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Empire Theatre

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Can ayone add to, or correct, my possibly inaccurate memories of this Variety Theatre in its heyday. Very popular in the early 50's, before the days of television - when packed houses were the norm rather than the exception.

Never could afford the Stalls, Dress Circle, (was there an Upper Circle?) - but only the balcony (The Gods).

Queues for artistes such as Dicky Valentine, Lonny Donegan and Des O'Connor or popular comedians would stretch all round the block, with a very long walk to reach the end.

Once the doors opened, the queue would wind slowly all the way up the painted concrete staircase to the ticket office, which I believe was at the top of the building. It was not unusual to queue for an hour or more, only to find the "House Full" sign had gone up, meaning a wasted journey into town. Unless you wanted to remain in the queue in order to get into the Second House.

There was then a rush to try to get a seat somewhere near the centre of the very steeply banked, curved rows of plain benches (best view of the stage far below).

But, having got seated, the uniformed doormen would move along the rows instructing everyone to 'utch up - and forcibly packing people tightly together in order to cram in a few more at the end of the row. The art being to immediately shift back a few inches in order to gain a bit of elbow room if possible.

Then one watched the show, knees or boots of the person behind digging into your back, through a thick haze of tobacco smoke drifting up from the two (or three) floors below. Bit different from the Concert Hall that now stands in its place. But at least the prices were affordable!

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Can ayone add to, or correct, my possibly inaccurate memories of this Variety Theatre in its heyday. Very popular in the early 50's, before the days of television - when packed houses were the norm rather than the exception.

Remember going there as a very small kid and sitting on the top shelf.

Always scared me. It looked such a long way down and the way they packed that balcony made me wonder if the weight of all those folks would land us on the ground floor.

Seem to remember seeing Alma Cogan there.

Dave

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I too had many happy memories of the Empire in the 50`s. I may be wrong,but in the early 50`s I paid 6d for a seat in the`gods'. Many fine acts before TV destroyed live shows. Saw Rosemary there(Rosemary Clooney (May 23, 1928 – June 29, 2002) was an American singer and actress. She was most popular singing traditional pop music in the 1940s and 1950s with songs like "Come On-a My House". She was the mother of actor Miguel Ferrer, aunt of actor George Clooney, and the sister to former television personality Nick Clooney.)

However my favourite theatre was next door.(The Royal).

Remember being first taken there to see Chu Chin Chow in about 1945,and ali Baba and the 40 thieves,around the same time.

The highlight however was the annual visit to the `panto'

This has remained a lasting memory and in 2007 on a visit to Nottingham I renewed my childhood memories by going to the Panto. I also saw the ballet at the old Empire next door but not half the atmosphere of the now slightly down at heel `Royal'.

Ah happy days. What has happened to our once GREAT country?

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Amazing how one`s memory plays tricks! Chu Chin Chow was of course based on the Ali Baba story.

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(I seem to have managed to post this topic in the wrong forum! No way to move it) ??

My wife still treasures her signed photo's of David Whitfield and Tommy Steele, and remembers her visit to Dicky Valentines dressing room (to obtain his autograph!!!!), after a visit to the Empire.

And there were regular visits from ? Wilson, Betty and Kepple - the Egyptian Sand Dancers, who shuffled about on sheets of sand paper - very popular light entertainment, we must have been easily pleased.

Later memories, when the variety theatres were in terminal decline, were visits with my mates to see the Raymond Revues. Glimpses of (apparently) naked young ladies posing in tasteful and dimly lit tableaus at the back of the stage. But fobidden, by the censorship laws, to make even the slightest movement - could only pose like statues in an art gallery. Oh how we felt conned out of our 6d!

And we didn't even have the benefit of theatre glasses (binoculars) in those days.

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I remember going to see Tommy Steele in the mid 50`s and seeing the hordes of young women at the stage door fighting for his attentions!

Did you know he personally escorted Elvis around London in the late 50`s although apart from a refuelling stop he(Elvis) was supposed never to have set foot in GB.

Also saw Anthony Newley and his 2 shows have remained firmly in my memory.

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Did you know he personally escorted Elvis around London in the late 50`s although apart from a refuelling stop he(Elvis) was supposed never to have set foot in GB.

It was on some T.V. programme recently that it may have happened, but Tommy Steele did a U turn and denied it ,for some reason (You woud think he would have 'dined out' on that for years, it would have sold thousands more of his autobiography) I still think it happened but for some reason the powers that be want it kept quiet!!!!!

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Having only just joined this forum I found this topic quite interesting.

My late father was at one time the Stage Door Keeper at the Empire.

As such we got to see many of the shows. Remember those hard benches in the 'Gods'.

I have been sorting a few old photos out and have come across a few for the Empire that were autographed for us.

1948.. Benson Du'Lay and Company. He was a magician and father of Peter Dulay(was Dooley) of the "Smile you're are on Candid Camera' fame.

In the Company with him was Dinah Du-Lay and Molly Du-Lay.

Also 1948 were the Ice Follies. Several photos for them. One is signed just as Barry & June Ice Follies 1948.

Also Olive Richardson in 1946 . Says on the back British P??? Champion. (Ice skater)

I also have signed photos of Tommy Steele and Adam Faith. Cannot remember the year though.

We tend to forget that we had Ice shows at the Empire.

!cheers!

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Saw Wee Willie Harris there, must have been around 1956? if "there" was in fact opposite the old evening post building? and had a glass covering all down the street where you queued?

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Welcome Memories

Great first posts, will be of interest to our members.

Look forward to hearing from you. :)

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Saw Wee Willie Harris there, must have been around 1956? if "there" was in fact opposite the old evening post building? and had a glass covering all down the street where you queued?

Had a chat with Wee Willie in Woolworths at the record bar, certainly mid 50's.

Am I dreaming? I'm sure Laurel & Hardy came and they stayed at a relation's who kept a pub in Bottesford?

Also saw, Des O'Connor, Terry Dene, the Most Brothers, Ruby Murray and a host of others.

Weren't the gods at the Gaumont(sp?) even higher?

Great memories

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Correct re Laurel & Hardy, not sure which pub, and if still standing, but few years ago had loads of photos in it of the 2 of them there,

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Correct re Laurel & Hardy, not sure which pub, and if still standing, but few years ago had loads of photos in it of the 2 of them there,

Was told it was to the left, on a bend towards Grantham. Red Lion? Black Bull?

We lived in Sedgebrook, but left in 77. Haven't been back since so maybe has gone?

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Can anybody confirm this. During the mid seventies when I was at Trent Poly, we always used to go for a pint, or two, or three, at the Tavern In The Town after lectures.

We went in once to be told by the landlord, and I'm sure that there was an article in the Evening Post about it as well, that Bing Crosby, during his last UK tour with Rosemary Clooney before his death on a golf course in Spain, called in the Tavern the day before us for a pint with the former manager of the Empire who was an old pal, allegedly. Ansells beer wasn't it at the Tavern, poor bloke, a sad last pint of English puke water.

Despite my mother and father being constant theatre goers, and I recall seeing Lonnie Donegan doing his Rock Island Line stuff at the Theatre Royal, I can't recall ever going to the Empire, was it just left abandoned for years until the Royal redevelopment?

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I never went to the Empire either - and have no recollection of it even being open! All I remember of it was the old facade and wondering if it had ever been used!

Also saw Lonnie Donnegan at the Theatre Royal - in a Pantomime!

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I never went to the Empire either - and have no recollection of it even being open! All I remember of it was the old facade and wondering if it had ever been used!

Me likewise. I know it was demolished in the early 70s to make way for the Concert Hall but when did it actually close for business? It stood empty for quite a long time before it disappeared.

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Also saw Lonnie Donnegan at the Theatre Royal - in a Pantomime!

YES, it was, he played Buttons, it must have been the late 50's, he came on at the end, took off his white buttoned jacket and the band appeared, I remember the double bass was bright cherry red and they really went for it, there were kids running down the front and jiving in front of the orchestra pit, it was total mayhem, I can't imagine Eminem or Akon doing that sort of thing today.

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I remember Jewel & Warris; Gladys Morgan; Nat Jackley; Norman Evans (Over the Garden Wall)and Julie Andrews in 'Red Riding Hood' panto'. Another who kept turning up in panto' was Dorothy Ward. None of them were in 'soaps' then!

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The box office for the probably was at the top because I remember the doors being opened and then running up all of the stairs up to the gods.

I saw Sid Field in panto there and The Great Lyle a brilliant magic act. Could have been at the Royal though.

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I remember around 1947 passing the Theatre Royal and seeing an american " Wooden Body " station waggon , I was about 14 at the time and was fascinated with such a Car, it belonged to the Actor/Singer ---Allan Jones (14 October 1907–27 June 1992) was an American actor and singer. For many years he was married to actress Irene Hervey; their son is American pop singer Jack Jones.

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I didn't go many times and was still nobbut a lad (as they say in these parts) when it closed. I used to go with my brother and we climbed for ages up to the Gods, and it was pretty frightening how high it seemed and the steepness of the seating. I remember seeing Bill Maynard, The king Brothers, Issy Bonn and numerous jugglers and acrobats.

What memories do any others have of tis last vestige of the Music Halls?

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Only went once...'The roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd'....Anthony Newley. It disappeared shortly afterwards.

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Never went in it, almost a bit before my time. I think it was waiting to be demolished when I was a kid.

A few youngsters reading this might not know where or what it was.

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A bit different now

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That was one Empire where the sun did set.

  • Upvote 2

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