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Celebrating Twenty Years Online 2001 - 2021

Ann Montini's Variety Days

Introduction - Tony Bennett - Beat Girls - Duggie Chapman - Vent and Puppet Acts - North Pier Theatre, Blackpool - Des O'Connor - Star Cinema Hornsea - The Vale Cinema - Mirfield - The Pavilion, Dewsbury - Julio Iglesias - Norman Wisdom - Roy Hudd - Gary Morecambe - Jerry Herman - Francis Laidler and Billy Pearce - Mario Lanza - Jimmy James - Jimmy Perry - Sooty and Harry Corbett - Sir Michael Grade - Duggie Brown - The Osmonds - Jim Bowen - 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 - Archive of Previous Articles

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 Ann's most recent articles or click the Links above for an index to all her articles.

Tony Bennett and Me

Ann Montini recalls working with Tony Bennett, and his memories of the Royal Variety show, and meeting the Queen at the London Palladium

Ann Montini with Tony Bennett in a London Palladium Montage - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini with Tony Bennett in a London Palladium Montage - © Maycon Pictures.

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Ann Montini with Tony Bennett - © Maycon Pictures.Recently legendary singer Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga performed two sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Now, Bennett's son and manager Danny has revealed that those concerts marked Bennett's final live performances. "There won't be any additional concerts," Danny Bennett told me, "This was a hard decision for us to make, as he is a capable performer. This is, however, doctors' orders."

Right - Ann Montini with Tony Bennett - © Maycon Pictures.

Earlier this year, Bennett's son said, that the singer, who is 95, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016. A press release for his Radio City performances had cited the shows as Bennett's 'last NYC performances of his career.' Lady Gaga and Bennett recently revealed the details of their new album of Cole Porter covers, Love for Sale, which arrives October, 1 via Columbia and Interscope. It follows their 2014 collaboration 'Cheek to Cheek', which earned them the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Last week they released a visual for their version of 'I Get a Kick Out of You'.

Which got me thinking back to the wonderful time I spent, with the singing legend, and I would like to share with you – Tony you see, was in London, to appear on, of all things a reality TV show – Let me explain... We met at the fabulous Dorchester Hotel for afternoon tea, as this was organised by his record label Sony – Tony had a new album out, and I was asked to help produce an interview for TV with Tony to be filmed at the famous hotel.

Now like so many people, I had always been a fan of his music and songs. He is without a doubt one of the greatest entertainers that walked the stage, and while others always cite 'The Rat Pack' with Frank etc, I always admired Tony's style, and the fact he did things his own way as I found out.

While organising the crew, and putting together some much needed decoration at the hotel, it was suggested by myself that maybe flowers might be a good addition to the suite, in which we were filming – The hotel had a florist, so they were duly summoned and of course flowers were arranged. It was at this moment that the legend appeared looking as one would expect dapper, and stylish given the years he had lived in the world of showbiz – Fun – laughing, and dare I say a tad nervous, we organised the interview and business went underway. After the filming Tony sat and chatted about his time in London, and how he was always thrilled to be back here, as they had made him so welcome.

The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010 - Photo M.L."Frank ( Sinatra) told me originally when he first came here with Ava Gardener way back in the fifties," Tony explained, "Frank had not be doing so great in that period, so it was suggested that he try his luck in England, after all Judy Garland our great friend had enjoyed huge success at the Palladium, so that fired many of us up to come over, but I took my time and it was Frank that told me just how warm and appreciative the audiences were, despite the media not saying so," Tony laughed.

Left - The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010 - Photo M.L.

The guy is sprinkled with the stardust of other eras. Bob Hope gave him his stage name; Charlie Chaplin sent him fan mail; together, the veteran crooner joked, he and Rosemary Clooney were 'the first American Idols'. Just walking on to the boards of the London Palladium brought him a standing ovation. But, as Tony recalled, it was the night in November when he was asked to appear the London Palladium for the Queen and Prince Philip that really made him rethink just how successful he had become. "What an honour truly and the show was wonderful, along with a superb singer of course now Dame Shirley Bassey, what a talent, and of course, the never forgotten Dusty Springfield, and then me," Tony laughed, "The show was a huge success, and I was told that by Bernard Delfont," as Tony added, "He was a great guy you know, loved the world of showbiz, and it just oozed out of him – he had style and knew how to treat an artiste, which was so kind to me at that time."

A TV Listing from the Sunday Mirror for the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in November 1965.

Above - A TV Listing from the Sunday Mirror for the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in November 1965.

Tony also recalled that actually meeting the Queen at the theatre was above his dreams. "She was so sweet and kind about the show, and he, Prince Philip loved it, and knew quite a few of my songs which amazed me really, as I figured she would have been way too busy to know who I was, but it was a great night, and so much love shone through the audience."

As I say I was there at the Dorchester to produce the TV special and Tony was in town to appear on the X Factor, the big Simon Cowell TV show at that time, and I asked Tony if he would have, back in his time, ever appeared in such a show. "I don't think so, in many ways because its instant you know, and I think a career needs to be worked at, and learned, not just instant – That said, myself and Rosemary Clooney appeared in a talent show on Radio daily in the 40's, in which we would sing up to eight songs per hour, all new songs and sent in via pluggers etc, so I guess that was something similar."

Tony added that, although he had agreed to appear on the show, he would not be cruel or make quips about an act. "Look, as I always say, it takes guts to stand up there alone and think that you can entertain, and above all this is live on TV, so I hope I can inspire them, and you know offer some hope."

I was also asked a while later to help coordinate some work with Tony at the Royal Albert Hall, which ended up being a star studded evening, with Tony, as ever, at his best in front of a great audience that included the likes of Joanna Lumley, Sir David Frost, and so many more, but backstage at the Hall, Tony also reminded me that he was also a fan of pop music as he added, "I was on the bill with them, biggest band in the world at the Palladium you know Ann?" Now I thought he was going to say The Beatles which of course, given he was talking about the sixties would assume, but in turns out that Tony was a huge fan of the Dave Clark Five, which were massive in the US and as Tony added, "I loved their sound and energy and the way that the guy really banged those drums you know." Dave Clark, who I also met had fond memories of the singing legend too, he told me, "Tony Bennett is the last of the greats you know, style, class and a superb singer."

I guess as ever the final word must go to the legend that is Sinatra who said, "Tony Bennett is a better singer than me, and if I want to hear a great singer then it's his records I put on the turntable."

Tony thanks for the music, and memories, and have a great retirement, you have earned it.

Until next time Best Wishes 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 Beat Girls of Variety

Ann Montini & Helen Shaprio - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini & Helen Shaprio - © Maycon Pictures.

Ann Montini remembers the Beat Girls - © Maycon Pictures.Let's hear it for the girls is what I say. Seriously though this time, I thought we would take a quick look at how the 50's & 60's beat girls truly did their bit for the world of variety – How did they do that you ask? Well, who could forget those spectacular Sunday concerts that popped up literally at all those fabulous resorts in the golden age of variety? Sandie Shaw at the Morecambe Winter Gardens, often with a comedian on the bill too – Over in Margate you may also catch another Blonde Bombshell excluding myself for a moment, with the ever-delightful Kathy Kirby and she of course could be found on the bill with Jon Pertwee and Burt Weedon, and yes this was called a "Hip & Happening night." Further along the coast at some say the golden ticket was Blackpool. Now on that stunning bill was the ever dynamic Dame Shirley Bassey, fresh from a stint on the South Pier with Norman Evans no less, and on this bill she shared it with one time "Too Young" singer Jimmy Young and Alan Randall who of course was brilliant with his Formby act – So who were the people helping save the dying days of variety, and what were their thoughts about this whole genre? After all as Adam Faith once told me, "I thought it was going to be rock & roll and all that, but in effect we were quickly turned into people that the whole general public would come along to see – No TV's out of windows, and stuff like that... We played the great theatres and learned the craft." But it was the girls as ever that paved the way, starting with the 40s and the dulcet tones of the icon that was Dame Vera Lynn, while the often-forgotten Anne Shelton was equally up there with many as a great crowd puller, alongside the big acts on your local Hippodrome and Palace, but it truly was the 50's when the girls kick started the return to the live stage and one that glittered far more than most.

Alma Cogan really invented the pop concert on the variety stage with the stunning voice, big dresses, and hair that almost seemed to have another life, and surely would have required its own dressing room, but after the dark days of the war, she was one thing, glamorous, and of course that paved the way for so much glamour on the stages of the UK, including the diverse talents of the Beverley Sisters who were just brilliant, and always filled theatres with their fresh-faced looks and wonderful vocals. Others including Joan Regan were such a treat simply because, as Joan told me, "appearing twice nightly really helped train your voice, I mean it was a daily work out, and you had to get it right because, well people had paid good money, and your job was to look as good as you could, sing well and hopefully get a good hand of applause at the end of the show." Joan though admitted she was a tad envious of the girls that came after her as, "they had more control and could really pick out songs they liked plus they had freedom, we did not which I suppose happens to all generations when you think about it."

Ann Montini with Joan Regan - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini with Joan Regan - © Maycon Pictures.

Promoters like Harold Fielding, Arthur Howes and so many more knew the value of the new teenager and more so their money. They started of course with the boys like Tommy Steele. Mike Winters, who toured with Tommy back in the day, reminded me that Tommy was so nervous while appearing at the Sunderland Empire, he had to be pushed on, "I know he was terrified simply because they were all screaming for him, and of course they did not want us, the comics – it was wall to wall girls all looking at Tommy." Fast forward a few years, and while the delightful Petula Clark had been a star for years in films and on stage, also appearing in summer season at the South Pier in Blackpool, that she hit the pop big time with the composer and music icon Tony Hatch who created a string of hits like Downtown and Subway, and as she told me, "The whole crowd out front changed simply because it was now girls, and they were buying our records in droves, plus having heard us on the radio now wanted to see us in the flesh, so that we would be looked at and of course suddenly the fashion and what we were wearing were all the rage... It was a fabulous time because the early sixties onwards saw the rise of the girl and her power, so yes, we could be top of the bill for a week twice nightly, and it felt good."

Ann Montini with Rosemary Squires - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini with Rosemary Squires - © Maycon Pictures.

Sixties stars paved the way for the theatres both regionally, and at the coasts in summer seasons – Names like Dusty, Cilla, Sandie and Kathy, not forgetting the talented Helen Shapiro, all filled theatres with what they described as a pop show, but as Helen recalled, "It was a variety show really, as they felt they had to give value for money and of course there would be a spesh act, and a comic, plus dancers, and then an interval, then it would be you alone closing the second half." Helen admitted she thought nothing about it really even at that young age as, "It was all I wanted to do, and yes even the Palladium which I was in awe of because everyone watched the TV show was nerve wrecking, but again no one said you did OK etc., you did your act and, well I loved it, but looking back I do wonder where all that confidence comes from." Dusty Springfield was one of the finest singers to emerge from Britain. She epitomised the sound and style of the 60s. She had her first and only No.1 single with 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me' and as she told me, "I loved live theatre and loved also doing summer seasons, because you got to stay in one place, but the venue that I adored was in fact the Talk of The Town – the old London Hippodrome. It was a great venue and you always sounded good in there, plus I had some of my greatest shows on that stage, so yes that would have been one of the top venues for me."

Ann Montini with Kiki Dee - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini with Kiki Dee - © Maycon Pictures.

Kiki Dee is a personal friend who I have to say goes all the way back to our dancing classes in Bradford, and we both ended up recording at the same time but Kik, or Pauline as she was then known, like me loved appearing on the stage of the famous Bradford Alhambra for the famous Francis Laidler, but as Kiki pointed out her pop career started like this... "Mitch Murray, who wrote my first single, 'Early Night', came up with the name Kinky Dee. It was the era of Kookie Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb), the actress Sandra Dee and kinky boots – that 60s vibe. Being young and inexperienced, I kind of went along with it, except I said to my dad, 'I don't think I'll be singing in five years if my name's Kinky Dee,' so we shortened it to Kiki and thankfully that stuck – I again had grown up going to the variety theatre so for me it was the highlight to get on those stages with the big lights and curtains, plus, you know to be standing where your greats had stood and that does have an effect on how you perform even now for me."

Stunning Kathy Kirby had her first starring taste of variety in Blackpool in 1964 co starring with Jimmy Logan and Donald Peers, however, she was back in the famous resort in 1967 and pulling in mega crowds at the Pavilion Theatre Blackpool. For the summer season Kathy was offered the choice of co-starring with Bruce Forsyth at the nearby Opera House in 'The Big Show of 1967', or topping the bill in her own stage show at the lovely Winter Gardens Theatre. She chose the latter. Millicent Martin co-starred with Forsyth, and while Kathy had a sell out season, interestingly enough the Opera House production was not the success hoped for. Kathy, who lived in Kensington towards the end of her life told me that, "I adored the stage of the Blackpool theatres as they gave you such a warm welcome and often you could have done six shows a day, like they did in the States, but of course we stuck to two, plus, I think now looking back we all got on. I mean I was rooting for Cilla and Dusty as we were totally different – It was girl power as they say nowadays, but we had that years ago."

Ann Montini with Anita Harris - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini with Anita Harris - © Maycon Pictures.

Another good pal is the still stunning Anita Harris who admitted that she loved appearing in theatres more than pop concerts – "I had enjoyed success with 'Just Loving You', but again I felt more at home on the stage of the Prince of Wales theatre rather than Wembley Empire stage pool pop show even though it was terrific fun, but you know they were such good times, great songs, fashion, and above all else we were, well, running the show."

There are far too many pop girls to share in this piece but let's not forget the likes of Twinkle, Marrianne Faithfull, Cilla, Sandie Shaw and so many more who travelled the length of the UK appearing in one-night shows at some sadly now lost venues, and of course Sunday concerts which helped keep variety alive, and some theatres.

I hope I have touched on a few pop memories for you and as ever until next time. Best – Ann xxx

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 recalls the great Variety Entertainer / Producer – Duggie Chapman

Memories of Variety King Duggie Chapman - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Memories of Variety King Duggie Chapman - © Maycon Pictures.

Ann and Duggie ChapmanHello again, and thank you so much for all the great response our previous posts have received – I really do enjoy your feedback, and creating and reliving so many memories for everyone again. This time is no exception, as I was looking through so many wonderful pictures, there was the late great impresario Duggie Chapman – Now Duggie was a great warm man, who greeted me always with a kiss and hug, while manging to hold onto that famous cigar that seemed attached to his hand, while his other was weighed down by his gold chain – Always a charmer, and knew exactly how to put everyone at ease, while holding court with great acclaim, dishing out his bon mots with great aplomb, and of course all the stories were riveting and vastly entertaining.

I first met Duggie many years while on the variety circuit as a young girl, however we fell back into connection when I, along with my partner Alan Scott, decided variety should be back and returned with our own touring production company of Variety Express. Now Duggie, I encountered in a state of undress, while backstage at the delightful St George's Hall in Bradford, where he was appearing and producing his wonderful "Old Thyme Music Hall" show there one afternoon

St George's Hall, BradfordThe shows were well produced, and such wonderful acts who Duggie gave work to throughout the year, be it in his music hall shows, or his lavish pantomimes that he also dealt with. I do recall, at this meeting, that the manager of the theatre had simply walked into Duggie's dressing room "unannounced", and of course seeing both myself and Duggie, who quickly redeemed himself of the situation with great wit and laughter, often telling strangers that I was in a habit of doing this, such a cheeky man!!

Duggie was kindness itself with offering to help my show, and I too would cross promote his at various venues that we crossed over, including great venues like Crewe Lyceum, Wakefield Theatre Royal, and so forth – Like us Duggie loved variety acts, and I do remember on that afternoon how he had booked a terrifically funny man, who many will recall, Duggie Clarke, who had the audience in stiches with his risqué lines, and audience chat – Watching Duggie in his chairman's role, I noted how he too loved the act, and in a way it was like he was seeing it like the audience for the first time, such was his love of showbusiness.

Duggie also had an amazing career prior to him becoming a producer and performer with his own shows, and I delighted over coffee many times, listening to his wonderful tales of how he got started, and why the biz meant so much to him. Duggie, who grew up in the Rosegrove area of Burnley, caught the showbusiness bug early, as he toured the area's theatres to take in the 'turns'. "I just wanted to be up there with them doing it, and I had no idea if I could make a living out of it or not, but I knew I had found my calling", he told me.

A Still from 'The Cure For Love' - From The Sketch, 18th of January 1950.At the very young age of 11 he had his first film credit, appearing in the Robert Donat film, 'The Cure for Love'. "I thought this is it, Hollywood will call, and I would be a big star," he laughed, but as he also told me, "It was a big thing for someone of my background to land that role, even though we spent a fortune going to the cinema to see it, as, well, no video's then, you paid your brass even to see yourself." Other roles saw him appear alongside Likely Lads actor James Bolam in 'Seaview Knights', and as a reporter in Lee Evans' 'Funny bones'.

Right - A Still from 'The Cure For Love' - From The Sketch, 18th of January 1950.

Duggie told me that one of his big breaks was thanks to Vic Oliver, he was spotted by a representative of Vic Oliver who told the BBC producer Alistair Scott-Johnson, who then gave him his first broadcast in Variety Playhouse. Many more radio shows followed and in all over 100 broadcasts for the BBC. Duggie recalled, "It was the golden age of radio really, and there was plenty of work, even if you were not funny Ann… Seriously we had no idea how lucky we were, because we had a vast choice of theatres, and of course then radio, plus endless summer seasons, and people seemed happier when you think about it, no money as such, but a lot happier than today."

Duggie Chapman's Music Hall Review at the Richmond Theatre - From The Stage Newspaper, 4th of May 1967.

Above - Duggie Chapman's Music Hall Review at the Richmond Theatre - From the Stage Newspaper, 4th of May 1967.

It was in the sixties that Duggie went into business on his own account, and his hugely popular 'Chapman Music Hall' played every major town and city in Great Britain, and abroad, he told me, "I figured that while certain producers were all doom and gloom, I thought well I can give this a go, and see what happens, best decision ever really, as I enjoyed creating the shows and watching them grow, you know you can change things nightly, unlike film and all that, plus you end up becoming a family with your merry band of troops don't you really?"

Duggie though was able to have a rich cast of some wonderful acts when variety really was great, including the wonderful singer Ronnie Hilton, the equally funny Ken Platt in panto who had that great line "I wont take my coat off I'm not stopping." So many others whom he gave work to over the years, and many in their twilight phase, but he was kindness itself when he came to choosing acts, and of course he had a loyal band of people, who kept the show all up and running. Duggie though adored comedy, with people like Frank Carson, a personal favourite, and of course Ken Dodd, Duggie told me on my radio show also that, "It's the loneliest job, and I admire those people because there is no safety net at all, it's just you and the crowd, and of course you have to win them over, and boy that can be tough."

Ann and Duggie BackstageDuggie loved theatres too, with the North Pier Theatre in Blackpool a great favourite of his and also the scene of so many summer shows' success, along with The Grand – He was active in trying to save the Burnley Empire, and could talk at length about his love for certain theatres all spread across the UK. Duggie, as I say was so supportive and very encouraging to anyone starting out in the business of show. One of my last memories of Duggie, was him standing outside the stage door of the North Pier Theatre in Blackpool – he was presenting a show which I recall also starred the hit recording group "The Platters " Duggie spotted me walking down, and after the initial hugs, and kisses ushered me in, all the while explaining how the "great weather", which Blackpool was having at that point, was dire for business – The show was great, and the enthusiastic audience in that night had no idea that the dapper dressed man stood at the back had created all this for their enjoyment. That was Duggie though, warm, kind, and above all a showman.

I must finish on a funny incident that happened while Duggie was also presenting the great Danny La Rue at the Pavilion Theatre in Blackpool Winter Garden's complex – Mr La Rue was outside the venue, and enquiring about the biz, sees Duggie and forgetting that there were "fans" about, wants to know what's happening publicity wise. Duggie chomped on his cigar smiled and listened – After Danny had gone in, in a flurry of sequins and feathers, Duggie looked at the huge poster he had created and simply re positioned the poster looking more out, than it had been. "That should do it" he said and with that we both laughed and laughed, which is how I will remember this great of variety. Thank you Duggie for the shows, fun, and friendship.

Until next time Ann x.

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 Vent and Puppet acts that Kept Variety Alive

Ann Monitini, Sooty, Basil, and Lord Charles - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Monitini, Sooty, Basil, and Lord Charles - © Maycon Pictures.

In variety people forget that it's a lot of the spesh acts that keep the bill flowing, and giving people fun and laughter – that is the case in many of the vent acts, be it puppets like Basil Brush, and icons like Sooty, to more established acts like the brilliant Lord Charles and Ray Allen – all of which I have been lucky enough to meet and appear with in my theatre career.

Alan Scott, Derek Yelding, and Caruso - Courtesy Ann Montini.My favourite is hard to define, but the first memory is that of Derek Yelding – Known to many in Blackpool, thanks to his great association with the Charlie Parson's show at the pier – Now Derek was a wonderful all-round guy, at home as Chairman of the Music Hall, and of course getting the all-important singalong going – But he also had a great act with a bird, the feathered kind called Caruso.

Right - Alan Scott, Derek Yelding, and Caruso - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Now this bedraggled looking effort was great with children and adults alike, and a total creation of Derek. Derek as many know also was of great assistance to the late great Duggie Chapman, as he toured around his music hall shows of which Derek was often chairman – Derek told me while sat with Caruso how, "It's odd because, when you have a hand puppet people do believe they are real, but it's all about keeping the character going, and people really did believe that Caruso the Crow, did live on Blackpool pier". Many of course will have great memories of Derek and the pier, which is where another great character was discovered way back in the late 1940s.

Ann Montini, Richard Cadell, and Sooty - Courtesy Ann Montini.Now many people will have read my earlier account of how I was lucky enough to appear with Harry Corbett on TV and in Bradford at the very start of his career, but his career was made by Sooty. He was discovered all those years ago at a novelty store on the North Pier. As the story goes, magician and entertainer Harry Corbett picked up the simple yellow bear hand puppet as a gift for his son Matthew.

Left - Ann Montini, Richard Cadell, and Sooty - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Four years later, Harry and Sooty - with the addition of soot-stained ears and nose to show up better on black and white TV - won BBC's Talent Night show, and went on to become regulars on the BBC children's show 'Saturday Special'. Back in that era, Sooty was not a high-tech toy, he's just what you would get in a novelty store on a pier - and those places have long gone now everywhere. But as we reveal Sooty has lived on, but Harry himself was a very clever marketing man.

David Brook with Sooty and his boss Harry Corbett - Courtesy Ann Montini.Here and exclusive to this site is a picture of David Brook pictured with Sooty.

Right - David Brook with Sooty and his boss Harry Corbett - Courtesy Ann Montini.

David recalls it was at Skegness, and Harry did not just give away the luxury of having his picture taken with the great Sooty, "You had to pay a small fee, but you have to remember in the day and age, of no cell phones, and no other way of proving you had in fact met the great star of TV and stage, this was pester power by your child of the highest order, and of course, the parents gave in." David added, "There was a huge queue, I recall also, that Sooty was making Harry a few bob, after all we had already paid for the theatre tickets, and programme also, but my parents loved the picture." David toured with Variety Express, as my chief cameraman.

Alan Scott and Ray Allen - Courtesy Ann Montini.Ray Allen had Lord Charles and were huge back in the 60's and 70's and Ray had of course enjoyed a huge successful stint at the famous Windmill Theatre in London – Now Lord Charles was not quite offensive in many respects with his phrase "silly ass", but his star really shone for many years, in 1954 Ray had the chance to perform with the comedy legends Laurel and Hardy. Stan Laurel provided inspiration for the look of Ray's most famous creation in Lord Charles. The monocled Lord Charles was originally inspired by a "boozy toff" Ray spotted at a table during a cabaret show.

Left - Alan Scott and Ray Allen - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Ray told me: "I looked at Stan Laurel's face and I thought, Good God, that's the face I want – just change the hair and put a monocle on it."

So, Allen played around with some photographs of Stan to find the face he wanted. Then he went to the man who made his ventriloquist figures, and showed him what he wanted. The results were the famous Lord Charles. Lord Charles' catchphrases "Your silly arse" and "Blurry fool," caught on. He would often be distracted by glamorous women in the audience, much to Ray's chagrin.

Ray Allen was also a prolific author. He wrote for artists Tony Hancock, and Dave Allen. He also wrote for the shows 'Morecambe and Wise', 'The Two Ronnie's', and 'Bootsie and Snudge'. These were sometimes penned under the name Ray Whyberd. Allen also wrote four novels, the first being 'Death and Deception' which was published in 2007. This was followed by A Game of Murder' in 2008, 'A Fear of Vengeance' in 2010, and 'Retribution'. Ray told myself and comedian Al Scott pictured with Ray at the Grand in Blackpool after a show that, "I adore writing and if this game of showbiz had not taken off, I would have done that full time. " Ah but what a shame that would have been, and what about the fate of Lord Charles?

Ann Montini with Basil Brush - Courtesy Ann Montini.I have been lucky enough to work with many vents and puppets of which there are too many to mention but so many greats like Denis Spicer, Archie Andrews, and of course one of my all-time favourites of whom I got to appear on TV with is Basil Brush.

Right - Ann Montini with Basil Brush - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Now the furry Fox shot to fame on The Basil Brush Show, on 14 June 1968. Basil was already well known to viewers from his appearances on The Nixon Line, with David Nixon. He was assisted on the first programme by Mr Rodney, Rodney Bewes. Guests included Manfred Mann, The Niberco Brothers, and Robert Bartlett. Basil's posh voice, said to be modelled on Terry Thomas, his habit of laughing at his own jokes, and his catchphrase "boom boom" exasperated his sidekicks but proved a hit with children and adults.

Basil was created by Ivan Owen from a puppet designed by Peter Firmin. Owen was always at great pains to maintain the illusion that Basil was a real fox and steadfastly kept out of the limelight himself. Basil was supported by a succession of straight men after Bewes, notably Mr Derek (Fowlds), Mr Roy (North), Mr Howard (Williams) and Mr Billy (Boyle). Later, Basil was a regular on Crackerjack. Basil's popularity was such that he often shared top billing in pantomime and summer seasons with human stars.

Basil Brush - From the Illustrated London News, Thursday the 2nd of November 1972.Basil though remains a huge star today but has diversified as they say, appearing at cult music festivals, and even his own side line of selfies, birthday cards, and toys. However, when we were filming in the studios, he was so clever in making you forget he was not real – I think part of his great appeal is the Terry Thomas voice, and the fact he makes fun of everyone in a kind way, around him – He is a bit like Keith Harris and Orville – everyone loved the duck and believed that Keith actually had a talking duck, which is laughable in itself.

Left - Basil Brush - From the Illustrated London News, Thursday the 2nd of November 1972.

My time with Basil though truly came to a reality when after filming we spotted the current owner of the fox packing him away in a backpack, and without realizing it the famous Basil Tail, was sticking out of the zipper as he left the studios. Quite what people made of this sight on the tube remains to be found out, but it was an odd sight when you believed it so much while on camera.

I hope you have enjoyed our short trip down memory lane looking at some acts who despite being over 70 are still going strong today and appear never to age.

Until next time Best Wishes 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 shares memories of The North Pier Theatre, Blackpool

An early postcard depicting the North Pier, Blackpool - Courtesy Roy Cross

Above - An early postcard depicting the North Pier, Blackpool - Courtesy Roy Cross - The production at the Theatre was 'On With The Show' which ran until the 1950s.

Ann Montini with Matt Monro Jr - Courtesy Ann Montini.Bernard Delfont was without doubt one of the greatest showmen who ever worked in the world of show business here in the UK, and that really was the start of our conversation when I sat down with Matt Monro Jr.

Right - Ann Montini with Matt Monro Jr - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Yes, that son of that Matt Monro, who we all loved thanks to wonderful hit songs like 'Born Free', 'From Russia with Love', and of course 'Walk Away', but Matt Jr. was also keen to talk about his brilliant father, and in particular as to how hard he worked while appearing at club's, theatres, and of course wonderful summer seasons like the one he starred in in 1963, and the North Pier Theatre Blackpool.

Now the North Pier Theatre really should be part of the heritage brand, as so much theatre history has taken place there in this great venue, which has now been renamed the 'Joe Longthorne Theatre', in honour of another great artiste who also enjoyed huge success there.

The pier was officially opened in a grand ceremony on 21 May 1863, even though the final 50 yards (46 m) had not yet been completed. Although the town only had a population of approximately 4,000, more than 200,000 holiday makers regularly stayed there during the summer months; this included 275,000 admissions in 1863, 400,000 in 1864 and 465,000 the following year. The pier was officially opened by Major Preston, and he and 150 officials then travelled to the Clifton Hotel for a celebratory meal.

A variety programme for Lawrence Wright's 'On With The Show' at the North Pier Theatre, Blackpool, here performed on Sundays in May 1945, and in its 21st consecutive year by then - Kindly donated by Pam Prior.It was of course in 1939 that the now famous Pier Theatre was opened by the impresario Lawrence Wright, and every major star appeared there over the years, but in 1959 Lord Delfont took over the reins of the productions in the summer, and that is how Matt Monro, at the height of his fame, came to star on that famous stage, alongside a great cast of Morecambe and Wise, Russ Shepherd, the Strong Brothers, and the Bernard Delfont Dancers.

Left - A variety programme for Lawrence Wright's 'On With The Show' at the North Pier Theatre, Blackpool, here performed on Sundays at 7pm in May 1945, and in its 21st consecutive year by then - Kindly donated by Pam Prior.

Matt recalls that his father loved working in Blackpool, as he loved the resort for its friendliness, and of course he was getting good money, fame had come around, and more so he was appearing with pals in Eric and Ernie – Matt though admits that his father did at times get a lull in long runs on shows as, "It was the height of the summer right through until the end of the lights, which was at the end of October, and that was a long old run." Matt though recalls his father was rather accident prone, and given to tripping up and all kinds of mishaps, but one accident that happened, and it was not his fault, Matt Jr recalls, "Blackpool is famous for the wind, if you will pardon the expression and what happened was that my father was going down the pier to the theatre which was a fair walk and no train in those days, so you had to walk down no matter who you were, and sadly Dad got caught in the breeze that blew up, and knocked him down, so much so they figured he had broken his arm, but in true showbiz fashion he went on with the show."

Ann Montini with Joe Longthrone and his M.B.E. - Courtesy Ann Montini - © Maycon Pictures.Blackpool North Pier theatre though has had many stars who have felt a ghostly presence, and many claim it happened to them. Another pal from the world of showbiz was none other than the late great Joe Longthrone, who told me that he actually lived on the pier in the theatre and enjoyed it.

Right - Ann Montini with Joe Longthrone and his M.B.E. - Courtesy Ann Montini - © Maycon Pictures.

"I adored the place and yes it could get a bit choppy during the night, when the waves really were crashing up and down, and what people don't realize is that you know its just floorboards in the dressing rooms, and between the cracks and the carpet you really could see the waves coming up."

Joe though told me that the place held special memories simply because of all the greats that had worked that famous stage, including another group of pals of mime, 'The Beverley sisters' who told me how they were so busy in the summer they recorded a couple of their classics hits like 'Mommy kissing Santa Clause' in the famous theatre on a boiling hot day during in July, on a Decca portable recording system.

The Beverley Sisters and all the cast of 'On With The Show' at Blackpool's North Pier Theatre in 1953 - From the Stage Newspaper, Thursday the 30th of July 1953.

Above - The Beverley Sisters and all the cast of 'On With The Show' at Blackpool's North Pier Theatre in 1953 - From the Stage Newspaper, Thursday the 30th of July 1953.

"We were so busy we could not get back down to London to do this, so they decided that they would send up the studio to us, which was quite rare in those days. We did the songs all in one take really, and off they went with the tapes, and we never heard anything virtually until the record came out. Teddie told me though that the theatre was quite magical! It's a huge venue really, not that you would know it, but it's big and we filled it twice nightly for weeks on end, but once the lights and that showbiz glitter hit you, you really had no idea that you were out in the middle of the North Sea singing away to thousands of people. It was such a great time, and people really wanted to enjoy themselves, and stayed on the pier all day too."

Many stars like Dukes and Lee told me that starring on that famous theatre was a badge of honour really, "We looked at that place as our North Palladium. It's like there were two venues, London Palladium and the North Pier Pavilion, because they were so big in size you had to have made it, to fill them really."

Matt Monro Jr. told me also that his father truly felt he had made it appearing on that great stage, "It was without a doubt a career highlight for him, simply because it held great memories, and of course business was huge, and well he was at the top of his game and that cannot be beaten."

Ann Montini with Cannon and Ball - Courtesy Ann Montini.The final word on this wonderful venue has to go to two close pals of mine the very funny Cannon & Ball. Sadly we lost the late Bobby all too soon, but both told me that they could not believe the queues around the block when they starred in the summer season on that stage.

Right - Ann Montini with Cannon and Ball - Courtesy Ann Montini.

"It were odd really when you think because when we arrived we had no idea who the big queue was for, and then they said it was for us, but while we were happy we were also terrified really as then you have the big bosses coming up like Mr Delfont and his team, and then you have all those people 4,000 twice nightly that you have to please, but myself and Bobby," Tommy recalls, "used to love just walking down the pier late at night after the show, when all had gone home, and the lights in the theatre had faded... It was magical in the fact on the one hand hours earlier you had people screaming with laughter, and then it was eerily silent and has two lads from Bolton looking out across that vast auditorium in the North Pier Theatre we knew we had made it."

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 wonderful Des O'Connor

Ann Montini Pictured in the number one dressing  room at the London Palladium with Des O'Connor – © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini Pictured in the number one dressing room at the London Palladium with Des O'Connor – © Maycon Pictures.

The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010 - Photo M.L.

Hearing the sad news about the wonderful variety act Des O'Connor, brought memories of all the fun we had while we visited him in the number one dressing room at the world-famous London Palladium. Des was then back at the theatre he loved so much, and was starring as the Professor in the revival of the musical 'The Wizard of Oz' – Des pointed out as a tribute that the staff at the theatre had placed and framed all his previous appearances at the majestic venue prompting him to quip, "Even I did not think I had been going that long." While starring in the show Des told me that he loved new challenges, and that really was the spark that keep him still very much right in demand all through his career.

Right - The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010 - Photo M.L.

"When I started out in the biz the big break was without doubt Butlin's," he admitted that he found it hard though as, "You had to do everything from bingo caller to lifeguard and while you're young and its fun you do work hard and learn a lot without a doubt." Des also confided that, "I was useless Ann at auditions you see, and I know I lost work because of not being great at them."

He added, "It's because I needed an audience to feed off, and when you do have that, it all goes so well." Des recalled an audition for the Talk of The Town where the great impresario Robert Nesbitt, was holding court and taking people through their paces...

Des O'Connor and his 1,000th Palladium Appearance - From The Stage Newspaper, Thursday the 23rd of November 1972.Des remembered, "I came on and there was a few of us including a great comic called Ron Parry, who did a storm, and then it was me, but I came on and simply told them 'Look I don't think you will want me, as I need an audience and what you will see is not how good I could be but...' and then I hear a voice from the stalls say 'Just get on with it.' Of course it was bad, and I did not get that show, but I learned something really which is don't reveal too much and keep your head on you while doing anything."

Left - Des O'Connor and his 1,000th Palladium Appearance - From The Stage Newspaper, Thursday the 23rd of November 1972.

Des also spent time with the infamous booker of the Stoll Moss circuit, Cissie Williams – Now Cissie was nicknamed the 'Terror of Cranbourne Mansions' where the famous offices were, but in fact Ms. Williams was not really a terror at all as Des told me, "Not many people actually met her, as she loathed meeting acts, not because she disliked them but again, she created her own myth really – she was tough, but she had to be and let me tell you, not that keen on female performers."

"Hylda Baker was one," Des laughed, "Hylda had become an enemy of Cissie and I am not sure why, but they did not get on, which was odd as at that point she was doing great business for Moss, yet Cissie felt she was 'a tad common for the South'."

The Chiswick Empire from a Postcard - Courtesy Dave Gregory of 'Postcards of the Past.'Des also told me that she was well known for attending the first nights at her favourite theatre which was the Chiswick Empire, and always went on a Monday night of a new show, "Acts who needed work would also try to attend this night, for a chance of bumping into Cissie and hopefully being spotted or better still getting some work. The Chiswick Empire was a great theatre." Des recalled that it was, "Because you could earn extra money in many ways, as you could double up at the Palladium, and that was wonderful when you think about it and of course great experience as odd to say both audiences were so different yet so close."

Right - The Chiswick Empire from a Postcard - Courtesy Dave Gregory of 'Postcards of the Past.'

Des adored the London Palladium, and even though he had a great career on TV, he told me that live work was, for him, 'where it's at'. Des also had a stint as the host of Countdown, the afternoon game show, but revealed, "I had no interest in the show really, as there was nothing I could add to it, and that made it hard – I loved the team, and the show, it was just not for me, plus I could not get my head around the prizes as well." he laughed.

Des admitted he was upset when ITV dropped the award-winning Daytime show 'Des & Mel', "I think despite our success it was deemed an expensive show to produce, as we had an audience and all that, but again no one has given such a high daytime audience, but that is how TV works."

Des also told me that acts that he has loved, and that inspired him, include – Freddie Starr – "Great comic and super timing yet, what happened to him in the end broke him I believe, such a shame – I adored Laurel and Hardy, they were brilliant, and I did see them on stage, plus of course I was lucky enough to tour with Buddy Holly – what a young talent he was, but also look at the wonderful music he left behind – we have to be grateful."

Des was the ultimate entertainer. He loved being on stage - entertaining a live audience. He had a fabulous international TV career, presenting his own prime-time TV shows for over 45 years.

Des O'Connor was born in Stepney in London's East End in 1932 to a Jewish cleaner and an Irish binman. Following the outbreak of the Second World War he was evacuated to Northampton. After completing his national service with the Royal Air Force, O'Connor had his first brushes with showbusiness when he began to appear in variety shows, and as a Butlin's Redcoat.

His music career began in 1967 with the release of his first single 'Careless Hands'. The song was closely followed by 'Pretend', which came out in 1968 and went to number one in the singles chart. In total he had four top 10 hits and went on to record 36 albums. However, in 1975 he appeared in a Morecambe and Wise sketch which joked that he could not sing. After being presented with one of his records, Eric Morecambe asks: 'Is this the one where he sings the right notes?'

On that long running gag with the comedy legend Eric he told me, "I was thrilled really because they had such a huge audience, and anytime they attacked me it helped my record sales, but the truth is we were all great pals, and again there will never be another Eric and Ernie." For many there will never be another Des O'Connor, and I was thrilled to meet with him many times, and more importantly call him a friend.

Until next time, Best Wishes, Ann x.

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 glorious summer days of Cinema Variety and the Star Cinema Hornsea

The Star Cinema, Hornsea featuring posters for all the latest films and variety turns including the Miss Hornsea Competition - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Above - The Star Cinema, Hornsea featuring posters for all the latest films and variety turns including the Miss Hornsea Competition - Courtesy Ann Montini.

The Auditorium of the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.Cine-variety was a form of entertainment with a mix of variety acts performing in between the showing of films, all for the price of one admission fee. It was popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland between 1900 and the 1930s, and it came back with a vengeance in the 1950s & 60s when TV was taking over, and many local cinemas, which in fact were better equipped to take on the world of variety given they had bigger seating, screens, stages and of course super lights, really took off.

Right - The Auditorium of the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Which brings me to the memories of the wonderful seaside resort of Hornsea, and the Star Cinema there – I was lucky enough to host some of the shows along with comedian Alan Scott way back in the early 60's ,and what a huge success they turned out to be.

An Advertisement for Attractions at the Star Cinema, Hornsea in 1963 - Courtesy Ann Montini.Located on the coast of East Yorkshire, 14 miles from Hull, it was a conversion of the Assembly Rooms of 1869. It is claimed a silent film was shown there in 1900, but regular cinema commenced in the 1920's. The seats were on one floor, stadium style. The proscenium width was 28ft and the stage is given as 30ft deep, and there were also four dressing rooms.

Left - An Advertisement for Attractions at the Star Cinema, Hornsea in 1963 - Courtesy Ann Montini.

The Star Cinema was taken over by the Leeds based Star Cinemas chain in 1955. It closed in the late-1960's, long before we arrived.

The so called 'King Of Farce' Lord Brian Rix, who was a native of Cottingham near Hull close by, made his professional debut at the Star Cinema / Theatre - "For at the age of 12, I played the part of Hercules, a page, with all of one line to speak, in my local amateur operatic society's production of 'The Sorcerer' at the Star Cinema in Hornsea, East Yorkshire. It was great fun and a huge experience really for a child, and cemented the idea that I could of course land a role in the world of theatre. I adored the place, but I think you do when its your first professional job."

A Page from a Programme for the Star Cinema, Hornsea in 1962 - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Above - A Page from a Programme for the Star Cinema, Hornsea in 1962 - Courtesy Ann Montini.

A 1960s Bus passing by the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.The Star Cinema held a huge place in the heart of the locals, and the manager at the time was in fact a great showman called Don. He would make sure, unlike today, to advertise and let everyone know from holiday makers to locals that you were there – Huge billboards and signs not just in town, but outside the theatre too, and also en route to the resort you could see your posters at various turn points and it made you feel very star like. We all adored it and of course Hornsea then was a thriving town with plenty of hotels and guest houses.

Right - A 1960s Bus passing by the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.

We were assigned by Don to stay at the local pro's house of Mrs Clark she was a wonderful lady who kept a "clean house" despite it been frequented by theatre folk as they say.

The Star was a huge attraction in the town because Don made it that way, and the nearest rival theatre was in fact the Floral Hall down the road, which also had star names playing full summer seasons and Sunday concerts – What we all loved and remember is that we were all very young and very eager to please. There were full houses nightly, plus Don would secure various stars to pop along to the cinema and plug their latest films such as Norman Wisdom and Ted Ray – Comics would do that back then, even the actresses from the Rank studios because it was simply bums on seats, and of course a chance to meet the stars in person.

The Entrance to the Star Cinema, Hornsea in the 1960s - Courtesy Ann Montini.Our season was a huge success largely down to the great idea of cine variety, with the local children who would get to see our acts in between the cartoons and films – We enjoyed it and I am sure some of the children did, plus the adults would bring the children in and make more money at the box office.

Left - The Entrance to the Star Cinema, Hornsea in the 1960s - Courtesy Ann Montini.

The other big pull was a local talent show which was also open to holiday makers that would be run over various dates. Now to give you an idea of what prizes you could win... well a bottle of beer, fruit, chocolate and the big prize was a tape recorder, because in this competition it had a gimmick 'Tape a Tune!'

The Winner and Runner Up of 'Tape a Tune' on stage at the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.That was where the contestant would tape a tune and the winner would receive the brand-new state of the art portable tape recorder. The thing is we only had one tape machine to last the season so no matter how good you were, it had to be given out on the final night.

Right - The Winner and Runner Up of 'Tape a Tune' on stage at the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Cine-variety was used to keep stage comedians in work during the early days of silent films and talking films later on, so this really came back into fashion in a battle to win people back into theatres and cinemas – We enjoyed so many stars during that summer who would call in while doing their own summer seasons. Who recalls the great singer Ronnie Hilton – He also bought a restaurant in the town and was a great success – Not only did he bring all the ladies in with him, but he was charming and such good fun, and very positive to all us young people starting out in the business as it were.

The Second Prize winner of 'Tape a Tune' on stage at the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.Others included greats like Wilfred Pickles who was broadcasting in nearby Bridlington with his show 'Have a Go', and again he had such a huge following and was such a nice man, plus he was a true Yorkshireman and was so good with the public.

Left - The Second Prize winner of 'Tape a Tune' on stage at the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.

With the summer season it was hard work as you were "On" all the time and were really always meeting the public with local garden parties and events that you had to attend in order to make the locals come to the event – We also did PR pictures with the Donkeys on the beach, posed for endless snaps with local holiday makers all the while handing out flyers and posters telling them to come along to the "show."

Alan Scott with the winner of 'Tape a Tune' in the foyer of the Star Cinema, Hornsea, being presented with the infamous tape recorder - Courtesy Ann Montini.As the glorious summer came to a close and the season had been deemed a success it was only then that the now top of the range hi fidelity tape recorder could be won by a contestant, and they did.

Right - Alan Scott with the winner of 'Tape a Tune' in the foyer of the Star Cinema, Hornsea, being presented with the infamous tape recorder - Courtesy Ann Montini.

What a night it was and such a brilliant end to the season. The local guy who won the competition was in fact a policeman so he was thrilled as he was also a budding rock and roll star, this was just before the explosion of The Beatles.

Finally no great holiday summer season could be complete without the Town Beauty Contest.

A Poster for the Grand Final of 1962's 'Miss Hornsea' Contest at the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.Following World War Two, a number of seaside resorts around the country introduced beauty contests as attractions, which immediately evolved into the national competition we know today as Miss World and Miss Great Britain. The sixties saw the beginning of the decline in British seaside holidays with families increasingly able to afford trips abroad. So Manager Don again came to the rescue with the brilliant Miss Hornsea competition.

Left - A Poster for the Grand Final of 1962's 'Miss Hornsea' Contest at the Star Cinema, Hornsea - Courtesy Ann Montini.

It was a huge success, and many girls from around the country came to take part as well as many locals girls, but the prizes in that era ranged from a bottle of Wine to a bottle of Shampoo, and the star prize for the winner was nothing less than a Playtex girdle – can you imagine, dare to offer that in today's age.

I was asked to be one of the judges on the shows which proved a tad difficult as many women don't like another female judge on the panel as they find it competition, but we all became good friends with each other back stage. But it was fraught with difficulties in that you had to deal with broken heels, snagged tights, and costumes that may have fitted a few years back but maybe not right now. The runner up's I believe also got to meet the king of farce himself Brian Rix who was a regular at the theatre simply because of his locality and being from Hull which was around 20 miles up the road.

The site of the Star Cinema, Hornsea today - Courtesy Ann Montini.I do think the beauty contests were great fun, and paved the way for many into the world of showbiz, as they gave confidence plus they were all featured in the local papers, and had their pictures taken with the Town Mayor. Not bad really, and of course during the heats they all became local celebrities with many going on to other contests around the UK like Morecambe, Blackpool, and Brighton.

Right - The site of the Star Cinema, Hornsea today - Courtesy Ann Montini.

As the posters were taken down and all the dresses were packed up, plus saying goodbye to the wonderful theatre digs we had called home for so long, we had another offer from the same cinema theatre group, who were offering a similar deal for a stint in one of their venues, doing, yet again, Cine Variety – That location was Bacup, but that is another story all together.

Until next time, Very Best Wishes, 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 recalls The Vale Cinema - Mirfield – West Yorkshire

The Vale Cinema, Mirfield, West Yorkshire in 1939 - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Above - The Vale Cinema, Mirfield, West Yorkshire in 1939 - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Ann Montini at the Circle Entrance to the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield, and Vale Cinema insert - Courtesy Ann Montini.Welcome to the Vale Cinema in Mirfield, or should I say the former Vale in Mirfield – This venue has a rich history, and many forget just how many cinemas like this also operated as part time theatres too, involved in all the wonderful local talent from panto, scenery painters, and of course visiting stars that appeared there.

Right - Ann Montini at the Circle Entrance to the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield, and Vale Cinema insert - Courtesy Ann Montini.

The Vale Cinema was designed by Messrs. Fairhurst & Poppleton, it opened on October the 23rd, 1939 with the film "There Goes My Heart". The foyer was large and had a shop on either side, above was a 150-seat café.

Ann Montini outside the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield, and Vale Cinema insert - Courtesy Ann Montini in 2020.The café was considered the crème de la crème simply because the wide open windows meant you could be seen taking lunch or afternoon tea by all the shoppers on the busy main road below and believe me, you had to have had some money to dine there.

Left - Ann Montini outside the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield, and Vale Cinema insert - Courtesy Ann Montini in 2020.

The choice of movie for the opening was simply that the studios of Hal Roach at the time, which made the famous Laurel and Hardy movies, were virtually giving away this movie to screen to gain wider exposure, and the canny people of the Vale knew this would without doubt make a lot of money, and above all, it was free too. The auditorium, in Art Deco style, seated 1,000 in the stalls and single balcony.

Phil Thompson, pianist at the Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.The Vale played host to many visiting stars who, while appearing at the local Empire's, Hippodromes, or Palaces, would pop along (for a fee) to help promote their films of the day, not just great variety acts like Norman Evans, Nat Jackley, and Dan Young, (the Dude Comedian), the stars of the day would arrive and simply pop out onto the vast Vale stage, and do a bit of their act, and then plug the film, and no doubt their theatre dates that were local, along with any pantomime appearance too.

Right - Phil Thompson, pianist at the Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.

The stars were not just variety though, the Vale also welcome huge names from the world of films like former Windmill Girl Jean Kent, and even Pinewood film heartthrob Derek Bond, who were instructed to go out "and meet the people who actually like the films. So they did.

A Talent Show with Al Scott at the back - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Above - A Talent Show with Al Scott at the back - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Al Scott on the stage at The Vale Theatre / Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Monitin.The Vale though hosted many other things including a talent show which was called "Top Town", a genius idea that basically pitted two local towns against each other for talent, with various prizes from money to a hair dryer for the various runners up.

Local comedian Al Scott recalled, "It was a huge event as there was normally a star name compare hosting, and you were invited to audition, and then they would decide if you could make the grade to actually appear, it was not an easy, way and you had to be good."

Right - Al Scott on the stage at The Vale Theatre / Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Monitin.

Alan also remembers all the local newspapers coming along to interview the potential stars of the day, and even BBC Radio broadcasting highlights on the light programme, but above all he says, "There was always a chance of a big agent coming along and seeing you perform, and maybe signing you up, the show" he adds, "was a huge deal, as big as BGT or The X Factor today, and the audiences were, as they were all locals, really all fighting for there own town.

The offer to appear on the Vale Cinema Talent Show - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Above - The offer to appear on the Vale Cinema Talent Show - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Of course the Cinema was a great welcome for all these families coming along to support their loved ones and paying for the privilege too. With so many seats full over so many nights, it helped the cinema secure bigger and better films, along with variety shows on the stage, through this money making scheme.

George Sewell, AKA Alex Lee and George Morrell, on stage at the Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.The pictures show the line up of two Top Town shows with the cast which was massive from the late 50's and Alan cant quite remember which town in the end was considered the best, but as Alan also mentioned, "You see, basically you got a professional lighting set up, microphone, tabs, and above all you were standing on the stage of your hero's, like The Goons and Al Reed, who all came to The Vale at some point, so it gave you a real feel of how it might be if you were a professional right from the start."

Right - George Sewell, AKA Alex Lee and George Morrell, on stage at the Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Also pictured in action on the stage of The Vale was a great man called George Sewell – Now George was a very talented guy, and very important team member of The Vale, as he was in charge of the lighting and chief electrician also, but in his other guise was a great variety and club turn, who went under the name of Alex Lee and George Morrell, and achieved great success on the halls and on radio too.

The Vale Cinema, Mirfield during its Bingo years in the 1960s - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Above - The Vale Cinema, Mirfield during its Bingo years in the 1960s - Courtesy Ann Montini.

The side elevation of the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.With the advent of more and more people buying TV sets and the decline of variety with great theatres like the Dewsbury Empire and Huddersfield Theatre Royal being pulled down, it was only a matter of time before the Vale went the same way. It closed and became a bingo casino in the early 1960's then, rather nicely, made a return to films when the balcony was split into 2 mini cinemas with the former stalls continuing on bingo. These opened in 1972.

Right - The side elevation of the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.

It did help keep the venue alive for a little longer but long gone were the days of visiting stars like the ultra-glamorous Diana Dors in the fifties while filming in nearby Batley with "Value for Money" – The Cinema was left a little red faced, when it emerged that the sex bomb actually was not coming to Batley at all, but a stand in would be used for the long shots and that Ms Dors would film all her stuff in the studios in London. Still Diana did send flowers, and explained she was simply too busy, but the film then premiered locally in Batley and at Dewsbury Playhouse so there may have been some noses put out of joint.

The rear elevation of the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.In the 1980's, the bingo operation moved to the former cafe, and snooker took over in the auditorium downstairs.

Left - The rear elevation of the former Vale Cinema, Mirfield - Courtesy Ann Montini.

The cinemas sadly closed in February 1994. And today, as you can see from these exclusive pictures, the cinema remains in tact as a building if not as a cinema.

Locals would love to see a return to a venue where live entertainment could once again be seen but right now as ever it's shops, but everything comes a full circle right?

Until next time, Good Wishes, 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 Pavilion Cinema / Theatre in Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury

Ann Montini in her Theatre Dressing Room - © Maycon Pictures.

Above - Ann Montini in her Theatre Dressing Room - © Maycon Pictures.

The Pavilion Theatre, Dewsbury - Courtesy Ann Montini.When we think of variety we often forget that the huge cinema chains, and the not so big ones also, helped keep variety alive – This was more often the case during the very lucrative pantomime season. Now, Dewsbury of course lost its wonderful Empire Theatre in 1955 when the doors finally closed but left the now infamous poster of the wonderful act Issy Bonn hanging up outside for years, making, as he often joked, "Like I was that bad I closed it down".

Right - The Pavilion Theatre, Dewsbury - Courtesy Ann Montini.

Arriving in the town recently I was dismayed looking around at just what a vibrant entertainment place it had been including the surrounding districts – I myself having played many times at various venues in the area when just a child with a concert group. Dewsbury though did have the luxury Playhouse Theatre which also had a rather special restaurant that you went to when you wanted to be seen… and of course the great Cinema / Theatres like The Tudor which from time to time also put on acts and special appearances to keep pulling the Northern Crowds in. Then came of course the old Pioneer Theatre, Dewsbury which still exists in some form today and people are hopeful of a return to live events.

The Pavilion Theatre, Dewsbury - Courtesy Ann Montini.However, here I am outside the now defunct Pavilion Cinema in Ravensthorpe which also has a rich theatre history, anyone remember the Saturday matinees, Morning ABC Minors Dewsbury? It all went on here which was considered a gem of a picture palace as it also had a stage area which was great for local talent shows and visiting stars.

Left - The Pavilion Theatre, Dewsbury - Courtesy Ann Montini.

It is 2 miles southwest of Dewsbury and was opened by 1914, it went all posh in 1931 & 1942 and had an AWH sound system, which according to the blurb "enhanced the cinema going experience". It is not known when it exactly closed but it was still operating in 1966, showing all the big movies including Bond and those now much loved Kitchen sink drama films of the early 60s.

The cinema though did try and compete with various pantomimes with lesser known stars and also received visits during the war from many stars of the era, including Tommy Trinder, who for a while was trying his best to become a film star too, and the man with the Uke, the one and only George Formby, called over from when he was appearing at the Empire in Leeds to pop up on stage and introduce his film which was playing during that period. Imagine though the excitement of the fans who just thought they would see George only on the big screen.

The cinema also had a balcony, which was seen as very posh, and rather more expensive to sit up there, as tea and ices were served directly to you. Lots of stars appeared at the Pavilion over the years while at the surrounding theatres, including the comic Frank Randle, and Harry Corris, who were part of the famous Manchurian film company. Frank loved the area and also saw the chance as ever to make a few extra bob while appearing at the nearby Halifax Palace too.

The cinema also hosted various BBC shows as it was seen as a safe place to broadcast from, not being that well known, and we know that Yorkshire favourite Wilfred Pickles and his team came along with the show "Have a Go" more than once, with his wife Mable at the table with the money - Also the great BBC show "Workers' Playtime", transmitted by the BBC between 1941 and 1964, came from the cinema on at least one occasion, as the canteens of the local nearby mills were not considered big enough for the event – the series was originally intended as a morale-booster for industrial workers in Britain during World War II, the programme was broadcast at lunchtime, three times a week, live from a factory canteen "somewhere in Britain". Initially, it was broadcast simultaneously on both the BBC Home Service and Forces Programme then from 1957 onwards solely on the Light Programme. For all its 23 years each show concluded with the words from the show's producer, Bill Gates: "Good luck, all workers!"

A Google StreetView Image of the former Dewsbury Pavilion Theatre - Click to Interact.The demise of the Pavilion cinema / theatre eventually came about we believe in the early 80s when it was used as a storage place and some attempts to keep it alive as a bingo hall, but then in 2005 it was a Fitness Connection gymnasium, which it still is in 2020. It could still easily be turned back into a great place of entertainment and it was great to wallow in the place and wonder what it must have been like all those years ago when so many big stars came to such a small cinema.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the former Dewsbury Pavilion Theatre - Click to Interact.

The last memory must go to comedian Al Scott who performed at the venue with his tribute act to the late great Jimmy James and his sketch "It's in the box". According to Alan, who had enjoyed huge success with his take off, and with the blessing of Jimmy himself, came to a reality check when the real Jimmy James popped along to the pavilion in the late 50's to watch the act in action as he was appearing nearby at the Empire in Leeds... The verdict, "Keep going" - what a shame the Pavilion did not do the same.

Until next time, Best Wishes, 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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