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Actor name row is a battle of Bills

nlnews@archant.co.uk
21 May 2009
A TALE OF TWO BILLIES: Archway actor Bill Bailey (left) found work drying up after the arrival of a stand-up comic using the same name (right)
A TALE OF TWO BILLIES: Archway actor Bill Bailey (left) found work drying up after the arrival of a stand-up comic using the same name (right)
IT'S a case of "will the real Bill Bailey please stand up?" - because an actor wonders whether the Never Mind The Buzzcocks comedian may have borrowed his name.

Archway's Bill Bailey, 70, who lives in Pemberton Terrace, was a successful West End actor, who starred in Bus Stop alongside Jerry Hall.

He was the first full frontal male nude on a British stage, acted in the film Superman II and even featured in Life magazine on a page opposite a piece about John Lennon.

But the adoration all came to an end when the more famous Bill Bailey came on the scene as a stand-up in the early 1990s, going on to feature in TV shows Spaced, Black Books and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Archway Bill owns the right to the name according to Equity, the actors' union, but as Buzzcocks Bill surged to fame, Archway Bill found offers of work drying up.

Archway Bill, who has gone on to become a successful author, said: "I am not full of resentment or anything - but it did devastate my career. It is my bloody name and I got there first. Besides, I'm much better looking than him."

In the 1980s, Buzzcocks Bill had a bit part in a Corin Redgrave play. Archway Bill, then at the height of his powers, was in one of the starring roles.

He thinks Buzzcocks Bill - whose original name is Mark Bailey - may have thought of using it then.

Archway Bill said: "We worked together in Corin Redgrave's play during the printers' strike. I had quite a showy part, and I've always wondered."

He added: "Bill Bailey is a memorable name. But it also happens to be my actual name - that's why I say I am the real Bill Bailey. Tears roll down my cheeks as I send away the cheques made out to Bill Bailey when they arrive in the post. I will beat him off Google eventually!"

But Buzzcocks Bill pooh-poohed his rival's claim to the name.

He said: "I was in junior school geography class in the third year when Mr Buckley started calling me Bill Bailey. Maybe Old Bill was visiting Bath in the 1970s, overheard the name and nicked it. Maybe HE ruined MY career."

Buzzcocks Bill added: "Father of British surfing, Bill Bailey (who died this week) - did he ruin Old Bill's surfing career? Or what about Axl Rose (real name Bill Bailey) - did Old Bill prevent him from fronting Guns n' Roses?"

Archway Bill Bailey, who now writes novels, is about to publish Is Alice? a tale of a man and his schizophrenic wife based in Archway.
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