Where stars of classic 80s TV adverts are now – Cadbury Flake girl's shock career change to tragic fate of Levi hunk | The Sun
THE 1980s was a classic era for adverts, with the Man From Del Monte one ranking as one of the most memorable.
Earlier this month it was announced that Brian Jackson, the actor who played the suave, white suit-clad fruit buyer who only selected the best, had sadly died at the age of 91.
The star, who appeared in classic films like Carry On Sergeant and Return of the Pink Panther, passed away peacefully at his home in London’s West End after a long battle with prostate cancer.
But his most iconic role lives on in our memories – alongside other classic ads of the decade including the Gold Blend mini-drama and the Milky Bar kid.
From a kidney transplant and tragic cancer deaths to an abusive marriage, here’s what happened to stars of the Eighties commercial breaks.
The Milky Bar Kid – Robbie Humphries
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The bespectacled boy was played by various child actors but the 1980s saw the role taken by Robbie Humphries.
Robbie went on to suffer serious health issues, caused by a condition that slowed his kidney development.
After years of dialysis, he had a kidney transplant in 1998, using an organ donated by his mum.
“I certainly was not 'strong and tough' like the lyrics of the song in the advert,” Robbie told the Sunday Post.
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Robbie got a psychology degree from Brunel university and studied acting extensively, as well as training as a clown.
He went on to work for a theatre workshop in Kent as well as teaching drama.
Gold Blend couple – Anthony Head & Sharon Maughan
The famous Gold Blend drama broke boundaries as the first advert series to have recurring characters, with couple Tony and Sharon in 'will they, won't they' storyline.
The 12 Nescafe Gold Blend ads, which ran from 1987 and followed the fictional couple's romance, saw the instant coffee brand’s sales jump by 50 per cent.
Anthony Head – who played character Tony – had an illustrious theatre career and went on to star as Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Prime Minister in Little Britain.
Most recently, he starred in drama series The Split.
He and partner Sarah Fisher have two daughters, Emily – who played Carli D'Amato in The Inbetweeners and Rebecca White in Emmerdale – and Daisy, who appeared in The Syndicate and Shadow and Bone.
Actress Sharon Maughan starred in BBC series Holby City for eight years and became a regular panellist for ITV’s Loose Women in the 2010s.
She is married to Shoestring star Trevor Eve and they have three children with the oldest, Alice Eve, a Hollywood actress who starred in She’s Outta My League and Men in Black 3.
Cadbury Flake girl – Janis Levy
Janis Levy was just 17 in 1985 when she seductively ate a Cadbury’s Flake in a field of flowers.
She had already been a model for a year after being discovered by celebrity hair stylist John Frieda.
Talking about the audition, she said: “They said the copy called for ‘a girl with short blonde hair in a white mini dress,’ but when they saw me, they changed their minds and decided on ‘a redhead that looked like Bambi.’
“They called me back for the second audition, I booked the job, and we were on our way to a 20,000-acre sunflower farm in South Africa.”
She went on to appear in more than 50 commercials and landed a Hollywood deal before starring in smash daytime US soap Santa Barbara as lawyer Belinda Bradley.
In 2008 she was wrongly reported to have died after the death of fellow Flake model Marilyn Crossley, whose name had mistakenly been added to the advert on YouTube.
Janis – famed for her auburn locks – now runs her own hair extension business, Hair Development.
Levi's laundrette ad – Nick Kamen
Nick set the pulses of the nation racing when he stripped off in an American-style launderette for the classic jeans ad.
The commercial dramatically increased sales of Levi's 501s and featured as number six in a 2000 poll of the greatest ads of all time.
Essex-born Nick launched his musical career off the back of his newfound fame, releasing a self-titled debut album written and produced by Madonna in 1986.
Tragically Nick died in May 2021 at the age of 59, after a long battle with bone cancer.
Madonna paid tribute to her one-time protege, saying: “You were always such a kind, sweet human and you suffered too much."
Cornetto’s gondola girl – Kika Markham
Few can forget the girl who licked her Cornetto while being serenaded by a man in a gondola on the waterways of Venice – only to have the ice cream snatched from her as she passed under a bridge.
The catchy rendition of Just One Cornetto is as fresh in the memory as it was in 1983.
Kika Markham, the girl in the gondola, went on to have a stellar career on stage and screen, starring in Mr Selfridge, A Very British Coup and Killing Me Softly.
Kika, now 82, was married to Corin Redgrave, brother of Vanessa Redgrave, and they had two children, but he sadly died in 2010.
Shake 'n Vac housewife – Jenny Logan
Actor Jenny Logan was already starring in Chicago when she was offered the role of the cheerful housewife who liberally chucks the carpet-cleaning powder all over her living room while singing an impossibly catchy song.
She initially turned the ad down, because she was “exhausted” by her West End run, but was persuaded by the director,
“I thought it would be just another advert but its popularity grew and eventually people started recognising me in the street,” she told the Sunday Post.
“Even comedy shows contained scenes imitating the advert.”
While she was inundated with fan mail, Jenny admitted the long-running ad didn’t make her rich.
“People think I’m a millionaire because it ran so long,” she said.
“I was paid around £200 and received repeat fees whenever it was shown, which helped pay off the occasional overdraft, but it never made me rich."
Jenny, now 79, continued her stage career and appeared occasionally on TV in, among others, three series of The Two Ronnies during the 80s.
Milk Tray man – James Coombes
The original Milk Tray Man, Gary Myers, handed the mantle to British actor James Coombes in the 1980s.
In a sexy ad directed by Indecent Proposal’s Adrian Lyne, James, from Monmouth, mounted a crane to deliver chocolates to his lucky lady.
The actor, now 65, went on to appear in many British dramas, from Doctor Who to Agatha Christie's Poirot – ironically playing a politician poisoned by chocolate.
In 2015, he donned the famous black polo neck once more to announce the return of the Milk Tray Man, calling for “a new hero to deliver the famous box” before leaping from a window.
As well as acting, James tutors regularly at the Academy of Creative Training in Brighton.
He is married to actress Cathy Finlay, daughter of actor Frank Finlay, and his eldest son, Josh Coombes, is drummer for the rock band Tigress.
Oxo mum – Lynda Bellingham
For 16 years from 1983, Lynda Bellingham was the epitome of the homely mum, serving hot meals amid the chaos of everyday family life with the help of her trusty Oxo cubes.
The actor, who featured in 42 adverts in the series, also starred in All Creatures Great and Small and the sitcoms Second Thoughts and Faith in the Future.
In 2007 Lynda joined the Loose Women panel, appearing on over 300 shows, and she also took part in Strictly Come Dancing two years later.
Lynda was married three times and had two children.
Tragically, while revelling in domestic bliss on screen, she said her second marriage to restaurateur Nunzio Peluso, dad to her two sons, was abusive.
I felt I was living a lie. Being the nation's favourite mum on screen and going home to an abusive relationship was heartbreaking, the irony was horrific
“Maybe if my private life had been happier I would have enjoyed doing it more,” she wrote in her memoir Lost and Found.
“As it was, I felt I was living a lie. Being the nation's favourite mum on screen and going home to an abusive relationship was heartbreaking, the irony was horrific.
"Here I was, the Oxo mum, hiding behind closed doors, isolated from her friends and family."
The couple divorced in 1996 and a restraining order was granted in 2000 to keep Peluso away from her.
Lynda wed her third husband, Michael Pattemore, in 2008 on her 60th birthday, but sadly died from colon cancer six years later.
Heinz Ketchup ad – Matt LeBlanc
Remember the cool guy who leaves a Heinz ketchup bottle hanging over the side of a high rise building before walking down the stairs, ordering a hot dog and casually catching the drops of sauce with the words “I’ve got it covered?”
Yes, that really was Friends star Matt LeBlanc.
He even ends the ad with a Joey Tribbiani-style wink at a pretty girl queuing by the hot dog stand.
Matt went on to appear in Married With Children and various music videos, including Bon Jovi’s Miracle, but says he was down to his last $11 before landing the role in Friends which made him famous.
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He took a five year hiatus from acting from 2006, but has since starred as himself in Episodes and hosted two series of Top Gear on BBC1.
He married Melissa McKnight, a British-born American model and mother of two children, in May 2003. They had their own daughter in 2004 but divorced two years later.
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