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Jonathan Reginald Surdeval Routh (November 24, 1927 – June 4, 2008) co-starred in the British version of the television show Candid Camera (1960–67) and co-starred with Germaine Greer and Kenny Everett in a later attempt at a revival, Nice Time (1968). He published a number of humorous books, and also painted for many years.
Routh was born in Gosport, Hampshire, the son of a British Army colonel and spent much of his early childhood in Palestine. He was educated at Uppingham School, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he read history.
Routh had two sons from his first marriage and had been married to his wife Shelagh since 1975. For several years from 1971 he had been involved with the oil heiress Olga Deterding. He died in Jamaica on 4 June 2008.
Following a success with Candid Mike, Routh started a British version of the U.S. show Candid Camera around 1961 for the U.K. broadcaster ABC TV. Following a long dispute with the American lawyers of Allen Funt as to who held the rights to Candid Camera, Routh moved on to new fields, working with John Birt, later director general of the BBC, for Granada TV, along with Germaine Greer and Kenny Everett in Nice Time. He also worked in television advertising on spots such as J. Walter Thompson's for Smarties and Kellogg's Corn Flakes, appearing also in some spots himself, for example Newcastle Brown Ale. The British version of Candid Camera returned along in 1974, starring Peter Dulay, Arthur Atkins and Sheila Bernette. In 1976. Routh returned to the pranks & the show was retitled Jonathan Routh & Candid Camera.
Guidebooks created with John Glashan
With John Glashan, Routh created an unusual set of small guidebooks: The Good Loo Guide and The Good Cuppa Guide (both about London), The Guide Porcelaine to the Loos of Paris, and The Better John Guide (about New York). The humor owed much to the apparent seriousness, and to the affectionate parody of the connoisseurship of The Good Food Guide (then as now a trove of information on fine eating).
The Good Loo Guide
The Good Loo Guide, a compact fifty-page booklet subtitled "Where to Go in London", written with Brigid Segrave and "conveniently illustrated" by John Glashan, was the first of the series, published in London by Wolfe in 1965. A note on the copyright page sets the tone:
- This is an impartial guide. Our visits to loos have been anonymous. We have not declared ourselves even after making use of the establishment's facilities. Nor have we at any time accepted hospitality, but paid cash for all chargeable facilities we have used.
Loos are rated by the application of stars, three-star establishments being "worth travelling out of your way to experience". The illustrations are numerous as well as convenient, with Glashan's characters (typically bearded men) experiencing various adventures and misadventures.
The "completely new & revised" edition of 1968 lives up to its billing. More is included, and ten establishments earn a new award, the "Good Loo Royal Flush".
Two decades later, Routh (but not Glashan) would reexamine this issue with the Initial Good Loo Guide, on which see below.
The Good Cuppa Guide
The Good Cuppa Guide: Where to Have Tea in London, published in 1966, was "blended" by Routh and "milked and sugared" by Glashan. The format and charm (and, in its day, usefulness) are those of the Good Loo Guide. Providers of cuppas are rated with a maximum of five stars.
Guide Porcelaine to the Loos of Paris
In the Guide Porcelaine to the Loos of Paris (1966), Routh must of course provide not only locations and descriptions but also convenient phrases for the nervous English tourist. An example: Donnez-moi les ordres simples pour atteindre le pissoir le plus pres d'ici; et, s'il vous plait, sans les gesticulations sauvages et tumultueuses [no diacritics in the original], i.e. Please direct me to the nearest loo in simple terms and without waving your hands in too dangerous a manner.
A French translation also appeared: Guide porcelaine des "lieux" de Paris (Editions de la Jeune Parque, 1967).
The Better John Guide
Unlike the three-and-sixpenny (seventeen and a half pence) booklets described above, The Better John Guide: Where to Go in New York (New York: Putnam, 1966) was a $2.50 hardback. Written with Serena Stewart, it had "graffiti" by Glashan. Unfortunately this graffiti is largely recycled from the convenient illustrations of The Good Loo Guide. Some of the text was recycled too — understandably so, as neither work was likely to have been known in the other city.
Routh also painted for many years, concentrating on depicting the Queen Victoria of his imagination and nuns, as he claimed to be unable to paint faces, arms or legs. He exhibited regularly in Jamaica, Italy and the United States; as of early 2008, his paintings were also on display in what had been his favourite restaurant, San Lorenzo in Beauchamp Place, London. In March 2008, Routh issued limited editions of his original paintings through Chisholm Gallery.
Routh's paintings of nuns and Queen Victoria were turned into a number of books:
- Jamaica Holiday: The secret life of Queen Victoria. London: Harmony Hall, 1984.
- The Nuns Go to Africa. London: Methuen, 1971.
- The Nuns Go to Penguin Island. London: Methuen, 1971.
- The Nuns Go East. London: Methuen, 1972.
- The Nuns Go West. London: Methuen, 1972.
Other books by Routh
- The Little Men in My Life. London: Barrie, 1953. (Reissued in 1962 as An Exhibition of Myself.)
- Captain d'Arcy's Filthy Picture Book. London: Wolfe, 1967.
- Dr. Crocker's Exercise Book. London: Wolfe, 1967.
- The Hangover Book: Prevention, preparation, treatment and cure. London: Wolfe, 1967.
- So You Think You've Got Problems: A book of disasters. London: Wolfe, 1967.
- Routh's Weekend Guide. London: Anthony Blond, 1969.
- "Leonardo's Kitchen Notebooks" with Shelagh Routh. London: Collins 1987
- Jonathan Routh's Initial Good Loo Guide: Where to "go" in London. London: Banyan, 1989. ISBN 0-7119-1282-3. Illustrated by Enzo Apicella, this paperback is considerably larger than the earlier work by Routh and Glashan. The odd title derives from the book's sponsorship by Initial Textile Services, a company that serviced loos.
- Barker, Dennis "Jonathan Routh: Television presenter who brought Candid Camera to Britain", The Guardian, 9 June 2008
- Obituary: Jonathan Routhg, telegraph.co.uk, 5 June 2008
- "Jonathan Routh: Candid Camera prankster."
- "Jonathan Routh: Candid Camera prankster."
- Jonathan Routh at the Internet Movie Database
- Nice Time On Nice Time, the television series (BBC Comedy Guide).
- The Human Person as an Icon of the Trinity Revised text of a university sermon preached in Great St Mary's, Cambridge on 13 October 1985 by Timothy Ware (Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia) that takes as its starting point an anecdote of the Surrey Room restaurant of Waterloo station, as recounted by Routh in The Good Cuppa Guide.
- "Jonathan Routh: Candid Camera prankster" (obituary). Times (London) 6 June 2008.
- Obituary: Economist
- Hayward, Anthony. "Jonathan Routh: Prankster star of 'Candid Camera' who later became a painter and the author of 'The Good Loo Guide'" (obituary). Independent (London) 7 June 2008.