Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Dustin Gee And Les Dennis - Vera and Mavis

TV Times, July 1985.

Rick, "Mavis Riley's Number One Fan", has been in touch again to ask for further information about Dustin Gee and Les Dennis, and how they came to double-up for Mavis Riley and Vera Duckworth in the famous "Well, I don't really know!" sketches of the 1980s.

It all began on Russ Abbot's Madhouse, a popular comedy sketch show which began in 1980. Mr Abbot, his zany characters and line-up of supporting stars, created one of the most popular shows on telly, and it was on this show that Les Dennis and Dustin Gee first "did" Mavis and Vera.

An early '80s sketch featured Russ selling sketches from a barrow.

"We had to pop up from behind the barrow doing particular impressions, but we got the sequence a bit wrong," explained Dustin Gee. "Russ had already got Mavis Riley beside him and he said: 'And what am I bid for a Bet Lynch?' I said, 'You can't have a Bet Lynch, but here's a Vera Duckworth,' because I was halfway dressed as Vera. I appeared and began talking to 'Mavis' in character. After that, we began to appear more regularly, eventually on Live From Her Majesty's as well as The Royal Variety Show."

Although I have hundreds of Corrie episodes, I don't have a single one in which the real Mavis actually says "I don't really know!" But, thanks to Dustin and Les, this phrase is still widely associated with her!

Tarty, worldly Vera and twittering, innocent Mavis were an excellent combination for some good, saucy fun. "You know what you need... cock," said Dustin's Vera to her unlikely pal. The slight pause turned Vera's familiar habit of calling everybody "cock" into something rather naughtier!

Sadly, whilst the Gee/Dennis partnership was at its height in 1986, Dustin Gee died of a heart attack, at the age of 43.

But the memories - and the laughter - remain.


  1. How did Annie get on with Phyllis Pearce and how did Ena get on with Ivy and Vera?

  2. Phyllis appeared with Chalkie and Craig Whiteley early on and I don't recall her meeting Annie. When she became a fully-fledged Street character later in the '80s, Annie had retired to Derby. Ena never actually had anything to do with Vera and Ivy, who were originally simply workers at the factory. Ivy didn't move into The Street until 1979 (Ena left in 1980) and Vera and Jack did not become residents until 1983.