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Philip Sayer 1946 - 1989

Philip Sayer was born in Swansea on 26th October 1946; his early schooling was at Clwyd Primary in Penlan. His potential talent as an actor was recognised at an early age when his teacher Mr Kenneth Pearce sent a letter home to Philip’s mother Myra, who had been unwell and had missed a school concert. In it he waxed lyrical about the 11-year-old Philip and his wonderful performances at the show, commenting that one day he would see Philip’s name up in lights. Also in the same show was Sion Probert, they would become life long friends. After a few shows with Swansea Little Theatre, Philip became ASM at Swansea Grand Theatre during the Repertory season of 1963, under the guidance of John Chilvers.   The following year at the age of seventeen he gained a place at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art starting on the very same day as Lesley Joseph and Maureen Lipman and was very close friends with both until the day he died. Philip had charisma in spades. He was tall, good looking, with impeccable dress sense and was a real head turner who lit up any room he entered. He also had a big heart and had an aura about him that made everyone he met want to be his friend. His first engagement after Drama College was at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter. He then played the West End in “Abelard and Eloise” and “The Dirtiest Show In Town”.  In 1973 and 1974 he was part of a world tour with The Royal Shakespeare Company with plays including “A Midsummer Nights Dream”. His big break however, came when he took over the role of Frank N. Furter from Tim Curry in The West End in 1974. Tim Curry was a very difficult act to follow, Philip excelled in this part to great critical acclaim and did it for eight months until the strain of working in high heels every night brought on a serious back injury, which forced him to withdraw from the show. The specialist who treated Philip, Dr Michael Durtnell, became a great friend to Philip and Philip reciprocated by recommending many actors, Actresses, dancers etc. to Michael’s clinic – after Philip’s death Michael Durtnell named his clinics Sayer Clinics in memory of him, they are still going strong today. His first foray into Television was in the late 1960’s and early 70’s with appearances in Van Der Valk, Crown Court, Rock Follies and Shoestring to name but a few. In the 1980’s he had a relationship with the actress Susan Sarandon, who he had met on the set of “The Hunger”. Philip owned a in a flat in fashionable Notting Hill, and as Philip had expensive tastes it was decorated to an almost palatial standard.  Its value today would be over £1.5 million. He was devastated when Susan left to further her career in Hollywood. During 1986 he was asked to play St Paul in the American Mini-series “Anno Domini” where he received rave reviews. He also went on to play the romantic lead in the BBC television series “Bluebell” with Carolyn Pickles and followed this up playing the part of an English Doctor living in France in “Floodtide” this time for ITV. After starring as the monster in the cult movie “Xtro”, he was cast to play Kronk in the Movie “Shanghai Surprise” with Madonna and Sean Penn. Philip became great friends with Madonna and she sent him a very touching hand written letter from a New York hotel room when he was ill. Sadly he was not allowed to realise his full potential, as he was diagnosed with cancer and died on 19th September 1989 after a brave and spirited fight at the age of just 42. His legacy was a scholarship fund set up in his name to L.A.M.D.A., which continued up until 2006. There was a Memorial tribute at The Aldwych Theatre just after he died, it was a very moving experience hosted by Sir Ian Mckellen, with contributions from Sion Probert, Denis Lawson and Maureen Lipman. Among the audience that night was Queen's Brian May, who was with his partner Anita Dobson. Anita was a great friend to Philip. Brian May was so moved by the evening that, even though he had not even met Philip Sayer, he wrote a song dedicated to him, and included it on his next album. The song was called “Just One Life” the lyrics I feel sum Philip up perfectly.


Just One Life  

I did not know you, our lives never touched

'Til the day they gathered, to bid you farewell

And they painted your picture and as I looked around

I felt I saw you in the words and the sound


Your talent came flowing, through the stories they tell

And through the faces of those who loved you so well

Your life gave them a treasure, a piece of themselves

Something they carry, and still serves them well


Just one life, just one life, just one life

That is born, and is, and is gone, just one life

And I'm so glad to know you, as I know you now


Perhaps inside you, you were messed up like me

But to them you were whole and strong and a friend in their need

And what you left behind you and what swept over me

Says that your life's work rolls on and on, a piece of eternity


Just one life, just one life, just one life

That is born, and is, and is gone, just one life

Did you ever have a chance to find out

What life is all about


I did not know you, our lives never touched

'Til the day we gathered, to say our farewell

   (Lyrics reproduced by courtesy of Brian May)


Philip Sayer sadly never had the opportunity to fulfill his enormous potential. Had he lived he would almost certainly have been mentioned amongst the likes of Sir Ian Mckellen, Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton as one of the all time acting greats.

Philip Sayer left a great hole in the lives of many, not least his family.  Mike, his Brother and Pam his sister-in-law, who nursed him through his illness, still miss an extraordinary character who was a fantastic uncle to their children, and a first class human being. Maralynn Velasco was also a great comfort and help to Philip during his illness, She was an actress who, like Philip, hailed from Swansea. Her unselfish support of him during his final days is to be commended and Mike and Pam Sayer were and are still eternally grateful. He is buried at Oystermouth Cemetery in Swansea overlooking Mumbles bay.

Philip Sayer was born in Swansea in 1946, he went to school at Clwyd Primary near Penlan, where his talent was recognised at an early age by his teacher Kenneth Pearce. Philip was ASM at Swansea Grand Theatre in 1963, then went to drama school at L.A.M.D.A. starting on the same day as Lesley Joseph and Maureen Lipman. His career took off in 1974 when he replaced Tim Curry in the role of Frank'n'furter in "The Rocky Horror Show" on the West End. Film and Television highlights included "The Hunger"- where he met Susan Sarandon, "Shanghai Surprise" with Madonna and Sean Penn, As the Monster in cult horror movie "Xtro". During 1986 he was asked to play St Paul in the American Mini-series “Anno Domini” where he received rave reviews. He also went on to play the romantic lead in the BBC television series “Bluebell” with Carolyn Pickles and followed this up playing the part of an English Doctor living in France in “Floodtide” this time for ITV.Philip Sayer sadly never had the opportunity to fulfill his enormous potential as he was diagnosed with cancer and died on 19th September 1989 after a brave and spirited fight at the age of just 42. His legacy was a scholarship fund set up in his name to L.A.M.D.A., which continued up until 2006.Had he lived he would almost certainly have been mentioned amongst the likes of Sir Ian Mckellen, Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton as one of the all time acting greats.

Philip Sayer left a great hole in the lives of many, not least his family.  Mike, his Brother and Pam his sister-in-law, who nursed him through his illness, still miss an extraordinary character who was a fantastic uncle to their children, and a first class human being. Maralynn Velasco was also a great comfort and help to Philip during his illness, She was an actress who, like Philip, hailed from Swansea. Her unselfish support of him during his final days is to be commended and Mike and Pam Sayer were and are still eternally grateful. He is buried at Oystermouth Cemetery in Swansea overlooking Mumbles bay.


There was a Memorial tribute at The Aldwych Theatre just after Philip died, it was a very moving experience hosted by Sir Ian Mckellen, with contributions from Sion Probert, Denis Lawson and Maureen Lipman. Among the audience that night was Queen Legend Brian May, who was with his partner Anita Dobson. Anita was a great friend to Philip. Brian May was so moved by the evening that, even though he had not even met Philip Sayer, he wrote a song dedicated to him, and included it on his next album. The song was called “Just One Life”


Dear Philip,

I am sitting in my hotel room in New York Reminiscing about the past, cause that's what happens every time I come to this lone rag of a city. Christopher told me you were ill so, even though I have thought fondly of you from time to time, I am thinking of you now more than ever. Its difficult to be clever and consoling to someone whom I respect and whose shit detector is as highly tuned as mine. so I would just like to say that I think you're wonderful and the best thing in that dreadful movie we did together and I wish you every bit of happiness you can squeeze out of this life,

all my love Madonna


Philip with Susan Sarandon

Hand written letters from Madonna sent to Philip when he was ill

Philip’s final resting place at Oystermouth Cemetery in Mumbles, Swansea