Duggie stepped off the stage to finally succeed

Scores of stars owe their career to late resort-based producer.

Tuesday, 4th April 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 10:28 pm
Duggie Chapman at home in Blackpool

From child actor to theatre impresario, Duggie Chapman’s legacy will last for generations.

Duggie, who died on Saturday morning just a day after turning 81, had produced shows in Blackpool for more than half-a-century.

Duggie made his film debut in A Cure for Love at 11 after he was talent spotted in the classroom of his Burnley school.

Duggie Chapman at home in Blackpool

But after failing to make the breakthrough to TV, Duggie retired from frontstage at 23 to forge a career in production.

However a late celluloid career saw him appear alongside Likely Lads actor James Bolam in Seaview Knights and as a reporter in Lee Evans’ Funnybones.

The many tributes paid to him over the weekend area mark of the respect Duggie was held in.

His partner of 43 years, Beryl Johnson, said: “Showbusiness was Duggie’s life and I’ve had hundreds of emails and telephone calls from people he has been associated with down the years over the weekend.”

Duggie Chapman at home in Blackpool

He was awarded the MBE for services to light entertainment and charity by Prince Charles in 2009.

The entertainer, who had lived in the Blackpool area since the 1960s, had been suffering from dementia.

Comedian Jimmy Cricket, said on Twitter: “Saddened to hear of the passing of the great theatrical producer Duggie Chapman. He gave much panto and summer work to us all! RIP old friend!”

Comedian Stu Francis said many people “relied on Duggie” to help them into the entertainment industry.

Paying tribute to him, the former presenter of children’s television series Crackerjack said: “Duggie gave a lot of work to a lot of people”

“A lot of entertainers at one point relied on Duggie because he would put you in pantomime and when it finished he would take performers on to his tours or variety shows in Blackpool.”

Comedian and panto star Liam Mellor said: “So sad to hear that the guy that gave me my break Duggie Chapman has passed away.

“Duggie, thanks for the chance, the opportunity and the advice. I will miss you mate.”

Liam dedicated his appearance in Beauty and the Beast at the Theatre Royal St Helens this weekend to Duggie’s memory.

Comedian Bobby Ball said: “Sad to hear about the passing of a showbiz legend Mr Duggie Chapman… I loved that man – rest in peace buddy.”

Allo Allo star Vicki Michelle described him as “a legend in the world of showbusiness. Did so much for so many people and a truly lovely man”.

Ruth Eastwood, manager of Blackpool’s Grand Theatre, said: “Duggie was a really good friend of the Grand, such a generous supporter in so many ways and especially well renowned for his pantomimes and nostalgia shows.

“He will be really missed and my thoughts are with his wife Beryl.”

Duggie settled in South Shore in 1961 and was responsible for producing some of the best-loved shows in the resort.

He booked many seasons for Danny La Rue and funnyman Ted Robbins. Legendary comedian Norman Wisdom was a good pal.

By the 1970s he had become one of the UK’s major pantomime producers.

At the height of his fame, he was operating eight summer season shows at seaside towns throughout the UK.

His show, Chapman’s Music Hall, was continually on 
the road for more than 35 years.

Showbiz legend’s one regret was not making it as a star on screen

Duggie’s one regret thoughout his long career was the decision to step off stage at the age of just 23.

He said: “I made the switch thinking there would be more money in producing, and I had also become disillusioned after doing radio shows and not making it into TV,” Duggie returned to celluloid in 1994 and 1995 in films Seaview Knights and Funny Bones.

He said: “I did regret leaving performing when I did those films.

“I thought ‘I wish I’d done this ages ago’, and stuck with the performing.

“My heart is still, even now, more about being a performer than a producer.”

Raised in Burnley, Duggie admits he was lucky to have an English teacher who pushed drama to the fore – even though he didn’t quite see the appeal at the time. “I wasn’t fussed about Shakespeare, and used to get all the female parts, like servant to Portia,” he recalls.

“Then my mother used to take me to the Victoria Variety Theatre in Burnley and I got stage struck.”

Duggie won a local talent competition and was signed up as part of a boy group, the Four Blue Pages, although when his voice broke comedy became his next calling, securing a slot at a prime London theatre for up-and-coming acts at the age of 18, from where he was picked up to appear on BBC radio variety shows for more

than 100 performances.”