Seeking crowdfunding on Unbound, Glarnies, Green Berets & Goons is a new book by Julie Warren, aiming to tell the remarkable story of Larry Stephens, a World War Two commando who transformed British comedy.
British popular culture would probably be very different had Larry Stephens not been born. We could now be living in a world without the Carry On films or Monty Python and we may never have heard of Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers or Spike Milligan.
For the first time, the life and work of this unsung hero of British comedy has been thoroughly explored. Using unrivalled access to Larry Stephens’ personal archive of letters, photographs and artwork, plus interviews with Stephens’ many notable friends, family members, comrades and colleagues, Glarnies, Green Berets & Goons tells the story of a boy from the Black Country whose short life had such an enduring impact.
Stephens’ promising career as a jazz pianist was interrupted by the war, and after serving as an officer with the Commandos he moved to London and struck up a friendship with Tony Hancock, becoming the sole writer of Hancock’s stage material. Hancock introduced him to Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine and together they created the Goon Show, arguably the world’s most influential comedy programme. As one of the main writers throughout the Goon Show’s nine-year run, Stephens’ experiences and acquaintances became themes and characters within the show.
He was the first person Peter Sellers attempted to contact beyond the grave; the Best Man at Tony Hancock’s first wedding; a regular writer for one of the most popular television comedies of the 1950s; and wrote for many leading actors and comedians, including supplying one-liners for Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers.
His marriage to a catwalk model made him the focus of malicious jealousy from those he thought were his friends and that, combined with the pressure of having to come up with funny material week after week, is likely to have contributed to his death from a brain haemorrhage caused by hypertension at the age of just 35.
Glarnies, Green Berets & Goons is the work of Julie Warren, by day a virtual assistant specialising in research. Her first job was as a turkey-plucker. She lasted approximately 10 minutes in this role and earned 2½ pence.
After realising a career removing feathers from poultry wasn’t her thing, she became the communications and community manager for a high street bank where she wrote and edited the staff magazine and won a Chairman’s Award for Community and Diversity. After realising a career in banking wasn’t her thing, she spent a number of years living in Greece and this means she is now able to both cook and pronounce kolokythokeftedes. She currently lives in Essex and pretends to channel Larry Stephens on Twitter @lsggbg
This great-looking book will also include two appendices: the ‘lost’ script for Vacant Lot, a proposed Hancock sitcom, and a ‘Goonopedia’ detailing who was responsible for writing each of the Goon Show’s episodes – often different from those who were credited with having done so.