The following piece was added to ‘Wikipedia talk’ on 17 November 2011 at 13:53 by someone calling themselves The Runewriter - evidently a Swedish person, sex unknown.

A lot of what they say about Michael is accurate, and not widely known, so The Runewriter had clearly met him, and got to know him. Michael’s former girlfriend N.B. thinks the person might be a Swedish woman called Kerstin, who was living at Michael’s house in Shirlock Road in 1984.

However, some of what The Runewriter says cannot be confirmed.

“In the spring of 1984, Michael Gothard came to Stockholm to stage a minor role in a film called ‘Starman’, where he was originally cast for the title role. However, due to some intrigues, he was replaced by Jeff Bridges.

In the film you can see that the mechanical dolls, supposed to show the Starman taking the shape of a human being, are based on Michael Gothard’s traits. He would have been perfect to embody this alienated personality trying to survive by adapting to the life on earth.

Instead he was to stage a researcher in wheelchair. Anyway the film a year later was promoted with Michael Gothard’s name in capital letters, as if he still was playing one of the leading characters.1

So he had a lot of hours off in Stockholm and went to a performance of ‘King Lear’ staged by Ingmar Bergman at the Dramatic Theatre.2

Michael Gothard was an intellectual man who knew his Shakespeare by heart, and probably he was the only one in the film team who bothered to attend a theatre performance in Swedish. I happened to sit behind him and got the whole story about ‘Starman’, and it really astonished me.

I visited Michael Gothard in London, and learned to know him as a warm, intelligent and humorous character that made original remarks and comments about things going on.

I will never forget what he said about the centre of Stockholm, that used to be a place with old houses – among them palaces from the 17th and 18th centuries. When Michel saw the brutal city renewal from the 70s he would go: "I didn't think Sweden was in the war!" I had to inform him that the stupid Swedes had destroyed their city.

Talking about war, Michael told me he had suffered through the Blitz as many other Londoners, but during those – also to grown-ups scaringly dark years – he was parted from his parents.

Michael Gothard, although working for the commercial film industry, was a culturally critical person, he was a member of the peace movement, he was against nuclear power and politically leftist.

A film he recommended to me from those times was ‘My Dinner with Andre’, not interesting for its camerawork, but for its way of explaining the social situations of actors.

He told me that he in the beginning of his career had been offered a job at RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), and I asked why he hadn't tried this, and I must say I never really understood his answer; it was something about not repeating yourself.
But I thought film actors had to repeat the scenes all the time ...

Before Michael Gothard chose to work with his language as an actor, he had also volunteered as journalist at local papers.3

He was a witty and funny letter writer.

Michael Gothard was a multi-talented person, he played the saxophone, he was also sketching what I remember as abstract pictures, and he closely followed his times, describing himself as a news addict.

Coming from a country famous for its suicides, I also want to add, that of course the cause of death throws its shadow on a person’s life, but it doesn't mean that the life itself was a very dark one. At least Michael and I had a lot of fun together, and I wish our friendship had lasted longer.

What also bothers me are some stories about the less serious parts of the film industry Michael told me. He said actors could sometimes get killed and their death then masked as a suicide or an accident, so they wouldn't have to pay the actor.

Anyway, if he took his life it wasn't an action against us that loved him, it was due to very sad and tragic circumstances. Depression is a disease with as big a risk of death as some severe forms of cancer, and it has to be treated by specialists, sometimes even in hospital. What a tragedy that there was no one there to take him by the hand and lead him to the hospital.”

~~

1 While the mechanical bodies could be said to look like Michael, there is no sign of him in the film. Either his role was cut completely, or there has been a misunderstanding or misremembering by The Runewriter. I can find no trace of Michael Gothard’s name on the Swedish poster for “Starman.”

However, Michael was said to have been in the frame for two other roles in “Lifeforce”: those of the hero, Col. Tom Carlsen (eventually played by Steve Railsback) and Col. Colin Caine (eventually played by Peter Firth) before he was eventually cast as Dr. Bukovsky.

As they posted this many years later, it seems possible that The Runewriter's memory is a little unreliable, and that he or she has got these two films mixed up.

Neither of the two productions were filmed in Sweden, so presumably Michael had gone there during a break in, or at the end of, the filming of his scenes in "Lifeforce."

2 The Ingmar Bergman production of King Lear mentioned by The Runewriter was first performed on 9 March 1984.

3 Childhood friend Baz encountered Michael working as a trainee reporter for the Kensington Post in 1961.
Memory from Michael's childhood friend Baz:

"In 1961 at the time of his mother’s re-marriage, he was working as a trainee reporter on a local paper, 'The Kensington Post.' I know this to be the case because I had occasion to talk to him there.

He did not work on the paper for long as it was obviously not his metier.

The paper was part of a large group, abiding by all the employment regulations. One of these would be to question young men if they had been called-up to serve in the forces, to establish there would be no career breaks if the answer were ‘yes.’ Michael was close to my age, and I was called-up, with thousands following me before the draft was ended.

Government officers kept a very close eye on employment details and absentees from military service. Very few slipped through the net. The Head Office of the group Michael was employed by was in Loughton, East London now (Essex, then), and the Parliamentary constituency of one Winston Churchill. I doubt any Civil Servant would wish to embarrass Churchill with a draft dodger under his nose.

The call-up in those days required draftees to have – if not 20-20 vision – good eyesight, that may have to be aided by glasses under certain circumstances, reading and sighting firearms. It is my firm belief Michael did not go to Paris to dodge the draft. I suggest he failed the medical through poor eyesight.

I trust this may satisfy you that Michael was not a draft dodger; just a little vain about the glasses. Funny really, how a pair of goggles later became quite iconic on Michael.

NB. The Runewriter also mentions Michael working as a reporter.
Michael and a senior girl (possibly the Head Girl) at sports day on Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, probably 1954/55.

Sports day at Parliament Hill Fields race course 1954/5
Picture courtesy of Michael's friend H.

Sheila Dickens (née Hellyer) says: "I remember Michael Gothard. We both attended Haverstock School but he was a couple of years older than me, so would not know or remember me. He was a fantastic runner. We were both chosen to run in the All London Athletics at Hurlingham Stadium.1

Some friends and I were watching his race, and it was a false start; everything went quiet and all you could hear was my friend shouting 'Gothard!'"

Jean Orbell (née Miller), who also attended Haverstock School, say: "Michael was a great runner. I am not the girl in the picture, but I remember him well. I always wished I was in the same house as Michael, as he always won all of his races."

Michael's schoolfriend H. says: "Michael was an excellent athlete: good in most sports but he excelled in the 100, 200 and 400 yards races."

Michael's schoolfriend Baz does not remember Michael representing the school, but says that "Michael ran the 220 yards and trained at the track at Parliament Hill fields."

1 This must have been at one of the earliest athletics meetings a Hurlingham, where according to Wikipedia, "the opening meeting of the track was on 11 September 1954 ... The running track was originally made of cinder ... It had a capacity of approximately 2,500 on bench type seating. The track was the base of London Athletic Club, and the straight was last thought to be used for a race in 1979. The meeting ... included a 220 yard straight race (200 metres)."
I was lucky enough to be contacted by a friend of Michael’s from his teenage years, H. He very kindly provided me the valuable new information and photos below.


‘I came across your website yesterday after seeing a rerun of 'For Your Eyes Only' and was very touched that you planted a tree in his memory.

Michael and I went to the same school, Haverstock Comprehensive in Chalk Farm in North West London, and were in the same class probably from 1953/4 till 1957.

I usually called him Mike or Mick. Michael was a close friend of mine, and was a frequent visitor to our home. My parents always treated him as a member of our family.’

Home

‘He lived with his mother in Gloucester Avenue just off Primrose Hill and I went to his place on a number of occasions.

Both Michael and his mother were very well spoken and she appeared to be well educated.

I always understood that Michael's father died at Dunkirk. Michael was born in June 1939, the Second World War started in September 1939 and the Battle of and Evacuation of Dunkirk took place in May/June 1940.’

When told that Michael’s mother was actually divorced, H. expressed the opinion that:

‘At that time, divorce tended to be frowned upon. It is possible this may have been a white lie told by his mother to explain that his father was not present.

As far as I am aware, I never met Jack Walker [Michael's 'Uncle Jack', who was on the electoral roll for the address, 1952 - 8] and I cannot remember either Michael or his mother ever mentioning him to me.’1

Character

‘Michael always chose his words carefully but he did not appear to be at all shy and was very self assured.

He was always outgoing, and as far as I was concerned I never saw him in a depressed state of mind.’

School

‘I think Haverstock was one of the first Comprehensive Schools in the country, so we were quite lucky in the education we received. All the teachers appeared to be doing their best to give us a good education. I remember our Geography teacher who became our 6th form teacher had to upgrade his qualifications to continue to teach us. He eventually became the Headmaster of another school.

The teachers were very broad minded from a political point of view – so if and when we talked politics it covered the whole gamut.

From memory the uniforms were dark blue with grey trousers and the tie was yellow red stripes.

The school had a house system. I think our house name was Camden.

Michael was a good student and always did well in exams. His good looks always attracted the girls. As far as I was aware, he did not have any particular girlfriends but he was always very popular with the girls, very self assured and confident. He may have had girl friends, but never mentioned them.

He got on well with all his teachers, his peers and other pupils.

During the time I knew him, he did not have any problems with authority.

Michael did not smoke whilst at school. I can't remember ever seeing him smoking cigarettes or anything else. He was too keen on sports and his fitness and health. There were other students who smoked cigarettes round the back of the school toilets.

Michael was an excellent athlete: good in most sports but he excelled in the 100, 200 and 400 yards races.

Sports Day - Parliament Hill Fields

Michael and senior girl at sports day on Parliament Hill Fields at the bottom of Hampstead Heath probably 1954/55.

In our last two years at school in Sixth Form, we both studied Advanced History and Geography. Because the 6th form subject classes were so small each student was virtually given personal tuition.

We were both prefects; I believe the prefects were selected by a committee of teachers together with the Headmaster.

Prefects

Michael and the prefects appointed in 1955/56.

Michael was the Head Boy in his final year at school.

During our 6th and 7th years, Michael and I, together with others, went on three geographical/geological trips together – to Dale Fort in Pembrokeshire, to the Yorkshire Dales to study the limestone areas and to Scotland on a trip from Inverness to the Isle of Skye.

Michael never mentioned his Welsh grandparents, which is strange because, as I mentioned above, we travelled by train to Dale Fort in Pembrokeshire and St David’s together. Maybe he was able to compartmentalise these things.

Dale Fort

Michael with other students at Dale Fort.

Near Aviemore Youth Hostel

Michael near Dale Fort.

Dale Fort 2

Michael and other students from the group who went to Dale Fort.

Near Aviemore Youth Hostel 2

Near the Aviemore Youth Hostel in Scotland, 1956: Michael and another student who was also in our class, and would have been 17 or 18 at the time.


I'm not certain whether Michael did his A-levels or not – probably we should assume he did take his A levels but left shortly thereafter. I do know that he did not stay to the end of the school year.

I'm not certain why he did not go on to do further education.’

Music

‘I had always been interested in music and, in particular, Jazz and took up the drums in my early teens. Michael also started to play the clarinet. Soon we had a group rehearsing at our place just off Primrose Hill.

We often listened to jazz records, traditional, mainstream and modern. On my eighteenth birthday I remember Michael giving me an LP 'Tribute to Benny Goodman' with Jess Stacy and the Famous Sidemen – I still have the LP.

Benny Goodman

I remember one time, Michael, I and another friend went to see Ken Colyer (a leading traditional jazz trumpeter in the 1950s and 60s) and his band somewhere I believe in Camden Town. I believe the gig was either at a Trade Union Club or a Communist Club.’

Dancing

‘Both my parents and Michael's mother were very keen on us learning ballroom dancing and I remember Michael, myself and another friend enrolling to learn to dance at a studio in Baker Street. We managed to learn how to get round a dance floor without any major problems, but I only ever saw him dancing either at school dances or at parties.

As far as I can remember, the only jazz club we went to together was the Ken Colyer gig and we certainly didn't dance there.’

Leaving home/school

‘I was not aware that Michael had left his home after leaving school. One reason for him travelling to Europe may have been that Conscription to the Army was still in place for all males aged 18 years and over and was so until 1960.’2

I asked: ‘Was Michael already forming leftist political opinions at this age?’

H. replied: ‘At the time we really did not get into politics. I suppose one should remember that we were in the middle of the Cold War and the Suez Crisis had just taken place in 1956 and so the population, and young people in particular, were worried about what was happening around them so travelling might not have been so bad an idea.

Prior to 1956 no American Jazz musicians were allowed to play in the U.K. In addition there were quite a few American jazz musicians living in France and other parts of Europe in order to get away from the racial intolerance in the USA and these reasons together with the urge to travel and see a bit of the world may have contributed to his going overseas.

The school actively encouraged students in linguistic studies, and this also may have influenced him in his decision to travel to France. A couple of years prior, [to leaving school] we went on a school trip to Europe.

After leaving school, I became an articled clerk to a firm of Chartered Accountants in the City and continued studying for the next five years. I lost touch with Michael and other members of our group during that time.

In some ways it didn't surprise me that Michael became an actor - when I found out I was really quite proud that I had once known and been a close friend of his.

I heard of Michael's untimely death a number of years ago which came as a huge shock.

Punting on the River Cam

Michael with two other students (also in our class) punting on the River Cam. I can't remember what we doing in Cambridge - obviously a class excursion.’

1 Baz, another schoolfriend of Michael's, who knew him from a few years earlier than H, remembers knowing that Michael's parents were separated, and that Jack Walker was a part of Michael's life.

2 Baz believes Michael failed the medical on the grounds of his poor eyesight.

The creators of this Archive are very grateful to H. for sharing these memories and photographs.
This is a photo of Haverstock School’s form 2K, 1951/2.

Haverstock 1952 2K
Photo courtesy of Patricia Ruff

Patricia Ruff (née Oakes) says: “Both my husband John Ruff and me are in this photo. Michael Gothard is the boy in the back row. He was form captain.”

Michael schoolfriend H. also identifies Michael as “standing 4th from right in the back row of the 1952 form 2K photo.” H. did not know Michael at that time, as he was in 2D, with Baz, who already knew Michael from when they were both at Princess Road Primary School.

However, Baz remembers Michael being in 2D with them, at least later on in 1952.

“The first time Michael shared a class at Haverstock with me was in 2D; I know for certain that he sat next to me for some months. I believe Michael may have started Haverstock life in a lower grade to that which he later aspired.1 He apppears in 2K’s photo and not 2D’s, because he was not elevated until later in the year.”

Teachers:

Both Baz and Patricia Ruff agree that Michael's form teacher in 2K was Mr Jones, whom Baz describes as “a card carrying communist ... He taught history as a specialty. He was never my form teacher but did take us for history. Very boring teacher who seemed to talk of nothing but the insidious Corn Laws, the Cato Street conspiracy and Castlereagh's term in leadership.”

Haverstock School 2D

This is the photo of form 2D, the class Michael joined later in 1952. Baz and H. remember that the form teacher was Miss Fraser.

1 Classes were evidently banded or streamed.
I was lucky enough to contact Baz, who was friends with Michael from the age of nine. Here are some of his recollections.

"As a friend in days of yore I would like to put the record straight, so that any definitive publication about his life and times is as close to the truth as I can help assist.

I knew Michael – despite other correspondents talking of Mick and Mike I was never allowed to – sat next Gothard (popularly muddled as Goddard) at school, and spent many happy hours on holiday and getting up to kids' pranks with him.

I cannot recall how we met, but Michael materialized in my life around 1948/49, and I was a frequent visitor to his home. My mother had an extensive catering business for many years in the Hendon area and may have known Mrs G. from those days. They were quite matey as I recall, and met on many occasions. By the age of about 10, I knew Mrs G. had left her husband; she had told my mother all about her broken marriage, and obviously I was party to this story.

Although at my young age it was all a bit meaningless to me, I was not too young to know that Uncle Jack, who visited Mrs. Gothard at her small flat in Gloucester Avenue, was close to Mrs Gothard. He was a really nice bloke and took us fishing sometimes to St. Neots on the Cambridge/Bedfordshire border. He had been a participant in the Isle of Man TT races, and I think Michael thought he was some sort of wonder man with the motorbike racing stories.

I do not think the grandparents in Wales had much contact, if any, with Michael's mum. He never mentioned them once to me or my gran, whom he met many times at my house. That would surely have been an opportunity for him to say "I have a gran in Wales" – but never a word.

Gone fishing

The pair of us aged about 11 or 12 would go fishing in the lakes at Rickmansworth, sometimes accompanied by our mums. It was on one of these little forays that I discovered Michael had disastrously poor eyesight.

Sitting next to him in classes we jointly attended at school, I had noticed his writing was minute, and executed with his nose almost touching the page. While witnessing this odd activity it never dawned on me his eyes were bad. You will understand that having to scribe boring notes and essays at school was such a chore in those days there was not headroom for extra-curricular analysis.

But fishing was a different matter all together. We watched each other like hawks. Of course I did not know Michael had a problem. We were tiddler-snatching, and that requires fast responses and dexterity. Our mothers, in the tiny row boat with us, were no doubt bored to tears. Maybe an hour had past during which time I had caught between 20 and 30 tiny little roach and rudd. Michael had only landed two or three.

My mum suggested we swap sides in the boat as it appeared all the fish were on my beat. Reluctantly – but ‘OK then’ following a glare from mum – we changed over.

Time flew by, and more fish came my way, but none from my earlier prime spot went to Michael's lure. After a bit I docked my rod and asked Michael if I could help.

First I checked his hook and bait, and, satisfied it was appropriate, let him get on with things as I watched. He ignored bite after bite, and eventually raised his rod from the water to say: ‘I think my bait has come off ...’

The truth was the bites were very fast and delicate, and sadly Michael could not see what was happening. It was never mentioned on that trip that he should have gone to Specsavers!!!

He struggled for a long time afterwards at school, maybe because he felt wearing glasses detracted from his natural good looks.

Kensington Post

In 1961, at the time of his mother’s re-marriage, he was working as a trainee reporter on a local paper in Kensington, the Kensington Post. I know this to be the case because I had occasion to talk to him there. He did not work on the paper for long as it was obviously not his metier.

National Service

The paper was part of a large group, abiding by all the employment regulations. One of these would be to question young men if they had been called-up to serve in the forces, to establish there would be no career breaks if the answer were ‘yes.’ Michael was close to my age, and I was called-up, with thousands following me before the draft was ended.

The call-up in those days required draftees to have – if not 20-20 vision – good eyesight, that may have to be aided by glasses under certain circumstances: reading and sighting firearms. It is my firm belief Michael did not go to Paris to dodge the draft. I suggest he failed the medical through poor eyesight.

Government officers kept a very close eye on employment details and absentees from military service. Very few slipped through the net. The Head Office of the group Michael was employed by was in Loughton, East London now (Essex, then), and the Parliamentary constituency of one Winston Churchill. I doubt any Civil Servant would wish to embarrass Churchill with a draft dodger under his nose.

I trust this may satisfy you that Michael was not a draft dodger - just a little vain about the glasses. Funny really, how a pair of goggles later became quite iconic on Michael."

Many thanks to Baz for these insights.

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