Woman's Own / 14 June 1969
In 2009, an iconic part of the Sixties passed on with Simon Dee, the host of the notorious Dee Time, a show which had 18 million viewers in 1967. Nowadays, the collective memory of Simon Dee has faded, which is the main tragedy of his life; a man who epitomised the famed spirit of the late ’60s spent the rest of his life in obscurity.
This is a scan of an interview with Simon Dee at the height of his fame, taken from the June 14, 1969 edition of Woman’s Own. Although the day-in-the-life is something of a puff piece, it does feature the passage “Dee seems, to his fans, boyishly engaging. To his critics he is irritatingly incompetent”, suggesting that opinion on him was, at the very least, divided.
Dee does actually admit in the article that he was too nervous initially, but whether he’d improved or not, it didn’t stop Benny Hill performing a rather vicious parody of him, called Tommy Tupper, with a show called ‘Tupper Time’ in his 1970 series. Given Hill’s usual material, it’s something of a shock to see something that pointed in one of his shows. Benny Hill must REALLY have hated him.
His Wikipedia entry documents his dramatic rise and fall from grace, and although there’s very little evidence of his charm and talent remaining in archives (Dee Time was mainly transmitted live and not recorded by the BBC), there is the odd chance to decide on Dee’s talent for yourself. He had one celluloid appearance in the 1970 film Doctor In Trouble, YouTube hosts a surviving show of Dee Time (amusingly, the same show referenced in the article, as it has a Susannah York appearance), with part of the 2003 Dee Time remake (produced by Victor Lewis Smith), along with some other interview and documentary footage. The charming @DamoIRL also pointed out on Twitter that Dee had a cameo in The Italian Job (image from http://www.richardjames.co.uk/).
It seems very sad that there’s so little left to remind us of a man Elizabeth Hurley cites as the inspiration for Austin Powers, but his career could be seen as a metaphor for the ephemeral medium that television was seen as in the 1960s; the ultimate Sixties icon indeed.
Matty on 11 July 2013 @ 5pm
I find Dee and his career really interesting in the sense that I think they both capture the spirit of the ’60s. I think it was a decade when fame was much more fleeting than it is now and the lack of things like home video, let alone online video streaming sites, meant that pop culture ephemera could be forgotten about very quickly.
I still think the 2003 one-off resurrection of Dee Time is one of the oddest things I’ve seen on television. It was also notable for featuring an interview with Peter Wyngarde who had barely been heard from in the decade or so before 2003 and has barely been heard from since.