British comedian Norman Collier, best known for his faulty microphone act, has died at the age of 87, as his daughter confirmed today.
Norman Collier, who had Parkinson’s disease and was living in a nursing home near his hometown of Hull in UK, died on Thursday.
A contemporary of Little and Large, with whom he often worked, Norman Collier rose to fame on the club circuit, getting his big break on the Royal Variety Show.
“It’s kept me in good health, making people laugh. And it’s kept them in good health too,” Norman Collier said in 2009.
The eldest of eight children, Norman Collier was born in Hull on Christmas day in 1925, and once joked there were “five of us sleeping in one bed”.
After serving as a gunner in World War II, he worked as a laborer but turned to comedy in 1950 after a one-off stint at his local Perth Street Social Club.
Norman Collier, best known for his faulty microphone act, has died at the age of 87
Norman Collier quickly drew a popular following on the northern club circuit, but it was his debut at the 1971 Royal Variety Performance that brought him to wider attention.“Unknown comedian Norman Collier won a standing ovation for his act in the Royal Variety Show,” wrote the Daily Express, of his critically acclaimed turn.
“Norman turned out to be one of the big successes of this year’s Royal Knees-up,” added the Daily Mirror.
Norman Collier went on to make regular appearances on television and at theatres across the UK in the 1970s and 80s, and is arguably best remembered for his act featuring an intermittently working microphone – and his chicken impression.
He was also a frequent pantomime performer, notably playing Widow Twanky opposite Little and Large at Hull’s New Theatre in Aladdin.
Norman Collier never moved to London – despite the lure of fame – preferring to stay in the local area surrounded by his family.
Muhammad Ali’s family is locked in a bitter feud over the former heavyweight boxing champion as his life slips away, his brother, Rahman Ali, claimed.
Rahman Ali said his sister-in-law Lonnie has cut off Muhammad Ali from his family and is “draining” him as his mental and physical faculties are eroded by Parkinson’s disease.
Muhammad Ali’s brother lives in poverty in a small flat in his family’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, where the boxing legend owns one of his three mansion homes.
Rahman Ali said he and his family had been barred from visiting the three-time heavyweight world champion and could only speak to him on the phone.
“We’ve all been pushed out. The only time I get to see him is at public events,” said Rahman Ali, himself an ex-boxer.
“She and her family are draining him. It’s so sad. There’s nothing I can do, they’ve blocked us all off.”
Rahman Ali, 69, said his 71-year-old brother was so crippled by Parkinson’s, the degenerative brain condition that has afflicted many ex-boxers, he might not survive until the summer.
“My brother can’t speak – he doesn’t recognize me. He’s in a bad way. He’s very sick,” Rahman Ali told a Sunday newspaper.
“It could be months, it could be days.”
Rahman Ali said his sister-in-law Lonnie has cut off Muhammad Ali from his family and is “draining” him as his mental and physical faculties are eroded by Parkinson’s disease
Rahman Ali, who retired from boxing after suffering several strokes, said he last saw his famous brother in July last year at the Sports for Peace Gala in London.
He said that in the days when his brother could still communicate, he had told him he was not in pain, adding: “I’ve achieved everything I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Don’t cry for me, I’m in no pain.”
Rahman Ali also claims that his brother, estimated to be worth more than $80million, told him he had set up a trust fund for him. But his sister-in-law had “put a stop to it”.
He added that Muhammad Ali’s nine children were also having trouble getting hold of their father.
Rahman Ali said the closest they get is when Lonnie puts him on the phone, although he is only able to breathe down the line.
“If he knew what was happening and where I’m living now, he’d be as mad as hell, so angry,” Rahman Ali said.
“If he saw what was happening with his children, he’d go crazy.”
The two brothers – born Cassius and Rudolph Clay – were the only two children of poor parents, who worked as a billboard painter and a household domestic.
Rahman Ali copied his brother when he changed his name, but his career in boxing was short-lived and he retired in the 1960s.
Muhammad Ali has been married four times. Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams, became wife number four in Louisville in 1986.
British mathematician Max Little has come up with a non-invasive, cheap test which he hopes will offer a quick new way to identify Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s is a devastating disease for those living with the condition and currently there is no cure.
Diagnosis can also be slow as there are no blood tests to detect it.
Max Little will be kicking off the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh calling for volunteers to contribute to a huge voice database.
He has discovered that Parkinson’s symptoms can be detected by computer algorithms that analyze voice recordings.
In a blind test of voices, the system was able to spot those with Parkinson’s with an accuracy of 86%.
Max Little was recently made a TED Fellow.
The non-profit organization behind the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference creates 40 such fellowships each year. The programme aims to target innovators under the age of 40 and offers them free entry to conferences and other events.
Max Little’s technology works partly by tracking the motion of vocal cords
Max Little became interested in understanding voice from a mathematical perspective while he was studying for a PhD at Oxford University in 2003.
“I was looking for a practical application and I found it in analyzing voice disorders, for example when someone’s voice has broken down from over-use or after surgery on vocal cords,” he said.
“I didn’t occur to me at the time that people with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders could also be detected by the system.”
But a chance meeting with someone from Intel changed that.
Andy Grove, one of Intel’s founders and ex-chief executive, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2000 and has since pledged millions of his personal fortune to fund research into the disease.
This includes funds for the chipmaker to develop its own projects to monitor the symptoms.
“They were using devices that detect breakdown in dexterity and accelerometers but they had also recorded the voices of around 50 patients with Parkinson’s,” explained Max Little.
The recordings were detailed as the team had recorded the patients once a week over a six-month period.
“They had an enormous amount of data but they didn’t know what to do with it. So we wondered whether my technique would work,” said Max Little.
“They set me a blind test to see if I can tell them which ones had Parkinson’s. I had 86% accuracy using the techniques I’d developed.”
The system “learns” to detect differences in voice patterns.
“This is machine learning. We are collecting a large amount of data when we know if someone has the disease or not and we train the database to learn how to separate out the true symptoms of the disease from other factors.”
Voice patterns can change for a number of reasons, including throat surgery, heavy smoking and even just having a common cold.
But Max Little believes the system will be smart enough to tell the difference.
“It is not as simple as listening for a tremor in the voice. That tremor has to be in context of other measures and the system has to take in other factors such as if someone has a cold.”
Now he is looking for volunteers to contribute to a vast voice bank to help the database to learn even more.
He is aiming to record up to 10,000 voices and has set up local numbers in 10 countries around the world.
Anyone can call and they need to state whether or not they have been diagnosed with the disease.
There is also a website where people can find out more about the project.
“The more people that call in, the better,” he said.
“If we get 10,000 recordings we’d be very happy but even a tenth of that would be great.”
He hopes that the technology will be available to doctors within the next two years.
“We’re not intending this to be a replacement for clinical experts, rather, it can very cheaply help identify people who might be at high risk of having the disease and for those with the disease, it can augment treatment decisions by providing data about how symptoms are changing in-between check-ups with the neurologist,” he said.
There could also be a role for the technology in clinical trials.
“The technology makes it easy for people to report their progress whilst on a new drug, for example,” he added.
“If you can catch the disease early it will make a huge difference to care costs. It could become a key technology in reducing the burden of care on the NHS.”