The Bill Flynn VIP RoomDecember 9, 2011
Our VIP Room is named after one of South Africa’s most loved actors, Bill Flynn (December 13, 1948 – July 11, 2007), in tribute to his contribution to theatre and film both locally and internationally.
Bill was born in Cape Town and matriculated from Plumstead High School. He graduated from the UCT Drama School and went on to become a member of the defiantly non-racial Space Theatre, founded in 1972 by theatre photographer Brian Astbury and his wife, actress Yvonne Bryceland.
Bill’s highly successful career included leading roles in more than 140 stage plays and musicals; 42 films; dozens of TV shows and thousands of radio and TV commercials. On television, he appeared on the breakfast production The Toasty Show and in the drama series Jozi Streets, among many others. He was the lead singer of the band Vinnie and the Viscounts, but began performing with a new band, the Rock Rebels, in 1998.
Bill won thirteen awards for acting and screenwriting. When the international hit Saturday Night at the Palace with longtime friend and collaborator, playwright Paul Slabolepszy, was adapted for the screen, it won Bill a Best Screenplay Award; Best Actor Award at the Italian Taormina Film Festival and a Merit Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. His karate comedy Kill and Kill Again was a top box office hit in America. On stage, Bill won 13 best actor awards, including the Dublin Critics and Golden Entertainer Awards. Among these were:
- Best Supporting Actor for Doubles – Cape Town
- Best Actor for Saturday Night at the Palace
- Best Actor for Hello and Goodbye – Dublin
- Best Actor in a Comedy for Play It Again Sam
- Best Actor for the role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman
In South Africa, Bill was perhaps best known for his portrayal of Tjokkie, one half of the Bushveld Boys, “The Greatest Springbok Rugby Fans In All the World”. Alongside Slabolepszy, who played Crispin, Bill roared onto stage (and screen) in Heel Against the Head and Running Riot, endearing himself to audiences as the wise-cracking, beer-loving rugby fanatic.
Bill died in his sleep in Johannesburg on 11 July 2007, presumably of a heart attack. That same day he was scheduled to act in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Johannesburg’s Civic Theatre. Ryan Flynn – Bill’s son by his first wife, Anne Power – was starring with his father in the play. At the time of his death he was married to actress Jana Celliers, his second wife.
Bill was buried at the Plumstead Methodist Church. The service was conducted by the Rev Kevin Needham, who said Bill had taught Sunday school in that church. The packed church included actors and other show business celebrities, as well as a large media contingent. There was a wake in the church hall after the service, and another in the foyer of the Baxter Studio.
Bill was absolutely passionate about the theatre, and while a natural comic, he also displayed an impressive dramatic quality in more serious roles. Bill loved the sea, and as Paul mentioned at the naming of the VIP Room, this beautiful venue overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is the perfect place to remember this son of the South African stage.