Peter Chelsom Film Director
I met Peter 20 years ago on the set of Funny Bones the movie, I played the role of a stag dressed up as a viking and I had to smash some railings up on a Ghost Train at a fun fair..
My part ended upon the cutting room floor I am afraid to say, but I had a fun time..
Hardest 18hrs of my life for £50..
Peter Chelsom (born 20 April 1956) is a British actor and film director. He has directed among others such films as Shall We Dance? and Hannah Montana: The Movie
Chelsom was born in Blackpool, Lancashire, the son of antiques shop owners Kay and Reginald Chelsom. He studied at the Central School of Drama in London. He worked as an actor for the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as taking part in numerous film and television productions including A Woman of Substance which also included Jenny Seagrove and Deborah Kerr. While acting he developed a growing interest in writing and directing. From 1985-98 he ran the television film course at Central School of Drama and later taught at both the Actors’ Institute and Cornell University.
In 2001, he directed one of the highest loss making films ever made: Town & Country.
Treacle (1987) Also writer
Hear My Song (1991) Also writer
Funny Bones (1995) Also writer
The Mighty (1998)
Town & Country (2001)
Shall We Dance? (2004)
Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)
Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014) Also writer
The Space Between Us (2016) Also writer
Robert Smith Singer The Cure..
Robert James Smith (born 21 April 1959) is an English musician. He is the lead singer, guitarist, lyricist and principal songwriter of the rock band the Cure, and its only constant member since its formation in 1976. NY Rock describes him as “pop culture’s unkempt poster child of doom and gloom,” and asserts that some of his songs are a “somber introspection over lush, brooding guitars.” Smith’s guitar-playing and use of flanging, chorusing and phasing effects put him among the forefront of the gothic rock and new wave genres.He also played guitar in the band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Smith is a multi-instrumentalist, known for his unique stage look, such as teased hair, smudged makeup, and his distinctive voice.
Early years and family life
Smith was born in the Lancashire town of Blackpool and is the third of four children born to James Alexander and Rita Mary (née Emmott) Smith. Smith came from a musical family – his father sang and his mother played the piano.
Raised Catholic, he later became an atheist. When he was three years old, in December 1962 his family moved to Horley, Surrey, where he later attended St Francis Primary School, before the family moved to Crawley, West Sussex, in March 1966, where Smith attended St Francis Junior School. He later attended Notre Dame Middle School (1970–72) and St Wilfrid’s Comprehensive School, Crawley (1972–77).
Both Robert and his little sister Janet had piano lessons; Smith said that Janet “was a piano prodigy, so sibling rivalry made me take up guitar because she couldn’t get her fingers around the neck.” He told Chris Heath of Smash Hits magazine that from about 1966 (when Smith turned seven years old) his brother Richard (thirteen years Robert’s senior) taught him “a few basic chords” on guitar, “but I didn’t have any dreams of becoming anything at that age”. Smith began taking classical guitar lessons from the age of nine, “with a student of John Williams, a really excellent guitarist … I learned a lot, but got to the point where I was losing the sense of fun. I wish I’d stuck with it.” Smith was quoted as saying that his guitar tutor “was horrified by my playing”, and that Robert consequently gave up formal tuition and instead began teaching himself to play by ear, listening to Richard’s record collection.
Smith claims he was thirteen or fourteen when he became more serious about rock music and “started to play and learn frenetically”. Up until December 1972 Robert did not have a guitar of his own, and had been borrowing his brother Richard’s for some time, “so he gave me his guitar for Christmas. But I’d commandeered it anyway – so whether he was officially giving it to me at Christmas or not, I was going to have it!” One rock biographer (Jeff Apter) maintains that the guitar Smith received for Christmas of 1972 was from his parents, and equates this item with Smith’s notorious Woolworth’s ‘Top 20’ guitar, later used on many of The Cure’s earliest recordings.
Smith was quoted in several earlier sources as saying he purchased the Top 20 himself for £20, in 1978. Smith told Guitar Player magazine that the Woolworth’s Top 20 was his “very first electric” guitar.
Smith has said that he is generally uncomfortable with interviews and conversations with strangers and does not express an interest or desire to engage in either. In addition to this, although he has a presence on multiple social networks, he does not actively use it, instead using it as an official presence to prevent imposters.
Smith has described himself as a “liberal kind of guy” and has described himself as a socialist, but he is “uncomfortable with politicised musicians”. He sported a ‘citizens, not subjects’ slogan on his guitar on tour in 2012 and 2013…
Ricky Tomlinson Actor/Comedian/Activist
Eric Tomlinson (born 26 September 1939), known by his stage name Ricky Tomlinson, is an English actor, comedian and activist best known for his roles as Bobby Grant in Brookside, DCI Charlie Wise in Cracker and Jim Royle in The Royle
Tomlinson was born Eric Tomlinson in Bispham, Blackpool, Lancashire, but has lived in Liverpool nearly all his life. Tomlinson was born in Bispham because his mother, Peggy, was evacuated there due to the Liverpool Blitz in World War II. On 22 March 1962 he married first wife Marlene; they had three children.
A qualified plasterer by trade, he worked on various building sites for many years becoming actively involved in politics (firstly with the far-right, then more predominantly with the far-left). In 1972 he joined the flying pickets in a building workers’ dispute in Shrewsbury.
As an actor he has found considerable success, appearing as Bobby Grant in the soap opera Brookside from show’s inception in 1982 until being written out in 1988, followed by DCI Charlie Wise in Cracker and as Jim Royle in the sitcom The Royle Family.
In 2002 Tomlinson starred in the BBC Series Nice Guy Eddie playing a Liverpool private investigator. Using down-to-earth cases – actually based upon real-life ones from Liverpool private investigator Tony Smith – the show also starred Tom Ellis and John Henshaw.
Tomlinson featured heavily in series two of Paul Abbott’s series Clocking Off, in a BAFTA-nominated episode written by Danny Brocklehurst.
Tomlinson has also starred in several films, notably Mike Bassett: England Manager, Raining Stones and Hillsborough, a made-for-TV film about the families of the victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, in which he portrayed John Glover – the father of victim Ian.
Tomlinson has fronted a series of television adverts for the utility company British Gas. In January 2010 he began to appear in a series of advertisements for the frozen food chain Farmfoods.
In 2003 he published an autobiography, entitled Ricky, which spent five weeks at the top of the UK best-selling new books chart. In the book, Tomlinson admitted to having a number of affairs as well as describing in detail his time in prison.
Tomlinson is also a keen banjo and harpsichord player, and has played the instruments in many episodes of The Royle Family. In 2001 he teamed up with fellow Brookside actor Michael Starke and other friends for his own rendition of well-known folk songs including “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary” and a cover of The Pogues’ “Are You Lookin’ At Me?”. A CD album entitled Music My Arse was released the same year, it managed to peak at Number 127 in the UK Albums Chart. He released a single at Christmas 2006 entitled Christmas My Arse which reached #25 in the UK Singles Chart.
On 19 June 2006 Tomlinson made his debut as the guest celebrity in Dictionary Corner on the long-running UK Channel 4 game show Countdown. In the summer of 2006, Tomlinson toured at theatres across the UK with his show An Evening with Ricky Tomlinson where he was interviewed about his life by Elton Welsby. In December 2006 he presented a programme in Five’s Disappearing Britain series entitled When Coal was King, in which he made controversial comments about Margaret Thatcher’s potential death.
In March 2007, Tomlinson presented BBC’s One Life: Guilty My Arse, detailing his version of the Shrewsbury Two case, in which he compared his political activism as a trade unionist to the work of the suffragettes. In June 2007, Tomlinson[clarification needed] Liverpool-based Royle Motors garage joined Good Garage Scheme (Forte), an online Forte Libricants association requiring its member garages to adhere to strict customer service guidelines. On 19 October 2007 Tomlinson had a major heart operation and underwent a quadruple heart bypass at Liverpool’s Cardiothoracic Centre. Consultant cardiac surgeon Aung Oo said: “The operation went according to plan and he is now recovering within the hospital’s critical care unit.”
During 2008 and 2009 Tomlinson took his Laughter Show theatrical/arena revue on tour of the United Kingdom with fellow comedians Tony Barton, Duncan Norvelle and Pauline Daniels.
In 2009 he had a leading role as the Head Judge in the “VMH Club Star Talent Trail”, a local talent-based competition held at the VMH Club in Garston, Liverpool. A large number of North-West based performers entered the competition which was ultimately won by 14 year old Shaun Walsh from Liverpool.
In May 2010 Tomlinson opened his own cabaret club in Liverpool, The Green Room. The comic has teamed up with brothers Richard and Simon Wallace, from Liverpool production company Red Hot Media, to open the 250-seater cabaret lounge on Duke Street, Liverpool.
In March 2011 Tomlinson acted in an advertising campaign for furniture and furnishing store, The Range.
Ricky on Parkinson..click on the link..
Zoe Ball Broadcaster
Zoë Louise Ball (born 23 November 1970 in Blackpool, Lancashire) is an English television and radio personality, most famous for becoming the first female host of The Radio 1 Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 1 and for her earlier work presenting the 1990s children’s show, Live & Kicking.
Ball joined the Young Theatre at Beaconsfield where she trained as an actress. Her first TV appearance was as a child in the studio audience of the 1980s Saturday morning children’s show, Saturday Superstore, on which her father, Johnny Ball, was appearing as a guest.
She began her television career as a runner at Granada Television and researcher on BSkyB. She worked as a researcher for quiz shows for two years. Her presenting jobs have included hosting The Big Breakfast and The Priory on Channel 4, BBC One’s Saturday morning children’s programme Live & Kicking and the pre-school programme Playdays. In 1994 Zoë Ball Presented SMart with Mark Speight and Jay Burridge until she left in 1996. Between 1996 and 1998, she was a regular presenter on Top of the Pops, usually alternating with fellow presenters and DJs Jayne Middlemiss and Jo Whiley. The three only ever presented together once, on Christmas Day 1997.
Between 1999 and 2001, she was a co-host with Jamie Theakston on the Wednesday night chat/music show The Priory, which was commissioned by Chris Evans’s then production company Ginger Productions. Despite initial strong ratings, the show failed to capitalise on this despite the demise of TFI Friday (also a Ginger production) and figures slowly dropped. A fourth series was never commissioned. Despite the show’s relative failure, fans of the former UK Play spoof interviews show Rock Profile, often recall the creators and future stars of Little Britain, Matt Lucas and David Walliams’s, appearance on the show as Danny and Noel from Hear’Say, in which they constantly sang “Monday, Monday” after Theakston asked them a question. As Theakston was the interviewer on Rock Profile, he as a result reprised his role from that show.
Ball co-hosted the 2002 BRIT Awards with Frank Skinner, following which motherhood meant that she took less TV work.Although known primarily for her TV work, Ball first became a major British celebrity in radio, after she was recruited to co-host The Radio 1 Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 1 in October 1997 with Kevin Greening. She eventually graduated to become the sole host – the first female DJ to do so. At this time, her hard-drinking, hard-partying antics contributed to the identification of the so-called “ladette culture” of the late 1990s. She later notoriously re-created the naked pose on a backturned chair made famous by Christine Keeler when doing an interview and spread with SKY magazine.
Ball left BBC Radio 1 in March 2000 to bring up a family. Her final breakfast show was on 30 March 2000, and she was succeeded by Sara Cox.
Though regarded as professional, Ball twice received a BBC warning for swearing on the radio – first when she used the word “bastard” while being interviewed by Chris Evans during his stint on the BBC Radio 1 breakfast show (she was publicising her appointment to The Big Breakfast at the time); then, as host of the BBC Radio 1 breakfast show, for using the expression “fucking brilliant” to describe a night out she had.
She returned to radio in mid-2002 when she joined London rock station XFM, where she presented the weekday drivetime show until December 2003 and then in January 2004 took over a Friday evening music show for the station. She also stood in for Ricky Gervais while he filmed the second series of The Office. She left XFM at the end of 2004.
In September 2007, she celebrated 40 years of Radio 1 by hosting a show with Sara Cox.
Since 2006, she has provided relief presenting duties for BBC Radio 2, fronting specialist documentaries, sitting in for Dermot O’Leary for three weeks in February 2006 and co-presenting, along with Danny Baker, the hastily-conceived replacement for Jonathan Ross’ Saturday morning show, in the wake of Ross’ suspension due to Sachsgate in 2008.
From 2009, Ball has been the usual relief presenter for Ken Bruce’s weekday mid-morning show on BBC Radio 2. She also began hosting the Saturday breakfast show from 6:00 am to 8:00 am on the network from 6 June 2009 as part of a shake up of weekend programming at Radio 2. Zoë left the Saturday breakfast show on Radio 2 and her last show was broadcast on Saturday 28 January 2012. Her replacement in that slot was Anneka Rice. Ball will still continue on Radio 2 as Ken Bruce’s cover.
Zoë covered the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show for Chris Evans between Monday 24–28 September 2012, and again from 4-8 March 2013.
The daughter of the children’s TV presenter Johnny Ball and his wife Julia (née Anderson, divorced when Zoë was two), Ball was educated at Heston Junior School in west London between 1975 and 1978. Her family then moved to Farnham Common in Buckinghamshire. She attended Farnham Common First School and Farnham Common Middle School before moving to Holy Cross Convent School in Chalfont St Peter and Amersham College of Art and Technology.
While at BBC Radio 1, Ball began a relationship with DJ and musician Norman Cook (also known as Fatboy Slim). The couple married at Babington House in Somerset in August 1999. In 2003, the couple split up when Ball revealed that she had an affair with close friend of Cook and fellow DJ, Dan Peppe. They later patched up their relationship.
The couple have a son, Woody (born 15 December 2000), and daughter Nelly May Lois (born 14 January 2010). They live in Hove.
David James Ball (born 3 May 1959, Blackpool, Lancashire) is an English producer and electronic musician, who has played in bands such as Soft Cell and The Grid, and collaborated with other producers including Ingo Vauk and Chris Braide. He is usually referred to as Dave Ball on record sleeves.
Ball was born in Blackpool and studied art at Leeds Polytechnic, where he met Marc Almond; they formed the synthpop duo Soft Cell in 1979, the band lasting until 1984. While with the group, he released a solo album, In Strict Tempo in 1983, which featured Gavin Friday, Genesis P-Orridge, and Virginia Astley. He later worked as a producer (working with The Virgin Prunes and Ornamental), remixer (working with The Pet Shop Boys and David Bowie), and recorded for film soundtracks and formed another duo, The Grid, with Richard Norris, with whom he has worked as part of Psychic TV on the Jack the Tab – Acid Tablets Volume One (Dave and Richard recorded the track “Meet Every Situation Head On” together as M.E.S.H.). He reunited with Almond in Soft Cell in 2001. In 2010 he formed the band Nitewreckage with Celine Hispiche, Rick Mulhall and Terry Neale. Their debut album, Take Your Money And Run, was released on Alaska Sounds on 6 June 2011, with the single “Solarcoaster” preceding it. The album was co-produced and mixed by Martin Rushent. He lives in Kennington, south London.
Although Tainted Love was their biggest selling hit, they didn’t compose or write it, so never made any money from it..
A shame really..
For me the best song vocally and musically was Say Hello Wave Goodbye..
Click on link to watch the video…
Born (1931-02-02)2 February 1931
Manchester, Lancashire, England, UK
Died 10 June 1993(1993-06-10) (aged 62)
Manchester, England, UK
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Comedian and novelist
Years active 1959 – 1993
Leslie Dawson (2 February 1931 – 10 June 1993) was a popular English comedian and writer remembered for his deadpan style, curmudgeonly persona and jokes about his mother-in-law and wife.
Life and career
Born and brought up in Collyhurst, Manchester, Lancashire, his first job was in the parcels department of the Manchester Co-op. He worked briefly as a journalist on the Bury Times.
Dawson claimed that he began his entertainment career as a pianist in a Parisian brothel – in his entertaining but factually unreliable autobiography. In any case, his efforts at making a living as a pianist (“I finally heard some applause from a bald man and said ‘thank you for clapping me’ and he said ‘I’m not clapping – I’m slapping me head to keep awake'”), evolved into comedy as he found he got laughs by playing wrong notes and complaining to the audience. He made his television debut on the talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1967 and became a prominent comic on British television for the rest of his life.
His most characteristic routines featured Roy Barraclough and Dawson as two elderly women, Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham. Cissie had pretensions of refinement and often corrected Ada’s malapropisms or vulgar expressions. As authentic characters of their day, they spoke some words aloud but only mouthed others, particularly those pertaining to bodily functions and sex. At one time, no respectable woman would have said, for instance, “She’s having a hysterectomy.” Instead they would have mouthed, “She’s having women’s troubles.” (Dawson’s character, of course, mistakenly said “hysterical rectumy.”) These female characters were based on those Les Dawson knew in real life. He explained that this mouthing of words (or “mee-mawing”) was a habit of Lancashire millworkers trying to communicate over the tremendous racket of the looms, and then resorted to in daily life for indelicate subjects. To further portray the reality of northern, working class women, Cissie and Ada would sit with folded arms, occasionally adjusting their bosoms by a hoist of the forearms. Many of the Cissie and Ada sketches were written by Terry Ravenscroft. This was also typical of pantomime dame style, an act copied faithfully from his hero, Norman Evans, who had made famous his act Over The Garden Wall.
Les Dawson was of portly build and often dressed in the traditional John Bull of England costume. He introduced to his BBC television shows a dancing group of very fat ladies called the Roly Polys.
He loved to undercut his own fondness for high culture. For example, he was a talented pianist but developed a gag where he would begin to play a familiar piece such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. After he had established the identity of the piece being performed, Dawson would introduce hideously wrong notes (yet not to the extent of destroying the identity of the tune) without appearing to realise that he had done so, meanwhile smiling unctuously and apparently relishing the accuracy and soul of his own performance. He also used a grand piano in a series of sketches where it became animated, for example, trying to walk away from him across the stage, collapsing or shutting its lid.
Dawson’s style as a comic performer was world-weary, lugubrious and earthy. He was as popular with female as with male audiences, and loved by the British public. A news reporter from the Sun looking for him after a show to interview him found him backstage joking with some cleaning women and making them laugh.
Before his fame Dawson wrote poetry and kept it secret. It was not expected that someone of his working class background would harbour such literary ambitions. In a BBC TV documentary about his life, he spoke of his love for some canonical figures in English literature, in particular the 19th century essayist Charles Lamb, whose somewhat florid style influenced Dawson’s own.
His love of language influenced many of his comedy routines – for example one otherwise fairly routine joke began with the line “I was vouchsafed this vision by a pockmarked Lascar in the arms of a frump in a Huddersfield bordello…” He was also a master of painting a beautiful word picture and then letting the audience down with a bump: “The other day I was gazing up at the night sky, a purple vault fretted with a myriad points of light twinkling in wondrous formation, while shooting stars streaked across the heavens, and I thought: I really must repair the roof on this toilet.”
Dawson wrote many novels but was always regarded solely as an entertainer in the public imagination, and this saddened him. He told his second wife, Tracey, “Always remind them – I was a writer too”.
Having broken his jaw in a boxing match, Dawson was able to pull grotesque faces by pulling his jaw over his upper lip. This incident is described in the first volume of Dawson’s autobiography A Clown Too Many.
Dawson nearly died in 1985 from a failing prostate gland, complicated by blood poisoning. He suffered a heart attack in 1988, and would have suffered a severe heart attack at the beginning of 1992 caused by his lungs being filled with fluid, had it not been for the emergency team attending the Wimbledon theatre that night.
He was married to Margaret from 25 June 1960 until her death on 15 April 1986 from cancer. They had had three children: Julie, Pamela and Stuart. He married Tracy on 6 May 1989. They had a daughter, Charlotte, who was born on 3 October 1992.
Dawson starred in a radio sketch show Listen to Les, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 in the 1970s and 1980s. Television series in which he appeared included Sez Les for Yorkshire Television, The Dawson Watch for the BBC, written by Andy Hamilton and Terry Ravenscroft, The Les Dawson Show, written by Terry Ravenscroft, Dawson’s Weekly, Joker’s Wild (1969–73) and the quiz show Blankety Blank, which he presented for some years. His final TV appearance was on the LWT series Surprise, Surprise hosted by Cilla Black, when he sang a comical rendition of “I Got You Babe” with a woman from the audience who wanted to fulfil a wish to sing with him.
One of his last television appearances came on 23 December 1992, when he appeared as special guest in the TV guest show This Is Your Life – 21 years after previously appearing as the show’s special guest, making him one of the few people to appear on the show twice.
On 10 June 1993, during a check-up at a hospital in Whalley Range, Manchester, Les Dawson died suddenly after suffering a heart attack. Many comedians and other celebrities attended a memorial service for him at Westminster Abbey on 24 February 1994.
On 23 October 2008, 15 years after his death, a bronze statue of Dawson, by sculptor Graham Ibbeson, was unveiled by his widow Tracy and daughter Charlotte. The statue stands in the ornamental gardens next to the pier in St-Anne’s-on-Sea, Lancashire, where Dawson had lived for many years.
In the Comedians’ Comedian, a three-hour television programme broadcast on UK’s Channel 4 on 1 January 2005. Dawson featured thirty seventh in the top fifty comedians of all time, as voted for by fellow comedians and business insiders, rather than the general public.
The BBC broadcast, on BBC2, The Many Faces of Les Dawson, a retrospective on his career, on Christmas Eve 2011.
* A Clown Too Many (autobiography, 1986)
* No Tears for the Clown (autobiography, 1992)
* Hitler Was My Mother-in-Law
* Well Fared, My Lovely
* Come Back with the Wind
* The Spy Who Came
* The Blade and the Passion
* Card for the Clubs
* The Amy Pluckett Letters
* Malady Lingers on and Other Great Groaners
* Les Dawson’s Lancashire
* A Time Before Genesis
* Les Dawson Gives Up
* The Les Dawson Joke Book
* Cosmo Smallpiece Guide to Male Liberation
* Les Dawson’s Secret Notebooks
Les Dawson at his best..
Cissie & Ada
This article is about the Ukulele player, singer and comedian. For his father (1875–1921), see George Formby, Sr.
George Formby OBE
Publicity photo of Formby possibly taken in the 1940s
Birth name George Hoy Booth
Also known as George Hoy
Born (1904-05-26)26 May 1904
Wigan, Lancashire, England, UK
Died 6 March 1961(1961-03-06) (aged 56)
Preston, Lancashire, England, UK
Genres Oldies, swing, dance-hall
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter,
comedian, actor, entertainer
Instruments Vocals, ukulele, banjulele
Years active 1921 (1921)–61 (61)
Associated acts George Formby, Sr.
George Formby, OBE (26 May 1904 – 6 March 1961), born George Hoy Booth, was a British comedy actor, singer-songwriter and comedian. He sang light, comical songs, accompanying himself on the banjo ukulele or banjolele. He was a major star of stage and screen in the 1930s and 1940s.
Formby was born at 3 Westminster Street, Wigan, Lancashire, as George Hoy Booth. The eldest of seven surviving children, Formby was born blind because of an obstructive caul. His sight was restored during a violent coughing fit or sneeze when he was a few months old. His father, James Booth used the stage name George Formby, adopted from the town of Formby, Lancashire. He was one of the great music hall comedians of his day, fully the equal of his son’s later success. His father, not wishing him to watch his performances, moved the family to Atherton Road in Hindley. It was from there that the younger Formby was apprenticed as a jockey when he was seven. He rode his first professional race at 10, when he weighed under 4 stone (56 lb; 25 kg).
The family next moved to Stockton Heath, Cheshire in a home on London Road. It was from there that the young George began his career as an entertainer.
In 1921, three months after the death of his father, Formby abandoned his career as a jockey and began appearing in music halls using his father’s material. At first he called himself George Hoy, using the name of his maternal grandfather, who came from Newmarket, Suffolk, where the family was engaged in racehorse training.
In 1923 while he was appearing in music hall in Castleford, Yorkshire he met Beryl Ingham (born in 1901 in Accrington, Lancashire), a champion clogdancer and actress, who had won All England Step Dancing Title at the age of 11 and had formed a dancing act with her sister, May, called “The Two Violets”. They married in Formby’s birth town of Wigan, Lancashire the following year.
The couple worked together as a variety act until 1932, when she became his full-time manager and mentor, though she appeared in two of his films for which Formby was paid up to £35,000 per performance. It was Beryl’s business skill that guided Formby to be the UK’s highest-paid entertainer.
Formby endeared himself to his audiences with his cheeky Lancashire humour and folksy North of England persona. In film and on stage, he generally adopted the character of an honest, good-hearted but accident-prone innocent who used the phrases: “It’s turned out nice again!” as an opening line; “Ooh, mother!” when escaping from trouble; and a timid “Never touched me!” after losing a fight of almost any description.
What made him stand out, however, was his unique and often mimicked musical style. He sang comic songs, full of double entendre, to his own accompaniment on the banjolele, for which he developed a catchy and complicated musical syncopated style that became his trademark, and which he had allegedly taken up as a hobby and first played it on stage for a bet. His best-known song, “Leaning on a Lamp Post” was written by Noel Gay. He recorded two more Noel Gay songs, “The Left-Hand Side of Egypt” and “Who Are You A-Shoving Of?” Over two hundred of the songs he performed, many of which were recorded, were written by Fred Cliffe and Fred Gifford, either in collaboration or separately, and Formby was included in the credits of a number of them, including “When I’m Cleaning Windows”. Some of his songs were considered too rude for broadcasting. His 1937 song, “With my little stick of Blackpool Rock” was banned by the BBC because of the suggestive lyrics. Formby’s songs are rife with sly humour, as in “Mr Wu’s A Window Cleaner Now” where Formby is about to sing “ladies’ knickers” and suddenly changes it to “ladies’ garters”; and in 1940’s “On the Wigan Boat Express,” in which a lady passenger “was feeling shocks in her signal box.” Formby’s cheerful, innocent demeanour and nasal, high-pitched Lancashire accent neutralised the shock value of the lyrics; a more aggressive comedian like Max Miller would have delivered the same lyrics with a bawdy leer.
Formby had been making gramophone records as early as 1926; his first successful records came in 1932 with the Jack Hylton Band, and his first sound film Boots! Boots! in 1934 (Formby had appeared in a sole silent film in 1915). The film was successful and he signed a contract to make a further 11 films with Associated Talking Pictures, earning him a then-astronomical income of £100,000 (roughly USD 4 million in 2009 terms) per year, despite the fact that studio head Michael Balcon reportedly considered Formby “an odd and not particularly loveable character”. Between 1934 and 1945 Formby was the top comedian in British cinema, and at the height of his film popularity (1939, when he was Britain’s number-one film star of all genres]), his film Let George Do It was exported to America. Although his films always did well in Britain and Canada, they never caught on in the United States. Columbia Pictures hired him for a series, with a handsome contract worth £500,000, but decided not circulate his films in the US.
Formby appeared in the 1937 Royal Variety Performance, and entertained troops with Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) in Europe and North Africa during World War II. He received an OBE in 1946. His most popular film, still regarded as probably his best, is the espionage comedy Let George Do It, in which he is a member of a concert party, takes the wrong ship by mistake during a blackout, and finds himself in Norway (mistaking Bergen for Blackpool) as a secret agent. In one dream sequence he punches Hitler on the nose and addresses him as a “windbag”.
In 1946 Beryl and George toured South Africa shortly before formal racial apartheid was introduced, where they refused to play racially-segregated venues. According to Formby’s biographer, when George was cheered by a black audience after embracing a small black girl who had presented his wife with a box of chocolates, National Party leader Daniel François Malan (who later introduced apartheid) phoned to complain; Beryl replied “Why don’t you piss off, you horrible little man?”
For many years Fred Knight was Formby’s chauffeur, driving him to the studios and music halls across the country. At that time Formby had a prestigious Lanchester car.
Formby suffered his first heart attack in 1952, during the run of his successful stage musical “Zip Goes a Million.” He withdrew from the show, and confined his performances to occasional guest appearances on stage and TV. In July 1960, he scored a chart hit with “Happy Go Lucky Me” / “Banjo Boy”, which peaked at number 40 in the UK Singles Chart. His final television appearance, broadcast in December 1960, was a 35-minute solo spot on BBC Television’s The Friday Show.
Beryl continued to manage Formby’s career until she contracted leukaemia, and died on 24 December 1960 in Blackpool, Lancashire. After her death, Formby publicly confessed that “My life with Beryl was hell”. Two months later in the spring of 1961 he became engaged to Pat Howson, a 36-year-old schoolteacher whom he had known since the 1930s, declaring that he had achieved a happiness which had never existed with Beryl.
Formby suffered a second heart attack and died in hospital on 6 March 1961. His funeral was held in St. Charles’s Church in Aigburth, Liverpool. An estimated 100,000 mourners lined the route as his coffin was driven to Warrington Cemetery, where he was buried in the Booth family grave. Pat Howson was well provided for in Formby’s will, but died in 1971 after a long legal battle with Formby’s family, who contested the will.
Formby’s trademark was playing the ukulele-banjo in a highly syncopated style, referred to as the ‘Formby style’.
Among the several syncopation techniques that he used, the most commonly emulated stroke of Formby’s is a rhythmic technique called the “Split stroke”, which produces a musical rhythm easily recognised as Formby’s. He sang in his own Lancashire accent. Other strokes in Formby’s repertoire include the triple, the circle, the fan and the shake. In his act, Formby often had several ukuleles on stage tuned in different keys, as in some solos it required an open string to be sounded, not possible when using Barre chords.
On Formby’s last television appearance, in The Friday Show, he modestly told the audience that he could play in only one key. Research has shown that this statement is false, as Formby played transposed solos on songs such as “On the HMS Cowheel”, a melodic solo on “I Told my Baby with the Ukulele”, and many more.
There is a bronze statue of Formby leaning on a lamppost on Ridgeway Street, close to the intersection with Lord Street, in Douglas, Isle of Man. On 15 September 2007, another bronze statue was unveiled in Formby’s birthtown of Wigan, Lancashire in the Grand Arcade shopping centre.
Here is George singing…
Carletto “Charlie” Cairoli (15 February 1910 – 17 February 1980) was an Italian-English clown, impressionist and musician.
Background and career
Born in Affori, Milan, Italy to a travelling circus family of French origin, he began his performing career at the age of seven. He met Violetta Fratellini, who was also from a circus family, in 1934 when they were both working at the Cirque Medrano at Montmartre: he was with his father in a clown act, and she was in a knockabout acrobatic act, “The Tomboys Girls”. While she watched him perform he spotted her, and serenaded her on his clarinet. By Christmas that same year they were married.
In early 1939 the Cairolis appeared at the Circus Krone in Munich, in a special performance attended by Adolf Hitler, who afterward presented Cairoli with a watch. In September, when World War II broke out, Cairoli was performing at the Blackpool Tower Circus for the first time; in response to the news of war, he walked to the end of North Pier in Blackpool and threw the watch into the Irish Sea. He chose to stay in the town, where he lived for the rest of his life.
In 1943 he appeared in Happidrome a film based on the radio series of the same name. In 1952 he appeared in the crime drama film, The Secret People. On 11 and 25 November 1962 he performed his clown act on the American television variety show, The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. On 1 January 1966 he appeared on David Nixon’s Comedy Bandbox. He also appeared on the American television variety show on ABC The Hollywood Palace twice in 1966, first on 8 January, performing as Charles Cairoli and Company then on 7 May when he was introduced as a “British Comic Pantomimist”.
Cairoli was distinguished in his act by wearing a red nose and a Charlie Chaplin-style bowler hat, eyebrows, and costume, and a moustache slightly larger than Chaplin’s. He rose to prominence in the United Kingdom in the 1970s owing to his frequent television appearances, not least on his long-running children’s show Right Charlie!. He was possibly the best-known clown on British television at one time, and had a career that spanned well over forty years. He was the subject of This is Your Life, where on 25 February 1970, he was introduced as the “king of clowns”.
He performed at Blackpool Tower Circus every summer season for forty years, a world record for the most performances at a single venue. Out of season he also performed on stage in variety shows and pantomime, including the Grand Theatre in Leeds and Alhambra in Bradford. His appearance in Jack and the Beanstalk in 1972 was the most successful pantomime at Leeds City Varieties and later that year he brought Christmas shopping to a standstill as he led hundreds of youngsters through the streets of Leeds and herded them to the City Varieties where he gave a special show to 600 invited children.
In June 1979, ill health forced his withdrawal from the Tower Circus ring and he was admitted to hospital suffering from exhaustion. He finally announced his retirement in November of that year; he was 69.
In February 2000 in Blackpool, Cairoli was awarded a posthumous Lifetime Achievement award from the World’s Fair circus newspaper. It was presented to his widow Violetta by ventriloquist Keith Harris, in the presence of the television personality Jeremy Beadle.
Cairoli had three children with his wife, Violetta. He died peacefully in his sleep at his home, 129 Warley Road, North Shore, Blackpool, on 17 February 1980. Five days later he was cremated at Carleton Crematorium in Poulton-le-Fylde, where he is commemorated at rose bed 64.
His son, Charlie Cairoli Junior, adapted the role his father had made famous, although performing more cabaret and pantomime rather than in the circus. Violetta died in Blackpool on 16 November 2002.
Charlie Cairoli’s name entered popular usage as a reference for clowns in general. The 2004 Chumbawamba song Just Desserts (about pieing) explicitly compares Cairoli’s clown behaviour to the anarchist viewpoints espoused by Peter Kropotkin. Similarly, when Garry Bushell criticised The Verdict, he said that “to call it Clown Court would be an insult to Charlie Cairoli”.
Welsh pop group The Hepburns recorded a song entitled, “Charlie Cairoli’s Ghost”.
In July 2008, Blackpool Council cabinet member, Tony Williams called for the erection of a statue of Cairoli in the resort, saying, “I have always wanted a statue of Charlie Cairoli in the town; after all he was the most famous clown in the world and brought more visitors to the town than any other single entertainer. Charlie has never been truly recognised for his massive contribution to Blackpool and we should honour our local heroes.”
Copyright Peter Mowbray Live In Blackpool Ltd