'Home of darts' owner who was Phoenix Nights inspiration dies aged 94

Legend who inspired Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights dies aged 94: Tributes flood in to Bob Potter – owner of the renowned ‘home of darts’ Lakeside Country Club

  • Bob Potter OBE, who owned Lakeside Country Club in Surrey has died aged 94
  • He was the inspiration for character Brian Potter C4 Phoenix Nights comedy

Bob Potter, OBE, long-time owner of ‘home of darts’, the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green, Surrey, has passed away, aged 94.

The news was announced ‘with great sadness’ by the World Darts Federation (WDF) which confirmed in its obituary that ‘his legacy at the venue’ will be continued over the next three years with the next edition of their World Championship being in December.

Over the years, Potter mixed with royalty and showbiz figures at Lakeside, which he claimed was the inspiration behind Peter Kay’s TV comedy Phoenix Nights, whose character is named Brian Potter.

In the Channel Four show, Brian Potter is a wheelchair-using northern club owner trying to resurrect his venue after it is destroyed by fire.

And in reality, Bob Potter managed the same at Lakeside after a major blaze in the 1970s.

Bob Potter, OBE (pictured right with Sir Cliff Richard), long-time owner of ‘home of darts’, the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green, Surrey, has passed away, aged 94

Bob Potter (right_ pictured with actress Anita Harris

Potter mixed with royalty and showbiz figures at Lakeside, which he claimed was the inspiration behind Peter Kay’s TV comedy Phoenix Nights , whose character is named Brian Potter (pictured)

Bob told the BBC Sport website in 2004: ‘Phoenix Nights? Peter Kay – he’s doing me.

‘I expect he’s been here, worked here, and seen what we’re doing, or whoever’s written the script, and they’ve scripted me.

‘It’s the sayings, innit, and the fire and the way he operated – it was all Lakeside. There’s too many alike things there.’

Bob met Kay at the Lakeside when the comedian filmed a beer commercial alongside Englebert Humperdinck singing ‘Please Release Me.’

‘I said: ‘I want some royalties off you. You’re doing me,’ and he just laughed, Bob told the BBC.

Now the 1,300-capacity Lakeside hosts top showbiz acts, and has welcomed several prime ministers and members of the royal family, along with the big names of darts.

The carnival atmosphere, with spectators from the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, Finland and Holland wearing fancy dress has created a unique blend.

‘We’ve got a formula where it all goes together – you go to any other darts, and it’s not like the Lakeside,’ said Bob.

Bob Potter pictured with Martin Adams at the 2007 World Darts Championship

Bob Potter with wife Barbara and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Bob Potter (second-right) with iconic British comedy-magician Tommy Cooper (second left)

Bob Potter (centre) playing roulette with The Bill TV star Graham Cole (left) and Bert Weedon (right)

Bob Potter with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Dennis on their trip to Lakeside in April 1987

Bob Potter (right) pictured with with Princess Anne

Bob Potter shaking the hand of the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret

Bob Potter (right) pictured with English TV comedian Benny Hill

Tributes flooded in from well-known figures in the world of darts. Former player and TV commentator Bobby George tweeted: ‘RIP Bob Potter OBE. Catcha for a pint when I see ya mate! #darts #lakesidecountryclub #Frimley’.

Darts referee Huw Ware tweeted: ‘Sad to hear the passing of Bob Potter. He was always very welcoming and very hard working. His venue is iconic and his sponsorship of the BDO World Championship was crucial. RIP.’

The WDF statement said: ‘Bob was an ardent supporter of darts, with his Lakeside playing host to the Darts World Championships from 1986 to 2019.

‘Lakeside also served as the lead sponsor from 2004 to 2019 and once again in 2022, when he welcomed us back with open arms.

‘We look forward to continuing his legacy at the venue over at least the next three years.

‘At this sad time, the thoughts of the WDF family are with Bob’s loved ones and we express our sincere condolences to his family and friends’

In his autobiography, Darts commentator and personality Sid Waddell looked back on the early darts era when Lakeside was ‘arguably the best club in Britain’.

‘Tom Jones, Jim Davidson and other stars packed the joint, while Margaret Thatcher herself said it was one of her favourite places for Tory jollies,’ he wrote.

A signed photo from Christmas 1989 if Bob Potter with comedian Jim Davidson 

Bob Potter pictured with American girl group The Supremes

Bob Potter (right) with English singer Kenny Lynch (left)

Bob Potter pictured in front of his home at Lakeside

Journalist and family friend Paul Smith said: ‘Bob created the Lakeside Country Club which immediately became recognised as Britain’s premier nightclub.

‘Stars who performed on there included Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye along with Diana Dors, Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Dame Vera Lynn and Tommy Steele.

‘The cream of British comedy including Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Des O’Connor, Bruce Forsyth, Jimmy Tarbuck, Les Dawson, Bob Monkhouse, Mike Reid and Jim Davidson all appeared on the Lakeside stage.

‘The club was also frequented by senior members of the Royal Family including then Prince now King Charles, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne and the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

‘Bob was also a friend of former Margaret Thatcher and her husband Dennis, used his showbiz contacts to organise entertainment for the traditional Christmas parties for children hosted by Prime Ministers at 10 Downing Street.’

Mr Smith added: ‘Bob had been suffering from Vascular Dementia and was being cared for by his wife Barbara who was at his side when he passed away.

‘Bob led a dynamic and action-packed life in a show business career spanning over 70 years.’

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