Comedian Al Debbo passed away last week (13 July) at the age of 87 in a Bloemfontein hospital, leaving a void in the South African entertainment world. His health had deteriorated over the past few months, and he had been admitted to the Bloemfontein Medi-Clinic three weeks ago.
10 Things You May (or may not) Know about Al Debbo:
- He was born on the 24th June 1924 in Bloemfontein where his parents were shopkeepers
- His father Azar (after whom he later named one of his sons) immigrated to South Africa from Lebanon in the early 1900s
- His mother was also from Lebanon though she met and married his dad in South Africa.
- Debbo’s career as a comedian, actor and singer spanned more than 6 decades!
- He made his debut in the film ‘Die Kaskenades van Dokter Kwakin’ in 1948/1949 and went on to act in another 19 films
- Debbo was well known for his ‘rolling eyes’ routine during his comedy acts and songs
- His final film appearance was in Leon Schuster’s ‘Oh Shucks I’m Gatvol’ in 2004
- Just this year, he was honoured at the Comics Choice Awards for his lifelong contribution to the entertainment industry
- He also received a SAMA in 2005 for his lifelong contribution to the film and music industry
- Debbo’s last album ‘Pieringoog Potpourri’ was released in 2000 and featured favourite songs that had made him famous, including ‘Hasie’, ‘Die Tantes van Nantes’ and ‘Brakke van Turffontein’
- He leaves behind his wife Ansa and their two sons (Alec and Azar), plus four daughters from his first wife, 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren! (Sadly his eldest son Alvin died in 1981.)
- His good friend, singer Steve Hofmeyr went to bid him farewell in hospital…but was sadly 50 minutes too late to say goodbye. The two performers had collaborated on some productions and had sung ‘Hasie’ together on stage during Hofmeyr’s ‘Toeka’ tour. Steve told an audience in Vryfees that during that tour Debbo was already frail – “Every night we wrapped him in blankets, gave him oxygen, and let him lie down on the couch. And every night when I said ‘Hasie, hoekom is jou stert so kort…‘ he would leap up like Lazarus from the dead, grab his toothbrush to comb his eyebrows, and then he would join me, dancing like Michael Jackson.”
In this vide from the 1968 film ‘Stadig oor die Klippe’, Debbo (starring as detective Boetie Vlenters) sings ‘Wie is bang vir daardie spook’:
And in this video, filmed in 2003, a then 80-year-old Debbo performs one of his favourites ‘Sonbrilletjies‘