RAF Digby, Lincolnshire, December 15th 1979, was my first professional gig.
I had been thinking about going professional for a while, I just needed a push in the right direction. My good friend Roy Johnson persuaded me to give up my regular job, and try to make my living from magic. I was only 22 years old, with no responsibilities, so I had nothing to lose. I only had two weeks' work in the book, but I had to get it out of my system. The first week's work was a seven day stretch of social clubs in the north-east of England, followed by a week in Scotland.
It was a cold Sunday morning in the early part of February; I got in my car and made my way up to Sunderland. I arrived outside the back entrance of Southwick Social Club, where thick snow was covering the ground. I was about an hour early so I had time to think about what I was going to do in my act. I'd heard on many occasions from various people how tough the audiences can be in the north east. I didn't care, I was fearless.
At 6.45pm I knocked on the back door and was greeted by a little chap, who said in a Geordie accent, "Who are you, like?" I told him my name and he said, "You must be the turn. I hope you're good, 'cos they won't stand for any crap here ya nar". I then felt a bit scared. "The band el be ere soon, and they're champion, ya nar."
I went through my music with the band. I was doing two half hour spots, one either side of the bingo. The concert chairman came to see me and said, "Now I'm told you are a comedy speciality act. Are you a juggler, fire eater, conjurer or what?" I told him I was a magician. He shrugged his shoulders, and told me to be ready at 8.15pm.
On my first spot I used to do a trick where I borrowed a £10 note from somebody in the audience. I would put the £10 into an envelope, set fire to the envelope and the money, and I pretended that the trick had gone wrong. I would then ask somebody in the audience to throw me a cigarette onto the stage. I would break open the cigarette and to the amazement of the audience, the same £10 note was in amongst the tobacco. However on this particular night things didn't go as planned! Firstly, the audience was not responding to my act. I wasn't dying, but there was a very strong smell of embalming fluid in the room! When I requested a cigarette, some jerk decided to flick a lit one towards my brand new velvet jacket. The cigarette hit the lapel, leaving a nasty burn. The person who flicked it stood up and said in a very loud voice: "I've just turned his jacket into a blazer." This remark got the biggest laugh of the evening.
I carried on with my performance, trying to be as professional as I could. I also survived my second spot. When I finished and was packing away my props, the concert chairman came into my dressing room, and paid me my £40 fee. He said, "Never mind son, you'll get better! Where are you the morrow neet?" Town End Farm
Social Club, I said, very unconfidently! "They're worse than here ya na, especially on a Monday, they'll have ya for fuck'n breakfast. Anyway best of luck lad, you'll need it."
Feeling very alone, I made my way back to my digs. In those days we had what were called 'pro digs'. Basically it was a guest house that catered for 'Show-Business' people. You got in as late as you wanted, and breakfast was served whenever you felt like it. In my case it was always about 12 noon. When I got there, two very seasoned performers sat in front of the TV drinking mugs of tea. They introduced themselves as Ron Delta, a comedian and Eric Prince a comedy musical act. "Have a cup of tea," said one of them. "Two sugars," I replied. All of a sudden I felt like I was amongst friends.
"How was your gig?" asked Eric.
"That good eh?" said Ron.
After explaining that it was my first time working in the north-east, Ron asked me if I had got a night free during the week, and said that I could go with him to his show. Wednesday was my free night, so I decided to go with Ron to Middlesborough. But first I had Town End Farm, and Red House Social Club to contend with. I did these gigs - and they were just as bad as the first show. I really felt beaten, and thought that I could never hack it.
I went to Middlesborough with Ron, and he showed me how it should be done. He had a tough crowd, but he eventually won them over and had the audience eating out of his hand. It was then I realised that I had to toughen up and be funnier, otherwise I would never survive in the tough working men's clubs. By the end of the week I was getting better, and I felt like I wanted to stay for longer, so I could improve my act. However I had to get to Scotland.
In Scotland the audiences were much more appreciative, and I had some good shows. They were also very hospitable people. In fact when I arrived at my first show, I happened to mention to the chairman that I needed to fix my digs and asked him if he knew of anywhere. When he introduced me, he mentioned that I had got nowhere to stay that night. After the show I had five different people offer me a bed for the night. I took one family up on their offer and not only did I get a bed for the night, but they also cooked me a full breakfast in the morning. After I finished in Scotland on the following Sunday afternoon I made the long drive home.
On arriving home my Mum and Dad were waiting up for me, eager to know how it all went. I went to bed that night thinking to myself, 'what do I do now? I've got no more work and I need to make living!' I spent most of the next day on the telephone hustling every agent that I could think of. Eventually, after a few months, a steady flow of work was in the diary.
I went back to the north-east and worked with so much more aggression in my performance than previously. I'd also started to do a little bit of ventriloquism. I wasn't using puppets like the traditional ventriloquist. Instead I would make an audience member appear to be speaking in a squeaky voice. This routine was inspired by seeing a video of a ventriloquist, Dennis Spicer, and this would get very big laughs. I felt that I should embellish this part of the act. Little did I know at the time, but the ventriloquism routine would become my meal ticket for life! I did embellish the ventriloquism by adding a deep voice to a second audience member, and it certainly paid off, because I was soon working in Sunderland, Newcastle and various towns in the Teeside area, at least one week in every month.
On one occasion I distinctly remember sitting in my digs when the agent called to ask if I fancied doing a late show on Saturday evening. It was only worth £25, but it was extra money on top of my week's contract. The agent warned me that it was a really tough gig and that the audience consisted of dockers, prostitutes, and anybody who felt like a late drink. It was the Shoreline Club in South Shields. "Of course I'll do it, nothing scares me now!"
10.30pm Saturday, found me in the car park of the Shoreline Club. I found what I thought was the back entrance to the club. It was a rusty old metal door, and I could hear thumping music coming from the inside. I had a very heavy microphone stand with me, so I used it to knock very loudly on the metal door. A small square opening in the door, somewhat similar to a prison cell door, slid to one side and cigarette smoke billowed out. This was followed by the partly hidden face of a man who said: "Who a you like?"
"Wayne Dobson," I replied.
"Hold on lad, let me unlock this fooken door."
I heard what seemed like a hundred bolts sliding back, when finally the door was opened by some guy who was about five feet tall. He was dressed in a pure white suit, a bright red open necked shirt, white Cuban heeled shoes and had the biggest gold medallion hanging around his very hairy chest. He really thought he was Mr Las Vegas. "Ya better come in out the cold and get a warm, it's real brass monkey weather out there." I went inside and the following conversation took place.
"What sort a turn da ya do?"
"Ah, not fooken tricks."
"I do ventriloquism as well."
"Ah not fooken puppets. Puppets and tricks, they're gonna hate you."
I started to explain that I didn't use puppets, and that I did my ventriloquism with people out of the audience...
"Sounds crap to me. Anyway have a good show. Be ready in 30 minutes, and I'll introduce ya."
It was at that point I found out that adrenalin was brown! I got changed, stood at the side of the stage and waited for my intro...
"Ladies and gentleman I would like you to give the best of order for our turn. He must be good 'cos he's VAT registered. He's a puppet and trick gadgie (guy). Here he is, Wayne Dobson!"
I performed for 30 minutes. I never got a single laugh or round of applause. I walked off the stage to the sound of my own footsteps.
As I was getting changed I thought to myself, 'I'll never get paid tonight'. Just then the dressing room door opened, and standing there was the little Geordie with the white suit. He walked towards me, put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money from which he paid me my fee of £25. As he was counting out my money he said, "Very canny (good) act that!" I was amazed at what he was saying. I replied, "But they never laughed or clapped or anything." He said, "No but they were listening, and that's good enough for me!"
Following this, I then made my way to Scotland to do a week's contract. The day after arriving I received a call from my agent, Jim Allen, explaining that there was an audition for a twenty-six week summer season on the south coast. He told me it was on the Tuesday night (It was now Sunday) in Bognor Regis. It couldn't have been any further away! Jim explained that he could get me the night off in Scotland, and if I could drive down to him in Doncaster, I could have a few hours' sleep, and that he would drive the other 250 miles in the morning.
Tuesday night saw me very bleary eyed doing a show in Bognor Regis. Immediately after the show Jim drove back to Doncaster. I grabbed a few hours sleep and then drove back to Kirkcaldy in Scotland, where I was appearing that night. I was exhausted! But I did get the job in the summer - Thank God!
And what an exhausting summer it was... Doing a show every night of the week at a different holiday camp somewhere on the south coast of England, two shows on Saturday, for twenty-six weeks. All I ended up with was an overdraft at the bank, and a car that was totally knackered.
However, just as the summer season was about to come to an end I received a call from my agent to let me know that a TV producer was coming to see me in Hastings on the Saturday evening. I asked what it was for, but he only knew what he had told me. Saturday arrived; I did my show and met up with a guy named Alisdair Macmillan, a TV producer from LWT. He explained that LWT were looking for fresh talent for a new series called 'Search for a Star', and thought that my act would be ideal for the show. I was ecstatic.
The following month saw me at LWT recording my first major TV show. What made this show unique was that the TV Company took you shopping early in the week to let you select your costume - no expense spared. I chose a light cream silk suit, matching shoes, and a light blue Swiss cotton shirt. At the time I felt like a million dollars, but fashion changes, and looking back, I looked more like a 'million lire'. Horrendous! Also, your performance was recorded on the Friday evening, and then Saturday morning was spent dissecting your act with the scriptwriters and the producer, who would contribute their invaluable expertise. Saturday evening was for real!
As the votes came through I was in the lead right until the final vote, when Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket got top marks and beat me into second place. I felt a little disappointed, but felt like I was beaten by the better act. Anyway people kept telling me that I had years ahead of me, and that I would do really well in show business. All of these comments made me feel really good about myself.
The following Saturday I was performing at a working men's club in Manchester. It was also the night that 'Search for a Star' was being transmitted. So six o'clock saw me in the lounge of the club watching the TV, waiting for my appearance.
I remember the occasion very vividly. As I finished my performance on the TV, an elderly lady sitting at the side of me, sipping her half pint of stout (quite obviously not recognising me as the person she had just watched) said to me: "He's tonight's turn, he's not very good, I don't think I'll bother watching him." I felt really gutted, but I hadn't got the heart to tell her it was me! I watched the programme to the finish, somehow thinking that when the votes were cast, I might win it! Stupid of me really, Jimmy Cricket still won.
I carried on performing in the clubs, and although I was earning a very steady income, I felt that I needed more. I was then offered a gig at the Savoy Hotel in London and the fee was £250, which was the equivalent to a week's wages, all for one night's work. I couldn't wait! Now, I am definitely not a snob, but this was the sort of work that I liked. No Bingo, no meat pies, and an audience that seemed to appreciate me more. I loved it!
The following lunchtime (Sunday) I was booked to appear in Yorkshire at the Rotherham Trades Club. The show consisted of myself plus a couple of strippers. The concert chairman asked me if there was any special announcement that I would like. I proudly told him that I had been working at the Savoy Hotel in London the previous night.
When I was introduced by the chairman, he said: "The act coming on stage tells me that he was at the Savoy Hotel in London last night. I think he's a bloody liar, here he is. Wayne Dobson".
I did my act and the audience (all men) were more interested in the strippers than me. When my monthly pay cheque and statement arrived from my agent I noticed £20 had been deducted from my fee for the show that I had done at Rotherham Trades Club. I immediately called my agent, who said that the reduction was due to the fact that the Concert secretary thought that I wasn't very good. I was furious! My agent told me to calm down as another gig in London was on offer, due to the fact that the client from the Savoy Hotel was very impressed with my work. The show was to be at the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, London, and this time my fee was £300. I made the decision there and then to do no more working men's clubs. In fact, the words to my agent were: "Fuck the clubs!" The clubs gave me a lot of invaluable experience, but I just felt that my style of act was more suited to the gigs I had done in London.
Working in Park Lane led to a meeting with a top London agent, Dave Forrester. He represented various star names, Ken Dodd being his number one artiste.
Dave Forrester was everything that I felt an agent should be. He was about 75 years old, smoked a big fat Cuban cigar and drank lots of scotch whiskey. As I entered his smoke filled office, his whisper type voice offered me a seat. He said that he could get me some high class work, summer seasons and possibly some TV work. In fact, he had already booked me into an exclusive night club in the Crest Hotel, Wembley. The nightclub was called 'The String of Pearls'. It was a great gig. I stayed free of charge in the hotel for the whole week of the gig, and all my food was paid for by the management - plus, the money was good. I performed for 35mins at 11pm. It seemed like luxury. I must have been a hit, because it became a regular gig for me, about four times a year. The String of Pearls nightclub was also a great place for my agent to wine and dine prospective clients. (At the time, the now famous Brian Conley was the DJ).
One night after just finishing my show, I was having a drink at the bar, and I was approached by a gentleman named Hughie Bean. He was an Irish guy who owned a nightclub in Jersey called 'Bean's'. It was Jersey's premier summer season venue. He said he had just seen my show and would like to offer me a twenty-four week season at his club. I explained that I had already made a verbal acceptance to do a summer season in Jersey, touring various hotels. He asked me how much I was being paid. I was getting £200 a week, which was for two shows a night, seven nights a week, for twenty six weeks... Hard work!!!!! I lied, and told him I was getting £250 a week. He immediately offered me £275 a week, and it was only six nights a week, one show a night, and a far more prestigious gig. I shook his hand and accepted the offer.
Of course, I then had the problem of telling the other agent that I wouldn't be doing his gig. I called him, and made some feeble excuse that I didn't want to do such a long contract. I don't think he was very convinced by my reason, but nevertheless, there was nothing he could do to entice me into doing his gig. So the summer of 1981 saw me at 'Bean's' night club in Jersey.
I had a really good time in Jersey, and I even collected the award for the best 'Speciality Act'. A couple of months before the season was due to finish, the top of the bill performer, Ronnie Dukes, a brilliant entertainer, tragically died of a heart attack whilst performing on the stage. It was a very sad time for all of us involved with the show. He was a really nice man.
This was my first experience of the saying: 'The show must go on.' Because the following day the 'Star' act was replaced by 'The Dallas Boys', an extremely polished and very slick, 5 piece musical act. I was elected to introduce the Dallas Boys as the top of the bill. Leon Fisk, who was the spokesman for the Dallas Boys, introduced himself to me. He came across as a very scary person. I think it was his unsmiling face that put me on edge. He also spoke in a very monotone voice, and every sentence he spoke had the word 'fuck' in it. Don't ask me why, but you couldn't help warming to his very arrogant style. He also had an ability to make you really laugh out loud.
Anyway on my first encounter with Leon, he said to me: "Now when you intro-fucking-duce the fucking Dallas fucking Boys, make sure you say, fucking Nick, fucking Bob, fucking Brian, fucking Joe, and fucking Leon, together they are the fucking Dallas Boys." I said: "Shall I leave the fucks out?" He just laughed, and for the two weeks that he was in Jersey, we became really good friends.
The season finished, and I was back in the working men's clubs! Yes, the ones that I said I would never do again.
This time I ventured to the clubs in South Wales. I was staying in 'pro digs' somewhere in the valleys, and the guy that I was sharing the house with, (whose name escapes me), asked me whether or not the agent had offered me a late show for the forthcoming Saturday. I told him that nothing had been offered to me yet. He explained that the agent would turn up at one of my gigs, and if he offered me an extra show, not to agree to a fee until he reached his 'little finger!' Obviously extremely puzzled by his cryptic advice, he smiled and said that I would find out exactly what he meant, providing I waited for him to reach his 'little finger.'
On the Wednesday of that week I was appearing at some social club in Neath, and just before I was due to go on stage, a Welsh gentleman appeared in my dressing room and introduced himself as the agent and asked if I would like to perform an extra show on the forthcoming Saturday? I said "Yes.what's the money?" He removed his pen and wrote down £25 on his forefinger'. It was at that point that I realised what was meant by, 'Wait until he reaches the little finger.' I said: "Not enough". He immediately took his pen and wrote £30 upon his middle finger. Again I refused, and finally after he wrote down £40 upon his little finger - I agreed! So, whoever the guy was who gave me that advice...thanks!
Many great stories have come from the working men's clubs, but one of the funniest was in Newcastle where I was standing at the bar before the show, and two old ladies were asking the barman what the entertainment was for that evening. The barman replied: "A magician and some Country and Western." One of the 'old ladies', being hard of hearing, was asked by her friend, what the barman had said. She replied: "A mathematician and some cunt from Preston!"
The rest of the winter months were spent performing in the clubs; however at Christmas time that year I landed a nice contract at a casino in Malta. Also in the spring of 1982 I performed in South Africa for six weeks. I was at an exclusive supper club in Johannesburg for three weeks, followed by another three weeks at a very plush hotel in Durban. It was a fantastic gig! Upon returning from South Africa, I recorded an episode of 'The Good Old Days' TV show for the BBC. Things were going really well.
My summer season contract for that year was at the Spa Theatre, Bridlington. It was a variety show featuring different acts and a dance troupe called 'Sweet Spice'. I got chatting to one of the dancers, whose name was Karen. We started seeing each other and carried on dating after the eight week season had finished. I would travel to her home town of Norwich on a regular basis, and she would come to visit me in Leicester whenever she could.
I worked on a cruise ship in Australia for eight weeks and sailed to L.A. to disembark. Karen flew to L.A. to meet me, and we stayed in California for about a week before flying home to England. Whilst in L.A. I visited the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, and it was there I learnt the news that my really good friend, Ken Brooke, had passed away. I was devastated! One of magic's legends had departed from this world.
After returning home from the U.S.A. I decided to buy a small house in Leicester. Karen moved in, and the relationship grew strong. I had no thoughts of marriage, and divorce was not a word that even entered my vocabulary; however both of these procedures were to happen in later years!
I then got what I thought was a nice gig at a club called the 'Golden Garter,' which was on the outskirts of Manchester. It was a week's contract and I was the support artiste for an American act called 'Boney M'. I went on stage at about 9.30pm while the audience were still eating their meal, and I performed in the middle of the dance floor with a gap of about twenty feet between me and the audience. These working conditions were my worst nightmare. There was a professional term for what I did that night.it was called 'Struggling!' Yes, it was really hard work, but I got by. And after my performance, I learned that the Top of the Bill, Boney M, were complaining about their lack of dressing room space. The next day I went to the club at around 6pm and got a message to go to the manager's office. Little did I know he was going to sack me!
The manager, who shall remain nameless, was a right vicious old queen. I knocked on his door and I was told very abruptly to enter. It was at that point, I somehow knew that the next few minutes were not going to be in my favour. He had a face like a bear with a sore arse! He said that my services were no longer required. "Are you sacking me?" I asked. "Yes!" he replied in a very camp voice. "Why?" I asked. "You are not good enough." Bollocks, I thought. I knew that my performance wasn't outstanding, but it wasn't that bad, either. I knew the real reason for sacking me was because Boney M required my dressing room. The manager also knew that I knew, but was having none of it! So I left Manchester rather prematurely, feeling very deflated and made my way back to Leicester, where I prepared for my next gig. I was appearing for seven nights at the UK's premier night club, Blazers in Windsor. I was the support act for the comedy show group The Baron Knights.
I was greeted at reception by the club manager, George Savva. Everybody knew George; he was a brilliant night club manager who always made a success of every venue he fronted. He had obviously heard of my sacking from the Golden Garter. (news travels very fast in show business). He was acting very evasively and said that I only need do ten minutes if I felt that it was hard work.
The show went exceptionally well and I performed for thirty-five minutes. After I finished on stage, George Savva came to my dressing room and congratulated me on a superb performance and apologised to me for doubting my ability. In fact, he offered me a three week engagement at the club for the forthcoming Christmas period. I was delighted! I was set to appear with Peter Gordeno and his dancers and one of my comedy heroes, Jimmy Tarbuck, who also had Kenny Lynch appearing alongside him.
The opening night was a great show; I did thirty-five minutes before the interval which was followed by Jimmy Tarbuck and Kenny Lynch. The following night I arrived at the reception of Blazers and George Savva asked that I cut my act down by five minutes to thirty minutes. I did. The next night I was again asked by George Savva to trim my act by another five minutes. Apparently Jimmy Tarbuck was complaining that my act was too long. However, George told me he suspected the real reason was that I was doing such a good show. "Oh dear."
I couldn't believe it! The following two nights George requested that I cut my act by another five minutes each time. I was now down to fifteen minutes. It was now getting like a running gag. George and I were laughing about the whole situation. It can't get any worse, I thought. But it did!
The next night George met me with the words, "You are not going to believe it, but you have now got to open the show. If this gets any worse, you will be appearing in the car park."
My act was now suffering slightly, due to the fact that I was on stage so early, and I was competing against the continuous clatter of knives and forks. On the last night of the gig I plucked up the courage and knocked on Jimmy Tarbuck's dressing room door and asked if I could have a photograph taken with him. His very condescending reply of "Not now son, can't you see I am busy." made me feel small. I didn't believe he was busy, and it certainly put me off him.
I don't know why he took a dislike to me because I never did anything intentionally to upset him, apart from perform my act. Kenny Lynch was a really nice guy, and in fact we became very good friends. I used to have so much respect for Jimmy Tarbuck. Not now! From that moment on I decided that I didn't like him! I thought that I wouldn't see him again, but there were numerous occasions in the future that our paths would cross.
One of those occasions happened to be at my first major TV break, where I was performing on a show called 'Live from her Majesty's.' It was exactly what the title said, it was live, and filmed at Her Majesty's theatre in the West End of London, and guess who was the MC? Jimmy Tarbuck!
It was rehearsed that at the end of my act I would exit to the left and Jimmy Tarbuck would bring me back for a bow. My show was a real hit, so I really didn't take a lot of notice of Jimmy Tarbuck holding his arm outstretched to welcome me back on stage, and as I entered he seemed to drop his arm and cut me dead. I felt a real lemon, and I know he would say that I imagined it, but I don't think I did!
Another encounter with Jimmy Tarbuck was at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London. I was booked by Rover Cars to do a ten night gig with Jimmy Tarbuck! I was down to perform for twelve minutes before Jimmy Tarbuck did his act. I must have run over, because the next day the producer explained to me that certain people weren't happy because I did thirteen minutes instead of twelve! "Do fifteen next time, I'm the producer!" he said. So that's what I did. He called the shots after all, and I just wanted to get on with my career.
I believe that everybody in life has lucky breaks. Taking advantage of them at the time you get them is what counts. They say (who are they?) that you also have to be in the right place at the right time. Well, I also believe that you have to put yourself in that 'right place at the right time'. Whether it is consciously or subconsciously, I'm not sure. That's what I think anyway!
My first lucky break came in the summer of 1982, Paignton, Devon. I was appearing with the Black and White Minstrel show. My agent called to say that he had a show for me in Eastbourne in a week's time. It sounded good to me - until he mentioned that I would be supporting Freddie Starr.
I'd heard so many stories about Freddie Starr. How he would try to mess up your act and be a general nuisance whilst you were performing. These rumours made me very nervous about doing the gig. However, my agent persuaded me otherwise.
Before I knew it, I was on the stage performing my act and I was about half way through my show when I heard someone laughing at the side of the stage. I looked into the wings and realised that it was Freddie Starr, and he gave me the thumbs up sign. My confidence soared, in fact, my performance seemed to step up a gear. I came off the stage and was greeted by Leon Fisk, who I'd last seen in Jersey. He explained to me that he was now Freddie's personal manager. I asked him what was happening with the Dallas Boys. He said he had retired from the group so that he could devote all of his time to Freddie. He then said that Freddie would like to see me in his dressing room.
Actually, his words were: (remember the swearing?) "Give it five fucking minutes while Freddie gets his fucking Hitler costume off and changes into his Teddy Boy clobber, and I'll fucking take you in." I laughed, and said that I would get changed and be straight back.
As I entered Freddie's dressing room I felt extremely nervous - he was a big star. Freddie congratulated me on my performance, and immediately offered me his forthcoming tour. I could not believe what I was hearing. One minute I was worried about him interrupting my act (which he didn't do; however he made up for it over the next few years), the next minute I was being offered a 50 date tour. Not only did I tour with him, but I did all his future summer seasons and any TV work where he required a guest. This was a dream come true!
I ventured out to the front of the theatre to see Freddie's act. It was an hour of pure genius. I laughed so hard it hurt my insides. The drive back to Paignton was spent pinching myself to make sure that I wasn't dreaming what had just happened!
The next three years were spent touring and doing summer seasons, and the occasional TV spot with Freddie. I even used to travel with him in his own private helicopter. Yes, he did interrupt my act, and yes there are many funny stories to tell you (some of which I will try to explain), but working with him was a fantastic experience where I learnt so much about comedy and performing. In fact my 'act', my strength of character and my timing, improved a million per cent thanks to Freddie.
My first experience of Freddie's sense of humour was in Scotland. We were all staying at a hotel in Aberdeen. The plan was to meet at breakfast, myself, Leon (who was now also my manager), and Freddie, and then after breakfast we would fly by helicopter from the hotel, straight to Glasgow. However whilst eating breakfast Freddie said that he needed the toilet, but would be back shortly. I got to know that when Freddie was up to no good, he developed a stammer in his speech, and on this occasion he was stammering. My suspicions were confirmed, because as we were eating our breakfast, we heard what sounded like an engine... We both looked out of the large plate glass window of the restaurant, and there was the helicopter hovering in front of the window with Freddie waving at us both. The helicopter flew off into the distance, leaving myself and Leon looking at each other in utter disbelief. I won't say what we both called him, but I am sure you can imagine!
Leon decided that we should get the train to Glasgow, but said that we should not mention anything to Freddie, as it would only make him feel better, and by not saying anything to him, Freddie was bound to bring it up! We made the 150 mile train journey to Glasgow, and as planned, never mentioned anything to Freddie. The only trouble was, he never mentioned it either! To this day it has never been discussed. In fact Freddie has probably forgotten all about it!
There were many occasions when Freddie would successfully wind me up, but there was once when he got me hook, line and sinker.
I was sitting at my house in Leicester watching the TV, and the telephone rang. It was Freddie. He asked me to join him at the Savoy Hotel in London, where he could see the act that I was proposing to perform on his forthcoming TV Special. He also explained that he was staying in a really plush suite and there would be a spare bed for me. I wasn't due for rehearsal for a couple of days, but I agreed that it would be beneficial for him to see what I was going to do. I was also well aware that Freddie was the paymaster, and I wasn't prepared to jeopardise my job by not agreeing to his request. I was also very much in awe of Freddie's incredible success, and I felt that anything he said, was gospel. So, I got my overnight bag and made my way to London. I arrived at about 10.30pm. I went straight to Freddie's suite, sat and had some coffee and sandwiches, chatted for a couple of hours...and then.
He suggested that I perform the act that I proposed to do on his TV Special. I explained that it would feel very strange doing my act without an audience, but Freddie said that he understood how difficult it would be, and insisted that I went through my proposed act. So there I stood in a suite at the Savoy Hotel performing my act for Freddie Starr How bizarre!
It was very difficult, because Freddie just sat there with no expression, and as I finished, he looked at me with his very piercing blue eyes, and said, "I don't think it's going to work." I was speechless and he knew it. This was to be my first major TV show, and I was being told by the governor it was not going to work. What should I do?
Freddie, not being content with me panicking like a pathetic child, suggested that I perform my act in the hotel lobby for the night porter. It was now 2am, but I was in such a state that I agreed. So, off we went down to the lobby. It was pretty desolate in the hotel at that time of the night. He spoke to the night porter and the guy on reception and asked them to witness my performance. What I didn't know was that he had primed these guys to pretend to be unimpressed by my performance.
Again I went through the act, and as I finished, Freddie looked at these two guys and asked for their opinion. They looked at each other and both of them shook their heads. Freddie turned to me and said, in his 'stammering' scouse accent: "You see, I told you it was crap!" By now I had lost all confidence in myself. Freddie then offered me his sympathy and said: "I can't understand it, 'cos your act never fails in live theatre shows. Maybe it's just not right for TV. Let's do it for somebody else." By now I was a shivering wreck - and I agreed with whatever he said...He immediately rushed outside the hotel and grabbed a cab driver (unbeknown to me he had also told the cab driver to say that my act was no good). I did my act once again, and the cab driver gave his verdict: "Crap!" he said, and then just walked off. I was almost in tears.
Freddie then suggested that we go for a walk along the Strand and talk about how we could improve my performance. It was now 3.15am and I wasn't feeling the least bit tired, so I felt like the walk would do me good.
On the corner of the Savoy Hotel entrance and the Strand, there is a shop called the Savoy Tailors Guild. As we walked passed the window, I couldn't help noticing about ten undressed, tailors' dummies. Freddie suggested that I perform my opening patter in front of these dummies, and to pretend that they were my audience. I really did not feel in the mood to do my act, especially in front of nude dummies. But Freddie, being Freddie, persuaded me to do it!
As I started to recite my opening 'spiel', I felt Freddie's presence behind me. It almost felt like his eyes were piercing the back of my neck. I turned around, and there was Freddie Starr sitting on the pavement of the Strand, crying with laughter. At this point I was so vulnerable that I spoke to him like never before. "What are you fucking laughing at?" I said in a slightly aggressive manner. He just carried on laughing, which made me even angrier. He said: "It's just a wind up - You're brilliant!" He then put his arms around me and pulled me onto the pavement, so that I was sitting next to him.
Eventually I saw the funny side of things, but for a few minutes I really disliked him. "Twat!"
The TV show went extremely well and I got some very prestigious work from that one appearance; tours with Shirley Bassey, The Shadows and more TV shows. My career was progressing extremely well, but I wasn't prepared for what happened next.
Leon Fisk called me to say that he had received a call from the press, saying that Paul Daniels was complaining about me. He was saying that I had stolen his act. I was furious! Admittedly, I was influenced by his work, but I swear I did not steal his routines. Leon advised me to stay calm and concentrate on my own career. He said I should speak to the press and say nice things about Paul Daniels. I did exactly as Leon advised me to do. The next day the story was splashed all over the tabloid newspapers. I was extremely hurt by what was said. However, Leon said to me: "At least your name is spelt right, don't worry about Paul Daniels, it's all good stuff."
This was my first taste of how the press could be, and later in life I realised 'That all publicity is good publicity.' A very old saying, but a true one.
The newspapers always seemed quick to compare me with Paul Daniels. Almost every time I spoke to them, Paul Daniels' name was mentioned. They said things like, 'I was the next Paul Daniels.' Or: 'I was the second Paul Daniels.' Actually, I just wanted to be the first Wayne Dobson! I wasn't aware at the time, but it got people talking about Wayne Dobson, which was good for me.
I was then booked by Joe Stevens to appear at the Desert Magic Seminar at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, a very prestigious magic convention that is hosted by Siegfried & Roy. I did very well on the show (I've still got the souvenir key ring). I will always have very fond and vivid memories of Joe Stevens. I was very nervous about doing the show, but Joe made me feel extremely welcome and I remember after my show, he very kindly gave me an extra $100 cash just because he wanted to. Also, I remember going through the coffee shop and Dai Vernon called me over to congratulate me on my performance and asked me to join his table for coffee. Sitting at the table was Slydini, Charlie Miller, Johnny Paul, Jimmy Grippo and Jay Marshall; these magicians were legends of magic that I had only read about. I will never forget it!
After many tours with Freddie Starr, I was booked to appear with him for the summer season at the Opera House in Blackpool. The show was packed every night for twelve consecutive weeks. The one thing I remember most from that summer season was that Freddie had a bet with Leon that he couldn't go 24 hours without swearing. Leon accepted the bet for £100, and the band, Freddie and I were all witnesses. Everybody was now listening for Leon to forget his bet and to use a swear word. I thought there was no way that Leon would allow himself to lose the wager. However, that night Leon and I were at Castles casino playing Blackjack. At one point in the game, Leon drew a card on thirteen. It was a ten, which caused him to bust, and the immortal words of 'Fuck It' came from Leon's mouth! He looked at me and said: "Please don't say anything and there will be £50 in it for you". I agreed, as £50 would come in handy!
The following morning, Freddie, Leon, the band and I were all sitting in the hotel waiting for our breakfast. There was only thirty minutes left before Leon's 24 hours had elapsed - and everybody was waiting for the inevitable.
The waiter came to the table to take our breakfast order and for some reason Leon was the last person that ordered. "Morning Mr. Fisk", said the waiter, "And what would you like for breakfast today?" Leon responded: "Sausages, tomatoes, bacon and toast."
"Would you like eggs?" asked the waiter. Leon replied: "Yes, Two Fuckers". Everybody around the table burst into laughter including Leon!
As the season came to an end, I felt it was time to move forward. A good friend of mine, comedian Jeff Stevenson, was working at the North Pier in the Russ Abbott Show, and whilst chatting with him, he mentioned about getting into contact with his manager, a guy named Tony Cartwright. Tony used to be Freddie Starr's manager and because Freddie was always doing impressions of him and saying what a funny character he was, I felt that I already knew him.
One morning whilst lying in bed at the hotel, the telephone rang and a voice on the other end said: "Hi it's Tony Cartwright". I immediately said: "Freddie, I know it's you." The voice said: "It's not Freddie, it's me!" I apologised for being presumptuous. He laughed, and carried on talking. To cut a long story short, we arranged to meet at a pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. The summer season came to an end and I made my way over to Marlow to meet Tony Cartwright. We met and struck up an instant rapport. He told me that he would get me my own television show, and said I would be appearing in Las Vegas within two years...How could he make such promises? I immediately thought: 'He's full of bullshit!' But then I started thinking about Tony Cartwright's track record and his excellent stable of very successful clients. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I signed a five year contract with him there and then.
The next eighteen months were spent almost constantly in the TV studios recording various guest appearances. My nightly fee tripled. And, would you believe it, Tony Cartwright secured me a two year contract in Las Vegas! He only needed to get me my own TV show and he would have fulfilled his promise. Two years on his promise was to become a reality.
Just as I was about to start enjoying all of my success I was soon going to receive a devastating piece of news that would turn my world upside down.
" The bad news was I had to take a tablet everyday for the rest of my life. The really bad news was that the doctor only gave me four. "
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Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.