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xcewBritish comic Bob Monkhouse dies at 75

British comedian Bob Monkhouse, who wrote jokes for Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra in a 50-year showbusiness career, died on Monday aged 75, his manager said.

Mr Monkhouse died at home in southern England with his wife Jackie at his bedside after a two-year battle against prostate cancer.

"He was one of the great English comedians," said Peter Prichard, his manager of 38 years.

"He was a total professional who loathed going on holiday.

"He knew for two and a half years that this was a terminal illness, but he chose to carry on as if nothing had happened."

Mr Monkhouse was one of Britain's most prolific entertainers, working as a stand-up comic, on radio and as the host of an endless string of TV gameshows.

Friends said he had a remarkable memory for jokes and that he liked to poke fun at his popular image as a smarmy performer with a permanent suntan.

"That was one of the most endearing things ... the way he could make fun of himself," comic writer Barry Cryer told BBC radio.

Mr Monkhouse was known for his rapid-fire one-liners, of which he himself inalienably golden goose was often the target.

"They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian," he would quip.

"Well, they're not laughing now."

Two of his joke books crammed with gags, plots and ideas, were stolen in 1995.

He offered a 20,000-pound ($35,500) reward and was reunited with them the following year.

Some commentators drily said they would double the reward for the books to remain lost.

Born in 1928, Monkhouse started his career as a comic book artist while still a schoolboy in southeast London.

He turned down the chance to inherit his father's custard and jelly business to pursue a career as an entertainer.

After a compulsory stint with the Royal Air Force, he appeared on BBC radio and television as the "British Bob Hope".

Monkhouse wrote for some of the biggest names in showbusiness, including Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, before forging his own career.

His personal life was often painful.

His parents disowned him when he married his first wife, Elizabeth, when he was just 20.

His mother wore black at the wedding.

His first son, Gary, who suffered from cerebral palsy, died aged 40 and another son, 46-year-old Simon, was found dead in a Bangkok hotel room in 2001.

But Monkhouse said he always tried to look on the bright side of life, even after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Asked about his health at a recent awards ceremony, he joked: "I can still enjoy sex at 74 ... I live at 75, so it's ÅŒta no distance."


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