August 11, 1994.
I was in the office of the Wharfe Valley Times in Otley, West Yorkshire, when a call came through from my friend Paul Burland, then working at Yorkshire Television.
“I thought I’d better let you know that Peter Cushing has died. It’s just come over the wires.” A few minutes later he sent over a copy of the brief announcement that had been put out by the Press Association: the veteran star of innumerable horror movies was dead at 81.
I was immensely saddened by the news. Cushing had been my favourite actor since childhood – ever since an eye-popping sci-fi spectacular called Star Wars took the world by storm. And I loved him as Grand Moff Tarkin.
But of course I’d been aware of Cushing through his Hammer horrors. And I became a devotee of his work, collecting obsessively anything and everything he appeared in.
That day I called some of the names in my contact book. I rang Ingrid Pitt for her comments. And I got in touch with British comedian Ernie Wise, to whom I broke the news of Cushing’s passing. It was a sad moment, but everyone I spoke to had only good memories.
As I did – and do. I still get a kick out of watching Cushing on screen. He was such a versatile actor, equally reliable as hero or villain. It’s hard to think he’s been gone for 22 long years. But isn’t it heart-warming to think of all those films and TV shows, and recognise that as long as cinema survives, Peter Cushing will never die?
Peter Cushing 1913 – 1994