The Royal Variety Show 1982

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

THE ROYAL VARIETY SHOW - 1982

Date: 8th November 2008

THE ROYAL VARIETY SHOW - 1982

Last year I purchased a machine so that I could transfer old Videotapes of my work onto DVD.  As a technophobe, I couldn't work the wretched thing.  Last week my computer totally froze and I had to ask my friend Paul for help.  As we were re-booting stuff and had time on our hands, he said he'd look at the offending machine.  It was actually quite an easy exercise to operate it but the instruction manual (written by a boffin no doubt) was completely confusing.  (I think Instruction manuals should be written by Amateurs and preferably those whose first language is English)

Anyway, last night I was about to transfer my 'section' of the Show, when something made me decide to sit and watch the whole programme.  I am so glad I did - it really was a wonderful trip down Memory Lane and, sadly, so many of the stars who took part are no longer with us.

The 1982 Royal Variety Show was the 53rd such extravaganza and the third to be staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.  However it was a  FIRST in that it was decided to have a theme rather than random acts.  The theme was the 'Magic of the Musicals' - right up my street as that's what I loved as a young girl, teenager, and woman and still do.

The Show was attended by H.M. The Queen Mother and also Princess Alexandra.  There were excerpts from musicals such as West Side Story, Cabaret, and Oklahoma as well as a little known one from the turn of the last Century called 'Flora Dora'.  The latter was such great fun - very dated but performed by a chorus line of well known men dressed up as women and the women dressed as men.  The Male chorus line included well known souls such as John Inman, Bernie Winters and Leslie Crowther.

Those who take part in the Royal Variety Show give their services free and the money raised goes to the Artists' Benevolent Fund.  Every year there are not only stars of British Theatre and Television but Internationally Famous Folk.  In 1982 we had Howard Keel (star of the late 50's/60's musicals such as Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers etc),  Ethel Merman, Jack Jones and Topol.

As a youngster I was a devotee of the Musicals which transported me into a world of Fantasy and Romance and of course I loved Stars like Howard Keel.  So I actually had the pleasure of meeting him again.  I say again because in the late 70's I visited friends in Queensland, Australia and Howard Keel was performing at a Legion Club and I went backstage to meet him.  I will never forget this Gentle Giant of a man who towered above me and the way his deep voice seemed to reverberate through me.  He was charming and delightful- every bit a star even though he was touring Legion clubs in Australia.  Then, of course, he had a renaissance with his role in Dallas. 

I went onto the Internet to read up about his career and goosebumps went down my back.  Here I am writing this on the 8th November 2008 and discovered that Howard Keel died on 8th November 2004!!!!!!   So why should I have chosen to watch that video last night when I have never before watched it in it's entirety?

It is an honour  to be asked to take part in The Royal Variety and we had great fun with the act in which I was involved.  Gloria Hunniford, Esther Rantzen and I performed the song 'Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better' from the Musical 'Annie Get Your Gun' (which starred Howard Keel). 

We were, naturally, dressed up as cowgirls in high heeled white boots and  delicious red-embroidered white leather fringed-skirts and waistcoats.  We sashayed all over the place but the highlight for me was when I actually managed to hit Top C there in the hallowed portals of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.  It would have been too easy to give it to Gloria who is a singer so it was left to little old me.  I can't tell you how nervous I was.  However we carried it off and it was hugely enjoyed by the audience.  In fact we appeared to share the most applause of the night with Angela Rippon who did a high-kicking number from Chorus Line. I suppose the applause was mainly because the audience were seeing us doing things totally out of context.

Just for interest I'll give you a list of just some of those who took part - in no particular order.

Howard Keel, Ethel Merman, Topol, Christopher Timothy, Roy Hudd, Richard Stilgoe, George Cole, Dennis Waterman, John Hanson, Vince Hill, Leslie Crowther, Lorna Dallas, Peter Skellern, Roy Castle, Sheena Easton, Frankie Howerd, Moira Anderson, Bucks Fizz, Jack Jones, Millicent Martin, Angela Rippon and then the three of us - Gloria Hunniford, Esther Rantzen and yours truly.

Just remembered another incident from that night.  Because of the time factor and theatre availability- the whole show is put together rapidly (in one day I think) but the individual acts are rehearsed elsewhere so you don't actually get to see other performers  until The Night.  We all take something glamorous to wear for the final curtain.  I had a gorgeous Gina Fratini gown but during the run through, I noticed that Lorna Dallas was wearing exactly the same dress for her number and discovered she also intended to wear it for the Curtain Call.  I had to make a frantic call home and arrange for another evening dress to be brought in.  I know they say 'Imitation is the highest form of flattery' but I don't think Lorna would have been too pleased if we'd both been wearing the same dress at the curtain call - lovely though it was.

I took part in another Royal Variety in 1985 - that time with Michael Aspel and  Russell Harty.  We performed the Triplet Song from an old show 'The Bandwagon'.  I know I had the tape but can't put my hands on it at the moment.  I do hope I didn't lend it to someone who hadn't returned it.  I've never seen that show in its entirety either.  

HELP THE AGED

I've been asked to be the Ambassador for Help the Aged as they launch their campaign to help old people keep warm this winter. 

Interviews will probably be undertaken on TV on BBC Breakfast and the Politics Show as well as  Radio Interviews.

Personally,  I think it's scandalous that old folk, who have paid their taxes all their lives and lived through the war and contributed to our society, should not be kept warm in their old age.  Apparently many are too proud to seek help (they were the generation who regarded handouts as shameful) and many simply do not know how to claim benefit.  And I understand that the Government has £5 billion in unclaimed benefit. Doesn't surprise me really when you see the multitudinously paged forms which are handed out for filling in.  

So, in a small way, I hope I can help many more pensioners to 'Keep Warm this Winter'.

Take Care.  Till next time - Jan

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