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Press Archive
TV TimesAugust 14th 1968
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I know I'm not a star - and that's all right with me
Stuart Damon of The Champions talks to George Tremlett in London
Alexandra Bastedo, William Gaunt and Stuart Damon - The Night People
Alexandra Bastedo, William Gaunt and Stuart Damon… superhuman crime fighters in The Champions.
Each time Stuart Damon saw himself in The Champions he said to himself: “That’s not me… I’m not like that at all… if I saw myself becoming a machine, I’d give up”.
When we met he was filming a guest appearance in what Roger Moore swears is the very last episode of The Saint, a super-budget finale with a cast of 70 extras swirling around the baccarat tables of Monte Carlo, and Moore and Damon enjoying a fast fight scene.
This is not the fun it sounds because they both had to wear skin-gripping rubber suits for two days before the cameras which had a total lighting equivalent of 180,000 candles.
In this episode, Damon plays a wealthy young Texan who has money to burn — but hates losing it, especially when he drops 30,000 in a fixed game of baccarat.
The casting may appear appropriate: Damon is an American, though from New York and not Texas. “Where I come from, you have to go five miles before you find the nearest tree,” he says.
A home in Chelsea
But, in fact, the accent is mostly assumed: having married an English girl, set up home in Chelsea and become officially a British resident, his New York accent has almost gone.
“There’s just the rhythym left,” he says.
He met his wife, actress Deirdre Dennis, when she went to New York for the Broadway production of Irma La Douce — which opened at the theatre next to the one where Damon was appearing.
“I saw this delicious bird coming out of the theatre, and I wanted to go up to her every day — but I knew if I did she would spit in my eye, and that would be the end of it,” says Damon.
“And I kept seeing her come out of the theatre every day, and I thought she was fantastic — look,” he said, producing a photo of Deirdre from his wallet, “she’s a dish — isn’t she?”
I agreed, so Damon continued:
“I’m a pretty forward kind of fellow, but I didn’t want to louse it up, so I waited. Then I was sitting in a bar one afternoon before the show with this Australian girl Dellas Rennie who was a friend of mine. She was a choreographer working in New York, and she kept saying that she’d like me to meet her flat mate.
“Then while I was talking to her, sitting there with my back to the door, in walked this bird — and it was HER. The flat-mate!”
“So she sat down with us, and I was so excited — and then I asked her if she’d like to have another drink with me after the show.
“There, that’s quite a romantic story, isn’t it?”
Damon has now been married nearly eight-and-a-half years and for nearly four years has been living in London.
“I’d been in theatre and television in the States for years — I’ve been in the business 13 years now — and I’d reached the stage where I was too old to be a juvenile, but wasn’t well-known enough to take the lead. I couldn’t get work.”
Russian father
Then nearly four years ago he came to England to meet his parents-in-law for the first time.
Deirdre’s father, Group-Captain Peter Ottewill, A.F.C., G.M., has a 100-acre farm in North Devon and until recently was with the R.A.F.
Damon said his family are very close — his own parents (his father was a Russian immigrant to the States, though the family name is of Greek origin) died several years ago, and his two sisters are both settled in the States.
“I’ve got the most fabulous family here,” says Damon.
“Peter comes up to London and works here Mondays to Fridays — and then he goes back to Devon at the weekends and puts in a 12 or 14-hour-day working on a farm on Saturdays and Sundays.
“We all go down to the farm quite often. I think Devon is a fabulous place… all the little lanes across the moors, opening out on to the sea… and the fields and the farms… I’ve just bought three horses down there, and my wife is bringing them up to London.”
He and Deirdre have enrolled at the Fulmer School of Equitation near Slough, where they are studying horsemanship, with Deirdre thinking of going on to study dressage.
“I think I’m lucky to have such a fantastic life,” said Damon.
Another series
“I can live up here in London and then escape completely into the country, and sit on the gate down there, chewing a piece of grass, watching the horses, and at peace with the world.
“I know I’m not a star — but I’m the kind of actor that producers know.
“They know my face, and when a part comes up for a young American, they think of me, phone me, and offer me the job, and that’s fine by me, so long as I have work — and time left over for horses and golf. I’m quite happy not being a star.”
But perhaps this might change. Already, his television series The Champions with Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt has been sold to 15 countries, including the United States where the network response has been good. Now, there is talk of another series — which Damon says he will believe when he signs the contract.
So far, it has not been shown in Britain — even though it was produced here — though there are rumours that it will be in the autumn schedules.
“When that comes,” I suggested, “you may find yourself a star — whether you like it or not.”
“That doesn’t worry me,” said Damon. “I can cope with it, and if the pressure up here in London gets very great I’ve got the most fantastic bolt-hole in the world.
“Nobody would ever be able to find me down in the wilds of Devon. And I’d have no trouble wearing dark glasses — I have to wear glasses most of the time in any case.”
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