Coco The Clown, Bertram Mills Circus, Olympia, London

This Is Your Life – Coco The Clown (1962) + Ian Hendry (1978) : Article

Coco The Clown – This Is Your Life (1962)


coco the clown


In early 1962, Coco The Clown was the subject of This Is Your Life. Ian Hendry, who became a close friend of Coco and his wife during his time as a student at Central School Of Speech and Drama in the early 50’s, was one of the surprise guests on the show.

Hendry had since gone on to have a significant breakthrough in television, firstly with Police Surgeon (1960) and then with the first series of The Avengers (1961), a programme which was originally created for him. His first major leading role in a film, Live Now Pay Later, was just a few months away.

Coco was surprised by Eamonn Andrews (the long-time host of the UK version of This Is Your Life), while he was performing with the Bertram Mills circus during their winter season at Olympia, London.

Born in Latvia, Nicolai was spotted by Mills while performing with Circus Busch in Berlin, and was persuaded to move to England. He created the moniker of Coco, technically an auguste not a clown, and by the 1950s was probably the most famous clown in Britain.

Coco welcomed his guests on a set styled as a circus ring, as can be seen in the picture below.

The show was broadcast at 7.30pm on Monday 15th January 1962 (BBC Television)

Photograph below: The photograph below captures Coco sitting down next to Eamonn Andrews at the close of the show. Ian Hendry is standing at the back, sixth from the right-hand side. Coco’s wife, Valentina is standing directly behind him, wearing the black cardigan.

Coco the Clown + Ian Hendry This Is Your Life (1962)
Coco the Clown + Ian Hendry This Is Your Life (1962)

A special guest on the show was Carol Antcliff, who recalls being a guest on Coco the Clown’s This Is Your Life in an exclusive interview recorded in February 2011 for The Big Red Book.

In the video below she describes how she first met Coco, her visit to London and her appearance on This Is Your Life and then how she met Coco again, years later, in 1974.

Ian Hendry – This Is Your Life (1978)

Some 16 years later, Ian Hendry became the subject of This Is Your Life. Sadly though, Coco had died in 1974, but in an emotional reunion, his wife Valentina appeared on the show to pay tribute to Ian and recall their great friendship. Ian goes on to explain to Eamonn Andrews the reasons for his love of the circus and the attraction of being a clown.

The recording of the show was broadcast at 7.30pm on Wednesday 15th March 1978 (Thames Television).



To find out more about the friendship between Coco The Clown and Ian Hendry read:

Ian Hendry And The Circus That Came To Town – Parts 1 and 2


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Further Reading

A detailed account of Ian’s friendship with Coco The Clown and his early encounters with The Bertram Mills Circus is included in the new biography of his life.

Read:  ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry


Neil Hendry

Editor, The Official Website of Ian Hendry
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2 Responses to “This Is Your Life – Coco The Clown (1962) + Ian Hendry (1978) : Article”

  1. Chris Williams

    Wow! What a clip of Ian. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Ian Hendry as himself. Not in a film, not in a TV show, just as himself. I can’t tell you how strange and different that was, but it made me realise that he was indeed acting in film and television. What I mean is that he was playing the character so well, so subtly, so convincingly, that Ian Hendry simply wasn’t there himself. This is the first time I’ve seen him as himself and realised that he was a different person, the person all his friends and colleagues talk about as the consummate professional and naturally gifted actor and performer. It’s so frustrating not to have the book yet as there is clearly a lot to learn. Not least of course this recurring link with the circus, clowns, and augustes. Gabriel Hershman has chosen the title of the biography very aptly.

    • Neil Hendry, Editor

      Thanks Chris for your comment and thoughts…..

      Yes, it must be strange seeing him in this light for the first time…the dichotomy between the actor/ celebrity and the actual person…….I’ve never seen him interviewed on a chat show or similar… so this is maybe the only public recording which gives a glimpse of him……..I think when you read the book, you will understand him much more.

      I just added a new section on the site called ‘What’s New’…..the second tab in the menu….it will be a way that I can provide brief notes and updates as to what’s happening on the site. This is an extract of the second update there, but I hope it illustrates a point:

      “In time, further pieces of the ‘puzzle’ will appear and with it I hope the picture of a charismatic, complex, gifted, multi-faceted, generous, much-loved and yes, at times, challenged man, will emerge. But the pieces are just that…..elements of a much bigger picture. And as with any picture or painting, we may at times be drawn to a certain element or detail that intrigues us so much that we no longer see the bigger picture. Stand back for a minute and look again, because although the ‘picture’ may not have changed, the way we see it certainly can.”


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