Ever since I first discovered YouTube, it's been a source of astonishment and relief that the death of Tommy Cooper on live national television has not been uploaded. My astonishment and relief have come to an end, and it doesn't make for comfortable viewing. I won't supply a link, as I suspect it'll be taken down pretty soon, only to be re-uploaded almost instantly. The really interesting thing is the way that the camera stays firmly on the slumped Cooper, as if expecting him to leap to his feet and make a joke of it. The director will have known this wasn't how it went at rehearsal. So why did they stay on the star? An explanation comes from Harold Fisher, who was drumming in Alyn Ainsworth's orchestra that night.
"The horrible thing was that the balancer who was outside in the scanner thought that it was part of the act. He sort of sank to his knees and you know, what you were hearing was this death rattle, the poor sod. So he turned it up. His doctor was there, apparently. He told him not to do the show. His son was there and his doctor. Obviously he wasn’t feeling very well. What a way to go. It was amazing how it panned out. He did most of his act, as I remember and then he sank to his knees. They cued the band and the adverts came on. It was unbelievable."
I can remember watching it with my great-grandmother. Aged 10, I thought it was part of the act. She could see that something was wrong. When the news came on after the show, her suspicions were proved right.