His own acting career may have peaked with Up Pompeii!, but as a theatrical agent Kerry Gardner went on to shape the careers of some of our best-loved British actors. Now living in Dorset, this month Kerry braved the Random 19 questions.
Born in India to British parents at the tail end of the British Raj and packed off to a miserable English boarding school at a very young age, Kerry Gardner’s years as a stage and television actor culminated in his time as Nausius in Up Pompeii! Without an agent and realising he was wasn’t good at selling himself, (“it was embarrassing, to tell the truth”), he left acting to set up an actors’ agency, Kerry Gardner Management, and helped fashion the careers of Imelda Staunton, Miranda Richardson, Pam Ferris and Bill Paterson – to name but a few world talents.
After nearly 30 exciting years of this he took on a partner, Andy Herrity, (who now runs Gardner Herrity), retired, and came to live in North Dorset.
In his recent memoirs, Not Another Waltz (I, Nausius) he has written a frank retelling of his journey from Harrogate to Hollywood (“it came out to tumultuous indifference, which is rude – I’m a bloody good read! It has 26 five star reviews on Amazon to prove it! They include: ‘Beautifully written with sharp wit but also compassion. Funny, sometimes sad, and very often wickedly mischievous’. So there!”)
1. What’s your relationship with the Blackmore Vale (the loose North Dorset area, not us!)?
I fell in love with Dorset when I was working (if you can call acting ‘work’ and not fun) on Bournemouth Pier and stayed through that glorious summer in a house outside the town. I’ve been living just outside Sturminster Newton for the past 25 years. It’s a magical county.
2. What was the last song you sang out loud in your car?
I have adapted Gershwin’s “Bess, you is my woman now” for my dog, Biscuit, so I sing the first verse (‘Biscuit, you’re my woman now’) to her in a gruff voice, and the second verse in her much purer soprano, addressed to me. So it goes: ‘Kerry, I’s your poodle now’. After that it’s ‘Oklahoma, sweeping down the plain’.
3. What was the last gift you gave someone?
Gift giving at my age is a problem. Because you have everything you need, and gifts are inevitably greeted with “Oh, thank you. Another one.”
So you end up going out to buy the most odd thing you can find. Which will naturally end up being greeted with either ‘THANK you, that’s terrific!” or a horrorstruck “what is it?”.
It’s a 50/50 adventure.
4. It’s Friday night – you have the house to yourself, and no work is allowed. What are you going to do?
Mind your own business.
5. What was the last movie you watched? Would you recommend it?
Simon Amstell’s Benjamin. Being a bit soppy myself the love story appealed to my treacly core. The acting is superb throughout, and it’s very funny!
6. What is your comfort meal?
*suitably thoughtful pause* “Well, I think it’s just about anything that passes in front of me…”
7. What would you like to tell 15yr old you?
Try and see the world through other people’s eyes, not just your own.
8. The best crisps flavour?
Plain, lightly sea salted. Probably Walkers. If it’s got flavours like chilli, well then I’m afraid I’m obliged to spit it out. That’s not a crisp, that’s the work of the devil.
9. And the best biscuit for dunking?
*swift and unhesitating* Dove’s Digestives.
They must be Dove’s. You’ve never tried them? Rush out now and buy them. Everyone who comes to my house adores them. I mean, I may have a gun to their head at the time of asking, but still, it’s a unanimous response.
10. What shop can you not pass without going in?
Any hardware store: they’re just an Aladdin’s cave of extraordinary, mysterious objects, the uses of which can only be guessed at. I could spend hours in one very happily.
11. What book did you read last year that stayed with you? What made you love it?
A History of Loneliness by John Boyne. It is… superb. Witty, searching, moving … honest. The book is stunningly written, it is immediate, shocking and powerful.
12. Cats or dogs?
Dogs, dogs, dogs. My present one is an excuse for me to write poetry – which she usually appreciates. I’m still working on ‘There’s a little yellow poodle to the north of Katmandoodle’.
There aren’t too many rhymes for ‘poodle’, so I sense it’ll take time to complete.
Cats can be very beautiful, but I could never love a serial killer.
13. Your top three most-visited, favourite websites (excluding social media & BBC News!)?
Can I cheat with a podcast? I do love LBC with James O’Brien (who’s on live 10 am – 1 pm weekdays). There’s always a catch-up online: look for ‘james o’brien the whole show’
*a heavy pause as Kerry searches his memory for another website*
I am just not a creature of the web, I’m afraid to say. It’s so infuriating I tend to find it safer to stay off it. Why is there no common sense on the internet?
I’m going to have to say Amazon, aren’t I?
I’m not proud.
But it IS so convenient – I simply can’t drive across half the county trying different shops to see if they have the thing that I want (usually to be told no, but I can get it online).
You do need to be careful to check the weights though – I’ve ended up with vast sacks of dog food for my poor little poodle more than once. HUGE they were. The weevils moved in before she was halfway through!
14. What’s your most annoying trait?
A rather rude urge to throw a verbal hand-grenade into a conversation when I’m bored with it.
15. Tell us about one of the best evenings you’ve ever had?
Oscar night in Tinsel Town.
A truly bizarre day led up to the most other-worldly evening of razzmatazz and over-the-top shows of advertising I’ve ever experienced.
The clothing, the jewels, all hanging on the shapeliest bodies that exercise, the surgeon’s knife, diet and money can produce.
The bonhomie of all those fabled film stars was just jaw-dropping fun – but completely manufactured.
16. What’s your secret superpower?
A sense of the ridiculous. All my best friends have it. Without it conversations can grind on without anything being said for what seems like hours. ‘Pleasantries’ should be a dirty word.
17. Your favourite quote?
‘Try not to dominate, or be dominated’ – Ursula le Guin, American author.
Speaks for itself, really.
18. What in life is frankly a mystery to you?
Cruelty to defenceless children and animals.
19. Chip Shop Chips or Home Baked Cake?
Well. I like both. Obviously. But cake does go on rather, doesn’t it? By the time I’m halfway through I’ve had enough, it just goes on forever. So I’m going to have to choose the chips, please.