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Category Archives: Eric Lindsay

Mark Canter, England’s Erté without a doubt!

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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!

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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”

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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!

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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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I Lost The Plot!

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

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When I was in New York with Angie, she tried to get tickets for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, but they were like gold dust and those that were for sale from the “ticket scalpers” cost an arm and a leg.  ‘So, I told her to forget it!’ We went to see “The Boys in the Band” and “Anastasia” instead.

Well, imagine my surprise when I was in London one day and by chance happened to pass the Box Office of the Palace Theatre and thought, ‘I’ll chance it!’

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I went in and asked the young man in the Box Office if by chance there was a ticket for either a Wednesday or Saturday when Parts 1 and 2 were performed on the same day.

‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘you’re out of luck.’ (Long pause, while he studies the computer screen.  Then! Another, long pause)  All this time I’m holding my breath! ‘But I do have by chance, a return for same seat 3rd row, Grand Circle. (Posh name for the Upper Circle!)  ‘It’s a good seat! For 2 consecutive nights. Part 1 on Thursday and Part 2 on Friday.’  Before he’d finished talking!  ‘I’ll take them!’ I said.

So I left the theatre as happy as Larry, even though I was going to sit in the Upper Circle! I was going to see “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”! The critics both in London and New York raved about the play.

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Security Notice for everyone.

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The jam packed crowds waiting and queuing to get into the theatre.

On the Thursday night, I did all that was necessary, queuing at the side of the theatre, going through the barrier, and bag searched before entering the theatre. Then I took my place 3rd row Grand Circle and it was as he said, ‘A good seat!’ I could see everything. Part 1 was about to start.

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The programme for both nights.

No! I’m not going to tell you the story! That is a No! No!  You have to see the play.  All I can say is that the play, the staging, in fact the whole production is quite brilliant. Amazing, and I couldn’t wait to see Part 2 the next day.

On the Friday I had already arranged to have lunch with Joe Castle at Joe Allen’s in Covent Garden, and over a bottle of Pino Grigio.  We talked about the “good old days” and about his partner, Mark Canter, who had sadly passed away.

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Happier times.

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Joe Castle and Mark Canter

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 more than he actually had. When you were to compare him up against the likes of Sonne Teal and Ricky Renee, there was no comparison.  Mark was such a very clever and witty man. He would always have us in stitches. Oh, how we would laugh! As a matter of fact, I have to do a blog on Mark alone, with photos, costumes and his designs.

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Mark Canter

We talked about Ray Jackson, my partner, who I lost at such an early age. It’s practically 30 years since he died, and I’m still here. Unfortunately! Also all the wonderful times we all had together. We laughed a lot and had a wonderful lunch, and to finish it off we had coffee and another large glass each of Pino Grigio. I told him I was seeing Part 2 of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” in the evening, which I couldn’t wait to see because the plot and also the staging was so brilliant. Oh! We had a great time!

After lunch, which was a joy, Joe said he would take me to Balthazar, a restaurant in Covent Garden, to see his friend Brian Silva, who happens to be one of the top barmen in the business and runs the bar in the restaurant.  There we each had a large glass of champagne and Brian gave me his wonderful book of cocktails called “BRIAN SILVA Mixing in the Right Circles at the BALTHAZAR”. Brian told us to wait whilst he sorted his staff out because he was coming off duty and he wanted to take us for a drink. Another!!! I explained that I had to be at the Palace Theatre to go through security by about 6pm, so it could only be a short one. Ha! Ha! ‘No problem!’, he said. ‘You’ll have plenty of time.’ So off we trotted to a great open-air bar near the Palace Theatre, and the three of us had each a very large glass of white wine. By this time I was quite merry and we said our goodbyes, and I went on my way.

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Well!!! (pause)  I duly queued and they searched my bag again and they let me into the theatre. There I was back in my old seat 3rd row Grand Circle (Upper Circle in the good old days!). Basically, it seemed, there was the same crowd that had been there the night before. The same guy sitting next to me on my left.

Part 2 of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” duly started and I was intrigued with the story. Then everything seemed to fly by me in flashes. I’m not sure whether I fell asleep or just nodded off. I couldn’t have snored otherwise the guy next to me would have nudged me to wake up. But anyway, I think I woke up at the interval, and I really couldn’t tell what had happened in the first part. I’d really and truly lost the fucking plot. So I spent the rest of the time when the second part started trying to figure out what had happened in the first part. I finished up none the wiser. I was well and truly fucked and pissed. I really haven’t a clue about “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” Part 2, which means that I have to go back to the theatre and try to book just for Part 2 again!

Next time I will definitely not have lunch beforehand!

 

 

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I’ve talked about “Zee & Co.” so often. Well, here it is!

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 can now 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 of their career, and it was a great privilege for me to be included in their T.V. Special that we performed live from 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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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 6 inch gap between the wash-hand basin and the bed.

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Have you ever tried to squeeze through a 6 inch 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!

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.

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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!!!

If I would have known what the Train Journey would have been like. I would have caught the Train with “Anastasia”!

 

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Sir Ken Dodd R.I.P. My Tribute to Doddy.

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

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Eric and Ken in Liverpool 1979

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.  The second Show went on for an eternity, Ken loved the Stage so much , he never left it! The Management even had to cut the Finale, which was lucky for us. Early night, so we could go out to a Restaurant. Ken 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 us. In fact, she was with us for nearly two years earlier, before Ray and I had even started, 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 Charity Show at the Adelphi Theatre in London on a Sunday, where I had a load of photos taken. They looked really good and impressive. Which was more than the Act was at the time. Liberace and Danny La Rue were in the audience that night and also Barclay Shaw the Brilliant Puppeteer and Illusionist. He was appearing at the London Palladium with Liberace at the time, and he told me ” Eric the Act, the Illusions, everything is excellent.  But you yourself have to develop, your own style. Become Zee!”.  Style, style, style puzzled me? What did he mean by style? But I learnt fast, and truly developed a style that became “Zee”! I was “Zee”!  Thanks to Barclay Shaw, I’d finally got it!

ERIC-ZEE, LIBERACE AND DANNY LA RUE BACKSTAGE AT THE ADELPHI THEATRE.

Liberace, Me and Danny La Rue

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 Night. Each act had just one hour to set up and rehearse. That is impossible for an Illusion act! Add to that  having to perform live in the evening show, and working with Two New Boy Assistants, and of course Angie  and Ray (who were both in as much of a state as I was), 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 (which means a slope a very dodgy slope) on any stage in England.  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 when it was shown, and quite rightly so. Well, going back to Ken, Ann Zahl told me that I should go and see him, and Ken, who was playing at the time in a Summer Season at the Royal Opera House in Scarborough, Yorkshire, and he really loved magic. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t contact him herself. Maybe she had seen the “Good Old Days” and heard and been told, that they had cut me out of it!  I don’t think she wanted to be my Agent any more.  Understandable!

I was very dubious about going all the way to Scarborough, Yorkshire 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? (Thinkssssss!!!) Oh fuck it!  I’ll 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 all those Nudes, 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, as a matter of fact it was so good it ran for ten or it could have been 12 I can’t remember!, 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 New Boy Assistants, my Leopard Scorpio, Suki the Chinchilla Cat and all the Illusions. He said, “Either you are very, very good or very, very, very bad!” If the truth be told, I would have done it for nothing!

Whilst waiting to start rehearsals, Ken phoned me one day to tell me that a few magicians, (The Bastards!)  had told him that my act was terrible, so bad that it had been cut out of the showing of the “Good Old Days”. So true! ( But then, that was what Magicians, are like. Evil Fuckers!) Ken, was a little worried, understandably, and thought that although he felt really right about me, he would like to give me a two week trial. I told him, “That if the boot would have been on the other foot. I would have done exactly the same”.   Two weeks, it was going to be.

So Ray and I, and Suki, booked a Suite at the Atlantic Palace Hotel overlooking the River Mersey,  Scorpio resided at the Royal Court Theatre.  By chance in the next door suite at the Hotel, was Cilla Black and Family, she was doing Panto in Liverpool.  So we were in good company. Believe me the Suite cost a lot more than the princely salary that Ken was paying me.  When I got to  know Ken better, he asked me whether he could come to the Atlantic Palace Hotel, because he’d never been inside the Hotel, and he would like to see our Suite, and of course have a drink. Would you believe it!  With all his money, and he still lived in Knotty Ash in the same house that he was born in!, and when we played in Scarborough. He was back there for a second season, because he had been so successful. He would drive all the way back to Knotty Ash, Liverpool, every night, so that he wouldn’t have the expense of staying in a Hotel. He just had this quirk, he just couldn’t spend his money. I did offer to spend it for him!  To that he cocked a deaf one! I used to say to him, “If you’ve got it, spend it! Life is too short!” I must have known something. But that’s another story!

When we finally opened, “Zee & Co.” proved to be an enormous success because we were presented properly and Ken let me close the First Half of the Show as agreed, and I had second billing as agreed. Even so, all this time I was worrying about the two weeks trial. Would he keep me on, 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 you’re 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 heart out!)

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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, (also the money!) and may she stay blessed always.

Eric x x x

A little something extra, the brilliant Barclay Shaw with his wonderful act that he did at the London Palladium, with Liberace and Toto the Clown.

Liberace, Barclay Shaw and Toto the Clown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“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!

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

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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.

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Inside the villa to the center atrium

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Ray Jackson Remembered

RAY AND ERIC IN CANNES + 2

Ray Jackson

Today, October 25th, 2017, is the 28th anniversary of Ray’s death. 28 years! Where has the time gone? I have no idea! All I know is that the pain and ache is still here. When I think about him, which I do every day, it is as though it happened yesterday. The hurt is still there.

I feel as though I’m Queen Victoria pining over Albert, except I haven’t got a John Brown or an Abdul Karim to help me out.                                                                          More like Macauley Culkin. “Home Alone”! That’s just the way it is. That is my lot!

I miss him so much – talking to him, his wonderful sense of humour, and the laughter and oh! So very much! So very much! But most of all, he was my friend. I trusted him with my life. Never in a million years did I think that I would live this long. On the 13th of November I shall be 88 years old. Loneliness is a terrible thing, but please, dear reader, don’t feel sorry for me. My life is wonderful and really I’m very happy and content, but alone. There is a part of me that is lost and will never come back.

I remember, going back in years, it was either in 1995 or 1996 or even 1997, I’m not really sure of the date because really at that time I was so confused. Ray’s death had hit me so badly that I wasn’t sure of anything anymore or really what was happening. Even though it was nearly 10 years since he had died, it was as though I had an open knife wound in my heart that would not heal. I was forever on the move, all the time traveling between the villa in Fuengirola in Spain and the flat in London. Not working. Just on the move. It was like going from the sublime to the ridiculous every time I left Spain, but it brought me down to earth with a bang every time I was back in London, and all this time Ray, or I should say his ashes in a very unattractive urn, traveled with me. It would be on the mantleplace in Fuengirola or on the fire surround in London. It was all somewhat a little macabre. In fact it was very macabre, and many people said so, but I could not let go. I just could not believe that I had lost him forever.

Somehow I had to have him with me at all times and either flying to Spain or driving there, the urn travelled with me and I would talk to it. I think really I was either losing it mentally or I had already lost it! In fact I was always fully expecting the customs to open it thinking I had a stash of marijuana in there.

Whenever I was in London I would meet up with Daphne who was our cleaner when we were living in Barons Keep, and we had always kept in touch whether we were in the States or later in Spain. We would go to a pub in Soho Square and get quietly pissed talking about the old days and when Ray was alive. We spent good times together. Daphne was a spiritualist and when she was cleaning Barons Keep would collect hair from a hairbrush or comb and the odd nail clippings, both Ray’s and mine, and send them off to some crazy lady living in the country who would give her mangled readings about our hair or nails. Ray and I always took the letters with a pinch of salt, but Daphne believed it and it made her happy. She was forever telling me that her husband would die soon. The woman had told her that he hadn’t long to live, and she would be free. It deemed he was a burden to her. In Barons Keep when she was cleaning we always had a coffee together before she started work. When I wasn’t there, Ray would take over, although he wasn’t too keen on it as he used to say, “she talked too much”. On one of my returns to London post Ray, I got a call from Daphne’s daughter-in-law. She told me that she had been trying to telephone me for months, and, to cut a long story short, “Daphne had died”. The first thing I asked was whether her husband was still alive and she told me he was well and very much alive. So much for the clairvoyant who read hair and nails!

Well, I decided to talk to Ray (the urn, that is!). Daphne’s daughter-in-law told me that her ashes had been scattered in the Rose Garden of Remembrance at the Mortlake Crematorium

 

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MORTLAKE CREMATORIUM

I went there to see where they had strewn Daphne’s ashes. Daphne’s daughter-in-law had given me complete instructions as to the exact spot, by a rose tree on a certain path, in the Rose Garden. It was such a beautiful day and it was so beautiful there just by the Thames, peaceful and tranquil.  Ideal for Ray.

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Tower Bridge the main source of the winding Thames.

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A subsidiary of the winding Thames

    It was so ideal, that I thought that at long last I had found a spot for him to rest.

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THE CLOISTERS AT MORTLAKE CREMATORIUM

Well, I went back to the flat and talked to Ray (the urn, that is). I knew that he must have been as sick as I was with all the travelling backwards and forwards, and I told him that it was time I let him go and that it was quite beautiful where Daphne was and at least he would have company and someone to talk to, even though she might drive him mad now and again.

 

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A ROSE FROM THE ROSE GARDEN

So the deed was done and I had his ashes spread by the rose tree, so he could talk with Daphne and have a wonderful view of the Thames. They kept the urn at the crematorium. Talk about recycling, it wasn’t even theirs. I paid for it when Ray was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium!

So I had put Ray to rest. I wasn’t happy about it, but it had to be done, and he was in a beautiful spot and, God Bless him, he at least had Daphne to keep him company. In my mind I thought that when my time came I could have my ashes spread in the same spot (That all sounds so good and easy. Ha! Ha! Don’t believe it!). On my last visit, I am always taken there by my very good friend Shane Collins.

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SHANE COLLINS

Shane who is as famous as a Theatrical Agent as he is Theatre Producer and Director. He has received numerous awards for his brilliant productions of Gilbert and Sullivan. Too many for even me to remember. Whenever I am in London I stay with Shane and as I don’t drive any more (too old), he always takes me to the Mortlake  Crematorium.  I had asked him to spread my ashes in the same place as where Ray was when I pop my clogs. Don’t you believe it! The rose garden with all the paths had gone! In it’s place was a green field – no paths, no rose trees, nothing! With a big sign that said keep off the grass!  “Fuck it!”, I said to Shane, “When no-one was watching, go into the middle of the field and chuck my ashes towards the Thames, making sure, of course, that the wind was behind him. I didn’t want him to finish up with a mouth full of Eric Lindsay

 

PLAN OF MORTLAKE CREMATORIUM ROSE GARDEN

This is a plan of the way the ROSE GARDEN was, and Ray’s ashes where laid between 36R2 and 37R1 up in the top left hand path 36 – 37. Well when I was last there, there was nothing but lawn and a big fucking notice which said.

“KEEP OFF THE LAWN”

Well, sod that for a lark!

DO I BELIEVE IN EUTHANASIA?  YES!    

I have seen and read too much of the old people’s care homes, government-run or private. They are all the same, and I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. There is a total loss of all dignity and privacy.

When the time comes, I would like to be able to control my own destiny and death. The only thing that I would really wish for is to die on the 25th of October, the year doesn’t matter. Then, when and if I am remembered by friends it will be linked with Ray’s name, and the toast will be to the both of us, and we will be together at last.

So rest assured dear reader that for the time being I certainly won’t be popping my clogs this year or even in the near future. It’s just that I have to plan to wait for the 25th of October to come around one year in the future. 

Meanwhile I will stay very much alive and happy.

RAY JACKSON FOR NEW BLOG + 1

Ray Jackson.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Eric Lindsay, Ray Jackson

 

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Video

Dr. Murray Banks, Psychologist and Comic

DR. MURRAY BANKS PHOTO A

Dr. Murray Banks

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Wandering around New York, when I was there last year, and walking through Central Park I found myself in the Upper East Side, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Manhattan, and recalled the wonderful brownstone town house that was owned by the late Dr. Murray Banks, who happened to be one of the most sought after speakers in America during the 1950s and 1960s.

Dr. Murray Banks was a clinical psychologist and was formerly a full professor of psychology at Long Island University and at Pace College, NYC, where he headed the psychology department for over five years. He was also a visiting professor and special lecturer on various subjects at the University at North Carolina, New York University, Temple University, New Jersey State Teachers College, University of Pittsburgh, and Brooklyn College. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

BROWNSTONE NYC 1A

A typical brownstone in Upper East Side, Manhattan

The house on 62nd.St. Upper East Side was beautiful both inside and out. The furnishings, were antique with a few modern pieces. It had the most fantastic staircase that was made with balusters of Antique Venetian glass walking sticks. I have never seen anything quite like it. Not my taste, but quite stunning. The man was a millionaire with an odd quirk, as we were soon to find out as we got to know him. He was mean, generous in many ways, but as far as money went “as tight as a ducks arse in water!” Maybe that’s how he became a millionaire, who knows? But I go ahead of myself.

How Ray and I first met him is rather strange. It was in London in the early 60s. A friend who knew Dr.Banks well invited us to one of the lectures that he was giving at Woolwich Town Hall, which had a very large auditorium. Both Ray and I were really not into lectures per se, but our friend convinced us that we had never heard a lecture like one from Dr. Murray Banks, and he was right. It was laughter all the way.

Before the lecture we were introduced to Dr. Murray Banks, a rather short, stocky man, with a wonderful welcoming smile, and a very strong Jewish Brooklyn accent. He had a rather ill-fitting toupee that seemed to have a life of its own. He was standing by a table surrounded by dozens and dozens of books and records, all for sale (of course!). After introductions he grabbed me and said, “Hey Eric, when I ask for questions from the audience, I want you to ask me, ‘Doctor, what do I do for a persistent cough?’” So of course I agreed.

 The lecture hall was packed and we were seated in the dress circle center. The lights dimmed and after an off stage introduction Dr. Murray Banks made his entrance and the lecture proceeded. This dapper man with the ill-fitting toupee held the audience in raptures. They laughed continuously. Question time came and after a few questions from the stalls, Murray looked up to the dress circle and asked, “Has anyone there a question?” My cue! I put my hand up and shouted, “Dr. Banks, what can I do for a persistent cough?”          

 Murray looked up at me and said slowly, “You ask, young man, my remedy for a persistent cough? ” He paused, then said. “Take plenty of laxatives, and then you’ll be too scared to cough!” The audience was in hysterics and that is the way the rest of his lecture continued. For a psychologist he was a brilliant comic. He knew the way the mind worked, after all he was a Psychologist! He was on the ball the whole time.

 After the show we went downstairs by the entrance where Murray had his table full of wares and he was surrounded by people buying books, records, autographs, etc., and the money was changing hands fast. Straight into his pocket. 62nd.St.In fact they laid the table bare. We asked him whether he would like to go out for dinner, but he said that he was tired and just wanted to go back to the Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch where he was staying. I thought maybe he wanted to go back to count his money! So we gave him a lift in the Rolls. He had no luggage, he’d sold everything! As he was staying in London for a few days before he did his lecture tour around the whole of England, we arranged to take him for dinner to April Ashley’s Restaurant, April and Desmond’s the following night.

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The lovely April Ashley

We collected Murray at 8p.m. and drove to Knightsbridge. He was intrigued with April and thought she was so beautiful. He was ‘au fait’ with her past history and told us that he was very friendly in the States with Christine Jorgensen, who was the first Trans Gender American, whom he had given counseling to many times. Well, we had a fine old time. Unfortunately Murray didn’t drink, only cordial (ugh!), but Ray and I made up for that! After a very enjoyable evening we took him back to the Cumberland Hotel and left him with the promise that the next time we were in New York we would see him there. As it turned out he came back to London for a few days at the end of his tour and this time we took him to ‘Joe Allen’s’, which he also knew from New York.

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A normal evening at Joe Allen’s in London.

The next time that Ray and I were in New York we rang Murray and he invited us over to his house, which I have already described. For someone with such exquisite taste, he dressed so badly, but that was none of our business. He offered us a drink of either cordial or Coca Cola or coffee. There was no alcohol in the house. So we settled for a coffee, which he got someone else to make. Later we all went off to Ted Hook’s Restaurant called ‘Backstage’ a great fun place, for dinner, our treat. Murray stuck to his cordial, but he was still great fun.

TED HOOKS BACKSTAGE BAR 1A

 As we were only in New York for a short time and Murray was busy for a week with lectures, it was left that he would take us to his favorite Chinese restaurant in China Town the next time we were in New York. Two months later we were back in New York and Murray collected us from the Waldorf Astoria in his chauffeur driven limousine and we were off to China Town.

The limousine stopped at the tattiest looking restaurant on the block. The owner greeted Murray as a regular and we were ushered to a table with a torn table cloth. Murray told us that the restaurant didn’t serve drinks, ( if we would have known, we could have brought a bottle), so Murray ordered 3 glasses of water, which came three quarters filled (they knew Murray from old). He then took out of a carrier bag a baster which one usually uses for the turkey. This time it was filled with cordial and he preceded to fill up our glasses. I didn’t dare look at Ray and he didn’t look at me. It took us both all our effort to keep a straight face. Meanwhile Murray didn’t turn a hair, and just behaved as though it was his norm. Well it certainly wasn’t ours, and the meal really was awful! Next time we knew not to accept a dinner invitation from Murray. Still it was his only quirk and I have never met a psychologist, or psychiatrist, or psychoanalyst who was normal.

He told us that he would be away lecturing on a world cruise, so he was renting the house to Judy Garland as she was appearing in New York. It all sounded very jolly. Judy Garland! My, oh, my!

Next time Ray and I were in New York we rang Murray to invite him out for dinner, we weren’t going to chance an invite from him again! But he declined and told us to come over to the house instead, as he’d just returned from another world cruise lecture. When he answered the door he seemed very down, and when we asked him why, he just pointed round the room and said, “Look!” More than half of the antique Venetian glass walking sticks on the staircase were smashed. Apparently Madame (Judy) or the children, in a fit of pique had taken a stick and smashed them. He said that there was more damage upstairs, which we didn’t see, as we had never been upstairs. Litigation was in process.  Her cheques had bounced. Poor Murray!  and also poor Judy! it seemed that his rental to Judy Garland had been a very unprofitable, dead loss.

The last time we saw Murray was when Zee and Co. was staring at the Sheraton Bal Harbor Hotel in Miami and we went to see him at Fort Lauderdale where he was getting ready for another cruise lecture.

 I have downloaded 3 L.P.s from YouTube of Murray Banks for you to listen to. I’m sure you will agree with me that he was a wonderful comic with an ingenious mind.

 

DR.MURRAY BANKS CD 3A

Anyone Who Goes To A Psychiatrist Should Have His Head Examined

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOTO1ElLwEc
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5P3TG6mIs8
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd0oTyd_gCs
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3PF2M9-APw
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AKLIHeEoXc
Part 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GzmbS5ReGI

DR.MURRAY BANKS CD 1A

How To Quit Smoking In Six Days Or Drop Dead In Seven!

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzATEJ9NtpY
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwsKM0qPL18
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXGYwGs_gsk
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS7URfiFC9k
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcW6fXYq5Zc
Part 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFtN_kf24yo

DR.MURRAY BANKS CD 2A

Just In Case You Think You’re Normal

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSD1gBdMksc
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCD_fodHvyc
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6u-XxELZ5No
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgopbtH4qEs
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtBPBkazW8I

 

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The Tony Awards

Well, I seem to have talked about the Tony’s so much that I might as well start with it. 

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It was a Champagne Night

 

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RAY JACKSON DANGEROUS YEARS THE TONYS PROGRAMME 2015

The Tony Awards was founded in 1947 by a committee of the American Theatre Wing headed by Brock Pemberton, and Antoinette Perry is the woman the Tony Awards is named after, she was nicknamed Tony, an actress, director, producer and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, and she died in 1946.

(I found all this out through Google and looking at Time Magazine.)

Antoinette Perry was once quoted as saying:

“When I was a child, I didn’t say, as most children do, that I was going to become an actress.

I felt that I was an actress and no one could have convinced me that I wasn’t.”

TONY AWARDS TONY PERRY PRINT 1Antoinette Perry, stage actress and director (1888-1946)

I became so intrigued with Antoinette Perry and how the Tonys first started that I just have to print in this Blog an article that was written by theatre journalist, Ellis Nassour entitled ‘The Original Tony’ and also another entitled ‘The Mayor of Broadway Dies at 91’, the story of Vincent Sardi Jr., written by William Grimes.
Vincent Sardi Jr. was one of the first recipients to receive a Tony Award and the reason was quite intriguing.

TIME Magazine called Tony Perry ‘the wartime guiding spirit of the American Theatre Wing’
(When the first Tony Awards were given in 1947, it wasn’t quite the polished production that theatre fans have come to expect. The ceremony was on a much smaller scale, and the actual awards were decidedly quirkier, as TIME reported in 1947.)

During the first two years of the Tonys (1947 and 1948), there was no official Tony Award. These days there are 24 categories of awards , plus several special awards.
The first awards ceremony was held on April 6, 1947, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. The first prizes were “a scroll, cigarette lighter and articles of jewellery such as 14-carat gold compacts and bracelets for the women, and money clips for the men. It was not until the third awards ceremony in 1949 that the first Tony medallion was given to award winners.

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“The American Theatre Wing handed out memorial awards in 1947 for Director Antoinette Perry (Harvey, Kiss the Boys Goodbye), who died last year. Among the recipients: Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Jose Ferrer and Fredric March, for their Broadway performances this season; Mr. & Mrs. Ira Katzenberg (TIME, Jan. 30, 1939) for their durability as first-nighters; Restaurateur Vincent Sardi Sr., “for providing a . . . comfort station for theatre folk. . . .”

The Original “Tony” by Theatre Journalist Ellis Nassour

The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards® got their start in 1947 when the Wing established an awards program to celebrate excellence in the theatre.
Named for Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer, and the dynamic wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing who had recently passed away, the Tony Awards made their official debut at a dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947. Vera Allen, Perry’s successor as chairwoman of the Wing, presided over an evening that included dining, dancing, and a program of entertainment. The dress code was black tie optional, and the performers who took to the stage included Mickey Rooney, Herb Shriner, Ethel Waters, and David Wayne. Eleven Tonys were presented in seven categories, and there were eight special awards, including one for Vincent Sardi, proprietor of the eponymous eatery on West 44th Street. Big winners that night included José Ferrer, Arthur Miller, Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Patricia Neal.

Early Stages

At age 15, she joined her uncle George Wessells’s touring company. “I watched and learned. I did everything from helping in wardrobe to selling tickets. I was petite and blonde and soon was playing the ingenue in melodramas and farces. Eventually, Uncle George trained me, mainly in the Shakespearean male roles.”
She left the Wessels company in 1905 in Chicago where she auditioned for the part that brought her to New York. She was almost immediately cast to join The Music Master, a long-running melodrama about a Viennese conductor in America searching for his daughter. Miss Perry played the lead female role opposite David Warfield, one of the theatre’s most popular actors.
Warfield had great admiration for Miss Perry and they became friends. He was associated with impresario David Belasco and arranged for Miss Perry to audition for him. In October 1907, Miss Perry was cast as Warfield’s leading lady in Belacso’s A Grand Army Man at his new Styvestant Theatre (now the Belasco).

Soon, another man was in Antoinette Perry’s life. Frank Frueauff, an old beau from home who merged Denver Gas and Electric, of which he was vice president, with Cities Service (now CITGO). They fell madly in love, and, at the peak of her New York acting career, Miss Perry married Frueauff.

In 1920, approached by Brock Pemberton, a flamboyant press agent turned producer, Miss Perry, unbeknownst to Frueauff, became an “angel” in Pemberton’s production of Zona Gale’s comedy Miss Lulu Bett. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and become a huge hit. Soon Miss Perry was Pemberton’s silent partner. When her husband discovered his wife has invested in theatre and had done so well, he gave his blessings. Then, in 1922, he died of a heart attack. He left a $13-million estate.

“Mother generously lent money,” daughter Margaret Perry, 89 and an actress who long ago gave up theatre, said from her wilderness ranch in Colorado, “and bailed actors and playwrights out of overdue hotel bills. She enjoyed the extravagant life. The summer of 1923, she took us, our governess, Uncle Brock, as we were instructed to call him, and his wife Margaret, and ten others to Europe for seven weeks. On coming home, Mother heard theatre’s siren call again.”

A Director is Born

She went into a great depression and became an avid reader. Inspired by actress/playwright Rachel Crothers, who directed her own plays, Perry decided she wanted to direct. Her wealth, which she doubled playing the stock market, and her relationship with Pemberton were her entree. They joined forces, professionally as well as romantically, and had modest successes. In 1929, they struck paydirt with Preston Sturges’s Strictly Dishonourable, a cynical play about virtue and Prohibition. A critic praised Perry “for doing a man’s job” as director. Scalpers got $30 a ticket. Movie rights were sold. They were on their way to easy street.
A month later, the stock market crashed.

“Mother awoke two million dollars in debt,” recalled Margaret. “It took seven years to recover. Somehow, probably because of the success of Strictly Dishonourable, she got a loan of two million dollars.”

Perry and Pemberton shared an intimate office in a theatre (it was adjacent to the Imperial, where there is a parking lot today), and lunched daily at Sardi’s, where they fuelled lots of theatrical gossip. However, at the end of their business day, she’d go home to her children and he to his wife.

Antoinette Perry: Philanthropist

In spite of her theatrical credentials, Perry is best remembered for her generosity and leadership in World War II as a co-founder of the Theatre Wing of Allied Relief, subsequently, the American Theatre Wing.

The Wing operated the famed Stage Door Canteen in the basement of the (now razed) 44th Street Theatre, where stars worked as dishwashers, waiters, waitresses, and entertainers for the armed forces. The sale of film rights for a story about the canteen, and a six-figure check from Perry along with support from Rodgers and Hammerstein, provided USO tours of shows to overseas troops.

Margaret confided her mother was an inveterate gambler. “The seed money for many a Wing activity or show investment came from her track winnings. Even during Wing board meetings, mother played the horses. She’d have her secretary tip toe in to give her the odds, then place a wager with a bookie.”
Perry was also president of the National Experimental Theatre and financed, with Actors Equity and the Dramatists Guild, the work of new playwrights. During and after the war, she underwrote auditions for 7,000 hopefuls. Her dream of a national actor’s school was realized in 1946.

“Mother developed heart problems,” Margaret explained, “but, as a devout Christian Scientist, she refused to see a doctor. That, her directorial duties and her dedication to the work of the Wing took a terrible toll.” By now, because of their huge successes, Pemberton was a member of cafe society and, because of his brother’s membership in the Algonquin Roundtable, on the best terms with literary society. “But,” noted Margaret, “from wherever he was, he’d call Mother every night. Often his calls were the only thing that alleviated her intense physical pain.”

Well, that told me about the Tony Awards, but how did Sardi’s equate to this story?

  1. SARDI'S RESTAURANT PRINT
    Vincent Sardi Jr., Restaurateur and Unofficial ‘Mayor of Broadway,’ Dies at 91

The New York Times
Vincent Sardi Jr. In 1991
By William Grimes
Published: January 5, 2007

Vincent Sardi Jr., who owned and managed Sardi’s restaurant, his father’s theatre-district landmark, for more than half a century and became, by wide agreement, the unofficial mayor of Broadway, died yesterday at a hospital in Berlin, Vt.. He was 91 and had lived in Warren, Vt., since retiring in 1997.

The cause was complications of a urinary tract infection, said Sean Ricketts, a grandson and manager at the restaurant.

Mr. Sardi ran one of the world’s most famous restaurants, a Broadway institution as central to the life of the theatre as actors, agents and critics. It was, the press agent Richard Maney once wrote, “the club, mess hall, lounge, post office, saloon and marketplace of the people of the theatre.”

Mr. Sardi understood theater people, loved them and was loved in return. He carried out-of-work actors, letting them run up a tab until their ship came in. (At one point, Sardi’s maintained 600 such accounts.)

He attended every show and made sure his headwaiters did the same, so that they could recognize even bit players and make a fuss over them. At times, he exercised what he called “a fine Italian hand,” seating a hungry actor near a producer with a suitable part to cast.

He commiserated with his patrons when a show failed, and rejoiced with them when the critics were kind. He distributed favors, theater tickets and food, rode on horseback with the local police, and acted as a spokesman, official and unofficial, for the theatre district.

Mr. Sardi was born on July 23, 1915, in Manhattan and spent his early childhood in a railroad flat on West 56th Street, where his parents took in show-business boarders. In 1921, his father took over a basement restaurant in a brownstone at 246 West 44th Street. He named it the Little Restaurant, but theater people called it Sardi’s, and so it became.
The family lived upstairs. When the building was razed in 1927 to make way for the St. James Theatre, Sardi’s moved to its current location, at 234 West 44th.St.

 

SARDI'S NEW YORK FOR BLOG

(I’m happy to say that I had Lunch and Dinner 4 times at Sardi’s, whilst I was in New York this time.)

 

SARDI'S INTERIOR PRINT 1The Interior view of Sardi’s

Vincent Jr., whom his father called Cino, attended Holy Cross Academy on 43rd Street. He got a taste of the theatre at an early age, appearing as Pietro, an Italian urchin, in “The Master of the Inn” at the Little Theater when he was 10. The play closed quickly, but not before Vincent learned about the subtleties of the actor-director relationship. When he pointed out that an Italian would say “addio,” not “adios,” he was told to keep his opinions to himself and read the line as written.

In 1926, the Sardis moved to Flushing, Queens, where Vincent graduated from Flushing High School. He entered Columbia University intending to become a doctor, but failed the chemistry examination, in part because, short of pocket money, he had sold his textbook at Barnes & Noble so he could attend a dance. He transferred to Columbia Business School and earned a degree in 1937.

In the meantime, he began working in the family business on weekends, earning $14 a week. “My duties included stints at the cigarette counter, shifts at the cash register and a few attempts at being a Saturday headwaiter in the upstairs second-floor level,” he recalled in Playbill.

He also learned how to cater to Sardi’s unusual clientele. When Broderick Crawford was appearing in “Of Mice and Men,” Vincent was volunteered to take the actor’s Doberman for its nightly walk.

Mr. Sardi spent two years learning the food-service business at the Ritz-Carlton before rejoining Sardi’s in 1939 as dining-room captain. That year he married Carolyn Euiller. The marriage ended in 1946.

In 1942 he joined the Marine Corps, which took one look at his résumé and assigned him to run the bachelor officers’ mess at the Cherry Point Air Station in North Carolina. The next year he was sent to Okinawa, where he supervised a rest camp. He left the Marines as a captain. In 1946, he married Adelle Rasey, an actress. That marriage, too, ended in divorce.
In 1947 Vincent Sr. retired, and Vincent Jr. took over the restaurant, buying it from his father. Sardi’s was already renowned as a place where deals were made, gossip circulated and actors and producers made it their business to see and be seen. “The restaurant had a central place in the theatre,” said Gerald Schoenfeld, the president of the Shubert Organization. “You could walk in at lunch and do a day’s business, see people you hadn’t seen in a long time. You didn’t think of going anywhere else.”

Mr. Sardi, a tall, affable man with a military bearing, perfected the art of seating enemies far apart and putting friends and potential allies near one another. “He was always the soul of politesse, but where he seated you could be crucial to making a deal,” said the producer Arthur Cantor.

Mr. Sardi also knew how to keep temperamental actors happy. “You’ve got to be awfully careful with actors out of work,” he told an interviewer. “They’re very sensitive about their fading prestige, and I know darn well they scrimp to come in here, on the chance that they’ll be considered for a part. Boosting an actor’s ego with a table in a good location is simply my way of giving him a pat on the back.”

When he was not running the restaurant, Mr. Sardi raced cars, played polo and skied. He was also president of the Greater Times Square Committee in the 1960s and the Restaurant League of New York in the 1970s.

If Sardi’s was a club, its rules were mysterious. Only Mr. Sardi knew them, and only he could explain why, for many years, one of the best tables was held for Mr. and Mrs. Ira Katzenberg. The Katzenbergs, who by the early 1950s had attended virtually every Broadway opening for 30 years, took their seats at Sardi’s at 7:15 and ordered, without fail, a brandy and a bottle of Saratoga water. Mr. Sardi called them his favourite customers.

“People like them keep the theatre alive, and the theatre is their life,” he said. “The least we can do is give them the best table in the house.”
Mr. Sardi could do nothing about the autograph hounds and the photographers who crowded around the entrance. But inside the front doors, his word was law. Diners were not to be disturbed.

Sardi’s shone brightest on the opening night of a Broadway show, and in the 1960s, a show opened nearly every night. The ritual never varied. In a line that stretched down 44th Street, theatregoers, theatre insiders and celebrity watchers clamored for a table, hoping against hope to be seated on the first floor, where they could see cast members, producers and the playwright of the moment entering the restaurant after the curtain rang down. As the actors made their way to their tables, the diners would stand and applaud.

Once seated, the actors, producers and playwright would put on a brave face waiting for the reviews. The first 25 copies of The New York Times and The New York Herald Tribune were rushed over to Sardi’s from the printing presses at midnight, with the review pages marked. Mr. Sardi would man the telephone, taking calls from friends of the cast, ticket brokers and newspaper columnists eager to get a read on the fate of the new play. If the reviews were poor, a pall descended over the dining room, and diners would slink out the door. If the reviews were good, it was Champagne all around and a celebration until the wee hours.

“All of us on the staff were caught up in each Broadway play,” Mr. Sardi wrote in Playbill. “We became involved in the raising of money, the casting of roles, the progress of rehearsals, and, after opening night, the success or failure of a play.”

In 1946, hoping to capture some of the excitement of Sardi’s, the radio station WOR created “Luncheon at Sardi’s,” an hour long program in which the host moved from table to table, microphone in hand, interviewing celebrities. In 1949, the show spawned a television spinoff, “Dinner at Sardi’s,” which failed to catch fire. The celebrities had a bad habit of using their air time for shameless self-promotion.

Undeterred, Mr. Sardi appeared as himself in two television dramas in the mid-50s, “Catch a Falling Star,” on “Robert Montgomery Presents,” and “Now, Where Was I?” a CBS production. He also turned out a cookbook, “Curtain Up at Sardi’s” (1957), which he wrote with Helen Bryson. It included, of course, the restaurant’s signature dish, cannelloni with Sardi sauce, a homey curiosity in which French crepes were stuffed with ground chicken, ground beef, spinach and Parmesan cheese, then topped with a velouté sauce enhanced with Hollandaise, sherry and whipped cream.

By the late 1950s, Sardi’s was grossing about $1 million a year, and in 1958, looking to expand, Mr. Sardi opened Sardi’s East, at 123 East 54th Street.

Mr. Sardi threw his all into the new venture. He arranged for theatregoers to be taken to Broadway on a London double-decker bus. He hired out-of-work actors as conductors. He lured his father out of retirement and installed him as manager. Sardi’s East never caught on, however, and Mr. Sardi sold it in 1968.

By the 1960s, the Times Square area was deteriorating, the theater district was becoming more dangerous and the vibrant world of culture that had nourished Sardi’s entered a period of decline. To make matters worse, in 1974, Mr. Sardi embarked on a ruinous venture, opening a 700-seat dinner theatre in Franklin Square, on Long Island. The theatre burned money for two years before closing.

At Sardi’s, critics complained, standards seemed to be slipping. “Those who go to the restaurant to observe celebrities will rarely be disappointed,” Mimi Sheraton wrote in a 1981 review for The Times. “Those who go for good food that is well served will rarely be satisfied.”

Gradually, Sardi’s became a tourist destination. The lunchtime business evaporated. The restaurant was showing its age. In September 1985, Mr. Sardi sold it for $6.2 million to two producers from Detroit, Ivan Bloch and Harvey Klaris, and the restaurateur Stuart Lichtenstein. They announced plans to bring back the old luster and open up a Sardi’s restaurant, hotel and casino in Atlantic City. Instead, they fell behind on payments, declared bankruptcy and closed the restaurant in June 1990.

Mr. Sardi, who had planned to spend a tranquil retirement in Vermont, resumed ownership of Sardi’s in 1991. He gave it a facelift, leaving intact the 700 or so caricatures of theatre people that hang on the walls. He also brought in serious chefs, who gradually improved the quality of the food, although Sardi’s, even in its heyday, never owed its reputation to its kitchen. As his health declined, Mr. Sardi spent less and less time at the restaurant, turning its operation over to his partner, Max Klimavicius, who will continue to run the business, a restaurant spokesman said yesterday.

Mr. Sardi is survived by his wife, the former June Keller; three children, Paul, of Coco Beach, Fla.; David, of San Diego; and Tabitha, of Manhattan; a sister, Anne Gina Sardi of Stamford, Conn.; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A daughter, Jennifer, died earlier.

The family plans to hold a memorial service at a date to be announced but at a location that is certain: Sardi’s.

So this was the History of Sardi’s and its Theatrical Involvement with the Tonys.

Digital CameraAngie and I having pre Tony Award drinks at the Hilton Hotel Midtown.

Now Angie and I were about to see the 69th Annual Tony Awards Ceremony, and what a truly magical evening on Broadway it turned out to be from beginning to end.

We had to be in our seats by 6:45pm as the doors closed at 7:00pm and the evening finally finished at around11:30p.m. The time just seemed to fly by.

Angie and I walked from the Hilton Hotel along Avenue of Americas to the Radio City Music Hall, it was just a short walk of a couple of blocks and the traffic was at a standstill. Everybody seemed to be heading for the Tonys, and all in Black Tie and the Ladies in either Cocktail or Evening Dresses.

The side entrance to the theatre, is where the red carpet is placed and that is where all the stars and the Interviews take place. So the main entrance is left clear for the general public.

I was completely confused because I thought the red carpet was in the front of the theatre. But of course where they do it makes sense. So the traffic can keep flowing

 

Digital Camera

Once inside the champagne kept on flowing. This was even before we had reached our seats.

Digital Camera

How glamorous it all looked. Angie had booked us G Row Centre in the first mezzanine (which is Dress Circle to us Brits), so we could see everything.

20150728-123055 LIGHTENED

INTERIOR OF RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL PRINT

Here’s a view from the Stage.

The size of the Radio City Music Hall just takes your breath away it is enormous, and there we were with a perfect view of everything. How lucky could one get? This photo just shows a small portion of the theatre.

INTERIOR OF RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL PRINT 3

Side view from the Auditorium, these 3 shots give you some idea of how large Radio City Music Hall really is.

RAY JACKSON DANGEROUS YEARS THE 2 HOSTSThe show was Hosted by Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming, and what a wonderful job they made of the whole evening.

There were 24 awards and each award had 4 or 5 Nominees, so the excitement in the audience was electric.

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A Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre Award went to Tommy Tune for his work as actor, dancer, director and choreographer.

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You may recall him as the Long Legged Fiancée in the film “Hello Dolly”. Of course he’s a lot older now. But aren’t we all !

Some of the shows nominated performed a scene from their show. Of course,the arrangement and running of the show was flawless.

CHITA RIVERA SOLO POSTER PRINT THIS ONE

Chita Rivera who was nominated for a leading actress in a musical, and she also appeared in a scene from “The Visit” which was also nominated for best revival of a musical. This 82 year old star is amazing!  But unfortunately “The Visit” lost out to “The King and I” in both cases.

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Later in the week Angie and I saw “The Visit”, which was quite stunning and very different from most musicals with it’s dark theme. Chita Rivera was excellent, it was so great to see her again.

I remembered when Ray and I saw her originally in “Bye, Bye Birdie” with Dick Van Dyke in 1960, then later with Gwen Verdon in “Chicago” 1976, and later on in “Merlin” 1983 with Doug Henning in which she walked away with the show. All these shows we saw on Broadway.

Unfortunately, the Theatre business being what it is, “The Visit” closed on the 14th of June.

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20150721-161933 LIGHTENED PRINT

Chita Rivera in “The Visit” at the Tonys.

The British contingent won with “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” for the best play, and “Skylight” for best revival. But the evening really went to Helen Mirren for best performance by a leading actress in “The Audience”, and what a performance it is. Later in the week Angie and I went to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre to see the show and after seeing it, I think that Helen Mirren deserves a blog all to herself.

Digital CameraHelen Mirren on stage at the Tonys

Of course, it’s completely out of focus, but I assure you it was Helen Mirren, and you can see all the illuminated posters for “The Audience” around her. I’m useless with a camera, but there she is at the Tonys accepting her award for her performance in “The Audience”.

So by the end of the evening I returned to the Hilton happy but hungry as everywhere all the restaurants seemed to have suddenly closed.

 

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