Sir Bruce Forsyth was “loyal” and “special” man who had great instincts but who was a nervous performer, according to TV executive Lord Grade, who knew him for more than 50 years. He recalled their friendship on the BBC News Channel:
I think the whole nation will be grieving because we’ve all grown up with Bruce.
I’m 74 and I’ve grown up with Bruce. I use to go and watch rehearsals on Sunday Night at the Palladium when I was a schoolkid and he and I were friends, [and] we worked together over the years.
I spent a morning with him at his house two weeks ago. We chatted over old times, he had a wonderful twinkle in his eye and he was battling, battling, battling.
We’ve kind of grown up together and my business partner years ago, Billy Marsh, was the agent who discovered him in summer season at Babbacombe and persuaded Val Parnell and my uncle Lew Grade to give him a chance on Sunday Night at the Palladium, which of course was the making of him.
He was working with some of the biggest names in the history of showbusiness from America – Sammy Davis, Nat King Cole, you name it. They all came over to do Sunday Night at the Palladium and Bruce worked with them all.
He was a British boy that could keep up with them all and give them a run for their money. It was magical.
To have four of the biggest hit shows in the history of British television over a 50-year career is pretty amazing. And tribute to his judgement on what he said yes to and what he should say no to.
He was a very smart picker of knowing what the right formats were for him, absolutely brilliant at that.
He was a lovely, lovely man to boot. He was loyal, he was a very, very special man.
He looked after himself. He didn’t smoke, he liked a glass of wine, not a bottle. He did his exercises every morning of his life, every evening before he went to bed.
I think he was quite surprised at how well he’d done to be honest. He didn’t take anything for granted, he worked hard, he was meticulous and a worrier until he went on the stage. He was always a worrier and everything had to be right.
And he was quite nervous as a performer. He was a wonderful worrier but to good effect, and he was right to worry – his instincts were so right.
To do Have I Got News For You which was a brave thing to do – he made it his own and the essence of his humour was always self-deprecation.
He spoke very movingly to me when I asked him about his knighthood, which he was so proud to have received, most particularly to make Winnie, his wife who had made him so happy for 30 years Lady Forsyth.
He was invited into the Royal Box at Wimbledon and he said he and Winnie were coming down the steps. The centre court started to applaud and he said he thought the players must be coming on the court, and very quickly realised they were all standing and applauding him, and he was so moved by that.
He enjoyed fun, he enjoyed parties but he looked after himself very, very well and it was so sad to see him infirm at the end.
I said to him, ‘Cheerio, Bruce, the twinkle’s there so don’t worry about it, you still got the twinkle.’