From Weekend No. 4050, October 20-26, 1982

'The fact that I chase the girls doesn't make me a dirty old man'

Why Saucy Benny Likes His Beauties With Brains

Sexy with a touch of innocence — that's what he looks for in a 'Hill's Angel'

by Robert Nelson

All knickers and knockers — that's how one irate delegate at a TUC women's conference described the "Benny Hill Show".

She and her colleagues dubbed Benny Britain's top male chauvinist. It was mainly Hill's Angels, some of the sexiest dancing girls on TV, who upset them.

They reckoned the way they cavorted about in skimpy bras and suspenders, usually pursued by naughty little men, debased women in general.

But Benny Hill remains unrepentant — and laughs all the way up the ratings. When he is recruiting for a new series, hundreds of girls clamour to join him.

"I'm hardly unpopular with them," he says. "And, anyway, when I'm picking girls for Hill's Angels I'm looking for much more than a good dancer with a sexy figure.

"I'm looking for acting ability, a sparkling personality and a sense of humour. Hill's Angels aren't just dancers — they take part in sketches and often have speaking parts on the show."

If you're 17-21, pretty and sexy but with an air of innocence, then maybe you could join Benny's crew.

That's if you don't mind appearing in very few clothes which tend to fall off easily, usually to reveal their undies.

Benny's comedy storylines are as skimpy as his girls' wardrobe, only serving as a run-up to a saucy finish.


But he insists that there is nothing nasty or sexist about his brand of comedy.

"The fact that I chase the girls doesn't make me a dirty old man," he says.

"Anyway, I always fail. Terrible things happen to me."

"I don't downgrade women. Quite the opposite - they downgrade me."

"On my shows, it's the men who suffer, never the girls."

The girls always need a sense of humour.

Sue Upton appeared in a sketch wearing an exploding Wonder Woman bra. She had to fling open her cloak and shoot at Benny with hidden guns in her bra.

"The padded bra had a small amount of explosive fixed in the cups," she recalls.

"When I opened my cloak and the bra was set off, the noise deafened me for some minutes. I was so shocked that I forgot to fall down."

"I played an old granny trying to walk to a zebra crossing. I was to stagger back and grab hold of the beacon and cause the top to fall on my head. It fell with quite a thump."

But Sue loves the work.

"What I like about working with Benny is that we're not just used as dancers. Benny never hogs the limelight and cares about all the girls."

Clare Smalley, another Angel, says: "At first, I was very wary of all the naughty bits. But it's all done for a giggle."

Louise Walker, a costume designer who has worked with Benny, maintains he has strict guidelines.

"We can get away with see-through dresses and suspenders, but Benny draws the line at topless," says Louise. "He likes a girl to look sexy, but have an air of innocence about her."

It's certainly a quick way to fame. The Benny Hill Show, on ITV goes out to more than 30 countries with an audience of 100,000,000. It's particularly popular in America and Australia.

Benny, 57, says the show's format is based on the saucy theatrical revues of the 1930s that he watched as a boy in his home town of Southampton.


"The revues would usually consist of about eight girls and a comedian," he remembers. "Invariably, one of the girls would play a French maid in frilly knickers who was always bending over."

"I think my whole life was decided for me then. I dreamed of being that comic, most of all because everybody loved him."

Benny, a bachelor who lives alone in a London flat near Hyde Park, has always kept his private life very private.

He admits, however, that over the years he has had two romances with dancers on his show.

"Both times, I was very much in love," he has said. "But they were fond of me, that was all."

Nowadays, he is a confirmed bachelor.

"I actually enjoy being alone now," he says.


He restricts his TV appearances to six or seven shows a year.

He has had several offers from America, one involving three weeks on stage in Las Vegas, for 1,000,000 dollars.

Benny turned it down.

"I'm not particularly ambitious," he explains. "Money and possessions are not important to me."

But the ex-Woolworth's stock clerk and former milkman is now a reputed millionaire.