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John Inman of 'Are You Being Served?' Dies

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'Are You Being Served?' star dies

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Actor John Inman, best known for his role as camp shop assistant Mr Humphries in the long-running BBC comedy "Are You Being Served?" died aged 71 on Thursday.

Inman, who later became a pantomime regular, was one of the sitcom's most memorable cast members and his catchphrase "I'm free" became part of popular culture.

In 1976, he was voted "Funniest Man On Television" by readers of TV Times magazine and was also named BBC TV's "Personality Of The Year."

He died at St Mary's Hospital in London after having been ill for some time, his manager Phil Dale said in a statement.

"John, through his character Mr. Humphries of Are You Being Served? was known and loved throughout the world," Dale said.

"He was one of the best and finest pantomime dames working to capacity audiences throughout Britain.

"John was known for his comedy plays and farces which were enjoyed from London's West End throughout the country and as far as Australia, Canada and the USA."

Inman's long-term partner Ron Lynch was "devastated" at the news, the BBC said.

Actress Wendy Richard, who played Miss Brahms in "Are You Being Served?," said she had been regularly visiting Inman who had been seriously ill with Hepatitis A.

"You just have to regard it as being an end to his suffering," a tearful Richard told BBC radio.

"I think John was one of the wittiest and most inventive actors I have ever worked with. He was a brilliant, brilliant pantomime dame. He was a very good all-round actor really."

Inman's character Mr. Humphries attracted criticism at the height of the department store-based sitcom's success from some gay rights groups who were upset by what they saw as his portrayal of an over-the-top homosexual.

"He never ever said Mr. Humphries was gay," Richard said. "He was just a young man who was very, very good to his mother."

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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I never saw him in other roles, I'm sorry to say, but he was great as Mr. Humphries. The humor in his character and how the others interacted with his character was comforting (to me) and wasn't any more than how the other characters in the show were lampooned.

I'm sorry to hear he's gone, but it's good he won't suffer more. -- We can be glad he'll be doing whatever it is he's doing in the great beyond. -- Perhaps he's doing a great comedy sketch now, or looking out for those of us down here who aren't yet "free."

-- "Are you being served? I'm free!"

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