Denzil Howson, talented writer, actor, director, newscaster and the official announcer for the bands, Man Bites God and the Drowning Hitlers, passed away this week, succumbing to pneumonia after months of illness. He was 87 years old. Stubborn, cantankerous and astute to the end, Denzil was planning his triumphant escape from the nursing home when sneaky death karate chopped him into oblivion.
There isn’t enough room in the whole of cyberspace to adequately capture Denzil’s life. He built radios, then wrote and performed radio plays. He built cinemas, projectors and sets, then wrote and directed his own films. He was one of the first ever voices of television in this country, writing and reporting on the 1956 Olympic games. He worked at GTV Nine when it was starting out, pioneering the children’s show, variety show and sketch show formats that are still being used today. Then he left when the ownership changed hands and became too conservative. He was a man of restless creative energy and spirit with a silky smooth voice, a quick deadpan sense of humour and an abundance of sartorial elegance.
In his later years I convinced him to work with my bands, The Drowning Hitlers and Man Bites God. He is on most of our albums, and recorded several introductions for Man Bites God live shows at his home studio in East Malvern. His voice is on the song “Sponsorship”, at the end of our most recent EP and on every Drowning Hitlers album in one form or another. He earned a new generation of fans with this work, as well as scene stealing appearances on The Late Show with the D Generation and in a series of XXXX commercials in the 70s and Officeworks commercials in the 90s.
Working with Denzil is something I am going to miss very much. He was sharp, inventive, argumentative and thorough. Working together to get a project right was such a rewarding way to spend time with the man.
It’s clear Denzil led a full, rewarding and uncompromising life and yet the loss of a career, a mind and a spirit as good as Denzil’s is always something to mourn — and something to inspire us.