Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Hello Doily

OK, I know it should be Hello Dolly, but it was in Tunbridge Wells, where no cake is ever baked without it being placed on a doily!

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark (right) with our special guests, Annie Galbraith and
Stephen Metcalf, and me (still with abscess-swollen cheek and wearing my mourning tie) on the left.
Today was the long anticipated lunch with Annie Galbraith (Danny La Rue's Couturier) and Stephen Metcalf (his wig maker, who also played alongside Danny in pantomime as one of the Ugly Sisters).

Between them they brought along a truly amazing selection of Danny memorabilia, including costumes, wigs, photographs, letters, theatre bill boards and even his This Is Your Life red book.

The lunch was organised superbly as ever by the Tunbridge Wells Ladies' Group Committee, who set-up the room, decorated the tables and prepared, cooked and served all of the food, and washed-up afterwards. Seventy guests enjoyed poached salmon with new potatoes and salad followed by delicious home made puddings and coffee. We are fortunate to have such a strong, supportive and active Ladies' Group in Tunbridge Wells, and I would like to place on the record my thanks to the Chairman, Judith Bullett, Vice Chairman, Susan Potter, and all the members of the committee who work so hard throughout the year.
The presentation by Annie and Stephen was fascinating. I actually knew Danny a little from my days in Southampton, where he lived for much of his life. I therefore knew many of the stories, and those I didn't know I had no difficulty believing! What I didn't realise was just how big the Danny La Rue business was. Sixty years in show business, of which for twenty he was Britain's highest paid entertainer. He employed a small army of wig makers, dress designers and couturiers, publicists, writers, musicians, drivers, PAs and management. He even had a lady who lived above a shop is Soho's Brewer Street whose full time job was designing and making his feather boas. His frocks and gowns, some with up to 20,000 sequins, could take up to two months to make. When he died, he had over 200.
Stephen and I also found we shared many mutual friends and acquaintances, including a few from the seedier side of 1980s Soho I would have preferred not to have been reminded of!  He was actually performing in the stage show at Madam JoJos when I celebrated my 25th birthday there in 1991, dragged on stage by the fabulous Ruby Venezuela who sang Happy Birthday, whilst her side-kick (The Venus Man Trap) fed me birthday cake from the end of a riding crop.
It was a fabulous event, thoroughly enjoyed by all, raising hundreds of pounds for party funds and hundreds more for the local hospice, which was Annie Galbraith's chosen charity.
Here are a few photographs:

Danny La Rue's Head Dress from Talk of the Town

A letter from Margaret Thatcher to Danny La Rue sent in June 1982,
thanking him for his message of support over the Falkland Island's conflict
and for his generous donation to the South Atlantic Fund

A hand-made sequined dress, made by Annie Galbraith as a birthday present,
and worn by Danny for the opening sequence of La Cage aux Folles

A dress made for the revival of Hello Dolly

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't it just a wonderful day! Weren't we priviledged to see all these personal items from Annie ans Steven's private collections? It was a once in a lifetime event and I've had so many emails and phone calls from people saying the best lunch ever!