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Winters, Mike (1930-) and Winters, Bernie (1932-1991)

Entertainers, Presenters

Main image of Winters, Mike (1930-) and Winters, Bernie (1932-1991)

Born into a tough Islington family and exposed to variety as children, brothers Mike (born 15 November 1930) and Bernie Weinstein (born 6 September 1932) exhibited musical talent before broadening out into song, dance and comedy, separately and as a putative double act. Success was elusive and they went their separate ways, though they later reunited selling clothes in street markets. In the early 1950s they returned to show business as the Winters brothers, two thirds of the comedy act Three Loose Screws, with Jack Farr, working the variety circuits.

They made their first TV appearance on BBC's Variety Parade in 1955 and returned to touring, which was to provide regular employment throughout their career.

Resident comics on TV's 6.5 Special (BBC, 1957-58), they made a few film appearances (Cool Mikado and the 6.5 Special spin-off, both 1962, amongst them) as a duo, though Bernie appeared solo in others.

In 1964 they joined ITV's Big Night Out (initially shown only in the North, but fully networked from series 2) as resident comics, subsequently as joint comperes from 1965. The show was never out of the Top 10 ratings; one edition, featuring the Beatles, was shown in the USA. Blackpool Night Out followed, and then Mike and Bernie's Show from 1966 to 1971 (including, on 9 June 1971, a version of their life story). From then until 1978, when the act broke up as tensions grew, the show's name changed first to Mike and Bernie's Scene, then to Mike and Bernie's Special Variety Show and finally to simply Mike and Bernie Winters.

Mike was the straight man and Bernie the lovable idiot (with catchphrases 'Shut up or I'll smash your face' and 'choochy face', said in a juvenile way), often in outsize bowler hat. They played the Palladium and in three Royal Variety Shows, also finding time to found the TV Allstars XI football team when they found it hard to get into the Showbiz XI, and managed a recording career as well.

Bernie carried on in the business, often with the St Bernard dog Schnorbitz as a foil, in various TV shows: Bernie (ITV, 1978-80); Big Top Variety (ITV, 1979-82); Make Me Laugh (ITV, 1982-83) and Whose Baby? (ITV, 1973-88), plus guest appearances in other shows, panel games, and pantomime, before his early death in 1991. Mike moved to Florida and was involved in business ventures, some in the entertainment industry, writing and producing.

Probably one of the last acts to learn their trade on the variety circuits rather than in clubs, Mike and Bernie Winters were the only double act of their day to approach anything like the success of Morecambe and Wise.

David Sharp

Winters, Mike & Winters, Bernie, Shake a Pagoda Tree, Star, 1975
Winters, Bernie with Charmaine Carter, One Day at a Time, Ebury Press, 1991

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From the BFI's filmographic database

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