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TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

Music Hall Star Turn Marie Lloyd

Tales From ‘THE GAIETY’ ‘A little of what y’ fancy does y’ good!’ The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd. A homage to British „Music Hall‟ to showcase the talents of Creative Writing students Rising Brook Writers RISING BROOK WRITERS


RISING BROOK WRITERS

Cover picture: Marie Lloyd Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts http://www.mander-and-mitchenson.co.uk

Supported by a grant from Age Concern England Registered Charity 261794

Copyright - Disclaimer To the best of our knowledge and belief all the material included in this publication is in the public domain or has been reproduced with permission and/or source acknowledgement. The photographs are certainly all old enough to be out of copyright and we have researched the rights on material where possible. Anyone feeling they have a copyright on any item included should contact Rising Brook Writers and if their claim seems valid we will remove the item in question in any reprint or gratefully acknowledge the copyright holder. All story characters are fictitious and bear no resemblance to any person living or dead. Š Rising Brook Writers 2006 - Tales From The Gaiety Contributors retain the copyright to their own material. Visit our website at www.risingbrookwriters.org.uk (RCN 1117227 (2007) a voluntary charitable trust)


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

Index: 

Introduction

Page 4

Dedication

Page 5

Foreword

Page 7

History of Music Hall

Page 9

The Gaiety Stories

Page 13, 18, 22, 26, 33, 38, 49, 53, 59, 64, 67, 73, 78, 86, 93, 96, 100, 104, 110, 114, 120, 126

Songs /Poems

Pages 12, 15, 30, 37, 45, 50, 52, 63, 77, 85, 95, 101, 109

Memory Lane

Page 55, 82, 91,113, 123

Music Hall Stars

Page 32, 63, 65, 76, 102

Dan Leno Musi c Ha ll Com ic for Top Star 20 ye The f ars irst k i n g of t Stand he Up C o medi Born ans 1860 –

Real

name

Died

1904 Geor ge G alvin


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Introduction Rising Brook Writers are a group of mature students, including disabled and senior citizens, who are studying ‗Creative Writing‘ as part of Keele University‘s Continuing and Professional Education programme: aims are to promote literacy and introduce the joys of self-expression through Creative Writing to others. Being at a loose end through the summer months the group wanted something to do to keep them out of mischief. Hence this community workshop publishing project was born. ‗Tales from The Gaiety’ is RBW‘ first publication. RBW meet at Rising Brook Branch Library, and are deeply grateful to Staffordshire Library Service for use of this facility and for all the support from staff member: especial thanks go to Reading Development Officer Tom Flemons, Jane Wells of SBC‘s CultureGen and Nick Maslen of Age Concern South Staffs for their valued advice. A big thank you also goes to Age Concern England for a starter grant. Members hope you will enjoy reading this homage to Music Hall as much as they did writing it. The Gaiety Music Hall stories are based in a Little Titch Hall failing theatre in the North West in the Music Comic (Did he resemble Les 1930s. Dawson?) The team invented all the characters, the venue and the plot themselves. This is the first time many of them have attempted to write comedy, usually they are crime writers, novelists, playwrights or poets. This change of style has been a creative challenge and more importantly it was lots of fun. If you fancy having a go at writing do come along to our WORKSHOPS : think about it - if you don’t tell your story, who will?


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

This project is dedicated to the memory of :-

Catherine Ann Wilson Her niece Doreen Baines writes:Treasured thoughts of my Aunty Kit born May 26th 1914, baptized as Catherine Ann Wilson, who passed away with a smile on her face on June 16th 2005. She was called after my Great Aunt, who was baptized Kitty, born in May 1864, and both of these wonderful ladies were involved in the entertainment business both in Chester and Liverpool. Those last few days I spent at her bedside I learned so much, especially about my Great Aunty Kitty who had worked mostly behind the scenes at the Music Hall in Chester from the age of fourteen as a seamstress and also stood in as an understudy for anyone who could not go on, even as an acrobat. For years my Great Aunty Kitty‘s career was not discussed, even my mother did not want to talk about it. It appeared to be looked down upon in the old days, especially as she was also involved in the circus later on, hence my reason for this tribute to my Aunty Kit, who told me this slice of family history from her deathbed. „God Bless You Aunty Kit.‟

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Authors’ Usual Speciality:Rising Brook Writers

 

Doreen Baines - Novelist - Short Stories Ray Burslem - Novelist - Short Stories Comedy Christine Butters - Novelist Crime - Short Stories Audrey Rainbow - Novelist Crime - Short Stories - Playwright Stephanie Spiers - Novelist Crime - Screenplays - Playwright

Other Contributors:

Roland Astall

V E Dalgetty-Windsor

Maurice Blisson


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’ Foreword

Phil Emery - Novelist and Playwright

s as a ries. He work varie tt o P e th e id r lives just outs ching creative writing fo and Phil Emery a te ns, o r, ter\lecture l organisati a n o ti a c u d e freelance wri s, colleges, and y. His storie it s, rs ie e it iv rs n e iv U n e ous u ith Keel nd te lecturer w UK, USA a ed e ia c th o ss a in n d a re is ppea produc rticles have a fix’, has been tra ra G l a verse, and a tu ir roman radio play, ‘V st novel Nec te la is Canada. A H . a adio Dram in 2005 by Minute R anion Press m Im y b d e was publish

Ladieeeees and Geeeentelmeeeen! The Rising Brook Writers, freed for the summer from the sensible restraining influence of their harassed writing course tutor, have perpetrated a veritable fissile farrago, a grammatical gallimaufry, a lexical lasagne (vegetarian option available), a solander of creative scintillation, a transilient tessellation of text - all on the magical motif of music hall! Herein you will find nostalgia, humour, pathos, historical fascination, some completely lacking alliteration. Indeed, "Tales from the Gaiety" is a square-bound music hall variety bill in itself. If you can hear me, put the dictionary down, mother, and take your seat. And don't forget to join in the songs!


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George Robey At the Hackney Empire

Catch-phrases: Music Hall turns were the celebrities of their times. Star’s catch-phrases were on everyone’s lips. Arthur Askey - Hello Playmates Harry Korris - Eeee! If ever a man suffered! Charlie Kunz - Clap Hands! Here comes Charlie Larry Grayson - Shut that door! Archie Glen - Blotto as usual Sid Field - What a performance! Leon Cortez - Wotcher Cocks! Harry Bailey - Missus Woman

Hylda Baker - She knows ya know! Bob Nelson - Aren’t plums cheap? 8


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

A Brief History of British Music Hall Before ‗Music Hall‘ was given the name, similar entertainment had been going on for centuries. Music Hall brought together a variety of different acts which provided an evening of fun and laughter in the years before radio and television. The origins of Music Hall can be found in several places which provided entertainment in towns and cities in the 1830s. Among these were: the backroom of a pub, where simple singsongs became a saloon concert; popular theatre, mainly at travelling fairs; Song & Supper Rooms for affluent middle class men to enjoy a night out on the town and The Pleasure Gardens, more low brow ‗Free and Easys‘. By the 1850s, pub landlords were moving the entertainment side of their business into purpose built halls; these new premises retained the traditional flavour of an inn: drinking, eating, laughter and songs A chairman would introduce song and dance acts onto a simple stage, whilst keeping order with a gavel. The audience, often fuelled with alcohol, heckled and joined in with favourite songs and performers. The growth of the Halls was rapid and spread across Britain with the first great boom in the 1860s. By 1870, 31 large halls were listed in London and 384 in the rest of the country. Performers now became a professional workforce, appearing in London at several Halls on the same night and making provincial tours. At its peak, Music Hall was the TV of its day. Stars were enormously popular. They had songs specially written for them, if other performers wanted to sing them — they had to pay for permission. During the 1870s, Music Hall expanded again. The Lon9


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don Pavilion was restyled in 1885 incorporating traditional theatre features of house and stage design. The era of the Deluxe Hall or Variety Theatre was born with fixed seating in the stalls and the performer was more distant from the audience. With increases in costs due to the introduction of safety regulations and the rise of Top of the Bill fees, the music hall industry combined into a number of Syndicates. A number of chains such as Moss, Stoll and Thornton with their "Empires" and "Palaces" started to dominate the business. Changes to licensing laws made a music and dancing licence a requirement. Moral and social reformers challenged the raucous style and operation of the halls. Mrs Ormiston Chant campaigned against lax morals in The Empire, Leicester Square. Later, came prohibition of drink in all new halls such that by 1909, of the twenty-nine halls belonging to Stoll, only eight still had drink licences. With just a few Syndicates controlling the majority of halls, owners attempted to extract the maximum work for minimum pay from the stage acts. The Variety Artists' Federation, in 1907 organised the first music hall strike. In 1912, music hall gained a new level of respectability with the first Royal Command Performance. London County Council, after a series of fires in theatres and music halls finally banned eating and drinking in the auditorium in 1914. From that time, music halls were run on the same lines as theatres. From 1914 music hall reverted to its earlier name of Variety and, with the coming of cinema and later radio, became virtually extinct by World War II. Although Music Hall is regarded as a particularly British institution, two other countries, France and the USA, also had a music hall tradition. In France this was a sophisticated 10


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

middle class entertainment, whilst in America, Vaudeville developed on similar lines to British Variety. Attempts were made at revival in Britain, both in the 1930s and more recently with the TV programme the "The Good Old Days" from Leeds which was very popular with mature viewers. Sound recording came too late for most Music Hall artists. However, at the turn of the last century a number of performers such as Dan Leno, started to record their songs. These were very expensive, but eventually prices fell and records became more affordable. For thirty years many Music Hall artists recorded their songs and performances some of which have been saved.

Wilson, Kepple and Betty

Revnell and West - The long and the short of it Sandy Powell - Can you „ear me Mother? 11


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A Little Bit Off the Top Harry Bedford Brown's a very old friend of mine Once I went to his house to dine; Some of the aristocracy were there. Ev'ryone of 'em thought me "great" And said, when they saw me lick my plate That I must be an American millionaire. The waiter came into the room with a beautiful lump of pork And though I'd "wolfed" enough to feed a town, I thought I'd like a sample of the crackling and the gravy, So I loosened out my vest and said to Brown: CHORUS Carve a little bit off the top for me! for me! Just a little bit off the top for me! for me! Saw me off a yard or two, I'll tell you when to stop; All I want is a little bit off the top!

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Ray Burslem - Bare Back Riding It had been a depressing day. Mavis‘s cat had been run over by a municipal dustcart, which was a useful thing when a body was to be disposed of. Then the wireless brok‘ so we couldna‘ sit at wom and be entertained when the local rag had been read through. So it was a toss up between pictures, or the Alhambra, or Gaiety theatre. This beying a Sat‘dee neet we had seen ow‘ the flicks the previous week, we loved sitting in the back row with a bag of chips and two bottles of Bass Pale Ale between us. So a trip on the Wigan Trams was called for and tonight I think a box at the Gaiety would cheer mar Ladee up. ―Yes miss, a box is what I asked fer!‖ The platinum blonde with a face like a smacked bum simpered at mey, but the ticket was issued. Fave‘ bob, dear at half the prayce but Mavis gave my hand a squeeze so I knew I had done the right thing by her. ―Have we got time for a pint Horace?‖ We had reached the second floor and shewn the usherette our ticket, she called me sir. I looked at the old Ingersol seeing we had time in hand and led the way to the bar which was crowded and a hubbub of noise filled the air. ―Is this chair taken squire?‖ The man answered no, he was dressed up to the nines just like William Powell in ‗The Thin Man‘ we had seen at the Savoy on Thursday. Mavis sat whilst I joined the throng at the bar, elbowing two gossiping women apart to make a space for a drinker with a thirst. ―Do you mind!‖ 13


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―No, Missis.‖ I replied, then catching the eye of the barman with a ten-bob note waved like a union jack. I ordered the usual for myself and a gin and it for my lady. Leaving a tanner for the barkeep I sidled over to Mavis. ―When is your act on M‘sieur Anton?‖ Mavis queried the dapper gent sitting opposite her. ―About half, half past er eight.‖ His reply was nearly incoherent, he certainly had been at the highland malt since the matinee and he didn‘t sound French to me. More likely London. ―What‘s his act Mavis?‖ ―He has a talking horse, duck! No, I mean, duck, his horse talks.‖ I think his horse may have to do all the talking tonight. We sipped our drinks quickly so as to get comfortable in our box before the show commences. **** ―That last act couldn‘t fight its way out of a wet paper sack, Mavis.‖ As Dohini the Great Escapologist was carried off stage still in a sack wrapped in chains and padlocked. ―That fire eater was soon put outside when the stage set alight Horace. Good job the fire brigade is just up the road, it made for a bit of excitement, duck, when they turned out.‖ Mavis sat expectantly as the Master of Ceremonies announced the next act; M‘sieur Anton and Genius the all-knowing horse. In the wings a whinny could be heard and the sound of Anton‘s slurred speech attempting to get the animal moving onstage. ―C‘mon yer beggar move or it‘s the glue factory for yer. Keep that gob shut!‖ Followed by a bellow of pain and the sound of hooves as Genius entered stage right his lips holding a 14


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

piece of trouser material and lying over his withers M‘sieur Anton whose bare buttocks caused a bout of laughter followed by catcalls. It was made more humorous because Genius was a Shetland pony. The pony leaving stage left after Genius deposited a load of manure centre stage, then covering it with M‘sieur Anton face first. After trying to make himself heard the Master of Ceremonies gave up and shouted for the curtains to be closed and the orchestra to play. With a tap of his baton the conductor then nodded for the music to start. From the pit the sound of ‗The Galloping Major‘ gradually reaching ascendancy over the audience which then resumed the battle of sound when the half burnt curtains showed Wendy Wong and her troupe of dancing ducks trying to help Anton leave the stage as they were on next. It was not to be! Genius re-entered the stage again and made for the man who tormented him. There followed a merry chase around in which ducks a quacking with feathers flying. Much muck, pony and Anton changing position several times generally keeping to the music until the fire curtain finally hid the scene. ―Well, Mavis, duck. I think the entertainment is over for the night. We‘ll catch the next tram home and call in the King Henry at Cartlidge Street for a couple of Robinsons Best Bitter.‖ ―Do you think M‘sieur Anton will be alright Horace?‖ Mavis said with a worried look on her pretty face. ―Of course, love. A bit of tender care to his rear will soon have him on his feet but I bet he doesn‘t sit for quite a while yet.‖ 15


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A Thing He Had Never Done Before George Robey The wind it blowed, the snow it snowed, the lightning it did light The rain came down as usual, and, brethren, well it might; For had not darling papa come home sober that same night, A thing he had never done before! It took us all our time to hold the bulldog Patsy Burke; And mama tore her hair and started raving like a Turk, When papa calmly told us that he'd been and done some work, A thing he had never done before!

CHORUS: 'Twas a thing he had never done before, Though he'd often been to prison to be sure; It killed our sister Ruth, When he went and spoke the truth, A thing he had never done before.

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That very same papa was overjoyed last Sunday morn, He’d never been so jolly since that day that I was born, For he got his only pair of trousers out of pawn, A thing he had never done before! When mama saw that papa was a-treading virtue’s path, She said, Salvation Army-like, ‘Oh! What a soul he hath!’ She sold the clock for four pence and went and had a bath, A thing she had never done before!

The Great The One and Only George Robey as ‗The Queen of Hearts‘

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Christine Butters - Vester Swann’s Monologue An ageing Music Hall star sits before the mirror contemplating the once beautiful face, now sadly ravaged by cosmetics and an addiction to gin. Her ample charms are swathed in a voluminous wrap. She applies greasepaint with a generous hand. ------------Well, Mum is this what you meant by Star Quality? This pokey little dressing room in a back street theatre in Wigan? With a star on the door that can 'ardly be seen amongst the grime. Was this what you henvisaged all those years ago when you named me Vester Swann? But why Vester, Mum? The Swann I can understand as you was married to Mr Swann at the time. Were he me father by the way? I never did suss that one. Seemed as you was more than fond of Uncle Billy. I know that you was very cut up when 'e left the show sudden like. Uncle Billy, were 'e me father? I often wondered. Didn't 'e have a row with Mr Swann? Why did you halways refer to 'im as Mr Swann and never Harthur. That puzzled me. Still 'e were good to me was Mr Swann. Born in a trunk that's me and no sooner did I pop out than I become part of the hact. "The Amazing Swanns and Signet". I was eight before I realised that my name weren't Signet. The Amazing Swanns and Signet. I can remember it on the posters, quite near the bottom, towards the end, as I recall. What was so hamazing about it? Unless you call it hamazing that 18


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

people actually paid money to watch us. Goodness them troop of jugglers are noisy. Them pounding down that iron staircase it's enough to give me an 'eadache. What was it you used to wear Mum? That skimpy costume with them ridiculous feathers stuck on your behind. Made you look like an ostrich. I hoften thought so. Did you invent the word fishnet? I've never seen so many 'oles in hanyone's stockings. And you just stood there simpering as Mr Swann produced them birds from up 'is sleeve with a great show of surprise. The only surprise were that the audience didn't tell you to get off sooner, hespecially when they got as 'ow they could see where them birds was a comin' from. Lost it at the end did old Harthur. Booed 'im off the stage at the Halhambra. And what were my part? Just to look cute, a cute little redhead. Now I come to think about it Uncle Billy 'ad red hair. What 'appened Mum, between you and Mr Swann? It can't "ave been the fact that 'e said that I would make a better assistant. You was the best Mum, everyone said so This muck is reeking 'avoc with my skin. Are the bags under me eyes getting worse? Better layoff the gin Vester me gal. Why Vester Mum? Named after a box of matches was I? I know what you told me. You named me Vester so that I could light up the theatrical stage. A bright beacon on the Music 'All stage. What are you? Forty-five and still tring to fool them with this old malarkey. This is it Vester Gal. Settle yourself on that swing and hang on tight. 'E nearly 'ad you off last night. Think that was 'is hintention, cause a bit of a storm that would. 19


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Perhaps I "ave been a bit 'eavy 'anded. What were it Mr Swann used to say? Looks as if you've put that muck on with a trowel gal. But it enhances me eyes so that they dazzle to the back of the stalls. Who am I kidding? If there were to be anyone in the back rows of the stalls it would only be some courting couple as like and 'e certainly wouldn't be interested in my blue eye shadow. Something a bit closer to 'orme is what 'e'd be looking at! Better slap on a bit of the old rouge, got to look my best. A bright beacon to light up the stage. Don't make me laugh. Gawd what do you look like gal? Where's the powder? Better tone it down a bit. Is that better? It's hard to tell. 'Ow am I supposed to turn a male impersonator from the first 'alf into a singing sensation in the second when I can't see. Twelve bulbs there is around this fly-blown mirror and only three of them work. Let's have the dress on then Vester. That corset may be a crippler but it certainly does wonders for yer figure. Figure of a young girl though I says it myself. Blast I've got a ladder in me tights. Will it show? Nah, they don't care about a ladder in me tights. Do they care about anythin'. Is there anyone there to notice a ladder in me tights? Star billin' and I don't know if anyone 'as even come to see me. Star Billing I `as since `er `opped it. At the Halhambra she is now, much good may it do 'er. Don't say I've forced myself into this blasted corset and this girlie dress and there aint anyone out there. This golden wig is a wretched nuisance. It's so ‗ot. But with that over your own barnet and a judiciously placed parasol you could pass for twenty, Vester me Gal. In your dreams.

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"Kensington Linnet plays to a full house in the pit. Trombonist may sue!" And we're off. Curtains swish back, musicians playin' the openin' refrain. Gawd he doesn't look any better. Billy Bennett, seventy if he's a day and still thinking that 'e would pass for a young girl's sweetheart. "If you were the only girl in the world and I was the only boy." What a laugh, if 'is body odour didn't knock a girl for six 'is 'alitosis certainly would. Smile Vester. Teeth and a glimpse of your balcony it's what they've come to see. And it's them as pays the bills. Is 'e pushing this swing a bit vigorously? Stop it you silly old beggar you'll 'ave me off. 'E is pushing it larder What's the matter with 'im? Gawd if 'e 'asn't forgot to sing. Better cover for `im. Oh you'd `ave been proud of me Mum. Kept going like a trouper when me old Dad pushed me into the Orchestra pit. After all ... the show must go on! —o0o—

‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray - the mangled French

speaking ‘juggler’ - 1898-1969.

The night before he died Eddie was invited on to the stage by Gert and Daisy (Elsie and Doris Waters) where Eddie received a standing ovation from a cheering Eastbourne audience

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Audrey Rainbow

Millie - Wash House To Music Hall

In the washhouse wringing out the last sheet Millie glanced around at the faces of the other women bent over the large stone communal sink. Scrubbing furiously up and down their washboards at husband‘s pants, shirts and filthy working clothes. They all looked weary and older than their years brushing, with reddened hands, stray straw-like hair from faces bathed in sweat from the rising steam. Her eyes rested on little Maudie who was throwing her head back in laughter at the crude comments of Glad and Nell. Those two kept the whole of the washhouse entertained with their tales of drunken husbands or how they‘d fooled the tallyman yet again and, best of all, impressions of Glad‘s ancient battleaxe of a mother-in-law never moving from her chair beside the fire but ruling the whole household with a rod of iron. Tears of laughter were streaming down little Maudie‘s face and no one would ever guess from the scene that Maudie had been left a widow with four young ones under five. Yes, this close knit group of women may not have much money, or luck in life, but they supported each other without any fuss or sentiment. Glad and Nellie were a real comic turn and could lift any mood. They should be on the music hall. Thinking of the music hall she wondered what this little band would think if they found out she‘d been taken on at the Gaiety. It was her first night after a Monday spent in the washhouse, which was why she was rushing through it even though she was so tired she could have slept on a washing line. She knew that when she wasn‘t there they talked about her. Saying just ‗cos she‘d come from the top end of town she 22


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

was no better than them and should know her place now and be satisfied looking after her husband and kids. Alfie didn‘t mind her ways, he would just smile, shake his head and say, ―Do what you want Pet, as long as me house is clean and me tea on the table, I‘m happy.‖ Gathering up her washing basket she quietly made her way to the door, turning and shouting, ―Bye girls, see ya,‖ before they had chance to question her. After pegging the washing on the line she went indoors to check the stew on the stove. Good, nearly ready, Alfie‘s favourite. Putting the latch down on the door, she stood in front of the sink, took off her blouse and had a good wash. After putting on a clean blouse and pinny over the top she started to cut great doorsteps of bread to fill up Alfie and baby Jack. Maybe soon she could put more meat in the stew. Running around the side of the Gaiety to the stage door she was out of breath as old Harry the doorman let her in. ―Cutting it a bit fine aren‘t ya, me duck?‖ ―Oh, I know Harry, my little one just wouldn‘t get off to sleep, right paddy he had and I couldn‘t leave Alfie to deal with it, could I?‖ ―Well the boss was ranting about you, talking about giving people a break and did they thank you, no took advantage, that‘s what. So I should get yourself back there pronto, me duck, if you want to come back tomorrow.‖ She could hear the Master of Ceremonies warming up the audience, then to a loud cheer he brought his gavel down and introduced Marvo the Marvellous and his singing dog. 23


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Turning the corner she saw the boss disappearing into the door at the end of the corridor just as the dancing troop came out of their dressing room to make their way to the stage. ―You‘d better get a move on, the boss‘s been looking for you and he wants your guts for garters,‖ said a tall blonde with a swish of her feather fan. ―Thanks, I know,‖ replied Millie. Closing the door behind her she made her way to a chair in front of the big dressing room mirror with its light bulbs all around. Staring at her face she sighed, it looked worn and red and mottled. Pulling herself up in the chair she smiled at her reflection, a good coat of greasepaint, some rouge and lipstick and she would be transformed. Looking at the satin and taffeta gowns hanging behind her she decided that the scarlet with the white feathers would be just the thing. Standing on the stage taking her third encore, flowers cascading around her feet, a new nightingale had been discovered they said. Alfie was so proud and the girls from the yard all wanted to be her best friend. Twirling with her arms around the waist of the beautiful red dress the door burst open and Mr Gwynfor Davis, the boss, brought her back to reality. ―There you are, what time do you call this? I‘ve got half a dozen young girls, see who‘d be glad to step into your shoes. Begged me you did, said you could do it easy, said your husband was fine about it and only your third night and you take liberties, well my girl if you can‘t get here on time you‘ll be out no matter how good you are.‖ Seeing her lip tremble and a tear escape from her eye he 24


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softened his tone. ―I‘m sorry my girl, but you know what a load of prima donnas we have here, nothing‘s ever good enough for them but they seem to have taken to you they do, like your work see so get along to the laundry room. I‘ve put the copper on for you so you can get on with the ironing and mending while you wait for the water to heat up. Off you go then.‖ o0o

Vesta Ti ll

ey

Trod the bo over fifty ards for years fro m the age o f four. She bega na imperson s a male ator at th e tender a ge of ele v en when sh e fi dressed in rst was b clothes to oys imitate a famous te nor.

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Steph Spiers –

Wands Don’t Grow on Trees

Tap, tap. . . Tap, tap. The locked door rattled as the handle span round. ‗Top of the Bill, first call. Ten minutes. Mr. Hissins. . and Mr. Scilly says he wants a word about your wand,‘ shouted young Jimmy‘s high piping voice above the commotion in the back stage corridor as the trainee stage hand did the rounds. ‗There, what did I tell you?‘ muttered André de la Rue through a mouth full of ostrich feather boa, on his knees under the frocks rail. ‗Breaking a wand isn‘t the end of the world. It doesn‘t mean seven years bad luck – it‘s not like a looking glass.‘ ‗No, it‘s worse. It means everything goes haywire until I can get another. How‘m I supposed to handle you-know-who with no wand? and for the record when I want advice from an ‗earnest‘ Dresser I‘ll ask for it!‘ spluttered Sid, his tonsured pate perilously close to the pipe-work beneath the dressing room‘s cracked hand basin. ‗Well, I like that,‘ said André in a hurt tone crawling on all fours along the skirting board of the back wall, ‗and just mind you don‘t tear that cloak. It took me ages to iron that satin border, those gold stars are a nightmare. This goes beyond the ca . . . . Here, hang about, I can see one, pass me that cage.‘ ‗Get it yourself. I‘m stuck over here.‘ The curt refusal was followed by a sharp ripping sound as the tubby conjuror‘s heel caught in the hem. Leaving smudges of mascara above rouged cheek bones André screwed up his eyes in dismay as a chin cleft trembled in temper. ‗Blast, it‘s gone again now.‘ 26


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‗Why didn‘t you grab it‘s tail, you idiot?‘ ‗That‘s it! Just you remember my lad, you might be Ali ‗Flaming‘ Baba to punters beyond the footlights but in here, you‘re just plain Sid Hissins. And, don‘t you dare call me an idiot – I once dressed the Jersey Lilly, herself, I‘ll have you know. In all my years I‘ve never been so spoken to by a turn especially one from Bolton. Here I am ruining the creases in these trousers and I‘ve broken a nail.‘ ‗Yes, yes – I‘m sorry, keep your hair on,‘ pacified Sidney spluttering as a dove‘s wing narrowly flittered past his left ear. ‗Look, look quick, there by your foot. It‘s the big one.‘ ‗Oh my God. Its tail went over my shoe,‘ cried André as he pushed away the costume rack and scrambled to patent pumped feet. Brushing off crumpled knees with white gloved hands, the elderly Dresser checked his appearance in a well lit mirror. ‗What a state! Look at me will you, macassa all over the place. What a performance.‘ ‗There won‘t be any flipping performance unless you stop ferreting about, you old pudding and give me a hand,‘ muttered Sidney as he booted the vibrating laundry basket, ‗Pack it up – you noisy pair of . . ‘ ‗Language! It‘s no good Sid. They‘ve abandoned ship.‘ André patted the wall affectionately, ‗This old girl‘s over a hundred years old it‘s full of the little beggars all your little chaps have done is gone visiting. They‘ll be back when they get hungry.‘ ‗Spare me the history lesson and the animal psychology – it‘s all very well waiting for them to get hungry but it ain‘t going to be in the next five minutes is it. I need ‗em in this back pocket sharpish.‘ The Great Ali Baba, majestically emphasised the point by gripping the flushed dresser‘s neck tie and pushing his shoulder back down on to his knees. ‗Let‘s not 27


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forget how the ruddy mice got out in the first place.‘ ‗Come on! I told you it was an accident. How was I supposed to know? I thought it was . . . Oh no. . . . Look. . .‘ André didn‘t have chance to finish gulping the denial of responsibility as at that moment, Monty woke up, blinked and sniffed the air with a long forked tongue. He‘d know that smell anywhere. It was dinner. Hot and tangy, pink tailed, pink nosed dinner. Warm and twitchy as it wriggled down. Funny, nobody had said it was going to be an out-to-play day still: he was up for it. Stashed safely under the dressing table a hungry twelve foot python uncoiled and pressed an elegant shoulder against the top of the wicker basket, six white mice on the hoof being too good an opportunity to give the go by. The flat smoothing iron head slithered out on to the floor, eyes a twinkle with a come-to-daddy smile playing about thin lips and a darting pink tongue tuned to mouse flavoured radar. Cowering petrified by the locked door, André knew he should have checked the fastenings on that bottom basket when the other three fell off. But, when faced with four calling birds cooing on the skylight window ledge, two white rabbits doing what rabbits do best in the laundry basket and half a dozen white mice skedaddling all over the shop, checking the snake basket had gone right out of his head. Just then as they clung together trembling, with sweat trickling off their brow, four eyes mesmerised by the approaching slither . . . the door handle rattled. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. And, Jimmy‘s high pitched voice cried out, ‗Top of the Bill. Five minutes! Mr. Scilly says he‘s borrowed another wand for you Mr ‗aitch and not to break this one. Wands don‘t grow on trees.‘ 28


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Music Hall Song sheet

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A POEM FOR YOUR EDIFICATION AND DELIGHT FROM YOUR OWN, YOUR VERY OWN, CHRIS BUTTERS A DITTY ENTITLED:-

She’ll never see 40 again Bert Plug’s me name, And, lightin’ is me game. Light ‘em up a treat I do You’d swear as ‘er were 22 CHORUS

When I knows she’ll never see 40 again. Got to get ‘em ‘spots’ just right, Old Vester’s girlish charms to light. A young gel is what y’ve paid to see And y’ wud swear that’s what she be You’d swear as ‘er were 22

CHORUS

But, I knows she’ll never see 40 again. I knows a thing or two And what’s what about you know who. Them golden curls is just a wig A corset’s what makes ‘er assets big

CHORUS

But, she’ll never see 40 again.

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It’s me lightin’ as is the star Never one to want to mar Reputations like Vester Swann Is what The Gaiety counts upon CHORUS

But, she’ll never see 40 again. Likes a drop of Mother’s Ruin That’s what keeps ‘er of a doin’ That act with her old Da Thinkin’ that she’s still a star

CHORUS

But, she’ll never see 40 again. Bert Plug’s me name, And, lightin’ is me game. Light ‘er up a treat I do So you’d think she’s 22

CHORUS

When she’ll never see 40 again.

—-oo0oo—-

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1870 as born in ood w d y lo L ia W Marie lice Victor to her A a ld ti a as M but, , London, n to x o H in as always w e h s c li ub adoring p . Our Marie es d three tim ie r r a m s a Marie w ears were she y r te la r e hen and h health. W l il y b s d e r mar funeral wa r e h , 2 2 9 . died in 1 00 people ,0 0 5 y b d attende y were sauc s g n o s r didSince he r records e h e m ti for their d are very n a ll e w ll n’t se wadays. scarce no included s g n o s d e v Her best lo r and A little bit rte - O Mr Po fancy does you u of what yo good.

Acknowledgement: Rising Brook Writers are indebted to: Mr Bill Clarke of Windy Ridge CDs - www.musichallcds.com Mr John Kenrick of Musicals 101 - www.musicals101.com Mr Roger Wilmut - www.rfwilmut.clara.net for their kind permission to use research and graphics from these rich sources of historical data for this project. These websites are a mine of information for anyone wishing to find Music Hall songs, artists or recorded performances.

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Christine Butters - Sam Muggins’ Monologue The Gaiety Theatre, Wigan. An ageing stage hand leans on his broom. ************* ‗Gaiety Theatre, long time since there's been any gaiety in this place. I've 'ad more laughs on Wigan Pier. But the old Gaiety could pack 'em in when we 'ad one of those "names" toppin' the bill in the good old days. ‗Came 'ere as a lad I did. 'Ad great 'opes, I did. Start small me dad says; start small and who knows where it will lead. So I started small, working backstage, sweeper upper and general dogs body. Ne'er you mind about that me old dad says; some day you'll be big Sam Muggins. The name Sam Muggins will mean summat at The Gaiety, just you see if I ain't right.‘ ‗So I leant on me broom and I watched them dancers run onto the stage. Scantily clad little madams they were, looking to catch the eye of some Stage Door Jonnie and 'oping as 'ow 'e would turn out to be some rich Lord. Well we all know about them sort. Some of them girlies they found out. Not that it did 'em much good. They never noticed me 'cept when they wanted somefin doing then it were "fetch the broom Sam and clear up all these petals from off the floor." ‗Cheapskate 'er admirer were. Finest roses for 'is girl 'e says. Been in the cemetery for a week or more is what I says. Leaning on me broom dreamin.' Dreamin' of the day when the name Sam Muggins would be Top 0' the Bill; me name up in lights. "Sam Muggins Escapologist." Na I never did like the idea of that after I saw a chap nearly drown when 'e 33


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dropped the key to the padlock. Dream, that could "ave been a nightmare! "Sam Muggins and 'is performin' Seals." Not if I 'ad to share me room wiv Chloe and 'Ector, or whatever their names were. The smell of fish didn't 'alf linger. And the flies! Summat cruel them flies were. "Sam Muggins and Cuddles." Cuddles? If ever there was an animal that was misnamed it were that chimpanzee we 'ad 'ere a few years back. Puddles were nearer the mark and who was it 'ad to clear it up? S'right, Sam ruddy Muggins. "Sam fetch a bucket." I can 'ear old Davis' voice now. I dreamt of bein' a magician. Arthur Swann 'e were the best. Watched 'im for 'ours I did, leanin' on me broom in the wings. Used to fetch doves from down 'is sleeve. 'Undreds of the flappin‘ things. Or so the public thought. 'E used to wear this long cloak, down to 'is ankles like and the birds roosted in there 'till it were time for 'em to do their bit. Then when 'e released 'em they would flutter round the back of 'im and go beneath the cloak so 'e could keep on producin' 'em for minutes on end. Course the lightin' 'elped. Always a show stopper they were. Them and 'is missus. Cor she were a looker and no mistake. Somefin' went wrong there. 'Ad a fallin' out wiv Billy Bennett, something to do wiv young Signet havin' red hair. Never could understand that meself. But 'e were never the same again. Got sloppy 'e did so as you could see them doves from the back of the stalls. Booed 'im off the stage at the Alhambra they did. Pity I used to like watching 'im and 'is missus and young Signet. ‗Young Signet. Vester Swan she is. Seen better days she 'as, like the old Gaiety. Beautiful she were as a gel, 45 if she's a day still sittin' on that swing with 'er old Dad, Billy Bennett givin 'er a push. Landed in the or34


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chestra pit t'other night, the trombonist will never be the same again. It don't bear thinkin' about where 'is slide ended up! Went on 'er own when "The Amazing Swanns and Signet" folded. ‗Top 0' the Bill she were and they flocked to see 'er. Great she were, charm the birds from out the trees she could with that voice of 'ers. Vester Swann, the Kensington Linnet. But not anymore. Mother's ruin 'as been 'er companion for years. Male impersonator first 'alf and flattered as such but then squeezed into 'er stays trying to recapture 'er youth second calf. Top 0' the Bill and playin' to 'alf a dozen if she's lucky! Mind them stays does do wonders for 'er, talk about an eye full, they'd certainly be an 'and full. She'll be on again in a few minutes. That perishin‘ pony, "e's only gone and done it again and who's goin' to cave to clean it up? Why me, Sam ruddy Muggins. I can hear "Gwynfor the Leak's" voice now; 'Sam, Sam fetch a bucket and be sharp about it.' Cause of me gammy knee that were, that pony and them ruddy ducks. Slipped in a pile of do dah didn't I. Audience lafted 'emselves silly, thought it were part of the act see! I took me bow to the manner born but I ain't doing it again don't matter what old Gwynfor says. And he said plenty I can tell you. And now them mice is loose, nasty little mothers. And if they thinks as 'ow I'm goin' to 'elp find 'em they've another think comin' - not when that snake‘s about. That snake it fair gives me the creeps. It's got that look about it. I know 'im as owns it, Sid 'Issin, says as 'ow it wouldn't 'urt a fly, but I don't trust it, don't trust that snake one bit. That tongue of 'is dartin' in and out and then there's that look in it's eye. Weill, I don't trust it and I ain't looking for it no matter who says.‘ 'Yes Mr Davis, comin' right away Mr Davis. 'elp look for 35


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Sid 'Issin's snake Mr Davis, certainly Mr Davis. Well 'ere I am leanin' on me broom; never did get to be a big Star but the name of Sam Muggins is known, well known at The Gaiety. Out lasted all them stars I 'as. Step into the breach many a time I do, no one to better me. ‗Sam, Sam deuch ar bwced, is music to me ears. Always a place for old Sam Muggins whilst there's life in The Gaiety.‘ —o0o—

Blondin High Wire Act

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Waiting at the Church Vesta Victoria I'm in a nice bit of trouble, I confess; Somebody with me has had a game. I should by now be a proud and happy bride, But I've still got to keep my single name. I was proposed to by Obadiah Binks in a very gentlemanly way I lent him all my money so he could buy a home And punctually at twelve o'clock to-day-

CHORUS: There was I, waiting at the church, Waiting at the church, Waiting at the church; When I found he'd left me in the lurch, Lor, how it did upset me! All at once, he sent me round a note Here's the very note, This is what he wrote: "Can't get away to marry you today, My wife, won't let me!"

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Steph Spiers

- Taffy has a bad day

‘’E‘s not ‗isself poor dear.‘ ‘Who isn‘t Mrs. E.?‘ asked Jimmy Rogers, the junior stagehand grabbing hold of a mug of char thick enough to stand a spoon upright and loading it with sugar. ‘’is lordship.‘ Mrs Eversley nodded towards the door of the theatre manager‘s office. The office, better known as ‗the nest‘, was at the top of a narrow staircase tucked away in the eves of the old building, from where a spy-window, high above the back seats of the Gods Circle, gave Mr. Gwynfor Davis - affectionately known as ‗Taffy‘ on a good day, or that ‗Welsh Rarebit‘ when he was having one of his „days‟, a magnificent, if squinted, view down onto the stage. ‗‘E aint? ‗as ‗e?‘ asked André de la Rue, the star turn‘s dresser, partaking of a drop of the amber nectar in his personal china teacup and saucer from the fair hand of the Joanna player, who doubled as the provider of all-day tea and gossip throughout the theatre. All agreed Mrs. Eversley was a Godsend. ‗Locked ‗isself in? No dear, no. Not this time.‘ Mrs Eversley blew her nose copiously on an embroidered hanky and secreted it back under pink bloomer elastic. Leaning forward she whispered hoarsely, ‗‘E‘s just sittin‘ there . . staring. Hasn‘t put ‗is hair on. Didn‘t even want a digestive ... and, ‗e‘s very partial to a Huntley and Palmers.‘ ‗What‘s ‗e staring at, Mrs E.?‘ asked André, dunking a spared digestive, more out of politeness than actual desire, a bit of an indulgence for him as he was very strict with himself over control of appetites and indulging personal tastes. ‗Well, since you‘ve asked,‘ said Mrs Eversley, in a conspiratorial tone scarcely above a whisper. ‗What was tttthat? SSSSpeak up! You‘ll hhhhave sssspeak up it‘s no ggggood 38


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mmmmumbling,‘ grumbled old George, the percussionist who‘d smelt the teapot three floors down and tired of waiting had puffed his way up to meet the trolley. ‗Shut up George – carry on Mrs E.,‘ encouraged André, snaffling a second digestive and pushing his cup forward for a top up from the Brown Betty. ‗Don‘t you ttttell me to ssssshut up you ccccream pppp ……,‘ spluttered George, pushing up his sleeves and raising his skinny forearms, fists clenched. ‗Oh for heaven‘s sake ‗ere, get your laughing gear round that,‘ tutted Mrs. E., pressing a chipped tin mug and a biscuit into the old man‘s hands. ‗Now where was I? Oh yes.‘ ‗Oh yes what?‘ pleaded Jimmy who found old people vexing; the way they talked round in circles so much he often lost the plot of the conversation. ‗What . . was . . Taffy . . staring . . at?‘ said André very slowly looking directly into the pianist‘s piecing blue eyes. ‗Don‘t you be so funny. I‘m old enough to be your mother,‘ grumbled Mrs. E., mostly to cover the fact that she‘d temporarily forgotten what the un-bewigged theatre manager had been staring at so intently that he‘d been put of his elevenses. ‗Oh yes, I remember,‘ she brightened, her hair net wobbling, ‗The Bill at the Alhambra.‘ ‗Oh lord,‘ sighed André. ‗Go on tell me, who‘s topping their bill?‘ ‗Pretty Polly Perkins,‘ chipped in Jimmy spitting crumbs desperate to be first to relate the news. ‗Crikey, the cockney parrot!‘ grimaced André trying to decide if his waistcoat buttons could tolerate another digestive. ‗You wouldn‘t be saying nasty things like that, if Polly was back treading the boards over here,‘ snapped George who 39


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was still smarting from being told to shut up. André raised the half-moon spectacles from the bridge of his nose and peered malevolently at the drummer, ‗Like that‘s going to happen in our lifetime.‘ ‗Why?‘ asked Jimmy, eyes a twinkle, suddenly aware there was ‗grown up‘ talk going on – stage secrets and alike stuff he was usually packed off from hearing. ‗Never you mind why,‘ chuntered Mrs. Eversley wiping her hands on her pinny. Taking the brake off the tea trolley and blowing out the light from the spirit stove under the simmering kettle Mrs. Eversley headed towards the dumb waiter by the staircase before she was asked anymore awkward questions. ‗What‘s up with you lot? Never seen so many long faces since yer won a tanner and ‗ad to share it. Any rosy left in that pot Mrs. E.?‘ called Sid Hissins, as the top of the bill turn arrived beaming carrying a large cage: a very large cage. ‗Not another one, Sid?‘ said the dresser shaking his head in dismay. ‗Oh don‘t come the drama queen, you‘ll love him,‘ grinned the snake charmer taking the mug of rosy-lee from Mrs. E.. ‗What is it Mr. Hissins?‘ asked a wide-eyed Jimmy sticking a sugary finger inside a breathing hole in the wicker cage, before Sidney could stop him and before the inevitable happened. ‗Owww. . .‘ ‗What ‗ave I told you about boys and their fingers?‘ André glared at the unfortunate boy. Sucking the scolded digit, eyes watering, Jimmy took the proffered cage handle and followed Sid and André along the corridor to the star turn‘s dressing room door, denoted by a five-pointed star flaking off silver paint. ‗It‘s a parrot, you chump!‘ grumbled Sid. ‗Mind, he‘s not a very fussy vegetarian so keep your mitts away from the cage ‗til I can get him on the stand. He‘ll look grand on a perch cen40


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

tre stage! Polly will be a show stopper!‘ ‗As much as Pretty Polly Perkins d‘y think?‘ The glowing chubby cheeks span round, ‗Alhambra?‘ asked Sid, crest fallen. ‗Alhambra,‘ answered the dresser brushing crumbs off his waistcoat with the superior air of one who knew this was coming. ‗That‘s torn it,‘ said Sid. ‗Does ‗e know upstairs?‘ ‗Oh yes. ‗E knows!‘ said André de la Rue with a dramatic sigh many a leading man would have been proud of, ‗That‘s what happens when management mixes business with pleasure.‘ ‗Oh don‘t go all precious on me. So what if they‘ve got Polly Perkins? We‘ve got this!‘ with a flourish, Sid released the basket buckle and pulled out the bird with a rustle of bright blue feathers. ‗Pieces o eight, pieces o eight,‘ shrieked the star turn. ‗Oh no, Sid, don‘t tell me! . . .You didn‘t? Not from the pier? You haven‘t got it off a matelot?‘ ‗‘runken zail-or, ‗runken zail-or,‘ answered Polly clear as a bell.

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Chris Butters - Lemon Sherbet and much the same colour!

She'd had the rags in her hair all day. Anything to give a lift to her soft, mousey hair. It hung round her face obscuring her elfin prettiness. She longed to have it more fashionably cut but knew that her father would not approve. One of the other factory girls had suggested that a few curls might do the trick and had offered to put the rags in for her. Quite an art were rags if you weren't used to them so she said. Donning the familiar headscarf sported by all Lancashire lasses who were lucky enough to have a date on a Saturday night she set off home the precious curls protected from the elements and prying eyes. For tonight she was going to The Gaiety with Alfie Moffat and she wanted to be the star of the show, at least in his eyes. 'That you' ur Evie? Where you bin?' Her mother called from the kitchen. 'Just round at Bella's Ma. I'll be down in a minute to help you.' Removing her coat and donning her pinny she went down to help her Ma dish up the dinner for her seven brothers and her Da. Tater ash that's what it would be just like every other Saturday lunchtime. Evie vowed that some day she would have meat to make a real stew, she was going to marry money. It was to this end that she had excepted the invitation from Alfie Moffat to go to The Gaiety tonight. Alfie Moffat's father owned the sweet factory and it would all be Alfie's one day. Pity that Alfie smelt of lemon sherbet and was much the same colour. Sickly her mother called him. But sickly or not he represented a step up in life to a girl who had never had a halfpenny to bless herself with. 'Where you going 'ur Evie?' asked her brother Billy 42


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when he saw the headscarf. The rags were not easily concealed. ‗‘Ut,' was all she said. 'Going to The Gaiety with Alfie Moffat ud be my guess,' said her younger brother Lennie. 'Is that so? Well al gee t' foot 0', ur stairs. Fancy' ur Evie walking out with "money" said her elder brother Tom. He was grinning slyly at her and she knew herself to be blushing. 'Nothing of the sort' ur Tom. I likes Alfie Moffat. 'Eh! by gum ees a reet little twerp,' laughed Tom, 'it's to be hoped as you know what you're doing.' ‗'Course I does,' said Evie with a toss of her head. 'Ma can I get your brooch out of pawn when I goes for me good coat? I've got a bit put by.' ‗'Course you can love. But you take good care of it. It were yer Granny's and I wouldn't like to lose it.' Standing before the mirror Evie surveyed her reflection. The rags had done the trick and her hair hung in softly becoming ringlets. On or two at the back hadn't quite taken but at least the front looked okay. Her good coat were ever so smart. Everyone said so and with the little brooch sparkling on the collar she knew that she was looking her best. She hoped that Alfie Moffat would think so. A knock at the front door sent her scurrying across the lobby before any of her brothers could get to open it. 'Hello Evie. You look - em - nice.' Alfie was a tongue tied youth not much older than her own seventeen years. He had done justice to the occasion and wore besides a brown suit and brown boots, a yellow waistcoat and a spotted cravat. His hair had been slicked down with Parma Violet hair oil. It assailed Evie's nostrils and the unwelcome suspicion that it clashed violently with the Californian Poppy, with which she had so liberally sprayed behind her ears and less chastely down 43


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her cleavage, could not but obtrude. Knowing that the pit at The Gaiety would yield up more aromas than clashing scent and hair oil Evie resolutely took the proffered arm and they set of. 'Who's topping the bill tonight Alfie?' 'Not sure. Since Pretty Polly Perkins left for The Alhambra they haven't really had a Top of the Bill. Someone said as it could be Vester Swann.' 'Vester Swann!' exclaimed Evie scornfully. Why she's got to be 45 if she's a day. Thought as how she were a male impersonator or a double act with her Da. Aren't they Billy and Bolly Bolinger?' 'Well she is of course,' said Alfie, 'but seems as how she is filling in as Top of the Bill as well. Alfie was a bit unsure how Evie would take this news and was pleased when she squeezed his arm saying: 'Oh well it'll be a reet good night out. 'Quite a good house. I did hear as they were playing to almost empty houses,' said Alfie. Then he regretted saying that. Evie would think him a right cheapskate not taking her to The Alhambra. Trouble was he couldn't afford it on the pittance his Dad doled out to him. Fred Moffat might be a "warm" man as the saying went but he and his Ma saw little sign of it. Tight that was Da. And not only in the monetary sense. They sat on the front row and watched the orchestra tune up. Orchestra? A couple of violinists, an out of tune trumpet player, deaf drummer, an over enthusiastic pianist and a trombonist. 'What a motley crew!' Alfie observed to Evie causing her to giggle. Tuning up did not seem to have improved them any. The drums rolled and the cymbals crashed quite drowning out Algernon Scilly as he introduced the first act. The audience were already tittering as the curtains parted to reveal Anton and Genihoss his amazing educated pony. Evie and Alfie sat 44


TALES FROM ‘THE GAIETY’

entranced, laughing at the pony's antics and of the ducks who rode on the pony's back. They naturally deposited droppings all over the stage causing Anton to slip and slide and when Genihoss contributed his share in the form of a great steaming heap the audience went wild and howled with laughter. Those closest could quite clearly hear Gwynfor Davis shouting: 'Sam, deuch ar bwced.' A little man in a brown overall rushed onto the stage with a mop and bucket skidded on the ducks leavings and in trying to save himself cannoned into Anton and down they both went, the mop and bucket adding to the general melee. Eh, he were right kack handed! Anton got to his feet and Sam struggled up too. To everyone's delight they slipped and they clutched at each other until down they both went again, into that steaming mass. The audience went wild, stamping and clapping and shouting for more. Eh it were a reet good laugh. Best they had seen at the old Gaiety in a long time. Bloke with the bucket he took his bow to the manner born and then pretended to limp off. Eh he were a reet funny beggar, as Alfie acknowledged. Evie squeezed his arm in agreement. The ventriloquist weren't up to much. Dummy had more life than him. Seemed as if it were Percy Plod the Policeman as were in charge. Shouts of 'deck' im' echoed around the auditorium. He needed a reet good rollickin' and no mistake. Alfie laughed but Evie thought him very coarse and rude. She was glad when he left the stage. A few catcalls followed his departure and it was with difficulty that Algernon Scilly regained enough control to announce the next act. Billy and Bolly Bolinger closed the first half. Couple of drunken tramps they were and very realistic! Evie was particularly taken with the performance of Bolly. 'You could almost 45


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imagine that she was truly inebriated,' she said to Alfie as the curtains closed. Alfie more well versed in these things politely agreed with her but wondered how she had never heard the rumour that old Bolly was addicted to the gin. Standing in the foyer sipping the cup of tea that Alfie had managed to procure for her Evie thought what her Da would have said about it. Shamrock tea he would have called it, three leaves! But it was kind of Alfie to buy it for her so she smiled and assured him that she were reet chuffed. As the second half got under way with Sid Hissin and then Marvo the Marvellous Evie became aware of something that had been vaguely bothering her since she had resumed her seat. Was this seat damp? Something plopped onto her head. She let her eyes travel upwards but the lighting was so poor that it was impossible to discern anything beyond the first row of the balcony. Needed a lick of paint did the old place. Alfie was aware that Evie's attention had strayed from the stage. Well that might be the fault of Marvo the Marvellous. 'What's up?' he asked. 'Nothing said Evie I was just thinking as how the old place could do with a lick of paint but from what I hear the old gel who owns it hasn't got the brass.' 'Evadne Golightly?' said Alfie in a surprised tone: 'Lives in a nice house doesn't she in a good part of town with servants and the like. She's got to be worth a bob or two. Tight, that's what she is. Rumour has it she's got her eye on the manager here, old Gwynfor Davis. He'll have to do a bit of buttering up and no mistake.' Evie giggled, 'Oh he wouldn't would he? Why she's in her seventies!' Plop there it was again. Something definitely had landed upon her head. She put up her hand and sure enough 46


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her hair was wet. Knowing that to draw attention to the drip would spoil the evening and secure in the knowledge that there was not long before her ordeal would be over Evie shifted her position and leaned towards Alfie who took this as an invitation and promptly put his arm around her. Well that had got to be better than being soaked she thought. The master of ceremonies, Algernon Scilly was winding up for the big finish! 'Ladies and Gentlemen I give you none other than your own, your very own Vester Swann.' Loud cheers and some groans greeted this announcement. Algernon Scilly pressed gamely on. 'Tonight for your delectation Ladies and Gentlemen I gives you The Kensington Linnet and Mister Billy Bennett!' An impressive drum roll almost drowned out this speech and the clash of cymbals meant that the people in the back stalls couldn't hear a word that was being said. Mrs Eversley gamely struck up with the introduction to "If you were the only girl in the world" and the curtains opened to reveal Vester Swann seated on a swing with Billy Bennett pushing from behind. Evie was entranced. She had never seen such a spectacle as these two one time greats of the Music Hall presented. Vester Swann improbably done up as a young gel with a blonde wig and a judiciously placed parasol swung to and fro whilst Billy Bennett sweated to keep the thing moving. His wig had slipped and his bald pate gleamed in Bert Plug's carefully directed lighting. Plop, Plop. Momentarily Evie was distracted from the antics on the stage. Plop. Eh up! But at it was quite clear that something out of the ordinary was about to happen she once more concentrated on those 47


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two performers. The swing was reaching further and further in it's trajectory. Vester's knuckles had turned white and it was obvious that Billy Bennett was doing his utmost to unseat her. He had stopped singing and his face glowed with the effort. The audience sat with bated breath awaiting the inevitable conclusion and when it came it brought the house down. Vester left the swing and looped in a graceful arc towards the orchestra pit - landing on the unfortunate trombonist when his slide was at it's utmost extension. It disappeared into the one part of her anatomy most clearly designed to receive it! The audience howled. It were beltin', they hadn't seen anything to beat it in a long time. Best of it was Vester were still singing when she landed. Trooper to the end were that girl. The curtains swished together and Gwynfor Davis could be heard exclaiming, 'Arglwydd Mawr! what do you think you were doing you silly old fool?' Evie and Alfie were helpless with laughter. The damp was forgotten. As Alfie said, 'Eh but it were a reet good laugh.' A reet good evening, despite the drip, agreed Evie.

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R aising I ntellectual S tandards I n N ovelists

For the benefit of non-Welsh speakers we offer the following translation guide:-

G iving Arglwydd Mawr! - Great God!

B eneficial

Cariad - Dear

R ealistic

Deuch ar bwced -

O bservations

Fetch your bucket

On K een W ordsmiths R ough I tinerary T hus E ncouraging R eal S cribes 49


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Ladieeees and Gentlemeeeenn for your greatly enjoyable entertainment — your delectation of delight, a sentimental tribute to the triumphs and tribulations of a virtuoso of the slide trombone, by your own, your very own - Chris Butters

Slim Slide’s Solo Bent like an ‘air pin me slide is, Never to be the same again, Playing in the pit like a wiz I was Till Vester went an’ landed on me horn. I don’t care to think where me slide went. I was blowin’ for all of me worth At its full extension me slide were When Vester landed feet first on me horn A tidy weight is our Vester Launched like a missile from that swing When her da gave ‘er the old ‘eave oh An’ she landed on the end of me horn

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The audience it went wild Stamping’ and hollerin’ for more And Vester she kept right on singin’ A Trooper giving out of her all Bent like an ‘air pin me slide is An’ what is there now to do Management says there’s no money So I can’t help but feeling so blue Can’t be a trombone player If your horn refuses to play It’s no use, it won’t do it anymore Is all I can think of to say Had me ambitions I did That one day at The Alhambra I’d play But with me slide bent like an ‘airpin At The Gaiety I’m likely to stay Overwhelmed by Mrs Eversley, t’pianist An’ a deaf drummer who can’t keep in time With me slide bent like an ‘airpin All I can do is repine . . . . .

—-o0o—-

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I'm Henery the Eighth Harry Champion You don't know who you're looking at; now have a look me! I'm a bit of a nob, I am, belong to royaltee. I'll tell you how it came about; I married Widow Burch, And I was King of England when I toddled out of church. Outside the people started shouting, "Hip hooray!" Said I "Get down upon your knees it's Coronation Day!" CHORUS I'm Henery the Eighth I am! Henery the Eighth I am, I am! I got married to the widow next door, She's been married seven times before. Everyone was a Henery; She wouldn't have a Willie or a Sam. I'm her eighth old man named Henery, I'm Henery the Eighth I am!

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Audrey Rainbow : Millie - The Netherbridge Nightingale Pushing open the stage door Millie collided with Mr Davis arms full of boxes, which cascaded to the floor like one of Marvo‘s tricks gone wrong. Simultaneously bending to gather them up Millie and Gwynfor Davis banged heads. ―Stupid girl,‖ he spluttered and turning to Harry the old door man ―and you can stop your sniggering and get over here and help.‖ When all the boxes were once again safely in Gwynfor‘s arms he beckoned to Harry to open the door and said ―make sure no other idiot is going to charge through like a thirsty navvy waiting for the boozer to open.‖ Millie, now scarlet from neck to forehead stammered ―I‘m sorry‖ for the twentieth time and tried to leave but Gwynfor wasn‘t going to let her go that easily, ―Just hold your horses my girl always rushing you are, never get here a minute early or stay a minute late – it‘s a good thing your so good with a needle it is for if that didn‘t fly across the tears in the costumes and make them good as new…‖ trailing off when he saw her lip trembling he knew yet again he had gone too far. The Alhambra were already taking his star turns, he couldn‘t afford to lose even a humble seamstress, Mrs Golightly would be bound to hear about it, she always did. There was just something about this girl. Muttering ―get on with you, got to go,‖ he staggered out of the door. ―You should try and stay out of the ol‘ Welsh rarebit‘s way for a while me duck, he‘s getting it from all sides at the moment since he lost Polly to the Alhambra. Take it from me, I hear things I do,‖ tilting his head and tapping his finger on the side of his nose in conspiratorial manner. ―Getting someone as good as you with a needle isn‘t easy, last one afor 53


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you must have learnt to sew pulling a carcass together with string and the one afor her well, we got more laughs from the iron marks on the costumes than ever we heard from the turns. Na, proper lady you are and no mistake.‖ ―Thank you Harry‖ said Millie trying to end the conversation. ―I had better get down to the laundry before he comes back and finds me still here.‖ ―‘appen you‘re right lass, ‗appen you‘re right.‖ Reaching the sanctuary of the laundry Millie leaned against the closed door. She‘d have to be more careful, Old Harry didn‘t seem to move out of his box much but somehow knew everything that happened in the Theatre. She and Alfie were getting settled here. Shaking her head and telling herself to ‗snap out of it‘ she moved towards the pile of mending. On the top was one of Sid Hissins‘ outfits split up the back of the trousers. She decided it would need more than a few stitches, yet another invisible patch to keep Sid‘s modesty and insistence that they had shrunk in the wash. Settling down to work her magic she could hear the strains of the band playing one of the tunes her father had sung to her mother and quietly she began to sing along. „If you were the only girl in the world.‟ Lost in her own world, now singing as sweetly as a nightingale she did not realise that old Harry had left his box and had his ear pressed to the door, eyes closed and swaying in rapture to the beautiful sound from within. -o0o-

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Music Hall at The Hackney Empire The variety theatres of the time brought acts from all over the world, from the USA, Europe and the Empire. Chaplin is said to have appeared a number of times before decamping to Hollywood. But undoubtedly the most important star to appear in this hay-day of music hall before the First World War was Marie Lloyd, who lived on Graham Road, just by the Theatre which opened in 1906. Lloyd's saucy act consciously shocked and challenged her audiences. This 'Queen of the Halls' lent her support to an artists strike in 1907 which led to the formation of the Variety Artists Association, now part of the actors union Equity. Between the wars the Empire hosted burlesque, reviews, plays and concerts as well as variety, even Louis Armstrong was happy to leave Harlem to appear. Following the war audiences flocked to see artists made household names by the radio such as Charlie Chester, Issy Bonn, Tony Hancock and Liberace. The Hackney Empire has a personal relationship with our next contributor whose father was one of its first Managers.

Kauffman Trick Cyclists 55


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Life is full of coincidence! Rising Brook Branch Library has a thriving READERS‘ GROUP as well as being home to Rising Brook Writers. By sheer coincidence a member of that Readers Group just happened to almost be born in a Music Hall building. A very famous Music Hall - The Hackney Empire - where her father was the manager. Eileen tells us in her autobiography ‗Born In Trouble’ that she was born in January 1912 just six years after it opened and has very kindly agreed that we may include passages from her early life which relate to the Music Hall in this publication. It was the sharp eyed team of Library staff who put two and two together and made this liaison between the two groups possible. We are indebted to Eileen for use of this direct source material.

detail Balcony re y Empi e n k c a The H . in 1906 d e n e p o tage for Home s loyd Marie L . near by d e v i l o wh

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Chapter 1 I was born on January 27th 1912. My parents were Daisy Dalgetty-Windsor and Frederick Plantagenet Hull. He did not use the Plantagenet part of his name, as it was rather a mouthful, I feel. I am Violet Eileen Hull, their daughter, known as Eileen, and at the time of my birth my father was the manager of the well-known London music hall, the Hackney Empire. As my mother was near having me and feeling very depressed he had promised her that on the Saturday night after the interval during the second performance he would collect her and take her to see the show to cheer her up. Unfortunately, on his way home to collect her he was mugged, they did it in those days too, and all the takings of the Empire were stolen. Naturally he had to go and see the police about this. He took my mother to his parents who lived in the next district called Clapton, the classier part of Hackney. It was here that I was born that very evening. It would have been much more exciting to have entered the world on the stage of the Hackney Empire, but those muggers put paid to that scenario. I have little recollection of those early days but I know my father, being in the theatrical profession travelled widely and it was not until after the Great War that we came back to live in Clapton again. We stayed with both sets of my grandparents at different times. As Manager of the Hackney Empire my father met many old time Music Hall stars, including Marie Lloyd, Hettie King, Charlie Chaplin and the song writer Wall Pink.

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I remember my mother showing me copies of some songs he had written and photos of the many old time stars. Sadly these were lost during the first World War. I think my father would have liked dearly to have teamed up with Charlie Chaplin and Wall Pink but I imagine the war prevented that. The above extract is taken from: Born in Trouble The life story of Violet Eileen Dalgetty-Windsor Reproduced here by her kind permission.

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Steph Spiers - Norris, Chappel and Betty. True Grit. ‗It‘s no good moping round ‗ere my girl.‘ ‗I‘m not moping, Ma. I‘m just waiting,‘ answered Betty scrunching up the red satin frill on the sailor suit bodice between a hot sweaty palm and a nail nibbled thumb. ‗I tell you it‘s a fool‘s game. ‗ e don‘t know you exist. Why don‘t you find yourself a nice boy – like that Jimmy to play with.‘ ‗Ma! I‘m twenty three.‘ ‗Quiet! Don‘t you be shouting that out too loud my girl – you‘re only supposed to be sixteen. You listen to your old Ma, you forget all about Georgie Dashwood.‘ ‗Oh lawd, she ain‘t going on about ‗im again, is ‗er?‘ asked Eddie Chappel dropping onto the seat in front of the brightly lit mirror and reaching for a tub of number six brown tan. ‗Look ‗ere our Betty, what‘s an ‗andsome and distinguished looking gent like the "The Beau Brummel of the Halls" going to be doing casting ‗is eye in your direction? And, while I‘m yer dad, that‘s all he would be casting.‘ ‗He‘s upstairs right now Dad. Jimmy told me.‘ ‗Ger off, yer ‗aving me at it, girl. Georgie Dashwood‘s at the Alhambra. Booked solid – top of the bill contract wiv ‗is taking off the part of a "swell" out on London Town for the night. Does a smashing cockney toff, he does, considering he‘s a Brummie. ‗ ‗A Brummie? Georgie‘s a Brummie?‘ said Annie Norris rubbing fake tan number six over bare arms. ‗Than knows I thought everybody knew,‘ answered Eddie, his broad Lancashire accent thickening, as he struggled to stick down a drooping moustache which seemed to have taken on a life of its own and was twitching on his top lip like a mouse in the 59


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jaws of a trap. Already in costume, pink painted cheeks glowing, Betty stood in the open doorway of dressing room number five just on the off chance she might catch a glimpse of the Brummie Beau before he left the theatre. Georgie would after all, have to leave by the back stairs, eventually. He wasn‘t exactly hard to miss. Six foot of dapper gent complete with spats and lavender pomade and that cutest little pencil moustache . . . Betty wriggled at the thought. Oooohhh… Georgie Dashwood coming to a flea pit like ‗The Gaiety‘ how exciting was that? Lucky me! ‗Don‘t stand there like a lemon, ‗ere lace this up for me,‘ Annie Norris, at the risk of doing it a cruelty, had squeezed her ample charms into a short-skirted Egyptian costume which was gaping open vastly in the rear. Annie was leaning closer to the glass as she fiddled with a false moustache. Tightening up the laces with her knee pressing against in her mother‘s spine Betty wondered how much longer her Ma would be able to pull off the sand dancing act, from the rear the poor old soul looked more like a droopy elephant‘s backside than a desert Arab. Annie pulled on a red Fez with an attached curly hair frill over her head and sank onto the seat exhausted. ‗Come ‗ere me old flower,‘ Eddie painted Annie‘s eyebrows in a solid line of number nine noir greasepaint. ‗Ruddy wonderful, doll. I dunna know ‗ow yer do it!‘ ‗I don‘t know why I do it either, my love,‘ she replied planting a red painted smacker on his bald spot affectionately. Tap, tap. Jimmy, poked his head round the door. ‗Ten minutes Mr. Eddie. Ohhh, you look nice Betty,‘ stammered the trainee stage hand colouring under his ears. ‗Jimmy . . .‘ she wheedled edging closer to the youth still twisting the hem of the bodice provocatively, ‗Has Mr. Dashwood gone yet?‘ 60


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‗Who the flash geezer who come to see Mr Davies? Yeah, he only stopped a few minutes. Mr Scilly showed him the door.‘ Jimmy beamed, as if it was good news he was relating. ‗Yer wouldn‘t know what the craic was then, Jimmy boy?‘ smiled Eddie Chappel twisting a tanner forwards and backwards through his fingers. ‗Wanted too much dosh, Sam reckons,‘ answered Jimmy mesmerised by the shiny sixpence moving up and down in front of his eyes. ‗An‘ ‗ow would wonder bucket know that?‘ said Annie crossly, her having no time for gossip she wasn‘t involved in personal like. ‗‗Cause ‗e was mopping by the door. That‘s how,‘ snapped Jimmy moving closer to the fast tanner fingers. ‗So Davies still ain‘t got a new top billing to replace our Poll then?‘ said Eddie flicking the tanner towards the lad and reaching for his own Fez. ‗Less of the our. Poll wasn‘t our owt, she was one on her own was Poll. Soon as she ‗ad the smell of more cash she was off faster than a rat up a drainpipe. Left his nibs standing. After ‗im being so good to ‗er an‘ all. Taffy ain‘t got over it yet. I can tell,‘ puffed Annie struggling to her feet. ‗Button these boots up for me, poppet. I canna get down there what wiv me bad back.‘ Blushing scarlet, Jimmy knelt on the dressing room floor to fasten up Annie‘s button boots: he‘d never seen a woman‘s naked calf up close and personal before. It was an educational experience for the youngster.

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There was, after all, a lot of Annie Norris to see. Annie made a lot of shade when the sun was out. ‗Come on then, let‘s be ‗aving yer. We‘re on next. And our Betty get your cue right. If Mrs. Eversley comes in late again I‘ll ‗ave to ‗ave words. Jimmy get ready to go on first with this bucket of sand.‘ With a quick twitch of the dead mouse in the mirror Eddie Chappel led Annie and Betty up the steps towards the wings as their opening notes rang out from the Joanna in the pit right on cue. Da Da - Darr - Darr - Da, Dada Dada - Dada Da. Behind the secret glass panel in the back of the Gods Circle, Gwynfor Davis squinted down at the sand dancers as the trio shuffled into their stage routine and sighed – well, they were doing their best. They couldn‘t change now, they‘d been doing the same act since Betty was in nappies. Pity about Dashwood. Mrs. Golightly would have been overjoyed to have such a pretty boy on their boards. Greed, that was the trouble with turns – greed. Where the devil could he find £250 a week for a turn? There wasn‘t that much in takings to pay the whole ruddy Bill, not after Evadne‘d taken a king-sized cut of the profits. Something would have to turn up soon, or he might have to make a huge personal sacrifice. Gwynfor looked across at the gilded portrait of Evadne Golightly dressed as a she was fifty years ago on the stage dolled up to the nines in her finery with the ostrich feathers and the purple satin. Davis shuddered. Something had just walked over his grave. ‗Poll, what have you done to me?‘ the little Welshman whispered despondently to the deserted office walls. They didn‘t reply they‘d heard it all before.

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The Cheeky Chappie

MAX MILLER „What if I am?’

Max Miller was the 'bad boy' stage entertainment for thirty years especially during WWII. Max Miller was very much the "Cheeky Chappie” who took comedy to the limits - bringing him a ban from BBC radio. Max Miller - Thomas Henry Sargent - was born in Brighton in 1894. At that time Brighton had its fair share of theatres and Music Halls. Miller left school at twelve years old and drifted until he joined the army in World War One. It was during this army stint that Miller entertained the troops – the comic soon realised he had a natural talent for showbiz after the war he headed for a stage career moving between London and Brighton’s Music Halls/Theatres as a song and dance man. Miller quickly developed his own style and routine and wrote his own songs. His fame quickly spread as the public loved him pushing the accepted standards of comedy to the limit. His double entendres were legend. To many thousands he was an extremely funny comedian – but, to the establishment Max went far too far. Max Miller's usually dressed in a flower-patterned suit with gaudy shoes. On stage Miller was unique. Cheeky Chappy - Max Miller died in 1963. Picture : The Max Miller Appreciation Society 63


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The one and only MAX MILLER

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GEORGE ROBEY George Robey was one of the most phenomenally successful music-hall stars of his generation. Unlike most Top of the Bill musichall artistes Robey was middle-class. After being educated in England and Germany, he was destined for Cambridge, but, a financial family catastrophe eventually led him to the halls. He says in his biography, Looking Back On Life, "I was sent to Cambridge till some of my father's speculations went wrong, and I had to face the facts of life and carve out a career for myself." He began training as an engineer in Birmingham, but it was a chance visit to the Westminster Aquarium that led to him becoming a music-hall performer. There he volunteered to be mesmerized on stage by Professor Kennedy, and as a result of his singing, supposedly under the influence of mesmerism, the manager of the Aquarium offered him a professional engagement - from that moment George Robey never looked back. 65


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‘The Prime Minister of Mirth’ Sir George Robey is one of the seminal icons of British Music Hall. If you were the only girl in the world is one of his songs which he sang as a duet with Violet Loraine.

George Robey was born George Edward Wade on 20 September 1869. Almost at the end of his life in 1954 he finally accepted a knighthood and died later that year on 29 November in Saltdean, Sussex. 66


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Ray Burslem - The Cannons Roar!

―Animals! Who‘d have em‘. The smell‘s bad enough. Noise! Enough to wake the dead I tell yer. Then the final torment. Clog dancing sheep! The only place for sheep is on a dinner plate. Roasted and ready for carving with a nice mint sauce. Right Ted, let‘s have ‘em out of our theatre and on that wagon.‖ Retorted ‗Grind‘ Talbot the back stage manager at The Gaiety in Lowry Street Wigan, backing on the canal and gasworks. What a combination: dead dogs and red hot coke. ―Have a nice meal Miss Mayhem? Harry Cockfosters the stage-door keeper questioned.‖ ―Certainly beats dining in the Potteries. They will have their oatcakes with everything, even lobby!‖ Destiny Mayhem (nee Fate) answered the large figure of Harry as he leant out of the window of his cubby-hole. Destiny was separated from the man whose name she bore so well. He was in Bertram Mills circus in Blackpool for the summer season where he performed as a clown. She might drop in on him when on her way to the Accrington Hippodrome for the Wakes Week. Harry disappeared from view like a jack in the box in reverse. Whilst Destiny ascended the gas lit stairs unpainted since the twenties did their roaring. In the passage she halted in front of a green door with a brass star, knocked once. ―Come in damn yer!‖ A raucous voice bellowed. Destiny entered, reeling at the strong smell of spirits. ―Plastered again Anton?‖ Looking at the former owner of‘ Genius‘ the educated horse now a dim memory of music hall history. 67


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―Why not, all I have to do is load you. Could do it with my eyes closed pet.‖ Anton Debrief formerly Les Mucus had a new act, as he said, he was the loader and Destiny was the load. Then fire the load across the auditorium to land safely in a net. What could go wrong? **** ―When Ann Gina has finished her spell on the trapeze, this time without losing her knickers we hope. That group from the Catholic Seminary nearly changed faith this afternoon Ted. We then have to move that damn cannon into position. Hope that Anton has checked it today?‖ ‗Grind‘ named because it was what he did to his gnashers all the time he was in The Gaiety. Before then he was nicknamed ‗High A***‘ which he thought was still better than his real first name. ―Will you cinch me in Anton love‖ Destiny had a trim figure but when her partner pulled the cords tight on her new dark green basque her waist shrunk visibly and her breasts swelled into view. Breathing was now an effort but within ten minutes she would be back in the number one dressing room, hoping an encore wasn‘t called for. The Master of Ceremonies, Algernon Scilly called for silence from the audience as Anton lowered Destiny into the large maw of the cannon. From which she would be projected by a powerful spring and a small amount of gunpowder would provide noise and smoke to create an illusion of authenticity. ―Ready Destiny?‖ Anton held a red glowing piece of rope and his foot rested on the spring control. A barely audible yes was enough for Anton to start the firing procedure. With a bang and a large volume of smoke Destiny flew 68


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into and through the so called safety-net losing the top of her basque in the process and disappeared through the luckily open bar doors. ―Oh my god Anton. What have you done?‖ Algernon the MC shook the shocked loader who was nearly collapsed onstage through drink or nerves nobody could tell. The audience was laughing and worrying according to taste, ‗Grind‘ and Ted plus any stagehand free made there way to the front of house where the manager stopped them entering on account of Miss Mayhem was living up to her name. ―Where‘s that dozy dick Anton, when I get my hands on him I‘ll shove him arse first into that cannon and fire him without a safety-net the silly twerp!‖ and other expletives filled the air as the disappointed customers left the Gaiety. They wanted an encore especially Jim Sproggs, who got an eyeful of Destiny‘s twin beauties defying gravity as she hurtled overhead on her way to the bar. **** Next morning Destiny arrived from her digs by a taxi provided by the management and was ushered up to the theatre manager‘s office where a spry Anton was taking a drop of the dog that bit him the previous night, it could have been a pack of wolfhounds how his head ached, his mouth felt like a gorilla‘s armpit. ―What did you do wrong last night Anton?‖ Syndicate Agent, Benny Cohen, the impresario looked the part, from his Cuban cigar to the fawn topcoat with red silk lapels. ―Well Mr Cohen it was like this. Had I already loaded the explosive charges or not? So to be sure I loaded them. Two charges must have been already in, that‘s why Destiny went a bit further than planned.‖ Anton looked sheepish, 69


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clogs would have suited him; but Destiny would have fleeced him alive when she thought how sore she was and a new basque to pay for. ―Can you do it again Anton? With a touch less power so Destiny will be still in the auditorium when she lands on an pneumatically inflated bed; of course with her basque top missing to encourage the men to come to The Gaiety.‖ ―Of course Mr Cohen, with a little bit of trial and error that can be arranged. With suitable recompense provided by the management.‖ Anton felt a sharp pain in his left leg, then his right. Slumping to the floor in agony he looked up into the livid face of Destiny held back by Grind. ―A little bit of trial and error you excuse for a man.‖ Destiny exclaimed. Then followed with a threat to sue Anton and the management for injury and damage to items of expensive underwear. ―Calm down young lady, it‘s just an act on the stage after all. We will recompense you for your extra flight time and any injury that comes your way. Anton will pay for apparel damaged out of his increase in pay for extra technical duties. OK?‖ Anton stuttered a yes. Destiny said she would think about it. In the bar downstairs, the scene of Destiny‘s bare breasted arrival Anton begged his partner to accede to Cohen‘s demand. ―Look Destiny, you don‘t know how full of remorse I am over the whole affair.‖ Destiny thought she had never heard of a drink called remorse. ―I can get you basques at trade price from a seamstress I know in Salford. Any colour you want dear and some could be made to be reusable to save the mazoola.‖ Bad choice of words Anton, reusable and save as his legs were assaulted again. ―Anton you *****! I will make the arrangements for the act and you will provide the cash. Got it?‖ Anton looked at his 70


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redoubtable partner from his position on the worn bar carpet and confirmed with a weak, ―Yes Destiny.‖ **** With some suitable sacks adapted roughly to the size and weight of Destiny, Anton found the correct charge for the act after multiple experiments. Observed, of course, by a wary Destiny from the back of the stalls. ―Are you ready for tonight Destiny child?‖ Mr Cohen spoke to his top of the bill performers, whilst they stood offstage watching Zeke and Martha finish their act. Zeke played the saw and sang contralto. Martha played the harp and sang bass. ―Of course Boss, you ain‘t seen anything like this performance.‖ They watched the cannon enter and a worried Anton set the charge whilst Algernon gave them a marvellous introduction. With a drum roll for added effect the curtains were opened before a packed house. After another drum roll Destiny entered the cannon. ―Ready Anton! Fire.‖ With the usual explosion from the cannon; the theatre lights went out. Again pandemonium from the audience, which increased when the inflatable bed was found to be empty after illumination was restored. ‗Where is Destiny‘ the crowd demanded, then Jim Sproggs found her entire basque draped around his shoulders and he marched to the front of the stalls waving his memento and exclaiming that he wanted to return it to its rightful owner. Then a spotlight was focused on the empty upper circle where Destiny stood clothed in her large red cloak with arms outstretched to her audience who went wild at the sight. Packed every night, The Gaiety made Mr Cohen, the Syndicate Agent a happy man and when their boss is happy so 71


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are his performers. Anton took the pledge and the money as well. As for Destiny, she later became one of the first female illusionists to fill the halls. —oo0oo—

The Alham br

a

Leices te

r

Square

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Steph Spiers - Bottom of the Bill ‗‗ello. . . ‗ello. . . ‗ello . . . what ‗ave we got ‗ere?‘ the wooden head of the old-fashioned-copper puppet spun round to stare aggressively into the sweating face of the ventriloquist. Dickey Bird‘s eyes glazed over as he silently watched with loathing the bulbous wide-eyed stare of the painted doll on whose tiny neck his very existence depended. First act on, a crowd warmer, bottom of the bill: to think he‘d come down to this. A ripple of tittering passed through The Gaiety Music Hall‘s over-dressed and bevvied up punters out on the town on a Saturday night. The reek of cheap scent and best bitter wafted across the footlights as the wooden head spun forward to face the crowded auditorium menacingly. This was what they‘d paid to see, thought Dickey, his utter and complete annihilation and humiliation at the hands of this monster he‘d created. ‗Paid to see,‘ said Percy. But, if he had to suffer the vile mouth of Percy Plodd the Policeman so did they. And they loved it, couldn‘t get enough of crudely veiled innuendo and double entendre. Morons. ‗Morons?‘ said the blue-helmeted puppet with the hooked nose and red circle cheeks scanning the sea of blurred faces. Dickey swallowed. Blimey, he‘d said that out loud. ‗Well, my lad and what have, you got to say for yerself?‘ the jiggling wooden head shouted inches from his nose. Dickey ran a finger round the stiffened collar of his bib and tucker fronted evening suit and swayed slightly at the knees drunkenly. ‗Look at you, you pathetic little man. What are yer? 73


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You‘re a drunk. You‘re neither use nor naffing ornament, are yer? Are yer? How long have you been on the bottle? Eh? How long? Gin isn‘t it! Mother‘s ruin they call it. You‘ve downed enough to ruin the whole Mother‘s Union.‘ Silently, subjugated Dickey nodded agreement at the merciless puppet as the tirade of abuse had the up-for-it audience in stitches at Percy‘s outrageous behaviour. Mesmerised, Dickey blinked in horror, less and less able to respond as the puppet completed its role reversal mastery. ‗You‘re a worthless heap, a blemish on the backside of humanity. Look at yer. A man of your age, and what‘s your great achievement in life, eh? Eh, Bottom of the Bill? Yer make a living with your hand up the rear end of a rag doll with a wooden head on a stick? Call that a career? You cretin.‘ ‗Cretin,‘ whimpered Dickey to himself. A woman in the front row, stopped in mid chuckle and looked again at the silent, florid man on the stage on the receiving end of the abuse emitting from the angrier and angrier doll. Was that a tear or just a bead of sweat? She turned to her friend Ethel who was watching the couple on the stage transfixed with her mouth ajar. ‗Call yerself an entertainer? That‘s not what I‘d call yer. A success are yer? Bottom of the bill in a dump like this for ten bob a night? Look at it! Flaky paintwork, drooping balcony and that‘s only the singer in the next act waiting in the wings. And, that old biddy‘s only hanging on to yer for one thing – and it aint yer sparkling personality, old son!‘ Scarlet-faced Dickey glanced at Mrs. Eversley the pianist sitting stone pale at the upright Joanna, her face denoting this wasn‘t the act she‘d sat through in rehearsal. She only hoped the drunken bum remembered to give her the cue for the comic song at the end. Whatever this performance was all 74


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about was beyond her ken. Across the stage by the fringed velvet curtain Algernon Scilly, the Master of Ceremonies, was clearly of the same opinion judging by the way the cigar he was chewing was sending out signals a Sioux Chief would have been proud of. Whatever was up with Dickey Bird? None of this was scripted. Dickey stared petrified at Percy, he couldn‘t stop it. He tried to turn away to look at the audience, but Percy‘s bulging eyes pressed firmly to the end of his nose and still the tirade of verbal abuse continued. The now uncomfortable audience had stopped laughing. A man‘s voice angrily called out, ‗Ger Off,‘ from the back of the stalls. An empty beer bottle emphasised his opinion as it flew through the air showering splashes of brown ale over the heads in the front row seats and crashed against the feet of the rigid performer. ‗That‘s torn it,‘ yelled Algy. ‗Bring down the curtain get that idiot off, before they tear the place to shreds.‘ In the pit, crouched low over the ivories, Mrs. Eversley, playing for all she was worth, banged out Roll out the Barrel as the safety curtain dropped: Algy strode out across the boards behind the shell covered footlights and grasped Dickey‘s shoulder. ‗What the devil do yer think yer doing, Dickey?‘ he spluttered into the turn‘s dilated pupils as a pair of thinly stretched lips grinned silently back at him. ‗Scilly! Just the bloke I want to see about a new act, need to talk to you about my billing,‘ Percy seemed to say, his wobbly wooden head turning to face the glaring eyes of the astonished front of house manager. -o0o-

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Sandy Powell Comedian "Can you 'ear me mother?" was Sandy Powell's catch phrase. Albert Arthur Powell was born in Russum's Yard, Bridgegate, Rotherham on 30/01/1900. His father called him Sandy because of his ginger hair and the name stuck.

Sandy Powell

Sandy Powell had a long career on the stage and in pantomime. He made his first broadcast on the radio in 1928 the start of his radio comedy career. He also recorded many of his music hall and radio sketches, the first of these "The Lost Policeman" came out in 1929. These proved to be very popular and earned him substantial royalties. He appeared in films and during the Second World War was an entertainer to the troops. In 1975 Sandy Powell was awarded the MBE. He died on 26th June 1982 while the old trouper was preparing for his next show.

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My Old Man Marie Lloyd We had to move away Cause the rent we couldn't pay. The moving van came round This after dark. There was me and my old man Shoving things inside a van, Which we've often done before, Let me remark. We packed all that could be packed In the van, and that's a fact, And we got inside All we could get inside. We packed all that could be packed On the tailboard in the back, Till there wasn't any room For me to ride. And my old man Said, "Run along the van, And don't dilly-dally on the way." On went the van with my whole billet. I'd run along with me old cock-a-linnet. A-dillying, I dallied; A-dallying, I dillied. I lost the way and Don't know where to roam. Who's gonna put up The old iron bedstead If I can't find my way home?

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Steph Spiers - Dickey gets his act together ‗Where is ‗e?‘ asked Sam Muggins nervously poking his head round the dressing room door. ‗Is it safe to come in? Is ‗e in ‗is box, Mr, Dickey? ‗Quite safe Sam, come away in,‘ answered Dickey Bird glad of the company. ‗Close the door, there‘s a good chap.‘ ‗What‘s ‗is nibs been up to this time?‘ said Sam shuffling in to the dressing room Bird shared with the other low bill turns, following on tight behind the mop and bucket. ‗That Percy, ‗e‘s a lad, ‘e does my head in Mr. Dickey – terrifies me so he does. Don‘t know how you put up wiv ‗im everyday like. ‗E‘d drive me crackers.‘ ‗He terrifies me sometimes, Sam,‘ sighed Dickey undoing the cheap bottle of rot-gut Gin he kept handy for emergencies in the greasepaint drawer. The ventriloquist noticed with dismay the level on the label had dropped quite a bit, but there had been a lot of emergences of late, hadn‘t there, come to think about it? ‗‘Ere, you don‘t want Mr. S. seeing you with the old mother‘s ruin before you go on Mr. Dickey. You know what he said last night!‘ Dickey Bird looked blank. He‘d no recollection at all what the MC, had said last night. Come to that, he had precious little recollection about last night‘s act. He didn‘t remember how that piece of glass got stuck in his trouser leg either. Lucky thing that: it catching in his turn ups – could have been nasty. ‗Got on his high horse again, did he?‘ grinned Dickey, his stomach knotting. Now what had that monster been and gone and done? ‗Who Mr. Scilly? Oooo Mr. Dickey you know I‘d never 78


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‗Who Mr Scilly? Oooo Mr Dickey you know I‘d never speak ill of the MC,‘ gushed Sam wide-eyed in alarm. Nobody ever spoke behind Mr S‘s back and lived not to regret it. Algy Scilly ran a tight ship for Mr. Gwynfor Davis, the Gaiety‘s Manager. Not a ripple was ever supposed to disturb the calm repose of the sleeping Celtish gnome up in the Welshman‘s nest under the eves. ‗Not Mr. Scilly, Sam! Percy! What did Percy do this time?‘ Dickey poured a generous slug into the tin mug and nursed it protectively against his chest, waiting for the bad news. ‗Go on, you‘re ‗aving me at it Mr. Dickey,‘ smiled Sam dunking the mop in the bleach bucket, his face reddening. It wasn‘t nice Mr. Dickey making a monkey out of him: he might only be the mop boy, but he‘d been a mop boy for a good many years. He knew a thing or two. ‗Straight up Sam, tell me. What did Percy do? I can‘t remember what happened.‘ Sam stopped twisting his mop in the colander end of the bucket. ‗Crikey, Mr. Dickey. Y‘ don‘t mean it do yer? Really, straight up – yer don‘t know what Percy said?‘ ‗That‘s about it Sam! I‘m finished – can‘t go on. He‘s taken over. I don‘t know what he‘s going to say anymore. It ain‘t me and ‗im out there – it‘s ‗im and me.‘ Both men stared at the small leather suitcase on the chair by the mirror. In the dim light Sam could have sworn the box jiggled, but, it was probably just the tram-trolley bus going past outside.

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Sam decided all of a sudden it was down to him to save the show. If Dickey Bird couldn‘t go on, the whole bill would have to fill up the fifteen minute act time or the punters would be demanding their money back: short bills were a big ‗No– No‘ everybody knew that. ‗Have you spoke to Mr. Scilly, Mr. Dickey, he has to know – or, or . .‘ ‗I can‘t tell him. Sam, I‘m too ashamed,‘ sniffled Dickey wiping away the single tear as it escaped down a pallid cheek. ‗Buck up Mr. Dickey. Have a stiffener. I‘ll be right back.‘ Sam eased the door closed and sped along the second floor rear corridor as fast as his gammy leg would carry him. Vester Swann‘s door was still locked – typical – thought Sam, why were women never where he wanted them to be? No chance of her generous charms straightening out the doll act with a cuddle then. Only twenty minutes to curtain up and Dickey the first act on – the crowd warmer: what a calamity! Young Jimmy Rogers was filling the kettle in the Stage Door Box when Sam charged past all of a dither. ‗Jimmy, Jimmy. Where‘s Scilly?‘ Jimmy laughed and pointed to the wall clock, ‗Silly question! Public Bar of the Prince of Wales, o‘ course, where ‗e is every night before show-time.‘ The etched glass door shuddered open as Sam charged into the crowded throng of the Public, next door. ‗Mr. Scilly Mr. Scilly. It‘s me Sam. Come quick. It‘s Mr. Dickey.‘ Algy Scilly‘s face fell, ‗Now what!‘ The two men rushed back towards the stage door to be met by Jimmy carrying Sam‘s bucket. ‗What yer doing wiv m‘ bucket – y‘ give it ‗ere,‘ gasped Sam becoming territorial. No cheeky kid was muscling their way in on his employment duties. Mopping was his business. Scarcely two minutes later a red faced and puffing Algy

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Scilly reached the office door under the eves holding a long flat box in both hands. This was no time for standing on ceremony - without waiting for an invite, Algy barged into Gwynfor Davis‘ inner sanctum. ‗Dressing room‘s empty, Mr. Davis – he‘s gone I tell you. Dickey Bird‘s flown.‘ —oo0oo—

o

Dan Len

British all‘s Music H Original n Little Ma in the uit Baggy S

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Show me the way to go home Show me the way to go home, I‟m tired and I want to go to bed: I had a little drink about an hour ago, And it‟s gone right to my head. Wherever I may roam, Over land or sea or foam: You will always here me singing this song. Show me the way to go home

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Roland Astall Researches into northern dialects in the early 20th century 1, AH'M SORRY BUT AH CAN 'ARDLY STAND OOP THIS MORNIN' LUMBAGOOS COOM BACK 2, AH T0LD YA, DIDN'T AH THAT YA KNEW NOUT 3, ‘AVE AN0THER DROP 0' WHISKY 'ERBERT 4, TA, JOE, 'AN 'ERES T0 ME 'AN ME WIFE'S HUSBAND 5, AH WUR COOMIN' UP STREET 6, YOU LISTEN 'ERE OUR KID 7, PUT WOOD IN T'HOLE WILL YA **** Interestingly, Music Hall songs were passed on through the generations much in the same way as nursery rhymes:

Refrain example: For you can’t do that there ‘ere, No, you can’t do that there ‘ere; Anywhere else you can do that there, But, you can’t do that there ‘ere.

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Roland Astall Research into early northern Dialect cont ... : 

Belting - enjoyable

Corporation - Council

Deck ‗im - knock him down

Kack-handed - clumsy

Keks - trousers

Living over t‘brush - out of wedlock

Parlour - front lounge

Quack - Doctor

Rollickin‘ - telling off

Get shut of - get rid of

Starving - very cold

Swinging the lead - dragging your feet

Tater ash - potato hash/poor man‟s stew N GUS ELE 84


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If It Wasn't for the 'Ouses in Between Gus Elen

If you saw my little backyard, "Wot a pretty spot!" you'd cry, It's a picture on a sunny summer day; Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages wot peoples doesn't buy I makes it on a Sunday look all gay. The neighhours finks I grow 'em and you'd fancy you're in Kent, Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews. It's a wonder as the landlord doesn't want to raise the rent, Because we've got such nobby distant views.

CHORUS: Oh it really is a wery pretty garden And Chingford to the eastward could be seen; Wiv a ladder and some glasses, You could see to 'Ackney Marshes, If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between.

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Christine Butters – Evadne

'You rang, Madam?' Betsy looked across to where her mistress, Evadne Golightly, sat before the mirror, her faded golden hair dressed in the style of her youth with artful curls threaded through with a blue ribbon. Evadne was putting the finishing touches to her toilette; the same blue eye shadow, the same painted lips and rouged cheeks. And we all know who this is in aid of, thought Betsy. 'Yes, Betsy,' replied Evadne in a pretty musical voice, the one thing that remained of the girl this old woman so desperately wished to recapture. 'Mr. Davis, Mr. Gwynfor Davis,' she emphasised, 'is coming for tea this very afternoon!' As if I didn't know thought Betsy, seeing as how he is your only visitor and how you fancy him like crazy. Dressed up like that really it was so unbecoming but yet the maid could feel it in her heart to feel sorry for the other woman. She had been a great beauty in her day, a chorus girl at the Gaiety who had upped and married the owner of the theatre Henry Golightly. But she was sadly evanesce now and the paint and powder gave her the look of a clown. 'Tell Cook to bake some scones, you know how Mr. Davis likes a scone,' went on Evadne. 'Oh and Betsy be sure to tell cook about the raspberry jam. You know how partial Mr. Davis is of Cook's scones and raspberry jam.' 'Yes, Madam.' 'And Betsy, we'll have tea in the drawing room as soon as Mr. Davis arrives.‘ Yes, Madam. Will that be all?' 'Yes, thank you, Betsy.' 86


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Turning back to the mirror Evadne doused herself liberally from the scent bottle on her dressing table. Midnight in Paris inappropriately filled the air and took Gwynfor Davis' breath away when he was shown into her presence not twenty minutes later. 'Mr Davis Madam.' Betsy stood aside to let Gwynfor enter. 'Mr Davis how nice to see you and so unexpectedly.' Her eyelashes fluttered as she coyly extended her hand. Knowing what was expected of him he raised the hand to his lips, saying as he did so. 'Delighted to see you dear lady. I wish you would tell me how it is that you appear more beautiful each time that I see you?' 'Oh, Mr. Davis,' said Evadne with a little trill of laughter and would have rapped him over the knuckles with her fan if she had had the foresight to provide herself with one! 'Come and sit down do,' and she patted the couch beside her invitingly. 'Thank you Mrs Golightly,' said Gwynfor sinking down on to a prim, straight backed chair at some distance from his hostess and watching the maid as she poured out the tea. His heart sank. Not scones and raspberry jam! He had been foolish enough to say how much he had enjoyed them on his first visit and now they had become a ritual. 'Oh do come and sit over here by me. So much more cosy don't you think?' And then to the maid, 'See that we are not disturbed Betsy!' 'Yes Madam,' said the maid as she set down the teapot and went to leave the room. Did her left eyelid flicker in his direction? Gwynfor Davis could not be sure. 'These scones are delicious,' he said as he tried to work 87


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the dough from off of his top denture. 'And the raspberry jam well words fail me!' 'Now, Mr. Davis what is it?' Evadne asked playfully and fluttering her improbable eyelashes. How to tell this one time musical star just what was his problem without precipitating a crisis. With Pretty Polly Perkins departure for the newer pastures of The Alhambra they were temporarily without a Top of the Bill. Vester Swann had stepped into the breach but The Kensington Linnet had seen better days and the crowds were deserting the old Gaiety in droves. How to explain this to Evadne Golightly without that remarkable old lady suggesting that she topped the Bill. If Vester Swann was emptying the place then the sight of Evadne strutting her stuff would be enough to close the old Gaiety down. But she was the owner and thereby hung a tale. Knowing that Evadne fancied him, and how, Gwynfor swallowed his repugnance and sat down beside her on the couch. He took one of her bird like claws in his own plump hand and smiled at her. Evadne moved closer and gave his hand a squeeze. He was momentarily distracted by the powder and rouge grains clinging to the soft hairs on her cheeks and the overpowering smell of Midnight in Paris. He felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, but he resisted the urge to move away and gave her hand a squeeze in return. 'Mrs. Golightly, cariad; it is like this. We are temporarily without a Top of the Bill.' He saw her faded blue eyes brighten and rushed on: 'Vester's doing a marvellous job but we need money to attract a real star billing.' 'But we don't need to spend money, Mr. Davis,' her hand was on his leg, 'not when you have me, ready and able to step into the breach.' 88


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It was as he had feared! Now what was he going to do? Taking that creeping hand once more in his own he said, 'No, no, I couldn't put you to so much trouble, dear lady. We can't have you performing on the stage.' Then realising too late the infelicitous nature of the remark he made haste to retrieve his position. 'No, no, cariad, I couldn't ask it of you. The old Gaiety is not worthy of the magnitude that is Evadne Golightly. You have your image to preserve. The most beautiful woman to grace the boards that is how you must be remembered.' Gwynfor felt his collar getting tight. 'Flatterer,' the hand went out to grasp his lapel but he caught it and holding it tight he said, 'Oh no, cariad, Gwynfor Davis speaks nothing but the truth.' And he gave that imprisoned hand another squeeze. 'But, I could do it, Mr. Davis. Evadne Golightly could bring them in once again!' 'No, no, cariad. I will not let to make such a sacrifice. You must remain for ever on that pedestal upon which your adoring public have placed you.' He just stopped himself from adding: 'All those years ago!' 'Oh, Mr. Davis you are such a naughty boy, you do know how to flatter a girl. I declare my head is in quite a whirl with all the gallant things you say.' Evadne moved closer pinning the unfortunate Gwynfor to the arm of the couch. Gwynfor Davis was visibly sweating and wondering how on earth he was going to get out of this situation when a tap sounded at the door and, without waiting to be bidden enter, Betsy came into the room, seemingly oblivious to the spectacle of her mistress in the act of seducing her visitor, and 89


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in a voice of doom announced: 'Beg pardon, Madam, but Mr. Davis is wanted at the theatre pronto.' Evadne fell back and Gwynfor Davis scrambled to his feet, 'So sorry, cariad, but duty calls.' And with that he bowed himself out of the room with more haste than politeness decreed. On the other side of the door, he mopped his brow on a large handkerchief bestowed a smacking kiss upon Betsy's cheek saying: 'One in a million you are Betsy, fy geneth, one in a million.' 'Oh get along with you, Mr. Davis,' said Betsy laughing as she pocketed the half crown that Gwynfor had pressed upon her.

Wiganism: Well! I go to te foot o’ ‘ur stairs. (I don't believe it) 90


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Chester Music Hall

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Research by Doreen Baines Chester Music Hall The Music Hall in Chester was originally designed as the St Nicholas Chapel, built just across the road from the Cathedral. This building probably has had the most varied career of any structure in the city. It is thought to have been built early in the 14th century for Simon de Albo, the Benedictine Abbot of St Werburgh. The surviving external medieval fabric of the chapel, comprising red sandstone walls, buttresses, and window arches, is best seen from the lane at the side called, appropriately nowadays, Music Hall Passage. In 1488 ownership of the building passed from ecclesiastical use to the Mayor and Corporation when the chapel was altered and enlarged. Between 1545 and 1698, the building was used by the City Assembly as the Common Hall. It was later used as the Wool Hall before becoming a Playhouse in 1727. Fifty years later parts of the building were reconstructed, first as the new theatre and then as the Theatre Royal. In 1854 James Harrison, a local architect, adapted the building into a Music Hall and designed the Tudor Gothic façade to St. Werburgh Street. In the last century the Music Hall was adapted to a cinema and lastly to retail premises - (2006) it’s now a ‘Superdrug.’

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Christine Butters - A Day in the Life – Sam Muggins

'Arglwydd Mawr! Sam bring a bucket quick, it's peeping down in here.' That'll be Gwynfor Davis the manager. "Gwynfor the Leak" I calls "im Always findin' another one 'e is. This place has more 'oles than a colander and no mistake. Gourse we 'as leaks of a different kind. Bound to when you works wiv livestock! 'Sam did you hear me? Deuch ar bwced! It's leaking allover Sid Hissins‘ props. We'll have his bleeding snake drowned at this rate.' 'Be right with you Mr Davis, coming right away Mr Davis.' Why doesn't he get these leaks fixed is what I'd like to know. Right shame it is to see the old Gaiety goin' down the pan like this. Wonder why Gwynfor doesn't tap the old gel who owns it for a few quid. Evadne Golightly fancies 'im something rotten she do; bit old for 'im like, seventy if she's a day but 'e wouldn't be the first to cut 'is coat accordin' to 'is cloth. 'Comin' Mr Davis, coming.' A right drama queen that Sid 'Issin. Should 'ave 'eard 'im carryin' on! His blessed snake were all right, just a bit damp like. The way he was screechin' you'd 'ave thought the Niagara Falls was coming through the ceilin'. What's a few drops of rain? Well it were more than a few drops but what does 'e expect if 'e will put the thing right underneath that great big damp patch. Stands to reason that there's a leak. Old Davies got another reason to be narked. His Top of the 93


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Bill, Pretty Polly Perkins, light of his life upped an' left ‘im. Gawn to top the bill at the Alhambra she 'as. So it's old Vester ‘as is toppin' the bill second half. Mind they don't come in as they used to. Well stands to reason she's no spring chicken not but what she looks good when she's got 'er melons hoisted up under 'er armpits and they looks as if they is in danger of spillin' out of 'er frock. Vester Swann still knows a thing or two. ‗Lighting 'as to be good of course. Bert Plug he got the trick; make you believe she's twenty any day. A long gold wig and a strategically placed parasol 'elps of course, but it's old Bert as 'as the punters believing the Kensington Linnet is still just a slip of a gal. 'Sam, deuch ar bwced!' ‗That'll be old Gwynfor, ‘spect ‘e‘s found another leak. That or that perishin‘ pony's been and gawn and done it again! ‗Comin‘ Mr. Davis, Sir, comin‘, right away.‘

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Oh! Mr Porter Marie Lloyd Lately I just spent a week with my old Aunt Brown, Came up to see wond'rous sights of famous London Town. Just a week I had of it, all round the place we'd roam Wasn't I sorry on the day I had to go back home? Worried about with packing, I arrived late at the station, Dropped my hatbox in the mud, the things all fell about, Got my ticket, said 'good - bye' "Right away." the guard did cry, But I found the train was wrong and shouted out: CHORUS Oh! Mr. Porter, what shall I do? I want to go to Birmingham And they're taking me on to Crewe, Send me back to London as quickly as you can, Oh! Mr. Porter, what a silly girl I am!

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Audrey Rainbow - Millie - Seed Sown - 3 The ringing of the telephone roused old Harry from his dreamlike state listening in wonder at the door of the workroom. After shuffling down the corridor to his cubbyhole office Harry gasped an ―Hello‖ into the receiver. ―Harry is that you?‖ came the voice from the telephone. Immediately recognising the slow, high pitched tones on the other end, Harry straightened himself up as he replied, ―Yes, Mrs. Golightly, mam, it‘s me.‖ ―Are you alone?‖ she asked the old doorman. On receiving Harry‘s assurance that he was alone she continued. ―Good, then I need to talk to you. What‘s going on over there? I‘ve had a visit from that Welsh weasel. Gwynfor Davis talking ten to the dozen but saying nothing as usual. Wants me to think everything‘s hunky dory but I can read him like a book. He‘s hiding something. So come on Harry I know you‘ll give it to me straight, you‘ve been my eyes and ears for the last forty years and never let me down yet, you know how much I trust and need you.‖ This flattery never failed to make the shy doorman blush even though he knew in his heart she used it on everyone. ―Well mam,‖ said Harry ―I know Mr. Davis is very worried, more on edge than usual, never had the longest fuse if you know what I mean.‖ ―Yes, yes, Harry, but what‘s making him so worried?‖ interrupted Evadne Golightly. Stammering Harry continued, ―He‘s having trouble finding a good top of the bill to replace Polly, tried a few of 96


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them but the audience ain‘t happy mam, takings must be well down what with the Alhambra having Polly and everyone trying that new talking picture house that‘s just opened.‖ Taking a deep breath and continuing before he lost his nerve Harry went on ―I know it‘s not my place Mam, but I‘ve just heard the voice of an angel coming from the workroom.‖ ―Come on, come on, Harry get on with it‖ snapped Evadne. ―It‘s the new girl, Mam, bit of a mystery she is, never talks about where she comes from but by her airs and graces she‘s not the laundry maid she makes out. Even Andre de la Rue waxes lyrical about her mending and you know him, Mam nothing‘s ever good enough for him.‖ ―Yes, yes, Harry what‘s this got to do with the singing?‖ squeaked an agitated Evadne her voice getting even higher. ―Sorry, Mam, but I‘m not sure it‘s my place to…….‖ ―Oh please Harry, you know I won‘t say where I‘ve heard it‖ interrupted an exasperated Evadne. ―I have never heard the likes of that beautiful voice Mam, well not since your good self of course‖ added Harry quickly ―in fact listening to her singing took me back to the first time I ever heard your velvet tones and..‖ Evadne broke into his conversation, she knew only too well that Harry had loved her for years and usually she enjoyed his adoration but this wasn‘t the time for his fantasies. ―Harry, just tell me who she is and I‘ll do the rest, have to go and feed Ching Ching now.‖ Ching Ching was the latest in a succession of Pekinese dogs carried everywhere by their doting mistress. Harry stammered ―Sorry, sorry, she‘s called Millie Hardcastle, Mam, been here about a month.‖ 97


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―Thanks Harry, mum‘s the word mind ‗til I think how to do this. Bye for now.‖ With that she was gone before Harry could say goodbye. Slowly replacing the receiver Harry lowered himself into his chair thinking how a man his age should be able to deal with a woman who had played him for a mug for over forty years. He thought back to that first time he had seen and heard her. The Gaiety was a much different place then. Music halls or Free and Easys as the lower establishments were known were rowdy places with the air thick with the stench of beer and smoke and the audience, usually men, always eager to show their displeasure at any turn who couldn‘t sing above them or make them laugh. Twice nightly the acts were drowned out by rowdy catcalls and often left the stage under a hail of beer bottles and rotten tomatoes. The orchestra pit was a dangerous place to work in those days and Harry had heard of places so bad a metal screen was put over the orchestra. Yes, a much different place then. The 17-year-old Harry had just started as a stagehand and his first sight of the wonderful Evadne was when he was told to lift her onto the swing before curtain up. From the moment he put his hands around her tiny waist and lifted her, light as a feather, onto the flower covered swing, he gazed up at her and her beautiful smile brought a blush to his youthful face and he was under a spell that would last the rest of his life. Stumbling off the stage as the curtain drew back Harry heard the simultaneous intake of breath from an audience totally transfixed before she had even sung a note. For almost a lifetime, Harry had watched the rise of Evadne as she bewitched every man who came into contact with her. Her love affair with George Golightly had shocked the town but Evandne‘s charms eventually won over even the most 98


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fervent of objectors and when five years later poor George died it was these self same pillars of the community who became the doting suitors of the young, now very affluent widow. Over the years Evadne developed her skills in seduction managing to keep a string of admirers happy. Harry‘s love never faltered even though he knew for all her protestations he would never be the one. He was a little surprised that she had called Mr. Davis, the welsh weasel, as watching her with Davis he had the impression that this was the first man in many years to get under her skin. Perhaps the Welshman was immune to her charms. That would be a first thought Harry, but knew who his money would be on if it came to it. Millie walking past his window without stopping for a chat, just a cheery - ―Night Harry‖ - as she went out of the stage door roused, Harry from his daydreams. -o0o-

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Ray Burslem - Hot Times At The Alhambra

Polly Perkins was in a dilemma, standing in the wings waiting for Willy Wallop to finish, her thoughts were filled with the offer from Emile Littler to top the bill at the theatre Drury Lane in London. Polly hated the thought of letting the Alhambra down after they had made her the top of the bill not so long ago. But Willy made Polly‘s mind up for her as in his finale he flies blindfolded through the Hoop of Fire after leaving his trapeze bar and being caught by his catcher Luigi. Hard luck Willy. Although you were safe in the clutches of Luigi your bar collided with the hoop and the flaming thing went into the scenery, which was soon ablaze and spreading quickly even though the safety curtain was lowered promptly. ―Look Polly, see it my from my point of view. If you leave now I don‘t think the owners will bother with repairing the Alhambra as the Gaiety has the choice of my old customers who would come back if we had you starring again.‖ Gilbert Van Damme the theatre manager implored his soon to leave Wigan star. ―I am sorry Mr Van Damme but the story in the ‗Stage‘ is that the Alhambra has been sold to the ABC group of cinemas for conversion. So this is goodbye Gilbert, maybe you will get another theatre soon?‖ She shook his outstretched hand and with a tear in her eye left his house and entering a taxi left Wigan for the bright lights of the big smoke hoping to have the success of Gracie Fields. 100


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The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo Charles Coburn I've just got here, thro' Paris, from the sunny southern shore; I to Monte Carlo went, just to raise my winter's rent. Dame Fortune smil'd upon me as she'd never done before, And I've now such lots of money, I'm a gent. Yes, I've now such lots of money, I'm a gent. I stay indoors till after lunch, and then my daily walk To the great Triumphal Arch is one grand Triumphal march, Observ'd by each observer with the keenness of a hawk, I'm mass of money, linen, silk and starch. I'm mass of money, linen, silk and starch.

CHORUS As I walk along the Bois Boolong, with an independent air, You can hear them sigh and wish to die, You can see them wink the other eye, At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

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Vesta Tilley The male impersonator Vesta Tilley was born Matilda Alice Powles in 1864, Vesta was only four years old when she first trod the boards and began dressing as a boy from age 11 impersonating a well known tenor. Unlike Marie Lloyd whose act was spontaneous, Tilley – married name Lady De Frece - rehearsed down to the last detail, practising every word and gesture. She impersonated dandies and fops - her clothes were so immaculate that she became a male fashion icon. In her photos you can see the razor-edge crease in the trousers, the high gloss shine on the shoes, the exquisite tailoring of her coats and shirts; her embroidered waistcoats were silk and the snug fitting uniforms! It’s said that she wore men's underclothes when performing for the trousers to hang properly! She revealed male foibles and eccentricities, which were especially appreciated by the women in her audiences. During the First World War songs such as 'Jolly Good Luck to the Girl Who Loves a Soldier', 'The Army of Today's All Right', and 'Six Days' Leave' inspired men to sign up, thus earning her the nickname 'England's greatest recruiting sergeant'. In 1920 aged 56 she made her final appearance at the London Coliseum then stepped out of her breeches and the limelight for good. Lady de Frece died in 1952 aged 88.

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Audrey Rainbow - Millie - Secrets Unfolding In the wash house Millie was unaware that the other women were watching her. ―Look at her,‖ said Nell, ―thinks she‘s better ‗an us , alus had airs and graces, but just lately can hardly be civil.‖ ―Yea, know what you mean, Nell,‖ replied Glad, ―and me ol‘ man says hers ain‘t giving nowt away neither. Stops off for a jar after shift but never joins the conversation – polite enough mind but always ready to down `is bevy should anyone ask about where they come from.‖ ―Let‘s `ave a bit of a laff and wipe that dreamy grin off of her mush, eh girls?‖ chuckled Nell. Going over to where Millie was folding her sheets the two ringleaders started talking loudly while the rest of the women gathered around. Taking the lead Nell pronounced to her audience ―Saw ol‘ Sam who used to stay in Millie‘s house the other day. Said he‘d heard they came from over Rushworth.‖ ―Na, I thought he said Netherbridge,‖ chirped Glad. ―Can‘t think you heard right Glad, if it were Netherbridge they wouldn‘t be in this dirty `ole, stands to reason.‖ Millie still lost in her own thoughts had not heard this exchange and when abruptly brought her back from her daydream by Nell‘s next question she had no time to think or make her escape. ―Where did you come from Millie? you ain‘t never said exactly.‖ ―Netherbridge,‖ blurted out a startled Millie. ―Well, well,‖ said a smug Nell as she folded her arms to push up her ample bosom. ―Fancy that, had to lower yourself 104


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for some reason, did you?‖ ―No, no, just wanted a fresh start,‖ spluttered a flustered Millie as she gathered up her half-folded sheets and, bundling them into her washing basket she pushed her way through the circle of women saying, ―excuse me, excuse me, I have to go.‖ ―Well, you certainly put a flea in her bonnet and no mistake. Out of here like a scalded cat. Didn‘t really tell us nothin‘ we ain‘t already guessed though, did `er‖ said Glad. ―Course she did, Glad, look how she squirmed, hiding sommat, mark my words on it. Her ladyship will spill the beans afor I‘m done though,‖ continued an excited Nell, now in full flow. ―Better `an us, eh - and just why would someone from those parts get a job at these works and live round `ere, just answer me that?‖ ―Well maybe,‖ ventured a quiet voice from the back of the group, ―Maybe she‘s from up there alright but fell in love with Alfie and they ran away and eloped and…‖ ―Oh, someone give her a clout, romantic young fool, she‘ll learn soon enough,‖ laughed Nell. ―Na, Nell she might be on to somat `cos my Fred says `er ol‘ man had obviously never worked in a factory afor but picked it up right quick. So maybe she did lower herself for love an all,‖ said Glad with a sigh. ―More like that bairn of theirs is the reason. Not too high and mighty for a bit of ‗how‘s your father‘, eh?‖ chuckled Nell and they all laughed. Back in the safety of her own little scullery, Millie started to cry. How could she have been so stupid? What would Alfie say? The thought of Alfie made her sob even more. He had been so good to her. Marrying her when her beloved Charles was hastily sent to Africa without even a goodbye. 105


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Millie had looked upon Charles‘ mother almost as an aunt for most of her life since the time her Mother had taken up the post of Governess to the young Honourable Charles Worthington and his sisters. Lord Worthington‘s life had been saved in the Great War by Millie‘s father who had been his best friend at school and when the family hit hard times and could no longer support his friend‘s young widow and daughter the Worthington‘s found a way they could repay their debt. The young Millie was allowed to be educated alongside the Worthington children and all five had spent their days in the schoolroom until it was time for young Charles to go to Eaton. The girls blossomed well under the guidance of Millie's Mother and when it was time for the eldest daughter to hold her first ball it was taken for granted that the young Millie should attend. Lady Worthington was very fond of Millie and hoped her young ward would meet a suitable young army officer who could give her the status the daughter of their very dear friend deserved. She had not expected the romance that blossomed between Millie and Charles. They had been like brother and sister until his last holiday from school when suddenly they wanted no other company than each other. Thinking it wise to say nothing, whilst inwardly hoping it would be a gentle flirtation into manhood for her young son, Lady Worthington knew they could never agree to the match even though they loved Millie. No, the daughter of a bankrupt army officer and a governess was quite an unsuitable match for the future Lord Worthington. Coming across the young lovers in a passionate embrace Lady Worthington realised that her silence had been the wrong course of action and immediately remedied it by arranging for her son to go to their plantation in East Africa. Telling her that 106


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she must leave the Estate immediately or her mother would not be allowed to continue tutoring the younger Worthington girls and would have to leave her tied home, Millie had no choice but to leave. Millie‘s salvation had been the ever-present Alfie. Like Millie he had lived on the Estate all his life, his father being the Worthington‘s Gamekeeper. A quiet boy, Alfie was never happier than when he was out at dawn with his father checking the bird covers and rearing the new birds. His ambition for as long as he could remember was to follow in his father‘s footsteps. Never making many friends at the village school he attended, Alfie had been allowed to join the games of the children from the big house and he had worshiped Millie for as long as he could remember. She had always been his champion when the Worthington girls had teased him about his accent or his clothes. His distraught parents were inconsolable when he announced that he would take the disgraced Millie away to the town and start a new life away from them and from his beloved countryside. She had always stood beside him and now even though he knew he was only second best, it was his turn to stand beside her. Wiping away her tears Millie picked up the crying baby from his pram. ―Oh Jack, Jack, what has your Mummy done, how can I tell your Daddy we‘ll have to move again? Just when I had such wonderful news for him from the music hall. Will we never be free from my past?‖ With this thought Millie buried her head into the soft, sweet smelling baby and started to cry again as if she would never be able to stop. 107


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Jules Leotard alls Music H en inft would o eze ap clude tr h wire and hig ell as w acts as nd a jugglers s of rm other fo s. tumbler

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The Future Mrs 'Awkins Albert Chevalier I knows a little doner, I'm about to own 'er, She's a goin' to marry me. At fust she said she wouldn't, then she said she couldn't, Then she whispered, "Well, I'll see." Sez I, "Be Missis 'Awkins, Missis 'En'ry 'Awkins, Or acrost the seas I'll roam. So 'elp me Bob I'm crazy, Lizer you're a daisy, Won't yer share my 'umble 'ome?" SPOKEN OR SUNG: "Won't yer?" CHORUS: Oh! Lizer! Sweet Lizer! If yer die an old maid you'll 'ave only yerself to blame! D'y'ear Lizer? Dear Lizer! 'Ow d'yer fancy 'Awkins for yer other name?

Albert Chevalier Also famous for My Old Dutch

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Audrey Rainbow - Millie - Setting Free Old Harry was relieved to see Millie enter the stage door. He wasn‘t sure if his interference in the life of this young woman had been too much for her. She didn‘t know of course, no one did, that he had been the one to tell Mrs Golightly about her beautiful voice and that Mrs Golightly had instructed Gwynfor Davis to give her a chance. Gwynfor didn‘t know where Evadne Golightly got her information but he did recognise that she was the boss and that he wasn‘t managing her theatre, as he should. How could he when they were all against him? No respect for his years spent managing successful theatres and the Agents, well; they were a force to be reckoned with, wanted far too much money for the top line artists. What was he to do to bring the audiences back from the Alhambra? Well, if that old trooper Evadne was to be believed and she was usually right, then that slip of a girl, the ‗I‘m too good for you‘ the new seamstress and laundry maid was to be their saviour. He had told her he understood she could sing and that she would have to go on in place of Polly Perkins, ‗Oh, my pretty Pol, why did you leave me like this?‘ he groaned at the mere thought of Polly. No amount of protestation from Millie could stop him marching her to the stage, instructing Mrs Eversley to play the piano and when the strains of ‗If you were the only girl in the world‘ rang out Millie knew that at last she had found what the fates had meant for her. By the end of the first verse, the whole cast had stopped what they were doing and were mesmerised by the beautiful sound coming from that small delicate vision before them – their very own songbird. 110


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The first person to awake from the spell was Andre de la Rue the old dresser. ―Bravo, Bravo, beautiful girl, not only do you sew with the touch of a goddess but you sound like one too.‖ As one they all began to speak ―Wonderful,‖ ―Magnificent,‖ ―Magical.‖ So engrossed were they in what they had just heard no one realised that someone was standing at the back of the theatre. From the shadows came the sound of applause and Evadne Golightly emerged and walked towards them. ―Well, little miss, you‘ll do very nicely. Gwynfor bring her to the office straight away, I want to know more about this magical little creature.‖ That was two days ago and now here she was entering the theatre for her first night in front of an audience. Alfie had not minded that she had told the girls where they came from. ―Take us or leave us is what I say, Millie, my love. I‘m fed up pretending, let‘s live our lives for us not for what a load of sour old biddies think, we‘re happy enough aren‘t we?‖ Relieved that Alfie was not cross with her Millie agreed but inside she knew that it did matter in this community what those old biddies said. As devoted to her as he had ever been Alfie had not objected to her going on the stage at the music hall. He had encouraged her and even said he would arrange a babysitter for Jack so that he could be there, in the audience, when the world would hear her magic. Secretly worrying that he would loose his beautiful wife who had only married him because she could not have Charles. She would surely be introduced to men more of her class and she would be lost to him forever. Gwynfor Davis was leaning on the hatch to old Harry‘s 111


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office when Millie arrived. ―Thank the Lord, Thank the Lord,‖ he said his eyes looking skyward ―Come on Millie, let‘s get you ready, Vester Swann is waiting in the dressing room she‘s going to help you chose you outfit and pretty you up for the stage.‖ Old Harry shook his head. ‗Just what that gentle girl don‘t need two old clucking hens fussing over her. Better be careful their little songbird don‘t take flight‘ he thought as more of the cast came through the door. Sam Muggins and Jimmy Rogers the stagehands appeared. ―By ‗eck Harry lad there‘s a right long queue out there, I hope they‘ll give the lass a chance. Know what their like when they‘ve had a few and can sense someone‘s nervous,‖ said Sam. ―Shouldn‘t worry too much, Sam. I think that little lass has steel in her backbone just sent the old Welsh weasel and Vester packing. Said she knew exactly what she was going to wear. Had imagined herself in it the first night she was here. Wants one of the chorus girls to help with her hair and makeup.‖ ―Well, I‘m blowed,‖ said Sam, ―Prima flaming Donna before she‘s even stepped out before an audience.‖ Chuckling to himself and with the teenage Jimmy following on behind Sam went to get the first scene set.

-o0o-

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Maurice Blisson - Memories of the Kingston Empire

The wonderful Kingston Empire (now, like many others, a supermarket) was a goldmine of music hall talent. The shows changed twice a week - Monday and Thursday - and were twice-nightly, 6.30 and 8.30.

I remember watching Max Miller (The Cheeky Chappie), Reg Varney (On the Buses) and Arthur English (Are You Being Served?), as well as a host of other performers like Wilson, Keppel and assorted Bettys, and Morton Fraser's Harmonica Gang.

The orchestra was conducted by Jack Frere, who went on to conduct at the London Palladium. I went to school with his son, now a hairdresser in Kingston-uponThames, and still see him every year at school reunions. As a child in the 40s and early 50s it was a wonderful experience to see the acts. I used to sit near the front so if any performer wanted a member of the audience for a particular trick, I always volunteered myself. In those days a performer could use the same act again and again around the country because the audience was always different. Then came television, which not only killed live theatre but also killed many comics who did not have writers to refresh their material.

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Steph Spiers The Final Curtain ‗What time is it?‘ ‗Five minutes later than the last time you asked.‘ ‗Any sign of?‘ ‗Wouldn‘t I have said if there was?‘ ‗How long to?‘ ‗Grow up Sid - it‘s ten minutes yet to curtain up, there‘s plenty of time.‘ ‗Ow, go easy on the brushwork that‘s my bum under that cloak, you brush it any harder and them birds will be laying again.‘ ‗Well, you can‘t go on covered in feathers. You ‗aving this aviary stuffed up yer . . yer . . . posterior will be the death of me. What other Dresseur ‗az to brush pigeon doings off costumes twice a night? Taken for granted dat iz what I am!‘ ‗Don‘t start the old French patter malarkey wiv me. Nearest to France you‘ve ever been was a day trip to Dover to wave at all them young sailors being demobbed. You‘ve got a right cob on haven‘t you?‘ ‗Moi? Who me? Don‘t be ridiculous!‘ ‗Yes you ‗ave! She sent you packing didn‘t ‗er? Gave you the old brush off. Told you to clear off didn‘t ‗er? The Netherbridge Nightingale - our new Top Billing,‘ snickered Sid Hissins creasing his double chins to peer over his shoulder at the glowing red cheeks of André de la Rue on his knees behind him, wielding the clothes brush with malice a forethought. ‗As if I am in the slightest bothered by the whims

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and fancies of scullery maids with ideas above their station.‘ ‗Sounds like a right cob on to me, me old China.‘ ‗It is nothing of the sort. I merely offered my services and the benefit of my considerable experience - my long years of experience of dressing stars old and new - I dressed the Jersey Lily herself you know and our Marie more than once when she was on tour. Use to call me Cough Drop, so she did.‘ ‗Yer lucky that‘s all she called you. Yes, yes, alright don‘t give me down memory lane. Not just now - there‘s a pal. I was only saying the new STAR‘s dressing herself isn‘t she?‘ ‗Very unwise. First time on the boards topping the bill never been known before. You know that. And thinks she knows it all - putting her own face on in dressing room 1A I don‘t know what things are coming to.‘ ‗Leave it out - she‘s got Vester in there with her.‘ ‗No she hasn‘t! That‘s just it. She‘s on her own with Betty from the chorus,‘ chuntered the disgruntled dresser malevolently with a steely gleam in his rheumy eye. ‗Now that‘s unkind even for you - Betty Chapel - isn‘t chorus - come on - she first went on stage when she was four, ‗er dad‘s been sand dancing longer than the A-rabbs,‘ said Sid with a wiggle as he casually loosed the pair of ears to drop a white rabbit down the front of his trousers. ‗So where‘s Vester then?‘ ‗Told her ministrations and advice weren‘t needed, either thank you very much and goodnight ladies!‘ ‗Well! Bet Vester had her nose put out of joint good style,‘ grinned Sid who was enjoying the shenanigans immensely - he hadn‘t seen so many ruffled feathers since their, „It Girl,‟ Polly Perkins flounced out all beads and bob flapping.

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‗Who does she think she is? I‘ll tell you, a scrubber - a laundry maid from nowhere. Yes, she can carry a tune - but she‘ll soon find carrying an audience is a might more tricky.‘ Sid nodded. He couldn‘t argue with that. The dresser was right - his job was a lot more difficult that just lacing on boots and pressing frills and flounces. Sid leaned across the dressing table to squint into the mirror - a fat, bald, red faced man sweating profusely stared back at him as he smeared on a handful of grease paint across his nose and cheeks to tone down the rosy glow of too liquid a lunch. While André was presently preoccupied pushing white mice into the tails of Sid‘s frock coat under the gold spangled cloak and didn‘t notice the expression on the turn‘s glowing countenance reflected in the cracked mirror. Milly the laundry maid‘s meteoric rise to fame and stardom had ricocheted around The Gaiety Theatre‘s old walls like the fatal bullet that had shot down the bullet catching Chinaman Act on the London stage in 1918. ‗I dressed ‗im an‘ all yer know.‘ ‗Yer rambling again! Who? Am I supposed to guess?‘ ‗Chung Ling Soo.‘ ‗Gawd above! I didn‘t know that. What was he like then?‘ asked Sid enthralled, fancy André de la Rue once working with that famous dead Yankie, hidden depths - that‘s what it was - hidden depths. Seen it all had André. A living legend he was. ‗Brilliant performer he were - William Ellsworth Robinson - never met anyone like him before or since. Smashing bloke he created the most incredible illusion in history. I used to watch him on stage from the wings with me eyes shut. His most famous effect was the dangerous Bullet Catching Trick. He‘d get several volunteers lined up onstage to fire real guns 116


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directly at him; the bullet would break a plate he held in front of his chest, and he‘d catch the bullet in his teeth. Then there was a terrible tragedy I‘ll never forget it March 23, 1918, the unthinkable happened - Chung Ling Soo was fatally shot onstage.‘ The old man‘s eyes misted over and a trickle of mascara started from the corner to trickle down his blush painted cheekbone. ‗I heard my old man on about that, he said a mystery still remains about how the accident happened. What do you think was it really an accident, or was it intentional murder?‘ asked Sid jiggling his shoulders as the last of the white mice was secreted in his back pocket, watched avidly by Polly from the parrot stand. ‗We‘ll never know,‘ replied André straightening up to admire his handiwork. Turning the ever more tubby Sid into a performing wizard every night was no mean achievement. ‗There, you‘ll do to meet your adoring public.‘ ‗Adoring public who‘re watching me slip even lower down the Bill you mean,‘ muttered Sid as he slid the parrot onto his forearm, ‗at this rate I‘ll be filling Dickey Bird‘s spot next week. First turn on warming up the punters. And, a cut in lolly.‘ ‗Buck up lad. At least you‘ll be working - Milly could save all our bacon if she can do the business on the stage like she can in the laundry.‘ ‗What‘s that bulge in your back pocket? What you up to?‘ ‗Eh? Oh this - just a little sweetener for Vester. Poor girl‘s been taken low. Upstaged by a skivvy. It‘s got to hurt.‘ ‗You soft old pudding,‘ grinned Sid as he squeezed his vast belly out of the dressing room doorway sideways on, ‗just don‘t give ‗er that Gin ‗til after she‘s been on - Slim Slide the 117


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trombonists never been the same since the last time her ladyship came off that swing. He‘d never seen so many frilly drawers since they announced the war was over, so he told me.‘

‗Oh gross - that‘s a mental picture I could have done without, I haven‘t had my supper yet,‘ grumbled the dresser flicking a mouse hair off the pocket of a six buttoned velvet waistcoat with a carmine-red enamelled nail. Pushing back his shoulders he followed the Bolton wizard towards the wings, carrying forth the parrot stand like a Roman legionnaire‘s standard, whilst bestowing a fixed smile on all and sundry. He was a professional - and scullery maids were two a penny, whether they could sing or not! Then a thought struck him, on the bright side, at least Poll Perkin‘s stage frock would get an airing! Hours of work had gone into that beaded bodice and then the little madam only wore it the once. It‟s an ill wind. 118


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R iotus I nfamy S eeking, I nfirm N ovelists G ain B rilliant Harry Lauder

R esearched O bservations O n

Vesta Tilley

K eeping W ordsmiths R igorously I nvigorated T hus E ncouraging R icher S cribbles 119


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Chris Butters - The Queen is dead – long live the Queen! Vester's cheeks flew two spots of crimson and her eyes darted fire at the young woman standing before her. 'Are you sayin' as 'ow you don't want any 'elp from me?' And then as Millie nodded Vester heaved up her improbable bosom and turned on her heel. The tarnished star wobbled upon her dressing room door as this slammed behind her but did not fall - yet. Gawd I was pullin' in the customers long afore 'er were born and she 'as the nerve to tell me; - me Vester Swann as 'ow 'er doesn't need my 'elp. Well I ain't offerin' again. She can whistle, thought Vester as she sank down onto the stool in front of the cracked, stained mirror and regarded her reflection in the light supplied by three bulbs around it's edge. ‗It's the gin what's done for you Vester me gal and no mistake,‘ and suddenly the tears were trickling down the ravaged cheeks. ‗Come in for goodness sake. Don't stand out there tap tappin. - What do you want?‘ she said when she saw who it was. 'You all right Vester, luv?' Billy Bennett advanced into the room and looked closely at his daughter. ‗Suppose you bin oglin' that Millie you silly old fool. Thinks 'er knows it all. Too much the grand lady to accept my 'elp. Gawd she knows nothin' . Who's the star 'ere Dad answer me that? Who is it as they come to see? The Kensington Linnet that's who. Then she was crying again. 'You was good in your day Vester, no doubt about that. The customers loved you then. But be honest luv, you knows as how it is, Bert Plug's lighting as is keeping you looking 120


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young and glamorous. The customers they knows it too and they're laughing at you Vester gal, especially since you sat on Slim Slide.' 'And whose fault were that? What did you think you were doin' you silly old fool? But, it's been me as been keeping the old Gaiety goin' since that Pretty Polly Perkins upped and went to the Alhambra. Been in the soup good and proper if I hadn't stepped into the breach.' The tears were flowing in earnest now. A faded, middle aged woman gazed back at her from the mirror, the cheeks raddled and the once glorious auburn hair now an indeterminate straw. She was honest enough to acknowledge the truth of what her father was saying but it hurt; - gawd how it hurt! ‗Keep goin' as Billy and Bollie Bolinger. Who wants to see a couple of 'as beens? Once 'er finds 'er feet then it'll be good night to the pair of us.‘ It was his turn to look thoughtful, there was a lot in what she said. Like her he'd been born in a trunk and he had thought to see out his days on the stage. Now it seemed as if this life was finally to come to an end. Vester was sunk in gloom no longer looking at herself in the mirror but rather through it as she contemplated her future. The Kensington Linnet was no more than an old Macaw! She had been supplanted by a younger altogether more pleasing little song bird. Then a interesting thought entered her head. Arthur Swann had left behind his trunk when he had departed in a marked manner all those years ago. A trunk stuffed full of magical paraphernalia and no one knew better than her how to use it! Hadn't she been his assistant when her mother had got too old? Her face may have seen better days but she knew that her figure and legs could still wow an audience. Strutting the 121


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stage in that long black cloak she was confident that she could keep the male members of an audience so bewitched by tantalising glimpses that they wouldn't have time to wonder what her hands were doing or just where them hundreds of birds were comin' from! Billy Bennett would be her stooge: The Amazing Swanns would rise again and this time it would be Signet as would be the star! Top the first half, no problem! So pleased was she with this idea that she was able to go down into the wings to hear Millie sing. But she's good thought Vester, my gawd she's good. The Gaiety will see many more curtain calls whilst 'er is treadin' these old boards. Her applause was warm and spontaneous as the young girl came to the end of her song and ran towards the side of the stage. Vester stepped forward and embraced her: 'The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen,' she said in ringing tones to the applause of those standing behind her. And for Millie's ear only she said, ‗You were right, you didn't need my 'elp. You've got what it takes all right! Good luck to you!‘ -o0o-

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Doreen Baines

Music Hall, Theatre and My Family

What a beautiful morning, I am sitting in my usual chair in the lounge that I have sat in for too many years to remember, looking through the window onto the grounds of the castle. It is July 9/2005, and this is my Aunty Kit’s house she was my second mother for the last 38 yrs and departed on June 16/2005. What a lady. I started asking her the questions that I would have loved to ask many years ago but dare not .These questions were a no go area. We were sitting on our own, it was May 2005 I did not realise how long she was going to be with us. Little did I know how soon she was going to go beyond the veil. All of a sudden she said to me what do you want to ask me? I was dumbfounded. Then I said give me all the old family names that you can remember. She started going backwards with the surnames. I wished we had done this years ago, hard to understand today. Well here goes she said, our names: Bostock, Foster, Connah Williams, Lewis, and Bailey. Now it all started I had a problem keeping up with her. I was just listening and soon realised that I had better put pen to paper I could not remember all this information it was coming fast and furious. From this point on I am going to refer to my Aunty Kit as Catherine and my Great Aunty Kit as Kitty. Kitty appeared to start her craft skills at home at her mother’s knee. Like her sister (my grandmother) they appeared to start with patching sheets, darning socks, 123


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she seemed to have a gift with these crafts for want of a better word. Eventually came the end of her school years I believe she welcomed this as they had a two mile walk to school and two mile back everyday irregardless of the weather. She acquired a job working for a very prominent family in North Wales. This is where she gained her perfection in sewing. We had relatives living within the walls of Chester so when the opportunity of working at the Music Hall as a seamstress arose she took it. The Music Hall eventually was changed into a theatre. It was originally St Nicholas’ chapel, I believe Charles Dickens made a speech here many years ago. Kitty had sewn many of pieces of clothing for many famous performers and had stood in on many comedies, when required. I believe her favourite was the Royalty theatre, she had the greatest respect for artists such as Marie Lloyd, Sir Harry Lauder, and Sandy Powell. She was there when the tragic accident occurred with an acrobat who died, so that was the end of her standing in for anything. She worked between various venues. She was called upon with her sewing skills to do repair work for the fairground that used to visit Chester at the same time as the race week. Apparently she was in great demand with most companies and theatres even in Liverpool which in those days were a distance to travel. I believe her work was absolute perfection. She had an opportunity to go out to Egypt as a governess. Catherine believes it was where Kitty’s sewing skills with Egyptian cotton were obtained. On her return she worked at the home doing work for the stores in Chester. 124


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Catherine was a great theatre supporter also my grandmother (Nan). When I was very young they used to take me to the Royalty to see the Royal court players. Catherine also had met the greatest George Robey, Dame Nellie Melba, and Sir Harry Lauder. Where in my case it was the Beatles, Alma Cogan, Frankie Vaughan, Kenny Ball and on and on. Together we also saw the Ballet Rambert when they performed Copelia. That was wonderful. My Catherine, up until a few weeks before she passed away, was at the Lowry in Manchester, the Empire in Liverpool, also she was a member of Theatre Clwyd.

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Audrey Rainbow - Millie - Cage Unlocked - 6

In the quiet of the dressing room an excited Millie sat staring into the mirror. Reflected, hanging behind her was the beautiful red taffeta dress she had seen on her first day in this room. The dress had been made for the legendary Polly Perkins and now she would be stepping onto the stage in Andre de la Rue‘s magnificent creation. Betty, the female part of the sand dancers and sometime chorus girl had befriended the timid Millie and now entered the room. ―Come on now girl, no time for daydreaming, that lot out there `ave been built up to expect a new songbird with the voice of an angel and you wouldn‘t want to disappoint them, believe me.‖ A nervous Millie turned to Betty. ―What have I done Betty, do you think I‘m mad?‖ ―No, my lovely, you will be the best thing that‘s happened to the old Gaiety for years. Now let‘s turn you from a duckling into a beautiful swan,‖ said the kind hearted Betty. In the front stalls Alfie was sitting between Glad and Nell. Millie‘s two adversaries from the wash house had now turned into her staunchest allies. Alfie had told them some of the story of Millie‘s misfortunes and they knew only too well how the upper classes would close ranks if one of the lower order should think to rise above their station. They had arranged for little Maudie to look after baby Jack and nothing Alfie or anyone else could say would stop them being here to support their new best friend on this special night. 126


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The Chairman was now in full flow ―My Lords, Ladies and Gentleeemen can we have the best of order pleeease. The Gaiety Theatre has much pleasure in presenting, for your delectation and pleasure, our own, our very own, the purest voice in the whole of the North West, no, the whole of the world, (amid loud catcalls, whistles and foot stomping Algernon Scilly now raised his voice to fever pitch) your best order pleease, I now give you for the first time on stage (after a deep breath he continued) I give you The Netherbridge Nightingale…. Miss Millie Hardcastle.‖ Standing behind the curtain Millie was shaking, the lights went down as the curtains opened and in the blackness when the spotlight found her, she heard, as old Harry had heard for Evande Golightly all those years before, the sudden silence before a simultaneous intake of breath as the audience took in the beautiful vision that was Millie. Taking her lead from Mrs Eversley on the piano, Millie sang out : “I‟ll be your sweetheart if you will be mine, All my life I‟ll be your Valentine, Bluebells we‟ll gather, Take them and be true, When you‟re a man my plan, Will be to marry you.” To riotous applause Millie finished her Mother‘s favourite song and went into the comedy song ‗My old man said fol127


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low the van and don‘t dilly dally on the way‘ by the time Millie had finished the whole audience was joining in and applauding not only Millie‘s voice but also her natural comic actions. She could have been treading the boards for years. Millie had the audience in the palm of her hands and Evadne Golightly and Gwynfor Davis in their box above the stage were smiling so broadly that even old Harry whose eyesight was not what it once was, could see how happy they were and even noticed Evadne‘s hand resting on Gwynfor‘s arm. For her final song Millie had chosen „After the ball is over‟ and again the audience now sitting back down began to sway and hum along with her. Sitting so proudly in the front row Alfie looked up at his beautiful young wife. Was she thinking of the ball when she fell in love with Charles, or had this new love taken his place? The audience went wild when Millie tried to leave the stage and she was pushed back on by an excited Vesta who seemed so caught up in the moment that she had forgotten that Millie would now be top of the bill leaving Vesta to perhaps think this may be a good time to marry Dickie Bird. He had been asking her for as long as she could remember. Back on the stage Mrs Eversley leaned towards Millie. ―Know any more songs my love?‖ She asked. Intoxicated by the night Millie said she knew the words to „The boy I love is up in the Gallery‟ to which the Mrs Eversley nodded and the ‗orchestra‘ started up. When Millie finished the final chorus, she had to take many, many encores and cascades of flowers reigned down upon her from all the young men in the gallery who were now hopelessly smitten by this new star. 128


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The house lights now went up and Millie had her first chance to look out at the adoring faces, she was so happy until suddenly she saw a face from the past and all colour and happiness left her. Sitting in the front row Alfie followed his wife‘s gaze and there, in a box next to Gwynfor and Evadne, waving and smiling broadly, was Charles Worthington, and suddenly Alfie‘s evening held no pride or joy. -o0o-

A very yo ung Marie Llo yd.

50,000 m ourners attended her fune ral That’s sta r quality!

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Well, that’s all folks. We hope you’ve enjoyed our stories. Perhaps we’ll have the pleasure of your company again one day. Someone once said, ‘there’s a novel in all of us,’ we don’t know if that’s true but, a good way to find out if you have a novel in you is to join a Creative Writing Class or a Writer’s Support Group. If you can tell stories and love books why not have a go? You’ve got nothing to lose and you’re never too old to start!

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This was our very first publication: Published by the Creative Writing Group Rising Brook Writers Supported by a grant from Age Concern England (Registered Charity 261794)

RBW Meeting venue Rising Brook Library, Merrey Road, Stafford, ST17 9LX RBW became a registered charity in 2007: RCN 1117227 A voluntary charitable trust.


Tales From The Gaiety