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Ann Montini's Variety Days

Introduction - Lionel Blair - Joan Hinde - Johnnie Hamp - David Jason - Anthony Bygraves, son of the legendary star Max Bygraves - Lindford Hudson and the London Palladium - A Chat with Sir Roger Moore - Neil Sean Meets Ann Montini

Ann MontiniHi everyone, I'm Ann Montini – I am a former Variety artiste, singer, producer and, like all in showbiz, reinvention is the key, am I right? At this stage of my career I have become a widely read writer, TV make up artist and interviewer too – You cannot have too many strings to your bow – a lesson I learned when starting out as a mere three year old way back in… well long before mobile phones had been invented, but seriously I did start out at three with a concert party which played all manor of venues from professional Theatres, church halls and amazing Town Halls which lead to me working with so many of the greats of the golden era of variety.

I figured it may be fun to share with you many I have been lucky to meet and get to know along the way and remember this is totally exclusive to the Arthur Lloyd Website.

Scroll down the page to see all of Ann's articles or click the Links below to jump to them directly.

Lionel Blair

Joan Hinde

Johnnie Hamp

Sir David Jason

Anthony Bygraves, son of the legendary star Max Bygraves

Lindford Hudson and the London Palladium

A Chat with Sir Roger Moore

Neil Sean Meets Ann Montini

Ann Montini meets a true showbusiness legend - Mr Lionel Blair

Ann Montini with Lionel Blair - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini with Lionel Blair - © Maycon Pictures.

An advertisement for Granada TV's 'Give us a Clue' featuring Lionel Blair - From the Liverpool Echo, 20th of September 1983.Dancer, choreographer, actor and all-round cheerful TV legend and personality, Lionel Blair is associated as much with the popular celebrity charades game, 'Give Us a Clue' as he is with his dance routines across the world and working with so many huge variety names.

Right - An advertisement for Granada TV's 'Give us a Clue' featuring Lionel Blair - From the Liverpool Echo, 20th of September 1983.

Lionel tells me that he began his career in showbiz at the age of 13 and has never stopped since really as, "I truly love the business I mean it has its up and downs, but to be paid for doing something you love is just wonderful really, I have never not wanted to do it." Lionel admits that he was very much a product of early TV variety shows, demonstrating an ebullient verve and showbiz smile that suited the period. "People say that, but what do you do, go on and be glum. You're there to entertain basically, and make people happy."

Huge crowds outside the London Pavilion for the Premier of the Beatle's film 'A Hard Day's Night' in 1964.Lionel is known of course as a brilliant dancer and for running his own troupe, who also appeared in all the major shows throughout the 60s and 70s, but Lionel is also something of a movie star too, appearing in 'Jazz Boat', 'The World of Suzie Wong', 'The Cool Mikado', 'Contest Girl', and of course starring with The Beatles in 'A Hard Days Night' of which Lionel remembers, "I think they really had no idea of what was to come, because now we see them you know as this legend pop group, but back then, although they were the biggest thing in the world pop wise, it was to get bigger and I was so happy to be a part of that time, I really was."

Left - Huge crowds outside the London Pavilion for the Premier of the Beatle's film 'A Hard Day's Night' in 1964.

Lionel has created headlines many times over the years but none stranger then, when while walking down Blackpool North Pier he had to save someone. Alan Carr and Lionel saved a man from throwing himself off Blackpool North Pier. That was the headline as Lionel recalls, "We had had just completed filming a pilot programme of Carr's 'End of the Pier Show' in the North Pier's Sun Lounge, when news broke of a man attempting to throw himself off the end of the pier." Both performers rushed to the scene, and talked the man out of his bid.

"He was hanging by his fingertips and just said, 'I don't want to live anymore'," explained Carr, "Then someone said, 'That's Lionel Blair off the TV', and he did a double take," added Lionel. "I just thought, oh my God, and reached out to him. He grabbed hold of us both and we pulled him up. It was the most extraordinary thing. I couldn't believe it was really happening."

The Entrance to the North Pier Theatre, Blackpool in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

Above - The Entrance to the North Pier Theatre, Blackpool in August 2012 - Photo M. L.

Carr said that at first, he thought it was a wind-up. "We'd finished filming the show, and I thought someone was taking the mickey and trying to add a bit to it, but when we got to the real end of the pier it was scary – he was really ready to jump until we pulled him back." He continued, "We must have looked like two angels peering over the end of the pier. He certainly didn't expect us to be there. When he heard it was Lionel Blair, he just did a double take."

That is, Lionel reveals, what his showbiz life is really all about, the totally unexpected.

Lionel was born in Montreal, Quebec on 12 December 1931, but came to Britain a year later. At first he joined the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford to take up acting but, inspired by the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, he decided to become a dancer. "I just loved everything about him and Ginger, they were so good, and I went to the cinema all the time to watch how he danced. There was no video back then, so you had to remember and try and recreate the steps from memory, but I saw the films so many times it was easy in many ways."

Lionel Blair and His Dancers were a staple of many hit Saturday variety shows of the 60s and 70s, but Lionel has fond memories of working with England's answer to Elvis, Billy Fury, on the movie 'Play It Cool', which also featured Helen Shapiro, Bernie Winters, and of course Lionel and his dancers.

An Advertisement for the film 'Play It Cool' - From the Daily Mirror, July 20th 1962.

Above - An Advertisement for the film 'Play It Cool' - From the Daily Mirror, July 20th 1962.

"It was a great movie to be associated with, because Billy was at his height, he was truly magical on stage, and what a performer too" Lionel says the movies from the period are basically a pop video with a loose story built around the singer and star, but they were such great fun, and very successful at the box office plus as Lionel adds, "The director was none other than Michael Winner, who of course was at the start of his career."

A Programme for the ABC Blackpool - Courtesy Martin Clark. Lionel also remembers the brilliance of his good pals Mike and Bernie Winters who were a comedy duo to rival Morecambe and Wise back in the heyday of variety. Lionel loved his time working with the duo, and remembers that - "Joe Collins offered them a three-year stage and TV contract to include the Russ Conway TV show. Russ decided not to go ahead, which was a huge shame, but producer Philip Jones persuaded ABC to star them in a series instead."

Right - A Programme Cover featuring Mike & Bernie Winters at Blackpool's ABC Theatre in the 1970s - Courtesy Martin Clark.

"The show was called 'Big Night Out' and was recorded in Manchester. It featured top-flight guests and was a big hit, especially up north where it made the top five ratings. 'Big Night Out' was followed by 'Blackpool Night Out' which the boys also hosted, and by the time it had finished they were a big hit. Bernie played the clown and became familiar in his bowler hat with his soppy toothy grin, his head tilted to one side as he pulled the more serious Mike's cheek and call him 'choochy face'." As Lionel recalls, "The Blackpool shows were huge, I mean this was the heyday of the British Holiday, so people flocked to watch and remember their week beside the seaside."

A Review of 'Blackpool Night Out' - From the Stage Newspaper, July 16th, 1964.

Above - A Review of 'Blackpool Night Out' - From the Stage Newspaper, July 16th, 1964.

Lionel's distinguished career included a dance-off against Sammy Davis Junior at the Royal Variety Command Performance in 1961. "He was the greatest, and my best friend – We stole the show together, and he truly was a one off, I mean he really could do everything, and people just loved him too." Lionel admitted that - "I was so nervous too, as he was to me the greatest, but he was so kind and giving, and you never really forget that in a performer, as they work with you and make sure you both look your very best."

Lionel has starred in everything from Panto to variety shows and TV spectaculars, but would, he says, still love to do something dramatic, "I quite like the idea of playing a baddie in film as no one expects that really, but I think someone sinister would be great, but its convincing the casting people that Lionel can be bad," he laughs.

An appearance in the Beatles film 'A Hard Day's Night' for Lionel enhanced his reputation, and he also choreographed other films such as 'The Magic Christian'. On TV he choreographed, and often appeared in, popular shows such as 'The Mike and Bernie Show', 'The Tommy Cooper Hour', and the 'Jimmy Tarbuck Show'. He moved away from dancing when he became a judge on ITV's 'X-Factor' forerunner 'New Faces', and then really earned popular affection opposite Una Stubbs in the long running 'Give Us a Clue'.

Tommy Cooper - From The Stage Newspaper, 24th of November 1977.Lionel fondly remembers the brilliant comedian Tommy Cooper, "Tommy was a real one off, and could hold and audience in the palm of his hand. He really only had to just stand there, and people would burst out laughing. He used to have me backstage in stitches and you do realise that these greats are total one offs."

Left - Tommy Cooper - From The Stage Newspaper, 24th of November 1977.

Although Lionel has worked with virtually everybody in showbusiness, he himself believes the key to success is reinvention. "I've done so many things in my career from Broadway to reality television, some things some may look down on, but it's what's happening now, you have to go with what's in vogue, if you want to keep working."

A Photograph of Alma Cogan - From the Stage Newspaper 13th of June 1957.Lionel also admits that the words 'star' and 'celebrity' are banded around all too easily today. As Lionel recalls, "My great friend, Alma Cogan oozed star quality. She really was a total one off and left us at a far too early age, and it's a shame, unlike other stars, that she's only remembered by a small few in today's generation, yet in her time, she was the hottest thing on the planet, and so many great stars including Sinatra respected her, and I often wonder whether she is up there looking down, knowing that people are still listening to her music and she makes them so happy, even today."

Right - A Photograph of Alma Cogan - From the Stage Newspaper 13th of June 1957.

Although Lionel recently celebrated his 90th birthday, and looks far younger, he has no plans to retire, telling me - "what would I do with myself? It's the only thing I've known, and I consider all offers of work. People are shocked when I appear in an advert for home delivery of food, but why not? It gets your face out there, and reminds people you're available!" Lionel would simply like to be remembered making people happy through his work. He says, "It's genuinely the reason we all do it in the end." And with that, Lionel taps out of the studio.

Until next time, Ann.

Maycon ProductionsThis Article was written by Ann Montini and very kindly sent in for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent. Images Courtesy Maycon Productions and the Arthur Lloyd Archive.

Ann Montini remembers the trumpet virtuoso and star of variety Miss Joan Hinde

Ann Montini and Joan Hinde at a café in the seaside resort of Cleveleys in Lancs.

Above - Ann Montini and Joan Hinde at a café in the seaside resort of Cleveleys in Lancs.

The last time I saw the brilliant Joan Hinde I was sat in a café in the seaside resort of Cleveleys in Lancs – Joan, who belted out my name so loudly it could have blown the froth off a Horlicks four tables away, announced to the café without a doubt that we were in the presence of a true star – And that is how it always was with this great lady – We worked together, and she was a regular on my many radio shows, plus was very supportive in my touring production of "Variety Express" which was often crossed over with dates and theatres crisscrossing the UK. Joan though, was a huge star and such a kind lady who had a unique talent, which I don't think we will witness again in a lifetime. So lets take time to recall a true variety great.

The wonderfully talented Joan Hinde was a trumpet virtuoso and comedy trouper, who started out on the BBC hit show Variety Band Box on the radio, and enjoyed a long and varied career in variety, who famously toured the country with the late Ken Dodd in his not to be missed one-night "Happiness" shows.

Joan Hinde and other performers in 'Youth Takes the Stand at the Town Hall, West Hartlepool in 1949 - From the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail,8th February 1949.

Above - Joan Hinde and other performers in 'Youth Takes the Stand at the Town Hall, West Hartlepool in 1949 - From the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail,8th February 1949. The accompanying article to this photo says of Joan Hinde - 'The only "non-Hartlepudlian" in the show, Miss Joan Hinde, of Sheffield, was none-the-less welcome. Few performers of her age have attained such a high standard of performance. Her cornet solos "Zanette" and variations on the theme "Pretty Jane" brought a warm response from the Audience.'

However, Joan Hinde's showbusiness career started when she was still a child, when she performed on the BBC radio programme Children's Hour in the early 1940s. Joan told me - "It was a such a big deal back then, because you know radio was king and all the family gathered around to listen in, and well at that point I was a local celebrity, but it was such a different time. I don't think I remember being nervous at all, I just enjoyed the whole experience, but I think, looking back again, I am sure my parents were a bit."

Joan told me she made her first stage appearance at the Chesterfield Hippodrome aged 14, "That was a huge date, and a wonderful theatre you know, and I felt even at that age that I had arrived, but I loved it, the whole experience was just wonderful, and you never forget the kindness of a full house do you?" In the 1940s and 1950s Joan continued to perform regularly, both on Variety Band Box, and Children's Hour. Joan also told me that on stage during the 1940s she was billed as "The Glamour Girl Trumpeter" when she performed for holidaymakers at Butlin's camps around the country. I think I was looking back, but we girls are our own worst critics, but yes, I brought a bit of glamour I now think into post war lives, and people loved it." Joan though loved the Butlins circuit, "They were great crowds who wanted to have so much fun and enjoy the holiday they were on, so you really got such a thrill from performing there, and people went again and again. Plus, they looked after you so well, looking back and straight after the war that was a good thing."

Details of Joan Hinde and the plethora of other performers who could be seen performing at Butlins Holiday Camps in 1977 - From the Stage Newspaper, 23rd June 1977.

Above - Details of Joan Hinde and the plethora of other performers who could be seen performing at Butlins Holiday Camps in 1977 - From the Stage Newspaper, 23rd June 1977.

An article on Joan Hinde From the Stage Newspaper, 22nd May 1958.One huge fan of Joan was the late Sir Harry Secombe, with whom Joan travelled around the world entertaining British servicemen, which included the Falkland Islands, Sir Harry told me on my radio show that "Joan was not only a fine comedienne, who never complained about the sparse conditions in which they often had to perform, but she could also play the trumpet 'like the Archangel Gabriel himself'." She could hold her own against professional male trumpet players, and while most of her playing fell into the category "light", until relatively recently, she was the only female trumpeter in the world to have broadcast Haydn's Trumpet Concerto, when she famously performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra in 1951. Sir Harry was very impressed indeed, and did not Goon about when speaking of Joan.

Right - An article on Joan Hinde From the Stage Newspaper, 22nd May 1958.

When many variety artistes were looking at the new medium of television, Joan Hinde told me she "never did, possibly because of poor management". Although Joan did make occasional guest appearances on television, but she told me, "I don't think it was the right time in many ways, because although I was rare in that respect, TV at the start wanted comics, and while I did the patter, female comics back then were very rarely seen at all on TV, because making people laugh was felt in many ways to be a man's job, unless you were in a radio comedy as part of a team."

Joan enjoyed though most of her career as a radio, theatre and cabaret artiste, a medium she loved. "I think music travelled so well through radio, and could take you any place, plus people did not care what you looked like, just the sound you were making, and making them happy really."

Joan Hinde was born at Eckington, Derbyshire, and as a child she learned the cornet from her uncle, who conducted a local brass band - "He was great fun and for some reason, I just took to the instrument which I never really knew why, but I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, so yes I am so thankful to my uncle as he gave me such a great career, and well, who knows where I would have been without it."

In Joan's mega long career, she appeared alongside many of Britain's best-known variety stars. "You did not think of them as icons, or people like that simply because we were all young and starting out together, and were having fun, getting paid to stand on a stage for a few minutes and entertain them, so now of course looking back, you think wow I did get to work and know them so very well, but that is the wisdom of old age right?"

Joan Hinde photographed, whilst playing support in the Ken Dodd Show at the Embassy Centre, Skegness - From the Stage Newspaper, 15th August 1991. Joan also performed in the Black and White Minstrels' national stage debut in April 1960, which she says was such a wonderful glamorous show - "I adored being in it and the costumes and glamour were just brilliant looking back, plus it was a huge production and so much hard work was put into that show."

Left - Joan Hinde photographed, whilst playing support in the Ken Dodd Show at the Embassy Centre, Skegness - From the Stage Newspaper, 15th August 1991.

As well as working with Sir Ken Dodd and Sir Harry Secombe, Joan made many appearances with Max Bygraves, playing medleys of classical trumpet showpieces. "Max was great and the audiences adored him, simply because he was one of them, and knew what an audience wanted. People forget we are only there because people request it, and keep requesting it with their tickets and record sales, but yes Max was a one off and could do so many things. a talented man."

An article on Joan Hinde performing aboard the Vistafjord Cruise Ship - From The Stage, 10th December 1987.Joan also spent many years touring the Moss Empires circuit - "Great days and wonderful theatres. A hard working team, but you know like part of a huge family and yes the stories are true, if you got on well with the booker Ms Williams or Cissie as I was allowed to call her, well then you were made and I enjoyed a great career with Moss".

Right and Below - Joan Hinde performing aboard the Vistafjord Cruise Ship - From The Stage, 10th December 1987. And the much loved QEII - From The Stage, 23rd October 1969.

Joan performed on luxury cruise liners too in a later part of her career, and found a brand new younger audience who were spellbound at her talent on board every night. "We went to some great places with wonderful food and brilliant audiences Ann, we were very lucky and in fact thinking back I and my career have been very lucky to have had such a fun time."

Joan Hinde performing aboard the much loved QEII - From The Stage, 23rd October 1969.If like me you're a fan of Joan's talent you can still find her CD's readily available online, and well worth a listen indeed – Joan was a great friend, and a true variety great, who I know will be thrilled that you took the time to remember her and have a brief look at what really was a great variety career.

Until next time, Ann.

Maycon ProductionsThis Article was written by Ann Montini and very kindly sent in for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent. Images Courtesy Maycon Productions and the Arthur Lloyd Archive.

Ann Montini Meets Granada TV Producer Johnnie Hamp

Ann Montini with Johnnie Hamp.

Above - Ann Montini with Johnnie Hamp.

Above - Ann Montini with Johnnie Hamp.A south London boy who became Manchester's Mr. Show Business, Johnnie Hamp devised and produced more than 2,000 television programmes for Granada TV. These included music and variety shows, and such comedy hit series as 'The Comedians' and 'Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club'.

Right - Ann Montini with Johnnie Hamp.

But did you know that Johnnie started out as a variety act and then was given the wonderful opportunity of shining a light and sound when the legend of Frank Sinatra himself came to one of the many cinemas that Johnnie oversaw for the huge Granada chain back in the 50s? "Frank was not quite the legend he became but what a professional and he made everyone feel so welcome and he loved his audience, but we had quite a few empty seats which is odd when you think about it now. Frank was not the Hollywood star he became but he had a loyal fan base at the time and he did us proud at the cinema and really was no trouble at all – He was used to playing those kind of venues and joints as he called them but our cinemas at that time were glorious and he was aware of that also." Johnnie added, "I know they contacted him about my 'This is your Life' which is not a bad connection is it?

Johnnie is without doubt a king of showbiz but as he told me - "I think looking back you had so many opportunities then and we had the talent of course but there is still great talent today but its different. Back then everyone sat around the TV to watch a great show or a variety act or better still went out to the music hall or variety theatre to see the people we had heard about. Times change but there will always be variety in one guise or another."

Johnnie Hamp was the first TV Producer to recognise The Beatles talent and potential. He was the first to secure their TV appearance and booked them regular for Granada TV. Johnnie first saw The Beatles whilst talent spotting with agent and entrepreneur Don Arden in Hamburg. He spied the group there in the Top Ten Club and remembered: "They were scruffy characters, but they had a beat in their music which I liked. Don Arden took a definite shine and interest in The Beatles and I've often wondered what would have happened if he ended up managing the group."

Cleaner Frau Rosa on The Beatles at the 'Top Ten Club', Hamburg - From The Daily Mirror, 11th November 1969.

Above - Cleaner Frau Rosa on The Beatles at the 'Top Ten Club', Hamburg - From The Daily Mirror, 11th November 1969.

As far as show business trends are concerned Johnnie has always seemed to have been in the right place at the right time. As a lad he was touring the Variety theatres with all the great Music hall names and was on the spot when the big American stars appeared in the West End in the late forties. During the fifties he was presenting one-night stands - first with the new record super stars like Johnnie Ray, Guy Mitchell and Frankie Laine - and later with the rockers like Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and Gene Vincent. He was at the opening of the famous 2i's coffee bar and his office window looked straight down Carnaby Street. Johnnie describes that time as: "magical, as we were on the cusp of something totally different and I was just about the right age to take full use of that emerging talent. We did not know that these stars would endure for so long as people just thought it was throw away rock and roll you know."

Johnnie told me that he was stage-struck from an early age and as a child would assist in his father's magic act before treading the boards himself, shortly after leaving school. Once he had completed his national service a change of career beckoned, as he joined the Granada Theatre group as assistant manager at the Granada Kingston.

An Advertisement looking for Talent for the Granada TV Network - From The Stage Newspaper, 7th November 1957.After some years in the theatre business Johnnie was given the chance to become a television producer in 1960. And during the next three decades he would produce many different shows at Granada, working with some of the biggest names in show business.

Right - An Advertisement looking for Talent for the Granada TV Network - From The Stage Newspaper, 7th November 1957.

One of my favourite people to interview was the late great Bernard Manning whom Johnnie made a star thanks to the mega hit show 'The Comedians'. Johnnie explains - "The format was simple, as are all good shows really, but we got the best comedians that I had seen on the circuit at that time and then got them to do their act before a live audience and then edit it down to TV time." Bernard was, as Johnnie admitted, a totally different character off stage and was like all comics a good natured soul who did so much for his local area and for all denominations too." But Johnnie helped Bernard become a star, so much so the entire gang were a huge sell out at the famous London Palladium for over six months and then also on the North Pier Blackpool but as Johnnie explains - "No great secret really, people like a laugh, and Bernard and Co., just give you buckets of it."

All credit to Granada Producer Johnny Hamp and his 'Comedians' - From The Daily Mirror, 9th October 1971.

Above - All credit to Granada Producer Johnny Hamp and his 'Comedians' - From The Daily Mirror, 9th October 1971.

Eve Boswell thanks Johnny Hamp for her appearance on Granada TV's 'Wheeltappers and Shunters social Club' - From the Stage Newspaper, 11th April 1974.The show also starred the wonderful Frank Caron and Colin Crompton who then, along with Bernard, went on to to star in another mega successful Johnnie Hamp production: 'Wheeltappers and Shunters social Club', long before Peter Kay came with his 'Phoenix Nights'.

Right - Eve Boswell thanks Johnny Hamp for her appearance on Granada TV's 'Wheeltappers and Shunters social Club' - From the Stage Newspaper, 11th April 1974.

Johnnie told me - "Lots of fans believed it was a real pub or social club and not a studio at Granada, but the set people were wonderful and we did, you know that one of the barmaids in the show was the actress Liz Dawn, who went onto to become a soap legend in Coronation Street." The eye for detail and talent with Johnnie is unique in that he gave the company one Hit after another with shows like 'The Video Entertainers' and many more. Johnnie though had a real love of variety shows and became an act at a young age in which he mimed to his all-time favourite star Hollywood legend Danny Kaye - "I thought he was wonderful in all those films and things he did on screen so I devised an act and that really got me going. It's hard to imagine now as many acts mime on live TV but back then it was a novelty and of course people loved it which was an added bonus too." Johnnie added - "Bryan Michie was a leading show business impresario, who specialized in finding juvenile talent, which he would feature in one of his variety shows, so after winning that competition I did shows with him which was wonderful as you felt you really were in showbiz and he of course worked Jack Hylton too who was a huge name in that time and could make or break a career."

Johnnie has helped so many famous names but one who adored him was the ever so funny Graham Grumbelweed who was a great friend and told me this: "Johnnie was a genius really because he simply knew what the public wanted in terms of fun and laughter – He really did help us become what we were and we all owe him such a great deal in terms of career." Graham added, "What was great is that no idea was daft enough and he really embraced all ideas, that is why comics really enjoyed working with him".

Best Wishes Ann Montini, January 2019.

Maycon ProductionsThis Article was written by Ann Montini and very kindly sent in for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent. Images Courtesy Maycon Productions and the Arthur Lloyd Archive.

Ann Montini meets Sir David Jason

Ann Montini with Sir David Jason.

Above - Ann Montini with Sir David Jason.

Sir David Jason may not seem the kind of actor we would feature so much in a theatre website such as this, simply because he may be better known for his outstanding television roles on television in such classic shows as "Only Fools and Horses" which is a gem of a show and loved by millions.

An advertisement for David Jason and Bobby Thompson in 'Cinderella' at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle in 1979/80 - From The Newcastle Journal, 14 December 1979.Sir David though, who I was lucky enough to spend time with on many occasions, told me of his love of theatre and variety acts like Bobby Thompson, who Sir David appeared with in his one and only pantomime in Newcastle in 1979 /80 season, for those that don't know about the brilliant Bobby, he was without doubt a genius of a comedian, but like the South's Max Miller really only translated in his home area.

Bobby Thompson, 'The Little Waster', held audiences in the palm of his hand, speaking in a dialect virtually incomprehensible outside the North East. He was a star in the 1950s, but a disastrous TV series killed his career in the early 60s. But as Sir David recalled - "He was a comedy genius, and in that area I mean loved him would not be the word, they adored him and he knew it too, but the brilliant thing for me was actually learning from him on that stage nightly... You can't buy experience like that, really can you?"

Sir David himself though was destined for stardom even though, as he told me - "I just wanted to be on stage and entertaining people, I loved it and the buzz from it, I played Brian Runnicles in No Sex Please, We're British for 18 months, starting in 1973. Just before we opened, the company manager took me outside and told me I should take a photo for my memories. I was very touched by his thoughtfulness. It struck me - I've arrived! And it was a brilliant idea, plus rather shocking back then with such a title you know, but also a great success."

The Stage Newspaper reports on David Jason in November 18th 1965."My first big job, I was 25 and was to play the tiny role of a butler in [Noël Coward's] South Sea Bubble. But it was in a proper theatre - the New Theatre in Bromley, and I'll never forget arriving for the first day of rehearsals. That moment when I entered the foyer, pushed open the doors to the auditorium, walked down the central aisle towards the huge stage and met the rest of the cast was so exciting. – I think that now when I see young actors say coming onto the set for the first time, how exciting for them, but you do wonder if it does hold that kind of magic, because of course times change so much "

Left - The Stage Newspaper reports on David Jason in November 18th 1965.

"I think why actors like me love and admire variety acts so much, is so much dependent on your strength as an act and nerves really, I mean looking at it it's brave to go on stage with no script, props or whatever, and stand there and try to make people laugh. I truly admire them, and people of course I was lucky enough to work with like Ronnie Barker, who with The Two Ronnie's had a serial called 'The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town'. I'd worked with Ronnie in the past, and was very proud and thrilled to be asked to provide the rasping sounds... profound stuff. Ronnie was a good friend and a gentleman. Truly a one off. We were both also in Porridge and, of course, Open All Hours, and I learned so much from him. He had creativity and a way with words that made him a talent beyond all others. I think though again, that is why theatre is so important, simply because you can't get that level of experience just from TV its so important."

The Two Ronnies on stage at the Southampton Gaumont in the 1970s."Growing up I adored all the radio comics like Ted Ray, Tommy Trinder, and Max Miller, but again some were considered racy, and yet when you think about it today totally harmless but what was considered shocking then. I do recall going to the variety theatres because again this is in an age before TV really had kicked in, and I admired people so much from these shows."

Right - The Two Ronnies on stage at the Southampton Gaumont in the 1970s. Click to see the whole programme.

Sir David also told me that he could have been in another classic comedy show that is still being repeated today 'Dad's Army' – "Yes Ann that is correct I did a test and the writers of Perry and Croft liked it which was wonderful to say the least, as they were such a brilliant team, but I lost out to Clive Dunn who played an older character and the DG of the BBC Bill Cotton said he preferred him, so yes that as they say is showbiz, but it was all in the destiny because maybe my greatest success with Del Boy would not have come along had I not been free, or indeed remembered from such a great show like Dads Army."

Sir David is also vocal about the use of bad language on TV today - "On Frost. It was a big success and we never had any strong language. I have never, ever had one person ever come up to me and say, 'I didn't like that Frost because you didn't swear,' but I have had several people say, 'I don't like that programme because they swear a lot.' If you tell a story well enough and entertain, you don't need it. But you try telling that to the modern producers they say its real life, but who needs that, you want to be entertained don't you?"

Sir David tells me that he always remembers what Ronnie Barker said to him once: 'Aren't we lucky we're getting paid for making ourselves laugh?' and that still resonates. But the well loved actor who has appeared in everything from panto to Crossroads admits he has no plans to retire - "For me I do think there is still one big role that I could do, just not sure what it is yet, but I am healthy and enjoying the work so much, so yes if it came along I would be more than happy."

Best Wishes Ann Montini, 2018.

Maycon ProductionsThis Article was written by Ann Montini and very kindly sent in for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent. Images Courtesy Maycon Productions and the Arthur Lloyd Archive.

Ann Montini meets Anthony Bygraves, son of the legendary star Max Bygraves

The Album Cover for 'The World of Max Bygraves', and Ann Montini with Max's son Anthony Bygraves.

Above - The Album Cover for 'The World of Max Bygraves', and Ann Montini with Max's son Anthony Bygraves.

The opening Variety Programme for the London Palladium on the 26th of December 1910 - Courtesy Chris Woodward - Click to see Entire Programme. Anthony's first stage appearance was aged four alongside his father, Max, in pantomime at the world-famous London Palladium. At just seven years old, he appeared in the motion picture 'Charlie Moon', again with his father, and then aged 11 he worked with Eddie Fisher in a TV special. As well as acting he showed keen interest in music and writing. Leaving school to play drums for his father on a world tour, he appeared in a Royal Command Performance aged just 16, but like his father, Anthony knows his story, he's showbiz through and through.

Max Bygraves was a genius of British entertainment for more than 50 years, the entertainer whose catch phrase was 'I wanna tell you a story...' and who enjoyed enormous success as a singer, comedian, film star, and quiz show host, emigrated to Australia from Bournemouth hoping the warmer climate would help his wife Blossom overcome her health problems. His son, the talented Anthony Bygraves, I was lucky enough to meet backstage at the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth and so like his father is he!

Anthony told me "Growing up was such a privilege, having dad not just as a real entertainer, but he was such a wonderful father, and gifted in so many ways. People forget though that he was so multi-talented and starred in films, and so many other things too, but I know people loved his singalong albums which were so successful, but baffled record bosses, but Max gave the public what they really wanted, and that was pure fun and entertainment."

A Poster for Max Miller at the Palace Theatre, Leicester - Courtesy David Garratt He was born Walter Bygraves on October 16, 1922, in Rotherhithe, South-East London, he later changed his name to Max in honour of his comedy hero Max Miller.

Max Bygraves was the son of a docker and one of nine children. To earn pocket money, he would drag the River Thames for driftwood – before realising he could make more cash by exploiting his talent for music and boy was Max talented.

After he was demobbed from wartime service in the RAF, he began touring the club circuit, and was a huge success, but by 1950 he was second on the bill to Judy Garland at the London Palladium. Anthony remembers "this was really a turning point for dad, I mean not just the Palladium, but a true Hollywood star, and Judy loved him so much she invited him over to Broadway, and he appeared there too in her show. Thanks to the success of that show, and of course staying at the glitzy Ritz on Park Avenue, he really was well and truly on his way."

Radio was a big hit for Max too by starring in Educating Archie, and starred in the films 'Charlie Moon', 'A Cry from The Streets', and 'Spare the Rod'. Max was considered a great actor and won much praise for his roles, but it was in variety that he truly came into his own.

A Souvenir Programme for the first Royal Command Performance at the Palace Theatre, 1st July 1912Max topped the bill at the Royal Variety Performance, a record 17 times and was a huge favourite with the Royal Family, and sold millions of records around the world, including his Singalongamax albums. By 1956 such was Max Bygraves star power, he was earning £1,000 a week, worth around £20,000 in today's money. But everyone wanted him, something that Anthony recalls "He was so busy and working on so many areas, like films and pantomime, and then recording, touring. But he did love the business too, so that was no hardship really. His albums sold over 6.5 million copies, earning 31 gold discs.

Max also bought quite a few Rolls-Royces, with the registration MB 1 — which he liked to change every year. He was a hit in the 1950s radio comedy Educating Archie - with his catchphrase 'That's a good idea, son' - and had TV series like 'Singalongamax', 'Max Rolls On', 'Side by Side', and the game show 'Family Fortunes'. Max turned his hand to writing very successfully in 1976 with his aptly-named autobiography 'I Wanna Tell You A Story', and his novel 'The Milkman's on His Way'. Later, in 2002, he was to have another book published, 'Stars in My Eyes', which he described as 'about name-dropping, the laughter moments'. Max was also awarded an OBE in 1983, but stated that he was 'Just an ordinary cockney bloke who made it'.

The auditorium of the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.Anthony though was thrilled when his father was added to the brand new 'Wall of Fame' at the famous London Palladium recently. "He would have been over the moon and the event actually happened on his birthday too, but dad loved the Palladium as many performers do, it holds such a special place for stars and for him to be back up there again in 2018 really does bring a tear to the eyes."

It's hard to find anyone who was not a fan of Max's simply because he crossed all borders of people, but Anthony says that "I think it comes across that he loved the business, and wanted people to enjoy his performance and shows, plus he was well loved by his peers and that shone through really. I miss him every day, and think about him also – I truly was his greatest fan."

Best Wishes Ann Montini, 2018.

Maycon ProductionsThis Article was written by Ann Montini and very kindly sent in for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent. Images Courtesy Maycon Productions and the Arthur Lloyd Archive.

Ann Montini on Lindford Hudson always hitting the spot at The London Palladium

Ann Montini with Lindford Hudson at the London Palladium.

Above - Ann Montini with Lindford Hudson at the London Palladium.

The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010 - Photo M.L.He is known as Mr Follow Spot, but Lindford Hudson spent the best part of 50 years making sure the world's biggest stars enjoy their time in the spotlight. On that very famous Palladium Stage. We first met Lindford while sat outside the old stage door, enjoying a drink with his friends when one of them told me "You know who this is don't you?" From that moment on we become good friends, so much so, when he retired we organised a very special 'Audience with' at his beloved theatre, which saw so many major people turn out to pay their respects to a man they all adored – Lindford had spent time shining the light on many others, but now was he ready to have the light shone on him?

Right - The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010, during the run of 'Sister Act', which was Lindford Hudson's last show at the London Palladium, he had begun working there on 'Swing Along' way back in May 1963 - Photo M.L.

Lindford told me he landed the job at the famous theatre after his father spotted an ad in the London Evening Standard in the early 60s, and from that moment onwards he adds "showbiz was in my blood. I can honestly say I loved every day at that theatre, and so much, I do miss it now, but things change, and times move on you know."

Hudson's very first Palladium show was way back in May 1963, a show of course he remembers so well, It was, a production called Swing Along, starring the brilliant comedian Tony Hancock. Lindford's last show was another smash, Sister Act, which began in 2009. Along the way he's created the lighting, on such greats as Sammy Davis Junior, a true great who became a friend, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Tommy Cooper, Sarah Vaughan... it's the who's who of showbiz, plus legends such as Josephine Baker, Bette Davis and Ella Fitzgerald, we all know everyone who has graced the stage, but he truly has shone on the lot of them, yet remains shy, and oh so sweet when you speak with him. And he has stories about most of them, many of the stars he met and lit adore him, simply because we all know that a lighting man, along with sound is truly your best friend on a stage.

Lindford has the honour of lighting 41 Royal Variety performances, plus he also lit Princess Diana's funeral at Westminster Abbey, and oversees the lights for the BBC's hit comedy series Live at the Apollo television series.

A room filled with posters and photographs of the stars that have performed at the London Palladium.

Above - A room filled with posters and photographs of the stars that have performed at the London Palladium.

As we walk around the famous theatre, we arrive at the room where all the great old posters are on the walls, with those brilliant dressing room light bulbs (shown above). "All these shows I have done, Lena Horne, Julie Andrews, Ginger Rogers, Carmen Miranda, Carrie Fisher. I've had a wonderful time. I do remember when Frank Sinatra came in with his boys, and gave me a big tip. He was what you imagine him to be, simply because his reputation went before him, but he was kind and oh so polite you know." Lindford adds that Sammy Davis Jr starred in the smash show 'Golden Boy' in 1968, "and what a wonderful time I had, I met all his bodyguards. We went to the Famous Playboy Club. Sammy was very generous. He spent money like water. But he gave you such a good time. He had parties here at the theatre for all the crew. 'Golden Boy' was a hit musical show. He was here four days a week. So, when he was here it was fun. He was living in the Playboy Club, can you imagine that? And after the show, we'd hit the town. You don't forget times like that do you?" Lindford added with a twinkle in his eyes.

The auditorium of the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall."I loved Harry Secombe who was a brilliant person, and so very talented, I mean he was such a great singer, yet people sometimes forget that don't they?" Lindford also enjoyed the company of Mr Moonlight himself, "Mr Frankie Vaughan, who was a gentleman, he was class you know, dressed well and all that, but always had time for the fans which was nice, and they packed the place to see him which I know he appreciated."

Right - The auditorium of the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

"I met a lot of different people, man. The multi-talented Roy Castle never stopped smiling. I never met the wonderful Judy Garland, but I did shine the light on that very famous TV special she starred in with her daughter Liza," he chuckles, "I did, Plus I did meet her daughters, Liza Minnelli, and Lorna Luft, both were wonderful, when Miss Liza was on stage, that was an experience. When she finished singing she was on her way to the hotel, but the audience wouldn't leave, she really had that magical star power."

Lindford never holds back, and told me that "I met some 'less than cheerful' people, too, like Charlie Drake, and Tommy Steele. But Tommy Steele was a professional person. What he said was right. We were friends, but he was sometimes not too cheerful. Charlie Drake," he added was, "well not a happy person, but then you find that with a lot of comics don't you really?"

The auditorium and stage at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.Lindford let slip that his favourite ever star was in fact a U.S. diva in the shape of the Divine Ms M, "Bette Midler was a sensation, and you know she was quite unknown at that time, but boy did she light up the stage, and to me there was no one quite like her, you know, wonderful."

Left - The auditorium and stage at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

Lindford may have now left his beloved London Palladium, but assured me that "I'm not going to retire, I've never missed a show. And I don't make mistakes. I've done so many wonderful shows. I enjoy them all because it gives me a such good living, and besides that I love showbiz, I mean don't tell anyone, but I think I would even do this job for nothing if asked."

Your secret is safe with us Lindford.

Best Wishes Ann Montini, 2018.

Maycon ProductionsThis Article was written by Ann Montini and very kindly sent in for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent. Images Courtesy Maycon Productions and the Arthur Lloyd Archive.

A Chat with Sir Roger Moore

Ann Montini with Sir Roger Moore at the Westminster Live Studios in London - Courtesy Maycon Productions.

Above - Ann Montini with Sir Roger Moore at the Westminster Live Studios in London - Courtesy Maycon Productions.

Ann MontiniThe person I want to share with you today may not be considered a variety artiste as such, but he was there thanks to his association with, and later wife of, one of the all-time greats this country has produced, Miss Dorothy Squires.

I met Sir Roger Moore at Westminster Live Studios in London where he was invited to record what turned out to be a very revealing chat and I was there that day as the makeup artiste booked to make up the boy from Stockwell.

Sir Roger was everything you could and would imagine, sophisticated, debonair and truly a gentleman who regaled me and the host with some wonderful tales about his stint in the world of variety theatre.

Sir Roger explained that as a child he was a regular at the Variety Theatres in London and loved going to see the greats on the halls that came around South London never dreaming one day that he himself would have a go at comedy and starring in pantomime in Brixton, or as he says "not quite starring but merely being there and having a go."

Sir Roger had met and fallen in love with one of the biggest stars of that era, Dorothy Squires, who was the singing sensation of the Fifties and Sixties, and even 30 years ago this talented but difficult star was a regular feature of the headlines thanks to offstage dramas and scandals. Now though she decided Sir Roger should join her in her latest variety tour in the early 50s firstly as a front cloth comic, Sir Roger revealed "I always had hopes that I could be as funny as say Max Miller who I loved plus Bob Hope and well in the madness of youth and more so needing a job Dot persuaded me that given they loved her they would also love me."

Ann Montini with Sir Roger Moore at the Westminster Live Studios in London - Courtesy Maycon Productions."However," Sir Roger added, "I recall vividly one dire rainy matinee and we were in the middle of Wales with a not too full house at the local Regal and I was asked to go on and start the show." Roger had also decided on a dog tooth jacket and a cigar as, "I know I could use it for timing and all that." But sadly Roger failed to ignite the crowd as he openly admitted had happened on a few other occasions. "The thing was Dot was having none of it and in quite full language she was getting rather angry with the crowd as she stood in the wings," he added, "Now for me I thought plough on get off and hopefully they wont remember me but she burst onto the stage and let out a few expletives along the lines of "Give him a chance." Well even at my age I knew comics were not given a chance of course but she was just protecting me and I admired her for that but it made me rethink my time, as a new Tommy Trinder or Max Miller was not quite going to plan."

Sir Roger also revealed that thanks to Ms Squires and her many variety friends he got to meet so many greats but as he admitted, "We were all so young back then so I had no idea what legends they would become," Stars like Frankie Vaughn, Gracie Fields, and even Laurel & Hardy, "they were touring the halls here and they were also a fan of Dot's so I was so lucky to meet them and of course was in awe when I think back because they were you know legends. You only got to see them on the big screen."

A Twice Nightly Variety programme for the Empress Theatre, Brixton for the week commencing October 17th 1955.Sir Roger then attempted a stint in pantomime where he admitted "I loved it but not with me in it." The venue was the Brixton Empress and he was a chorus boy in the Brixton Empress pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk as he admitted "I was rather pretty so I knew I had been given the role on that merit, not on my acting's skills, but panto is an art form and I was far too much 'actor'. I did feel for the gang who were stuck with me so basically after the pantomime and with no work on offer as a comedian I decided acting was a great way of making a living.

Right - A Twice Nightly Variety programme for the Empress Theatre, Brixton for the week commencing October 17th 1955.

Sir Roger also told me that he loved the old-fashioned beauty contests that would take place at various seaside venues across the UK through the late 50s and 60s where he met his comedy heroes like Ken Platt, Norman Evans and so forth, "To me these were real heroes as they went out alone nightly on stage and created huge waves of laughter. I was always in awe of comedians and singers wishing secretly that I could do it of course." He added that "I think when you look at the crowds that attended these contests in Morecambe and Blackpool were huge and all the comics were there not chatting up the girls but drumming up business for their shows on the Piers and Theatres as they knew the value of the crowd and worked it to make sure they had a successful season. I learned a lot from those variety comics when promoting my shows in the US. No audience too small, or venue," he chuckled.

Sir Roger told me that his stint in variety helped him become a success in film years later as "I did not take anything seriously, I mean many people looked aghast when I would say go on and turn the illuminations on at Morecambe in 1965 or appear with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise on stage with Millicent Martin at the Palladium Show in London in 1968. Why? because to me the roar of the crowd was amazing, and I always believed that you should surround yourself with talent and what a way to appear on the world-famous Palladium with all those greats."

The London Hippodrome's wonderful Frank Matcham auditorium - London Metropolitan Archives.Sir Roger fondly recalled his time on tour with Dot telling me "Moss Empires was a huge organisation and we had no idea just how powerful but I loved so many of their Theatres from the Birmingham Hippodrome, Leeds Empire and the Hippodrome in London, they were truly palaces of mirth and talent but I never truly understood why so many were left to be pulled down. It was a wonderful period in my life truly and I got to rub shoulders with so many people like Dickie Valentine, Dave King, The Goons, all starting out on this great road to showbiz, but I don't think we will ever see the likes of what happened in that period again because like everything times change."

Left - The London Hippodrome's wonderful Frank Matcham auditorium - London Metropolitan Archives.

Sir Roger did indeed become a global star thanks to Bond and of course starring in the mega hit show "The Saint, but as he told me, "I do still wish I could have had a stint as a comic in variety too."

It was such a pleasure meeting Sir Roger Moore and I do hope you enjoyed his variety days. Back soon, Ann.

Maycon ProductionsThis Article was written by Ann Montini and very kindly sent in for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent. Images Courtesy Maycon Productions and the Arthur Lloyd Archive.

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