Michael Caine

Michael CaineBorn Maurice Mickelwhite – not a lot of people know that – actually everyone knows that – in St Olaves Hospital in South London in 1933.  In 1986, the same building became Bob Hoskins’ production offices for the making of Mona Lisa, which starred Hoskins and Caine.  The son of a fish market porter, Maurice was born with swollen eyelids, ears that stuck out at right angles to his head, rickets and St Vitus Dance.  And lucky white heather.  Leaving school at 16 he worked in a number of jobs until he was called up to do his National Service with the Royal Fusiliers, which took him to Korea.  After leaving the Army he spent his working day in various manual jobs, including a plumber’s assistant whilst studying acting in the evening.  His first film part was ironically enough, A Hill in Korea, but his breakthrough was as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in Zulu.  He went on to star in The Ipcress File and Alfie which gave him his first Academy Award nomination.  He has worked non-stop ever since, including films such as The Italian Job, The Man Who Would be King, Hannah and Her Sisters and Little Voice.  His fear of returning to poverty drove him to keep making films. "I never thought I was going to get another movie, so I always took ’em," said Caine, "It’s the old cliche, he’s a young boy, he’s got to buy his mother a house. I bought everybody a bloody house."  That explains Dirty Rotten Scoundrels then.

Gabriel Byrne

Useless plumberBorn in Dublin in May, 1950, Gabriel Byrne set out to become a priest but was somewhat put off by being molested by his Latin teacher while at an English seminary preparing for the cloth.  That was enough to send him on a number of different career paths from archaeologist and schoolteacher, short-order cook and bullfighter to plumber’s assistant and toy factory worker installing teddy bear eyes, before finally settling on acting as a career at the age of 29.  After a series of minor roles, Byrne finally gained the attention of American audiences for his portrayal of the calculating, enigmatic gangster in the Coen Brothers’ film Miller’s Crossing in 1990.  Later successes included Defence of the Realm, In The Name of the Father and The Usual Suspects.  Gabriel says that plumbing was not his finest hour.  "I was an absolutely useless plumber.  There are places in Dublin now where you switch on the light and the tap comes on."  He was such a liability that his mates would send him back to base for a wrench – with instructions to walk, not take the bus – just to get him out of the way.

Lee Marvin

Lee MarvinBorn February 19, 1924, in New York City, Lee Marvin quit high school to enter the Marine Corps and while serving in the South Pacific was wounded in the Battle of Saipan.  That sounds pretty heroic until you realise he was wounded in the buttocks.  He spent a year in recovery before returning to the U.S. where he began working as a plumber’s apprentice in New York.  The Marine’s loss was plumbing’s gain.  He got his break when filling in for a sick actor and that inspired him to study at the New York-based American Theater Wing.  He made his Broadway debut in a 1951 production of Billy Budd and also made his first film appearance in You’re in the Navy Now.  Soon Marvin began appearing regularly onscreen, including a lead role in Stanley Kramer’s 1952 war drama Eight Iron Men.  He then went on to a string of major roles including The Big Heat, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Dirty Dozen.  He won the best actor Oscar for his dual role in Cat Ballou.  Lee Marvin died of a heart attack in 1987 and was buried in Arlington cemetery next to fellow services’ veteran Joe Louis.

Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle

Roscoe ArbuckleA comic genius from the golden age of the silent cinema, the Prince of Whales was the first comedian ever to be hit by an on-screen custard pie.  He was working as an overweight plumber in 1913 when he was discovered by Mack Sennett.  He had come to unclog the film producer’s drain but Sennett had other plans for him.  He took one look at his hefty frame and offered him a job as a Keystone Kop.  Eight years later, Roscoe signed a three-year contract with Paramount for $1 million – an unheard of amount at the time, even in Holywood.  To celebrate, Arbuckle and his pals booked into a room at the St Francis Hotel in San Francisco.  It was to be his undoing.  It was there that he was falsely accused of the rape and murder of starlet Virginia Rappe.  The courts eventually cleared him but the public never did.  After a huge media witch-hunt, Fatty never regained his popularity and died of a heart attack aged 46.

Allan Williams

Allan WilliamsThe first manager of a Liverpool combo known as The Beatles.  This plumber and owner of the Jacaranda club was the man who took them to Hamburg in 1960 and set them on the road to a relatively successful career.  He first met the Fab Four when they came into the Jacaranda and was the man who fixed him up with their first, and best, drummer, Pete Best.  However after one packed gig in the German city, the Beatles didn’t bother to give Williams his £14 cut.  He immediately sacked them, vowing that they would never work again.  Williams’ parting shot was to tell anyone interested in taking over The Beatles that he "wouldn’t touch them with a f*****g bargepole.  Brian Epstein didn’t take Williams’ advice.  Nor did he take him up on his offer to have his piping reworked and a new-fangled shower fitted.  In hindsight, possibly the correct decision.

Smith Wigglesworth

Smith WigglesworthA world-famous Christian evangelist and one of the few men named Smith with the power to raise people from the dead.  Born in Yorkshire in 1859, Wigglesworth was picking crops for a living at the age of six and working 12 hours a day in a woollen mill by the age of seven.  His family were very poor.  Aye but they were happy though.  He became a plumber by trade but he was not an ordinary plumber.  He preached the good news to all of his customers and many were saved.  News spread far and wide of The Bradford Plumber who healed the sick and restored life to the dead.  Wigglesworth conducted healing meetings worldwide to audiences of thousands.  Smith is said to have told God, "I’m going to trust you to provide for me.  If ever I have less than three good suits in my closet, I’m going back to work as a plumber."  He never did plumbing work again.  Smith Wigglesworth died in 1946, aged 87.  If he had only been in his prime in the television age, he’d have made his fortune.

Joe Cocker

Joe CockerOne of rock and roll’s enduring performers, Cocker has survived the sixties, a low period in the seventies, made a comeback in the eighties, and continues to be a solid and consistent performer in the nineties and on into the 21st century.  Known for his gutsy, gravelly, vocal style, Joe started out in Sheffield in the mid sixties, working as a gas plumber by day and performing in the clubs of the area by night.  The perfect life.  Cocker writes very little of his own material, plays no instruments, and finds himself completely at the mercy of whatever producer and backing musicians he lands with.  The lot of plumbers everywhere.  His major hits were With a Little Help From My Friends, Up Where We Belong and Unchain My Heart.  Joe’s mum Marjorie, God bless her, once said, "When Joe left school at 16, I thought he was going to take up plumbing as a career.  I even got him a lot of books on the subject, and he was interested in plumbing for a time, but there was always the music.  That was what he wanted to do."

G Gordon Liddy

G Gordon LiddyThe former FBI agent who helped plan the Watergate break-in has capitalized on his burglary legend and taken his political views to the airwaves.  George Gordon Liddy’s ultra-conservative radio talk show based in Fairfax, Virginia is broadcast on 232 stations nationwide.  Liddy was convicted for his role in the Watergate break-in, for conspiracy in the Daniel Ellsberg case and for contempt of court spending nearly five years in prison.  In 1986, a federal appeals court found Liddy liable for $20,499 in back taxes on Watergate slush-fund money, rejecting his claim that he did not benefit from the more than $45,000 he had received.  As one of the White House plumbers, Liddy spent about $300,000 engineering political dirty tricks and the Watergate break-in.  Amongst his many outrageous claims, Liddy says he once ate a rat to conquer his fear of rats.  He once asked, "Why is it there are so many more horses’ asses than there are horses?"  If anyone knows, he should.  Now 66, Liddy lives in Fort Washington, Maryland.

Simone DeCavalcante

Sam the PlumberAKA Sam DeCavalcante.  AKA Sam the Plumber.  He was the boss of the Mafia’s New Jersey based DeCavalcante Family from the 1960s until the mid 1970s.  In 1961, the FBI planted a listening device in DeCavalcante’s plumbing supply shop, and recorded him discussing criminal activities with other Mafia members and with politicians until they removed the device in 1965.  In 1969, two thousand pages of the "DeCavalcante Tapes", also known as the "Goodfella Tapes", were made public but were never used against DeCavalcante because the FBI had never obtained a court order to plant the listening device.  DeCalvacante was convicted of another crime that same year and served three years in prison.  He retired to Florida in 1976 and died there of natural causes at age 84.  The DeCavalcantes are now believed by many to be the leading and most powerful crime family in New York.

Zinzan Brooke

Who he?Former New Zealand rugby captain Zinzan Brooke was a plumber before he turned to playing his sport full-time.  The number 8, reckoned by many experts to be one of the all-time greats, played 82 times for the All Blacks, scoring 190 points in the process and captained his country on many occasions. Zinzan was born on the 14th of June, 1965 in Ahuroa.  He went to Mahurangi College and he lived on a farm. He first began playing rugby for the Puhoi club where his father was the coach and his mother was the manager.  He went on to play for Auckland before starring for the All Blacks.