Mrs. Slocombe: Yes, We Were Served, Thank You : A Gay Guy's Appreciation

Straight Guy,

I just read today that Mrs. Slocombe . . . err, I mean, Mollie Sugden, the British actress famous for playing Mrs. Slocombe on the long-running and perpetually repeated BBC series "Are You Being Served" died on July 1. She was 86.

Read her obit in the Telegraph.

Sugden's rich and very British acting career lasted through the relatively new series "Little Britain," in which she was the highlight of a long-running joke. (Rather like the never-seen Maris on Frasier.)

Mrs. Slocombe was the fierce manager of the Ladies Separates and Underwear department of Grace Bros. department store on "Are You Being Served." Her store counterpoint in menswear was the over-the-top camp Mr. Humphries, played with deadly seriousness by John Inman. In every episode, Mrs. Slocombe unwittingly engaged in double-entendre-laced, but clueless, gay humor with Mr. Humphries. The barbs are completely politically incorrect and would be protested if on TV today, but I find them hilarious nonetheless. It's an example of humor about gays that needs to be left in the past, but is part of our collective history.

The chronicles of Mrs. Slocombe's cat, that is to say, her "little pussy," never failed to be recounted in every episode. The gag, to Sugden's credit, never got old. Watch this and see for yourself.

It was camp and just plain wrong, but I loved it. Somehow I doubt it endeared itself to you, Straight Guy.

--Gay Guy


Straight in Upstate said...

Thanks for posting this, GG - I missed it, and know my parents will be in mourning. I especially liked the pussy montage. My dad dissolved into laughing-but-trying-not-to-laugh-because-it's-wrong fits every time.

Topic for future post: what is camp and why is it just plain wrong? Camp seems much less mean than, say, Saturday Night Live or Sascha Baron Cohen - yes or no?

Anonymous said...

Am I seeing the colors right on my screen, or does her hair radically change color from episode to episode?

Straight in Upstate said...

Yes, it does!!! That was part of the gag that I missed out on, watching it on crappy sets for years.

Straight Guy said...

Do I have to admit that Benny Hill was the PBS British comedy that clicked with me?

Gay Guy / Straight Guy Archive