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The moment Michael McIntyre was told his dad shot himself

by Latesha Cottman (2020-09-02)

It was a phone call that left Britain's best-loved comedian speechless with shock. As he listened in stunned disbelief to the words being spoken it was clear Michael McIntyre's whole life had been underpinned by a devastating lie.

McIntyre, the highest-earning comic in the world, had grown up believing his beloved dad Cameron dropped dead of a massive heart attack aged just 55.

It was a story McIntyre told numerous times over the years, including in his best-selling 2010 autobiography, describing the traumatic event as a pivotal moment which taught him the fragility of life at the tender age of 17, and spurred him on to chase his dreams of fame and fortune.

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Farewell: Michael, aged 17, and Ray Cameron in London in 1993, six months before his father's suicide

Now that myth had been shattered. To McIntyre's horror he learned his father had, in fact, committed suicide - he had chosen to end his life by turning a gun on himself in the soulless ‘trash room' of a dingy Hollywood apartment block, broken by a disastrous career slide that had taken him from working with some of Britain's biggest comedy stars in the 1980s to a last failed project with the BBC.

And, in marked contrast to his hugely successful son, the subsequent loss of fortune saw him selling his cars and even pets in LA.





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Last night Michael's stepmother Holly spoke for the first time about what she calls ‘the McIntyre family's deepest, darkest secret', saying: ‘That was the hardest phone call of my life. I was shaking when I told him. For years I kept this terrible secret and finally I was sharing it. I said, "Michael, your father didn't have a heart attack. He killed himself."

‘There was a paralysed silence on the other end of the line. He was crushed. How are you supposed to react to news like that?

Secret: Michael with his stepmother Holly, who told the comic the truth about his father's death during a late-night phone call in November 2010

‘He just said, "Oh my God, Oh my God… are you sure?" ' 

Ironically, Holly says it was McIntyre's rapid rise to fame which led to her ‘spilling the beans' during the late-night phone call in November 2010, shortly after her stepson's autobiography, Life And Laughing, shot to the top of the best-seller list.

McIntyre was planning to allow the BBC's genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? to probe into his family history, and Holly knew researchers would unearth Ray Cameron's death certificate which is freely available in US public records and blankly states he died as a result of ‘Suicide' on December 27, 1993, listing the cause of death as ‘self-inflicted gunshot wound to head'.

Holly explains: ‘When Cameron shot himself, Michael was just 17, his sister Lucy was 15. I had two young kids who were one and seven. Cameron went out one morning for his usual walk and didn't come back.

‘The first I knew about it was when two police officers banged on my door. He had shot himself in the head in the trash room down the hall from our apartment.

‘I didn't hear a thing. I don't know to this day where he got the gun.'

Cameron - born Thomas Cameron McIntyre, and who used the professional name Ray Cameron - ended his life slumped on beige linoleum tile in a windowless room next to a washer and dryer and 웹툰 성인 a rubbish compactor chute.

‘My first instinct was to protect the kids, so I told them daddy had died of a heart attack. I told no one the truth. The only people on the planet who knew the truth were the police and me.

‘Michael grew up believing his dad went out for his morning walk and suffered a heart attack at the side of the road. I didn't think the children needed the burden of growing up under the shadow of a parent committing suicide.

‘If Michael hadn't become famous the truth would never have come out because I wouldn't have told anyone. But he emailed me and said he would be doing this show and could I help the BBC with information about his daddy. I knew the researchers would find the death certificate because it is a matter of public record. I had to come clean.' 

She emailed back, asking for an urgent meeting. ‘I wanted to tell him face-to-face. I sent him a long email saying it was imperative we meet immediately, that I had something huge to tell him. He called me after a show. It was about 4am for him. He got angry when I kept asking to meet and he snapped, "Look, you're being melodramatic, just tell me what it is!"

Successful: Cameron, right, on the set of the Kenny Everett Show. He was a producer and writer for the popular programe creating outrageous characters such as Sid Snot and underwear flashing actress Cupid Stunt

‘When I told him the line went quiet. I could hear the static. His only words were, "Are you sure?" followed by "Oh my God, Oh my God…" '

Holly meets The Mail on Sunday in a bustling French bistro near the rented flat in one of Hollywood's less salubrious neighbourhoods she now calls home.

The 58-year-old freely admits her circumstances are much changed from when she first met Michael's ruggedly handsome father in 1984. Today she jokes she is ‘fuller' in figure than she was when she met then eight-year-old Michael, who she calls ‘adorable' and ‘sweet'.

She veers between warm smiles as she recalls her early days as stepmother to Michael, to tears of pain as she relives the death of his father, whom she calls ‘the love of my life'.

Happy: Holly and Cameron on their wedding day. She said she is 'telling the truth and it is her story to tell'

While he left a six-page suicide note she says she is choosing to share only part of it.

Cameron wrote: ‘It is breaking my heart to leave you and our children. I am sorry that I cannot be stronger for you, but I am trusting that you will be strong and live a full complete life, for you and for them. I cannot tell you what to say to the children, but I know you will make the right decision. My instinct is to shield them if you can. I'm guessing that will be yours, too.

‘I'm sorry Holly... this is a decision I must leave with you. I know you will be strong and listen to your heart like always.

‘I leave knowing we did our best to raise them together with a little bit of magic in their lives. You brought that to me every single day. Please believe that forever.'

Intriguingly, Holly says while her stepson has built a £21 million fortune - thanks to sell-out tours and hit TV shows - she believes his self-professed fear of losing everything stems back to his relationship with his father.

‘Michael saw his dad lose everything,' she says softly. ‘That is one of the demons that drives him. He has enough money to never work again but I believe he is haunted by what happened to his dad, who made it big and lost it all. Michael knows exactly what he is worth.

'When I visited him one time I said: "Michael, you have so much you don't ever have to work again. Your kids will never have to work," and he looked at me and said: "I know. But it could all be gone tomorrow."'

When she first met Cameron - a former stand-up comic - he was riding high. He was a producer and writer for The Kenny Everett Show, creating outrageous characters such as Sid Snot and underwear flashing actress Cupid Stunt.

Times were good. Home for the McIntyre family was a £2.5million mansion in Hampstead, north London, which was later sold to Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne.

Michael later recalled: ‘I remember being told that someone who eats bats was buying it.' Young Michael went to prep school, followed by exclusive £18,000-a-year Merchant Taylors' School.

Canadian-born Cameron met Michael's mother Kati, an exotic Hungarian heiress 18 years his junior, after she auditioned for him. The couple had Michael in 1976 and Lucy two years later.

But as Cameron's career took off and he spent increasing amounts of time away from home, Kati embarked on an affair with ‘Steve', a muscle-bound builder who had been employed to redecorate the Hampstead house; a painful saga McIntyre recounts in his memoirs.

Driven: Michael, aged eight, and his father Cameron at Drayton Wood in 1984. Cameron moved to Los Angeles when Michael was 11 to pursue his dream of making it in Hollywood

Holly met Cameron during one of his regular work trips to LA: ‘I fell instantly in love with him and knew he was the man I was going to marry,' she says with a smile. ‘He was going through a painful split from Kati and once I knew their relationship was over I flew to the UK and we were together from that point on.'

A warm, friendly woman who loves cooking (she now works for a US bakery company), Holly says she immediately warmed to her new partner's children:

‘I loved Michael and his sister Lucy like they were my own. They would spend nearly every weekend with their father and me.'

Heartbroken: McIntyre, pictured with his wife Kitty, said that he was upset at his stepmother's decision 'to share painful and personal information publicly' 

Cameron, flush with cash, gave his ex-wife the Hampstead house and bought a sprawling country estate, Drayton Wood House in Hertfordshire, complete with a growing assortment of flash cars in the driveway and a menagerie of animals.

‘Being an American, I wanted a "Mary Poppins" life in the English countryside,' recalls Holly. ‘Michael and Lucy helped us choose the house. It was a huge 35-acre property with a swimming pool. We had horses, geese, dogs and cats.

‘We would pick up Michael and Lucy on Friday evenings. The kids played with the animals, and spent endless days in the pool. I'd help Michael with his schoolwork. He was a lovely child, quite reserved, nothing like his on-stage personality. That happy-go-lucky extrovert personality came later. It was something he developed for his act.'

She pulls a stack of family photographs from a bag. There is a beaming young Michael splashing around in a pool as Holly's great Dane looks on, and another shot of him on a tractor in the stable courtyard.

There are endless happy memories played out in polaroid which continue after Cameron moved to Los Angeles when Michael was 11 to pursue his dream of making it in Hollywood.

Holly says: ‘Moving to LA was a big mistake. In England, Cameron was a big fish in a small pond. He knew everyone in the comedy world. He "discovered" Steve Coogan and Eddie Izzard and put them in the pilot for his TV show The Hecklers.

‘But he fell out with Kenny Everett because Kenny had known all about Kati's affair with the builder. Cameron never forgave Kenny. He walked away from the Kenny Everett Show but had to make money, so he started a video production company in LA. We bought a big house in the Hollywood Hills and I opened a kids' clothing shop.'

She points to a gorgeous picture of Michael and his sister modelling clothes from the store. ‘The kids would come every holiday. Michael worked in the shop and loved handling money. He was always very aware of money. We took them to Disneyland, Universal, SeaWorld. There were holidays in Mexico and ski trips to the mountains.' 

But the gilded life started to slip away as Cameron struggled to find work. One by one the fleet of cars were sold to pay mounting debts. Then the mansion went and was replaced by a rented apartment.

An increasingly dejected Cameron pinned all his hopes on the success of a BBC comedy show he was developing - the aforementioned The Hecklers.

But after making the pilot episode the BBC decided not to proceed. ‘That was devastating for him,' Holly recalls. ‘We were broke.'

The couple made the decision to pull the then 16-year-old Michael out of private school and enrol him in a local comprehensive, something Holly claims left the teen ‘furious'.

‘Cameron told Michael he was being pulled out of Merchant Taylors' because we could no longer afford the fees. We'd been struggling financially for some time and we really should have pulled him out a year before. But Cameron was banking everything on the BBC series coming off.'

Modest: Cameron had chosen to end his life by turning a gun on himself in the soulless ‘trash room' of a dingy Hollywood apartment block, pictured above. Michael was not told about his father's suicide until 2010 

Michael recalled the moment he was told he was being pulled out of private school in his autobiography, saying: ‘I had an argument with him [Cameron] the previous year when he suggested that I went to a state sixth-form college.'

‘You have to give me the money for the fees,' he remembers telling his father. ‘He was unbelievably upset by this remark, but it was not born out of greed. I didn't want his money; I wanted to feel like he was giving me something.'

In a heartbreaking sign of just how far Cameron's fortunes had fallen, he was unable to buy his son a car after Michael passed his driving test. Instead, that final Christmas in 1993 he sent Michael a book about cars. Two days later, Holly had to tell the teen his dad was dead: ‘I still struggle to understand why Cameron killed himself,' she says, tears filling her eyes.

‘He was depressed but I think losing the BBC show pushed him over the edge.

I lost a future with my dad. I felt our relationship had been dominated by circumstance and distance and we were cut from the same cloth and we would become closer and I would learn from him

From McIntyre's autobiography 

‘I called Michael and told him his father had died of a heart attack. And then I lived with that lie for nearly two decades.'

In his book, Michael wrote movingly of his father's death saying: ‘It destroyed me to think of him on his own, strangers trying to help him. The sudden nature of his death was shocking and especially hard to deal with.

‘One day I was chatting to him on the phone, the next he was gone. I lost a future with my dad. I felt our relationship had been dominated by circumstance and distance and we were cut from the same cloth and we would become closer and I would learn from him. But that was not to be.'

After Holly told Michael the truth about his father's suicide in November 2010, the star immediately arranged a meeting. He paid for Holly to fly to New York where his sister Lucy was living.

‘He asked me to break the news to Lucy - which I did - and then Michael arrived the next morning and we all went for a long walk in Central Park. Both of them were bombarding me with questions about their dad's death.

‘Michael told me later he was glad he didn't know the truth about the suicide. He said it would have created a lot of negativity and he wouldn't have looked at the world the same way. As it was, his father's death motivated him because Michael was determined to make Cameron proud.

‘I wonder if he would have had the success he has, or be the man he is, if he'd known the truth?'

She says Cameron wrote a letter to Michael a year or so before his suicide: ‘We were on a plane which got hit by lightning. That night we talked about it and decided to write notes to all our children, just in case something should happen to us.

‘I found Cameron's note to Michael in a sock drawer. He wrote how he loved Michael and believed in him. Michael treasures it to this day.'

World in his hands: Michael fronting The Michael McIntyre Chatshow on the BBC. He said that the traumatic event of his father's death when he was 17 had spurred him on to chase his dreams of fame and fortune

Holly and her two children from her marriage to Cameron, daughter Georgina, now 22, and son Billy, 28, support her decision to go public about the suicide. Billy asks not to be quoted for this article but Georgina says she is disappointed by her half-brother.

‘I only found out the truth about the suicide last year. I thought with me being the youngest, he might care to comfort me and build a bond.

‘But he's not interested. I feel abandoned by him.'

So why is Holly speaking out now? She replies: ‘When Michael did his book he didn't ask my permission to tell the stories he did about me and Cameron.

‘There was one particular incident when I flew to England with Cameron's ashes and we went to the top of a hill outside Edinburgh to scatter them and the wind blew the ashes into my face and hair. It was one of the most traumatic moments of my life. Michael plays that scene for laughs in his book.'

Tragic end: In his autobiography, Michael writes movingly of his father Cameron's (pictured) death

She is upset that Michael, with all his showbusiness clout, has not done more to help Billy, an aspiring musician. ‘We all went to stay with Michael and his wife Kitty and their two little boys in Hampstead over Easter 2011,' she says. ‘I thought it would be a chance to renew family ties. He flew us all over on Virgin and told me, "I'm putting you on Virgin because I'm on the in-flight entertainment." And he was!

‘Billy took his guitar and wanted to play Michael some of his music. Michael said, "Let's not do that. It'll be like listening to Kumbaya by the campfire." It was a cruel comment that devastated Billy.'

She says her family's relationship with Michael came under further strain after a journalist approached Billy to talk to him about his fledgling music career and she called the comedy star. ‘He was furious and banned Billy from doing the interview, even though it would have helped his career.

‘It struck me as very unfair, particularly as I helped Michael in the early days. He called me when he was at Edinburgh University and told me he was dropping out to become a stand-up comic. I went through his dad's old Filofax and gave him every helpful number I could.

‘But when I called about Billy doing the interview, Michael said something which sent chills down my spine. He said, "You know how daddy loved baseball? Well here's a f***ing baseball metaphor for you. This [the call about the interview] is strike one. You know what happens when you get to strike three, you're out Holly." '

Holly adds: ‘I gave a quote to a journalist about Michael a couple of years ago, and even though it was positive he was enraged when it was published.

‘That was strike two. This interview will be strike three.'

Is she upset knowing she is likely severing her relationship with her famous stepson for good? ‘No, because I am telling the truth and it is my story to tell. I have lived with the guilt, the secrets, for so long. I want the truth out there. It's been a toxic element in my life, in all our lives.

‘When Robin Williams died it brought everything to the forefront.

‘People were asking, "How can anyone cope with that?" Well, I know how it feels. I still don't know why Cameron killed himself but I do know the pain it causes. I tried to honour Cameron's wish to protect the kids for as long as I could. Now it is time for the truth to be set free.'

Michael McIntyre said last night: ‘I'm heartbroken my stepmother has chosen to share painful and personal information publicly.'

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