ROGER REMEMBERS – April 2016
In the early 1970s a young lady called Jan Currey appeared on the Yorkshire club scene. Some readers may remember her. She was most attractive and had won the title of Miss Blackpool a few years earlier. Represented by A.T.S., Stanley & Michael Joseph, in Leeds, she combined a splendid voice, lovely costumes and an instinct for the right material to sing, and rapidly became a great success. In short she had real class. Her act was always lively, often with an adroit way of using volunteers from the audience. Every so often, on Friday evenings one of the T.V. channels puts on an old “Good Old Days” recording, one recently, which starred Hylda Baker, also had Jan on it, singinThe Belle if New York”in her programme.
.A very close friend of mine, Bill Moore, was a great fan of hers, and went to see her whenever he could and sometimes helped her with her gear, and it is through him that I got to know her. It was obvious that she was intelligent and ambitious and, given the right break could really go places.
Things began to happen when she was the viewers’ choice on “Opportunity Knocks”. for four consecutive weeks. In 1974 she auditioned for Bernard Delfont, who promptly put her into his summer season show in Blackpool that year. The she played Principal Boy in pantomime at the Davenport in Stockport, and couple of years later had the same role in “Jack & the Beanstalk” in the same theatre against Lyn Paul as Principal Girl and also featuring Little & Large. This was the area’s most successful panto that year and, notably, all the principals had come from the clubs. Indeed between these big shows Jan was to be found working in clubs. I reviewed her several times, including that particular panto, and sometimes referred to her Benenden accent. “He only does it to annoy me,” she said. Quite right – I did. She dabbled in the agency business, and then, visiting an Op. Knocks session to say Hello to the crew, she met Jim Kennedy, who was booking executive for Pontins venues. They hit it off straight away and subsequently became man and wife. A new General Manager decided that Jim was doing too much and should have an assistant booker. He suggested Jan, and both of them jumped at the chance. So the pair of them were booking acts for all the company’s camps and hotels in Britain and abroad.
Sadly in 1984 my friend Bill developed cancer which spread to his pancreas and the hospital could do nothing for him, eventually sending him home. I rang Jan at Pontins H.Q. in Bournemouth and told her the news – he hadn’t long to live. “Right” she said,” I’m going up to Blackpool to see my parents over Christmas, so I’ll call and see him on the way.” She did too, travelling up to Doncaster, spending the afternoon with him and bringing him a lovely present before going on to Blackpool. Bill died about a fortnight later, but I shall never forget that act of thoughtful kindness.
Jan left Pontins to become assistant to the London agent Billy Marsh. He had great prestige in the business and a list of top performers as long as your arm for clients and he became her mentor. She helped him enormously when he suffered a stroke in 1990, and when Billy died in 1995 took over the running of the business, becoming Managing Director of Billy Marsh Associates. The young lady who so delighted us on club stages back then went on to become one of the most powerful figures in Show Business.