Final curtain falls for versatile comic

By Ruth Kerr

Douglas Aston
February 9, 1920-July 20, 2011
Actor, comedian and scriptwriter.

Doug Aston by fellow actor and long-time friend Doreen Althea. Photo / Supplied
Doug Aston by fellow actor and long-time friend Doreen Althea. Photo / Supplied

One of New Zealand's masters of comic timing, Doug Aston, has exited - stage right.

Best known for his comic routines with Marcus Craig (aka Diamond Lil) and John Clarke (Fred Dagg) at Auckland's Ace of Clubs through the 1970s and 1980s, Aston was an actor, comedian and scriptwriter.

He was born in London. His mother, Nellie, was a Crystal Palace fortune teller. His father, Edward Aston, was a professional strongman.

The young Doug cut his stage teeth in Boy Scout Gang Shows.

Conscripted in 1939, Aston was a sergeant in the 8th Army for four years, seeing action at El Alamein in Egypt, Italy and at the D-Day invasion in Normandy. During the war he married and had a daughter, Pat.

Aston wrote and performed in a number of shows during his war years and experienced his own pantomime when on leave mid-war, he ran into his estranged father in a London pub, who apologised over a pint for not marrying his mother.

He had no idea his father was married to someone else during the comings and goings that produced three children.

"And there I was - a grown man - finding out I was a bastard after all. Just as everyone suspected!"

Aston emigrated to New Zealand in 1958 with his wife, Heather, and two sons - Richard and David.

Having bought a corner dairy, the family settled in Christchurch for two and a half years before returning to England where Graham was born.

In 1964 the family moved back to New Zealand, this time to Auckland, where Aston picked up his friendship with fellow entertainer Johnny Bond. He joined the Howick Little Theatre. In the mid-1970s/80s, Aston worked as a variety comic at the Ace of Clubs, supporting Marcus Craig, John Clarke, Derek Payne, Howard Morrison, Ray Wolfe and Billy T. James.

After separating from Heather in 1975, Aston met Eileen. They were together for nearly 30 years.

Aston had roles in Goodbye Pork Pie (1981); children's television series Terry and the Gunrunners (1985); Never Say Die (1988) - iconic role as the Kentucky Fried Chicken Man; more than 20 radio plays; and cameo appearances in television shows.

In 1981 Aston did a Royal Variety performance. "I had to do a skit with Billy T. James and Laurie Dee. No one knew what to do, so I wrote a bit of patter for other two on stage before I walked on and said, 'Will the couple who have their yacht outside with the lights on please report to the front desk'. Then I walked off. In front of the Queen! I can remember when we came off into the wings we were so full up with it we were crying."

Ruth Kerr

- NZ Herald

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