Bill Bailey

Author, Actor


About Bill Bailey


He was born poor and raised in a rural North Carolina town famous for bricks.  His mother's father was wealthy and owned most of the town, but the old boy remarried a young woman who re-wrote his Will before burying him. Bill remembers the heat and dust, the smell of tobacco and gospel voices ringing in wooden churches. There were plenty of gnats and watermelons and wasps, besides the bricks. So he left.

Bill began his itinerant life after graduating from university with a degree in philosophy.  It was while he was still in college that he first became involved in the civil rights movement.  Following graduation he was drafted, and, in an act worthy of a southern fried Houdini, extracted himself from the US Army after less than three months, then high-stepped it to Vancouver with a pocket full of money, an old Plymouth and a girlfriend. These were the days when morals were taken even more hypocritically than today, hence they were refused entry into Canada until they married.  So they married.  Only later, when they were prospecting for gold, did he find out his new wife was already rich.  But meanwhile he served as a prison guard and tried to find a freighter to Japan to continue his study of judo.

The gold prospecting failed, and they drove to Texas, where Bill’s wife said she had a little ranch. After entering a gate they drove for 30 minutes, passing several houses and lakes.

"Where's the little ranch?" he asked
"We've been on it for half an hour," she replied.

Before separating from his wife he bought a sports car, a couple of motorcycles and a bright red beret.  And somehow he had to find out if he was capable of earning a living. So he got a job at a meat packing house while working on an MA in Anglo-Saxon and organised the first white collar union in the US meat packing industry.  Bill quickly found himself on the end of a head meatpacker's boot before slithering into a job teaching English and French (which he neither read nor spoke well).  It was during this time, joining the protests against Vietnam, that Bill became an actor. Of sorts.  In order to find out what it was all about he decided to go to England.

On arrival in London Bill bought a Triumph 650cc motorcycle that carried him all over the UK and parts of Europe before it was sold with bent forks after a collision in southern Spain with an old lady's handcart ‒ she tried to race him across a major highway and lost. Then he married again to gain immigrant status. His new wife was a wonderfully skilled actress who taught him his craft, and bore a daughter which they sentimentally named Carolina.  Bill’s new acting technique was almost immediately exposed as he became the first full-frontal male nude on the British stage. After three years thrashing around on the fringe in London, he finally appeared in a West End theatre in a play starring Vanessa Redgrave. A year later Bill was invited to join the National Theatre for an Australian tour of The Front Page and a couple of other plays when he returned to the Old Vic afterwards. Radio and television appearances followed, then feature films. Principally as a character actor or spit-'n'-cough specialist, Bill appeared in The New Avengers, Master of the Game, Philip Marlow Private Eye, Yes, Prime Minister, Around the World in 80 Days, the US TV series The Nightmare Years and lately as crazed Texan billionaires in Eureka Street and Frightmares for Warner Bros.  Feature film credits include The Omen, Superman II, Yanks, Haunted Honeymoon, Ishtar and ‒ his latest appearance ‒ as a medieval French nobleman in Disney's The Visitors. Meanwhile his stage career spluttered along in the background with a return to the National Theatre for a revival of Arthur Miller's The Fall, Bus Stop with Jerry Hall at the Lyric Theatre and Conversations With My Father with Judd Hirsch at the Old Vic.

Unless you are a star or hard-working or lucky, art is never enough. So Bill managed to squeeze in a few more professions when the trade winds were not blowing.  He has been ‒ in no particular order ‒ a bouncer, a legal typist, playwright, male model, judo teacher, a technical writer of medical handbooks, gym instructor, philosophy instructor and wheat cutter.  He only accepted cash for these jobs.

One of Bill’s plays - Strike! - was written in ten days to be rehearsed and then toured during the Great British Miners' Strike of 1984-85.  It was a strike which could have become a civil war during the years when Thatcher was prime minister. The play was toured around the coal fields in an attempt to raise morale, and the actors joined the picket lines and dodged police boots on frosty mornings. Partly because of his activities in this strike, he was, during a tour of Moscow and Leningrad, invited by Gennady Pyatakov, a member of the Soviet Presidium, to attend plays and meet with Russian actors and directors to discuss the differences in artistic approaches between West and East.  It was the best of times and the worst of times.  Shortly afterwards, as he sought to re-establish contact with his first wife, Sandra, he discovered she had been burned to death in Texas, possibly a victim of murder.

The Haug Quintet is a set of five novels which introduce a full house of colourful characters on a swiftly moving landscape which draws the reader into thought-provoking human and political revelations. It is partly set in North London, where Bill has lived for many years. Chipmunka Publishing have recently released Is Alice?, a shattering love story involving schizophrenia and the nature of consciousness.  Additionally, Chipmunka is publishing a long but accessible essay in political philosophy, The Ghost Society
Bill lives happily in a small flat with his African grey parrot, Dizzy. Dizzy has an astonishing vocal range which includes telephone calls and answerphone, intruders, alarm clocks and a dazzling gutter vocabulary. He lives alone otherwise, but has developed a long-term, unexpected, completely baffling, totally uncharacteristic love affair with a lady who lives across the road from me, and...

Well, that's another story.  Read Is Alice? for more thunder-and-lightening details.