Saturday, 29 December 2012

New Year Honours List: Michael Cashman, Gay Rights Campaigner And Eastenders Actor, Honoured

Gay rights activist and actor-turned-politician Michael Cashman was awarded a CBE in Saturday's New Year's Honours.

Cashman, 62, is probably best-known for delivering the first gay kiss on British prime-time TV, sparking record numbers of complaints but also many plaudits when his character Colin Russell pecked lover Barry Clark on the forehead in a 1987 episode of EastEnders.

Colin was the first homosexual character in the BBC soap, and his introduction caused huge controversy at a time when gay people were largely represented as camp figures of fun on TV.

He later recalled the public, political and media "hysteria" which greeted his storyline and the death threats and bricks through the window which followed the famous kiss. But he believes that Colin's story helped Britain become a more tolerant society, remembering: "On the second kiss there was barely any fuss. By the third kiss barely anyone noticed."

Openly homosexual before joining EastEnders, Mr Cashman went on to help found the gay rights campaign group Stonewall in 1989 and served as its chairman until 1996. He was also treasurer of actors' union Equity from 1994-98.

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