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Inman, John (1935-2007)  
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Inman had briefly been lured away from the BBC by ITV in 1977 to star in Odd Man Out, a situation comedy about a fish-and-chip shop owner who had inherited a factory. Unfortunately, the series suffered a swift cancellation. He later returned to television in the series Take A Letter, Mr. Jones (1981), playing a secretary, and he made numerous cameo appearances on other shows. He also had a supporting role in Stephen Cookson's comedy film The Mumbo Jumbo in 2000.

Most of Inman's later work was in the theater. He toured in his own show, Fancy Free, in the 1980s, as well as appearing in plays, often farces such as Sam Cree's Pyjama Tops (in 1982) and Derek Benfield's Bedside Manners (in 1988).

Inman was a perennial crowd-pleaser in pantomime and performed in more than forty shows. Danny La Rue, another pantomime dame, described Inman as "irreplaceable," saying, "John was wonderful in panto. The children adored him. He had a magic touch." Actress Rula Lenska, who also appeared in pantomime with Inman, praised his generosity: "He was a joy to work with, and even after an exhausting day in pantomime he would have time for the fans who crowded round the stage door."

Like many other actors of his own and earlier times, when an acknowledgement of homosexuality could not only spell the end of a career but possibly make them a target of criminal prosecution, Inman remained closeted for most of his life. He generally deflected questions about his romantic interests by calling the stage his love.

Sadly, as late as 1999, Inman felt the need to hide his sexual orientation, claiming that he had been in a romantic relationship with a woman--unnamed and unseen--for nearly thirty years, an assertion that was met with widespread incredulity.

Inman came out publicly only when he and builder Ron Lynch, with whom he had been together for 33 years, were united as civil partners on December 23, 2005.

Inman was in poor health in his last years. He was forced to abandon his role as Wanda the Cook in the pantomime Dick Whittington in December 2004 after contracting Hepatitis A, a disease caused by consumption of contaminated food. He remained weakened by the infection until his eventual death on March 8, 2007. He is survived by Lynch.

At news of his death, tributes poured in from professional colleagues, friends, and fans who praised Inman's work and recalled the joy that it had brought them, while members of glbtq rights organizations and other commentators offered their various opinions on his role in cultural history.

Mollie Sugden, often Inman's foil (and sometimes ally) as Mrs. Slocombe, the head of the womenswear department on Are You Being Served?--and another of the show's more transgressive characters--may have found the right words as she mourned Inman's passing: "It's a very sad day. As far as I'm concerned, it's the end of an era."

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Overview:  British Television

Until recently, British television embraced lesbians and gays as Them rather than Us, but a more diversified and nuanced approach to all kinds of sexuality is likely to be the case in the future.

arts >> Overview:  Film Actors: Gay Male

Although few gay actors have been permitted the luxury of openness, many of them have challenged and helped reconfigure notions of masculinity and, to a lesser extent, of homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Film Sissies

The film sissy had his heyday in the 1930s, but persists as a film archetype, subtly reminding audiences that there are other ways of being than conventional heterosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Stage Actors and Actresses

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual actors and actresses are among the elite of contemporary theater, but only recently have many come out publicly.

arts >> Overview:  Variety and Vaudeville

Variety and vaudeville and related theatrical forms featured cross-dressed acts, as well as routines that challenged prevailing gender constructions.


Butler, Robert. "Show People: Mr. Humphries, Reborn in the USA; John Inman." The Independent (London) (April 10, 1994): 31.

"Comedy Actor Inman Dies, Aged 71." BBC News (March 8, 2007).

Gerard, Jasper. "Death of a Camp Salesman." The Daily Telegraph (London) (March 9, 2007): 20.

Hayward, Anthony. "John Inman; Former Window-dresser Whose Mr. Humphries in 'Are You Being Served?' Became a Camp Cult Figure." The Independent (London) (March 9, 2007): 52.

Parris, Matthew. "I'm Free--And It's All Because of Men Like John Inman." The Times (London) (March 9, 2007): Features, 19.

Thornton, Michael. "John Inman: A Gay Icon Who Was Hated by Gay Liberation." Daily Mail (London) (March 9, 2007).

Zailian, Marian. "Service with a Smile; John Inman Dishes up Laughter in 'Are You Being Served?' Again!.'" San Francisco Chronicle (August 9, 1992): Sunday Datebook, 43.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Inman, John  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated March 13, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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