Thursday, 16 September 2021

FAB farewell to Gerry Anderson

HUNDREDS of people attended the funeral of TV pioneer Gerry Anderson, who died on Boxing Day, aged 83.

HUNDREDS of people attended the funeral of TV pioneer Gerry Anderson, who died on Boxing Day, aged 83.

The Thunderbirds creator, who lived in Nuffield, was laid to rest after a humanist ceremony at Henley Road crematorium in Caversham last Friday.

Fans of the Seventies TV show joined family, friends and former colleagues in filling the chapel to overflowing.

A replica of FAB1, the pink, six-wheeled Rolls-Royce driven by Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds, was parked outside the chapel.

Mr Anderson’s coffin was adorned with a floral tribute spelling “FAB”, the catchphrase of the show’s characters, and a model of Thunderbird 2. It was carried by six pallbearers, including Mr Anderson’s son Jamie.

A selection of his favourite songs were played, including Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, as the coffin was carried inside.

Ray Owen, a humanist celebrant who led the service, recalled the “enormous anticipation” he felt before Thunderbirds was first aired in September 1965.

He said: “It was simply bigger, better and more exciting that anyone expected. It became one of the true highlights of weekend TV viewing.”

Tributes were led by Nick Williams, chairman of the Fanderson fan club, who said Mr Anderson was a “quiet, unassuming but determined man” who made 10 TV shows and four feature-length films.

He said: “Gerry showed us how thrilling the world could be and he was a great director, producer and writer.

“He managed one of the most prolific film studios this country has ever seen and produced some of the most memorable visions of the future.

“He inspired like-minded folk to come together in appreciation of his work. He created a workplace with a family atmosphere. He identified talent and gave people the chance to shine.”

Other tributes read out during the service included one from Shane Rimmer, the voice of Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds.

He said: “Gerry was an exceptional man not only to those who worked with him in the studio but also to the hundreds and thousands of younger and older viewers who watched that magic unfold across TV screens all over the world, some of which was quite mesmerising.

“He had really good scripts, high adventure and whopping great music to make a production quite spectacular. Somehow you felt like you were drawn into and part of it, not just a spectator any more.

“There was something in the quality of these productions that had to carry itself all around the world. You can’t buy the quality and you can’t fake it and Gerry never did.

“While he left us quite a legacy, I’m not sure whether Gerry realised the impact that he had on the younger generations and that is still with them.”

John Gore, a Broadway producer who started his career working with Mr Anderson as a stage producer, said he had “extraordinary qualities”.

He said: “By the age of 32 he had created most of the shows we know about and created all these studios.

“For him, being young wasn’t an issue and it’s only now I realise that he set me on a road just by saying, ‘let’s get on with it’. Gerry pushed everyone to their limit to get the best out of them.

“So much work went into those characters. I thought it was ironic that George Lucas was trying to make everything into puppets but Gerry was doing everything he could to turn those puppets into actors.” Mr Gore said the helicopters featured in Avatar were a tribute to Mr Anderson by the film’s director James Cameron.

Jamie Anderson said: “He was very, very lucky to have some very special people in his life to help him on his journey. You will never know how grateful he was. Dad could barely express what gratitude he had.”

He read out glowing references by one of his father’s employers and from the Royal Air Force, in which he served as a corporal.

He broke down in tears telling mourners about his pride at his father’s fight against Alzheimer’s disease, with which he was diagnosed two years ago.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, also paid tribute to Mr Anderson, who supported the charity’s fund-raising Memory Walks and helped to raise more than £1 million.

He said: “Thanks to the extraordinary support of Gerry, always accompanied by Jamie, thousands more people with dementia are getting the care and support they deserve.

“In his last year he made the decision to devote his life to support it. He was enthralled by the research programmes we have.

“He came to us wanting to know what he could do to help. It’s not often you get a genuine offer like that and I was captivated.

“We looked at where the greatest contribution could be made and by doing something it gave him a real sense of purpose in that last year. We received four times more media coverage than we’ve ever had before just by Gerry talking about his experience.

“We reached out to Thunderbirds fans, a whole community of people who had never previously talked about dementia. People thought ‘if it’s important to Gerry, maybe it’s important to the rest of us too’.”

A recording of Crispin Merrell’s Aqua Marina, which featured in Mr Anderson’s TV show Stingray was played at the end of the service, followed by the Thunderbirds March, which was accompanied by applause from mourners.

After the ceremony, a reception was held at Phyllis Court Club in Henley, where models of Mr Anderson’s characters and machines were on display and Mr Merrell played themes from his TV shows.

A teaser for a documentary on Supermarionation, the term used for Mr Anderson’s puppetry techniques, was screened as well as a parody of Space: 1999. David Graham, who voiced the character Brains, said Mr Anderson was respected in the industry because he was “simply very, very good”.

He added: “He was a great innovator and built a fantastic team around him. He had a great influence on entertainment for the young and old.

“This was a beautiful tribute and I think he would have approved.”

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