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lancashire evening post

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.

Lionel Blair ‘brought a special kind of magic’ 150 150 mhamer

Lionel Blair ‘brought a special kind of magic’

Lionel Blair - everyone's friend

Jimmy Cricket devoted his latest newspaper column to the late, great Lionel Blair.

Veteran entertainer, TV presenter and dancer Lionel died aged 92 in November.

His amazing stage and screen career spanned eight decades.

Jimmy called his piece in the Lancashire Evening Post (see above) “my tribute to one of our finest entertainers and also one of the nicest guys in showbusiness!”.

His column began: “When Eamonn Holmes once introduced Lionel Blair on television he described him as ‘showbusiness royalty’ – few would disagree.

“Lionel’s career was breathtaking in its longevity.

“The son of Russian-Jewish parents, he was born in Canada.

“Then, when the family migrated to London, both he and his sister Joyce performed in underground stations during the Blitz.

“It was watching the great Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies as a child that generated in Lionel a love for dancing, especially tap.

“Like Fred he started out dancing with his sister Joyce and during the 60s he went on to be one of the best tap dancers in the country.”

Jimmy’s column also mentioned his first encounter with Lionel in the early eighties.

He said it was “when my agent at the time, Phyllis Rounce, took me to a West End theatre where Lionel was playing the leading role in a musical called Mr Cinders.

“It was a male version of the panto Cinderella, in which a downtrodden son has to put up with two bullying bigger brothers.

Ideal

“Lionel played the part for all he was worth – singing, dancing and getting the audience’s sympathy when the plot warranted it.

“After the show we went backstage and Lionel was just as bubbly offstage as on.

“The conversation got around to the television series Give Us a Clue and he suggested I would be ideal for it.

“A few weeks later, true to his word, I got the invite to appear on the show.

“I’m not sure whether I was ideal for it, but it illustrated perfectly that Lionel was a man who followed through his words with actions.

“A few years later, when I was working in Nottingham and came down to breakfast at the hotel I was staying in, I found Lionel sitting at a table waving me over.

“With his enthusiasm and love of showbiz, Lionel turned what would have normally been a sleepy eyed quiet breakfast into an evening dinner party.

“Another time I met him when he was playing Buttons in Cinderella at the Davenport Theatre in Stockport.”

Jimmy’s column concluded: “Wherever he worked in whatever theatre in the country, he brought a special kind of magic to it.”

Also read on this website: Lionel Blair RIP: He lit up every room he entered

 

London Palladium: My live show sketch was cancelled 150 150 mhamer

London Palladium: My live show sketch was cancelled

Hi folks! Here’s a story from my November column @leponline where I got cancelled for a show at the London Palladium, but this star studded show went on,Face with tears of joy Face with tears of joy sometimes thats Showbusiness! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket once turned up at the London Palladium to do a sketch – but ended up waiting months to finally do it.

The popular comic had been booked for one of the shows being shown live in front of an audience and on national television.

However, as Jimmy revealed in his monthly column in the Lancashire Evening Post, things didn’t quite go to plan…

Jimmy’s column began: “It was the nineties and London Weekend Television’s Head of Light Entertainment David Bell had brought back the London Palladium to our television screen on Sunday nights.

“Renamed Live from the London Palladium, the show featured an eclectic mix of top American and British artistes.

“David loved variety and had the uncanny knack of transporting the live show experience into our living rooms.

“The show was a big hit with viewers.

“Sadly, no longer with us, we will never see David’s like again.

Misunderstanding

“I was booked on one of the shows as a surprise guest to come on and do a short sketch with the show’s host, Jimmy Tarbuck.”

However, as Jimmy recalled, one of the other acts overran because of a misunderstanding.

And as Jimmy’s sketch was a surprise one and hence not scheduled, it was his part which fell by the way.

He said he ended up watching the show from the balcony in the audience!

And there was to be a happy ending to the tale…

The show’s apologetic producer Marcus Plantin promised Jimmy a slot on the show in the next series.

Marcus was true to his word.

Jimmy did do a six-minute slot on Live from the London Palladium the following autumn.

Also read on this website: Jimmy ‘thrilled’ to host London Palladium event

Tom O’Connor ‘had the gift of seeing the funny side to everything’ 150 150 mhamer

Tom O’Connor ‘had the gift of seeing the funny side to everything’

Latest LEP column is tribute to Tom O'ConnorThe great career of the late comedian Tom O’Connor is remembered in Jimmy Cricket’s latest newspaper column.

Tom died in hospital in Buckinghamshire in July aged 81.

He had had Parkinson’s for more than a decade.

Tom rose to fame on TV show Opportunity Knocks, which he won three times.

He went on to star in The Comedians and host shows including Name That Tune, Crosswits and the Tom O’Connor Show.

Like Jimmy, his humour was always completely family friendly.

He was born in Bootle, Merseyside, and went on to become a maths teacher and assistant headteacher.

He became a professional entertainer in the early 1970s, establishing himself as a household name with shows like Pick Pockets.

His career saw him appearing in the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium and being the subject of This Is Your Life.

‘Impeccable timing’

Jimmy paid tribute to Tom at the time of his death.

And he also devoted his August column in the Lancashire Evening Post to his friend and fellow entertainer.

He began by writing: “Most people will remember Tom O’Connor for the professional and effortless way he hosted game shows and quiz shows on television.

“But those of us who were lucky enough to see any of his live performances will have cherished memories of a comedian whose razor-sharp observations and impeccable timing had audiences in fits of helpless laughter.”

To finish, Jimmy said: “The one thread which ran through Tom’s comedy was that it was clean and it was also wholesome family humour.

“I was lucky enough to do a couple of television shows with him when he had his own series.

“It was at that time that I vividly remember his parting remark after one of them…

“He said: ‘Take care Jimmy, and remember we’re the guys in the white hats!’

“He will be sadly missed by us all.”

Jimmy posted on Twitter: “Here is my latest @leponline column where I pay my tribute to a wonderful Comic/Game/Quiz/ShowHost.”

He added that Tom’s “live stand-up performances thrilled audiences all over the U.K. for many decades! #livestandup”.

So sad to hear of the passing of my fellow comedian Tom O’Connor. Tom’s razor sharp observations and impeccable timing made him one of the all time greats! Our thoughts and prayers go out to Pat his lovely wife, (pictured here with Tom), and all his family! ♥️xx

Tom O’Connor: One of the all-time greats

Hollywood stars and different accents – latest LEP column 150 150 mhamer

Hollywood stars and different accents – latest LEP column

Hollywood stars lived just down the road

Where some Hollywood stars were born and how accents differ around the country are the themes of Jimmy Cricket’s latest newspaper column.

The famous funnyman throws up some legendary acting names such as Sir Rex Harrison and Jaws star Robert Shaw in his Lancashire Evening Post July column.

Jimmy begins: “Do you know what readers when I found out we had more opticians in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, it was a real eye-opener.

“But that was nothing to do with the surprises that I got while watching a series on television.

“It was called something like Discovering So and So.

“And the So and So’s in this case were famous Hollywood stars.

“Each programme focused on a star and the gob-smacking moment usually came at the start!

“For instance, take Robert Shaw who starred in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster movie Jaws.

“He was actually born in Westhoughton in Lancashire. That’s just down the road from me here in Rochdale.

“I could have called in and had a cup of tea with him before he headed off to Hollywood.

“But you will never guess the next one – Sir Rex Harrison. Where was he born?

“Are you ready for this? Huyton! Near Liverpool. Yes, the man who played Professor Higgins and who taught Eliza the flower girl to talk proper English in the musical My Fair Lady was actually a Scouser!”

Read one of Jimmy’s previous columns in the LEP

See a collection of Jimmy’s columns over the past six years

 

Borrowing Frank Manning’s suit landed me in trouble! 150 150 mhamer

Borrowing Frank Manning’s suit landed me in trouble!

The night I borrowed Frank Mannings' suit

Sifting through some old photographs reminded Jimmy Cricket about the time he borrowed a suit off fellow comedian Frank Manning.

Northern Irish entertainer Jimmy tells the funny tale in his latest newspaper column.

Writing in the Lancashire Post, he says: “Going through old photos during lockdown can conjure up some showbiz memories.

“It was the early eighties and I  was going through the airport in Jersey with Mrs Cricket and my three small children.

“I noticed comedian Bernard Manning in the distance. Now, knowing Bernard’s penchant for making sharp retorts to fellow entertainers and knowing also that we had to pass him, I girded my loins.

“Bernard didn’t let me down; as we approached him, he let rip in his inimitable way as  his bull-throated vocals went into full throttle.

“‘What’s this, the von Trapp family? Don’t you ever go to sleep at night… haven’t you heard of Horlicks?’

“Phew! Was I glad to make it to the other side?! To be honest, folks, I was relieved. At least he didn’t swear.

“However, this column isn’t about Bernard, but about his brother Frank. We have to go back a further 10 years for this story.

“It’s the early seventies and I was a struggling comedian trying to make my way in the Northern Clubland.

“A friend told me about this great second-hand shop in Manchester he’d discovered that sold clothes that had been discarded by famous Entertainers.

I looked the ‘bees knees’

“He told me excitedly that there was a suit in the window that had been worn by the famous singing star of the fifties, Frankie Vaughan.

“I rushed down, bought it and for my next stage appearance I looked the ‘bees knees’ (this was way before the hat and wellies).

“When I was offered a week’s cabaret in a club in Newquay, Cornwall, I jumped in the car and headed off.

“Halfway through the journey, I realised I’d forgotten my new stage suit.

“When I arrived at the club, Frank Manning was there to greet me.

“He told me he was Bernard’s brother and he was not only the club compere but he was the club owner as well.

“I thought I better come clean. ‘Frank,’ I said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve forgotten to bring my stage suit!’

“He rolled his eyes and mumbled: ‘Oh no, what have they sent me?’

Vest full of holes

“Then he eye-balled me up and down and said: ‘Alright, you can borrow one of mine.’ What a gesture! And what a relief!

“So that night I went on stage wearing the club owner’s suit!

“Now, I have to tell you this folks, so come closer.

“I was in my late 20s and I did a very visual and zany act back then.

“It entailed doing a cod strip where I threw off my jacket, shirt and bow tie to reveal a vest full of holes.

“Then I would take down my pants and underneath was a pair of long straggly brown shorts. I then took out a safari hat from my  case and did a jungle routine.

“I thought it went well, but my euphoria was short-lived for when I came off stage, Frank was waiting for me with a face like thunder.

“This time his eyes weren’t rolling; they were fixed on me with an icy stare.

Lasting legacy

“‘Do you know how much I paid for that suit?’ he shouted. ‘How dare you trail it across the stage!’

“He was still ranting as he turned and headed through the kitchen. I chased after him trying to explain: ‘Frank, it’s part of the act… I didn’t realise … look, I’ll get it cleaned for you.’

“It was to no avail – Frank was inconsolable.

“Well, you know what they say, a new day, a new dawn.

“I had Frank’s suit cleaned and Mrs Cricket sent my Frankie Vaughan suit by rail via Red Star.

“Frank and I made it up and for the rest of the week we got on like a house on fire.

“Although Frank is no longer with us, he’s left us a lasting legacy in Cornwall.

“If you drive into the centre of Truro you’ll see a big shiny building with the words, ‘Manning’s Hotel’ in big bold letters.

“Keep safe readers and don’t forget to join me for my next column.”

Also read: Jimmy recalls January jab in latest LEP column

Performing on cruise ships is not all plain sailing 150 150 mhamer

Performing on cruise ships is not all plain sailing

Hi folks! Here is my July @leponline sadly I have to report that this wonderful Passenger Shipping Company is no longer trading, and is now a casualty, and another repercussion of Covid 19. #StaySafe

Jimmy Cricket talks about performing on cruise ships in his latest newspaper column – and how it’s not always as idyllic as it sounds!

In the 27 July edition of the Lancashire Post, Jimmy recalls one particular time when things did not go to plan.

He posted a copy of his column (above) on social media and a full transcript of it is below.

As a postscript to his message, Jimmy said: “Hi folks! Here is my July @leponline 

“Sadly I have to report that this wonderful Passenger Shipping Company is no longer trading, and is now a casualty, and another repercussion of Covid 19. #StaySafe”

Scrumptious grub

You know I met my good lady on a cruise ship.

We stood on the deck looking out on the moonlight glimmering on the waves and she said, “You know you remind me of the sea”.

I said, “You mean I’m rough and rugged?”

She said, “No, you make me sick!”

I wish I had a disinfectant cleaned ten pound note for every person that’s said to me how much they envy me sailing round the world seeing all the sights and tucking into scrumptious grub and getting paid for the privilege.

Now I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all this.

And I’d be telling a lie if I said I didn’t pinch myself whenever looked out of the cabin window, as the ship sailed into breathtakingly beautiful places like Venice.

Having said all that, being a passenger and an entertainer on board are two very different things, especially if you are a comedian.

If you tickle their funny bone on the night it’s your turn to perform, you can strut around the decks the next morning with your chest out drinking in the compliments.

However, if your humour doesn’t appeal to them and you struggle during your spot, you feel like you want to hide in your cabin and get your meals pushed under the door.

Here’s the thing folks it may not be your fault because cruise ships, like life itself, can throw you a curve.

I’m going to give you an example and l warn you, if you’re of a nervous disposition then look away now.

A few years back, I was booked to do a stint on a cruise ship with one of the big cruise companies.

Collective groans

I flew to Honolulu via LA and joined the ship.

The next night after I arrived on board the Captain himself came on the intercom in the cabin to say he was very sorry but the ship had developed engine trouble and that when we docked in Auckland, New Zealand, it would have to stay there for a few days and we wouldn’t now be visiting Bora Bora, Wellington.

As he reeled off the names of these exotic places I could almost hear the collective groans of the passengers.

Remember this was a round-the-world cruise and most of them had paid a small fortune to be on there.

Some had even made arrangements to meet friends and family at these ports.

An air of despondency settled over the ship and the next morning a group of angry passengers attended a hastily arranged meeting to see what legal action could be taken against the shipping company.

The next night I was due to do my spot and I toyed with the idea of jumping over board and heading for the nearest shore.

It was either that or play to a roomful of disgruntled passengers and from where I stood on the deck the sharks seemed a much more pleasant option.

I finally succumbed to my senses and did my show. I won’t say I did badly but after my show they held a minute’s silence.

You’ll be happy to know, dear readers, that I’ve shook off the emotional scars from that incident and in Easter 2021 (lockdown permitting), I’ll be doing cabaret on a Maritime Cruises ship, The Columbus, and we’ll be stopping off at ports around Great Britain and the Channel Islands.

Stay safe and healthy.