I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the 90th birthday celebrations for the artist Sir Peter Blake, held at the Royal Festival Hall in December 2022. Among the line-up of musical acts performing that night, were Madness, The Who, Baxter Dury, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and Chrissie Hynde. For me, and many others from what I heard after, Chrissie stole the show by performing the theme tune of the TV show Minder, I Could be so Good for You, originally sung of course by one of the stars of that show, Dennis Waterman, who Chrissie also declared on the night, she fancied like mad.
The man himself was born on February 24, 1948, in Clapham, South West London, the youngest of nine kids raised by Harry and Rose Waterman. Harry, worked as a sheet metal worker and on the railways, Rose as a dedicated housewife, who had her hands full obviously.
Boxing was an early passion in the family, with dad Harry a keen amateur and brother Peter a British Welterweight champion. Dennis himself boxed from the age of three, going on to represent the Caius Boxing Club.
Waterman attended the Granard Primary School on the Ashburton Estate in Putney, followed by the Corona Stage School, an independent school at Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith. Fellow actors to emerge from there over the years include Ray Winstone and Nicholas Lyndhurst. Dennis’s early exposure to the arts, sparked his passion for acting and singing.
In 1960, at the age of 12, he made his acting debut in the film Night Train for Inverness. His talent was evident even at such a tender age, and he went to make appearances in various films, television and stage shows during his teenage years. Parts included a season with the Royal Shakespeare company , starring as William Brown in Just William on the BBC and as Oliver Twist in an early production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver at the Mermaid Theatre .
You’re the only beautiful thing round here princess
His first major film role came in Nell Dunn’s Up The Junction as Peter, a second hand furniture salesman. In it he played the boyfriend to Polly played by Suzy Kendall. Manfred Mann supplied the soundtrack and Peter Collinson directed.
He came to national TV prominence in the mid 1970s when he was cast in the gritty British television series The Sweeney as Detective Sergeant George Carter alongside his guvnor, played by John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan. The show gained immense popularity for its realistic portrayal of the work undertaken by the Flying Squad of the Metropolitan Police who had picked up the cockney rhyming slang name of Sweeney Todd, hence the title of the programme.
Waterman’s portrayal of Carter was a turning point in his career, and it solidified his status as an actor capable of tackling complex roles. His on-screen chemistry with John Thaw was palpable, and the show became a cultural phenomenon in the UK, a status which survives to this present day due to the constant re-runs of the episodes.
Watch him George, he’s hard enough to roller skate on.
Following the success of The Sweeney, Waterman continued to build on his reputation as one of Britain’s most beloved actors. In 1979, he took on the role of Terry McCann in the iconic television series Minder, also made by Euston Films, who had devised The Sweeney. The show, which ran for a decade until 1989, featured Waterman as a likeable, small-time crook turned bodyguard, employed to protect a rascal called Arthur Daley, played majestically by the wonderful George Cole. The on-screen partnership was a highlight, with much of the witty banter contributing significantly to the programme’s enduring popularity, by being repeated at many a school playground and workplace lunch time, the following day.
Don’t worry my son, from now on, the world is your lobster
Minder not only showcased Waterman’s acting prowess but also allowed him to flex his musical talents. He recorded the show’s memorable theme song, I Could Be So Good for You written by his then wife Patricia Maynard and Gerard Kenny, which went on to become a top three hit in the UK.
Away from the camera, it is said he had his struggles with alcohol and became tabloid fodder on more than one occasion due to his personal life, especially when married to actress Rula Lenska. Domestic violence was reported in 1987 which Waterman discussed openly on chat shows.
His other notable TV, film – he made 28 in total – and stage work include Colditz, On the Up, Stay Lucky, New Tricks, The Life and Loves of a She Devil, Windy City, My Fair Lady, Minder on the Orient Express, Jeffery Bernard is Unwell and The World Cup : A Captains Tale – the true story of West Auckland Town FC who won the Sir Thomas Lipton cup, also thought of as the first World Cup, not once but twice in 1909 and 1911. It was reported that most of its £1.5 million pound budget was funded by Waterman himself.
Dennis worked here and there up until around 2020, and then semi-retired to live in La Manga in Spain. He died from lung cancer on 8 May 2022, aged of 74.
The Mumper of SE5.
ART GALLERY CLOTHING
THE SPEAKEASY VOLUME 3 – AVAILABLE NOW
THE SPEAKEASY Volume Three by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)
Illustrations by Lewis Wharton
Foreword by Eddie Piller
Sign up to our newsletter and receive an exclusive promo code, latest news & Art Gallery Clothing offers.