Why Charlie Drake left just £5,000 of the £5m he blew on women, horses and fast cars

Charlie Drake

Charlie Drake in a scene from Mr Ten Percent

He built up a £5million fortune and famously owned racehorses, mansions, yachts and fast cars.

But comedian Charlie Drake left just £5,000 in his will after gambling it all away.

The pint-sized star – famed for his falsetto catchphrase ‘Allo my darlings’ – was one of Britain’s best-loved and most successful performers in the Fifties and Sixties.

He would boast how he had gone from earning seven shillings and sixpence (371⁄2p) for singing Any Old Iron on stage at the age of eight to becoming a multi-millionaire.

But he had a weakness for casinos and horse racing and never remembered to pay the taxman.

Probate records reveal that Drake, who was 81 when he died of a stroke in December 2006, left his entire estate to his eldest son Christopher.

The comedian, who was twice-divorced, had three sons from his first marriage. He boasted about never having life insurance and once told his sons: ‘I’m relieved you won’t have to fight over my estate.’

Last night Christopher said: ‘My father left me more than money could ever buy. I have wonderful memories of him. He was a one-off character who enjoyed his money and his fame.

‘He once asked me if I minded that he wouldn’t be leaving me a lot, and I told him that of course I didn’t mind. He gave me something very special in my life. I don’t know what I’ll do with the £5,000.’

At the height of his fame, 5ft 11⁄2in Drake was watched by millions of people on the BBC and ITV in shows such as The Worker, The Charlie Drake Show, Drake’s Progress and The World Of Charlie Drake.

He made feature films including Sands Of The Desert, The Cracksman and Petticoat Pirates.


Charlie Drake in The Cracksman, his third comedy for Associated British

‘In those days, money was falling out of the skies on me,’ he said. ‘I had a mansion in Weybridge, 14 racehorses and a couple of boats. But I was never vulgar – I only had two cars at a time. I never thought the money would stop. I’m not a saving-up sort of person.’

He once estimated that he had lost £3million gambling, including £112,000 in one night at a casino.

It was a row with Equity, the actors’ union, that heralded his decline.

He hired a 22-year-old actress for his pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk, but she did not have an Equity card.

He was fined £760 but refused to pay, so the union blacklisted him at all theatres for 18 months.

It cost him about £100,000 in lost fees and sapped his popularity – and then he was landed with an enormous tax bill.

By the time the Inland Revenue caught up with him, he was employing 84 accountants and lawyers to sort out his affairs.

‘It was all my fault, darling,’ he said. ‘I told them exactly where the money had gone – I’d spent it. Fortunately, my management saw me through and I worked for three years just for the taxman.

‘I am, by nature, a very big spender. Even as a kid, if you gave me threepence I would blow it straight away.

‘So once I was topping the bill at the Palladium, I wanted that boat and that mansion. I wanted to wrap up a white car in red ribbons to give to my wife as a Christmas present.’

Drake specialised in playing the put-upon and downtrodden ‘little man’, and famously did his own stunts.

He once knocked himself unconscious while live on BBC TV, and remained in a coma for two days.

His success brought women, mostly 17-year-old dancers. His first wife Heather Barnes was 17 when they married – he was 27. His second wife Elaine Bird was 18 on their wedding night – he was 51. At the age of 70 he found love again – and once more his sweetheart was just 17.

‘I do seem to stick at 17. They are much nicer at that age,’ he said. ‘But that doesn’t make me a dirty old man. I don’t see anything dirty about sex. Nobody seduces anybody. It’s about two people having fun.’

He ended his days at Brinsworth House, a retirement home in Middlesex for actors and performers run by the Entertainment Artistes Benevolent Fund.

Christopher, 52, who works for Gala Bingo and lives in a cottage near Kettering, Northamptonshire, added: ‘I treasure the memories of my father and I’m trying to pass them on to my nine-year-old daughter Fiona.

'He was a wonderful father. We’d go off fishing together and he’d build a campfire. We once went fishing in the shipping lanes in the Solent. He stood in the boat shouting at the ships to get out of the way, never mind that he was in their lanes.

‘He told me he went to the Monaco Grand Prix, and he was so busy having fun that he didn’t see the race. But he still told the drivers in the evening how well they’d done.

‘He made you feel you were the most important person in the world when you were with him.’

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