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On Wednesday 25th May 2011 a service of thanksgiving was held at St Bride's Church for the life of "Mr Cinema", Peter Howard-Williams.
The Venerable David Meara delivered the Bidding:
We gather in St Bride's today to remember the life and honour the memory of Peter Howard-Williams, "Mr. Cinema, former managing director of Rank Screen Advertising and Pearl and Dean, who served as President of the Cinema Advertising Association, Chairman of the Publicity Club of London, and a member of the Variety Club of Great Britain and the Lord's Taverners.
He was a flamboyant character, a consummate salesman, a generous host who loved life and lived it to the full.
As we remember him today we mourn his untimely death, give thanks for having known him, and commend him to the love and mercy of our heavenly Father, trusting that at the end of our brief day is the eternity of God's love.
Peter White, advertising colleague
Peter has been trying to sell me space or cinema screen time since Pins & Needles days. But mostly Cinema.
One of the Cinema Promotions was the typically generous PHW special and hardly alcoholic dinner to see the Muhammad Ali fight live upstairs at the Braganza in Soho.
The idea was we all meet straight from work, (and we wouldn't have had a drink all day), for a drink before dinner - then dinner with drink and then, supposedly the Ali fight - I must have seen it - I was there - but along with the others our estimate of our stamina and the reality were worlds apart - a lot of us needed waking up to watch the all too brief fight when it came on at about 2:00 in the morning.
I also remember Peter in two roles wearing his Industry hat - The Publicity Club and The Cursitor Street. Not only with his Industry hat but also his Charity hat.
He was Chairman of the Publicity Club of London in 96 and 97.
He took the club to the Opera; the Theatre and of course, the Cinema - the Warner West End mostly. They also went to the Comedy Store and even the Greyhounds at Wimbledon.
They held their Summer Ball each year at which they raised £5k for Breast Cancer and £7k for Meningitis and their Christmas lunch which raised £3.5k and £6.5k for Lords Taverners - another of Peter's passions - that's £22k.
He met "Men of Distinction".
In 96 his Patron was the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman John Chalstrey MA MD DSc FRCS who later became Sir John Chalstrey.
It was 96 that he presented the Publicity Club of London cup for his performance in advertising & marketing to Martin Sorrell, who later became Sir Martin Sorrell.
In 97 his Patron was the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Roger Cork who later became Sir Roger Cork.
That year he gave the Publicity Club cup for his performance in advertising & marketing to John Perris... the knighthood must be on its way, John.
In 98 he accepted my invitation to be the Chairman of The Cursitor Street - A very different chairmanship that required his devotion for an entire day rather than an entire two years. It was a special day for two reasons -
The first being that he introduced Keith Fane to us, who brought along a brand new tenor called Russell Watson and that started us on the pattern we have adopted since, of Keith getting us to tap spoons on our coffee cups and us singing land of hope & glory on chairs and waving napkins in the air followed by excellent tenors and/or sopranos - sometimes both.
The other reason was his choice of Charity.
Cursitor Street Chairmen get to choose their Charity, only the year before, when Gerry McSharry chaired the Cursitor he had chosen the RNLI. A friend at the Telegraph suggested to me that we could try for a Lifeboat but we would need a little more than our modest - in those days - £5000 each year.
So we would need something special. Big Pete, who had already agreed to follow Gerry into the Cursitor chair, also agreed to choose the RNLI and between them and a following wind, we raised enough (about £13,000) to buy a D Class Inshore Lifeboat. A couple of years later, it was my privilege to spend a long weekend in Fenit on the West coast of Ireland, where Gerry had arranged to station our lifeboat, I joined Pete and Gerry with our wives to attend the official naming ceremony of the RNLB "Cursitor Street".
Just one of their stories that pleased Peter and the rest of us:
Five o'clock one morning in September 2005, two men were fishing 2 miles east of Fenit in a yacht which had developed machinery failure. They released their anchor to stop drifting onto the rocky shore but it failed to hold due to a gale force 8 wind and a 3 meter swell. The yacht was being pushed closer & closer to the shore.
Once the alarm was raised at Fenit, their ALB + ILB - All Weather Lifeboat and their Inshore Lifeboat (the D class Cursitor Street)) both launched within 3 minutes of their pagers going off and raced to the stricken yacht. The ALB couldn't get close enough to the yacht which was only 3 or 4 feet from being smashed onto the rocks so a tow rope was passed from the ALB to the Cursitor Street and then they passed it to the yacht. The Cursitor Street then took the survivors off the yacht and returned them to Fenit Harbour where they landed them safely. The ALB was then able to tow the yacht clear from the rocks and back to Fenit.
Thank you Peter for what you did for The Cursitor.
Thank you Peter for what you did for the Publicity Club.
Thank you Peter for what you did for the Cinema business.
Thank you Peter for what you did for the Media business.
I am proud to have been just one of hundreds of your industry colleagues.
Peter Seabrook-Harris, advertising colleague
Wow! It's just like the media business course again. But in Bournemouth 30 years ago!
When I first joined RSA in 1977 I was told to watch out for a huge fella who "looked like Hoss out of bonanza". (that's b.f.g. For you youngsters!)
Well a couple of possible candidates swung into view but I wasn't unduly impressed ...and then suddenly it all went dark as this bfg strode in, all of 6 foot 4 and seemingly 4 foot wide of him.
That'll be big Pete I rightly surmised as I took his huge outstretched hand and that was the start of a long and enduring friendship that spanned four decades. And I became little Pete of course.
Big Pete and little Pete. Or the two Peter hyphen hyphens.
Over those early months I learned a lot about the big fella - his lovely child bride Sheila and first Edward and then Adam of course. And his love of rugby (he would often turn up with a neat row of stud marks up his face after the weekend).
He was very proud of his parents who ran a thriving country pub in Redford and his parents in law too who always seemed to be jetting off somewhere exotic on Concorde.
Back to Rank screen advertising, I don't remember much of a formal induction but he did show me how to fill in an expense form & then later took me on an exhaustive tour of Soho's many bars and restaurants of which he clearly had an intimate knowledge.
Back in the late 1970's, cinema in the UK was in freefall and demand for cinema advertising was much the same so a generous expense account was pretty vital.
Indeed the phones rarely rang. Most of the reel was packed with fags, booze and denim but then, with the release of Star Wars in 1978 the following year, things suddenly changed.
Pete had created film packages and a whole new raft of advertisers came on board.
His forte was clearly as a salesman and his obvious passion for the big screen was evident to one and all. He was the only person to eventually become MD of both of the two cinema advertising sales houses and he helped put in place many of the building blocks that laid the foundations for the big screen cinema advertising revival today.
He was also a bit of a social chameleon - one minute he'd be from saff London and then he'd sound all posh private school. However he would also admit to being a bit of a token northerner having spent his early years in Bramhall in Cheshire - and delighted in saying stuff like pass the budder!
Unlike his father and now of course Adam, he did not spend time serving in Afghanistan but he did serve with the local TA in Bromley - terrorising the locals down Beckenham High St driving a Daimler dingo scout car! And if you ever drove with Pete in London traffic he was certainly not one to cut up!
In some respects I'm eternally grateful that Peter didn't choose the armed forces as his vocation - he was a tad right wing and his stock answer to most foreign office issues was "just bomb their [expletive deleted] villages".
Although a true patriot he loved French dining and his trips to Cannes but when it came to the French themselves. Well he never quite got over De Gaulle saying non to the UK's entry to the common market after all our wartime support.
Years later when P & D were bought by the French for 10 franks oh the joy when he personally set the door entry code for the office to 1805 - not a vintage year for the French navy of course!
He was not mean spirited though, as he'd regularly slide money to a big issue vendor (though rarely taking the magazine) because he thought "at least the bloke was polite & making an effort".
I also remember how angry he was when the ITV refused to show a charity commercial produced by Bartle Bogle & Hegarty highlighting John Mcarthy's hostage plight in Lebanon.
He ran it free for a month in over 1,000 screens.
Peter was much lauded as an especially generous and entertaining host and often, with Sheilagh by his side too, a frequent regular at Langans of course - lunchtime or evening and yes, sometimes both!
I remember one lunchtime we'd despatched the client and were just ordering another fine bottle of Sancerre for "a post lunch debrief" when he spotted the Who's Roger Daltrey sitting on a nearby table. Despite my feeble protests, he launched himself over to his idol's table and after the usual half smile and acknowledgement celebs often wearily reserve for fans, suddenly a chair was pulled out and a generous glass poured for Pete.
It later turned out that the mere mention that Pete had seen Roger performing with the rest of the who as "the high numbers" (in their early years) clearly had Daltrey totally engrossed as they were then too drugged/drunk to recall much from this vintage formative period.
(Pete of course loved rock music and the stones were the greatest band in his view - but he was by far the worst one chord air guitarist I've ever seen!)
Another favourite watering hole was Shampers Wine Bar which he used continuously over 4 decades. Always packed it was a marvel how he could slip in and out of such a crowded bar area without ever barging into anyone. He truly was a gentle giant.
It seemed entirely fitting that a gaggle of his old chums gathered pretty spontaneously at Shampers the week following Peter's untimely passing and we toasted his memory in some style.
He often said "life is not a [expletive deleted] rehearsal" and he truly lived by that mantra squeezing more than a quart into a pint pot.
We his friends and colleagues (and Pete's own family of course) naturally feel a bit cheated by his untimely passing but he certainly lived a very rich and fulfilling life and spread a lot of joy & happiness.
I'm now just going to squeeze in a brief quote from Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" as I think Pete would have appreciated the sentiments here:-
the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight go pop and everybody goes 'awww!'
Well I was going to finish in true cinema style with one of our fabled P & D local commercials but, as the bulb just went pop, I'm afraid it's now just the script!
"for a fine selection of beers, wines & spirits why not go to the press bar! The press bar you say? Yyyyyy ...yes, that's right, the press bar where a warm welcome awaits you ........and just 500 yards along from this church"
It's a wrap!
Organist plays out P & D sonic ends.
Torin Douglas, Media Correspondent of the BBC, read Advertising, from Advertising by Sir Charles Higham
Edward Howard-Williams, Peter's son, read Corinthians 15, v. 50-58
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Sheilagh Howard-Williams, Peter's widow, read 5.5.68 from Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
This was the noblest Roman of them all:
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He only, in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world 'This was a man!'
According to his virtue let us use him,
With all respect and rites of burial.
Within my tent his bones to-night shall lie,
Most like a soldier, order'd honourably.
So call the field to rest; and let's away,
To part the glories of this happy day.
The choir & organist of St Bride's Church performed the following anthems and songs:
Air on a G String - Bach
God Be In My Head - Walford Davies
And I Saw A New Heaven - Bainton
New World Symphony - Dvorâk, performed by Ken Wharfe
Ruby Tuesday - Jagger / Richards
In My Life - Lennon / McCartney
Toccata & Fugue in D Minor - Bach
Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven
Lord Of All Hopefulness