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John Cleese
by Barney Battles
His career spans the better part of four decades, and has earned him a league of fans around the world. Recent success with the Shrek series has proven his ability to work on a global stage, even this late in his career. But on a spiritual level, Cleese`s long climb from struggling writer to world-class comedian has left him with a few scars—and a desire to effect meaningful change upon the world.

John Marwood Cleese was born in Somerset on 27th October, 1939. This places his sun in Scorpio, and gives him the Chinese sign of Rabbit—a unique combination that often creates the appearance of innocence in order to mask its deeper, more calculated aspects.

As an only child, and an unusually tall one at that, Cleese is likely to have used humor as a way to fit in among his peers. The Rabbit served him well here: graceful, accommodating, and playfully seductive. One of his earliest jokes was to paint footsteps along the school grounds, giving the impression that a statue had gotten down from its perch and walked to the toilet.

But even though gaining acceptance was important to the young comedian, Scorpio gave him a competitive attitude at school, where he earned top marks and excelled at cricket and boxing. It was this side of Cleese, along with a moon in fiery Aries, that propelled him to the top of his class, and earned him the chance to read law at Cambridge. Although his destiny was nowhere near the courtroom, it was at Cambridge that the doors of destiny were cracked open. As a member of the Footlights theatrical club, Cleese gained experience writing and acting for the stage, and met his future Monty Python collaborator, Graham Chapman.

The 1963 Foolights Revue A Clump of Plinths, in which Cleese wrote and acted, was so successful that it ended up on London`s West End, New York`s Broadway, and even The Ed Sullivan Show. Cleese stayed in America for a time, where he met two more key players in his budding career: Python collaborator Terry Gilliam, and actress Connie Booth, who would soon become his first wife.

Throughout these early days, Cleese`s Scorpio side made him far more interested in artistic value than fame and riches. If left unchecked, the Rabbit will often give in to superficial pursuits—but when coupled with Scorpio, Rabbit adds just the right amount of levity and good luck. Cleese was therefore able to focus on the greater value of a project, rather than just his individual role within it.

The popularity of Monty Python was the foremost boost of Cleese`s career. Fittingly, his characters in the Python sketches tended to be be either highly erratic or stuffy and over-sophisticated. These two personality types shine through him so well because they are aspects of his true nature. Scorpio lends a seductive eccentricity which can border on hysteria in extreme cases, while Rabbit is fashionable and refined, often to the point of being satirical without knowing it. Cleese`s Aries moon, meanwhile, provides a strong emotional light that keeps audiences captivated on a subconscious level.

Life away from the cameras and writing desk was another animal for Cleese, who married three times during the meatiest part of his career. His first marriage to Connie Booth was in many ways the most successful, producing an artistic collaboration and lifelong friendship. When Scorpio finds a dedicated ally, he will be fiercely loyal in return—but when crossed, he is not likely to forget it. Such was the case with Cleese`s third wife, Alyce Faye Eichelberger. The marriage ranked as Cleese`s longest, totaling sixteen years, yet no children were produced and the separation was not amicable. Eichelberger collected 12m in the final settlement, whereupon Cleese launched a public comedy tour to pay his wife`s alimony. His jaded position is evidenced by statements such as, "I got off lightly. Think what I’d have had to pay Alyce if she had contributed anything to the relationship—such as children, or a conversation." Once a Scorpio`s sense of personal injustice is aroused, especially in the case of a comedic powerhouse with a large audience, there is hell to pay.

Fortunately, Cleese`s artistic and social concerns have always been wide enough to divert his attention away from personal problems. This is the influence of the Rabbit, one of the luckiest and most graceful positions in the Chinese system. Often associated with politics, the Rabbit is likely what led Cleese to prominent positions within several political parties, most recently the Liberal Democrats, for whom he has contributed writings and broadcasts with his signature comedic flavor.  In the U.S., where Cleese resides during part of the year, he actively supported Barack Obama`s 2008 campaign for President.

The ability to focus on the big picture, and work for the common good, is a huge asset for any Scorpio. It tapers and controls the raw power of the sign, and brings things into clearer focus. Cleese`s ability to access the extremes of his own personality, while remaining relatively balanced within himself, is a big part of why we find him so funny and endearing, and why he continues to be relevant in his 73rd year.


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