Raising a toast to ‘the godfather of theatrical agents’
Former theatrical agent Johnny Martin was there when his acts needed him the most, says famous comedian Jimmy Cricket.
Jimmy and two fellow famous entertainers met up a few months ago to celebrate Johnny’s career.
In his latest newspaper column, which appears in both the Lancashire Evening Post and the Blackpool Gazette, Jimmy recalls the meeting.
He says: “On a sunny Sunday afternoon in late October last year, three entertainers – Syd Little (of Little and Large fame), Phil Cool (comedian, impressionist and musician) and Jimmy Cricket (that’s me folks), gathered at the Bukhara Indian Restaurant near Preston, to celebrate the career of former theatrical agent Johnny Martin.
“This was quite an unusual event in the entertainment world.
“Normally, agents stay in the background while their artistes get all the plaudits… in other words they get the commission while their turns get the glory.
“So, what made Johnny – who now resides in Chorley – so special? Well, he was there when his acts needed them most.
“Let’s let Syd tell his story first: “My partner Eddie Large had to retire because of heart problems, so one minute I was one half of one of the most successful comedy double acts in Britian and the next I was on my own.
“Johnny believed I could go solo and got me a booking entertaining passengers on the QE2.
“He also encouraged me to write a book about my time as part of Little and Large… he helped me promote it well as getting me live work around the country… and he was there for me when I needed somebody to help build my confidence.
“You could say he’s the godfather of theatrical agents.
“My personal anecdote about Johnny was the time he fixed pantomime for me in my hometown.
“I remember the telephone conversation vividly when he told me in excited tones that he’d booked me to do Jack and The Beanstalk at the Grand Opera House in Belfast at the end of that year.
“Unfortunately, my euphoria was short-lived, for a few weeks later he rang again and this time in more sombre tones he told me that a bomb had gone off next door to the theatre and the pantomime may now not go ahead.
“He said he’d keep me posted.
“I can’t tell you how deflated I was readers, when I put the phone down after that conversation.
“However, like all good pantomimes this story does have a happy ending, because within a few weeks, Johnny rang to say that with the help of a few very talented architects and engineers the theatre could be saved, repaired and brought back to its former glory.
“It wouldn’t be completely ready for that Christmas, so we would have to change in portable cabins, but that was a minor inconvenience.
“The important thing was Jack and The Beanstalk opened and played to record attendances that year.
“And it had a lot to do with the people of Belfast voting with their feet and showing they wouldn’t be beaten by violence.
“Closer to home now for Phil‘s heart-warming story of how when he had developed his unique style of impressions that entailed bringing his characters to life with his descriptive facial expressions.
“It was Johnny who kept bringing producers and promoters into see his live act that eventually led to him having his own television series.
Yes, it was an emotional moment in that restaurant for Johnny and his lovely wife Chris, as we all raised a toast to the man who helped our career when we needed it most.
“In fact, we all enjoyed our lunchtime get-together so much, that we even thought of forming our own showbiz fraternity to meet in the future.
“Syd suggested calling ourselves ‘The Chorley Chaplin’s’, but Johnny himself had the last word.
“He said: ‘Instead of ‘The Four Musketeers’, how about ‘The Four Must Have a Beers!'”.
Buy Jimmy’s autobiography!
Don’t forget that Jimmy’s official autobiography is on sale.
Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian tells the heart-warming story of Jimmy’s illustrious life and 50-year career.
The paperback costs £11.99 and can be bought at online retailer Amazon here. It is also available via eBook and audio.
Signed copies (£15.99 including postage and packing) can be purchased on this website here.
It is also available at Jimmy’s live gigs for £10 where Jimmy will also sign it.
One pound from the sale of every book goes to Mary’s Meals.
The charity supports feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities.