Peter Wyngarde: Jason King star who inspired Austin Powers dies aged 90

Adam Arnold, News Reporter

Actor Peter Wyngarde, who was best known for playing TV sleuth Jason King and the villain Klytus in the Flash Gordon film, has died aged 90.

The French-born star has been called a "legend" and among the most unique and original of actors.

He died at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital after being unwell for a couple of months.

Wyngarde found fame starring as handlebar moustache-wearing King in the 1969-70 espionage series Department S, about an elite group within Interpol.

He had signed his contract on a napkin in a restaurant.

When the show ended after two series, his suave character was spun off into an action series called Jason King, which ran for one season.

As King, his dandy style of clothing was cited by actor Mike Myers as an inspiration for probably his most famous incarnation, special agent Austin Powers.

The character of King, who wore wide-lapelled three-piece suits and folded his shirt cuffs over his jacket sleeves, has been cited as one of the most stylish men ever on TV.

Wyngarde even beat singer Cliff Richard and football star George Best to a Britain's best-dressed man award in the 1970s.

Among his most famous quotes as King was the breakfast quip: "A bit too early for coffee... I think I'll have Scotch."

In 1975, Wyngarde was arrested and convicted for an act of "gross indecency" in the toilets of a bus station.

Although he was billed as "ladies' man" King, Wyngarde's homosexuality was well known in acting circles, where he had the nickname 'Petunia Winegum'.

Later in his career, he played General Klytus in the 1980 film Flash Gordon, where he was commander of Ming the Merciless's secret police force, and as Timanov in Doctor Who: Planet Of Fire in 1984.

Writer and actor Mark Gatiss paid tribute on Twitter, saying: "From wartime internment alongside JG Ballard to Klytus. With No.2, Baron Gruner, Professor Norman Taylor, Peter Quint and Gloucester bus station in between. What a life. What a legend. Jason King is dead. Long live Jason King! #peterwyngarde."

Singer Holly Johnson, of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, said: "Goodbye Petunia Winegum #rip #jasonking."

Wyngarde's agent and manager, Thomas Bowington, said: "He was one of the most unique, original and creative actors that I have ever seen. As a man, there were few things in life he didn't know.

"I sometimes nicknamed him 'the King' because he simply knew everything. He was a mentor on everything you can think of, from sports cars to how to make a good cup of tea and how to do a tie and shirt.

"He died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital (in London), and even then he was saying that you shouldn't button the upper button on a shirt.

"As a person he was the most exceptional person I met in my life and a great mentor and teacher."

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