RSS

Tag Archives: Zee & Co

Mark Canter, England’s Erté without a doubt!

MARK CANTER COVER BLOG RECUTCCI02192019

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.

MARK CANTER BLOG NEW 1 CCI02192019_0005

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. 

MARK CANTER FEATHERS 123 2019-03-10_14-13-05

MARK CANTER BLOG 44 2019-01-27_16-57-45

From the drawing board to the finished costume

MARK CANTER BLOG 3 danny recut 2019-01-27_16-50-12

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

MARK AND JOE TOGETHER CCI02192019_0008

Mark and Joe

MARK CANTER BRIDE JPG 2019-03-07_14-27-39

A Costume Design for Barbara Windsor.

MARK CANTER WRIT-UP 1 12019-03-11_12-43-31

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

MARK CANTER JOE KEN DODD ADEPHI THEATRE LIVERPOOL 2019-02-18_9-29-11

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.

MARK CANTER CLOAK 3 2019-02-18_11-35-11

Black velvet, beaded with diamanté

MARK CANTER ERIC AND ANGIE 2019-02-18_11-03-56

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!”

MARK CANTER DANNY LIGHTENED 2017-12-12_16-36-38 tiger

A few more of Mark’s Designs

MARK CANTER GREEN 2019-02-24_16-54-41

 

MARK CANTER SILVER BACKGROUND 2019-02-23_20-23-32

 

MARK CANTER PALACE 2019-02-23_19-51-44

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!

MARK CANTER PALACE USE 2019-02-23_20-16-34

Another Mark Canter Costume

MARK CANTER FRED 2 2019-03-07_23-24-20

MARK CANTER FRED 711 2019-03-07_23-58-18

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!

MARK CANTER AND RAY 2 CCI02192019_0003

Mark and Ray, forever the Actor!

MARK CANTER ON SWING LIGHTENED 2019-02-23_19-35-06

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!

MARK CANTER AND RAY 1 CCI02192019_0004

Mark and Ray. “Halcyon Days”

MARK CANTER CHINESE CREATION SHARPENED 2019-02-18_11-17-47

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.

MARK CANTER BLOG 4 4 SKETCH SAVED 2019-01-27_16-57-45

Another Mark Canter Design from the drawing board to creation

MARK CARTER BLOG 1 2019-01-31_13-44-05

Another Mark Canter Creation

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

MARK CANTER BLOG 2 LAUGHING CCI02192019_0002     

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!

DESIGN 2A CCI02062019

 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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

SIR KEN DODD RECEIVING AWARD

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

KEN DODD and ZEE in Scarborough 1978

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.

CCF05152012_00004

CCF05152012_00003

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!)

KEN DODD SCARBOROUGH

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!

KEN DODD FOR BLOG RESIZED 2

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,