Posted: December 3rd, 2020
MALCOLM HANOVER, former boxing correspondent and sub-editor on The Sporting Life, died today [Dec 3, 2020], following complications after a fall at his home. He was 87.
Malcolm joined The Sporting Life in the mid-sixties via the Greyhound Express and was formerly boxing correspondent on the Jewish Chronicle. He was a stickler for accuracy, and had an encyclopaedic memory for boxing, football, in fact most sports as well as London theatre and movies. His great nephew, Sam, said: ‘His mind was as sharp as ever to the day he died.’ Malcolm was the youngest of four boys, his brothers Denny, Ernie and Cyril all predeceased him.
Chris Gundry: “Malcolm phoned me from his hospital bed on Tuesday and the call was interrupted when Malc said he had to hang up because the nurse was waiting to give him a full-body wash. If the nurse was anything like his No.1 favourite girl in the world, Cara Delevingne, then Malcolm will have been in heaven early! Talking of heaven, I can just imagine Malcolm reminding fellow ‘residents’ that The Producers is on at 8pm (How Malcolm loved Zero Mostel and this film). Thank you Malc for sharing laughter over so many years and I want to leave you as you have left me so many times with – God bless.”
Alastair Down: “Malcolm Hanover could have got you a seat at the table for the Last Supper. All right, there might have been a small surcharge but he would have explained it away with ‘that Judas Iscariot is a wrong ’un and wanted a fiver.’ His Jewishness gave him the chosen race’s priceless gift of natural humour. Hugely funny and never at anyone’s expense but his own. That is a mark of inner kindness and he was a man awash with that most important of qualities.
“As a sub-editor he was little short of brilliant. He had a peregrine falcon’s eye for picking up the minutiae of errors that lazier folk such as myself waved through without a second thought.
Subbing is both art and profession. He was an artist and a professional. When I was learning how to sub he taught me a vast amount, but always with the idea of educating, never ticking off. I write to this day with some of his advice still much in mind.
“Alongside Spurs, his passion was the fight game which he knew inside out. I well recall some particularly crucial world title fight that he had recorded at home in his Marylebone lair. He made it very clear that under no circumstances did he want to know the result as he would be watching it later with his beloved brother Cyril. At some stage in the evening an envelope appeared on Malcolm’s office desk which he duly opened – it could have been a pay rise after all. The note simply read ‘Hagler in the third’. For a moment he looked crestfallen but then, amid much head-shaking at the mischievous nature of his colleagues, that wonderfully crooked smile broke into laughter. It is likely that Admiral [John Benbow] was the villain, and in fact you can have 33-1 anyone else.
“One afternoon the news came through on the wires that the fine British character actor Sydney Tafler had died. Malcolm looked aghast: ‘Sydney Tafler dead? No! He still owes Dad for fruit!’ That bearded idiot Dave Atkinson and I still greet one another with the words ‘Sydney Tafler dead?!’
“And there were nights of music when he made two or three of us flog along to the Pizza on the Park to see some woman none of us had heard of sing cabaret. We would chomp through our pizzas, drink buckets of indifferent red, and about ten o’clock the girl would appear and sing. But sing like an angel. And you would look across to see Malcolm entranced (as we all were), and think ‘thank God for knowing this man who really does know stuff we would all be the better for learning’.
“Malcolm and I were devotees of the magnificent Walter Matthau, another Jewish comedian who loved racing and bet like a kicking donkey. Whenever Malcolm rang, there was no ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ The conversation would always begin with a shout of ‘Enter!’ – a reference to a line from Matthau and George Burns’s immortal comedy The Sunshine Boys. Well now the man who used to shout ‘Enter’ has made his exit.
“For Malcolm, the Life was his extended family. The tributes paid to him speak eloquently of the esteem in which he was held. I hope he understood that and drew comfort from it as the sands of time ran out on him.
“Finally I would like to say that we are not inconsiderably blessed to have Hopper [Paul Duffett] as the keeper of The Sporting Life’s flame around which, for warmth, we all have occasional need to cup our hands. In grateful memory. With enormous skill, Hopper, you have always managed to stage reunions when I cannot get there and I suppose I have lost my bottle about turning up now. But be in no doubt that you all gave me the happiest days of my working life. For that, my abiding thanks.”
Geoff Lester: “So sad to hear us Lifers have lost another stalwart today in Malcolm Hanover. Though, like most Gunners, I bleed red blood (not white and navy), it was impossible not to have a smile on your face when in Malcolm’s company. He loved Spurs so much, but he was a Man For All Seasons, and his knowledge of classic old films was second to none, while few boxing correspondents knew more than him about their sport.
“I remember Dave Cox and I ran a book on Miss World in the mid-1960s. As usual, we went into [the editor] Ossie Fletcher’s office to watch the climax of the competition. However, this one time someone dropped a page of hot metal on the floor of the stone just before print time, so Ossie went ballistic and threw us all out.
“We needed to see the final of MW, and Malcolm saved the day, inviting Dave and I back to his flat near Paddington to see the finale. When we arrived there, Malcolm’s mum gave us a warm welcome, and when we asked her who was winning, she replied: “Who’s winning? – Miss Israel of course, she’s an intelligent girl.” It was down to the last seven, and six of ’em were bad losers in our book. But Reita Faria (Miss India) rescued us when she won. She was a 66-1 chance, a complete skinner for us, and we lifted up Malcolm’s mum, who, by the way, had given us both a knife and a plate for the most perfect banana, and then we took Malcolm down the Sportsman Casino to celebrate.
“Malcolm was a lightweight at the drinking stakes, especially next to CKG [Chris Gundry], but he was heavyweight as a friend and I’m so pleased we sat together and went down Memory Lane when the boys had lunch in London couple of months ago. RIP old mate.”
Hopper (Paul Duffett): “Malcolm was always ready to laugh at himself, and never without a witty comeback line. He seemed to have known or worked with just about everyone who was anyone in the field of sports or London theatre, he was a name-dropper extraordinaire. A lovely, warm man who always asked about your family and never forgot their names.
I will remember him for his dry humour, jokes and his complete failure to get a handle on any form of technology past a TV remote. During my early days at the Racing Post, Malcolm would ring the office almost daily to correct errors he’d found in the paper, and I recall my guvnor saying: ‘Who is this f***ing Malcolm Hanover?’ before refusing to take his calls. Malc was never going to let any rival paper get away with inaccuracies.
We talked at length a week before he died when I remarked how chipper he sounded, as he regaled me with stories of people he’d known, shows he’d seen, and especially on this occasion tales about his ‘Uncle Bud’, the great entertainer Bud Flanagan who was a close family friend.
Malcolm had decided not to leave the family home at Hyde Park Mansions – an address that always sounded so grand – after being offered sheltered accommodation following the death of his brother Cyril (‘the ugly one’) about a year ago. Malcolm said how lonely and empty the place felt and it affected him badly.
However, he was on good form when he joined a small group of us for a drink in London in September and we had a lovely day. On the Life, he often took abuse from the likes of Noel Blunt, and sometimes it affected him. But he would normally get his own back eventually, accompanied by a roar of approval from the rest of the team.
Malcolm was a great listener as well as a great story-teller. How fitting that his beloved Spurs sit at the top of the Premier League as he leaves the stage for the final time. RIP Malcolm, another true Lifer lost to us in a bloody awful year.”
Jeremy Chapman: “Dreadful news but not entirely unexpected – falling and breaking your hip when you’re 87 usually leads to complications. Malcolm looked pretty frail the last time I saw him.
We had a long friendship. As the Life’s boxing correspondent he took me to many big fights, and we had a mutual love of West End musicals and cabaret haunts such as the Pizza on the Park in Knightsbridge. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of London and its theatres, even appearing on a TV quiz show to answer questions about it.
In the 80s we went to the old Playboy Club to hear the great Mabel Mercer weave her magic, and to the Ritz in the days when you could have a pudding and a classy late-night cabaret for a tenner.
Malcolm had a wonderful gift for getting into movies and shows for nothing. He’d say he was The Sporting Life’s film critic at the Odeon Marble Arch, or take a bottle of Scotch to a pal at the box office of a West End theatre and emerge with two house seats for the latest big musical.
A real character armed with an endless fund of Jewish anecdotes, rather than buy The Times to read the obit of some famous showbiz star, he’d ring me, knowing I took that paper, and get me to post the relevant page to him.
A diehard Spurs fan and season-ticket holder with a vitriolic dislike of Arsenal, he’d think nothing of having a two-grand bet on Germany to win the World Cup, or spend a week’s wages on a ticket for Barbra Streisand at Wembley.
He once tapped my wife when she worked for British Airways for any concession she could get so that he could fly to a football match in Barcelona, then created a scene when they wouldn’t let him on the flight when he was five minutes too late for checking in. He argued about everything. We argued about everything because he cared deeply. He was one of a kind. That was my old friend Malcolm. You don’t get many Malcolms to the pound.”
Emma Hart: “Oh no! Malcolm was a true gem. I am gutted. He used to take me out for dinner in soho – many years after the Life closed. We always had regular chats on the phone – he was genuinely interested in what I was up to. I really did love that man. And [his brother] Cyril, too. What a tragic, tragic loss.”
Bryan Pugh: “What a character! Working with Malcolm was fun on so many levels. I loved his Jewish humour and although he bore the brunt of incessant friendly insults – banter they call it now – he soaked it up and returned it in spades with his quick wit. Malcolm, like Bobby Betts, was an ever-present at the Life reunion, and I can’t believe we’ll never share their company again. In the early years of the reunion at The Cartoonist, Malcolm would arrange the food – usually three plates of sandwiches –- and organise a £5-a-head whip that must have produced a profit margin Sainsbury’s shareholders would have been delighted with.
His love of Spurs was undying, and the Monday after they had hammered Wolves 6-1 – our only goal coming direct from a free-kick – I humbly congratulated him and admitted we had been well and truly thrashed. He just glared at me, spread out his hands and retorted: ‘That was never a free kick! Hibbitt dived!’ That response featured on a number of the Christmas cards we exchanged down the years. Once met, never forgotten – that was dear old Malcolm. RIP.”
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