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Tommy Cooper's famous fez to go on display for first time

Tommy Cooper's famous red fez is to go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.

The museum announced that it had bought the late comic's archive - minus the fez - earlier this year.

It has now been given the tasselled hat, which will be displayed alongside Cooper's hand-written jokes, props and posters, at the museum from Tuesday.

Highlights on display will include a "gag file", a metal cabinet containing Cooper's hand-written jokes, filed alphabetically "with the meticulousness of an archivist", and contracts including those that went unfulfilled because of his sudden death following a heart attack on live TV in 1984.

The V&A has been given the fez by former advertising executive Hans van Rijs.

Cooper gave the fez to van Rijs when they met in 1984 to discuss the prospect of the comic starring in a Dutch TV commercial for Bassett's Wine Gums.

But the advertisement did not get made, as Cooper died suddenly a few days after the meeting.

Hans van Rijs said: "I travelled to London to meet Mr Cooper in the first week of April 1984 to discuss his script for a Dutch TV commercial for Bassett's Wine Gums.

"I arrived at his house around 10.30 and was offered something to drink. We finalised the script and he gave me his fez to take back home with me, so that the special effects team could begin animating it for the advert. He died a few days after we met, so sadly that advert was never made."

Cooper is believed to have first worn a fez after mislaying his army-issue helmet while performing in Cairo during the Second World War.

He is said to have taken a fez from a waiter to wear for the show and, as the hat looked comically small on Cooper's 6ft 3in frame, it became his trademark.

Simon Sladen, senior curator of modern and contemporary performance at the V&A, said: "It is wonderful news that we now have an authentic fez in addition to the Tommy Cooper Collection at the V&A.

"Cooper's fez is an icon of 20th century British comedy. It's thrilling that we can display it alongside his hand-written gags and unique examples of his comedy props to give visitors a fascinating insight into one the best-loved entertainers of the 20th century."

After an early career with the Army, Cooper went on to star in his own TV shows and become one of Britain's highest-paid and best-loved entertainers.

He died at the age of 63, shortly after collapsing during a live broadcast from Her Majesty's Theatre, London, in April 1984.

The Cooper archive is billed as the largest collection of its kind, tracing the life and legacy of the much-loved British comedian.

The fez, alongside a selection of objects from the collection, will go on public display for the first time in the museum's Theatre and Performance galleries on Tuesday.

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