British TV personality Lionel Blair swapped the television studio for a more relaxed audience at Churchill Retirement Living’s Laurel Lodge.
The 89-year-old once said ‘retirement’ was not a word in his own vocabulary, but shared anecdotes from a seven-decade career in showbusiness and also discussed his trip to India last year as part of The Real Marigold Hotel TV series.
Mr Blair sat down with SW Londoner’s Rachel Addison to talk retirement, travel and the #MeToo movement.
RA: What is the main message you are hoping to share with everyone today?
LB: You’re never alone in a Churchill home. That’s the main thing about being elderly is being alone. When you’re in one of these places, you’re never alone, there’s always someone to talk to. And that’s important I think, for any age really. That’s why I think these homes have been so successful.”
RA: You’ve recently returned from a trip to India. What was the highlight of your time there?
LB: At first, I thought, this isn’t me at all. The heat – it is so hot, and I’m afraid I like seasons. But the people are absolutely wonderful, they are so nice. Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Muslims — they all live there no problems. I loved that.”
RA: You were 13-years-old when you started in the entertainment industry, is that right?
LB: Yes, in Croydon. I was a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. So, I’ve been in the business a long time.
You have to know where you fit in, and this (Laurel Lodge) is perfect for me because the people who live here saw me when I was young, so they remember me. But I’ve done some schools and I’ve got three children and three grandchildren, so I feel I’m au fait with every age group. So, it doesn’t worry me talking anywhere.”
RA: I read in the news this week that Theresa May has announced a £75million fund for prostate cancer.
LB: It’s wonderful. I’ve had prostate cancer, I got rid of it not with an operation but with radiotherapy which is a new thing. My doctor must have been well ahead of his time, because I had seven and a half weeks of radiotherapy, five days a week. After that, well it’s gone as far as I know.
RA: Do you think there is enough support at the moment for people suffering from prostate cancer?
LB: I think there is support but men very rarely go to the doctors. It’s so silly. I only went because we moved house and when we moved I said to my wife, ‘I should have a doctor nearby’ and they give you the full examination and when they got the results they phoned me and said ‘Mr Blair, we’re a bit worried about your prostate.’
Men have got to look after themselves like women do. Men don’t feel themselves as much and with prostate you don’t know. There is no sign even when you’re washing or showering. And they’ve got to get used to checking. That’s the most important thing, when you reach a certain age, go and get checked out. It only takes a morning or afternoon and it’s so much better to know. And yet I’ve lost so many friends. Roger Moore, who was a dear friend of mine, him dying [from prostate cancer], he was just a bit older than me.”
RA: With your experience in the industry, do you think the Time’s Up movement has the momentum to bring about real change in the entertainment industry?
LB: Being a guy, I never had that but I do know girls that did have problems. Yes, I think it’s awful but not only in show business. In your business, in the newspaper business, you’re propositioned. Of course, there are women that harass young men, but men never report that and women report it. If you are harassed, I think you should name and shame.
RA: Why do you think men don’t report it and women do?
LB: Very rarely do you see lady bosses going after men. But women have had it far more than men. And that goes from religion, powers that be, from royalty to politicians. But also, you have to have proof.
I’ve not, touch wood, had anything. It is awful that you could be accused of something that you know nothing about, but people think that they can get money out of it. I think that’s the thing that’s dangerous for Time’s Up. But you’ve got to have proof.