EastEnders icon June Brown’s life – health woes, Lady Gaga link and family loss

EastEnders actress June Brown has turned another year older and marked her 94th birthday on February 16.

The soap icon is beat known for playing Dot Cotton and joined the BBC One soap back in 1985.

In 2005, she won Best Actress at the Inside Soap Awards and previously received the Lifetime Achievement award at the British Soap Awards.

June was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours for services to drama and to charity.

In 2009, she was nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress, making her the second performer to receive a BAFTA nomination for their work in a soap opera, after Jean Alexander.

It was announced in February 2020 that June had decided to leave EastEnders behind and quit her role as chain-smoking Dot permanently.

To celebrate the birthday girl, Daily Star has taken a look back at her wild life from opening up about being "sick and tired" of having sex to her unexpected friendship with pop sensation turned Hollywood actress Lady Gaga.

Family tragedy

June was born on 16 February 1927 in Needham Market, Suffolk and was one of five children.

Her younger brother John Peter died of pneumonia in 1932 at 15 days old, and her elder sister Marise died in 1934 aged eight from a meningitis-like illness.

She was educated at St John's Church of England School in Ipswich and then won a scholarship to Ipswich High School, where she passed the school certificate examinations.

During the Second World War, she was evacuated to the Welsh village of Pontyates in Carmarthenshire.

During the later years of the war, she served in the Wrens and was classically trained at the Old Vic Theatre School in London's Lambeth area.

Death heartbreak

At the age of 23, June met and married actor John Garley, who suffered from depression and took his own life in 1957.

Previously speaking about the tragedy, the soap icon said: "I walked into the bedroom and there was Johnny, lying on the bed, the gas fire propped up next to him.

"Suicide was still a criminal offence in the late-Fifties. I’d got him breathing again but he lasted three days in hospital before dying on May 8."

The actress revealed that she blamed herself for the death, She had left him one and eight pence for the gas meter.

June openly wonders what would have happened if she hadn't left him that money.

In 1958, she married actor Robert Arnold and they had six children in seven years, one of whom died in infancy.

The couple were together for 45 years, until he died in 2003 of Lewy-body dementia.

Since then, she has lived alone in Surrey.

Albert Square icon

June was recommended to producers for the role of Dot Cotton in EastEnders by original cast member Leslie Grantham, who played Den Watts.

She played the role from 1985 to 2020, with a break between 1993 and 1997.

On 31 January 2008, June became the first and, as of 2020, only soap actor to carry an entire episode single-handed.

The episode, titled "Pretty Baby….", featured a monologue looking back over her character's life, dictated to a cassette machine for her husband Jim Branning (John Barton) to listen to in hospital following a stroke.

The fact that co-star John was recovering from a stroke in real life added extra pathos to the episode.

In 2009, June was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Actress. Her nomination came as a result of her "single-hander" episode.

Health woes

In May 2015, June revealed that her eyesight is failing due to macular degeneration.

Later, in 2016, a storyline for Dot where her eyesight was deteriorating was introduced.

Speaking about the condition in April 2019, the actress said that it had worsened since undergoing surgery in 2017, and that she does not go out socially because of her eyesight.

June said: "I never go to soap awards or suchlike now. I don't recognise people that I know and they would think I was snubbing them."

The TV veteran took six months off in 2012 to pen her autobiography.

EastEnders exit

June announced she had left EastEnders in February 2020.

The telly favourite said she turned down the chance of a retainer contract but admitted: “It’s almost as if I’ve been bereaved.”

She said: "I don’t want a retainer for EastEnders, I’ve left. I’ve left for good.

"I’ve sent her off to Ireland where she’ll stay. I’ve left EastEnders. I did make up a limerick. It’s a bit dirty.

"I went back to do a good story. Alas and alack, when I got back it had gone up in smoke.

"I got a small part, a very small part. And that ended up as a big wet fart. Alas and alack, I will never go back."

One of her biggest storylines was for the 30th anniversary when she gave villain son Nasty Nick Cotton (John Altman) a fatal dose of heroin and let him die.

Sex confession

June previously opened up about her sex life – and well, there really wasn’t that much to talk about.

When appearing on the ITV show Loose Women in 2019, the legendary actress revealed that she’s no longer sexually active.

She she started getting bored almost two decades ago and stopped making love completely once her husband Robert passed away in 2003.

When asked about her views on getting intimate by the panelist, the actress said: "I'm sick and tired of sex, I really am.

Curious about when June started to lose her interest in sex, the panel pressed on and asked when she got fed up.

"About 20 years ago," she confessed.

Lady Gaga friendship

The Dot Cotton star sparked an unlikely friendship with Lady Gaga when they first met each other on The Graham Norton Show in 2013.

Their new found friendship lasted long after the show, with the Bad Romance singer inviting June to a party she was having in London.

However, the actress had to politely decline, as she needed to be up early the next day.

"[Lady Gaga] is lovely. She’s a very intelligent girl. She was very respectful it was like she knew me," June previously explained.

"We sort of took over. I did ask Graham Norton if I should go and sit on his lap. I don’t know if he was very happy about that.

"She invited me to a private thing, unfortunately I was doing Piers Morgan the next day".

"I'm not showing off, I’m telling the truth and I had to be in early and you’re in all day long.

She laughed: "I can’t go clubbing if I’ve got to be alert the next day."

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