Tributes paid to Kenny Everett on what would have been his 70th birthday

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The BBC has paid tribute to Kenny Everett on what would have been his 70th birthday by airing a special programme on Radio 4 Extra.

Everett, born Maurice James Christopher Cole on Christmas Day 1944, was a pioneering force in British radio and television.

His brand of high octane broadcasting and comedy influenced a number of contemporaries from Noel Fielding to Steve Wright.

Everett was part of the starting line up on Radio 1 in 1967.

For the next two and half decades he graced the airwaves of national BBC and commercial radio, often getting sacked for his risque jokes but always rehired.

Everett reached the height of his career in the 1980s with his own television show.

He married the singer and psychic Audrey Lee “Lady Lee” Middleton at Kensington Register Office on 2 June 1969. By September 1979, they had separated.

During the 1983 general election campaign, the Young Conservatives invited Everett to their conference in an attempt to attract the youth vote.

Egged on by film director Michael Winner, Everett bounded onto the stage, wearing oversized foam rubber hands. He shouted “Let’s bomb Russia!” and “Let’s kick Michael Foot’s stick away!” to loud applause.

Everett later said he regretted the incident and that he had taken the foam hands to the rally because the Tories “asked me first”.

In 1985 Everett came out as gay. Having struggled to accept his sexual orientation, Everett revealed that he had twice attempted to take his own life and that he could never accept the term “gay”.

In a television interview in 1989 he said he would stand up for gay rights if he were asked providing “it was a jolly occasion”.

But he also felt that being in a minority and in the public eye, he could do more for gay rights by showing that he was funny and human rather than by marching in the streets.

Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett became close friends over the years they knew each other.

Throughout the 80s, the pair continued to explore their sexuality – in addition to drugs – and while the pair were never lovers, they did experience London night life on a regular basis together.

During this time Kenny and Freddie became involved with Nicolai Grishanovitch and a Spanish waiter named Pepe Flores.

In 1984, Kenny found out Grishanovitch  had contracted HIV; this placed added extra strain on his friendship with Mercury. By 1985, the pair had also fallen out over a disagreement on their using and sharing of drugs.

Everett was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1989, and he made his status known to the public in 1993. He maintained his sense of humour whilst knowing his fate.

“I see death in my own philosophical way,” he remarked. “I can’t imagine I was nowhere before this. I’d like to come back living in Italy or Spain or somewhere. As long as I don’t come back bald or in Bosnia, I don’t mind.”

Everett died from an AIDS-related illness on 4 April 1995, aged 50.