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My Transition from Actor to International Stage Illusionist

 

I’ve talked about “Zee & Co.” so often. Well, here’s a chance for those who never saw my Act (and there must be millions of the General Public, and those who are too young) and also those kind and wonderful people who follow my Blog. To see it.

Remember these T.V. performances were filmed in 1980-81, before the age of electronics and all those gimmicks that could be added to Illusions. This is just plain Magic, and also you have the opportunity of seeing the lovely Angie, (who I talk about all the time) in action.

I’ve also added Cannon and Ball into this video, because at the time they were at the peak in their career, and it was a great privilege for me to be included in their T.V.Special that we performed live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. We then went on to do a season with them at the Apollo Theatre, Coventry. They are well worth watching.   Enjoy!!!

 

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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Treat yourself to a room on the Amtrak Train. Something I’ve always promised myself, for years. Well, don’t bother!!!

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Grand Union Railway Station

I Took the Amtrak Train from New York to Fort Lauderdale, Florida from the Grand Union Railway Station, New York as a gift to myself. This time I booked a room. That’s a laugh! You can forget it! Big mistake!!! Fortunately, I listened to the Amtrak Assistant at the Office who insisted that I send at least 2 sets of luggage on in advance. Because, as she said “There is not a lot of room in the room.” How right she was, and thank God I did. Otherwise I’d have been up shit creek without a paddle!

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The Room without 1 Suitcase and 1 Holdall.

The room is supposed to be for 2 people. I can tell you that if a married couple did the trip and shared the room, they would be starting divorce proceedings the moment they arrived at their destination! To use the toilet come shower you would have to climb over or knock out the other person. Once inside this combined toilet come shower, you would just have to pray that you don’t suffer from claustrophobia or have diarrhea! What do people do who are a little on the large size? I really dread to think! The toilet seat is so small (only for little bums) that you sit there with both cheeks clamped together. Everything you have to do in that room has to be at your own risk, and I’m sure there is a notice there to that effect.

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THIS IS THE TOILET COME SHOWER WITH THE DOOR OPEN

In the main room (that’s another laugh), there is a lighted button which says call for Attendant. There are only two rooms in total on the train. But does the Attendant come? Oh! No! He’s busy sitting in the Restaurant Car talking to the rest of the other Attendants. So you need to go and find him should you require anything.

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Come time to turn down the bed, by the time the double bed is made up there is a 6inch gap between the wash-hand basin and the bed.

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Have you ever tried to squeeze through a 6inch gap? By the time you are through, you need the kiss of life! I’m sure that you would be better off and have more room in a prison cell!

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So all those wonderful moments that I dreamed about as a child when I would go to the cinema with Rose. Those great moments in the old B Movies when the Gangsters would shoot it out and Romance also took place, all in on an Amtrak Train in a private Room. All those moment couldn’t have happened on this train or this room!

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All my hopes of living through those wonderful moments were dashed to the ground. Here I was on the luxurious Silver Amtrak Train in a cubby hole! The rooms on the Amtrak Train in the movies didn’t exist. They must have had some Dramatic License when they made the Films and just stretched the Rooms!  In the 60’s Ray and I went from Miami to New York on Amtrak, and at that time I booked couchettes thinking it was a room. It wasn’t it was bunk beds ( I didn’t know any better) But it finished up like a scene from “Some Like it Hot”, except we didn’t have Marylyn Monroe or Tony Curtis or Jack Lemmon to accompany us and liven things up! 

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Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like It Hot”

That trip was awful! So, this time I made sure and booked a room, and what happens I’ve done it again with this room.

The room was definitely made for very, very, very little people   Even Janet Krankie would have found it a tight squeeze, and that was without Ian. Well maybe she could have always sat on his knee as Wee Jimmy and they could have done their brilliant Vent Act.

JANET KRANKIE VENT

Janet and Ian as Wee Jimmy doing their Vent Act.

But that wouldn’t be possible with the Political Correctness that they have these days.  There! It just all goes to show you! Another dream shattered!!!

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

The Two PeopleWho Hold A Very Special Place In My Heart

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The Statue of Liberty, New York

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Ray and Angie

It was such a joy for me to return again to New York, just to see my beloved Angie once again. The happiness of seeing her once more, gives me such a warm and glad feeling in my heart. She has never changed, just the same sweet girl who I first met many years ago through George Kovari the Magician. When I think about it, it was George who literally forced me to engage her to become my principle assistant in “Zee & Co.”, and I thank God that he nagged and badgered me, and cajoled me, and insisted that I take her. I am indebted to him forever, otherwise a part of my heart would be empty and I would have lost out completely!

(This is a note that Angie gave me)

ANGIE'S ENVELOPE

RAY AND ANGIE BARONS KEEP

 Ray and Angie in our flat in Barons Keep    

ANGIES LETTER NO.2.

My first night there we ate Dinner again at the delightful ‘Trattoria del Arte’, with Randy her husband who took time out to see me from his busy work schedule. The food was excellent as always, plenty of Pino Grigio Wine which happens to be my favorite. It was there that she showed me the photo of herself and Ray, which she promised to have copied for me, before I left New York.

The noise in the Restaurant of the New Yorkers enjoying their food and talking happily was something I had forgotton about. It was so loud but everybody was enjoying themselves and having a good time, and that really is what life is all about. I had just forgotten that I was back in New York.

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New York at Night

BRAODWAY LIGHTS 2018

The Lights of Broadway

Angie took me to see 2 shows whilst I was in New York.

“Boys in the Band” and “Anastasia”

The “Boys in the Band” I was so disappointed in, for one thing apart from the 3 principles Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto and Matt Bomer, I couldn’t hear a lot of what the rest of the cast were saying. Of course! At my age I could be going deaf! It wasn’t a bit like I remembered it, and to be truthful I didn’t really enjoy it. I was told later by my very good friend Judson Barteaux when we met again for lunch, when I was in Fort Lauderdale, that part of the script had been changed “Political Correctness” why is it that a part of a play or even more seriously part of the World’s History and Heritage is just being changed and lost forever? This is a question that bothers me constantly. We are losing our very existence. Why, do people want to change everything? When it’s not even for the better!

Anyway to round off the evening we went to Sardi’s for dinner, this happens to be one of my favorite Restaurants. Very Theatrical!

SARDI'S NEW YORK FOR BLOG

The following night  we did Joe Allen’s, another one of my favorites. Great food at both Restaurants. Theatrical also! Can’t help it the Theatre’s in my blood!

JOE ALLEN NEW YORK STREET

Now! “Anastasia” that was another thing altogether, Christy Altomare who plays Anastasia is outstanding. The whole Show is quite amazing! It has to be one of the best shows on Broadway. You just cannot fault it, it is perfection! When it comes to London see it and enjoy it. It should be No.1 on your bucket list.                                                                Then a last lunch at Barney’s with Angie and Randy

BARNEYS NEW YORK

Barneys New York

NB. (I have to explain that Barney’s is a sort of cross between Fortnum & Mason and Harrods all rolled into one. Quite Ritzy!)

That is when she gave the the framed photo. and the following morning I caught the Amtrak Train to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Which is another story. To be continued:-

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

How Wrong Can a Person Be!

Since publishing the article The “Battling Broads” Myth or True?  on August 22nd, 2012, there has been a continuation to the story of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the 2017 TV mini series “FEUD”.

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A new mini series has been produced called “FEUD” starring Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. Both are brilliant in their portrayals.

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The real life ladies and the emulations of Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange.

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This goes to disprove my assumption that their FEUD was just a publicity stunt. I was WRONG! But one can’t be right all the time. I was just going from the news I could gather about their film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” and the stills from the said film. My research went no further back than that. I had no idea of the history of these two stars from their beginnings in Hollywood.

Well now, I don’t have to bother! The researchers of “FEUD” have done it for me.

I have to eat my words (within reason). Davis and Crawford, were both very hard nuts to crack.

With Bette Davis, what was on her lung was on her tongue, she took no bullshit from anyone. So you knew exactly where you stood with her. If she liked you, O.K, but if she didn’t! ‘Run for the hills!!!

Crawford on the other hand was even more dangerous and evil. Her behavior was more snakelike. She was devious and by the time she had finished with you, and used you, and abused you, she then threw you out. If you were lucky, you didn’t finish up with a knife in your back!

I have nothing but praise for this mini series and the work that went into the research into the history, backgrounds and relationship of these two stars, which went back to almost the beginning of their careers. This I didn’t do. Just goes to show you that they really did hate one another.

The research is quite amazing and must have taken months or even years to plan and organize, and the portrayals by Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford are quite brilliant! “FEUD” is a must for every film buff.

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This is a recreation of their original pose.

FEUD ORIGINAL CHAIR PHOTO

The casting as a whole is superb. I have but two complaints. The character of Olivia De Havilland as played by Catherine Zeta Jones, a very talented actress in her own right, was not a bit like Olivia De Havilland as I remember her. Joan Blondell. meanwhile, was played by the superb and charismatic actress Kathy Bates, but they made her look as much like Joan Blondell as Lassie! Not their fault at all! Just put it down to very bad casting or very, very, very bad make-up!!! 

Outstanding, among the supporting players is:

JACKIE HOFFMAN AS Momacita. What a brilliant piece of acting, for which I believe she was nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actress in a mini series. Unfortunately lost out to another actress, to which she said, “DAMN IT!”, and I don’t blame her!

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Posted by on May 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Sir Ken Dodd R.I.P.

SIR KEN DODD RECEIVING AWARD

It is with deep sadness that I heard of the death of Ken Dodd,

KEN DODD and ZEE in Scarborough 1978

Eric and Ken in Liverpool

because without Ken Dodd there would never have been any international illusionist “ZEE & CO.” Ken Dodd gave me my break, my first chance as an illusionist. In fact, he gave me everything! He told John Redgrave, who was the producer of the show at the time during rehearsals, “Whatever he wants give him!”, and he did.

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I’m  happy to say that I worked with Ken for almost a year and enjoyed every moment of it. I got to know both Ken and Anne really well. All this was in 1968/69.                                                                                                                                                He was to me a very kind gentleman and a brilliantly ‘clean’ comic who I used to watch nightly when he was doing the first nightly show of two.  He was generous in every possible way (except where money was concerned!), but that’s another story. As you know by now, I can’t make a story short! I am inclined to go round my ‘arse to get to my elbow’ as the poet says!

Zee in the Ken Dodd Show in Scarborough 1988

Being with Ken for nearly a year gave me all the time to perfect and hone and polish the act. Within 2 years we, “Zee & Co”, were at the London Palladium, and during all this time Angie was with me. In fact, she was with me for nearly two years earlier whilst we were trying to sort out the act. My beloved Angie who, God willing, I will be seeing later this year in New York.

How It All Happened

I had already done a gala show at the Adelphi Theatre in London where I had a load of photos taken. They looked really good and impressive.

My Agent at the time, Anne Zahl, had booked me a TV appearance on “The Good Old Days” at the Theatre Royal in Leeds. The theatre ran a variety show all through the week and televised “The Good Old Days” live on a Sunday. Each act had just one hour to set up and rehearse. That is impossible for an illusion act! Add to that that having to perform live in the evening show, and you have a recipe for disaster!

It was  terrifying!  The Leeds Theatre Royal was the oldest music hall in England and had the worst stage rake (a slope or incline) on any stage. Of course, Anne had forgotten to tell me this, and all my illusions were on wheels! No brakes!!! So no sooner had we got on stage than everything started rolling into the audience. We didn’t know how to stop them. In fact, we couldn’t! Well to cut a long story short, it was a disaster! Fortunately, they cut me out of the show, and quite rightly so.              Well, going back to Ken, Ann Zahl told me that I should go and see him. Ken, who was playing in a summer season in Scarborough, Yorkshire, at the time, loved magic. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t contact him herself. Maybe she had seen the “Good Old Days”!  

I was very dubious about going all the way to Scarborough without an appointment and waiting outside the stage door when he might not even see me. It was not really me! It was definitely not really me at all! But then again? Thinks…….!! Oh fuck it! I decided I’d go, and thank God I did!                                                                                  

After waiting at the stage door for an eternity, he saw me. He was intrigued with my past history as an actor, owner of the Casino de Paris and my photos. He told me that he was reopening The Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool, which had been closed for years, for Christmas 1968. The show would run for eight weeks and he would give me a contract for the whole run of the show at the princely sum of  £135 a week for the act, which included Me, Ray, Angie, two boy assistants, my leopard Scorpio, Suki the Chinchilla Cat and all the Illusions. He said, “Either you are very, very good or very bad!” If the truth be told, I would have done it for nothing!

Whilst waiting to start rehearsals, Ken phoned me to tell me that a few magicians had told him that my act was terrible, so bad that it had been cut it out of the “Good Old Days”. He was a little worried, understandably, and thought that although he felt right about me, he would like to give me a two week trial. I told him that if it had been my choice I would have done exactly the same. So two weeks it was going to be.

When we finally opened, it proved to be an enormous success because I was presented properly and Ken let me close the first half of the Show. Even so, all this time I was worrying about the two weeks trial. Would he keep me or wouldn’t he?

Ken never said a word during the whole two weeks, and I wouldn’t ask for fear that he would say I had to go. Everybody I spoke to said of course I was staying on, but Ken himself hadn’t told me anything. So, on the Friday night before my two weeks was up I finally plucked up the courage and I knocked on his dressing room door and asked him whether we were staying.   

“Of course laddie,” he said. “Whatever made you think you weren’t?”

What a load off my mind that was. (Magicians eat your hearts out!)

KEN DODD SCARBOROUGH

So to you, Sir Ken Dodd, I thank you a million times  for your kindness and generosity of what you gave to me.  Ken Dodd, you were a great man! You gave me everything that was good for “Zee & Co.” I bow my head to you. May you always stay ‘tickling’ them up in Heaven!

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“God Rest Your Soul”.

Royal Variety Performance party at the Intercontinental Hotel, London, Britain - 04 Dec 2006

Lady Anne Dodd, nee Jones, and Ken. Thank God he married her! She deserves it, and may she stay Blessed Always.

Eric x x x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“San Simeon” My Folly!

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Let’s start with the Definition of the word “FOLLY”. 

A lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight. A foolish act or idea, and an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking. Which includes: “Ricky Renee’s”, “Stringer’s Last Stand” Eric Lindsay’s “Folies de Londres”, etc. etc. etc: and last but not least “San Simeon”.

Stupidity and extravagance, that goes into making up part of the definition of Folly, and I regret to say all these things pertain to me. I think I must be the idiot who invented the word Folly

When Ray and I decided on moving to Spain after the run of the Magic Castle Show at the Cambridge Theatre in London.

Ray wanted to buy an apartment on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

I wanted to build a house, because the cost of building on the Costa del Sol was so reasonable at the time. Who was I fooling! Folly!!!

I didn’t know it didn’t include, the excavation, the retaining walls, the paving to the villa, a swimming pool, the land fill, you name it, it didn’t include it.  

The house I designed was a brilliantly extravagant and picturesque structure that was built to my fanciful taste, and I have to say I planned it well. In fact it was my ‘Folly’! It had white marble floors throughout, Cazares stone Paving and Retaining Walls. Solar Panel Heating. You name it the Villa had it.

SAN SIMEON FRONT AND ENTRANCE

A view of the layout of the villa. It was large!

SAN SIMEON FRONT AND ENTRANCE THRU TO ATRIUM

The main entrance to San Simeon, looking through to the center atrium.With the barbeque.

SAN SIMEON FRONT AND ENTRANCE ENLARGED

On closer look the two candelabra in the entrance were an exact copy of those in the film Sunset Boulevard. Ray loved that film, so I had them made.

 SAN SIMEON CENTRE ATRIUM

Inside the villa to the center atrium

 SAN SIMEON CENTRE ATRIUM ADRIENNE

The atrium set for a dinner party. This was a usual occurrence during the summer months. Otherwise we would eat on the terrace or in the dining room.

SAN SIMEON TERRACE AND SCORPIO'S CAGE AREA

The Terrace from Scorpio’s Cage, so he could see me constantly. It also overlooked the Pool. This is me on the front terrace, with my Agent Jamie Phillips who happened to be staying.

SAN SIMEON SCORPIO'S CAGE AREA

Scorpio in his cage with all mod cons and a dormitory for him to sleep. Also he could watch the comings and goings of all ad infinitum.

SCORPIO BEINF FED IN SPAIN

Here I am feeding Scorpio by hand in his cage, which I did every day. That is how tame he was.

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This is a photo of my beautiful tame leopard Scorpio.

SAN SIMEON FRONT OF VILLA FROM STREET VIEW 1

Front view of the villa from the road. The little roof to the right of the terrace was where Scorpio’s cage and dormitory was. The Hollywood Double Staircase led down to the Pool Area.

SAN SIMEON FRONT OF VILLA FROM STREET 2

A secondary view of the Villa from the road.

Paying so much for the land was Folly, because the Builder that was recommended to us, by ‘friends’ (who most probably got a cut) robbed us and the plot of land that we original picked for the house, was in a different position to where our builder intended to build it. Most probably he got his plot a whole lot cheaper. Everything was completely different to where we had originally agreed. It was all a disaster!!! 

 

He refused to return our deposit.  Big fiasco! Money lost!!! (That was a time when I really needed Sadie’s Frank, or someone who could do maybe knee caps!)

So it meant getting another builder and starting all over again.

Ray tried to talk me out of it and normally when he made his case I would always listen and do as he said. After all he always knew best.

But I didn’t know he was ill and he hadn’t the strength to stand up to me to make his point.

So I went ahead and designed my dream house.

Idiot that I was. What a stupid action and idea it was on my part.

SAN SIMEON LOUNGE 1

The lounge, looking through to the dining room. 

SAN SIMEON SPAIN. THE LOUNGE

The other end of the Lounge leading to Ray’s Bedroom.

SAN SIMEON SPAIN. THE LOUNGE

The dining area

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Me with my “Soungeroff Clown”

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The Kitchen

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The full Kitchen

So by now you must fully understand the definition of the word Folly. My Folly!!! A popular name for a very costly structure that I had built. Where ignorance is bliss it is Folly to be wise.

Thesaurus explains it as; a building or project that costs a lot of money. How right they were! What the Hell! 

SAN SIMEON STUDY & I OF THE 4 MASTER BEDROOMS

This was my Study that I built for myself, full of Magic.

Zee had this wonderful contract to Star in a new Revue at the Scala Cabaret in Barcelona and also Madrid, which was Spain’s equivalent to the Lido Cabaret in Paris. So for the whole time I would be working in either Barcelona or Madrid the Villa was being built. Or so I thought and by the time my contract was over, the villa would be finished.

Ha! Ha! Who was I kidding. The only thing that would be over was that everybody would be dead!

SAN SIMEON STUDY & I OF THE 4 MASTER BEDROOMS

Ray’s Master Bedroom with Bathroom en suite 

If I say so myself, the Villa was beautiful, and finally when it was finished. Finally! Finally! Finally!

My parents had died, Ray had died, his Mother had died, and I was left alone in this fucking big Villa with Scorpio my Leopard and Suki who was on her last legs, and the Villa still wasn’t completely finished. The swimming pool had yet to go in.

SAN SIMEON TERRACE AND POOL AREA 1

When the swimming pool, at long last, which was the last thing to be finished, and if I say so, finished it was a work of art.

SAN SIMEON TERRACE AND POOL AREA 22

Everyone now was dead,  including Scorpio who was put down as he had accidentally ripped my throat open (my fault completely), and also Suki from old age.

By that time I had lost it completely and I was drinking quite heavily.

Uncannily, the pool was finished exactly to the day one year later that Ray had died.

Was that an omen or what?

A fitting epitaph!

SAN SIMEON TERRACE AND POOL AREA

The mosaic was King Neptune on a Chariot drawn be three Sea Horses. It was quite beautiful.

Ray couldn’t swim so I designed the pool with two shallow ends, with the centre that was just 6ft. So that if Ray had had problems in the deep end that once he had started struggling he would have been in shallow waters. Little did I know that he would never see or use the pool?

 

Please note: All these photos were taken post Ray’s death.

San Simeon

(Ray loved the name)

William Randolph Hurst built San Simeon and everyone said it was a Beautiful Folly. It was a Castle on the Grand Scale.

Whilst the Castle was never completely finished, it stands as the remarkable achievement of one man’s dream.

So in my very small way I was doing the same thing and had the gall to name it the same as his fabulous Castle!

I designed a Villa built around a center courtyard, very Spanish. There were four Master Bedrooms with Bathrooms En Suite one in each corner of the house.

There was one for Ray, one for his Mother, one for my parents, and one for myself. There was also a covered 3 metre Terrace running around the House, perfect for keeping the Villa cool,and shaded from the sun.

 As time and the years passed and I had lost all my loved ones, I grew to hate the villa and Spain. I knew that I had to break away from a dream that had become a Folly. So I packed everything up and returned to England with Ray’s Urn. The removal firm lived up to their name, and in transit, removed half my possessions’ including most of my silver and valuables. Except those that I had managed to pack into my car.               But that’s another story…………….  

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Homage to Ricky Renee

RICKY RENEE PORTRAIT

It is with great sadness that I have just heard of the death of Ricky Renee.

Although there was no love lost between us, because too many bad memories occurred during the time that Ray and I spent with him in the late 60’s. when we opened the club for him called “Ricky Renee’s” in Covent Garden.

Ray and I never saw, spoke or had any contact with him whatsoever, from the day that we closed  “Ricky Renee’s” Club. As they say time heals all wounds, so what is the point of bearing malice and animosity when the same is going to come to all of us.

RICKY RENEE WHAT A TALENT!

He had it to his fingertips, the man and his persona was perfection itself and I have to hand it to him, he had such style.

Whereas Danny La Rue had meagre talent, but a brilliant business brain in the shape of Jack Hanson, Ricky Renee was all talent and unfortunately no business brain.

We gave him the best of everything, Douglas Darnell designed his costumes, the club setting was sumptuous, and he had a cast of the best West End performers supporting him. But it wasn’t to be! The Gods were not with us!

RICKY RENEE DRESS.

This is the way I best remember Ricky, glamorous!

The dress was solid bugle beads on chiffon. The coat was silk, trimmed with a white feater boa that went on for yards. The whole ensemble cost a fortune and was made by hand by Douglas Darnell. In fact, Shirley Bassey, who was then married to Kenny Hume, saw the show and immediately ordered a copy of the dress and coat from Douglas! When the show closed, Ricky being theatrical, as we all are, walked off with the dress and coat. That was last we saw of him, the dress and the coat, much to my chagrin! He must have worn it till it fell to pieces; judging from all the photos that I saw of him in it in later years.

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The tiger was a rug that we had at home.

RICKY RENEE'S CLUB LONDON. NEW 2

The finale of the show, Ricky as a man on my very expensive glass floor.

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The photo shoot to get this shot took hours.

ARTHUR HELLIWELL AND RICKY RENEE

One of the top reporters of the day, Arthur Helliwell of The People newspaper happened to be a friend of ours. Arthur was one of the toughest reporters going. He interviewed Ricky and gave him a glowing report, but all too late! It wasn’t to be!

Ricky Renee in 2002 old

Ricky in later years. I have no idea of the date, maybe 2002. He still looked good.

R.I.P. RICKY

So another great one has bit the dust.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2018 in Uncategorized