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Clement Freud

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Clement Freud (AP Photo)
LONDON (AP) — Clement Freud, a grandson of Sigmund Freud who became a well-known writer, politician and urbane regular on British radio, has died. He was 84.

Freud died Wednesday at his home in London, his family said. The cause of death was not announced.

He was best known from his three decades appearing on the BBC game show, "Just a Minute," in which panelists compete to see who can talk the longest without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Freud's well-stocked vocabulary and his slow, deadpan speech made him a master of the game.

"Cheek is when someone of diminished responsibility goes to the British Broadcasting Corp. and elects to be chairman of a panel game on the basis that he might have some idea of how to control people whose multi-syllabic words he doesn't understand, whose meaning he is unable to comprehend," he once said during a typical delivery.

Freud had a testy relationship with his brother, the famed artist Lucian Freud, rooted in childhood suspicions that Lucian was his mother's pet.

Born in Berlin, Clement Raphael Freud came to England with his family in 1933 — "refugees from the Nazis before the habit had caught on," he said.

He knew his grandfather, who died in London in 1939, as a sickly older man with mouth cancer. "But he was to me not famous, but to me a good grandfather in that he didn't forget my birthdays."

Years later, as a member of a parliamentary delegation to China, Freud noticed that a fellow legislator — the grandson and namesake of the wartime prime minister Winston Churchill — was always given better accommodations. "It's the only time I've been out-grandfathered," Freud remarked.

He was educated at the prestigious St. Paul's School in London and then was an apprentice cook at the Dorchester Hotel, where he saw in the New Year of 1942 with 10 portions of Beluga caviar and a bottle of Dom Perignon pilfered from his employer.

"Sat in the store room having the most memorable New Year's Eve meal of my life to date," he recalled.

Following his army service, he was a liaison officer at the war crimes trial in Nuremberg.

He was a restaurateur and nightclub proprietor who developed a line in writing about food, which opened further doors commenting on sports and politics.

From 1973 to 1987, he was a Liberal member of Parliament, a source of great pride.

"Other Freuds had been nominated for Nobel and Turner prizes," Freud wrote in his 2001 book, "Freud Ego."

Having won the election, "it suddenly occurred to me that after nine years of fame, I now had something solid about which to be famous." There was also the satisfaction of having bet 1,000 pounds on himself to win, at 33-1 odds.

The earlier fame came from his appearances with an equally morose-looking bloodhound in television advertisements for Chunky Meat Minced Morsels. When asked what he would expect for a fee, Freud reportedly said, "What the prime minister gets."

"For 45,000 pounds, I was prepared to sit next to a dog called Henry," Freud said.

Comedian Stephen Fry told the BBC Thursday that he was charmed by Freud's "air of disreputability."

"He, during the 1950s and 1960s, was a real Soho figure," Fry said, referring the bohemian quarter of London.

"He knew all the girls of easy virtue, he knew the pimps, he knew the racetrack tipsters and, of course, the restaurateurs, which is where he learnt his business as a chef.

"His fund of stories about that time was simply remarkable, and he lived a sort of life on the edge."

Freud was granted a knighthood in 1987, an honor Lucian scathingly disparaged.

"I was offered a knighthood but turned it down," The Sunday Telegraph quoted Lucian Freud as saying last year. "My younger brother has one of those. That's all that needs to be said on the matter."

Clement Freud had no interest in reconciling with his brother.

"I'm not great at forgiving. If I decide that I don't like someone, that's it," he said in an interview with The Observer newspaper in 2001.

In 1950, Freud married Jill Flewett, who was said to have been C.S. Lewis' inspiration for the character of Lucy in the "Narnia" tales.

His wife survives, along with three sons and two daughters.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press
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