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Ex-EastEnders star Mike Reid dies

Frank Butcher was one of EastEnders' most popular characters
Former EastEnders actor Mike Reid has died at the age of 67 after suffering a suspected heart attack, his agent said.

The actor, who played Frank Butcher in the BBC soap, was living in Spain at the time of his death.

Reid became a stand-up comedian having worked as a stunt man. He went on to work in TV shows including Runaround, Doctor Who and Minder.

His agent David Hahn told the BBC his death came as a great shock as he had been in very good health.

He said: "Mike was in fine fettle. In fact only a couple of weeks ago we were having dinner over here.

Even now I'm sure he's laughing.

"Mike that particular day went to see his consultant and had a full medical - and they gave him a clean bill of health."

Mr Hahn paid tribute to Reid, who he described as "a very, very, very, funny" man.

He said: "He would see the funny side of any situation, no matter how black it was. Even now I'm sure he's laughing."

Close friend of the actor and fellow comedian Frank Carson, who first met Mr Reid around 30 years ago, told BBC News 24 the news was "absolutely devastating".

"We have just lost our friend Bernard Manning a fortnight ago. I just can't realise... this is devastating news," he said.

Popular character

Actor and comedian Russ Abbot, who appeared on 1970s ITV show The Comedians alongside Reid, told BBC News 24 his former co-star was a natural entertainer.

Mike Reid was living in Spain when he died

"Mike was a story-teller and a great deliverer of great, great jokes," he said.

Another fellow comedian, Mike McCabe, said Reid had been a "larger than life" character with a "great, great sense of humour".

"He was a jack-the-lad, very funny with a great cockney way of putting things together," he told BBC News 24.

"He was one of the lads. The blokes loved him, the women loved him. I admired the man."

Former stuntman

Before entering the comedy scene and winning a place in The Comedians in 1973, Reid began his career as a stuntman.

He worked on films including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines and Spartacus.

He had also been a stunt double for Roger Moore in The Saint.

"I know it's hard to believe - Mike was a lot taller than him, and often used to laugh about it," Mr Hahn said.

In the late 1970s Reid went on to host the ITV children's TV quiz show Runaround, remembered for its incomprehensible rules and the incongruity of him as presenter.

He joined EastEnders in 1987, quickly turning Frank into one of the show's most popular characters.

Albert Square - and British Television - will be a far poorer place without him

After taking a couple of lengthy breaks from the show he made his last appearance as Frank in December 2005 when his long-standing relationship with ex-wife Pat Evans finally came to an end.

John Yorke, controller of BBC drama series, said the skill with which Reid played the EastEnders character made Frank Butcher one of the soap's most popular.

"Mike's genius was to capture the heart of that flawed dreamer and make generations of viewers love him," he said.

"Albert Square - and British television - will be a far poorer place without him, as will the lives of those who loved and worked with him throughout his extraordinary career."

One of Albert Square's most memorable moments was when Frank, in a bid to win Pat back, turned up on her doorstep wearing nothing but a flashing dickie bow.

Actress Pam St Clement, who played opposite Reid in the soap for many years, said: "It has come as a terrible shock - somebody larger than life as Mike was in person and character - he seemed indestructible."
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