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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

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

Jimmy recalls January jab in latest LEP column 150 150 mhamer

Jimmy recalls January jab in latest LEP column

Hi folks! This is the latest @leponline column about the January morning when I got my first jab @RDaleRiverside by the very jovial @JivaDr (Dr Mo MBE), my thanks to @RochdaleCouncil for organising the vaccine programme so well. #COVID19Vaccines

Jimmy Cricket has been talking about his first vaccination jab against Covid-19 in his latest newspaper column.

The article is in the 12 April edition of the Lancashire Post.

In the column, Jimmy recalls visiting Riverside One in Rochdale, where he lives.

He says: “How things have changed during these lockdowns.

“It used to be that if some­body crossed the road when they saw you coming it was either that they didn’t want to speak to you or they owed you money.

“Now when they do it you shout thanks to them for helping to stop the spread of the virus.

“It’s the same when you meet an old friend in the street.

“Instead of shaking hands, you now do a quick touch of the elbows then step back, have a few quick words and then you’re on your way.

Full vaccinated

“However, as I write this, we’ve all had a very emotional reflection day to mark the fact that the first lockdown happened one year ago, and with the news that they’re not far off vaccinating 1m people a day there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“I myself being a whipper snapper of 75 years of age when I got my first jab here where I live in Rochdale at the Riverside Library.

“Although it was a cold shivery January morning when we all queued up out­side, inside our hearts were leaping for joy at the thought of getting the inoculation that would ultimately pro­vide us with the passport to get back to normality.

“I went public with it and my friend Billy Sherrin, the Rochdale Mayor, arranged to have the Rochdale Council official photographer to take a piccie of me getting my jab.”

Famous funnyman Jimmy has now had both doses of the coronavirus vaccination.

The popular Northern Irish entertainer updated his Facebook profile last month with the graphic below, saying ‘fully vaccinated’.

He has encouraged everybody else to have the vaccination the same when their time comes.

Very small numbers of people have been admitted to hospital with Covid several weeks after having one vaccine dose, a study of UK patients shows.

Jimmy Cricket has had his second vaccination jab to protect against Covid

Several months ago, Jimmy devised a perfect little ditty to keep our spirits going during the coronavirus lockdown.

The comedian adapted the words of an old war-time favourite, Roll out the Barrel.

He recorded his very own version for YouTube, called Roll out the Vaccine.

Roll out the Barrell

The UK government has said every adult in the country can have a coronavirus vaccine by autumn this year.

Roll out the Barrel was particularly popular worldwide during World War II.

Sing along to Jimmy’s Roll out the Vaccine song

Casual chat with a workman led to my first DVD! 150 150 mhamer

Casual chat with a workman led to my first DVD!

Hi folks this months @leponline is a little story about how we got everyone onboard, which created work for a video recording company, while raising funds for a Charity, while producing my live DVD! #keepvarietyalive

The unusual story of how Jimmy Cricket ended up producing his first DVD is told in his latest newspaper column.

Pull Your Seats Forward was created by the famous comedian’s family company, Wellie Boot Productions, more than 10 years ago.

Belfast-born Jimmy produced the DVD in response to the overwhelming public clamour that suggested there was a real demand for a recording of his stand-up entertainment.

It was filmed at the Royal Court Theatre in Bacup, Lancashire, near Jimmy’s adopted home of Rochdale in Greater Manchester.

The DVD is an hour and 10 minutes long.

It includes Jimmy’s favourite routines, a phone call and letter from his mammy and 20 minutes of extras.

In his March column for the Lancashire Post, Jimmy reveals how the DVD came about.

I’d just pulled into the garage of the house in the new housing estate we’d just moved into when one of the workmen who was completing work on one of the other houses approached me.

“You’ve upset somebody up there. haven’t you?”

“I beg your pardon?” I asked him in a puzzled tone.

Leap of faith

“You’ve upset one of the big boys in television….that’s why you’re not on anymore.”

Before I could answer him, he was straight in: “Look, you don’t have to answer me but I just want you to know I enjoyed what you did.”

I mumbled “thank you!” and he headed back to work.

After I’d entered the house, I thought maybe I should have invited this chap in, give him a cup of tea and explain that I hadn’t really upset anybody but television was changing.

The variety shows I performed on were giving way to reality/fly-on-the-wall type programmes which I wasn’t really interested in.

But then I thought if there were more people out there like that workman, how could I get my product out to them?

So, in a gigantic leap of faith, I decided to produce and finance my own DVD.

I called a local theatre – in this case the Royal Court in Bacup.

We fixed a date and I raided the piggy bank and sent them the hire charge of £500.

The next step was to hire a camera crew.

I rang up a gentleman called Paul McGreen who ran a company called Dash Productions.

He said he could do me a deal but it would still cost £2,000 to pay for the crew.

Bar of chocolate

So I had an idea how we could make this work – and help a charitable cause at the same time.

I rang around all my friends and explained that the theatre held 400; if they all bought a ticket for £10, after I’d paid for the cameras I would give the rest to our local charity.

And so, on a sunny evening in September in 2008, we shot our video in front of a full house.

Mrs Cricket put programmes on everybody’s seat with a picture of Springhill Hospice in Rochdale, and a place where they could fill in their name and address if they wanted to get the first copies for half price.

Oh, and she also left them a bar of chocolate to munch on during the interval.

The morning after the show, I turned up at the hospice with a cheque for £2,000 and we had a 90-minute DVD called Pull Your Seats Forward.

As I write this, I’m coming up to 9,000 sales.

Do you know what makes me really proud, folks? The whole family can sit round and watch.

Pull Your Seats Forward can be bought via the Go Shopping page on this website or at one of Jimmy’s live shows (once they resume).

Read the Lancashire Evening Post online here

 

The day I ended up in court facing a hefty fine… 150 150 mhamer

The day I ended up in court facing a hefty fine…

True story! Going back decades here is this months @leponline column, here I'm sharing my humble beginnings in the world of showbusiness, which doesn't get much funnier than this! 

Jimmy Cricket was once summoned to court for not doing something he didn’t even know he had to do!

In the 1970s, before he was famous, the Northern Irishman fell foul of the TV licensing authorities.

He revealed his story in his Lancashire Post column.

Jimmy posted on social media: “Hi folks! True story!

“Going back decades here is this month’s @leponline column.

“Here I’m sharing my humble beginnings in the world of showbusiness, which doesn’t get much funnier than this! #savevariety”

His column said: “I’m going back a bit now – 1973. I was in my mid-20s and trying to eke out a living as a comedian in the Northern clubs.

“My girlfriend and soon-to-be-my-wife May and her sister Margaret did a sing­ing act under the name, The Tweedie Sisters.

“We both landed a week’s booking at the Norbreck Ho­tel in Blackpool. However, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

“Oh, the girls had a great week finishing their act to tumultuous applause every evening.

“I, however, didn’t make it past the Sunday. To be honest I was a bit rough round the edges, and when I didn’t get too many laughs on the opening night, the hotel manager fired me.

Disbelieving glance

“So while the girls trav­elled back and forth to Black­pool every night, (Margaret’s boyfriend Graham had a car), I sat alone in the flat we all shared in Stockport trying to figure out a new act.

“It was on the Tuesday night that the doorbell rang. I’d barely opened the door when a guy pushed past me.

“I followed behind him in hot pursuit calling out, ‘Hi, what is this?’ until he stopped with a jolt in the middle of the living room and, pointing to the corner, shout­ed: ‘Have you got a licence for that television?’

“I explained that my fian­cee had ordered it from a lo­cal shop a few weeks before.

“Then I naively enquired: ‘Doesn’t the rental cover the cost of the licence?’ He threw me a disbelieving glance, wrote something in his book and marched straight out the door.

“A summons duly arrived a few weeks later for me to appear in court, where I paid a hefty fine, not for some­thing I did but for something I didn’t know I had to do.

“Don’t get me wrong folks. I’m a big fan of the BBC. What’s not to like about it?

“They do the best period cos­tume dramas. They give us uninterrupted coverage of top sporting events and the best movies, and their news coverage is the envy of the world.

“Just like the National Health Service it’s a quintessential British institution and I couldn’t imagine life without it.

“I just hope they have nicer people driving their detector vans these days than the guy I got in Stockport.”

Also read: The first time I met Bobby Ball

The Lancashire Post website