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5 October 1929
|Died||25 June 1999 (aged 69)|
He attended the Scarborough High School for Boys, Scarborough, North Riding of Yorkshire, and served as a physical training instructor for the Parachute Regiment with the rank of sergeant. He worked as a variety artist and stand-up comic at the Windmill Theatre and appeared in summer seasons and pantomimes. Other occupations included driving instructor, butcher, trawlerman, dolphin trainer, computer systems analyst, nightclub owner, personal shopper, publican and maître d' at a Michelin star Algarve restaurant.
Feast acted in numerous television dramas throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, including the BAFTA winning ITV play Another Sunday and Sweet FA, written by Jack Rosenthal. He also had guest roles in a string of popular serials including Nearest and Dearest, Country Matters, South Riding and the mining drama Sam (1973), where he played the character Chopper for two episodes. He appeared in the Ken Loach directed wartime series Days of Hope (1975), written by Jim Allen. He also appeared in Crown Court.
In 1983, Feast took time off sick at a moment's notice, causing the Coronation Street script writers to have to re-draft 12 episodes (then the equivalent of six weeks of programmes). He claimed to be depressed, had trouble remembering his lines, and suffered from bouts of uncontrollable weeping. Producer Bill Podmore later said that if he had come to him and explained this in the first place, his role could have been temporarily reduced; appearing as a barman in the Rovers, the focal point of Coronation Street, means that an actor tends to be in more scenes than other characters. Podmore described Feast as "earthy", and Fred Gee as being a toned-down screen version of Fred Feast.
When Feast next took time off, it was permanent. Fred Gee had gone from being an unlikable loser to an outright buffoon, getting the sack from the Rovers from owner Billy Walker (Kenneth Farrington) after punching him in the face, unable to see that Walker had goaded him into it so he could sack him without having to pay him any redundancy. Business deals behind the back of London textile magnate Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) also backfired. Feast refused to sign a new contract, stating in the British national press that he didn't want to become "another Coronation Street cabbage" which some thought to be referring to several cast members, possibly Peter Dudley (who played Bert Tilsley), Jack Howarth (who played Albert Tatlock) and Bernard Youens (who played Stan Ogden), all of whom had recently died, and thus the remark was deemed tasteless. Fred Gee was not killed off at that point, he was simply never mentioned again. He last appeared in the soap in December 1984. His place at the Rovers was taken by Jack Duckworth (William Tarmey). When the character's wife Eunice (Meg Johnson) made a brief return to the show in 1999 she mentioned that Fred Gee had died in the interim.
Dogged by ill health for most of the 1990s, he made a short-lived comeback starting in 1996 when Liz Dawn asked him to play the bartender in her video Liz Dawn's House Party. An appearance on the regional celebrity Yorkshire TV quiz show Cryer's Crackers followed, as did a guest role in Heartbeat in 1998. The same year he took on the small role of pigeon fancier Arthur in the hit film Little Voice, set in Scarborough and starring Brenda Blethyn, Jane Horrocks, Ewan McGregor, Michael Caine and Jim Broadbent. Feast also appeared in pantomimes, and on television chat shows during his two-year return in the public eye.
- Hayward, Anthony (30 June 1999). "Obituary: Fred Feast". The Independent. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
- "Fred Feast". corrie.net. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
- McDonagh, Fintan. "Another Sunday and Sweet F.A. (1972)". BFI screenonline.
- "Fred gee, the Rovers Cellarman, Dies at 69". Daily Mail – via Questia Online Library (subscription required). 29 June 1999. Retrieved 29 May 2014.