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Blackpool Gazette

Who was Jimmy’s hero while growing up in Belfast? 150 150 mhamer

Who was Jimmy’s hero while growing up in Belfast?

Hi folks! Here is my July @leponline & @The_Gazette article, where I share my story of while growing up in Belfast, I had dreams of a life on the stage! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket has revealed who his hero was while he dreamed as a child of a career on stage.

The popular Irish comedian gives the answer in his latest newspaper column.

He says: When I was growing up in Belfast in the fifties, there were lots of heroes to which you could hitch your wagon.

Elvis was turning pop music on its head, John Wayne was giving the baddies their comeuppance on the big silver screen and Lucile Ball was taking physical comedy to new heights with her television sitcom, I Love Lucy.

However, I didn’t have to go far to find my hero.

He was right there in the school I went to – St Patrick’s Secondary School on the Antrim Road.

His name was Tommy Kelly – or Tucker to his friends.

And why was I so besotted with him?

Because, Tommy Tucker Kelly, at the ripe old age of 12, was appearing in pantomime in the Grand Opera Theatre, Belfast.

The panto ran for six weeks.

It boasted lavish sets, dazzling costumers, a seven-piece orchestra in the pit and families came from all over Northern Ireland to see it.

This particular production of Cinderella, in 1957, starred Des O’Connor as Buttons.

Running gag

I saw it three times.

Tommy played the shorter of the two Brokers Men and every time they’d both come on stage, he’d say: I want to sing.”

And his tall, gangly partner would shout: “No!”

This became a running gag, with the audience becoming more and more vocal in their support for Tommy to be allowed to exercise his vocal chords.

Finally, in the second half, the big guy relents and Tommy regales the crowd with a wonderful animated version of He’s Got The Whole World, which brings the house down.

I couldn’t believe he was just another pupil just like me.

Because he wasn’t in my class, I was much too shy to approach him.

I’d gaze forlornly out of the classroom window as he’s be excused lessons and head out of the school gates on his way to do a matinee performance.

Tommy finished up appearing on the famous television pop show of the day – The Six Five Special.

Enormous talent

In 1998, when I went over to play Button in Cinderella at the Grand Opera House, I was curious to find out how Tommy was, and to invite him to the panto.

It turns out he’s become an astute businessman who was now the proud owner of three fish and chip shops.

We became friends and three years later I went back to play in Jack and The Beanstalk. at the same theatre.

I got his eight-year-old daughter Rachel up to sing one night in the finale – the reaction of the audience proved she’d inherited her dad’s enormous talent.

Like all good pantomimes, this has a happy ending because that little girl, Rachel Tucker, is now a star in West End musicals.

You could say she’s a chip off the old block.

Also read: Second visit of 2022 to Blackpool’s Lyndene nears!

Charlie Williams – one of the funniest men to grace a stage 150 150 mhamer

Charlie Williams – one of the funniest men to grace a stage

Hi folks! Paying tribute here to one of the funniest men that ever graced a stage, my friend the great Charlie Williams! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket fondly remembered multi-talented trailblazer Charlie Williams in his latest newspaper column.

Writing in the Blackpool Gazette on Tuesday 24 May, Jimmy said Charlie had broken down racial barriers and had successful careers as both a comedian and a professional footballer.

Charlie was born in Yorkshire of Jamaican descent and was the first black comedian to make the big time on British TV.

He found fame on hit 1970s TV show The Comedians and developed the comedy catchphrase “me old flower”.

Others he appeared with on Granada’s The Comedians included Frank Carson, Tom O’Connor and Jim Bowen.

He went on to host the Golden Shot game show.

Previously, he had played professional football for Doncaster Rovers.

Charlie was awarded an MBE in 1966 for his charity work.

He died in 2006 at the age of 78, having been ill for some time with Parkinson’s and dementia.

Jimmy introduced his latest newspaper column on social media by describing his friend Charlie as “one of the funniest men that ever graced a stage”.

His column began: “I’ve been working on an autobiography dear read­er, but who hasn’t during the lockdowns, when we’ve had so much time on our hands?

“I think the trick is to revisit it now that things are back to normal.

Ronald Reagan’s 80 chapters

“To keep fired up, Mrs Cricket bought me a few autobiographies I expressed an interest in.

“The first one was Michael McIntyre and when I got to the end I said to her: ‘Look, Michael’s finished his life story at 23 chapters, I’m up to 29 chapters and I’ve still got a way to go.’

“She said: ‘I know, but he’s in his forties, you’re 76!’

“Ouch!

“I then opened Ronald Reagan’s autobiography: ‘Look!’ I said. “It took Ronnie 80 chapters to finish his.’

“‘Yes’, she said. ‘But he had two jobs. First, he was an actor, and then he became President of the United States!’

Won the nation’s hearts

“You know that got me thinking.

“It’s taking me all my time to make a living out of being a full-time comedian, so I’m in awe of anyone who can climb the lad­der in one job and then go into a totally different occupation and become a resounding success in that one as well.

“Older readers will remember a black comedian, Charlie Williams, who won the nation’s hearts when he came on the television programme The Comedians.

“Charlie’s wonderful Yorkshire accent endeared him to millions of fans.

“In fact, he was breaking down racial barriers way before the woke people came on the scene.

“However, I wonder how many people actually knew that Charlie had an illustrious career as a professional footballer, playing centre-half for Doncas­ter Rovers.

“As soon as Charlie reached retirement, a career in showbiz beckoned and he moved seamlessly from kicking a ball to holding a mic.

“Sadly, he developed Par­kinson’s Disease, but trouper that he was with the help of his friend Neil Crossland, he carried on touring.

“Neil helped him to dress, led him onstage and Charlie did his act sitting on a chair.

“I have a happy memory of them both coming over to my house in Rochdale, and we all swapped showbiz stories over lunch.”

Also read: Little and Large: It was a joy to work with them both

Little and Large: It was a joy to work with them both 150 150 mhamer

Little and Large: It was a joy to work with them both

Hi folks my tribute to Eddie Large and Syd Little efore the unveiling of Eddie's Portrait this weekend in Blackpool, it was always a joy to work with them both! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket says Little and Large were one of the best-loved comedy acts to ever play in the famous seaside resort of Blackpool.

Syd Little was the straight man of then two great entertainers, while Eddie Large was generally the funny guy.

They had a TV series and appeared in theatres and pantomimes for many years before their partnership ended when Eddie had serious health problems.

Eddie, who was born Edward Hugh McGinnis, died aged 78 in April 2020.

He had been suffering with heart failure and contracted coronavirus in hospital.

Fellow comedian Jimmy devoted his latest newspaper column to the famous comic duo.
It was published ahead of an unveiling of a portrait of Eddie this weekend at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
Jimmy said: “It was always a joy to work with them both.”
Here is his column in full:

Little and large were appearing in summer season at the Princess Theatre in Torquay when I went backstage to visit them with a sketch I’d written.

It was the early 80s and I was breaking into television.

They had a prime-time show on Saturday evenings at that time, that used guest artistes and as I’d done a few one-night­ers with them, I thought I’d pitch an idea to them.

I knew from experience that you had a much better chance of getting your material accepted if you let the stars of the show get as many laughs as you did.

So I hit on this idea to do a sketch based on me teaching Eddie to be an Irish comedian.

Eddie was a brilliant mimic and I figured if we could do a couple of routines, we could split the jokes between us.

I also figured if the wardrobe lady could tog him out in the same garb as my comedy character It would be even better.

Here’s the jist of the sketch:

Jimmy: Ladies and gentlemen, come ‘ere, I’ve been for a haircut.

He said: Do you want your hair cut round the back; I said, is there no room in the shop?

Eddie: And there’s more…

He said: You know it needs cutting badly; I said: I don’t want it cutting badly, I want it cut properly.

And so on…. the sketch finished with Eddie’s long-suffering on-stage partner Syd,
(they were the best of friends off stage), coming on to try and keep order but of course we both give him his come comeuppance and do a little jig off set.

When I knocked on the boys’ dressing room at the Princess Theatre in Torquay that evening, Eddie was there on his own and he warmly welcomed me in.

When I handed him the script, he sat down and perused it attentively, (comedy’s a serious business folks), but gradually a smile appeared as he visualised the comic potential of it and a huge feeling of relief came over me.

Happy summer season

He said he would show it to Syd and the two of them would show it to their producer Bill Wilson.

I left the theatre that evening in a confident mood.

You’ll be happy to know, readers, the sketch did make it on to the show.

From the moment we came to the set, in identical hat, wellies and tailcoat the studio audience lapped it up and I’m sure that was replicated with the viewers at home.

Many years later, I did a very happy summer season at the Britannia Theatre in Great Yarmouth with them.

Syd and Eddie never had a hang-up about other comedians on the bill getting laughs.

Another 15 years

To them it was the success of the overall show that mattered and the louder people laughed the more likely they would be to spread the word around the resort.

Not long after that season, Eddie’s heart condition deteriorated, but miraculously he was given a heart transplant at the Papworth Hospital in Cambridge which gave him another 15 years.

I made him laugh once when I sent him an email and jokingly suggested that the reason his new heart was in such good nick was that it came from a theatrical agent and had hardly been used!

It was while Eddie was having treatment for his heart at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, that he succumbed to the coronavirus and sadly died on the 2nd of April 2020.

A light went out in the UK entertainment industry.

All the happy memories of working with Eddie and Syd have been rekindled these last few weeks, because Eddie’s wife Patsy, and son Ryan, have passed on to me the happy news that a portrait of Eddie is to be unveiled at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

Given the fact that Little and Large broke all box office records during their summer seasons in Blackpool, this is a fitting and lasting tribute from our premier seaside resort to one half of one of the best-loved comedy acts to ever play there.

Tony Jo: Wonderful tributes to former Grumbleweed 150 150 mhamer

Tony Jo: Wonderful tributes to former Grumbleweed

Some wonderful tributes to Tony JoThe late Tony Jo, a member of award-winning British comedy band The Grumbleweeds, received a great send-off, says Jimmy Cricket.

Tony, who joined the popular group in 1997, died in January following an 18-month battle with cancer.

His funeral took place earlier this month.

Fellow entertainer and friend Jimmy said: “Some wonderful tributes to Tony Jo today during his humanist funeral, staged @Grand_Theatre in Blackpool.

“It was great to meet up with some old and some new colleagues in the world of showbusiness 🎭.”

The Grumbleweeds story began in Leeds in 1962, when the group was first formed by Robin Colvill.

They spent the next few years performing in clubs and pubs in their native Yorkshire and and also overseas, playing alongside bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The group turned fully professional in 1967 following an appearance on BBC TV’s Opportunity Knocks.

Tony was also a celebrated after-dinner comedian.

His work meant he rubbed shoulders with sporting legends like George Best, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball.

He was a winner of the After Dinner Speaker of The Year Award three times.

In addition, he wrote for shows including You’ve Been Framed and Stars in Their Eyes.

Read more about Tony on the Blackpool Gazette website here.

Also read: Frankie Whittle: A great friend for over half a century

Wyn Calvin & Tony Jo: Jimmy remembers old friends 150 150 mhamer

Wyn Calvin & Tony Jo: Jimmy remembers old friends

I had the great pleasure of working with the, “Welsh Prince of Laughter”, in Panto back in 1983 @brumhippodrome sadly now no longer with us, the late Wyn Calvin, (here pictured far right in his role as Dame), R.I.P. old friend!

Jimmy Cricket has paid fond tributes to two fellow entertainers and friends who sadly passed away recently.

The Northern Irish comic recalled performing alongside the late Wyn Calvin in the 1980s.

Wyn’s death at the age of 96 was announced earlier this week.

“I had the great pleasure of working with the ‘Welsh Prince of Laughter’ in Panto back in 1983 @brumhippodrome,” said Jimmy. 

“Sadly now no longer with us, the late Wyn Calvin, (pictured far right in the above photo in his role as Dame).

“R.I.P. old friend!”

Wyn got into showbusiness after World War Two and went on to appear in more than 50 pantomimes, often as Widow Twankey.

He served with the forces’ Entertainments National Service Association and played to troops all across Europe.

Wyn, originally from Narberth in Pembrokeshire, was a founding member of Cardiff’s Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity.

Laurel and Hardy

He was known for his performances in concert halls and repertory theatres.

His career included successful runs on radio as Tommy Trotter, in a show called Welsh Rarebit on BBC Wales.

He also made music hall appearances and shared a stage with legendary comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

Read more about Wyn on the BBC website here

A bright light went out in Blackpool today with the passing of performer/manager/producer Tony Jo @hrhents Tony spread laughter and happiness everywhere he went, he will be sadly missed by his family and many friends in the world of Showbusiness! R.I.P. big guy you were the tops!

Jimmy has also paid tribute to Tony Jo, a former member of award-winning comedy band The Grumbleweeds.

Tony (pictured right with Jimmy) died on Sunday 23 January following an 18-month battle with cancer.

Jimmy said: “A bright light went out in Blackpool today with the passing of performer/manager/producer Tony Jo @hrhents.

“Tony spread laughter and happiness everywhere he went.

“He will be sadly missed by his family and many friends in the world of Showbusiness!

“R.I.P. big guy you were the tops!”

Tony was a celebrated after-dinner comedian.

His work meant he rubbed shoulders with sporting legends like George Best, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball.

Tony was a winner of the After Dinner Speaker of The Year Award three times.

In addition, he wrote for shows including You’ve Been Framed and Stars in Their Eyes.

Read more about Tony on the Blackpool Gazette website here.

Also from this website: Frankie Whittle: From Butlin’s to Blackpool’s Music Hall Tavern

‘Wonderful news in these gloomy times!’ 150 150 mhamer

‘Wonderful news in these gloomy times!’

Jimmy Cricket will do a New Year's Eve show at the Lyndene Hotel in BlackpoolJimmy Cricket has welcomed the news that two Blackpool hotels which had closed are back in business.

Earlier this month, the famous funnyman had expressed his sadness that the Lyndene and sister hotel St Chads had shut their doors for the final time.

However, the Blackpool Gazette reports that the two hotels are ready to return to business, with their managers re-employed.

Jimmy has appeared regularly at the popular Lyndene over the past few years.

He said: “Wonderful news in these gloomy times for Blackpool and ⁦@LyndeneHotel and for all the staff at #TeamLyndene and St Chads Hotels!

“We were all hoping for a miracle! Great news!”

His performances at the Lyndene were limited during 2020 following the restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jimmy did his last show there in September before another lockdown again resulted in the closure of hospitality venues.

Owners the Fragrance Group announced the Lyndene and St Chad’s hotels will now be run by hotel management company RBH, which has taken over operations with immediate effect.

The hotels were shut suddenly with staff left unpaid on 3 February by operating firm Bespoke Hotels Group.

The Blackpool Gazette added that a number of staff made redundant will be offered employment soon.

It is hoped hotels will reopen this spring when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The Lyndene and St Chads stand next to each other on the seafront.

Husband and wife team Paul and Claire Swift manage both.

Jimmy has had five seasons in total at the Lyndene, which starred as the Le Ponderosa in the second series of Peter Kay’s TV hit comedy Phoenix Nights.