Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Dee, Simon (1935-2009)

Presenter, DJ

Main image of Dee, Simon (1935-2009)

In his heyday Simon Dee (born Nicholas Henty-Dodd in Ottawa, Canada, on 28th July 1935) was a trendy tea-time chat show TV host. His rise to fame in the mid-1960s was as rapid as his sudden fall from grace in the early 1970s.

After leaving Shrewsbury public school, he worked in various jobs including a photographic assistant, a vacuum cleaner salesman and an actor before turning to pirate radio. Despite the boom in pop music in the early 1960s there was no pop music station on national radio. Simon Dee, as he became known, was the first voice to broadcast from legendary pirate broadcaster Radio Caroline in March 1964.

The success of Radio Caroline prompted the BBC to offer Dee a contract on a radio pop show called Midday Spin on the Light Programme thereby making him the first pirate DJ to move to the BBC. Midday Spin moved over to Radio 1 in 1967 and Dee's chatty style, sprinkled with hit-and-miss witticisms, soon established him as a radio personality. He joined other Radio 1 DJs on television as a presenter of Top of the Pops (BBC, 1964-2006) before landing his own chat and pop show called Dee Time (BBC, 1967-69).

Dee Time captured the spirit of the Swinging Sixties with its carefree attitude, epitomised by the show's closing credits, featuring Dee driving E type Jag next to a blonde. This quickly became a visual cliché, parodied by everyone from Benny Hill to Alexei Sayle. A reference even found its way into Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (US, 1997). The show also gave a nod to the legendary Johnny Carson Show in America: each week Simon was introduced by the convoluted "It's SI-I-I-I-mon DEE!"

Dee's fresh approach, complete with spontaneous retorts, owed much to his radio background and Dee Time's Saturday tea-time audience slowly grew to a peak of 15 million viewers - which, to coin Dee's catchphrase of the time "can't be bad".

For the next couple of years Dee was the trendy face of British TV. He hosted the annual Miss World competition in 1967 and even made a brief foray into acting with small parts in The Italian Job (d. Peter Collinson, 1969) and Doctor in Trouble (d. Ralph Thomas, 1970).

Though at the peak of his popularity, problems began to set in. His abrasive manner and massive ego were compounded by his excessive wage demands, which led the BBC to review his contract in 1969. Sensing a coup, London Weekend Television made him an offer to present a late night Sunday chat show called The Simon Dee Show. But almost symbolically, as the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, Simon Dee's impromptu style and charisma failed him. His contract was prematurely terminated after a few months. Dee later believed that there was an Establishment plot against him, as he was openly opposed to the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Recently released government files show that he was indeed being monitored by the Secret Service.

Having alienated both the BBC and ITV, Britain's only significant television broadcasters at the time, his status as a top TV personality diminished almost immediately. His career in tatters, Dee faced unemployment and the ignominy of having to sign up at the Fulham Labour Exchange, much to the delight of the tabloid press. He was also jailed for unpaid debts.

Dee had a few attempts at a come-back career on radio. including briefly presenting The Sounds of the Sixties in 1988. However, each venture ended in the sack.

Yet interest in his career did eventually resurface. In 2003, Channel 4 produced a one-off live edition of Dee Time, followed by a documentary, Dee Construction (tx. 29/12/2003) which charted Dee's rise and fall. Since then Dee has been back on the screen as a participant in the BBC's The History of Light Entertainment (2006), which also acknowledged just how far ahead of his time he was.

Eddie Dyja

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Related collections

Related people and organisations