Johnny Briggs died yesterday, February 28th, at the age of 85. For those who knew him as Mike Baldwin on Coronation Street, the world is a bit darker today. Mike Baldwin died 15 years ago, but knowing that he still lived in Johnny Briggs somehow made all seem as it should.
John Ernest Briggs MBE was born in Battersea, London in 1935. He started acting in his early teens. In 1976 he joined Coronation Street as Mike Baldwin. He left the show in 2006.
Mike Baldwin came to Weatherfield from London and set up the garment factory that eventually became Underworld. He was neither trusted nor liked by street residents, partly because he was from the south and partly because he was not particularly trustworthy. He was a chancer. He reinforced every negative stereotype of London that Northerners held dear. And he enjoyed doing it. So you, as the viewer, enjoyed it too.
Ken 1 – Mike 0
His opposite in ethos and ethics was Ken Barlow. Ken represented everything that Mike scoffed at, and Mike was everything that Ken loathed. So, of course, they became opponents in love too. Mike had an affair with Deirdre, Ken’s wife. Their triangle was a huge storyline in the early 1980s. So big that during a 1983 soccer game between Manchester United and Arsenal, after Coronation Street aired, a notice flashed on the scoreboard, “Ken and Deirdre reunited. Ken 1 – Mike 0”.
Mike compounded their personal antagonism by marrying Ken’s daughter Susan. When Mike and Susan’s grown-up son Adam Barlow returned to Weatherfield in 2016, he was a Glaswegian mini-Mike. Cigar in hand, attitude all over the place and an unerring sense of where the Scotch bottle was kept in Underworld’s office.
Mike’s leaving story was one of the most emotionally moving in the show’s long history. In 2006, deteriorating with Alzheimer’s, he collapsed from a heart attack on the street. Ken Barlow was the only person there. He got down on the cobbles and gathered him in his arms. Mike’s final words were, “You’re finished, Barlow! Deirdre loves me. She’s mine.” A bittersweet, and heartbreaking, indicator of Mike’s present, and of his past.
Thank you, Mr. Briggs, for 30 years of Mike Baldwin. Condolences to the Briggs family, and the Coronation Street family, on your loss.
See Mr. Briggs’ obituary at The Guardian.