Byline: Ian Gallagher
IN HIS heyday in the Fifties, his cheeky schoolboy humour attracted16million radio listeners every week.
Archie Andrews, the dummy operated by ventriloquist Peter Brough, was afavourite of Royalty and had pride of place among Madame Tussauds' waxworks.
Now, with the puppet making a stage comeback after more than 40 years, Peter'sdaughter Romey has spoken for the first time of the tragedy behind hisphenomenal success, which she blames for her parents' shattered marriage. WhileArchie brought joy to millions of children, she admits she found him'terrifying'.
'I hated him,' said 62-year-old Romey, who, as a young girl, regularly appearedalongside 4ft Archie in publicity photographs.
'I thought his manic eyes were deeply sinister, very creepy. Can you imaginethis thing with its eyes moving and there's your dad's voice coming out of it?I found it very odd. He cast a long shadow over my life and seemed to embodyeverything that made me miserable.' When Romey was ten, Peter left her motherPeggy for another woman. 'Archie made my father wealthy and he wouldn't havePeggy for another woman. 'Archie made father wealthy and he wouldn't have beenable to leave us without that financial cushion,' said Romey.
Peggy was addicted to amphetamines and tranquillisers and threw terribletantrums in front of Romey and her brother Christopher. 'I think his leaving uscontributed to my mother's mental illness. She deteriorated and my brother andI suffered from her mood swings and drug addiction.' At school in Northwood,Middlesex, Romey was bullied because of Archie, who wore a striped blazer andspoke in falsetto tones.
'The children taunted me about my "wooden-headed brother",' she said. Heraversion to the puppet lasted for decades. Christopher - who like Romey wasadopted by the Broughs as a baby - was unhappy for large chunks of his life andcommitted suicide aged 57 in 2000.
He was a former record producer and manager, who married twice and had anaffair with ex-Page Three girl Samantha Fox.
Romey said: 'Chris was always extremely close to my mother and the night afterhe killed himself she took an overdose but survived.' After several moresuicide attempts, Peggy, 84, died of an overdose six months later.
When their show Educating Archie hit the radio in 1950, Archie and Peter becameinstant celebrities. If a ventriloquist on radio seemed strange, it wasconsiderably more successful than its TV reincarnation in the Sixties.
'Television showed up my father as an awful ventriloquist,' laughed Romey. …