Didn’t like this! Not one Bit!

Through working for The Stage and Cabaret and Variety Revue, I found myself being asked to join the judging panel of a talent competition at the Club Fiesta in Stockton-on-Tees. Once a week I would drive down to Stockton to be regaled with free drinks during the judging process—but unfortunately having to drive up the A19 from Stockton to Sunderland after midnight meant that my drinking was restricted to Coke or lemonade.

The other judges were all Teessiders and, to thank me for making the 60-mile round trip week after week, the manager invited me to be the club's guest (free seat and the inevitable Coke!) for a sold-out gig with a very popular comedian of the time, Bernard Manning.

Not, I have to say, my cup of tea (or even glass of Coke), but I felt it only polite to accept.

My worst fears were justified. His TV appearances were bad enough but on stage his act was nastily misogynistic, racist and homophobic, but what made it worse for me was the fact that the audience loved it. After his first set, I felt so sick that I made an excuse and left. I don't think the manager was too pleased—I was never invited back.

I gained a little satisfaction, however, from the fact that he had parked his Rolls on the pavement in front of the club and, as I left, a policeman was in the process of sticking a ticket on the windscreen. It made me feel better, even though the fine certainly wouldn't make a dent in the fee he got for the gig.

That experience made me realise that I had taken a wrong turning in my career; for a freelance, Variety paid much better than Theatre but I'd never felt really at home (except, obviously, with one or two individuals—like Tommy Cooper, for example). So I fulfilled what commitments I had outstanding and focused on the much less profitable but much more congenial theatre work.