We were invited to the house that Simon Oates shared with his wife Jaki in November 2008, to conduct an interview for The Avengers Declassified. We spent a happy Saturday afternoon in their company, chatting over a splendid lunch and eventually recording the interview a few hours later. It seemed almost the wrong thing to do, to have to record a formal interview, since we were being made to feel to welcome and everything was so convivial. Simon proved to be an ideal interview subject, interesting and amusing even where his memory was perhaps failing. He was kind, patient and encouraging, despite our probably rather obvious weaknesses as interviewers. He was good-humoured and delighted to talk of his career and life. In a nutshell, Simon was a charming gentleman and the perfect host.

Sadly, Simon was also quite obviously not a well man. He told us that his illness was being "managed" and that he was generally able to live a pretty normal life. Considering this, we were surprised and impressed that Simon did not tire in the six or seven hours that we were in his company. Indeed, he seemed to enjoy being given the chance to chat about his career, his life, family and interests. Naturally, we were extremely grateful for his entertaining us, and felt privileged to have had the opportunity one which came about by sheer chance. Alan's mother rang us one evening in September to say that as part of a genealogy group outing, she had visited a farmhouse that had been home back in 1525 to one of the families being researched by the group. The property was now owned by an actor who had once played John Steed and who had been in a BBC show called Doomwatch. Obviously, it didn't take long for us to work out who that actor was about a nanosecond, actually! Since we were at that point researching The Avengers stage show, this seemed a remarkable coincidence and so we thought we'd cheekily write to him and ask for an interview. Simon was away when we sent our letter and telephoned us as soon as he returned. "Come down and see us," he said. "Much better than writing or the phone!"

Consequently, we rolled up at Simon and Jaki's on Saturday 1st November, at once excited and anxious. Would it go well? Would we hit it off? Would Simon and Jaki think we were nutters? We shouldn't have worried. They were both so warm, welcoming and seemingly delighted to see us. We shared a fine salad lunch and chatted over the table on subjects as varied as Simon and Jaki's respective careers (Jaki was a photographic model, a contemporary of the likes of Jean Shrimpton), sport, music, television and theatre today, the history of their home, their involvement in the community and we even discussed Alan's mother! Simon also revealed a few gems in the conversation about his dalliance with stand-up comedy in the Sixties and the near-miss he had with James Bond in the following decade which we were able to hurriedly incorporate into the interview questions later, too. As mentioned earlier, the interview went very well and the finished piece can be read by following the hyperlinks to the right of this page.

After we concluded the interview session, Simon showed us a letter that he had received, which was obviously the source of great pride and emotion for him. It was a handwritten two-page letter from fellow actor, Sir David Jason. Apparently, when filming wrapped on the most recent Frost drama, the cast had got together and exchanged stories of how they got their start in the business. David's beginnings in theatre and television were helped in no small way by Simon, who went along to see David in an amateur production and promptly got him his first paying job as an actor. David wanted Simon to know that this act of faith and kindness hadn't been forgotten and that he would always be grateful to him. This clearly meant a great deal to Simon, and it was so touching that he wanted to share this with us.

Subsequently, our contact with Simon was by post and telephone. We rang him the next day to thank him profusely for his and Jaki's many kindnesses and we were bowled over at his reply: "You don't need to thank us. You're friends now." What a lovely, charming and down to earth man. Over the coming months, we sent Simon a few examples of his work on DVD and each time, the telephone would ring and there would be Simon, saying how kind we were and how great it was to see his old shows again, "not that I'm in the habit of getting in each evening and saying, 'Let's watch some Simon Oates on the TV,' you know!". Eminently quotable, witty and modest.

When we saw Simon and Jaki in November, they were gearing up for a big family Christmas at the farmhouse. Fortunately, Simon's health kept up for that, but tragically took a turn for the worse in the New Year. After a spirited fight with disease, Simon Oates passed away on the morning of Wednesday 20th May 2009. We only knew him for a very short time, but it's no understatement to say that we feel so very privileged to have met this absolutely exemplary and wonderful man and had the opportunity to get to know him a little.

Simon was a fine actor one of those who you never saw turning in a weak performance, and who would make you anticipate something good if you saw his name crop up in a cast list. He was the sort of actor who could steal scenes with an efficiency of effort while others were chewing the scenery and screaming, "look at me!". A rare talent.

We will remember the day that we spent in Simon and Jaki's company for many, many years and will always think of them both with a great fondness and admiration. As a mark of our respect and affection, we have dedicated The Avengers Declassified website to Simon and his memory. Rest in peace, Simon. You were a gentleman in every sense of the word. And thank you.

Written by Alan and Alys Hayes
Simon Oates image from 'The Cult of Doomwatch'
supplied by Scott Burditt

Click here to read The Times Obituary by Brian Pendreigh
Published Monday 15th June 2009

Click here to read The Independent Obituary by Anthony Hayward
Published Monday 22nd June 2009

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The Stage Show:
Introduction
Storyline
Scene Breakdown

Full Production Credits
Biographies
Press Coverage

Interview: Simon Oates
Tribute to Simon Oates

Quote, Unquote...
Archive
Photo Gallery

 

Interview: Simon Oates
1. Early Days
2. On The Telly
3. Doomwatch
4. The Avengers
5. The Cockney Comic
6. Looking Back