Des Clarke (Neighbours)
|Portrayed by||Paul Keane|
|First appearance||18 March 1985|
|Last appearance||17 March 2015|
|Created by||Reg Watson|
|Introduced by||Reg Watson (1985)
Jason Herbison (2015)
|Occupation||Bank manager (until 1989)
Co-owner of Daphne's coffee shop (1988–90)
Desmond Kingsley "Des" Clarke is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Paul Keane. Des was created by Reg Watson as one of Neighbours' twelve original characters. He made his first on screen appearance on 18 March 1985, the show's first episode. Des departed during the episode broadcast on 11 October 1990. Keane later reprised the role for one episode as part of Neighbours' 30th anniversary celebrations in March 2015.
Creation and casting
Des is one of the twelve original characters conceived by the creator and then executive producer of Neighbours, Reg Watson. Actor Stefan Dennis originally auditioned for the role, before he was cast as Paul Robinson. Paul Keane was then cast in the role. Keane suffered with depression and anxiety, and was happy when Channel Seven cancelled the show. He explained "Neighbours was my first job. I couldn't believe how hard it was. I was exhausted. When it ended at Channel Seven I thought, 'Thank God, I can go home.' But then Ten picked it up. I was devastated."
In 1990, after running his course, Des was written out of Neighbours. Off-screen, Keane struggled with his sudden fame and had developed a problem with drugs. He later stopped working in the acting industry.
Marriage to Daphne Lawrence
The first episode of Neighbours saw many of the male characters attending Des's bucks night, ahead of his wedding to Lorraine Kingham (Antoinette Byron). The party is where Des first met Daphne Lawrence (Elaine Smith), who was hired to perform a striptease routine. When Lorraine called off the wedding the following day, Daphne moved in to help Des pay off the mortgage. Des was immediately attracted to Daphne, but he tried to hide his feelings for her, resulting in him becoming awkward around her. Daphne soon began dating Des's friend Shane Ramsay (Peter O'Brien). By the end of 1985, Daphne had broken up with Shane and proposed to Des, who accepted. However, on the day of their wedding, Daphne's bridal car was hijacked by a bank robber and she was late. Having been stood up five times in the past, Des gave up waiting and left the church. Their relationship ended when they failed to sort out exactly what had happened. Daphne later got engaged to Shane, while Des's mother, Eileen (Myra De Groot), and friend, Clive (Geoff Paine), persuaded him to "woo Daphne back."
In June 1986, Stephen Cook from TV Week reported that Daphne would accept a proposal from either Des or Shane, which would definitely result in her getting married. Smith told Cook that she thought Daphne was ideal for Shane, but she loved Des too, as she trusted him and they had become good friends. O'Brien thought Shane was more suited to Daphne and did not see Des as a threat. While Keane commented, "Des has been engaged five times in his life – and stood up once by Daphne! – but he's always loved Daph. It was love at first sight for Des." Cook later revealed that it was Des who would propose to Daphne and the couple eventually married. The wedding episodes were broadcast in July and Cook noted that from the moment Daphne met Des, there was always a feeling that they would marry. Despite Shane being Des's "rival in romance", he acted as his best man. A few months after the wedding, Daphne became pregnant and she gave birth to a son, who she and Des named Jamie (S.J. Dey).
In 1987, Smith decided to leave Neighbours. She and the producers agreed that viewers would not accept a break-up between Des and Daphne, so they killed the character off. Daphne was left in a coma following a car crash, before she became the first regular character to die.
Relationship with Jane Harris
A year after Daphne's death, Des began dating neighbour Jane Harris (Annie Jones). Des was initially reluctant to commit to the relationship, due to his grief for Daphne, and Jones said that their friends believed Des was so attached to Daphne's memory that he was no where near to breaking the bond. During a dinner to discuss Mike Young (Guy Pearce), Des was drawn to Jane. Describing the night, Jones said "The dinner is the first time for a long time that Des has really spoken to Jane. She thinks a relationship with Des is on again and is really upset when she finds out that wasn't his intention in inviting her out to dinner." While leaving the restaurant, Jane was almost hit by a car, which made Des realise how strong his feelings for her were.
Des then proposed to Jane and she accepted. Jones told TV Week's Darren Devlyn that the proposal was "a big shock" to everyone, but most of them were happy about it. One person who was not pleased about the engagement was Mike, who previously dated Jane. He initially believed that Jane wanted to get back together with him, until he heard the news. Jones said it was great that Des was over his mourning and thought it would be interesting to see how Jane coped with Des's son Jamie. Keane also agreed that the engagement was good for his character, saying "It's about time Des collected his thought and emotions and got on with life."
On 28 November 2014, it was announced that Keane had reprised his role for Neighbours' 30th anniversary celebrations. Stefan Dennis told Sarah Ellis of Inside Soap that bringing Keane back was one of his ideas and the producers ran with it. Keane was surprised to receive the call from producers and was initially unaware that Neighbours was turning 30. He explained, "I had a few reservations – I'm a Sydney boy, and the Neighbours studios in Melbourne are a long way away But once I found out I'd be working with Stefan, it was like, 'What the hell! You only live once!'." Keane was also "fearful" about returning, but the experience helped bring him peace and he commented "I had so much fun this time."
Des's return coincided with the Erinsborough Festival and it initially appeared that he was in town to catch up with Paul. However, it soon emerged that Paul wanted Des to help him break up his nephew Daniel's (Tim Phillipps) wedding to Amber Turner (Jenna Rosenow). Keane told Ellis that Paul knew Des had experienced a troubled love life while he lived in Ramsay Street, and he wanted to use that to talk Daniel out of marriage. Dennis commented "Paul's shrewd like that – it's very conniving of him." Des returned on 17 March 2015.
Des is the manager of the Pacific Bank. He briefly dates colleague Julie Robinson (Vikki Blanche) but it does not last long. Des then dates Julie's friend Lorraine Kingham and they become engaged. They buy Number 28, the house next door to Julie and her family. The wedding is cancelled after Lorraine has doubts after a conversation with Julie. Lorraine is unimpressed to learn that Daphne Lawrence, the stripper from Des's buck's party is moving in to help him pay off the mortgage and has the furniture repossessed. Daphne buys some new furniture and Des is grateful. Des falls for Daphne but she prefers Des's friend Shane Ramsay. After Shane and Daphne's relationship breaks up, Des and Daphne are drawn together and Des proposes and Daphne accepts. They have numerous false starts during the engagement including Daphne being kidnapped, Des' ex-girlfriend Andrea Townsend (Gina Gaigalas) claiming Des is the father of her son Bradley (Bradley Kilpatrick) and Shane trying to win Daphne back. Des and Daphne finally marry in spite of all the problems, with their friends and neighbours present.
Des and Daphne foster Mike Young after his abusive father David (Stewart Faichney) begins beating him and his mother Barbara (Rona McLeod) and they form a family unit. Daphne later becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, Jamie. Daphne reconnects with her estranged father Allen (Neil Fitzpatrick) and learns he is dying and takes Jamie with her to nurse him during his final days. Sally Wells (Rowena Mohr) arrives in Erinsborough looking for Des and explains she is his half-sister, the product of a relationship their father Malcolm (Noel Trevarthen) had after leaving Des and his mother Eileen. Des and Sally bond and track down Malcolm, who has been living in Erinsborough for many years.
Des is delighted when Daphne tells him she will be returning home after Allen's funeral, but she and Gail Robinson (Fiona Corke) are involved in a car crash. Gail and Jamie are fine but Daphne is left comatose for several weeks. Daphne wakes up briefly to tell Des she loves him before going into cardiac arrest and dying. Des is devastated and struggles to raise Jamie alone and matters are not helped when Mike's University studies take up a lot of his time and Eileen and Sally relocate to England. He decides to advertise for a nanny and Bronwyn Davies (Rachel Friend) answers the call, much to Des' surprises as she had earlier admonished for losing Jamie in a supermarket. They call a truce and Des invites her to move in.
Des begins dating again and has a brief romance with Penelope Porter (Nicki Wendt), but the relationship breaks down after Penny admits she has been dating someone else. Des begins dating Jane Harris, despite having reservations about the age gap between them and the fact she used to be in a relationship with Mike. The relationship causes friction with Mike and he leaves to stay with his mother for a while. Des and Jane get engaged, which upsets Mike who plans to move out but the three of them sort out their differences. The engagement collapses when Jane leaves for England to tend to her grandmother Nell Mangel (Vivian Grey) who has suffered a heart attack. Jane stays in England calls off the wedding.
Des tries to change his image and become more active with his life. Melanie Pearson (Lucinda Cowden) helps him to get a more challenging job by embellishing his CV. On an outdoor pursuit weekend, Des nearly falls off a cliff. However, his boss keeps him on at the firm and sends him on a business trip to Perth. After Des returns, he puts the house up for sale and announces that he is moving to Perth after meeting a new partner, Fiona, a fellow widow with children of her own. Des sells Number 28 to the Willis family and moves into a flat before leaving. Des and Fiona's marriage does not last long and he and Jamie move to Adelaide.
In 2015, Des returns to Erinsborough at Paul's invitation. He meets Paul's nephew Daniel and Paul gets Des to talk about his failed wedding to Lorraine, in order to put Daniel off from marrying his fiancée Amber Turner. After Daniel realises what Paul is doing, Des comments that Daniel seems to be genuinely in love with Amber. Des has a look round the Erinsborough Festival, before returning to catch up with Paul. He then returns to Adelaide.
To celebrate Neighbours' 25th anniversary, a writer for British satellite broadcasting company Sky included Des in their feature on the twenty-five characters who they believed were the most memorable in the series' history. Describing him they state: "Say Des, think Daphne. You can't be a happy couple in a soap for long, and the Clarkes were no different, as Daphne was mowed down by a car in 1988. You also can't be single in a soap for long, either, so it was only a matter of time before Des saw Jane, the ex-girlfriend of his adoptive son Mike 'Guy "out of Memento" Pearce' Young. He left for a new life with a fellow widow, but misery continued to haunt him even off screen: his son Jamie briefly appeared in 2003, with Des apparently having suffered depression and putting his son into care."
Kate Jackson and Sara Wallis from the Daily Mirror branded Des "jug-eared" and a "lovable bank manager". Claudia Pattison from mobile network operator Orange described Des as a "jug-eared Mr Nice" and stated he was one half of the serial's most popular couples. A writer from Inside Soap said that Des was a "boring banker" and a "jug-eared dullard". They included Des and Jane in their feature on unlikely relationships, adding that even they realised their romance was "very silly".
The Sydney Morning Herald's Michael Idato called Des and Daphne Neighbours' first supercouple. While Mary Fletcher from Inside Soap commented that Des and Daphne's troubled romance was "one of Neighbours' best storylines." In March 2015, an Inside Soap columnist chose Des's return as one of their "5 of the best from Tuesday night's soaps!", commenting "There's a real blast from the past in Neighbours tonight, as Des Clarke arrives back in town. It's been 25 years since he was last on our screens, so you may not recognise him nowadays."
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