Babs has gone. A light’s gone out. So much will be said and written about Barbara Windsor, I just want to tell you about a moment when I met her and she made me laugh so loud I’m laughing still. It was in a dressing room for EastEnders. I’d been interviewing June Brown about her magnificent solo episode in which she talked to her husband Jim via a tape machine, all alone. June was being grumpy. Then this happened:
“The mood lifts, suddenly, when a familiar voice calls in through the open door: “Hello my darling!”
It’s only bloomin’ Barbara Windsor standing there, beaming. Not glaring like earlier, when she had her Peggy Mitchell wig on and a look that said “Get outa my pub!” No, this is the smiley Babs that Sid James fell for. “The Independent on Sunday? Posh! And there’s me doing quotes for bloody Heat magazine. Ha ha ha!”
Now it gets really surreal, as June/Dot and Barbara/Peggy squabble in high camp style about whether to go for coffee – “don’t you reply in that accusatory manner, Bar!” I half expect to see Kenneth Williams. This has been such a peculiar day. “I know I’m old but I’ve still got a lot of energy, haven’t I, Bar? I can put my knees up here,” and with that June Brown performs contortions, before leaping up and heading out of the door with her pal. On the way, Babs turns back to say something about the solo show. “Listen, seriously. She is the only actress I know that is worthy of that half an hour. Don’t you think she’s amazing?””
That’s what I wrote at the time. But I didn’t mention what she did, which was very deliberate, at the end. She must have guessed my age and realised I was one of those boys who first knew her through Carry On, Camping and the rest. A whole generation, hooked on double entendres, by her. Babs the entertainer kicked in. She had a little moan about how none of the posh papers wanted to “do” her – just as a set up – then her eyes flashed and she looked at me straight and said: “Well Mr Independent on Sunday, you can do me any time!”
For a moment I was Sid and she was Babs and it was wonderful. And having made someone smile yet again, with a fabulous laugh of her own she was gone.