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All hell broke loose after Bruce Forsyth's Northern Ireland wife learned of affair with Miss World

By Ivan Little

A former Miss World who had a torrid affair with Bruce Forsyth has revealed how the entertainer's Ulster-born wife was involved in an angry showdown after finding out about their secret relationship.

Ann Sidney said that "all hell broke loose" after ex-dancer Penny Calvert from Derriaghy saw photos of Bruce and the beauty queen in newspapers in 1964.

Ann had just won the Miss United Kingdom contest in Blackpool and Bruce, who was the host of Sunday Night At The London Palladium, was waiting at Bournemouth Airport to welcome her home off a flight.

But as the Champagne corks popped, a freelance photographer captured the moment and a newspaper that published the photograph ran a headline asking if there was a romance between Bruce and the new Miss UK.

Ann, who is now 73 and living in California, said in an interview with the Mail on Sunday that she was struggling to cope with the death of the entertainer, who she described as the first great love of her life.

But she said she was "utterly shamed and humiliated" when news broke of her affair with the TV star.

"We hadn't yet been intimate and all hell broke loose," she said.

Penny arrived by train the next day to confront her straying husband, and Ann's father demanded to know if she and the TV star were sleeping together, which she denied.

Bruce turned up at Ann's family home to apologise to her parents for dragging her name through the newspapers.

Ann said: "He told my parents his marriage had been struggling for some time but nothing untoward had happened with me."

However, the affair intensified and, after Ann won Miss World, she said Bruce bombarded her with love notes, telegrams and flowers.

He also sneaked in and out of her flat in London wearing a variety of disguises.

But a neighbour who saw him on one occasion told him: "Come off it Brucie - we know it's you. You're not fooling anyone."

Ann said Bruce was terrified that his relationship with her could end his career because he was still married to Penny, who he'd wed in 1953 after meeting her when they were both dancers at the Windmill Theatre in London.

Ann recalled: "Bruce told me his marriage was over and I had no reason to doubt him but he had three children and was not divorced.

"Back then (in the Sixties) a scandal would have ruined him - and me." Bruce and Ann met when he was judging a beauty pageant in Bournemouth.

She was 19 and a trainee hairdresser and he was appearing in summer season.

"He was confident, worldly," said Ann.

"Bruce was charming and very funny. I'd never been romanced like that."

But as the relationship deepened Bruce's anxiety over the possibility of it becoming public only heightened.

He told Ann how comedian Max Wall's career was all but destroyed after it emerged that he was having an affair with a beauty queen.

Ann said her relationship with Bruce continued for 18 months and only ended when her father challenged her lover over her psychological state.

She added: "Dad told him that if he truly loved me he would stop the affair. So he did."

Bruce subsequently wrote in his autobiography that he always thought that Ann would be his second wife, but getting a divorce from Penny wasn't easy.

He said: "Ann knew that I was having a hard time getting a divorce from Penny. She also knew when I was free it was very likely we would get married."

The second Mrs Forsyth, however, was Bruce's Generation Game hostess Anthea Redfern.

And Ann said she and Anthea met at a party several years later.

"She told me that Bruce had truly loved me and deeply regretted sneaking around in the shadows with me.

"When Bruce and Anthea fell in love he insisted on putting out a statement to the Press, making it all public.

"He was still married to Penny but he finally got a divorce and married Anthea the same year (1973)."

Ann said she regarded Bruce's third wife, Wilnelia Merced, also a former Miss World, as "the love of his life".

She added that she never heard from Bruce after their relationship ended.

However, he and Penny stayed on good terms and when she developed dementia and was moved into a residential care home, he was a regular visitor until her death in 2014.

Belfast Telegraph

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