Blackpool favourite John Inman has died at the age of 71.
The comedy actor passed away in the early hours of today following a long illness. Born in Preston but raised on the Blackpool stage in his early teens, Inman was one of the biggest stars in the resort during the 1960s.
He was best known for his “I’m Free!” catchphrase and his character Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served?, a BBC comedy smash during the mid 70s and early 80s.
John was known and loved around the globe for his unique style and was taken into the nation’s hearts working alongside former EastEnder Wendy Richards, Molly Sugden and Frank Thornton.
For five years he was a real life salesman and window dresser working at Fox’s Outfitters in Church Street before his big break.
John made his first appearance in Blackpool at the age of 13 at South Pier in a play called Freda.
An old boy of Claremont School and the old Warbreck High in North Shore, he made countless appearances on the Blackpool stage playing a variety of characters.
In 1962, at the Grand Theatre, while stage-managing a production of Terence Rattigan’s While the Sun Shines, he took the leading role for 15 minutes after the leading man collapsed. His last appearance in Blackpool was back in 1980 when he headlined a summer run of Fancy Free at the ABC Theatre.
The actor suffered from hepatitis A and had been taken into hospital for tests after problems with his liver. It was revealed that he had the disease after it forced him to cancel the opening of a pantomime in London on December 9, 2004.
The actor had been with Ron Lynch for 35 years. The couple “married” in a civil partnership ceremony at London’s Westminster Register office on Christmas Eve in 2005. He died in St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London.
Click here for a clip from 'Are you being served?' courtesy of the BBC.