On this page we are pleased to publish features, news and details of live entertainment venues which may be of particularly interest to LGBT+ live entertainment fans. This time around we focus on Basil Newby MBE, an entrepreneur and businessman who started his lifetime live entertainment adventure as a Pontins Bluecoat entertainer. After a career opening gay entertainment venues here there and everywhere and receiving an MBE in the 2014 new year’s honours list. Mark Ritchie examines Mr Newby’s career.
The expressive phrase of ‘true trailblazer’ could have been coined especially for Basil Newby, especially given the effect his business life has had on influencing attitudes towards performers who provide live entertainment for gay and gay friendly audiences. The name Basil Newby is familiar to the vast majority of those in the know about live entertainment. What is perhaps much less in the consciousness of showbusiness insiders is how he established his business empire and became a multi-millionaire.
Born on the Fylde coast in 1951, the young Basil found his way into showbusiness by donning a famous blue jacket and becoming a Bluecoat entertainer for Pontins.
After early success with a fancy goods shop which be opened in Blackpool, Basil made his first move into acquiring and establishing the first of his live entertainment and cabaret venues. Going Gay was the name of the aforementioned shop and soon after in 1979 the enterprising Mr Newby found himself being shown around premises on Talbot Road in Blackpool. This new venture became The Flamingo club.
Blackpool’s very first gay entertainment venue was open for business and regularly attracting crowds of revellers over 2000 strong.
Success so often snowballs when the stars align in perfect symmetry someone in business is in the proverbial right place at the right time. In 2007 Basil Newby found that his Funnygirls burlesque show venue truly took off.
The Flamingo premises were eventually demolished but the Funnygirls premises, which had originally operated as an Odeon cinema, was transformed rapidly by Newby into a show-bar featuring dancers and drag performers.
The well-appointed stage provides a platform for a whole production of lavish and extravagantly pitched live themed cabaret, which is staged in short bursts throughout every Funnygirls evening, All of which is interspersed with appearances from drag DJ/Presenters. Names such as Betty ‘Legs’ Diamond have become household names, with even an appearance on the Royal variety performance now on the collective CV of the much-celebrated Funnygirls.
Basil Newby paved the way for many other venue operators and show producers to follow and despite recent business model changes at the venue, Funnygirls continues to pull in the holiday crowds, season after season.
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The great Basil Newby