of milk. He smoked 40 cigars a day. In the mid 1970s, his poor self-care took a toll on his career. He suffered from numerous health problems, including bronchial and cardiac disease, terrible circulation in his legs, and sciatica. He tried to cut down on drinking to preserve his health, but he never gave it up entirely.
His Tragic Death on Live Television
In 1977, Tommy Cooper suffered a heart attack. He took three months off of work, but was soon touring again. In 1980, his severe drinking problem caused Thames Television to refuse allowing him another starring role in his own series. He guest-starred on other shows, however. On April 15th, 1984. Tommy Cooper performed on the variety show Live from Her Majesty’s. Halfway through his act, however, he collapsed. His assistant simply smiled, and the audience laughed. Everyone assumed the fall was part of some joke. However, it soon became apparent that it was not intentional. He was dragged backstage, and after several attempts to revive him, he was transported to Westminster Hospital. He had suffered another heart attack, but he didn’t survive this one. The next morning, the rest of the world learned of his tragic death, and countless audience members were stunned when they realized they had witnessed his death onscreen.