The Compleat Entertainer
The Compleat Entertainer.
My cabaret career, if I can call it that, began and developed quite by accident. I’d had a brief flirtation with hotel cabaret when I was engaged to perform at The Hotel California high up in Pentire at Newquay. This was not a well managed venue at that time though and sometimes I’d turn up only to find I’d been cancelled – but, crucially, not informed. The owner during this time was avidly trying to start his own airline and even asked my beautiful wife, Chrissie, to join him as an air hostess, she politely, and sensibly as it turned out, refused. When he lost the hotel and everything went down the plughole, I went out with the bath water. I wasn’t really unhappy about that.
Then, by chance, in 1997, I was asked by some friends, Mike and Denise Pick, who were performing in hotels as ‘Take Two’ (titular echoes there of my association with Tom Palmer back in the 1980s!) if I could ‘cover’ for them at The Philema Hotel at Pentire in Newquay. I was delighted to of course, it was paid work and I needed the money! This small hotel, now just a memory, was owned and run by Jim and Diane Nettleton and when that first gig went so well they asked if I could do a regular night for them not only at The Philema but also at The Esplanade their other much larger hotel further down the street. This was being managed by Jim’s son, James Nettleton.
Then I was approached in the Philema Hotel by Dave Kyffin, the manager of The Narrowcliff Hotel, who wanted me to do two nights a week at his venue! I could immediately see that this line of work would quickly provide lots of bookings and a much increased income. In a seemingly dazzlingly short space of time I was invited to take up a seasonal residency with The Mordros Hotel also in Pentire and run by Ian and Lesley Pocklington. Some frequent guests to the Philema happened to mention that they were planning to open a hotel in Newquay and would like me to be their entertainer. So when Norman and Mavis Balls eventually opened their Kenton Hotel and I began a summer season there, I was then performing on six nights a week all through the summer into Autumn. This frenetic work did slow a bit in the winter season but even then, with the hotel and coach party trade, and year long engagements, I was doing at least four nights of hotel cabaret, and fitting pub gigs in on the other nights! I was loving every busy minute of it too! As one door closed, with the Philema being sold, another opened it seemed and over time as my reputation grew I was invited to be a regular entertainer for The Sandy Lodge Hotel which in its turn led to my being invited in by the Barrowfield Hotel, just across the road. Other hotels were added over time and there was also some corporate work later as my good reputation flourished.
I wasn’t slow to bend myself into the required mould of a cabaret performer. Recalling how I’d been asked to dress for cabaret appearances in my Hotel California days I began to fill my working wardrobe with the clothing I knew would be expected and much preferred. I knew too that the hotel cabaret shows would need to be very different from my pub work. In pubs I was always in jeans and rugby shirts, and trainers. I was provocative and at times challenging, my comedy was somewhat raw and adult, and if never outright blue (though this was available on demand, for an enhanced fee!) I’d have to admit I was always rather risqué – to say the least. Now, after some very lean years and keenly aware of the lucrative possibilities ahead of me if I quickly learned to conform to requirements, I decked myself out in smart chinos, some fairly flamboyant show biz shirts and some sensible shoes. A hair dresser friend, Keith Gauntlett, got rid of my centre parting and designed and created a new modern hairstyle for this new me. Keith became a regular feature in some of my original comedy routines where he’d now become ‘Tarquin’ the hair stylist who visited me at home to ‘do it in the conservatory’! We’re still very good friends to this day.
I also radically adapted a lot of my comedy material to make it suitable for family audiences, wrote comedy songs and funny parodies for inclusion in the act. I designed a brochure for publicity which I’d provide to interested parties who made enquiries after seeing my shows. This led to bookings elsewhere, private parties, birthdays, wedding celebrations, you name it, up country and all over. All this hotel cabaret experience began to have a positive effect on my pub and club work too and soon I was seen as a lot less risqué and more ‘family friendly’ so yet more bookings, summer seasons and other regular and one-of gigs simply rolled in.
Thus began the many years of associations with the ever reliable hotel circuit of that time. I just took off and I never looked back. I still have a deep affection for, and developed some long lasting friendships with, all the people who saw the potential in me. There’s a plan afoot to produce a couple of CDs from numerous recordings made during my Cabaret Shows and hopefully a ‘live’ DVD too – so – watch this space!
For bookings please use the ‘contact me’ facility on the Home Page. Please leave sufficient contact details, dates, times and location of the venue.