Guyanese actor Norman Beaton, best known as Desmond Ambrose in “Desmond’s,” was also a very popular musician who earned the nickname of Calypso Champion of Guyana.
Born in Georgetown, Norman Beaton went to public school and teacher-training college before following his love for calypso music and forming the vocal group Four Bees.
With them, he recorded 20 singles and toured through Surinam and French Guyana. Eventually, he expanded his horizon by sailing for the UK.
Norman Beaton in 1984's "Nice" | Photo: YouTube/BFI
NORMAN BEATON’S CAREER
There, he studied at London University and became a teacher in two schools from Liverpool. At the time, he used to play the guitar for the Liverpool Poets and also wrote his first musical, “Jack of Spades.”
Beaton’s career thrived so much that he was invited to be part of the Bristol Old Vic as a musical director and composer. Apart from that, he became a presenter in “Points West.”
Although he was already a famous musician, he only shifted his focus on acting in 1966 when he wrote the musical “Sit Down Banna” and took the lead role.
His performance was so good that more acting gigs came his way, both in theaters and TV. Most of his early roles on TV, though, were stereotypically black: a London Transport guard in “Thirty Minutes Worth” or a drug dealer in “Barlow at Large.”
[Beaton] spent nine months behind bars in 1965 for cheque fraud.
NORMAN’S TIME IN “DESMOND’S”
In 1976, Beaton started playing Sam Foster in “The Forsters,” the first all-Black sitcom in the UK. Two years later, he landed the part of Everton Bennett in “Empire Road,” the first all-Black soap opera in the UK.
Beaton’s career skyrocketed, though, in 1987, after he started portraying barber Desmond Ambrose in “Desmond’s,” whose dream was to retire and come back to Guyana.
The sitcom quickly became Channel 4’s most popular show, taking Beaton to international stardom. In 1992, the Guyanese actor attracted the attention of Bill Cosby and made a guest appearance in “The Cosby Show.”
While Beaton had a very successful career in the entertainment industry, he faced some tough times, too, and wrote about it in his 1987 autobiography “Beaton But Unbowed.”
In it, he revealed that he went bankrupt in 1982 (with debts of over $21,000), spent nine months behind bars in 1965 for cheque fraud, received suspended sentences of other crimes, and married and divorced three different times.
Sadly, on December 13, 1994, Beaton passed away during a return visit to Guyana. He was 60 years old when he died but will forever be remembered as one of the most influential Black actors on British TV.
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