When it’s time to call it a day and for reflection
The Glamorous Lesley Glory and the Casino de Paris Lovelies
In the 70s, things were swinging even more so than in the 60s. Ray and I were living at that time in Sussex Heights in Brighton, on the 17th floor facing the sea. The only real view we had was of the sea and the end of the two piers (boring) and the layout of the town. Brighton at that time was a little like Peyton Place without the sex. At a cocktail party one day a local who I was making idle chat with, told me that her husband had told her that “Two gangsters had just moved into Sussex Heights.” We had just moved in at that time. Thinking quickly, I told her, “You’re speaking to one of them!” She went a whiter shade of pale and rushed off to the loo. So it just goes to show the types that lived in Brighton at that time – small-minded, petty and also boring. Brighton was definitely not the way it is today, cosmopolitan and swinging. We would commute daily on the ‘Brighton Belle’ to London. The journey only took 60 minutes., during which time you could relax, read the papers and even have breakfast served by uniformed waiters. The ‘Brighton Belle’ was something from a time gone by. It was elegant and grand. You would spend a charming hour with the likes of Laurence Olivier, Dame Flora Robson and even Dora Bryan if she would run to paying the supplement. It was like a social club where you could meet fellow passengers on a daily basis. When we were not rehearsing, Ray and I would go up to London on alternate days, and we used to use the same season ticket, which was not really the right thing to do, but after all that’s show business, and we were in show business and we were gypsies! ! !
Unfortunately the ‘Brighton Belle’ was withdrawn from service on the 30th of April 1972 and the carriages were sold and used for the Venice Simplon Orient Express. It was the end of an era. So we were left to the ordinary carriages which left a lot to be desired and a train service that was abysmal. If there was a leaf on the line you could expect a delay of 2-3 hours and that is without a corridor you had to sit on the train busting! So sooner or later it was time for us to move. Where as if it had been the Brighton Belle you could sit there order another drink and get pissed! Which was a wonderful way to pass the time. When we arrived at Brighton Central after a delay, it would be wonderful to watch all the passenger staggering along the platform in a haze of alcohol. So we bought a flat in Barons Keep, West Kensington, London W.14 and used Sussex Heights foe weekends.
We were finding that the shows could sustain a 6 months run instead of the usual three months. Which meant only two shows a year. This made life a hell of a lot easier. Also it helped us with all the work that Ray and I put into the shows. We could spend far more money on the costumes which was still most important, find excellent music and lighting. It also gave us far more time to spend abroad either in France or the U.S. In both country’s we would see every striptease show that was going. In the States it was called Burlesque.
On the 10th of January 1972 we opened a new Show called “The New Body Revue” this was even nudier and naughtier than before and it was very popular with our members and their guests and it was going to run for six months. Yaaa Hooo!
Naughty Marissa Lang
Even naughtier Stormy Summers
With a lot more time on my hands I got the itch again to try a new venture. In the past when Ray and I mentioned that we owned the Casino de Paris to strangers, and explained that it was a striptease theatre, sometimes a knowing look would come over their faces and some people who had never even seen our shows would misconstrue, understandably, how the place was run and how professional the whole thing was. All they knew of striptease was what they might have read in the gutter press. So, Eric decides that he would like to be a legitimate producer and produce a show in a real theatre. Become a ‘proper’ impresario. What was I thinking? Disaster! ! ! Oh what a disaster!
When I was an actor I did a season for nearly a year in weekly rep. at a theatre in Southport, Lancashire. The director and producer was a brilliant man called Donald Bodley who ran Southport Rep. with his wife Elizabeth. When I finished working there we lost contact with each other. Donald was never too enamored with the Theatre in the West End of London. He thought it was all too grand and luvvie, duckie! He had taken over the running of the Theatre Royal in York and turned it from a run of the mill theatre into one of the leading repertory theatres in England. I read in the Stage Newspaper that he was retiring. After several meetings, we agreed to go into business together 50/50, with me supplying all the money and he his expertise in the Theatre as a director. Maybe it was just that we had a clash of temperaments, but it just didn’t work out. The company folded after the very first production, which was Stringers Last Stand, a kitchen sink drama by Stan Barstow. It starred Wilfred Pickles and Mavis Bunnage and was brilliantly directed by Donald.
Ugh! So much for me trying to be legit! It was another loss with more money thrown out of the window. Well, back to the Casino de Paris and the Striptease business. How Ray ever put up with all these bleeps that I made, I have no idea! Still, there had been Singapore, and that was a success. All this time I was still seeing Robert Harbin and talking about magic. It was he who proposed me for membership of the Magic Circle. More magic all the time, it just intrigued me, and all the time Robert was becoming my mentor. On the 2nd of July 1973 we opened a new production of the “Body Revue.” It was another smash success! As always, I tried to have a little magic number in the Show. This time I made the magic in the form of “Black Art” with things floating about and the girl losing her clothes.
Miss Trixie Kent is Travelling Light and she lost her clothes!
In 1973 a popular restaurant was April and Desmond’s, situated in Cornwall Gardens, just off Knightsbridge. It was run by April Ashley and Desmond Morgan, and it was a fun, fun place. Ray and I had known April for many years. We met on the beach at Cannes when she was George Jameson. He was lying in just a pair of swim trunks, and I said to the owner of the Plage, “I didn’t know you allowed topless bathing?” I had mistakenly taken him for a girl, he was that beautiful. We soon became friends. We gave him a lift from Cannes to Paris and I introduced him to Sonne Teal. That’s how April started work at the Carrousel, which she mentions in the book of her metamorphosis. Sometimes at April’s, she would have cabaret and it was there that I first saw Hinge and Bracket when they were just starting their act. They impressed me so much that I took Danny Le Rue along to see them. He said, “The act will never work. Who wants to hear Gilbert and Sullivan?” They soon proved him wrong. So no one really knows what will go and what won’t.
Rita, a friend of April’s, Ray, Jud, Me and April Ashley at April and Desmond’s Restaurant
On the 2nd of July we opened a further edition of the “The Body Revue.” We churned them out non-stop! In October I had a call from L.A. It was Taylor Pero, a friend of ours who was now working as Personal Assistant to none other than Lana Turner. They were coming to England to make a film called “Persecution.” and called “Sheba” in the U.S. He wanted me to meet them on the 24th of October at the Café Royal in Regent Street, where there would be a press call for the forthcoming film, and where she would be holding court. They were arriving in London on the 22nd and staying at the Dorchester Hotel, but she would be jet lagged and tired and incommunicado for two days, during which he had to stay with her. Ray and I duly went along to the Café Royal at the allotted time of 6 o’clock. The room was crowded with pressmen and there was such a buzz of excitement because we were all going to meet Miss Lana Turner. We knew Don Chaffey, the director of the film, from our Heaven and Hell days, and he was just as excited as we all were. Well, 6:30 came and then 7pm with no sign of Lana. By this time some of the Press were beginning to leave as they had deadlines to catch. At 7:30 there was still no Lana, and more press left. Ray was so disappointed as he couldn’t stay any longer due to an important dinner engagement. I stayed on. By this time the Press had dwindled to the few really avid fans of hers. You just do not treat the press that way, not in England; after all, they are very important to you.
Miss Turner finally appeared at 8 o’clock, two hours late. For me she was well worth waiting for. She was a vision in white, swathed in white fox from head to toe. She was stunning! Everything you have ever dreamed about her, and that wonderful cut in her voice when she spoke. You knew straight away it was Lana Turner.
I pulled Taylor aside and said to him, “Where the fuck have you been? Do you realize how this will affect the press call?” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I just couldn’t get her together, she’s always late.” I looked at him and said, “I suppose she gets away with it in the States, but this is England and you don’t treat the Press that way.” Finally after everyone had left and we were alone, we went down to the foyer and he introduced me to Lana. She looked at me and said, “What a pleasure Eric, Taylor has told me so much about you.” Not too much I hoped! “You must come and have dinner with us some time,” she said. “That would be lovely,” I replied. They were staying at an exclusive hotel very close to the film studios. When I mentioned the name of the hotel, she threw her arms in the air and said, “Sshhsssssss!” and looked around her nervously as though people were listening. “We don’t want anyone to know,” she said. The foyer was empty, there wasn’t a fucker there! Oh! The lady was definitely out to lunch!
Well, they went back to the Dorchester, and I went home to Barons Keep, but I was still a fan of Miss Turner, she was one of the last goddesses of the Silver Screen. Lana had said she was tired. Tired? She’d only been out one fucking hour! Maybe, I thought, this is the way Hollywood stars behave, but Mae West, whom I met at her home, certainly wasn’t like that. The dinner that she had invited me to never happened because she was having so much trouble with the film. She kept Taylor there at her beck and call the whole time. About three weeks into filming, he rang and told me that he was free for lunch that coming Sunday. Sunday duly arrived and the phone rang and I thought it was Taylor cancelling because Lana needed him again. But noooo! It was Lana! “Hello Eric.” That voice! It was Lana Turner on my phone, phoning me! Well, my knees turned to jelly and I was so excited. That voice, that wonderful voice. But there was no one I could tell. Ray had taken his bloody mother to see her family in the Rolls, which she tried to get him to do every Sunday so that she could show off. The woman needed to be put down! So I just ran up and down the passage with my hand over the speaker saying, “It’s Lana Turner! She’s on the phone. She’s phoning me!” (Pause, breath) “Hello Lana, what is it?” I asked as though we talked regularly. “Is Taylor there?” she asked. “No, sorry Lana, he hasn’t arrived yet.” (Pause) “Shall I get him to call you when he arrives?” (Breath from Lana) “I’m so sorry to bother you Eric” (it was no bother to me!) “But I can’t find the pages of the scenes we are doing tomorrow, and I don’t know where he put them. Could you get him to call me back?” (Please, Lana, keep talking!) “Of course Lana, no problem,” I said. She hung up. I would have liked her to stay on the phone till Ray got back. Taylor arrived 15 minutes later and I told him about the call. “Nosy bitch,” he said. “ She’s just checking up on me, to see that I am coming to you. She knows where they are.” (Pause) “I’ll ring her now.” (Voice change) “Hello Lana, darling. Yes! Just arrived.” (Pause) “Darling, the pages are on the stand by your bed.” (Pause) “Oh, you’ve found them! Good. I won’t be back too late.” He put the phone down and turned to me and said, “ I’m exhausted. The bitch has had me running around like a dervish since we’ve been here!” (Pause) “I could do with a very stiff drink”. Well, “Persecution” opened in 1974 and the critics panned it. The story, what was it? They made my lovely Lana look like a dog. Oh, no! That wasn’t the way she was. I remember how she looked at the press call, one of the last of the great screen goddesses and a legendary blond. Roll on Christmas when we were closed for a week.
On the 7th of January we opened a new show, “ The Body Revue 1974.” The show was beautiful. Ray and I had really got it all down to a fine art. It had a quality for all the senses. Comedy, eroticism, beauty striptease, with the emphasis on the tease, the lot!
In April I had a bad case of flu and my doctor sent me to my specialist, Professor Dollery at Hammersmith Hospital. He had been treating me for hypotension for ten years. When Dollery saw me, he admitted me immediately as he said I had pneumonia. Well, I stayed in Hospital for two weeks, during which time they did two biopsies on my lung, as they told me that as I had no temperature with the pneumonia it was a sign of cancer. Charming! Believe me, the biopsies were painful. They could find nothing! Also they told me that they would like to do an exploratory operation to see whether it was cancer. I asked Dollery where they would cut and would it be a big scar? He said, “Yes!” I said, “Forget it!” Anyway, I couldn’t have the operation as I was booked to go to Las Vegas on the 4th of May. Ray and I were taking both our mothers, and my mother, Rose, being the martyr that she was, wouldn’t go unless I was with her. As we hadn’t taken insurance out on the tickets and I didn’t want to lose the money, I signed myself out. Professor Dollery told me it was a bad decision and he would give me a letter to one of the top Specialists in L.A. as he didn’t think I would be coming back. Within four days in Las Vegas the pain was gone and I felt wonderful. Explain that! When I returned to London at the end of May, I went to see Professor Dollery. He was surprised to see me, and could not explain how I was cured, and that apart from the two scars on my lung where they had taken the biopsies there was nothing. He said it was a mystery and I agreed! That was from one of the top specialists in England. Could it have been the dry air in Vegas? Who knows? Maybe I wasn’t ready to pop my clogs yet!! I think I must be like a cat and have nine lives.
In June, I auditioned Vadel and Sue, a young man and his partner who came from Blackpool and did a magic act. He was a handsome, charming guy and his partner was very pretty. They were both prepared to work nude. Surprise! When I auditioned them I saw that Sue had a lovely figure, and Vadel certainly had a lot in his locker! Vadel and Sue were to work with us practically consistently until it suddenly ended just before we closed in 1977. Their Act was very mediocre, but I could see that with the right production and polish they could be very good, so we signed them up for the coming show of the Body Revue, which was to open on July 8th. They were a sensation, especially Malcolm Vadel who was the first and only nude magician ever. They had never seen a magician do his tricks starkers. You could say his act went swingingly! ! ! We were inundated with magicians who couldn’t wait to see their act, but none of them offered to replace Malcolm. Maybe they were too shy to show their tackle!
Lovely Anne Delyse
In the spring we had finally found a builder to do the double glazing on the balcony at Sussex Heights. The wind that would come off the sea at Brighton made it impossible to sit there at any time. But it was the time of the double glazing scam and we unfortunately were part of it. We agreed on a price and the builder asked for a 50% deposit as it was a lot of work. We paid him the 50%, and agreed on a date for him to start work. They came and put in all the framework on the balcony for windows that we could either open or close. They said they would come back, but that was the last we saw of them. Whenever I phoned, they told me he was away on the Costa Del Sol with his family. Yes, I thought, on my money! This went on for nearly four months and it would needle me so much to think that he could rip us off, like he did. I just had to get even with him. Around September, I spoke to Sadie (Marissa), and told her about the rip-off. She said, “Don’t worry, luv, Frank will sort it out.” I told her, “I don’t want him to rough him up, just get me my money back or let him finish the job. Tell Frank I would like to see him.” Later that week, Frank came along to the Casino and I told him the whole story. I also told him that I would pay him for his trouble, but please don’t kill him or anything like that! “Don’t worry, Eric,” he said, “it’s a piece of cake, no trouble.” A few weeks later, the builder rang me and said that he was being plagued with phone calls all night long and it was frightening him and his family because the calls just wouldn’t stop. I told him that I didn’t know anything about it, and I was just waiting for him to finish the balcony and the double glazing, and that I was sure that when the balcony was finished, maybe the calls would, too. That November, the balcony was finished, not brilliantly, but it was finished. I paid him the rest of his money, but deducted the money that I had paid Frank, which did not please him at all. A week later Frank rang me and laughing on the phone told me that the builder had been in touch with him to see whether he could get the rest of his money from me. Frank told him to get lost. When justice is handed out, it teaches you not to cheat people. In August, I think it was on the 19th, Josephine Baker opened at the London Palladium for one week. She was appearing at short notice because the American singer who was due to appear was a no-show. Basically she was just to fill-in the gap. The producers thought at least she would keep the theatre open. Little did they know! Ray and I had seen Josephine many times in Paris when she was starring in “Paris Mes Amours” at the Olympia Theatre. The lady when we saw her was fabulous with a voice that seemed to improve as she aged. She was so charismatic. Well, she opens in London and the notices were sensational, in fact they couldn’t have been better if she had written them herself. She was so good that Ray and I booked for her last night on the Saturday. It turned out that she took more money at the box office than any of the Americans that were appearing there that season. So it goes to show that even greatest producers never can tell how business will be and which artist will do it.
The Exotic Carla Primavera
In October, I auditioned Gladys Shock and engaged her for the new show that was to open on the 6th of January 1975. Gladys, apart from stripping, sang live during the process. That was different! All this time, whenever there was a magic convention, wherever it was in England, I would be there. Most of time Ray would be with me, and we were slowly developing our ideas of how an Illusion act should be. When I told Robert Harbin that I was thinking of using a wild animal in my act, he nearly died. Then when he finally saw Scorpio, he said, “That animal will rip your throat open.” He did, but that is another story at a much later date.
The new show in 1975 opened on the 6th of January. You could say Gladys Shock shocked them in more ways than one. She was definitely different.
Miss Whiplash Alma Cadallac
Our lease of the Casino de Paris was coming to an end in 1977 and we had approached the landlord’s agents to renew, but were told that the whole area was going to be redeveloped by the Westminster City Council. So they could only give us a yearly lease, renewable if development wasn’t taking place, but the rise in the rent was three times the amount that we were paying. So we had a meeting with Elliott and unanimously decided that we would call it a day in 1977. After all, we had had a very good run of nineteen years. But this was still 1975 and we had two years to go. The Gladys Shock Show was going great guns and Vadel and Sue were laying them in the aisles.
On 30th June, we opened a new show, still keeping Vadel and Sue and some exotic Italian stars and our regular company.
In mid July, Ray and I went to Baden-Baden for an international magic convention which had stars from all over the world performing. The convention lasted five days, and we were lucky enough to meet Bill and Irene Larsen, the owners of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, who invited us to visit with them next time we were in L.A. When we left there we had magic coming out of our ears! On returning to London I reported in to Robert Harbin and give him all the news. On the 5th of January 1976, a new show opened with Sidsel and Ruger, a knife throwing act with Sidsel standing in front of the wheel and then getting onto the wheel and spinning nude whilst Ruger threw these enormous Bowie knifes at her. It was definitely not for the squeamish, but still very exciting. Now we had two speciality acts working at the CDP. Vadel and Sue were doing another year with us. Monique Starr was a petite red head from San Francisco who did a very raunchy act, and was very popular with the customers. Understandably!
The beginning of February I went with Robert Harbin and his wife Dolly to Los Angeles where Robert was to receive the prestigious Masters Fellowship Award from the Magic Castle. This is the highest award a magician can receive in the world. It was here whilst we were in L.A. that the whole of my act was conceived. I would talk with Robert every day and I would explain that I wasn’t interest in small magic, with cards or coins, billiard balls or dice. What was the use? Who could see them when you were sitting the pit or the gallery of a theatre. And the ever Diminishing Cards, forget it! It was only Illusions, Illusions, Illusions. I had already worked out the opening of the act, in which I would do a little silk magic. Ugh! Then into big stuff. Robert gave me a present of a box that he had invented and I elaborated on it and made it larger and turned in my Dice Box, which gave me the spectacular opening that I wanted. From then on it was Illusion, Illusion, Illusion that could be seen by the whole audience, even back to the last row in the gallery. I arranged whilst I was in L.A to go to the Wild Life Park where they taught animal affection training, so I would be returning to L.A. there in the August.
I must say that I did a great deal of planning with Ray on how we would run the act. In fact Ray was the king pin to my act. I couldn’t have done it without him. But then always in business it was Ray who loaded the gun and I fired the bullets. Someone had to be the baddy! On the 5th of July we opened a new show with Jan Berkeley as the star. We still had Vadel and Sue, Sidsel and Ruger, Monique Starr and all our CDP resident cast. In fact our cast seemed to be getting larger and larger, but the shows were still getting better and better and better, so it was good to be able to keep so many artistes in work.
Miss Trixie Kent
On the 30th of August , I left with Ray for L.A., where we took the course for animal affection training. This lasted for three weeks, and we also renewed contact with the Larsons at the Magic Castle. As usual we stayed at Sunset Tower West, on Sunset Boulevard. It was becoming like a second home. Some of the props that I was going to use in the act we had made and shipped back to England. Fortunately we could afford to have the best of everything and so we returned to London. My costumes for the Act were being designed by Mark Canter, so I knew that the act would look a million dollars. Whilst all this preparation was going on, we did not lose sight of the Casino de Paris, which was still our number one interest. When I think about the different things we were accomplishing at the same time, I am just amazed where we found the energy. For Christmas we went to Danny La Rue’s, Walton Hall I think it was, for about 5 or 6 days. It was great fun and we had a wonderful time.
Judson Barteaux, Joe Castle, Ray, Mark Canter, Danny, Jack Hanson, David Ellen & Wife.
.In 1977 we produced our last show, Edition 5, on the 3rd of January. The standard was as good as ever. However, on the 6th of February a great sadness came into our lives with the tragic news that Malcolm Vadel had died from a drug overdose. Such a waste of one so young. It affected everyone at the Casino de Paris and many a tear was shed. But the show had to go on, and everyone put on a brave face. The time seemed to fly by and very soon on the 6th of August the Casino de Paris closed. On the 8th, the grand sale started. Some items were sold as memorabilia while others were bought by various amateur dramatic societies. On the3rd of September 1977, the doors to the Casino de Paris were finally bolted. It was the end of an era.
Some of the Ladies from the Past
At that very end, Ray and I sat there in this empty shell of a theatre that stored so man happy and also sad memories. All the Venetian Columns have been ripped from the walls and sold. The dress rails with all the exotic costumes had been sold to a fancy dress costume company. The curtain tracks and curtains, the Strand Lighting Board that Gerry had cherished so much, and all the spotlights had gone. All that was left were the bare walls and the ghosts of all the wonderful shows and the beautiful artistes both male and female who had performed there. Could we hear the strains of music? Or maybe it was coming from the street. As the lights faded we could still see the faded imprint of where Johnny Gold had his beloved fireplace. In the wings, Zee & Co. was waiting. It was time for us both to move on to a new and magical adventure.
Since starting this blog and writing the Casino de Paris Striptease Theatre Club Story, I have been amazed at the response I have had from people who remember the CDP, or have worked there, and they all talk about Ray with such affection.
My special thanks goes to Andi Brooks. Without his help this blog wouldn’t have happened.
Today is the 25th of October 2013, and I publish this last chapter as a tribute to Ray Jackson who died 24 years ago to the day.
Please click on the following link to read the whole Casino de Paris story, which is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Ray Jackson.