Founder of "Private Eye" dies, aged 59

 

THE comedian and satirist Willie Rushton has died, aged 59. He had undergone a heart operation in London but died suddenly.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, the magazine Mr Rushton founded 30 years ago, said: "He was a brilliant cartoonist and produced some of the best and funniest drawings of people in public life in recent decades. I feel very sad to learn of his death. It was very sudden."

The satirist died at the Cromwell Hospital after a short illness, according to his agent, Mr Roger Hancock.

Mr Rushton began his career in 1961 and came to symbolise the new anti establishment comic movement of that decade. He appeared in That Was the Week That Was for several seasons alongside Sir David Frost and Millicent Martin.

He continued in the same irreverent vein, founding Private Eye with old friends, Paul Foot, Richard Tngrams and Christopher Booker.

Mr Rushton continued contributing a weekly cartoon to Private Eye until his death. He was also known as an accomplished writer and produced a number of bestsellers, including his first novel, W G. Grace's Last Case.

He made many film and TV appearances and was a panellist on Through the Keyhole, Celebrity Squares, and a regular guest on the Kenny Everett Television Show. On radio he appeared in 27 series of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, while his voice was loved by children for his storytelling on BBC's Jackanory and the Asterix series.

Well known as a bon vivant, he was forced recently to give up alcohol because of diabetes.

Mr Rushton and his wife Arlene married in 1968 and had three sons.

Richard Ingrams, the editor of The Oldie, who had known Mr Rushton since their schooldays and was a co founder of Private Eye with him, said he was "terrifically shocked" by his friend's death.

He said: "I think he was the most talented of my contemporaries by far. He had a brilliant, spontaneous wit.

"I knew Willie from the age of 12, when we first started doing jokes together and he was a very good cartoonist even then.

"He was a brilliant cartoonist, a born cartoonist who had no training. It was completely natural to him."

Sir David Frost said: "Willie" Rushton just went on getting wittier and funnier with every passing year."