‘Show-business in Blackpool is too fantastic for words’

Sir Bruce Forsyth has trouble with his deckchair in Blackpool in 1960 seaside stars
Sir Bruce Forsyth has trouble with his deckchair in Blackpool in 1960 seaside stars

Stars of stage and screen have been paying tribute to TV legend Bruce Forsyth following the announcement of his death on Friday, aged 89.

The Generation Game and Strictly Come Dancing host had been unwell for some time, and was in hospital earlier this year with a severe chest infection.

Bruce Forsyth playing football for the showbiz 11 in a Blackpool kit in 1965

Bruce Forsyth playing football for the showbiz 11 in a Blackpool kit in 1965

Sir Bruce had a long-standing history with Blackpool having headlined two summer seasons in the resort during the 1960s - as well as the regular seaside jaunt in more recent years with Strictly Come Dancing.

In 1960 he stepped away from the glare of the TV cameras, as host of Sunday Night At The London Palladium to headline North Pier Theatre’s Showtime summer season production, renting a home in South Shore with his first wife Penny Calvert and daughters Deborah and Julie.

He also headlined in 1967, at the Opera House for The Big Show Of 1967.

And it was during this year, when Bruce helped crown Blackpool’s Baby Of The Year - a certain Julianne Waterworth. Do you know her?

Sir Bruce  crowns baby Julianne Waterworth - Blackpools Baby of the Year 1967 ... but where is she now?

Sir Bruce crowns baby Julianne Waterworth - Blackpools Baby of the Year 1967 ... but where is she now?

He made various whistle-stop visits to town over the years - Brucie even stepped out in the Tangerines’ orange shirt in 1965 as part of a showbusiness 11 match, and former Gazette entertainment writer and current Memory Lane contributor Barry Band said: “To work over a long period as he did is incredible.

“He had a very good agent, but in the end, Brucie was a very personable man who could take front and entertain.”

Among those to have paid tribute is Dame Barbara Windsor, who switched on the Illuminations last summer.

She called Sir Bruce’s death ‘the end of a showbusiness era’.

Sir Bruce Forsyth visits fans waiting in a queue  for Strictly Come Dancing outside Blackpool Tower

Sir Bruce Forsyth visits fans waiting in a queue for Strictly Come Dancing outside Blackpool Tower

“I am so sad as I was a massive fan and was in awe of his professionalism,” she said.

“I was lucky enough to know him and was thrilled to be at his last book launch

“He will be so sadly missed by all in showbusiness and his millions of fans.”

Q and A with Bruce from 1960

When Bruce headlined the summer season Showtime show at North Pier Theatre in 1960, he spoke to Evening Gazette reporter Michael Barry.

In this article from August 11 1960, Bruce’s cheeky charm rings through - in words he could just as easily have spoken a year ago.

To what do you attribute your overnight success?

Eighteen years of waiting for a break, which was, of course, the Palladium show.

How hard was your life before you got your break?

I was working for a concert party in Babbacombe, Torquay, when I was first discovered, and before that I had it tough plenty of times. I was 14 when I started in show-business and in later years had to borrow money from my Mum and Dad many times to keep going. I nearly packed it in six years ago.

Has success changed you?

No. But everybody else has in relation to me.

To establish yourself, you have worked tremendously hard, combining variety tours with the Palladium show. How long can you keep this up?

I don’t think I have to keep it up much longer. My doctor told me a few months ago that I was in danger of cracking up if I didn’t take it easy. Happily, I can afford not to worry so much now.

How do you relax?

I get up at 8am and play 18 holes of golf - dash home for lunch - play with the kids for a couple of hours - take the dogs for a walk - run an obstacle course of autograph-hunters down the North Pier and do two shows a night - after all that I don’t find it too difficult to relax - in fact I collapse.

Do you prefer to work on stage or TV?

Very difficult. When I work in a stage show, I like to get among the audience and have a chat and a giggle with them, which I can’t do on TV. But an artiste cannont afford to ignore TV.

Of the many stars who have appeared on the Palladium show, whom did you personally most enjoy?

Nat King Cole, Lena Horne and Harry Secombe. The, of course, there was my two-man show with Norman Wisdom, which I still get fan letters about. But the star I admire the most is Sammy Davis Jr. He is just fabulous.

One criticism that is sometimes levelled at you is that you “get in on the act” of some of the stars on the Palladium show. How do you feel about this?

I am aware that the press have sometimes attacked me for this. But I have never asked any stars on the Palladium show if I can do a number with them. It has always been by their invitation, and I have tried never to intrude. I feel that it makes the show more matey.

Are you as volatile and live-wire off-stage as you are on-stage?

No. I couldn’t bear to be Bruce Forsyth, comedian, for 24 hours a day. I would get on my own nerves.

How many fan letters do you receive?

They have slackened off now I am not on TV. But I once reached the stage where I was receiving 2,000 in one postal delivery.

What are your favourite television programmes?

All the sports programmes, Bilko and Hancock. And I’m very fond of the commercials... They’re my favourite.

Are you ever nervous on stage?

No I am never nervous when I am actually out on the stage - except when there is an audience watching me.

What do you intend to do next?

I think I am going to do a film in the spring, and I have also got a revue that I might appear in. What I would really like to do is a musical.

What was your greatest honour?

To become a daddy twice, Deborah, aged five, and Julie, aged two.

What have you ever failed in?

Becoming a single-handicap golfer 0 it’s 12 at the moment.

I would also like to be able to draw and paint, but I haven’t got a brush.

What do you think of Blackpool show-business?

It is too fantastic for words. I never realised before I came that here is more talent than can ever be in London at one time again.

I think Blackpool contributes to the virility of variety.

What are your dislikes?

Brussels sprouts, insincerity - and rain before the golf-course.

What is your religion?

Church of England. But I think everyone should be religious if they want to be religious.

Politics?

I have no great interest in politics, as I’m just not politically-minded.

What do you think is your basic appeal?

The ability to be natural and friendly. A few years ago people were advising me “If you want to get ahead, develop an American accent - be relaxed.”

So I did, and got nowhere. Then I just behaved as myself and was fortunate enough to click.

Do you write all your own material?

Yes, every bit of it. Unfortunately, I can’t get anyone else to take the blame.

Can we expect you back on the Palladium show in the autumn?

Talks are going on this week.

It is unlikely that I shall be back as the regular compere of the show. More probably, I shall do regular one-man Sunday night shows, which will leave me more time for stage-work and other interests.