ROGER REMEMBERS – September 2015



Roger Holmes

Roger Holmes

It’s sad that financial pressures have reduced entertainment in so many clubs to an endless procession of singers and guitar/vocalists these days, good though many of them are. I count myself lucky that I was around in those halcyon days when there was so much more on offer, not least the comedians. The problem was, and is, that most such acts could not sustain a whole night’s entertainment on their own – not even padded out, like today, by King Bingo. What joys there were ! There was The Swinging Monk, Mike Mercado on his piano, and Count Marenzi on the craziest contraption of a musical instrument ever. Syd Plummer too, a fantastic performer on his trick xylophone. (I might add that Syd Plummer is the only artiste in any club ever to write and thank me for my review.) Syd’s son Tommy and his wife continue the family tradition as The Plummers, often to be seen on the cruise ships. Guy and Pat Holloway, finalists on the Stage Awards Show, added a touch of glamour to their offering on marimba, and why, one wonders, did The Mistins earn their living playing xylophones while whirling round on roller skates ?

We were treated to some spectacular tap dancing from the Americans, the brilliant Will Gaines and a character called George Holmes (no relation) whose speciality was to inhale from his cigarette, perform an elaborate and lengthy routine and then exhale the smoke.

The Scala in Doncaster once topped the bill with the Dagenham Girl Pipers, and even they didn’t damage the stage like the baby elephant Tanya, which famously went through it. Chimp acts were very popular. Hans Vogelbein had toured theatres and circuses with his performing bears, but he became seriously ill and had to go into hospital. He had all his animals put down as he did not trust anyone else to look after them. When he recovered I understand he trained a chimpanzee and had a great act called Gilbert and partner. Another one was Sammy Junior, a chimp who would keep returning to peer into an alleged knot hole in the stage floor which looked into the ladies’ dressing room.

More recently I saw Paul Derek, the Bird Man of Magic, his act was hilarious, creating uproar round the club with ducks and chickens running round the place and the keyboard player very apprehensive about a large owl on a perch just above his head. Paul Derek may still be working around the holiday camps and centres.

How would you feel about a pickpocket working in your club? A professional I mean, like Borra, a Hungarian seen at Greasborough Social Club all those years ago. I was sitting with a friend, Harry Birkett, a very astute fellow and landlord of the George & Dragon at Apperley Bridge. Borra spoke to him, clapped him on the shoulder and it was some time before Harry realised that, although he had his jacket on, his braces had gone. Borra gave him them back and in the process managed to take his wallet and his wristwatch without it being noticed. And Harry was just one of the many caught that night..

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