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Lynne Perrie

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Lynne Perrie, performing in San Pedro in 1996

Yorkshire-based entertainer Lynne Perrie (Real name: Jean Barksby [née Dudley] 7th April 1931 - 24th March 2006), was born in Rotherham and worked in a stocking factory until her first professional cabaret engagement in 1954. Her younger brother is the actor and comedian Duggie Brown, who appeared in Coronation Street as George Freeman in September 1997 and Bernie Cooper in September 2004.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Perrie performed her variety act in clubs across the country, and also toured in France, Germany, South Africa and the United States, appearing on the same bill as Sacha DistelThe Rolling Stones, and, for fifteen concerts, The Beatles, who called her “girlie”. In 1969 she moved into the acting field after Ken Loach cast her as the feisty, neglectful mother in his award-winning film Kes.

Roles in television followed in the 1970s, notably as Diana Dors' arch enemy Mrs. Petty in the Yorkshire Television comedy series Queenie's Castle. In 1974, she starred as a shop steward in the BBC Play for Today production Leeds United, which also featured Elizabeth Dawn in the cast, who would later play Vera Duckworth. She was also seen as herself, singing on such shows as Stars and Garters and The Good Old Days.

Perrie went on to have a long stint in Coronation Street as Ivy Brennan, a role which Lynne portrayed for twenty-three years. Her first appearance was in June 1971. Originally a minor role, Perrie was able to take on other work until Ivy became a regular character in 1978, including cabaret dates and guest appearances in TV drama series such as Crown Court and Follyfoot.

Perrie was written out of the Street in 1994, and Ivy died off screen the following year. The press speculated that the reason behind her departure was because of the unflattering lip implants that she had recently had during unofficial leave from the programme. Perrie however always insisted that it was because the then producer had decided that the character had simply ran its course.

With Ivy out of her life, Perrie used this opportunity to write a candid autobiography, Secrets of the Street, which was subtitled "The Book They Could Not Ban" after Granada Television tried to do so. She also made a return to the stage, and appeared on a variety of chat shows, notably on Channel 4's The Word where she sang "I Will Survive." Another acting opportunity came when we played the wicked fairy Poison Ivy in Mike Reid's adult pantomime Pussy in Boots, which was subsequently released on video. In 1995, she starred in her own comedy film, Lynne Perrie's Alternative Workout, which consisted of her fondling toned young men.

In 1996, she was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary: The Ghost of Ivy Tilsley, part of a series of films exploring the dark side of fame. Reduced to the status of a celebrity bingo caller, Perrie said: "Fame is like a drug. The more you get, the more you want." Shortly after, she was reconciled with her husband Derrick Barksby. Unknown to the public, she and Barksby had lived away from each other after Perrie landed the role of Ivy.

Her career gradually began to pick up again when she performed in a televised concert in San Pedro, became in demand as an after-dinner speaker, and on Christmas Day 1996 she was seen in a TV commercial. In 1997, she was reunited with Christopher Quinten, who played her Street son Brian. when they guested on the popular BBC Radio 4 programme Harry Hill's Fruit Corner.

Throughout her time on Coronation Street and after, Perrie battled a well publicised drink problem and was once addicted to gambling. She also started to suffer from depression after learning that her son was HIV positive. Speaking in 1998, Perrie told a journalist: "Any mother will understand the pain but for me it was much worse. He was my only child and we went through this under the spotlight of publicity." Looking back on her departure from Coronation Street, she said: "I've been haunted by Ivy since I left. After she died they brought her back as a ghost. "I didn't want to go out because people kept stopping me and talking to me as Ivy. I became a prisoner in my own home. I was going to bed and swallowing sleeping tablets. I was going crazy."

She slowly became to rebuild her life, but her health remained poor, reportedly at its worst in 2001. However, two years later she claimed it had improved and that she planned a comeback but in keeping with what friends thought of as her manic depressive character, it never happened. 

Lynne died on 24th March 2006 at the age of 74, following a stroke. Tributes were paid on television and in the newspapers by former co-stars, Johnny Briggs, who as factory boss Mike Baldwin clashed with Ivy in Coronation Street on screen, said: "She was my daughter's godmother and one of the most generous people I ever met. She would give a tramp £10 rather than walk past in the street." Elizabeth Dawn who played Vera Duckworth said: "I am terribly saddened to hear the news. She was always full of life and great fun to work with." William Roache who plays Ken Barlow said: "You always knew when Lynne was in the room as the sound of her laughter was never far away."

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