Category Archives: Ray Jackson

How it all Began. “”

 This is how I met Andi Brooks and how my Blog began.





Andi and me having coffee in Tokyo

Around the time of 1996 my Agent Jamie Phillips of Trends Management told me that an advertisement kept appearing in the Stage Newspaper looking for me, or asking maybe if I was alive or dead? No such luck, I was still alive and kicking!

As I had time to spare and no one to talk to, I telephoned to the gentleman who placed the advertisement. His name was Andi Brooks who lived in Bath. That is how we met. He came to London and interviewed me in August 1997 for his future book that he was co-author with Frank Dello Stritto called “Vampire Over London” the whole interview is somewhere on my Blog. Through that interview Andi and I became friends and kept in touch with one another even after the book was published in 2000, and what a beautiful book it is too.

All this time I would talk to him about various things that had happened to me and he was forever telling me that I should write about it. But I kept explaining to Andi that Ray when he was alive was the writer. I never wrote anything. Ray would write to my parents, write all our business letters, and sign important papers. He got it down to a fine art, he could even do my signature on cheques,(which I had no problem with) until one day the bank manager called me into his office to say that my signature on our joint bank account seemed to have changed. So I explained that I had sprained my wrist and found it difficult to write properly. I told Ray that when he wrote my name he had to take his time with it and that a scrawl just didn’t work. I couldn’t keep on going back to the bank manager with excuses. That was the trust we had in one another. I trusted him completely. So when Andi suggested that I should start a Blog it took a great deal of persuading  and convincing on his part over many, many  years for me to even contemplate it.

In the year of the millennium 2000 by chance I was appearing in “Aladdin” at the Theatre Royal, Brighton and had the pleasure of meeting Frank Dello Stritto and his wife, who came to a matinée of the Show, before they left for America for good and also arrange the publication of their book “Vampire Over London”. So strange because it was at the Theatre Royal, Brighton that “Dracula” opened in 1951 and the whole story started. This intrigued Frank completely, to believe that he was actually in the same Theatre.

“Vampire Over London” was an enormous success and has now gone into it’s 2nd. printing. The publication is such  excellent quality.

Well over the years Andi and I kept in touch, he told me that he had married a Japanese student named Kyoko and later they went off to live in Tokyo, Japan. All this time we kept in touch, and he was forever urging me to write a Blog about what I had done over the years. He explained that he would set it up for me with and do all my editing in fact the whole caboodle. In fact he has been faithful to his word and encouraged me 100% to write. I didn’t think I could do it, and I wasn’t sure that what I had to say would interest anybody. But the proof is in the pudding and “” came into being in 2012 and by some miracle it seems to be a success. I don’t understand why because really I can’t write, at least that’s what I tell myself, so it’s all thanks to Andi Brooks. Bless him!


Meeting up with Andi and Kyoko in the Coffee Shop in Tokyo.

On the 7th of October 2016 I flew into Tokyo and met up with Andi, who I hadn’t seen since our first meeting in London in August 1997.  Twenty years is a long time and we had plenty to talk about and we did non-stop. Later, Kyoko joined us and I had the pleasure of meeting her for the first time, and what a charming lady she is. Andi had done himself proud. To think of the young man who had interviewed me so many years back and now here he was with a full family.



What an amazing place Tokyo is, and I had two whole days to be with Andi and his family and talk. They also showed me part of Korean Town which was in the area of my hotel.



Yui Brooks.

During the time that Andi has been living in Tokyo he has been blessed with a handsome son called Yui who is now 14yrs.old. Yui is a budding artist, and drew a quickie for me on my visit. I look a little beaten up, but it’s a great souvenir. He travels everywhere with his pencil and pad.

The top one certainly gives me a beaten up look.


Whilst I was there it was his birthday so I sent him a card in English.


YUI with his Birthday Card



Yui, me, Andi and Kyoko at Dinner.

Yui travels everywhere with his pencil and pad. He even took it with him when we had dinner together in a typical Japanese Restaurant.



Kyoko and Yui seeing my off at my Hotel.

Whilst I was there it was Yui’s Birthday, so I managed to find a card in English. The few days that I was in Tokyo I did no sight seeing whatsoever. I was just happy to spend all my time with Andi and his family. The happiness he has given me with my little Blog is amazing.

I have so much to thank him for, he has really given me a reason for carrying on.



YUI, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ONE YEAR LATER (a new photo which I have just received)


Me and my very good friend ANDI BROOKS.



Time to leave Tokyo, and goodbye to my friends.

A wonderful memory that I will treasure forever.


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Dr. Murray Banks, Psychologist and Comic


Dr. Murray Banks


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)


A typical brownstone in Upper East Side, Manhattan

The house on Upper East Side was beautiful both inside and out. The furnishings, both antique and modern, were exquisite. It had the most fantastic staircase that was made with balusters of Antique Venetian glass walking sticks. I have never seen anything quite as stunning ever. 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 wears and he was surrounded by people buying books, records, autographs, etc., and the money was changing hands fast. 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.


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.


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.


 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 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. When he answered the door he seemed very down, and when we asked him why, he just pointed round the room and said, “Look!” Half of the antique Venetian glass walking sticks on the staircase were smashed. Apparently Madame (Judy) 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. Litigation was in process.  Poor Murray! It seemed that his rental to Judy Garland had been a 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.



Anyone Who Goes To A Psychiatrist Should Have His Head Examined

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

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Part 6:


Just In Case You Think You’re Normal

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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. 

Digital Camera
It was a Champagne Night




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.


“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?

    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.

(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.



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

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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


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.


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.


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


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 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.


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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She Was Oddly Beautiful: An Homage To Elaine Stritch




1925 – 2014

ELAINE STRITCH hit the Broadway lights in 1946 and has since been the toast of Broadway and the West End.

Albert Einstein once said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” So I’ve done just that; half of what I am now writing is from memory past and the rest I’ve just looked up!


Elaine Stritch sings “Some Day My Prince Will Come.” Her unique singing voice was once affectionately compared to a car shifting gears without the clutch.

I was saddened by the news of the death of Elaine Stritch, a performer par excellence; and it brought back the memory of when I first saw her on stage in “The Time of the Barracudas” at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco in 1963. This was prior to its opening in Los Angeles and then onto New York.  (Which, as fate would have it, never happened).

I hadn’t a clue who she was, the only name that meant anything to me was Laurence Harvey, her co-star, who I knew from London when I was 20. So I went to see the show with Ray and my cousin Adrienne, who happened to live in San Francisco.

I was looking forward to seeing the play because I hadn’t seen Larry for many years and now of course he was a big star. We had met originally at Roehampton Swimming Pool when he asked me whether he could take a shower with me? Enough said!

I used to go to Roehampton with my girl friend Pamela Bevan, who was in ‘Diamond Lil’ at the time, and so we became and stayed friends with Larry up until the time he was with Hermione Baddeley when she was performing in cabaret at Ciro’s Club, a chic nightclub in Leicester Square. He was introducing her act and doing the odd sketch with her. He was also living with her and ‘schtuping’ her at the same time. She was twice his age. As I said before, she liked young men.

Laurence Harvey was on his way up and I was still just a poor actor working in the West End and getting ready to do the No.1 tour of “Tobacco Road” playing Dude the lunatic son. Somehow I could never get away from playing lunatics! Do you think it was in my genes?

We met at the ‘White Room,’ a drinking club in Denman Street. W.1. for drinks and a chat. He introduced me to Hermione Baddeley, who I was thrilled to meet, and we talked about various things that we were doing; and that was last I saw of him!

Much later, I think it was in the early 70s in Los Angele, Ray and I were having dinner with Hermione Baddeley and Lady Mary (I haven’t a clue what her other name was). Avery Van Arthur and his mother Miss Dodie were our hosts. After looking at the menu, Hermione said, ”I think I shall risk the halibut. It can’t be too awful, can it? After you’ve lived with Laurence Harvey, nothing in life is ever really too awful again.” That’s enough said about Hermione Baddeley!

elaine strirch oddly beautiful 4. PROFILE 1

Elaine Stritch

The play “The Time of the Barracudas” was marvellous and Elaine Stritch was mind blowing. She had such comedy and such talent and looked so wonderful. As for Laurence Harvey he was really awful, his performance was a nothing!

One of the critics said in his review of the play;

‘The director has decided to direct most of the play with Elaine Stitch having to have her back to the audience. I can tell you that this critic would rather look at Elaine Stritch’s back than Laurence Harvey’s front!’

After a notice like that, what could she do? The leading lady quit and her complaint was her co-star. “If I told you some of the things that son of a bitch has done to me, you wouldn’t believe it!” she said. “This play has been the most horrible experience of my life.” Of course, Laurence Harvey hadn’t a kind word to say about Elaine.

The Time of the Barracudas

Elaine Stritch and Laurence Harvey

After walking out of “The Time of the Barracudas,” she tended bar for five months. Seven years later, she was nominated for a Tony for Company. “I’d just as soon not be nominated for awards,” she once said. “I want to win. If you can’t let me win, don’t nominate me.” 

Elaine was not the only person to regret working with Laurence Harvey. Jane Fonda said, “Acting with Harvey is like acting with yourself, only worse!” Lee Remick similarly regretted working with him, “The tales I can tell of working with him are too horrendous to repeat!” And so it went on. 

Frank Sinatra’s nickname for Laurence Harvey, according to his valet George Jacobs, was “Ladyboy.” It was well known in the business that James Woolf, who co-owned Romulus Films with his brother Sir John Woolf, was in love with Harvey. He had put his protégé into film after film, all of which had flopped, until he bought the film rights to John Braine’s bestseller Room at the Top, contracted the great Simone Signoret to play opposite Harvey, and finally made his lover a star. But Harvey kept marrying to further his career. Larry’s whoredom was so blatant it was disarming. After living with Hermione Baddeley, he married Margaret Leighton who was six years his senior. When that marriage finished he married Joan Cohn, the widow of Harry Cohen, the managing director of Columbia Studios. Throughout all of these career marriages, he still strung Jimmy Woolf along. Noel Coward once commented on Harvey’s unhappy marriage to actress Margaret Leighton; “It really isn’t surprising that homosexuality is becoming as normal as blueberry pie”

Noel Coward and Elaine Stritch backstage after the Broadway opening of Sail Away.

Elaine Stritch and Noel Coward

In 1971, the film critic Alexander Walker wrote about James Woolf:

“He was a rarity in British Films at the time, and would still be so if he were alive today; a man of taste and judgement who loved craftsmanship and supported a director instead of suffocating him or using him as a surrogate talent for the film he himself would have liked to direct had he dared. He was an obsessional filmmaker, loving the wheeling and dealing, relishing the juggling with human talents that it involved, and taking pleasure in spotting youthful ‘proteges’ and promoting their careers, thereby gaining a vicarious satisfaction from their success that was lacking in his own basically lonely nature. James Woolf was gay and the lover of Laurence Harvey.”

I may lose the plot sometimes and wander off in a tangent as a name crops up and I remember an amusing story. Please forgive me dear reader, but I shall always return to the plot sooner or later.


ELAINESTRITCH oddly beautiful 4.MINK 1 COAT

Under the headline “Actress Elaine Stritch, ‘Her Own Greatest Character,’ Dies At 89,” National Public Radio journalist Elizabeth Blair wrote, “Elaine Stritch — one of Broadway’s boldest and brassiest performers — has died. With that gravelly voice — and those long legs — and the utter command of the stage, Stritch was a bona fide Broadway star. Not as a classic leading lady, necessarily, but as the hardened-yet-vulnerable performer audiences couldn’t forget. Stritch died of natural causes Thursday morning at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.”

In an interview with Stritch in March 2014, National Public Radio’s Scott Simon observed that the stage and screen legend “may be her own greatest character.”

In a career that stretched back to the 1940s, Stritch did it all: theater, TV, movies. She was nominated for several Tony Awards and won three Emmys. She starred in the 1961 Noel Coward musical Sail Away and the 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical Company. (With her performance of  “Ladies Who Lunch,” Sondheim said, Stritch turned what he thought was “just a simple saloon song” into a “piece of theater.”)

Stritch was born in Detroit, where her father was a rubber company executive. She was raised Roman Catholic and when she first moved to New York City, she went to a finishing school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Years later, Broadway producer Hal Prince said Stritch had “the guts of a jailbird” but “the convent girl is still there.”

It’s been said that Stritch could always play older than she really was. She was 20 when she sang Zip in Pal Joey, but Stritch herself said she looked 40. She had a terrific sense of humour about her looks — and her age. In 1988, Stritch told National Public Radio’s Susan Stamberg that she didn’t mind the word “aging” at all.

“It applies to everyone,” she said. “I saw a kid 16 on the street and he was aging. We’re all aging but somehow the press loves to say it when you’re over 40.”

Stritch was candid about everything — her age, her alcoholism, her diabetes. In her book Am I Blue?: Living with Diabetes and, Dammit, Having Fun! she wrote about being diagnosed with the disease at the peak of her career.

“More than with any other condition I know of,” she wrote, “the diabetic simply has to understand the nature of the illness and become intimately involved in treating it.” But with her trademark wit she also said: “Diabetes is great because I can say, ‘My blood sugar is off. I have to go.’ “

In 2002, when she was in her late 70s, she launched a Tony Award-winning, one-woman show called Elaine Stritch at Liberty. She continued performing well into her 80s. In 2008 Stritch won an Emmy — her third — for her role as character Jack Donaghy’s mother on NBC’s 30 Rock.

Stritch once said, “I just pray that I can be at least amusing.”

And was she ever. 

Tina Fey said of Elaine Stritch, “Elaine was a ‘tough old bird,’ but I suspect she may have been a ‘tough old bird’ since birth, I loved her voice, her timing, her stories and her natural elegance.”

“One day she was wearing a beautiful butterfly cocktail ring, and when I admired it, she gave it to me on the spot – like an Arab sheik in black pantyhose. I feel very lucky to have worked with her as much as I did.”


Tina Fey, Elaine Stritch and Alec Baldwin

 Alec Baldwin said,  She was just the funniest damn woman you’d ever met in your lives. So, there you have it!” Baldwin, meanwhile, took to Twitter Thursday to remember Stritch – and hinted that things in heaven are about to get a whole lot more interesting. “I’m sure that even God is a bit nervous right now,” he wrote. “I love you, Elaine.”

Alec Baldwin on his friendship with Elaine Stritch: “No one was funnier and had better timing than Elaine. I just sent Tina [Fey] an email yesterday saying I’ll always be grateful to you for casting Elaine as my mom, because she would walk in there and we just had to stand back and get out of her way and the rest of it would take care of itself.”


Performing Arts Elaine Stritch was an American actress and singer who had a net worth of $20 million dollars. Elaine Stritch was born in Detroit, Michigan, and went on to study theater at New School University. Some of her classmates at the theater school included future acting legends Marlon Brando and Bea Arthur. She made her professional acting debut on stage in the mid-1940s, and then made her Broadway debut in the 1946 production of “Loco”. She went on to appear in multiple Broadway and National touring productions, including “Call Me Madam”, “Pal Joey”, “Sail Away”, and “Company”. She began her film and television career in the late 1940s, and went on to appear in such projects as “The Scarlet Hour”, “A Farewell to Arms”, “The Spiral Staircase”, “Cadillac Man”, “Screwed”, “Autumn in New York”, and “Monster-in-Law”. She has been nominated for multiple awards, including five Tony Awards. She won one for her one-woman show, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty”. She has also been nominated for eight Emmy Awards, and has won three. To younger audiences, Elaine Stritch is probably most widely recognized for her Emmy-award winning recurring role as Jack Donaghy’s mother Colleen on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock”. Elaine died on July 17, 2014 at the age of 89


Now we see how At Liberty, the amazing one-woman show Stritch is moving to Broadway from the Public Theater this week, acquired the credit, “Constructed by John Lahr. Reconstructed by Elaine Stritch”. “The reconstruction means I had the last say”, she says. “Damn right I did.” … In case you didn’t notice, Stritch is not the kind of woman who goes in for the sappy self-indulgence that pollutes most one-person shows. In fact, At Liberty is in a class by itself, a biting, hilarious and even touching tour-de-force tour of Stritch’s career and life. Almost every nook and cranny of “At Liberty” holds a surprise. Turns out she dated Marlon Brando, Gig Young and Ben Gazzara, though she dropped Ben when Rock Hudson showed an interest in her. “And we all know what a bum decision that turned out to be”, she says. And then there were the shows. A British writer recently called Stritch “Broadway’s last first lady”, and when you see her performing her signature numbers from Company and Pal Joey and hear her tell tales of working with Merman, Coward, Gloria Swanson and the rest, it’s hard to argue. Especially since she does it all dressed in a long white shirt and form-fitting black tights. It’s both a metaphor for her soul-baring musical and a sartorial kiss-my-rear gesture to anyone who thinks there isn’t some life left in the 76-year-old diva. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘Is this the last thing you’re going to do?'”, says Stritch. “In your dreams! I can’t wait to get back into an Yves Saint Laurent costume that isn’t mine – but will be when the show is over.”

In recent years, Stritch performed a regular cabaret act at New York’s Carlyle Hotel, where she was a longtime resident. The actress returned to live in her native Michigan in 2013, citing her health. Elaine died on July 17, 2014 at the age of 89.

Elaine Stritch An Appreciation

 by David Rooney 

The Hollywood Reporter’s leading Theatre Critic pays personal tribute to the legendary Broadway performer, whose exacting professional standards were as renowned as her tart tongue and eccentric style. Across the New York Theatre District, marquees will dim their lights on Friday evening in honour of one of the all-time greatest brassy broads of Broadway, Elaine Stritch. But a more fitting remembrance might be for the Theatre Lovers to take to the streets and accompany that symbolic ritual with the final roar of the Stephen Sondheim song most indelibly associated with the beloved performer, who died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Michigan, at 89.

Broadway to dim it’s lights in honour of Elaine Stritch.


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“Great Moments in the Theatre.” Continuation of the Second and Final Chapter: ‘World War II Years 1939-1945 and Beyond’.

N.B. “Please dear readers, forgive the quality of some of the photographs in this sequence. They are the best I can find and after all like me they are very old. 70 years to be precise.”

In 1942 I became a fan of the Ballet through a friend of mine who had just left school to become articled to an accountant in the West End of London. He introduced me to the world of the ballet. He was a classical music and ballet nut. Because of his job in the West End he was able to put out stools for the gallery at the New Theatre in St. Martins Lane in London whenever he was so inclined. That was where the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company would play a season or two every year in between touring round England. They would alternate between the Old Vic Company and the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company, so the three different companies were in residence there whenever they were in London. The rest of the year they would tour, bringing happiness and joy to war-torn England. The ticket for a gallery stool cost 6 pence and I think around 50 tickets were sold daily, which meant that if you had a stool ticket then you were guaranteed a seat in the gallery of the theatre. I think that the gallery admittance was 2/6 pence. So when the gallery doors opened the stools would go flying and you paid your money at the gallery entrance and rushed like crazy up the stairs to grab the closest seats in the front row of the gallery. We were all Balletomanes. Really, I think that was the beginning of the Gallery First Nighters’ Club that carried a lot of sway in the Theatre in those days.


Robert Helpmann and Margot  Fonteyn

Hanging there up in the Gods, we anxiously waited with bated breath the appearance of the conductor. This was usually Constance Lambert who had his own following of fans, but my favourites were the performers, Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann.Then the lights would dim and the overture to whichever ballet which was being performed would begin. It was all so magical and to this day I still love the Ballet.

I saw “Swan Lake,” “Coppelia,” “Les Sylphides,” “Facade,” Sleeping Beauty,” “Nutcracker,” “Dante Sonata,” “Giselle” and many more. You name it, I saw it, their complete repertoire, but two ballets which stood out in my mind for drama and excitement were “The Rakes Progress” and “Hamlet.” “The Rakes progress” was  choreography by Ninette de Valois, who was the Artistic Director for the Sadlers Wells Ballet Company through the whole of World War II. The music was composed by Gavin Gordon and danced by Helpmann and Fonteyn. It was based on a series of pictures by the painter William Hogarth which he called “A Rakes Progress”. The whole production was quite brilliant.


Helpmann in “The Rakes Progress”


Helpmann in “The Rakes Progress”

The other production was “Hamlet,” choreographed by Robert Helpmann, who also did the libretto, to the music of Tchaikovsky’s “Fantasy Overture.” Although based on the original Shakespearean tragedy, it doesn’t retell the plot from start to finish. It instead portrays the dying Hamlet reliving crucial moments of his life. The whole story was seen through the mind of the dying Hamlet.  It was a work of genius and brilliantly performed by Helpmann and Fonteyn.  A truly great moment in the Theatre.


 Helpmann as Hamlet with the skull of Yorick


Helpmann as Hamlet and Margot Fonteyn as Ophelia


On the lighter side, providing great, great moments over the years, was Intimate Revue. it provided the laughter that was needed so badly in this time of war. With its double entendres  and frothy songs, risqué jokes, blackout sketches and whimsical repartee, it was a tonic that was enjoyed by all and sundry, and in those days we needed it. The two great stars of the risqué repartee were Hermione Gingold and Hermione Baddley, who in 1941 were appearing in “Rise Above It” at the Comedy Theatre, which I was lucky enough to see. The more successful the show became, the bigger the rivalry became between Gingold and Baddley, until by the end of the run they swore they would never work together again. Maybe it was their joint penchant for the younger male that didn’t help.

HERMIONE B IN ARTISTIC POSEHermione Baddley in artistic pose in “Rise Above It”.

“Rise Above It” opened on June 5, 1941 at the Comedy Theatre. It went into a second edition in December, 1941. In 1942  Baddley  then went on to greener and greater roles in the legitimate theatre and films, whilst Gingold carried on in her favorite métier, revue.


 Gingold in pensive mood.

Hermione Gingold, now working solo,from Baddley, appeared in “Sky High” at the Pheonix Theatre in June 10, 1942. La Gingold, as she became known, had undergone a vocal crisis sometime in the 1930s. She had hitherto described herself as a ‘soprano,’ but nodules on her vocal chords brought a drastic drop in her pitch, about which she once commented, “One morning it was a Mozart ‘Aria’ and the next ‘Old Man River’.” One critic described her voice as “Powdered glass in deep syrup.” Another said,”To watch Miss Gingold’s tongue roll around a familiar name or word and then quietly drop it off with the mud sticking on, is to watch art raising a foible to the stature of a humor.”  “No actress commands a more purposeful leer; and in nobody’s mouth do vowels more acidly curdle.” She could make quite the simplest word by the time she had finished with it sound obscene! 


Hermione in whimsical mood

Then came her Tour de Force as a solo comedienne when she opened on June 10, 1943 at the Ambassadors Theatre in “Sweet and Low.”  Hermione took the West End by storm in this sharp witted revue of the War Years. Hermione wrote two of her own sketches.

She followed up this success with “Sweeter and Lower,” which opened on February 17, 1944. This successor played to packed houses for two years, through to the end of the war, and earned Hermione the titles of “The Duchess” and The Queen of Comedy.”


Hermione Gingold and Henry Kendall in “Sweeter and Lower”

“Sweetest and Lowest” opened on May 9, 1946 at the Ambassadors Theatre and was the conclusion of the three “Sweet” revues. 

“Slings and Arrows” opened on  November 17, 1948, at the Comedy Theatre. Hermione was the co-author of the revue.

The piece de resistance came  when producers Charles Russell and Lance Hamilton persuaded Hermione Gingold and Hermione Baddley to work together again in a Noel Coward double-bill of his plays “Fumed Oak” and “Fallen Angels.” The two bitter rivals were going to work together again! Hermione Baddeley gladly accepted but Hermione Gingold took a lot more persuading.

As neither would take second billing, programmes were printed with the photos of one Hermione right-side-up and the other upside down, thus sharing 50-50 billing on posters, programmes, etc. etc. as shown.

HermioneGingoldHermioneBaddeley RIGHT AND LEFT

Programme 1

HermioneGingoldHermioneBaddeley LEFT AND RIGHT

Programme 2

In September 1948 Charles Russell and Lance Hamilton set up a management company to produce a touring revival of Noel Coward’s prewar hit of “Fallen Angels” as a two hander for Gingold and Baddeley playing a pair of jilted women taking uproarious refuge in drink. Coward was not happy with the idea as it was not to his taste or liking of the cast. The two Hermiones upstaged each other mercilessly, introducing all sorts of business, some of it almost obscene, which held up the action, making Coward furious.   

“I’ve never yet in my long experience in the Theatre, seen a more vulgar, silly, unfunny, disgraceful performance,” he wrote in his diary.                 

He demanded the London opening be cancelled – until Russell pointed out that it would cost him £9,000 to get out of the contract. “Fallen Angels” went on to run for nine months at the Ambassadors Theatre where it was an enormous financial success, much longer than the original version had ever run before. In those days, if a show ran for three months it was a hit!   Coward confided in his diary, “LIVID.”   But he took the money.


Still on the lighter side, in 1942 Cole Porter’s “Dubarry was a Lady” opened at His Majesty’s Theatre. The leading lady was Frances Day, a beauty from America who lived and worked in England through the whole of World War II. The show was good, but she was stunning, glamorous, vivacious, a real star. When she was in her 60’s, Frances Day still looked stunning; and she would talk about Frances Day as though she was her mother; and she was her daughter Frankie; and believe me she got away with it! That is ‘Show Business’!

NPG x32919; Frances Day (Frances Victoria Schenk) as May Daly in 'DuBarry Was a Lady' by Frederick William ('Fred') Daniels

 Frances Day in  “Dubarry was a Lady”

frances day dubarry poster 1

 Dubarry was a Lady

NPG P917; Frances Day (Frances Victoria Schenk) by Angus McBean

 Frances Day


Throughout the war Tyrone Guthrie had striven to keep the Old Vic Company going, even after German bombing in 1942 left the Theatre a near ruin. By 1944, with the tide of war turning, Guthrie felt it time to re-establish the company in a London base, and invited Ralph Richardson to head it. Richardson made two stipulations; first, as he was unwilling to seek his own release from the forces, the governing board of the Old Vic should explain to the authorities why it should be granted; secondly that he should share the acting and management in a triumvirate. Initially he proposed John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier as his colleagues, but the former declined, saying, It would be a disaster, “You would have to spend your whole time as referee between Larry and me.” It was finally agreed that the third member would be stage director John Burrell.  The Old Vic governors approached the Royal Navy to secure the release of Richardson and Olivier. The Sea Lords consented, with, as Olivier put it, “a speediness and lack of reluctance which was positively hurtful!”


 The Old Vic Theatre bombed 1942.

            A small troupe toured the provinces, with Sybil Thorndike at its head.

Old_Vic_SYBIL MAKE-UP   1941

Sybil Thorndike and young actress.

The triumvirate secured the New Theatre for their first season and recruited a company. Sybil Thorndike was joined by, among others, Harcourt Williams, Joyce Redman and Margaret Leighton. It was agreed to open with a repertory of four plays:  Peer Gynt, Arms and the Man, Richard III and Uncle Vanya. ( I was lucky enough to see each production – from the gallery, of course!). The first three productions met with acclaim from reviewers and audiences, but Uncle Vanya had a mixed reception.


Ralph Richardson as Falstaff

In 1945, when I was 15, I saw the second season, which featured two double-bills. The first consisted of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. Olivier played the warrior Hotspur in the first and the doddering Justice Shallow in the second. He received good notices, but by general consent the evening belonged to Richardson as Falstaff. Agate wrote, “He had everything the part wants- the exuberance, the mischief, the gusto……Here is something better than virtuosity in character-acting- the spirit of the part shining through the actor.” In the second double bill it was Olivier who dominated, in the title roles of “Oedipus Rex” and “The Critic.”


Laurence Olivier as Oedipus Rex

Richardson took the supporting role of Tiresias the blind prophet or seer, who knows that the terrible prophecy of Oedipus has already come true. He leaves Oedipus with a riddle that implies, plainly enough for the audience to understand, that Oedipus has killed his own father and married his mother. The young boy who led the blind Tiresias on stage was called Ray Jackson.


Ray Jackson, Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier in Oedipus Rex

Little did I know sitting in the gallery that night, that Ray Jackson would become my life partner for 40 years until his death in 1989. That, when I think about it, was the “Greatest Moment for me in the Theatre”.


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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 Girl Who Saved the Show” A further instalment in the Casino de Paris Striptease Theatre Club Story.

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In mid 1968 Rosemary Andree came along to an evening show at the Casino de Paris with a handsome young Anglo-Chinese guy called Philip Seow whose claim to fame was that at 27 he happened to be the youngest  hotelier ever in Singapore. We had drinks with him at the bar and then he and Rosemary watched the show. Ray and I went out for dinner that evening and thought nothing more about it until a week later when Rosemary rang and wanted to have a meeting with Elliot, Ray and myself. Of course she had a nightly meeting with Elliott, but that was neither here or there. The happy news she had to impart was that Philip Seow wanted us to put a small show together of 6 artistes for the newly opened Malaysia Hotel. She made it all sound so lovely and easy. The contract was for 6 months, beginning January 1969 with two months at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore. This would be followed by one month at the Merlin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, during which time we (“me!”) would rehearse a new show to open again at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore for two months, followed by a final month at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta.
Philip Seow
This is where he held the prodigious role of Managing Director of the newly opened Hotel Malaysia in Singapore, which was a luxury 5 star hotel.
We had drinks with him at the bar and then he and Rosemary watched the show. Ray and I went out for dinner that evening and thought nothing more about it until a week later when Rosemary rang and wanted to have a meeting with Elliot, Ray and myself. Of course she had a nightly meeting with Elliott, but that was neither here or there. The happy news she had to impart was that Philip Seow wanted us to put a small show together of 6 artistes for the newly opened Malaysia Hotel. She made it all sound so lovely and easy. The contract was for 6 months, beginning January 1969 with two months at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore. This would be followed by one month at the Merlin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, during which time we (“me!”) would rehearse a new show to open again at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore for two months, followed by a final month at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta.
Didn’t she just make it all sound so lovely? And I just knew Eric was going to get lumbered again, but this time it would not be my doing! I said “No!” straight away and reminded them of what I went through during my time in Cairo and Athens and Istanbul – oops, I hadn’t told them about the revolution in Istanbul! Rosemary, however, said it wasn’t going to  be like that. It was all going to be lovely. In fact it was going to be worse!
Anyway, I didn’t want to go, and neither did anyone else, but we all wanted the contract. So we put it to a vote and guess who lost?  Fuck it! I was on the trot again! I forgot to mention that during the six months contract Eric would travel from England to Singapore three times to open the shows and rehearse in Kuala Lumpur. Lucky me! Then during my time in England, I would be rehearsing the new show for the Casino de Paris. You may well ask what did I did with my spare time? I scrubbed the stage and cleaned the loos! ! ! I refused to do stairs!
In those days air travel was not quite as fast as it  is today. A plane trip from London to Singapore would take about three or four stop-overs to refuel, so altogether the flight would take about 24-26 hours. What it did to one’s body clock was nobody’s business! By the end of the six months I didn’t know whether I was on my ‘arse or my elbow’! Did something happen in Singapore or was it London? Did Diana Dors give birth to a son, or did I dream it?  Really, I hadn’t a clue! When I arrived in Singapore I would go straight to bed only to be woken an hour or two later by Philip Seow, who had become my best friend, (he had arranged with the front desk that they notify him as soon as I arrived) demanding that I join him in the “London Underground,” the disco that was in the basement of the Hotel Malaysia as there was always something important he had to tell me. Always there was some reason or other that I just couldn’t get out of. So I’d go down there only to be confronted by three large Canadian Clubs and ginger ale, plus three shots, all lined up for me. Whenever I was there, I was his drinking partner.  So by the third “Yum Sing” I was wide awake again and raring to go. So much for jet lag!
But I digress. Rosemary told me that striptease was not allowed in Singapore, so I couldn’t use strippers. Then why did she bring Philip to see our show? Fortunately for us, we couldn’t get any at the time anyway, so that was one problem solved. She also told me that nudity was not allowed and that the girls had to wear pasties over their nipples as the Singaporean government were very strict about nudity, and of course I believed her!
She managed to find for us five girls, four showgirls and one singer, all of whom had worked at the Casino du Liban in Beirut, the no.1 night club in the world. The girls, who apart from being the most amazing looking creatures, were each in their own way stunning with bodies to die for.
Brenda Saunders
Elizabeth Carr 
She also found a young lady who had been a dancer in a circus and was quite as beautiful as the rest.
Fay Duncanson
I have to point out  that showgirls are a different  breed from strippers. They do not show their nipples. They are like thoroughbred horses, majestic in stature, beautiful and regal, a breed unto themselves. They wear pasties. You may well ask what is the difference between a small bit of sequined plaster and raw  flesh. To them it was everything and they would not dream of working without their pasties. It was a question of take it or leave it. So I took it because Rosemary told me that was the way they liked it in Singapore.
The show was great. I called them The Dolly’s-a-Go-Go. I say it myself, it was sparkling, glamorous and fast moving. It ran for just forty minutes. Once it started, it ran like a fast moving express train. I was very happy with it.
The Dolly’s
So I flew out to Singapore one week before the girls to set everything up. The new show at the Casino de Paris had just been running for two weeks, so there was no problem there. In Singapore there was a small press conference when I got to the hotel. Most of the press were charming and respectful except for one snotty bitch who kept pressing that there only 6 people on stage, “So little! Oh! It’s all so little!” So I told her I was going to use mirrors and that would double them up. That shut her up.
Philip was charm itself, We had dinner together that night in the exotic Golden Lotus Room, a wonderful Chinese room with a large stage where the girls would be doing the dinner show. Later, he took me up to  the Supper Club, where they would be performing the night club show.
The Dolly’s
When we arrived in the night club, he proudly announced he had a surprise for me. He had an artist playing there, ‘A FRENCH STRIPPER!’ He said it with such pride. “YOU  SEE IT’S JUST LIKE THE CASINO DE PARIS!” Yeah! Yeah! Ohhhh! Yeah!  A stripper!  I couldn’t fucking believe it!  Rosemary had told me that there were no strippers allowed to work in Singapore. Was I going potty or was she? What was I going to do? Meanwhile, the Parisian stripper had removed everything. She was starkers! ! ! Running around the stage flashing everything to everyone! Then the dirty bitch started working on the chair which she had just used to sit on. Now the legs of the chair came into play and she had one favourite one that went into every orifice that she had on show. The dirty cow! I can’t say that she got a standing ovation at the end of her act, except for some of the males in the audience. The rest were in total shock. As for me, I was slowly sliding down to the floor with embarrassment, and realizing that after what I had just seen on stage that I was completely screwed! What the fuck could I do? She made my girls look like they were the nuns from the Sound of Music. My show was classy and erotic and beautifully staged. The French harlot looked like she’d just come off the street in Place Pigalle. I found out later that she would do extra quickie matinees in the privacy of her room to supplement her income.
The Dolly’s
When we arrived in the night club, he proudly announced he had a surprise for me. He had an artist playing there, ‘A FRENCH STRIPPER!’ He said it with such pride. “YOU  SEE IT’S JUST LIKE THE CASINO DE PARIS!” Yeah! Yeah! Ohhhh! Yeah!  A stripper!  I couldn’t fucking believe it!  Rosemary had told me that there were no strippers allowed to work in Singapore. Was I going potty or was she? What was I going to do? Meanwhile, the Parisian stripper had removed everything. She was starkers! ! ! Running around the stage flashing everything to everyone! Then the dirty bitch started working on the chair which she had just used to sit on. Now the legs of the chair came into play and she had one favorite one that went into every orifice that she had on show. The dirty cow! I can’t say that she got a standing ovation at the end of her act, except for some of the males in the audience. The rest were in total shock. As for me, I was slowly sliding down to the floor with embarrassment, and realizing that after what I had just seen on stage that I was completely screwed! What the fuck could I do? She made my girls look like they were the nuns from the Sound of Music. My show was classy and erotic and beautifully staged. The French harlot looked like she’d just come off the street in Place Pigalle. I found out later that she would do extra quickie matinees in the privacy of her room to supplement her income.
I couldn’t sleep! I was in panic! What could I possibly do?  I lay all night asking myself how I could compete with that French slut and not let Philip down. The next morning at 8a.m. I faced Philip Seow in his office. He already knew something was wrong by my reaction to the stripper the night before. I had decided that I had to come clean with him. I told him exactly what Rosemary had told me – no full nudity, no striptease, the girls must wear pasties, etc. etc. and that none of the girls that I had engaged for my show would strip as they were showgirls, not strippers. I told him what I had done with the show and that I knew he would be pleased with it. I told him that I was not worried about the show.  BUT what was I going to do about a stripper? What was I going to do with such nudity as I had seen in his night club?
The Dolly’s
I took a deep breath and said that I thought it would be better if I went back to England and that we should call it a day and forget about the show. He then took an even deeper  breath and told me that on no account would I be allowed to leave Singapore. He said that he had put his job on the line by insisting in bringing our show from England and that if everything went sour both he and I would finish up in Singapore Bay. The hotel had already taken a big risk by making him the youngest Managing Director ever and many people were just waiting for him to screw up. That was just not going to happen if he could help it. As far as he was concerned, I was responsible for this crisis and I had to sort it out, otherwise it was cement boots for both of us.
Shit! That was another fine mess I’d gotten myself into. I wasn’t too happy at the thought of concrete anklets in a dirty watery grave in Singapore bay. I told him that I had an idea, but it was imperative that I brought out an extra artist, a stripper from England. If  he would  pay for the extra artist, I would sort it out in England and I was sure he would be happy. I just couldn’t let him down. I knew it just couldn’t be any run of the mill stripper. This one had to be special to counteract the filth that was currently on show in the Supper Club.  The Casino de Paris did not deal in filth, my girl needed to be really different, clean and special.
The Fabulous Diane Darling
God must have been watching over me because by chance in the new show that I had just opened at the Casino de Paris in London there was a young lady called Diane Darling. She appeared as Queen Marie Antoinette and slowly did a very long and elegant strip to the minuet, looking every bit a royal queen. Then to top it all she finished up with tassels on her boobs and also on each cheek of her bum. This was something I knew that had never been seen in Singapore or the Orient. She could rotate them either way, together or one at a time, depending on what the audience asked for. In fact, she could do anything with those tassels. She could rotate them so fast that you would think she would take off!  Diane could be my savior if , and this was the main and only problem, she was prepared to come to Singapore at a moment’s notice for six months. “Oh please let it happen!” I prayed.
Diane Shows A Leg
I rang Rosemary from my room immediately. It must have been at about 3a.m. in England, which didn’t please her too much, but to hell with that! It was a matter of life or me finishing up at the bottom of Singapore Bay!  I told her the situation that I was in and how much I needed Diane. “Promise her anything, just get her on that plane,” I told her.  “I can’t take no for an answer and no other girl will do. Get her!” 
The miracle happened, Rosemary talked Diane into coming immediately to Singapore. She had that way with her, she could get whatever she wanted. God was with me! The days before the girls arrival, Philip showed me around Singapore. We went to some wonderful night markets and he also showed me Bugis Street, commonly called Boogie Street, which was still going in those days and was infamous for all sorts of things. A must see on the tourist destination agenda.
Diane As Mae West 
The day the girls arrived was a happy occasion for me. I had already arranged dressing rooms and wardrobe space for the them and the costumes. Each girl had her own dresser, everything went along smoothly apart from Diane having a few problems with some of the girls, who behaved as though they were superior to her because she was a stripper. The main instigator was the singer, Juliet, who seemed to stir up a few of the girls, until they’d sussed her out. Things sorted themselves out fairly quickly when I pointed out to them that if it wasn’t for Diane none of them would be in work . When the girls got to know Diane they loved her.
The Dolly’s With Their Dressers
Diane With The Dolly’s Poolside
The show opened and Diane, who came on in the star spot, stopped the show. She would get a standing ovation every night, the audience had never seen anything like it, and they loved the humour that she put into her act. They just couldn’t get enough of the Tassel Lady. Meanwhile, the ‘Mean French Lady,’  who appeared only once on the first night that we opened in the Super Room Night Club, was terminated immediately and understandably! So much for ‘Viva la France’! I  believe she went back to Place Pigalle to ply her trade!
Philip Seow loved the show and appreciated what I had done to counteract the “Parisienne Harlot” and bring some class to the fabulous Malaysia Hotel. After four days of previews there was a Gala Dinner in the Golden Lotus Room for “The Dolly’s Show,” which  was an enormous success. I was complemented on the show by Lee Kuan Yew, who I  had no idea was the the Prime Minister of Singapore, where he was known as ‘The Father of Singapore.’ He told me how much he had enjoyed it. It was he who shaped Singapore into the wonderful country that it is today and cleaned up Bugis Street. I also got to know, and was invited frequently to dine with, Khoo Teck Puat, the owner of the Goodwood Group of companies, who owned The Malaysia Hotel and happened to be one of the richest men in Singapore. I was mixing with, as they would say back home, the rich and powerful of Singapore.
Truthfully, the time I spent in Singapore had to be one of the happiest times of my life, even with all the jet lag. It was hard work, but I and the girls, especially Diane Darling, Brenda Saunders and Faye Duncanson had a wonderful time.
My 3 drinking buddies Brenda, Diane and Fay
Whilst we were at the Malaysia Hotel, Eartha Kitt did a two day guest appearance and ‘Dolly’s-a-go-go’ had the pleasure of working with her.
In the beginning of March, Philip informed me that  Khoo Teck Puat had bought a 50% share of Aeroflot, the Russian Airline, as they wanted to start an Oriental route, and that from now on I would be flying with them backwards and forwards between England and Singapore via Moscow! What a happy thought that was, but I couldn’t get out of it.  
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I was on the first flight out from Singapore to Moscow. There were eight passengers on board. We all sat in the front cabin and froze our balls off. I’m amazed the crew could get the plane off the ground! The cabin crew did not know how to work anything. Foodwise everything was frozen, they didn’t know how to turn on the heaters. So I just vodka’d all the way to Moscow, where I had to wait six hours for a plane to London. It was all very enlightening and the thought of doing return trips just made me want to throw up!  I flew with Aeroflot four times and it was like being in “Ninotchka.” The whole place was so backward. The people at the airport were so rough and rude. All the secret police stood around looking obviously like secret police in their leather trench coats. Russia was definitely not for me!
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Still, I loved Singapore and it was worth putting up with backward Russia just to be able to get to Singapore. Don’t even ask about Tashkent! It was freezing! I’ve never seen so many Russian mamushkas in my life, and all with their hands out. 
The Dolly’s
At last the time came for us to go to Kuala Lumpur. The Merlin Hotel was the top hotel there at the time. The staff we found were so different from those in Singapore. In Singapore they were all smiles, but here they all looked as miserable as sin. Maybe it was just their nature; the manager, who was Dutch, and his Malaysian wife were charm itself. It was just the rest of the other miserable sods. Could it have been because I and the girls were given the best rooms in the hotel? That was because I had told the manager that all my girls were very respectable, like the nuns from The Sound of Music!  Of course, that image was ruined when the girls discovered that the hotel pharmacy sold the birth pill and they bought out his whole stock! ! !
So we rehearsed the new show and went back four weeks later to Singapore with “Viva les Dolly’s.” It was another blinding success, and it was all thanks to Diane bless her and her four tassels, which also saved me from a watery grave!

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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