The 1987 series of 'New Faces' was notorious for several reasons, but perhaps the best remembered is the appearance of Balthazar West (1949-1993). West was raised in the Lake District by strict Methodists, harbouring a lifelong desire to take to the stage. Following the death of his elderly mother in 1986, he successfully auditioned for the popular talent show. What followed made the front pages of the following day's newspapers, and saw questions asked in parliament in an era where matters of entertainment were still thought below the attention of the House.
Having secured his slot with a milquetoast puppet act, on the live broadcast West took to the stage without his puppets and invited members of the audience to "hurt me badly", claiming that he could "take the pain". To the horror of judges Barry Took, Marti Caine and Tony Hatch, the stoic West was set about with handbags, fists, feet and stage furniture, all the while refusing to fall to the ground. The ten-minute onslaught was ended by the entertainer Roger de Courcey, who entered showbusiness folklore by begging on-air for "a little human decency".
Fired by the public interest, Balthazar West subsequently took his pain-based act on a nationwide tour, but ultimately failed to break into the mainstream. He spent his last years in poverty, and finally died of his many wounds following a particularly brutal engagement in Richmond-upon-Thames.
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