Category Archives: Casino De Paris

Mark Canter, England’s Erté without a doubt!


Mark Canter

Mark Canter came into our lives many years ago when Danny Carroll (later Danny La Rue) brought him into “Heaven and Hell” for a coffee. Ray and I found him very quiet because Danny did most of the talking, as usual. But through the years we slowly got to know him and realized the wonderful talent he had for designing and creating costumes, and also his amazing wit, humour, and fun for life. This was all prior to the “Casino de Paris” days.  We were just two actors who ran “Heaven and Hell Coffee Bar” in Old Compton Street.


To my mind, Mark was England’s Erté, a costume designer ‘par excellence’. His costume designs made Danny La Rue look as though he really had star quality and talent; far, far more than he really actually had. When you were to compare him up against the likes of Sonne Teal and Ricky Renee, truthfully, there was no comparison. 

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From the drawing board to the finished costume

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Mark was such a very clever and witty man. He would always have us in stitches. Oh, how we would laugh! My friend Joe Castle played such a big part in Mark’s life for many years. They were together until Mark passed away.


Mark and Joe

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A Costume Design for Barbara Windsor.

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I was very lucky to have Mark design each and every costume for me for “ZEE & Co”.


Mark, Ken Dodd and Joe in my dressing room in Liverpool.

Mark had designed all the costumes for my act. The photo above is when he and Joe came to the Adelphi Theatre to see the show. Basically, Ken Dodd gave me my chance at that time, and I stayed with him for almost a year. Ken had never seen costumes like them before. He was flabbergasted, as he so often mentioned to me. I am so grateful to Mark Canter and his costumes, which were completely black and silver for “Zee & Co.” They all contributed a great deal to my act becoming an international attraction through-out the world.

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Black velvet, beaded with diamanté

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A Mark Canter Creation for our appearance in “Dick Whittington” at the London Palladium.  He stuck to the black and silver theme which was part of our act. I insisted that Mark Designed my costumes, and they agreed!  “Quelle suprise!”

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A few more of Mark’s Designs

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When Danny opened his Club in Hanover Square, Mark designed all his costumes. As Danny’s star rose, so did Mark’s, but the strangest thing was that Danny, and also his partner Jack Hanson, never ever gave Mark the full credit that he so rightfully deserved. If a reporter or the BBC wanted to interview Mark, Jack or Danny would always make up an excuse that made it impossible for the interview to take place.  This was a regular occurrence. Somehow. they never wanted Mark to get his rightful credit. Were they frightened that they might have lost him if he became too famous? The costumes that Mark designed for Danny were stunning!

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Another Mark Canter Costume

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Apart from designing for Danny, Mark also designed for Barbara Windsor and Shirley Bassey and Diana Dors, and a whole Jewish and Arab contingency for which all the dresses were made by Darnell of London, one of the top Houses in its day. And the dresses cost an arm and a leg.  Also, for a short time Mark branched out into the Fresh Meat business by designing costumes for us at the Casino de Paris Striptease Theatre Club. He’d never seen so many tits in all his life! We did a Shakespearean edition on Shakespeare’s 400th Centenary, for which Mark designed the costumes. They were fantastic, true to the period, and, remember, they all had to come off in pieces!  Oh how we laughed at dress rehearsals. I remember one instance in particular When I produced a Dracula number (If I didn’t know about Dracula who should?). I had already had such trouble with the Gold Brothers when I told them that I was going to use a coffin on stage. The pair of them nearly died! (Then I would have needed two coffins!) No way were they going to have a coffin on stage at the “Casino de Paris”. So, I compromised and made up a frame and covered it in black velvet. It looked exactly like a coffin and it kept the Golds happy. With all the hassle I had with the brothers, I forgot to tell Mark a few things. Come dress rehearsal, I said, ”This is where she picks up the crucifix and the stake.’ From the back of the stools, I heard a loud scream. It was Mark. ‘What crucifix? What stake?  Eric, why the fuck didn’t you tell me beforehand?  You tell me now?’ But, Mark being Mark, within half an hour there was crucifix, and a stake. That was Mark, he could cope with anything. Oh, how we would laughed later that evening! I would always say,  ‘What crucifix? What stake?’  Of course, they both finished up starkers in the coffin in the end! No!!! Not Mark and the Golds! (Although it would have been interesting because rumour had it that Elliott Gold was built like a donkey!)  No!  But, Dracula and Audrey Crane, his lady disciple. Oh, how we laughed that day!

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Mark and Ray, forever the Actor!


I remember one story Mark used to relate. He took his gold watch that he had bought at Kuchinsky’s (a very fashionable jewellers in the 60s) in Knightsbridge back to be repaired because there was a slight problem with the movement, which needed adjusting. After being allowed in by the uniformed guard, because the front door was always locked. Too many robberies! The young man behind the counter removed his eyeglass after examining the gold watch thoroughly. He hummed and hawed a little, and said to Mark, ‘You know the watch is quite a few years old and really it’s not in its first bloom of youth.’  Quick as a button Mark replied,  ‘Neither am I, but I’m not ready for the scrap heap yet!’ With that, he swept out the shop, with gold watch in hand, leaving the poor salesman with egg on his face for thinking he might have talked Mark into swapping the watch for a new model. The guard quickly opening the door in case Mark let his vent out on him!  That was the wit of Mark Canter, he always had an answer!

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Mark and Ray. “Halcyon Days”


A Mark Canter Chinese creation

When I had my show, “Zee’s Summer Magic”, for John Redgrave Productions in the Isle of White, Mark Canter designed a complete set of Chinese costumes for my Chinese sequence for the whole company. This is just one of the costumes. There were too many to mention.

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Another Mark Canter Design from the drawing board to creation

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Another Mark Canter Creation

Danny La Rue was known for his costumes, which were all the creations of Mark Canter, but really Danny was just the clothes horse! They were all the genius that was Mark Canter,and long may they flourish!


Mark was such a very clever man, with such a razor sharp wit. He would always have us in stitches. Oh, how we would laugh!

“God Bless You Mark.” Never Forgotten!

What Crucifix? What stake? Have the laugh on me, Mark!

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 This design is not Mark Canter’s. It’s from the Ivy Restaurant menu, which I purloined, (being very theatrical), but I thought it would round off the blog very nicely.

N.B.   I have removed the Marlene Dietrich photos for the time being , until I find the Mark Canter ones.


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Lady Chinchilla’s Photo and Press Cutting Gallery

Lady Chinchilla came into my life when I was working in Greece and I saw her fabulous cage act. I contracted her to play as a guest star at the Casino de Paris twice in two years, and each time she was a sensation. The public and the press loved her. I feel she deserves her own gallery of photos and press cuttings that she collected in the short time that she was in England.

Click on the link below to see Lady Chinchilla’s photo and press cutting gallery.

Lady Chinchilla’s Photo and Press Cutting Gallery



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The Casino de Paris Striptease Theatre Club Story

Ray Jackson and I opened the Casino De Paris Striptease Theatre Club at 5-7 Denman Street, W.1. on the 21st of April 1958. It was above the old S & F Grill where, as an actor, I used to gravitate every afternoon from there to Taylors Sandwich Bar in Rupert Street, W.1. when I wasn’t working.

We had been looking around for premises for about 6 months. Originally we thought of opening a night club with a complete drag show. We approached Danny La Rue, who was then working at Churchill’s Night Club with Ted Gatty, and he gathered a group of drag artistes together that he had worked with in the shows that used to tour the variety theatres in the 50s. We talked with them and told them that Ray and I were thinking of opening a sophisticated night club along the lines of the Carrousel Club in the Rue de Colisee in Paris. We had seen a night club in Lower James Street, funnily enough also called the Carrousel, which had a great atmosphere and for a long time we contemplated buying it. Fortunately for us, the original owner, who was a friend of ours and who had built it and ran it for many years, talked us out of it because he told us that the place was a white elephant. The gentleman’s name was Morrie Conley (now that is a name to conjure with!). A lot has been written about him, mostly bad, but I can only say that to Ray and myself he was a good friend and adviser and we had many happy times and dinners with him and his lovely wife Nan.

During this period a new Licensing Law 1957 had been passed which allowed theatrical performances in private members clubs for nudes to move, which meant that striptease had become legal. Previously all nudes had to be static in artistic poses a la the Windmill Theatre. The Windmill had had the complete monopoly of that genre of show business for years and the queues of gentlemen outside the theatre each day proved it.

It stood to reason that there were more people interested in seeing the naked body on exhibition than there were in going to see a load of “poofs” in a drag show, so striptease it was going to be!

Daily we used to see gentlemen in raincoats waiting in line to get into the Windmill Theatre. So with the new laws the market was wide open. Already a few clubs had got on the bandwagon and were doing excellent business.

My Aunt, who ran a members social club in Brighton, told me of a social club at 5-7 Denman Street that was up for sale. It was the adjoining street to the Windmill Theatre. So Ray and I made an appointment to look over the place. We went along late one afternoon and climbed the wide staircase to the first floor. Above the first floor it turned out was a shoulder pad factory and above that an office suppliers. There were sliding gates in front of the double doors to the social club so we rang the doorbell to let whoever was there know that we had arrived and open the gates.

A very tall, grim looking man stood behind the gates who looked like Lurch from the Adams Family. He frightened the shit out of me! Anyway we told him who we were and he unlocked the gates and we went in, into what was an enormous room with loads of card tables. It looked like a speak easy from the 20s, and what with Lurch it made it even more authentic. The room had an enormous mahogany fireplace in the centre of the opposite wall, but the size of the place made it ideal to convert into a small intimate theatre. When I say theatre, we meant a real theatre run on the strict lines of a legitimate theatre with all the calls, half hour, quarter, five minutes and overture beginners please.

Lurch called for his other two brothers and they introduced themselves as Elliott, who was the youngest at about 50 years old and also the spokesman for the three, and Johnny, the eldest, and Lurch, whose real name was Mark. These were the Gold brothers. To me and Ray they were more like the Marx Brothers.

They were still running the place as a social club with Johnny cooking food in the kitchen, Elliott running the club and Lurch frightening everyone on the door. In the evenings they turned the place into a jazz club where Johnny Dankworth and George Melly used to occasionally play and sing; apart from the other Jazz Musicians who used to play. But really they were not doing any real business.

To make a long story short we agreed to go into a 50/50 partnership with Elliott and Johnny Gold providing Lurch (Mark) had no connection with the business and stayed away from the premises. We didn’t want to frighten the customers away with him on the door!

We got Peter Mullins the Art Director to design the theatre. I managed to buy theatre seats from the Q Theatre at Kew Bridge, which was just about to close. Doing business with Beatie de Leon who ran Q was some ordeal, as she was known to be a very tough lady and she was.

So the conversion started.

When the builders were about to remove the fireplace we had a major drama with Johnny who said it had to stay as it had been there for over 50 years. I thought it must have been a family heirloom. So I asked him how many theatres he knew that had a fireplace in the middle of the room? Finally the fireplace went. Although there were a few tears and unhappy faces.

We built two dressing rooms for the girls and one for the boys, which was in the kitchen at the back of the theatre. The bar, which could hold about 20 people was at the very back of the theatre it had arched Corinthian pillars around the whole bar similar to those on the walls, so you could watch the show whilst you had a drink. The theatre could seat about 70 people in total. It wasn’t large, but it was a ‘real’ theatre with so much atmosphere and a stage that was the width of the room at the very end.


Whilst the conversion and building was in progress, it took a period of just over 3 months, Ray and I went to every variety theatre that was in the London area and saw every nude show that was to be seen. We also visited the Irving Theatre Club and the Panama and Gargoyle Clubs, which were already open with their nude shows. I have to say that we were not impressed. The shows were tatty and crude; there was no class or taste shown. We knew with our own experience in the legitimate theatre we could do better.

The girls looked as though they had just come in off the street. Their makeup was non-existent and the costumes were appalling. The comics, if there was one in the show, did not seem to have any respect for the girls. In fact all the shows were bad.

From that moment Ray and I decided that if we were going to be in the nude business we would do it, as Gypsy Rose Lee said, “with finesse,” and that we proved over the many years that the Casino de Paris was open. We would bring the customers up to our level and not go down to theirs, as we proved, and they appreciated it. We would give them good entertainment in luxurious surroundings.

Our girls would look elegant and classy. Our girls would not look as though they had just come in off the street. Our girls would look glamorous and beautiful, and they were.

During this period we really got to know our partners Elliott and Johnny. Their name was Gold and they had hearts of gold. They were both the kindest and most honest pair that one could ever wish to do business with.

Johnny was caring and like a broody mother hen. He was always concerned that everybody was happy and had plenty of tea. His only problem was that he would worry about everything, you name it, and he would worry about it.

Elliott it turned out was a professional gambler, who would spend hours on the phone betting. The whole time we had the Casino de Paris I could never understand what a monkey or a pony or a Yankee was, it was all double Dutch to me. Gambling did not interest either Ray or me. Despite his gambling vice, and like all gamblers his fortunes used to fluctuate up and down, he would never involve the Casino’s money. He was completely honest and trustworthy. Being a gambler, he was very superstitious. Elliott taught us all the finer points of life, food and wine, where to shop for the best clothes and shoes etc., in fact everything. He was a kind of mentor to us for the finer things in life. He had a wife who was an invalid and lived in Brighton, but that did not stop his womanizing and having a line-up of some of the most glamorous and chic ladies I have ever seen. He was charm personified, a real ladies man. When one day I mentioned his ladies to Morrie Conley, he said, “You know why he gets all those birds?” I said, “No.” “Well, you see he’s hung like a horse!” So that was how I discovered Elliott Gold’s extra charm and that was why he was forever adjusting himself. The thing must have had a mind of it’s own!

Having seen all the theatre shows and those that were playing in the other clubs, we decided that we would follow their lead and start with a pianist/singer and drummer for the shows. We engaged a pianist called Alan Leigh who had a beautiful singing voice and also a drummer called Leslie. We had to get a choreographer because Ray and I hadn’t got a clue how to put a variety show together and do the dance routines. We found a girl who had been working at the Windmill Theatre, so she knew the score. We chose all the numbers and told her what we wanted. We did know what was good and what was bad and what was in good taste. We had realized earlier on that we would have to run our own censorship after seeing the way some of the other clubs were performing.

From Strand Lighting we installed the smallest lighting board that they made with 4 dimmers, as the backstage area was very limited. Later on I think we added one more dimmer to the side of the board, altogether I think we had about 15 spotlights to cover the whole stage area. Remember, we were novices at all these things. Ray and I were learning at the same time as we were rehearsing how to properly run a theatre. We learnt fast. One of our customers from Heaven and Hell told us he was a Stage Manager in variety shows, so we engaged him. He turned out to be useless and just lasted 3 months. We decided that we would do 4 shows a day from 2:30p.m. to 10p.m. and each show would run approximately one and a half hours at 2:30p.m., 4:30p.m., 6:30p.m. and 8:30p.m. It was a little like a factory, but it allowed us an hour till 11p.m. to keep the bar open for that last drink.

We placed an advertisement in the Stage newspaper for girls and held auditions for nude dancers and showgirls. We also placed another ad for boy dancers and also for another Assistant Stage Manager. We were lucky because there were many girl dancers who unfortunately were not tall enough to be in a chorus line like the Tiller Girls, but they were trained and disciplined. Two of the boys from the drag shows we engaged to work as young ladies in the show. They were Tommy Osborne who had the most beautiful soprano voice and Dougie Currie who looked like Marilyn Monroe when he was in drag, but the main thing was that he could also make costumes, which was much more important than his talent. In Drag they both looked great and passed as girls with the customers.

So there in the dressing room every day whilst we were rehearsing Dougie sat and made costumes, except for when he had to go on stage to rehearse, but he was a dreamer and very, very slow with making costumes. It would take him forever to sew on a sequin. In fact I would stay up with him all night trying to get him to finish a set. I would spend the night making black coffee and supplying him with pep pills. This went on for weeks until finally I said, “Enough is enough! We open next week on the 21st of April,” and somehow miraculously, I don’t know how, it all came together.


Kay Marshall

These are some of the beautiful and glamorous young ladies who trod the boards at The Casino De Paris Striptease Theatre Club. This photo was taken when they ‘strutted their stuff’ at a charity gala dinner that was organised by the socialite SUSAN WILDING.

From left to right: Adele Warren, Paula Laurence, Trixie Kent, SUSAN WILDING, Desiree, Lesley Glory. Just a few of the bevy of beauties who worked at the Casino De Paris. You can read the first instalment of how the Casino De Paris Striptease Theatre Club came into being:


You can read the full story of the Casino De Paris by clicking on the following link

The Casino de Paris Striptease Theatre Club Story

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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Casino De Paris, Eric Lindsay, Susan Wilding


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Afternoon Tea With Mae West

The day Ray Jackson and I went to visit Mae West for afternoon tea was a major event in our lives and what a hilarious afternoon it was. You can read the whole story here:



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From Actor To Zee: An Interview With Eric Lindsay

Photo by Barclay Shaw, Las Vegas.

Around 1998 my agent contacted me to tell me that there was an Advertisement in the “Stage” paper. Someone was looking for me. By this time I was “Zee” and not a lot of people knew where Eric Lindsay was.

That is how I came to meet Andi Brooks, who has over the years become my very good and trusted friend. He was living in Bath, and he told me that he would come up to London to interview me for his up and coming book on Bela Lugosi which he was calling “Vampire over London.”

Andi interviewed me again earlier this year. This time we talked about my whole life and career.

I hope you enjoy his interview which you can read here:

From Actor To Zee: An Interview With Eric Lindsay


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