Act 1 Scene 1
By the time we opened we already had over 2000 members, so the 2:30 opening show on the 21st of April was full and the Audience loved it. In fact they stayed for the second show and one guy even sat through the whole four shows. Not good for business, but it proved we were on the right track. For the 8:30 show we had invited a few of our theatrical chums, including Frankie Vaughan and his lovely wife Stella. I think they left in shock. It was the sight of seeing so much nudity!
Diana Dors, my old mate from the Rank Charm School, came with her then current boyfriend Tommy Yeardye. They both loved the show. When I asked Di why she kept on calling Tommy “Tommy Teapot,” she said, “He had a big Spout!” Lucky girl!!! We all then went for dinner after the show to Veeraswamy’s, an Indian restaurant in Regent Street, for a Vindaloo.
Then there was the film producer and director Herbert Wilcox, who came without his wife, the actress Anna Neagle. He became a regular, dropping in for the odd drink and a chat with the girls, especially when Anna was starring in “Charlie Girl” at the Adelphi Theatre. He would pop in for a drink and then go on to collect her after the show. Herbert had quite an eye for the girls, and they enjoyed chatting with him. Sometimes he and Ray would go to the Garrick Club for dinner.
Another stalwart of the club was Victor Spinetti. There were a few others but I’ve forgotten who they were.
The whole cast wore full body makeup, which looked great when they were lit and gave them a real Parisian Follies look. Unfortunately, this was something that we had to stop as it was ruining all their costumes, so I had to get the same effect with lighting.
I used the coloured Cinemoid Sheets that were sold by Strand Electric for their spotlights, and with trial and error I managed to get an even better effect than with the body makeup. In fact, I became quite an expert and painted their bodies with my lighting. This was to prove so handy for me when I became Zee as I had it in my contract that I always did my own lighting.
Here is a copy of the first program, all 6 pages and also a souvenir brochure of “Paris Sensations” the No.1 edition which started the run.
We produced around forty different editions at the Casino de Paris until its closure in 1976 when the lease ran out. We did so many that I lost count. I have copies of many of the adverts that we placed in the weekly magazine “What’s On In London.” I will intersperse them throughout the story with all the exotic names that I gave to some of the girls, but they will not run in chronological order as I’m too old to remember the sequence and the dates. Really, I’m just lucky that I found the ads. The same goes with the photos.
Ray and I agreed that we would do four editions a year. So fairly soon after opening the No. 1 edition, we started preparations and rehearsals for the next show, and so it went on and on. It was like a factory, but a very enjoyable one. I think it was soon after we had opened that a young lady joined the show called Audrey Crane (that was the name I gave her). Over the years, she blossomed and bloomed into a glamorous artist who could hold her own with all the continental stars that we engaged. She worked with us for many, many years. We took her with us when we went to the Cannes Film Festival, in fact we used to take her everywhere. Unfortunately we parted on very, very bad terms, which I have regretted to this very day. Ray and I both adored her.
The lovely Audrey Crane
Rehearsals would continue every day and I or Ray would be there. We would try to schedule it so that each artist would only come in a maximum of three times a week because they were working a full eight-hour shift. All those kids worked so very hard.
We never ever received a bad notice or write-up for the shows in either the newspapers or journals. The write-ups we received from Peter Hepple of “The Stage” made us sound as though we were the “Old Vic” of striptease. Even if I say so myself, the show was good, in fact it was excellent!
Well, rehearsals continued and I sat there every day for a year watching and remembering everything our choreographer did. Although she appeared in the show, she was off more than she was on. If I were to say that she was prone to accidents, it would be an understatement.
She would tell me that she was up most of the night setting a dance routine, and I believed her. That is until one day, when she had already set half of a ballet number the day before, she came back and ran through the part she had set only to say that she had forgotten what she had set and reset it all. The more I watched her the more I realized she was making it up as she went along. So I said to Ray that I could do the same thing, without having the trouble of trying to explain what we wanted. We would also not have the hassle of censoring numbers that she set, as she thought, as sexy and erotic, but which we thought were pornographic. There is such a fine line between what is sexy and what can be interpreted as pornographic. So it was the parting of the ways.
From the War days when I was still at school, I would go to Sadler’s Wells Ballet at the New Theatre at least twice a week. I could remember most of the lifts and dance moves, but I didn’t know what their names or the names for certain steps were. The choreographer would count when she did a routine, but I didn’t know it was either 4 or 8 to the bar. So, I would sit at home working out a number and count 11 beats, pause, 17 drum rolls, pause, etc, etc. No one had the nerve to tell me it was only 4 or 8 to the bar. I would make all the kids write down the different numbers, not knowing that they were transposing them into 4 or 8. It wasn’t until after a year that one of the boy dancers said to me, “Eric, it’s all just a count of either 4 or 8.” He explained why and I said, “Oh shit! You must all think I’m off my head.” Well it certainly made life a hell of a whole lot easier for me.
From 1958-1976 are what I call our Gypsy years because we never stopped moving. As the shows progressed, we progressed. We moved from Suzy’s flat above Heaven and Hell to the White House in Regents Park. We were becoming affluent! Next it was onto the Penthouse at 81 Boydell Court in St. Johns Wood, followed by the Stratford Court Hotel in Oxford Street. Then we had a new Neo Georgian House built at 14 Marston Close, Swiss Cottage. I couldn’t cope with all the stairs, 3 flights, and I was always forgetting something on the top floor so we moved to Edinburgh House in Portland Place opposite the BBC only to discover that the taxi phone in the street below would ring all day and all night. We couldn’t wait to move. Our next stop was 17C Sussex Heights in Brighton. The train journey to London took just one hour and it was beautiful travelling on the Brighton Belle, but when there were leaves or snow on the line it took between five and six hours, with no corridors! Nuff said! Finally, we moved into 68 Barons Keep in West Kensington. Phew! I’m out of breath. We never stopped. All this time the shows went on and they got better and better.
Anton and Andree. Andre (Angela) went on to marry Richard Lyon, the son of Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels, the famous stage and radio act, who were a notable couple in show business society.
We would go to Paris frequently to see an agent there called Lillette Voland who managed all the top striptease artistes, and to buy feathers from Madame Fevrier. Arthur Helliwell, the No.1 journalist at the time for The People Newspaper, was known and feared for his vitriolic and scathing penmanship by most people in the business. Laughed about Madame Fevrier, when we met him in Cannes one year and wrote a very amusing article about us buying feathers in Paris. But truthfully, they were unobtainable in England. All in all we always had good relations with all the Press.
One of the first artistes we brought from Paris was Ketty Rogers who had the audience standing in more ways than one! Occasionally we would have the odd customer who would misbehave. The girls were the first to point them out. It was Johnny Gold’s job to go along and speak to the offender. He would gently tap him on the shoulder and whisper, “Put it away old chap. You’re upsetting the girls!”
Trixi Kent and Lesley Glory
You can read the full story of the Casino De Paris by clicking on the following link