|Portrayed by||Leslie Grantham|
|First Appearance||19th February 1985|
|Last Appearance||18th February 2005|
|Cause/Reason||Bludgeoned with a doorstop by Chrissie Watts|
|Date of Birth||11th July 1946|
|Date of Death||18th February 2005|
Dennis Alan "Den" Watts was played by actor Leslie Grantham. He became well known for his tabloid nickname, "Dirty Den".
Dennis Alan Watts was born 11 July 1946 to Dennis Watts and Mrs Watts and grew up in Walford. He was known as Den. He was friends with Ted Hills, Gavin Sullivan and Henry Hubbard. Den had a villainous past, engaging in petty crime and associating himself with criminal East End organisations. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Den went to school with people who later became crooks and gangland members, such as members of The Firm (Walford Investments). Because of this, Den could easily become involved in crime. Den developed a reputation as a womanizer, and among others in his youth he had sex with Pat Beale, the first wife of his best friend Pete Beale. He then settled down at a young age with his school friend Angie Shaw; they married in February 1968.
Together Den and Angie leased the tenancy for The Queen Victoria public house, but their marriage was tempestuous and Den had affairs. One affair with a woman named Paula Rickman in late 1973 resulted in a pregnancy, and she gave birth to Den's son, Dennis Rickman, in 1974; Den knew nothing of the child for decades. Unable to have children together, Den and Angie adopted a young girl named Sharon; both doted on her. Den and Angie's relationship was mainly sexless, and in 1980 Den began a long-running affair with the upper-class Jan Hammond; Angie knew about the affair and developed alcoholism.
Despite being married and having a mistress, Den is unable to turn down the advances of his daughter's best friend, Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully), in 1985; they have sex one night after closing time in the Queen Vic. When 16-year-old Michelle falls pregnant, she refuses to name the father, fearing repercussions for Den and herself. When she gives birth to a daughter, named Vicki, in 1986, Den is prohibited from having anything to do with her; he is allowed to hold his daughter once, and provides money for Michelle in secret. For many years the secret is kept hidden, but Michelle's mother Pauline (Wendy Richard) is one of the first to realise the truth, igniting a feud between Den and Pauline. Den employs Ethel Skinner, Simon "Wicksy" Wicks and Lofty Holloway as bar staff at The Vic but is very demanding of them, if he sees them chatting to customers, or in Wicksy's case, chatting up the female customers, Den would say "Get on with some work" to them. However he did do them favours if needed and later was seen as a father figure to Lofty.
"Happy Christmas Ange"
Den and Angie's marriage continues to sour, despite their strong professional personas. However, Angie struggles to contain her jealousy regarding Den's mistress. She grows desperate, becomes severely depressed and attempts suicide in March 1986. Still, Den makes plans to leave Angie permanently; in a bid to prevent this, Angie fabricates a story that she is dying and has only six months to live. Den is gullible enough to fall for the lie and opts to stay with her and he attempts to rebuild his relationship with Angie, promising to be there with her until her death. He takes Angie to Venice for a second honeymoon, but liases with Jan who, it turns out, is also there. Guilty about her lie, Angie gets drunk on the return journey via the Orient Express and confesses the truth to a barman: that she is not actually dying. Angie is unaware that Den has overheard her drunken confession; he bides his time, and gains revenge on Angie by serving her divorce papers on Christmas Day 1986. He then says "Happy Christmas Ange".
The Watts's divorce and Angie damages Den by demanding a large divorce settlement. Den runs the Vic alone, initially assisted by Jan, but this relationship ends when Jan grows disillusioned with Den's treatment of her. Den has a fling with the Vic's caterer Magda Czajkowski (Kathryn Apanowicz), but is scorned when she eventually opts to date Simon Wicks (Nick Berry) instead. When single again, Den begins to realise that the Vic's trade is floundering without Angie. In January 1988, Den admits that he is Vicky's father to Pauline. She slaps him and says she will do what she cans to banish Den from Walford. In April 1988, Lofty leaves Walford after breaking up with Michelle and Den says he is always here if Lofty ever needs him. Only Den watches Lofty quietly leave Walford forever.
Realising The Vic is floundering without Angie, and with some meddling from Sharon, Den and Angie decide to reunite as business partners, and she returns to live at the Vic. However, it is short-lived, because Angie falls in love with her friend Sonny. Realising that Angie is planning on leaving him, Den visits a solicitor and makes certain that Angie has no claim on the Vic. Angie leaves Walford for Spain in May 1988 with nothing. Frank Butcher lliases with Den to take over the tenancy. Den and Frank become good friends for a while.
Having always been connected with the criminal organisation known as The Firm, Den's involvement escalates in 1988. He gives up tenancy at the Vic in May 1988 to Frank Butcher. He does this so he can run Strokes Winebar with Joanne Francis (Pamela Salem), which is really the Firm's illegal gambling den. When Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) is raped by James Willmott-Brown (William Boyde), Den manipulates a Firm member, Brad Williams (Jonathan Stratt), to burn down James's business in revenge. The attack, however, goes against the Firm's wishes, and when the police begin an investigation they start to suspect the Firm's involvement and the true nature of Strokes Winebar is close to being discovered.
The Firm's bosses, including Gregory Mantel (Pavel Douglas), force Den to take the blame for the arson in order to distance their organisation from the attack. They take Den to a safe house, promising to alter his identity. Den soon realises this is a cover and, in truth, the Firm are planning to kill him. Den manages to escape and hands himself in to the police to save his life, and in September 1988 he is remanded in custody at Dickens Hill prison.
In Dickens Hill, Den struggles initially, with many of the inmates refusing to trust him. Inmate Queenie Price (John Labanowski) takes an instant dislike to Den and suspects him of being a "grass", one night cornering him in his cell with some friends and beating him. Despite this, Den unveils Queenie as the true prison-snitch and gains respect, rising through the prison ranks to become "No.1" of his landing. On the outside, the Firm decide that Den is still a liability; they fear he will inform the police about their dealings and again decide that Den has to die. They break Den out of captivity and kidnap him while he is being accompanied to trial in February 1989. However, Den escapes again and makes plans to flee the country. He contacts Michelle, requesting that they meet by a canal where they have held secret meetings in the past, so he can say goodbye to her and Vicki. Unaware that the Firm is following her, Michelle unwittingly brings them straight to Den and he is shot by a man who is hiding a gun in a bunch of daffodils. A splash is heard, indicating that Den's body has fallen into the canal.
The "murder" investigation
The police search for Den's body. Initially it is not found; however, after Sharon finds Den's signet ring being sold on a market stall in 1990, she requests that the canal be searched again, unaware that Den had not been wearing the ring at the time of the shooting. This time, a body is found, and Sharon identifies it as Den, even if there is a small bit of room for doubt. The body is buried that year. Den's old cellmate Barnsey even attends the funeral.
1989-2003 Prseumed dead
Den is believed dead and that he fell into the canal after being shot in February 1989. After this, believing he is dead, The Firm have nothing more to do with Albert Square. Strokes is shut down.
In the intervening years, Sharon and Vicki grow up. Sharon and Michelle's friendship is tested in 1989 when she says Den is Vicky's father. In May 1990, Sharon sees a ring which she believes is Den's on a market stall in Bridge Street Market. The canal is dredged and a body is found. There are no teeth so the body cannot be traced by dental records. The body is believed to be Den's (when in fact it was Mr Vinnicombe, the Firm's boss) and Den is finally "buried" in May 1990. Sharon wears a red coat for the funeral. Somehow Den was aware of this funeral and secretly watched from nearby bushes. He then returned to exile in Spain.
In 1993, 4 years after Den's "death", Mandy Salter overhears a discussion between Sharon and Michelle that Den was Vicky's father. She soon maliciously spreads the gossip around, Mandy never knew Den but had heard a lot about him. Pauline was not pleased.
2003-2005 Return from the dead and eventual death
Sharon and Vicky discover Den has a son that he did not know of, Dennis, who joins them in Walford. Like Den, Dennis has involvement with the Firm, and after some digging he discovers that Den is not actually dead; after surviving the shooting in 1989, he fled to Spain with help from Jan and went undercover. Hearing this, Vicki traces Den and brings him back to Walford in September 2003. Sharon has mixed emotions: upset and anger, having assumed him dead for so many years. Den explains that the body found in the canal was that of Mr Vinnicombe, a senior member of the Firm, who was murdered as punishment for Den's escape and dumped in the canal, his teeth having been bricked out to prevent dental identification. Vinnicombe's body had wrongly been identified as Den's and Jan had assisted in this cover-up by planting Den's signet ring by the canal. Den admits to Sharon that at his "funeral" in May 1990, he stood in some trees nearby watching the service. He mentions how Sharon was wearing a red coat that day. Den's grievances with the Firm are pardoned by its acting boss, Andy Hunter (Michael Higgs), and Den returns to live in Walford to assist Sharon in managing her nightclub.
Den gets embroiled in a feud with Sharon's ex-boyfriend Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) after hearing Phil has hit her, and also had Dennis beaten up during a feud between Dennis and Phil. Den sleeps with Phil's sister Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf), then dumps her promptly as part of his revenge tactic. He then promises another of Phil's abused former girlfriends, Lisa Fowler (Lucy Benjamin), that he will help her get back her daughter, who is in Phil's custody. Den talks Phil into accompanying him and Dennis on a warehouse robbery, but during the robbery, Den takes the money then obstructs Phil's getaway, he confiscates the ladder and throws all the money down, and Phil is caught by the police and remanded. Phil manages to escape several weeks later, confronting Den on Christmas Day; in order to stop Phil attacking him, Den pays Phil off and Phil flees into the night, going on the run.
Keeping it in the family
Family problems arise when Den discovers that Sharon and Dennis are in a romantic relationship; Den accuses it of being incest, despite Sharon and Dennis not being blood-related. He attempts to split them up, goading Dennis about his neglected childhood and the sexual abuse he experienced in a children's home. In fury, Dennis assaults Den and accidentally hits Sharon in a rage. Den tells Dennis that, in order to remain part of the Watts family, he must split from Sharon; Dennis obliges and begins a relationship with Zoe Slater (Michelle Ryan).
The new Mrs. Watts
In 2004, it is revealed that Den had remarried whilst in Spain in 1999, and his estranged wife Chrissie (Tracy-Ann Oberman) moves to be with him in Walford. Den still cannot remain monogomous, and when Chrissie discovers that he has been sleeping with Kate Mitchell (Jill Halfpenny), she threatens tok ill him if he ever cheats again. To rebuild his family, Den attempts to regain the Vic from the Mitchells; he blackmails their lawyer Marcus Christie (Stephen Churchett) into convincing Sam that Phil, who is still on-the-run, needs immediate money. Sam sells the Vic to Den at a vastly reduced price and he reinstates his family at the pub in time for Christmas. Things go wrong when Den discovers that Sharon and Dennis have resumed their affair, and in order to split them up, Den persuades Zoe to lie that she is pregnant with Dennis's baby. Unwilling to allow Dennis to leave his unborn child, Sharon leaves Walford with Vicki leaving Dennis and Zoe unhappily together. In apparent retribution towards Dennis for inadvertently being the cause of Sharon's departure, Den manipulates Zoe into having sex with him so she can get pregnant and pretend the baby is Dennis's;when Dennis catches them having sex, Den appears pleased.
In the wake of this, Dennis leaves in search of Sharon but not before telling Chrissie about Zoe and Den's affair.
"You'll never get me out of the Vic!"
When Zoe discovers she is pregnant with Den's child, Chrissie persuades her to abort and concocts a plan of revenge on Den to ruin him in the eyes of Sharon and gain ownership of the Vic. She recruits Zoe and Sam (both scorned by Den) and they confront him,setting it up for Sharon to discover Den's deeds. Sharon subsequently disowns Den in February 2005 and in a rage, Den assaults Chrissie and is only stopped by Zoe, who hits him over the head with an iron doorstop in the Vic. Den is assumed dead, but when Chrissie is alone with him, he stirs and grabs her ankle exclaiming "You'll never get me out of the Vic!"; Chrissie responds by hitting him on the head with the doorstop. He dies moments later. This time, he is dead.
Sam secretly witnesses the fatal blow,but Chrissie continues to allow Zoe to think it is she who has killed Den. The three women bury Den in the Vic cellar and concrete it over. Arguments between the women occur, and Sam and Chrissie becomes broiled in a feud to regain ownership of the Vic,with Sam blackmailing Chrissie and digging up Den's body in the hope that Chrissie will be imprisoned, and Chrissie subsequently framing Sam for Den's murder, which leads to Sam's imprisonment. Eventually the truth is revealed, and Chrissie is imprisoned after pleading guilty.
Legacy left by Den Watts
Behind the Scenes
- In late 1984, Leslie Grantham won the role of Den Watts, the womanising small time dodgy landlord of The Queen Vic. In February 1985, Leslie's conviction for murder almost 20 years before was splattered all over the front pages. He was reprieved from the sack this time. Due to his major role in the show, and that characters rollercoaster relationship with Angie, Leslie Grantham and Anita Dobson (who played Angie) were under media scrutiny all the time. In November 1987, after 3 years playing Den, Leslie told his bosses at EastEnders that he wanted to move on. Anita Dobson had also handed in her notice. The production team did not want to lose Den and Angie at the same time so Leslie agreed to film about 8 months worth of scenes in just 3 months. Leslie finished filming in about May or June 1988.
- In 2003, after 15 years away, Leslie agreed to return to EE, as Den's death was never 100% proven. Den had been living in exile in Spain. In 2005, Leslie was axed due to his off screen misdemeanours which put the reputation of the BBC in jeapordy.
- To be added.
"Stinks in here, dunnit?" (First line to Arthur Fowler)
"Plenty" in a cynical way, when being asked about the potential names for Wicksy's band, whom Den hated.
"Happy Christmas, Ange!" (Den to Angie after divorcing her on Christmas)
"Hello, Princess!" (Den to Sharon after he comes back)
"Watts, Dennis Alan" (Den to the prison officer when he is remanded in custody)
"You'll never get me out of the Vic!" (Final line, to Chrissie)