Divorce, heartache & numerous affairs… how Johnny Briggs’ off-screen life was as enthralling as Mike Baldwin’s


OLD Trafford’s score-board flashed up the result the whole country had been waiting for: Ken 1 Mike 0.

Coronation Street’s love triangle had ended — with Deirdre Barlow dumping lover Mike Baldwin and staying with husband Ken.

Johnny Briggs aka Mike Baldwin bid farewell to Coronation Street in 2006

The 56,000-crowd watching Manchester United play Arsenal cheered. The storyline had gripped the nation, including the Queen, for weeks in 1983, with 21million viewers tuning in for the climax.

Actor Johnny Briggs, who played the soap’s womanising factory boss Mike Baldwin for 30 years, died yesterday, age 85, at his home in Portishead, Somerset.

A statement on behalf of his six children said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father. He passed away peacefully this morning after a long illness, with family by his side.”

Johnny appeared in 2,348 Corrie episodes from 1976 until 2006, when his £200,000-a-year contract was not renewed.

Bill Roache, 88, who plays Ken Barlow — and had eight on-screen fights with his character’s love rival — said Johnny was a “strong character who will be greatly missed”.

Bill Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, had eight on-screen fights with his character’s love rival

He added: “Mike Baldwin and Ken Barlow were arch enemies for many years, but as an actor Johnny was impeccable, always good, and I was so fortunate to have worked with him for so many years.

“I send my love to Johnny on his journey and to all those who are bound to miss him. He was an iconic Coronation Street character. Love you, Johnny.”

In his three decades on the ITV soap, Mike was married four times, had 25 girlfriends, seven affairs and three illegitimate children.

Johnny’s off-screen life was equally complicated. He divorced twice and had numerous affairs, including one with an air hostess half his age.

When his heartbroken second wife, teacher Christine, discovered his six-month fling with 21-year-old air stewardess Hilary MacMillan, she banned him from the bedroom for a year.

Corrie viewers saw Deirdre Barlow dump lover Mike Baldwin to stay with husband Ken

John Ernest Briggs was born the son of a carpenter in Battersea, South West London, in 1935. During World War Two, he and baby sister Barbara were evacuated to Cheshire where mum Rose worked in a munitions factory.

There, Johnny got a taste for showbiz — and a love of the North — singing in a chapel choir.

Back in London after the war, the talented 12-year-old won a scholarship to the Italia Conti stage school, where Millicent Martin, Nanette Newman and Anthony Newley were in his year.

After appearing in the chorus line of West End operas, he did two years of National Service as a gunner and driving instructor with the Royal Tank Regiment in Germany.

The day after he left the Army, 15-year-old sister Barbara suffered a brain haemorrhage after falling and hitting her head in a hair salon. She died the following day.

Ken Barlow (Bill Roache) and Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) in a scene from Coronation Street – tied up while thieves robbed Fresco’s the supermarket

Johnny spent three months comforting his parents before trying to land another job. But with no acting roles coming in, his local labour exchange put him to work as a chauffeur.

He remembered: “When I told prospective employers the only vehicle I’d ever driven before was a Chieftain tank they were a bit put off.”

An early stage job was looking after topless fan dancers at the Windmill Theatre. But he resurrected his acting career with a theatre company in High Wycombe, Bucks, and appeared on stage with two of the greats, Sir Laurence Olivier and Dirk Bogarde.

He also appeared in TV plays with Inspector Morse star John Thaw plus dozens of movies, including Carry On Up The Khyber, before spending three years as a taxi boss in ITV soap Crossroads.

By the time Coronation Street bosses were looking for a Cockney character to boost ratings in the South, Johnny was in financial difficulties following divorce from first wife Caroline — with whom he had son Mark, 57, and daughter Karen — after 14 years together.

Mike Baldwin and Ken Barlow fight over Deirdre Barlow in the Rovers Return

Karen, 55, blamed her parents’ break-up for her heroin addiction. She was disowned by Johnny after she allegedly gave her own daughter Class A drugs aged just 14.

The star remembered how Coronation Street saved him: “I couldn’t meet the mortgage. The bills were piling up. In the end, a friend paid my debts and I wasn’t too proud to accept help. I vowed to myself then that I’d never get that low again.

“When I started on Coronation Street it was to be a three-month job. The producer asked how Mike should be played. I said a loveable rogue and he said that was what they were thinking.

“I thought as long as they keep him as a loveable rogue I’ll play him — so I ended up staying 30 years.”

In his very first scene he kissed brassy barmaid Bet Lynch, played by Julie Goodyear, who warned Johnny: “Don’t try to add me to your list of conquests.”

In his very first scene on Corrie, Johnny kissed brassy barmaid Bet Lynch, played by Julie Goodyear

In his autobiography he revealed how Julie, 78, always vetted the women he would have romances with in real life. She even encouraged him to marry second wife Christine.

The couple had their family home in Stourbridge, Worcs, with their four children, Jennie, 42, Michael, 40, Stephanie, 37, and Anthony, 31. But during the week Johnny stayed in a flat in Manchester to learn his lines — and woo women.

The third-highest-earning Corrie star, he also bought a house in Florida, where he would escape to the sunshine because he suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

While opening fan mail at Granada Studios in 2005, he found a letter from his wife demanding a divorce, after he was spotted living there with a 29-year-old make-up artist.

Christine, 70, later revealed how he cheated on her while she stayed at home looking after their children, drank too much, was boring in bed and mean with his money.

After appearing in the chorus line of West End operas, he did two years of National Service as a gunner and driving instructor with the Royal Tank Regiment in Germany

She said: “He loves younger women — he married me when I was 25 and he was 40. In his 50s he went off with a 21-year-old air hostess and now in his 70s he’s trying to relive his youth with someone who is young enough to be his daughter.

“There was no point trying to talk to him about our marriage. I know he always reads his fan mail as he has such a huge ego — so I stuck a letter in a pile of it telling him I wanted a divorce.”

First wife Caroline said: “He is Mike and always has been. He described himself in his autobiography as big-headed, arrogant and selfish. That’s him.”

On the break-up of his 29-year marriage to Christine, Johnny said: “I was on my own in my ninth-floor flat and felt I had failed as a husband and parent.

“I believed jumping out of the window would end my suffering. I chickened out because, as silly as it sounds, the wind and rain was howling outside.”

His Corrie career ended in 2006 when Mike died in the arms of long-term rival Ken. He went on to feature in Agatha Christie’s Marple and Holby City. He last appeared playing a ghost in a 2012 Corrie charity special.

The actor was awarded an MBE in 2006 and a lifetime achievement gong at the National Television Awards

Johnny receiving his MBE at Buckingham Palace with kids Mark, Stephanie and Michael

He was awarded an MBE in 2006 and a lifetime achievement gong at the National Television Awards.

Corrie colleague Antony Cotton, 45, who plays Sean Tully, said: “Johnny was a complex character, on and off screen, and we all adored him.

“I am, and will always be, a Baldwin’s Casual. Night night, Mr Baldwin, I’ve left you a bottle of Scotch in the filing cabinet . . .”

Bill Roache’s ex Emma paid tribute to the star

Pier Morgan offered his condolences

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