Oliver Reed: remembering an amazing and troubled life

What Fresh Lunacy is This? by Robert Sellers is the authorised biography of actor Oliver Reed. Ollie, as just about everyone

imagesWhat Fresh Lunacy is This? by Robert Sellers is the authorised biography of actor Oliver Reed.

Ollie, as just about everyone knew him, was a complex character. One of his complexities is that he may well have been one of the greatest actors of all time; he also may well have been the biggest drunk on the planet for much of his life. Hence, the title and it describes the whole scenario well.

While sober, his manners were exemplary, but at a certain stage of imbibing, and that was well past what normal human beings would describe as drunk, he digressed in a manner that put him at odds with most rationally thinking people.

Just when you think he’s done about all the crazy things possible in a hotel, Ollie would come up with something else. He was like a drunken rugby team on sabbatical only he was the whole team. Swinging on a chandelier was passé, breaking things, normal.

The analogy of the football team is not without some other truth because rugby was his favourite game and he always liked drinking with the common man. This seemingly would stem back to his childhood when he was an undiagnosed dyslexic and learning was a problem.

When he later became an actor, however, his extraordinary memory came into play and he could memorise not only his own part but the entire script. His demeanour on the set also meant he could turn his hand to any part if given the chance. He could turn up to act three sheets to the wind but, when it came to performing, he would instantly appear sober and turn in a faultless performance.

At times, however, his lunatic stunts, leave you shaking your head at how he and his friends survived. Because the book is derived from many sources there are differing viewpoints of what transpired in his life.

I thought I would quickly tire of reading about his episodes in hotels but nay, the more I read the fascinating it became. The story of what he did at Broome Hall, his residence for some time, could have been a book on its own. The renovation he undertook was extraordinary.

Another aspect of his life was his relationships with women. Understandably, it took a certain personality to deal with being woken up at all hours of the night upon his return from wherever and his parenting skills left a lot to be desired on occasions. Quotes from some of his partners and his children are quite illuminating.

Whatever you can say about Ollie, neither he nor the book could ever be accused of being boring, I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it as an entertaining read.

What Fresh Lunacy is This? by Robert Sellers is available now from Dymocks.

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