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Fifty cheers for Frasier, my hero. By Gyles Brandreth

Blog | By Gyles Brandreth | Sep 04, 2023

Separated at birth? Gyles and Kelsey

My wife and I have reached – and passed – our golden wedding anniversary without her changing the locks. And I have met and made a friend of the one person in the world who for 30 years I have hero-worshipped and most wanted to meet.

We will come on to where and how Mrs B and I celebrated our half-century in harness in a moment. First things first.

As regular readers of this page will know, I have a weakness for name- dropping and a particular fondness for collecting memorable moments with stars of stage and screen.

In my time, I have sung a duet with Debbie Reynolds, sipped champagne with Olivia de Havilland and, with both hands, held Marlene Dietrich’s left thigh. Ken Dodd once gave me a tickling stick and Laurence Olivier once blew me a kiss.

What more could I want? Since 1993, when the American TV sitcom Frasier first hit our screens, I have longed to meet its star, the Tony, Emmy, Golden Globe Award-winning actor Kelsey Grammer, now 68.

If you have not seen Frasier, you must. All 264 episodes are available via Channel 4, which still screens it daily. No show in the history of television has won more awards – and for a reason. It’s beyond brilliant (witty, humane and hilarious) and Grammer, as the eponymous psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane, is a comic actor of genius.

What’s extraordinary is that Grammer, who played the same character in an earlier series, Cheers, is consistently sensational in every one of the many episodes made over many years, despite a history of substance abuse. Neither drink nor cocaine seems ever to dim his on-screen dazzle.

Given his challenging private life – four marriages, seven children; his father murdered; his sister kidnapped, raped and murdered; his two half-brothers killed in a scuba-diving accident; and there’s more – you might be inclined to forgive a bit of booze and dope. I would forgive him anything.

I love him. And so does my wife. We watch an episode of Frasier every day. Sometimes we watch three in a row. The quality of the writing and the ensemble playing make it our all-time favourite TV.

Grammer is the linchpin – and the glorious news is that ten episodes of a new series of Frasier have just been completed. Some of the original cast may be making guest appearances, while the character of Frasier’s brother, Niles (beautifully played by David Hyde Pierce), has been replaced by Frasier’s new best friend, played by the British actor Nicholas Lyndhurst.

How do I know this? Because Kelsey told me. Yes, I have met him. This month I heard he was at Television Centre in London, giving an interview. I happened to be in the building. I found out where his dressing room was and I knocked on the door.

It’s Kelsey and Gyles now. We are friends. Kelsey turns out to be as delightful as a person (easy-going, engaging, empathetic) as he is brilliant as an actor.

I like to collect the greats. And if they are not around, I make do with their descendants.

Another of my treats this month was being invited to Oxford, to the towpath on the River Isis by Folly Bridge, to unveil a plaque commemorating the golden afternoon of 4th July 1862 when the Reverend Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) and his friend the Reverend Robinson Duckworth took the three Liddell sisters, Alice, Lorina and Edith, daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, on a boating trip to Godstow. To entertain the children, Dodgson improvised the story that would become Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I was honoured to unveil the plaque, and even more honoured to meet two sisters who turned out to be direct descendants of one of Dodgson’s brothers and a brother and sister who were the great-grandchildren of Alice Liddell.

My only disappointment was that my friend Robin Wilson couldn’t make it. One of the sons of Harold Wilson, Robin, like Dodgson, is a mathematician of note and author of Lewis Carroll in Numberland, a celebration of Dodgson’s love of number play.

Robin is a funny man himself. He called his introduction to the fundamentals of geometry Here’s Looking at Euclid.

Bah. I have run out of space to tell you about our golden wedding anniversary. The main thing is we reached it. Ahead of it, my wife said, ‘No fuss, Gyles. Don’t tempt providence.’

I took her somewhere she had not been before: Bridlington in the East Riding – the only English county mentioned in the Bible. (‘And it came to pass that three wise men appeared from the East riding on camels.’)

And, for an anniversary present, we gave each other something we both wanted and needed: matching his-and- hers hot-water bottles.