Harold Charles Sydney Heylen (25 May 1922 – 4 December 1996), credited as (Syd) Heylen , Sid Heylen and Sydney Heylen, was an Australian character actor, comedian, and variety performer who often performed in a traditional vaudeville style in the vein of Roy Rene, and also sang and played banjo and ukulele. He went into vaudeville after World War II and in 1956 starred in the variety show "The Show of Stars" with Hal Lashwood and John Ewart. Heylen became well known during the 1960s on television as a regular performer on the HSV-7 variety show Sunnyside Up in Melbourne for 10 years, appearing as "Sydney from Sydney". He teamed up with other comics, such as Honest John Gilbert, presenting comedy sketches in between the musical items.
Heylen was born in Renmark, South Australia as the only son of a carpenter. He joined the army at 16 and served on the Kokoda Trail in the 39th infantry, later going on to join the army entertainment troupe. In 1961 he married Patti Brittain (his second wife) and they had two children (both in the entertainment industry) - a daughter, Julie Heylen, and a son, Syd Heylen Junior, who is a well known entertainer in variety and cabaret.
Heylen remains best known for his role as Vernon "Cookie" Locke, a chef and barman in the Australian television series A Country Practice, a role he played from 1982 until 1992. He was cast as Cookie on A Country Practice after the series creator James Davern saw him in the TV series Arcade. Heylen was written out of the series in 1992 alongside another older cast member Gordon Piper (who played Cookie's mate Bob Hatfield) as the producers wanted to concentrate on a younger cast and an updated formula. James Davern would later regret dropping Cookie and Bob, as they were two of the show's central characters who provided many of the comedy scenes between the more dramatic storylines.
Previously he acted in the soap opera The Box playing a fast-talking television sportscaster.
Heylen played a minor role in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior as Curmudgeon.
In the 1980s he released a number of albums containing songs such as "Who's Sorry Now?" (to which the D-Generation quipped "anyone who bought the album".)
After he left " A Country Practice" in 1992, he and his wife Patti retired to their Gold Coast home, he would occasionally do public appearances and performances. He died in Queensland on 4 December 1996, from a stroke.
Syd Heylen was a patron and performer for the Variety Club Australia, where he was awarded as The First National Treasure.
Television and film credits
- 1950's/60's: "Sunnyside Up"
- 1956: "The Show of Stars"
- 1980: Walter Blair (alcoholic comic) on "Arcade"
- 1981: handyman in "A Town Like Alice" (TV mini series)
- 1982 to 1992: Vernon "Cookie" Locke on "A Country Practice"
- Other appearances: The Sullivans, Homicide, Matlock Police, The Box
- 1959: "Summer of the Seventeenth Doll"
- 1977: "Listin to the Lion"
- 1980: Old Bob in "Stir" (aka "The Promotion of Mr. Smith")
- 1981: Curmudgeon (old man at the refinery) in "Mad Max II: The Road Warrior"
- 1982: Pub regular in "Star Struck"
- 1985: "Hector's Bunyip"