Growing up together as children, Pauline and Linda had an incredibly close friendship and even claimed to never have an argument.
But Pauline then quit the show that made them famous after speculating their relationship turned sour after a huge argument – allegedly leading to an ‘irreconcilable rift’.
Perhaps a contributing factor was the introduction of a third person into their friendship – Birds Of A Feather co-star Lesley Joseph.
In the ITV sitcom, the actress plays Dorien Green, a man-eating neighbor, who frequently clashes with the character of Pauline Sharon Theodopolopodous.
According to a friend, this apparently mimicked real life as Pauline developed “resentment” towards Lesley.
Lesley first met Pauline and Linda in 1989 before filming the first episodes – and was initially afraid of being a newcomer with their close friendship.
“My first memory of Linda was going to the Ritz to meet her and Pauline. Pauline was wearing sneakers and asked for water in her champagne, ”Lesley said on Loose Women in 2019.
“And I was terrified because you had known each other all your life and I was coming but from that day on we went on like a house on fire.
“And the only thing that keeps this show going is the chemistry and for some reason it was created. “
When the series first ended on the BBC in 1998, the ladies all remained friends, but it was Linda and Lesley who formed a very close bond.
So much so that when Lesley, 75, was stuck inside during the coronavirus pandemic, Linda brought supplies to her friend and was chatting on her balcony.
“We’ve been through so much together,” Lesley explained to Loose Women in June of last year when asked what the secret ingredient to their great friendship was.
“Ups, downs, divorces, relationship failures, everything. Through the layers. Linda is one hell of an amazing person. She’s so ingrained in your friendship.
“Once you have a friendship with Linda, that’s it for life. “
However, this friendship is believed to be part of the cause of the supposed rift between Linda and Pauline.
Birds Of A Feather was relaunched on ITV in 2014, but Pauline opted out of the show’s 30th anniversary in 2019.
Pauline would then have “not been invited” to join the Christmas special 2020 – with the mysterious absence of her character explained with the excuse of “stuck on a COVID cruise”.
There were claims Pauline was letting her focus on other projects, but rumors circulated that a secret rift between her and Linda was the real reason for her departure.
“Linda and Lesley were both saddened that Pauline didn’t want to come back to do a 30th anniversary episode. Linda and Pauline were very close, minus Pauline and Lesley, ”a friend told the Mail on Sunday.
“I think Pauline didn’t like the attention Lesley was getting and it was sometimes very tense and difficult to navigate.
“Pauline was not approached for the Christmas special. The atmosphere on the set had previously become difficult, there were real and tense issues. “
Mirror Online has reached out to representatives for Linda, Pauline and ITV for their comment.
To fuel the fire, Pauline was savagely cropped from a photo of cats Lesley posted to her Instagram last year.
The photo, which was posted to promote the Christmas special that Pauline was not a part of, was cropped so that only a tiny part of her face was visible in the photo.
Whoever cropped the photo, which was posted to promote last year’s Christmas special that Pauline didn’t appear in, left only a tiny bit of Pauline’s face, but she’s still visible on the picture.
Lesley captioned the post: “CONFIRMED: Birds Of A Feather returns this Christmas for a one-off episode starring Les Dennis as Dorian’s new guy.”
“But Pauline Quirke will NOT appear because she takes a step back from comedy! “
Although Pauline was not involved in the show, her real son Charlie, who plays Tracey’s son Travis Stubbs, continued to appear.
An ITV spokesperson said at the time: “Unfortunately, Pauline Quirke will not participate as she is retiring from acting to focus on her 200 national performing arts academies. “
Linda and Lesley appeared without Pauline in the popular Christmas special, which was watched by an impressive 7.9 million viewers, but it has now been announced that there will be no more birds of a feather.
ITV apparently made the decision to end the series for good after Pauline ruled out appearing in possible future episodes.
“Without Pauline, the point of view is that there are no birds of a feather,” a source told the Mail On Sunday.
“You can’t have Tracey without Sharon, and there’s no way Pauline will come back. Things are bad between her and Linda.
“Linda and Lesley have tried but, despite the good numbers, ITV will not be putting it back into service,” added the mole.
It comes after Loose Women panelist Linda refuted claims of a falling out between her and Pauline.
“Don’t pay attention to what you’ve heard about my falling out with Pauline. It’s a bunch of old cod, ”she told The Sun earlier this month.
“Pauline just chose not to do Birds Of A Feather. She wants to focus on her drama academy, that’s all. “
She added: “We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old. We are friends. Will Pauline return to the show? I do not know.
“I just know the Christmas special went really well. ITV was really, really happy. “
But a source told the Mail On Sunday today that Linda’s interpretation of the situation is “staggering”, saying “they will never speak again”.
The insider added, “It is hopelessly sad, but also astounding that Linda pretends that they are friends. They are not. “
Pauline and Linda became friends when they were only 10 years old when they started taking acting lessons at a theater school.
When asked how long they had known each other on Loose Women in 2016, Linda replied, “Almost from the womb. “
In a subsequent interview, she added, “We were known as the real kids, or the cockney kids on the streets. We’ve both been great friends, and we’re still working 52 years later. “
They made their first regular television appearance together in Pauline’s Quirkes, but rose to fame together in Birds of a Feather in 1989, their closeness making them a natural fit to play sisters Sharon Theodopolopodous and Tracey Stubbs.
During the tour, the double act prepared together in shared wardrobes, slept in the same rooms and shared apartments.
Despite being so close, Linda insisted that they had never quarreled for more than half a century of friendship.
“You know when you know each other so well. You know if either of you is premenstrual or postmenopausal or whatever, ”Linda explained.
However, not afraid to criticize herself, Pauline admitted that Linda is known to have a bit of a “pot mouth”.
“She has no filter, bless her. The thing with Linda is that she’ll say what the rest of us think, ”Pauline admitted.
“But you know you got something that … [gestures zipping up mouth]. She doesn’t have that. ”
In 2019, Linda was in tears live on Loose Women when Pauline paid tribute to her friend ahead of her 60th birthday.
“We’ve been friends for 55 years, which is amazing because I’m only 38,” Pauline joked via a video link from Lanzarote.