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Des O’Connor

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!

Des O’Connor RIP: I was thrilled to be on his TV chat show 150 150 mhamer

Des O’Connor RIP: I was thrilled to be on his TV chat show

From the moment I saw Des O’Connor playing Buttons in Panto @gohbelfast over 60 years ago, I new he was destined for stardom! I was thrilled to have appeared alongside him on his TV Chat Show in the 80’s! R.I.P. Des #Legend

Des O’Connor’s death at the age of 88 got Jimmy Cricket recalling his fond memories of the famous entertainer.

The London-born comedian hosted his own prime-time TV shows for more than 45 years.

He was also a successful singer.

The popular and long-running Countdown was among the shows he presented.

He was very good friends with Morecambe and Wise.

In addition to performing all over the world, he appeared in hundreds of shows at the London Palladium.

He hosted The Des O’Connor Show, which ran on ITV from 1963 to 1971.

‘Destined for stardom’

In 1977 he began hosting Des O’Connor Tonight, which started on BBC Two before moving to ITV, on which channel it finished in 2002.

He was made a CBE for his services to entertainment and broadcasting in the 2008 birthday honours.

Jimmy reminisced: “From the moment I saw Des O’Connor playing Buttons in Panto @gohbelfast over 60 years ago, I knew he was destined for stardom!

“I was thrilled to have appeared alongside him on his TV Chat Show in the 80s!

“R.I.P. Des #Legend.”

Obituary on the BBC website: From Butlin’s to chat show king

Also read: Bruce Forsyth: Our living room friends for decades