Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering Danny LaRue

Courtesy: Glen Charlow
with his dresser and pal, Annie
The Queen's Sister (2005) (TV)

Danny La Rue: [Princess Margaret has seen Danny naked; he proceeds to cover himself up] What are you doing here?

Princess Margaret: Don't worry, Danny, I've seen a queen's crown jewels before!

 Danny LaRue was one of the greatest ENTERTAINERS that ever lived!

Danny La Rue, (26 July 1927-31 May 2009) was an Irish-born British entertainer known for his singing and "drag"  impersonations.Great as a Lady but he was an even Greater Man.

Danny La Rue was one of the most popular and prolific entertainers Britain has known.Having enjoyed phenomenal success in almost every aspect of Show business with six smash hits West End shows among his credits, Danny achieved International stardom  in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada  Australia and New Zealand.

He appeared in Hello, Danny! a biographical show which performed at Benidorm Palace, Spain on 11 November 2007.

That was his last public appearance.

The part of La Rue was played by Jerry Lane, and La Rue appeared at the start of the show and then in an interview on stage in the second half.

He also performed a number of songs, including Jayne County's "Queenage Baby", accompanied by Dave Peterson to a sellout crowd.

He was all about making people leave the theatre on a high. Like Liberace, underneath all the glitz was a man with a beating heart.

Sadly, that heart stopped beating three years ago today. He was 81 and died of cancer.
So today, I celebrate Danny LaRue. Sir Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson commonly known as Bruce Forsyth, or Brucie, an English TV personality said,"He was a great showman and his nightclub in London was the place to go when you were having a special night out.

La Rue was the youngest of either four or five siblings. The family moved to England when he was six and he was brought up at Earnshaw Street in Soho, central London.

 When the family home was destroyed during the Blitz, his mother, a seamstress, moved her children to Kenn, a Devon village where young Daniel developed an interest in dramatics.

 "There weren't enough girls so I got the pick of the roles ... My Juliet was very convincing", La Rue recalled. From a childhood spent in the unlikely surroundings of London's Soho, through wartime evacuation to Devon and then service in the Royal Navy, Danny's youthful years were busy and happy-a perfect preparation for the arduous show business life he was to take up later.

He served in the British Royal Navy as a young man following his father's footsteps, and even had a brief career delivering groceries, but he became known for his skill as a female impersonator (or "comic in a frock" as he preferred to be called) in Britain and was featured in theatre productions, and in film, television, and records.

The family home was bombed during the Second World War and the Carrolls were evacuated to the Devon countryside, young Danny had very strong feelings for the stage. He played the female lead in three Shakespearean school productions.

At the age of 17, he volunteered to join the Royal Navy, and on his first ship discovered his talent for drag during a party in Singapore. Wearing a white bedsheet tied round him like a sarong, he camped up the role of the native girl Tondelayo from the Hollywood film White Cargo.

He shone with Hollywood femininity , but underneath the gowns and glamor, Danny was a genuine fella, says Michael Billington.

He tried to make a go in show business for five dispiriting years to no avail. He reluctantly took Harry Secombe, an unknown comic, who scathingly urged him to give up show business.

Danny took that advice and resorted to making his living as a window dresser for Oxford Street stores.

That decision soon after is part of showbiz history.

Danny was spotted arranging a window by an old friend who needed a stand-in drag act at a Leicester Square revue that evening.

 'You remind me of Paris and the Folies Bergere,' his benefactor told him.

'You're so long and lean in your feathers and plumes, I thought I would call you Danny The Street - Danny La Rue, in French.'

In a glittering and glamorous career, he has established himself as one of the most popular and prolific performers Britain has ever known.

Noel Coward called him "The most professional, the most witty...and the most utterly charming man in the business"

Dame Anna Neagle echoed "One of the kindest and most generous men I've ever met".

In a career that spanned five decades, Danny LaRue's success was phenomenal. Until he could no longer entertain, he toured Britain in his own show. He was probably the biggest star to come out of that old English tradition, pantomime.

It was just announced last month that Danny is to be featured in a new series from Sky Atlantic, a British company, will be celebrating gay performers in British entertainment.

The three-part series will cover the period between Queen Elizabeth's coronation and the present day.

 "It will be a celebration of achievements and career highlights, as well as a history of how gay rights and our perception of gay performers has changed over the last 60 years."

La Rue would often perform parts of his show in men's clothes, and was often seen out of costume on television. In later life, he was more candid about his private life, including his homosexuality. La Rue lived for many years with his manager and life partner of 40 years, Jack Hanson, until Hanson's death in 1984.

Jack Hanson was a rugged 33-year-old ex-commando from Leeds whom he met in a pub.

Hanson became Danny's full-time managerand soon the glamorous drag queen was appearing all over the West End.

La Rue as Widow Twanky in the London Palladium production of Aladdin

Julian Clary is among the stars expected to contribute, while the three episodes will profile the likes of Carry On stars Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams, stand-up and actor Frankie Howerd and entertainer Larry Grayson.

 On the West End stage he triumphed in seven major shows including Come Spy With Me at the Whitehall Theatre, The Danny La Rue Show at the Prince of Wales Theatre, and Aladdin at the London Palladium.

 After the 1966 musical Come Spy With Me, with Barbara Windsor, Danny became the hottest ticket in London. Shows were written just for him and he packed one of London's largest theatres, The Palace, for two years.

In 1968 his version of "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep" reached number 33 in the UK singles chart;La Rue later adopted the song as his theme tune.

 He appeared in Every Day's a Holiday, The Frankie Howerd Show, Our Miss Fred, Twiggs, Decidedly Dusty, Entertainment Express, Blackpool Bonanza and the BBC Play of the Month. He made a guest appearance in the Mr. Bean episode, Mr. Bean in Room 426 in 1993. His role in the the musical Hello, Dolly! - the first time a man had played Dolly - which was planned to revive his career, was savagely panned by the critics.IAnother Dolly, Betty Grable, was a personal friend of Danny's. 

She often visited his West End  nightclub.

Betty Grable
"Betts", as he called her had opened in "Hello, Dolly!" in Las Vegas and, typically of Danny, he had sent her his personal good wishes from one "Dolly" to another. Betty was already dying from cancer. So great was her affection for Danny that she wrote to him thanking him for contacting her unfortunately on the day the letter arrived, Betty passed away.
David Merrick went to London to ask Danny La Rue to replace Pearl Baily on Broadway.Danny wrote in his autobiography that his turning Mr. Merrick down was the biggest regret of his career. He didn't feel that his style of acting would translate as well to American audiences.

Worse was to come. On a visit to New Zealand, Hanson suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and collapsed in Danny's arms.

He would go on to have an affair with Australian pianist Wayne King, 26 years Danny's junior- after that affair ended, the two remained on speaking terms. A few years later, in 2000, Danny jetted out to visit King in an Australian hospice. He discovered, to his huge distress, that his friend's weight had plummeted to just over two stone.

'He had to be buried in a child's coffin,' Danny later revealed, grief-stricken.

He died of AIDS.

At the height of his fame Danny La Rue, held audiences spellbound - dominating the stage with his blonde wigs, platform shoes, pink ostrich feather fans and huge plumed headdresses which made him more than seven feet tall.
as Dolly Parton, Photo credit: Richard Mawbry

Bob Hope described him as 'the most glamorous woman in the world'.

 Whatever his title, audiences loved him.  His jokes were often on the edge, but never smutty. 'I went to the Palace,' he would declare, 'and the Queen said: "Kneel." I said: "If I'd known it was that sort of party, I would have come earlier!" '
A multi-millionaire with his own West End nightclub, he also owned two hotels, luxury homes in Hampstead and Henley-on-Thames and a 12-bedroom chateau in the South of France.

 Among his celebrity impersonations were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Marlene Dietrich, and Margaret Thatcher. At one point he had his own nightclub in Hanover Square, and also performed on London's West End. In the 1960s he was among Britain's highest-paid entertainers.

He used to own the Swan at Streatley hotel in the 1970s.

 He also has the distinction of being the only man to take over a woman's role in the West End theatre when he replaced Avis Bunnage in Oh, What a Lovely War! and he was until his death still a regular performer in traditional Christmas pantomime shows in Britain.

In its eight years' existence, Danny's West End nightclub attracted royalty, Hollywood stars and ordinary people in the thousands-and became one of the show business spots of the 1960s.

In the 1970s La Rue spent more than £1million on the purchase and restoration of a country house hotel, Walton Hall in Warwickshire. Due to his performance commitments, he decided to sell the business in 1983 and two Canadians offered him a deal by which, if the hotel retained La RueÕs name, he would become the major shareholder. The duo claimed that they would invest a further £3million in the hotel and that they had organized a scheme for flying guests in from America, so La Rue signed the hotel over to them. Six months later he discovered that the two Canadians were being investigated by the police and that his name was linked to the investigation. La Rue was eventually cleared of any suspicion but the day after his 56th birthday he discovered that he had lost more than £1million.

Long before there was Lily Savage, La Cage aux Folles or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, there was Danny La Rue. Danny's achievement ) it is hard to think of him as Mr La Rue) was to have taken female impersonation out of the clubs and pubs, and into the theatrical mainstream. In his heyday, he could fill West End theatres and was ever popular on TV shows like The Good Old Days. Danny disliked the term "drag artist". In essence, he was an old-fashioned music-hall performer with an outsize personality and a big heart.(Source: The Guardian Theatre Blog by Michael Billington)

Unfortunately, three years before he died, his last home - a modest Southampton bungalow - went under the auctioneer's hammer, he was forced to sell off his favorite memorabilia. La Rue suffered a mild stroke in January 2006 and all of his planned performances were cancelled. He had several subsequent strokes. He died at his home shortly before midnight on 31 May 2009 at the age of 81 after suffering from prostate cancer. His companion, Annie Galbraith, was with him at his home in Kent when he died.

Despite his financial problems, Danny always remained a star in the dressing room, insisting on opening a bottle of champagne for every visitor - right to his last performance.

He was appointed OBE,  Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in the 2002 Queen's Birthday Honours List. La Rue later stated in an interview that this was "the proudest day of his life". Other accolades included Royal Variety Performance appearances in 1969, 1972 and 1978, Variety Club of Great Britain Showbiz Personality of the Year (1969), Theatre Personality of the Year (1970), Entertainer of the Decade (1979) and the Brinsworth Award from the EABF for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment profession and the community. The beginning of the end came after his beloved ten-year-old terrier, Jonty, died. After being felled by a stroke Danny made the move into his friend and dresser'Annie Galbraith's spare room. Having worked with him on stage for 27 years, she looked after him through the bitterest lows right to the end.

At the end, he tried in vain to beat the cancer that eventually killed him. In Danny's autobiography, From Drags To Riches,  he told his own remarkable story.

I cannot capture Danny LaRue's amazing life and career in one blog. I have relied on Wikipedia, articles, and Danny LaRue Friends And Fans on Facebook. If there is anything here you would like to add or change. Please don't hesitate to tell me.

Thank you Danny for the gifts you gave and continue to give to the world!

With grateful XOXOXs ,
I want this to be a definitive account of Danny LaRue  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Danny's, I'm interested in speaking with you!  Do you have any pics? If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


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June 3
GREAT PAINTED PAW BRIGADE, 22-24 New Main Street Haverstraw, N.Y. 10927
First of its kind in Rockland County, N.Y. Public Arts Project. Gallery Opening Friday March 2, 2012 7pm-9pm Haverstraw Arts Alliance. Auction: Sunday June 3, 2012 Union Restaurant 1pm-4pm Village of Haverstraw, N.Y. For details visit: OR e-mail:

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
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Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

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