Death of producer Danny Greenstone

Danny Greenstone

Danny Greenstone – So it goes

I had got as far as Newcastle when I read the email.

For most of today (Sunday) I was on the long coach trail down from Edinburgh to London. It took most of the day.

The National Express coach station in Newcastle had a weak telephone signal and no WiFi (neither did their coach) and my iPhone was already running low on battery.

The email was from writer Ian Hawkins.

It said:

I expect you’ve heard by now the dreadful news that Danny Greenstone died suddenly yesterday morning. 

I had not.

Danny and I were going to meet on Wednesday this week to have a chat for my blog, but we had not arranged a place. I was going to email him tomorrow to arrange the details.

The chat was going to be about The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London (which I mentioned in this blog three weeks ago) – the unproduced Goon Show which he was due to direct on stage in London’s West End this October.

LWT Head of Entertainment Alan Boyd with Danny Greenstone

LWT Head of Entertainment Alan Boyd (left) with Danny

I first met Danny in either 1984 or 1985 when we worked together on either Game For a Laugh or Cilla Black’s Surprise! Surprise! The same basic production team worked on both, so it is difficult to remember, especially with my notoriously shit memory.

I remember it was his first job in television and he was suggested and highly recommended by Jeremy Beadle, whose BBC radio show Jeremy Beadle’s Nightcap he had produced.

Danny produces BBC World Service show Old Took’s Almanac, while by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (right) watches

Danny produces BBC World Service show Old Took’s Almanac, watched by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Danny had joined BBC Radio in 1969, as a filing clerk in News Information but, by 1973 he was a producer in Light Entertainment. In 1977, with producer John Lloyd, he invented The News Quiz and, he said, the only argument they ever had was about the title. Danny wanted to call the series Keep Taking The Tabloids.

I asked Ian Hawkins to send me a piece about Danny which I would get when I eventually reached home. This is what he wrote:

He felt unwell on Friday night and his partner Liz called an ambulance in the early hours of Saturday morning when he started having trouble breathing. They said he was having a heart attack. Danny thought they were being melodramatic. Whilst he was being X-rayed, he lost consciousness and couldn’t be revived. All this entirely out of the blue; he was apparently his usual self through Friday. 

I last saw Danny a couple of weeks back – just after Cilla Black’s death – as he was regaling me with stories about being able to get her to do things no other producer could. He was looking a bit thinner, which I put down to the healthy eating regime he was on. We also talked about his job directing The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London. “I’m a West End director,” he told me, “entirely by accident.” And then he was off to do another series of Soccer Prince in the Middle East. 

We shared a love of old jokes and I was showing off my copy of The Joey Adams Book of Ethnic Humour (pub 1972, and understandably never reprinted). Danny also had a copy. Likewise Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish, in which every definition is illustrated with a joke. 

I had found an old business card of my great grandfather whose shop sold china in North London. Danny’s dad was a greengrocer. I emailed it to him, speculating that it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that one of the Greenstone’s bananas had ended up in one of my ancestor’s bowls. 

I completely adored him. When BBC Three Counties Radio gave him his own show nearly ten years ago, he brought me on to do a newspaper review. Many’s the time he would look at me across the desk while I went off on a tangent somewhere, knowing that he was manning the safety net for when I over-reached myself. Occasionally I actually flew. Plenty of people will tell you a similar story – he had a knack for spotting talent and giving people faith in themselves. He made everyone around him feel they were an essential part of a team.

We met through JLAwhere I was an agent, though not a particularly outstanding one. He did the occasional job for them as a speaker and, rather more often, as a coach for other speakers, including (blind UK politician) David Blunkett. His best advice was ‘always tell the audience something they don’t know about someone or something they do know.’ Less successful was advising David Blunkett to make eye contact with the audience. 

I left JLA to focus on writing, coaching and stand-up and helped him move between homes. I guess the real talent he spotted in me was being able to drive a transit van through London and up to Bedfordshire. Not the greatest of talents but Danny still made me feel like a hero for doing it. 

Though I would’ve crawled over hot coals for him if he’d asked. 

Small mercies: I told him I loved him. He was the sort of man you could say that to. 

Danny was always full of ideas and jokes and puns of varying quality. About three times today I’ve seen something and thought ‘Danny would find that hilarious.’ But then Danny laughed at everything, which is why we were friends. 

Sorry this is a gush, I’m heartbroken. Truly. 

Danny Greenstone in 1988

Danny Greenstone in 1988

Danny used to say he had been involved in the entertainment industry since 1958 when he took the lead role in St.Mary’s Parochial School’s production of Old King Cole.

But, more seriously, in over twenty years, he produced and directed for radio, television and live events. He co-created, wrote and produced BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz and, for television worked on Game For A Laugh, Surprise, Surprise, You Bet, Child’s Play, The Main Event, Going For Gold, Small Talk, Celebrity Squares and many more. His programmes appeared on every terrestrial network in the UK.

He was part of the team that brought the UK’s first series of Pop Idol to the screen and was also instrumental in the creation of Ant & Dec ‘s PokerFace.

Later, in 2008/2009, he was the Director of Culture & Entertainment for Global Village, a theme park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which, over 102-days, attracted three million visitors.

The post on Facebook

The post on Facebook

In a post on Facebook, his daughter Katy wrote:

Yesterday I lost the most wonderful man I’ve ever known, my dad. 

He has left us far too soon, but his influence has brought happiness, laughter and love to an enormous number of people all over he world – and I am so proud to be his daughter.

Danny Greenstone died Saturday 29th August 2015.

So it goes.


Filed under Comedy, Television

9 responses to “Death of producer Danny Greenstone

  1. How sad. Met Danny while working on Prove It for TVS years ago as he was part of the team producing it – a nice and kind man. RIP

  2. Tom Evans

    Great blog – thank you. I worked with Danny at Pearson TV in the late 90s. I was running its nascent internet activities and I spent a lot of time persuading died-in-the-wool telly types there that this interweb thing was going to be quite important. But no need at all with Danny:

    He loved technology, played with every gizmo he could get his hands on, and realised that the Net would change absolutely everything, including television. I was impressed by his attitude, since I knew he was pretty old school (in a very good way), and we had long chats about its impact.

    I recall that we both agreed that many people will watch TV on the internet at some stage, and that future would be deeply interesting, especially as the concept of a ‘TV channel’ would be increasingly irrelevant. Sadly we never worked directly on any projects, but I do know he supported my efforts inside the company and I remain grateful for that.

    I loved his madcap humour, his warmth, kindness, and charm, his glorious & occasionally subversive attitude to authority figures inside and outside the company. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), I know he was held in high regard by the Alan Boyds and Greg Dykes of our world as a genuinely creative man who would always do his best.

    My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

    Tom Evans

  3. Dai Davies

    Danny was a great fellow who became a very good friend and helped me with my Cruise presentations which I now thanks to him can deliver all over the world. I had the pleasure and privilege of taking him on a Cruise last year. He should have been the one on the stage he had such a wealth of stories and tales, He was a marvellous intelligent and kindly man who deserved to have been on the top of his game as his talent was so great.
    Sadly he often had to go overseas to evidence that ability!!
    Rest in peace Danny we miss you terribly already.
    Dai Davies

  4. Paddy Haycocks

    Danny, a true gentleman and a giant talent. We worked together across so many TV genres, both at LWT in the 80’s and latterly at talkbackThames. It’s difficult to capture in words what was so impressive and agreeable about this creative genius. It wasn’t simply that he could write, produce, create and deliver. Moreover, it was his remarkably self effacing, gentle and genuine approach. He was a rare animal in an industry populated by beasts; sensitive, caring, meritocratic and intuitive. Such talents have caused many to thrust their egos to the fore and trample on anything that might threaten them. Not so Danny. He was a man of principle and integrity. His own abilities bestride so many who might learn much from him. No, I’m not a grumpy old man but a colleague who mourns the passing of an increasingly rare media Titan.

  5. Lyn Greensher

    Thank you for your wonderful article about Danno….He meant a great deal to us in the U.S. .We are family and I often felt like mush inside, when he called. me Yankee Mom. I feel as though I HAVE lost a son
    He is my husbands first cousin.. once removed.
    We just cannot believe he is no longer ………

  6. John Langdon

    Thanks John,

    I shall miss Danny like a leg. So many memories of working for the most generous man I’ve ever known.

    I, too, remember learning Yiddish from Danny and the Leo Rosten dictionary. Danny was the definition of a ‘Mensch’.

    Vyetchnaya pamyets, as they say in Russia.

    John Langdon

  7. Hugh Pile

    I worked alongside Danny at Pearson Television. I can’t remember how or why I first met him, but I was immediately impressed that he was able to be immensely patient with someone not to light entertainment born. I very quickly learnt that he was one of the good guys – as others have said, a true gentleman. We found that we had friends in common in radio comedy and elsewhere, but we bonded over our shared enthusiasm for the Pete Atkin/CliveJames songbook, and were soon swapping CDs. The world is already diminished by his departure.

  8. judi spiers

    On returning from holiday I was so shocked to hear of Danny’s death.
    We worked together many years ago on Scavenger Hunt and kept in touch for a long time . Danny was one of the few people I have ever worked with who I wanted a friendship with outside of television..a gentle funny and caring man. We had only just renewed our friendship after way too long …it’s taught me a lesson no matter what path your life leads you down keep in touch with the people you care about…my loss. My heart goes out to his partner and family and as we say in our religion “I wish you long life!”
    “baruch dayan ha’emet ”
    Judi Spiers

  9. Thanks for posting this about Danny. I worked adjacent to Danny at Fremantle and what a wonderful chap he was. So generous and kind.
    Just came to think of him as I was organising my Address book.
    Rest in Peace Danny.

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