Cliff Richard, Bruce Forsyth, Michael Crawford and Andrew Lloyd Webber celebrate the 100th birthday of the world's most famous theatre.
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The Palladium is the temple of showbusiness.
It's every entertainer's dream to be on the stage at the Palladium.
It is every performer's dream to one day perhaps be
at the top of the bill.
It's a great honour, a great privilege, very exciting,
I think the Palladium gives the audience a buzz before they go there.
The atmosphere gives them the feeling of loving the show they're going to see.
It's the very fabulous Dior dancers!
It's kind of the mothership, isn't it, of all theatres.
It's a legend, this place.
You stand on the stage and think,
"Well, just about everyone has been on this. Don't cock it up!"
Oh, it's the one place everyone wanted to perform at,
and considered all over the world, "The London Palladium, ooh!"
The great Palladium, theatre where showbusiness was born,
and typical of showbusiness, nobody knows who the father was.
You always set yourself goals and ambitions and have dreams,
and one of them is to play the Palladium.
In your own heart, you know, I have achieved something,
I'm doing something I've always wanted to do.
Truly one of the greatest experiences of my life was playing on this stage.
If you stand on that stage and you're any sort of performer,
you get the message that it wants to love you.
It's like playing at Wembley or Lord's, riding in the Derby -
you come here, you're at the top of the First Division.
You think, "This will do."
I got a new television set specially for watching BBC Three.
It has a chain on the side for flushing after the programme is over.
There's a wonderful saying, that it's always half full.
There's a saying about several theatres that
they're always half empty,
but I love it that the Palladium is always half full.
It's the people's theatre, somewhere where everybody can feel at home.
It's not stuck-up, grand, it's not the Royal Opera House.
It's a wonderful, wonderful theatre.
You couldn't study the history of variety
without having the Palladium on every page, really.
It's right there in the forefront.
It would be like trying to do the history of pop music without the Beatles.
It's there at the centre, the core of everything.
Marie Lloyd, Dan Leno,
George Robey, Little Tich,
they would have all appeared at the Palladium
in that very early period.
All the great stars played here,
so it was a true variety theatre.
Variety mattered enormously
to British culture in those days, and I think still does, really.
Everybody from opera singers to comedians, you know, bands,
dancing groups, there were no holds barred, there were no boundaries.
A special something that appeals to me about the Palladium,
it's got a variety element to it,
and my background is in a lot of variety
and comedy and stuff like that.
LIGHT JAZZ MUSIC PLAYS
'I do love that side of the business
'and I do venerate those sort of stars, I really do.
'Those people that stand up on the stage on their own
'and do a show, I find breathtaking.'
There aren't many theatres in London
that are really so associated with that kind of ability.
I remember booking Jimi Hendrix on a variety bill when he was up-and-coming.
He was top of the bill, and we had a variety bill of jugglers,
and a bicycle act. We had no idea what we were booking.
# 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky... #
People always thought that speciality acts were rather dull,
but the ones they had on the Palladium,
variety bills, and indeed on the Royal Variety performances,
were things that did make you gasp and think how wonderful, how brilliant they were.
I got my nose knocked sideways,
and probably is still slightly crooked, actually.
It's an occupational hazard, I was told, so...!
They absolutely knew that they were going to catch her.
It was remarkable.
Used as a football throughout the act
and a skipping rope towards the end.
-I bet you couldn't do it with a man.
-How about it, chaps? Come on.
Artists could go around doing variety theatres all around
the provinces and the suburbs for years and years,
and never get the chance to appear at the London Palladium.
So when you do get that opportunity, it's "Oh, I've reached it!"
You can't go any higher.
There was one fella, had some dancing ducks.
I was fascinated how they did the can-can.
HE QUACKS THE CAN-CAN
And he had little frocks on them, you know.
HE CONTINUES QUACKING THE CAN-CAN
I thought, how does he do that?
He had a hot plate, the hot plate was under a thing,
and the ducks were going "Phew!"
Wouldn't be allowed today.
Oh dear God Almighty, yes.
The Palladium is a star in its own right, no matter who's on the bill.
No matter who's top, the Palladium is the star.
I did go and stand in the middle of the stage
and look at the auditorium, and I thought, my goodness.
I'm standing where some of the greatest names in the history of entertainment have stood,
and I had this building, and I must say I did have a bit of a tear.
I thought, well, this is the building of all buildings that has got to be loved.
I adore the place.
It's not like a Royal Opera House, which is a little bit intimidating.
There's a great feeling that it's giving you a cuddle,
do you know what I mean? It's nice.
It's spiritually uplifting, it's really good for your head and soul.
To perform on the stage, I mean, even if you were feeling dead,
you got on and this house just went "Come on, girl."
Do know what I like to do?
Go and stand on the stage when it's empty and look around.
You can actually hear the laughter in your ears.
You can hear the applause.
It sends a shudder through you.
You walk on that stage when you're working, and all the ghosts are with you.
You name them, they've been on here.
# Today the ship is sailing
# And every jolly heart
# Is wishing he could chuck the sea
# And stay just where we are... #
'Every performer worth anything stood on the stage at the Palladium,'
from Tommy Trinder, the Crazy Gang, to all of those great, great stars.
# The ta's are going t'eather
# So kiss him for his heart
# Byesie byesie, toodle-oo
# Ta-ta, ta-ta, ta-ta. #
The Crazy Gang were the biggest thing, comedy-wise,
especially at the Palladium.
THEY SING OPERATICALLY
'They were so successful,'
really, they spent eight years
at the Palladium, more or less one revue following another.
'They were hugely popular, and quite rightly so
'because they were anarchists.'
They got in there and caused chaos at the theatre.
The stories of things that they did to other performers.
Monsewer Eddie Grey would go out to do his juggling and find the clubs covered with Vaseline
so he couldn't even pick them up, never mind juggle.
I think they broke up, it was mostly because of the war.
AIR-RAID SIREN WAILS
# We'll meet again
# Don't know where
# Don't know when
# But I know we'll meet again some sunny day... #
The manager used to come on the stage during the performance and say
"The air raid warning has just gone,
"so if anybody wishes to leave the theatre and go into the underground,
"would they please do so now."
And some people used to get up and go out and leave, but the show just carried on.
# Will you please say hello to the folks that I know
# Tell them I won't be long... #
'Lots of people would actually stay over
'and rough it within the buildings,'
doing things, whether they were chorus boys and girls,
right up to the biggest stars.
# We'll meet again
# Don't know where, don't know when
# But I know we'll meet again some sunny day. #
I used to stay in there at night with the firemen
until the all clear, then I would drive home in my little Austin 10!
We kept each other company at the stage door,
because through the stage door, it led on straight on to the stage
and then in between there was this very thick wall,
you know, to obscure the noise.
I used to sit on the floor and lean against this wall,
kidding myself I was safe.
# My British buddy We're as different as can be... #
'There were patriotic shows as well, and Irving Berlin came over'
and did his show, This Is The Army.
# When the job is done
# And the war is won... #
It was all about making people feel good and better about what was going on,
and that there were going to be better times around the corner.
-Straight from Cuckoo Land came Stan Laurel
and tagging along behind, 21 stones' worth of Oliver Hardy.
First time I ever came to the Palladium, must have been 1947,
I'd got a job in the theatrical agency as the office boy
and the boss gave me two tickets to come here and see, erm...
I think it was Laurel and Hardy.
-Anything you especially want to do over here, Oliver?
but try and make the people happy... Will you keep quiet a minute?
I couldn't believe they had walked on the stage.
There they were, and I just started laughing.
After a couple of weeks we might...
-What is it?
-You're standing on my foot.
Oh, I'm sorry!
The so-called big variety season started the year after in 1948
when Val Parnell had taken over control
of booking the Palladium.
Val Parnell was in the business of filling the Palladium
with a different bill every week, 52 weeks a year.
Val had come up with this idea of bringing a whole season,
virtually, of American artists.
Lights up in London too, behind the scenes at the Palladium,
where the stage is all set for a visit from a famous star.
Even the chorus crowds to the wings to see the show.
The opening act was Mickey Rooney.
He left early because the British audiences
just weren't actually getting his humour.
So, you know, people started to say, "It's not going to work."
Val Parnell had already booked Danny Kaye,
and Danny Kaye wasn't that well known over here
so he didn't know how his act was going to go down,
and when he saw a consummate professional like Mickey Rooney
going down the drain, he was so scared.
But he opened, and within 24 hours, he was the toast of the town.
MUSIC: "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" by Dean Martin
Swaying backwards and forwards, the crowd bulges ominously
as a sleek black car brings along the star of the night,
the man thousands have waited six hours to see, Danny Kaye.
His overgrown curls hidden below a large sun hat,
Danny hurries away and the crowd surges forward
to acclaim the King and Queen, arriving with Princess Margaret and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Danny Kaye came and just ripped this place apart,
and you just couldn't get in. You couldn't buy a ticket.
It wasn't a royal command, the King and Queen and the young princesses,
as they were then, came to see him.
Acknowledged as the star of the evening is the carroty-headed comedian from Brooklyn.
Even the King and Queen couldn't get tickets, so they just turned up on spec
one night, and the managers had to ask a family in the front row
if they'd mind giving up their seats,
because the King and Queen had come with Elizabeth and Margaret.
Now Danny's got a visitor, a little man who's always busy as a bee
and just as helpful, Arthur Askey.
Backstage was full of everybody you could think of.
Attlee, who was the prime minister at the time, and Churchill.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the casino.
-We do hope... What?
I was madly in love with Danny Kaye,
and I queued up overnight to see him.
When I was a child, I came here to see Danny Kaye.
And it was quite, quite the most wonderful experience.
It's never left me. It's one of the things that's been
a lasting memory my life, when Danny Kaye became a great. He was my hero.
# I shake with fright
# Because my Dinah might
# Change her mind about me
# Hey, hey, you didn't make me love Dinah... #
'Many times, he'd look round and say, "Peter, what are you doing?"'
And I'd say, "I'm going to go home, sir."
"No, you're not, you're coming out with me." And remember, I was only just over 16.
# Ba hey-oh-eh
# Hey-oh-eh, hey-oh-eh
# Baaaaa! #
It helped my education.
Hello, how nice to see you again.
Well, it's been a big week of close-ups on the stars.
Here's your first view of Britain from Plymouth Sound. What do you think?
It's a beautiful thing. Just think, this whole thing is surrounded by tea,
I think it's a beautiful thing.
And I can't wait to have my first cup of tea,
because from now on I'm on a solid tea diet, I will be sloshing around.
In a week or so, I'll be half-man, half-teabag, and I'm thrilled about it.
# When I fall in love
# It will be forever... #
What meant more to the American performers was playing the Palladium.
If you came over here, then the next day in Variety, their magazine,
"Appeared at the London Palladium", it was a big thing to all Americans.
First of all, Miss Garland, welcome back to London.
Thank you very much. It's nice to be here.
Everybody around the world wanted to play at the Palladium.
It was an international theatre,
and probably still is the only truly international theatre that we have.
It's always nice to come back to the Palladium.
They were glamorous, and they had their craft, you know,
absolutely down to a tee,
and they were quite wonderful moments to see them performing.
# As I walked out
# In the streets of Loredo
# As I walked out
# In Loredo
# One day
# I spied a young cowboy
# Wrapped up in white linen... #
Shucks, I wouldn't put it on unless I was good at it.
I wouldn't like anyone to think
that the American recording stars had it all their own way.
We produced a whole string of...
hit recording artists in this country
who would pack the Palladium as much as any of the Americans.
# I'm putting on my top hat
# Tying up my white tie
# Brushing off my tails
# Doing up my shirt front
# Putting in my shirt studs
# Polishing my nails... #
'The biggest of them all was Dickie Valentine,
'who became absolutely a heart-throb,
'a huge record seller,'
and a major, major recording star,
to rival Nat King Cole, Johnnie Ray, Frankie Laine -
all those big American stars.
'Dickie Valentine was up there.'
# Typing up my white tie
# Dancing in my tails. #
'I think it was around 1945, 1946, he was a page boy in the Palladium,
'and they used to just do the odd jobs, they were like the runners of today.'
And he was off having a cup of tea somewhere at a cafe, I think,
and one of his colleagues came and said,
"The head guy wants to see you," and my dad cheekily turned round and told him, "Tell him to wait."
Jokingly, of course. But this guy went back
and told the head guy and when my dad got back, he got the sack.
# Look at those stars above you... #
And then in 1955 he topped the bill at the Palladium for two weeks,
amongst the Americans and everybody else that was being booked.
# You too can be a dreamer... #
What a fairy tale to go from the Palladium, sacked,
ten years later, topping the bill.
# Mr Sandman
# Bring me a dream... #
I want to introduce to you a star of many opera stages
and a great star of Hollywood - Mario Lanza.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Well, I had some very difficult clients, especially Mario Lanza.
# When you are in love
# It's the loveliest night
# Of the year... #
'We were at the Dorchester Hotel, I was living in the same suite as Mario.'
We had very big problems with him.
It was touch-and-go whether he was going to perform.
# Touch them from here... #
'He had been horrific to me personally, and to everybody around.
'And the door opened,
'and a photographer came in with his camera and said, "Now?"'
Mario said, "I told you, no photographers!" And he struck me.
He hit me right in the face and actually knocked me out.
I'm not talking to the press now
or to Leslie Grade who represents me in Europe,
or Mr Val Parnell or just anyone at all. HE SIGHS
It took a long time, but I just want to talk to you, the English people.
It took so much time, and may I say, hello. That's all.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
'I came to, he was reviving me.
'He was all,'
"Peter, I'm so sorry.
"You know I'm nervous, I'm so tense."
I said, "That's it. I've had enough."
'So I walked out, slammed the door and I said to Leslie Grade,
'who was actually my boss,'
and he said, "What's that? You're bleeding!"
And I said, "Yes, my nose and my mouth are bleeding.
"That bloody man's knocked me out again."
And Leslie came back to me and said, "Peter, now what we're going to do is this.
"You let Mario go on and do a good performance tonight.
"When he walks off the stage, you hit him."
Well, of course, everybody laughed.
# It's the loveliest night
# Of the year. #
That is what makes this place so special,
the people behind the scenes
and the amount of work that goes on there,
because it really is a family.
I don't think I've ever felt so much part of a family.
# Hello, Liza... #
-# Well, hello, Liza
# It's so nice to have you here
# Where you belong
# You're looking swell, Mother
# I can tell, Mother
# You're still glowing You're still crowing
# You're still going... #
SINGING FADES OUT
Aside from the performers on the stage, the people behind the scenes,
if you like, were the best in class.
The London Palladium...
is my second home, and I love this place so much.
My lamp becomes a part of me.
It's part of me.
And all the worries I have is gone.
The show come first.
Oh, I mean, Linford has been there since the Palladium was built.
He's incredible. I think he's just part of the works there.
Whoever has come and gone, Linford has been there through them all.
Linford, doing his follow spot, honing right down on to her face.
Linford's proudest moment.
I've worked at the Palladium for 47 years,
and I don't have one day of regret of being here.
# Over the rainbow... #
Sing it with me.
# Way up high... #
You can sing it better than I can, come on, sing along.
'Like everybody else, she was incredibly nervous.'
You know, the Palladium, big British audience,
and she had had a few bad experiences already.
# Over the rainbow... #
'A guy called Bill Ward'
went up to the dressing room and he came in that side there and said, "The bitch won't go on."
I said, "Well, neither would I if you spoke to me like that," and I was a kid.
And I got all the guys, Little Roy and Big Roy, stagehands,
Jack, and I said, "Line up when I bring her out."
I went up and said, "Hi, how are you?"
She said, "Hi, how are you?" I said, "I'm fine.
"You fancy going down to have a look? They are dying to see you out there.
"If you don't want to go on, don't worry, I can go on.
"But I think you'll love it if you do."
And she said to me, which I'm very proud of, "You've got a lot of class, little man."
And I took her by the arm and all the stagehands were waiting, and they went,
"Welcome back, Miss Garland. Welcome back, Miss Garland."
Well, I got the choke there. And on she walked and killed them.
# If happy little bluebirds fly
# Beyond the rainbow
# Why... #
# Oh, why can't I? #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
'Those performers that have got it
'and can play an audience and work an audience, this is the place for them.'
And standing down there and watching it,
I can remember all the time watching
and just admiring... watching the stagecraft
and learning how some of these performers, the tricks of the trade...
I'd come in night after night, and watch them.
I hope you're having a nice time. I had my Easter holiday just over a week ago.
A lot of people noticed how brown I looked. I looked very dark on the screen, you know. That was all tan.
I've got to tell you, I just...
It wasn't boot polish, it was tan, madam.
And you'd be waiting for it.
"I know the gag that's coming up." And you'd look at the audience,
and they don't know how funny this is going to be, and you'd watch the place rock with laughter,
whoever the great comedian was.
Oh, there's nowhere like it. Nowhere like it.
Before Sunday Night At The London Palladium,
everything was black and white -
even though there was no colour television at that time, but it was like that.
That moment, variety, or entertainment, changed direction.
To see the best that there was
on the Palladium stage, it was almost the perfect storm.
You had the best entertainers on the best stage
and the best spot on television, Sunday night at that time.
Every Sunday night at 8 o'clock, the house lights dim,
the conductor raises his baton
and Val Parnell's Sunday Night At The London Palladium is on the screen.
This is what millions of people all over the country settle down to watch.
'The country, as I remember, revolved around it.
We'd never seen, on our TV screens,'
a show that was as big.
'Sunday Night At The London Palladium closed pubs and things.'
I used to go into my local pub and they'd say, "Who's on on Sunday?"
And I'd tell them and they'd go, "Oh, my God!"
# I got myself a crying, talking... # CHEERING
# Sleeping, walking, living doll
# Got to do my best to please her
# Just cos she's a living doll... #
For us, it was a matter of how to get the biggest,
widest audience possible. And has it paid off for me?
Yes, it has.
# My one and only walking, talking, living doll. #
For artists selling records, it was the best plug.
You didn't need to do any more television.
You did Sunday Night At The Palladium and you reached 90% of the population.
# I'm going to get there somehow Ringing up to see
# That I'm going to get there somehow
# I'm leaving right away... #
'I was working at a little club in Soho and a message came through
to my dressing room -
"Val Parnell was in tonight while you were on stage."
And he said, "He wants to know if you'd like to come and have a drink with him."
# Hop into the taxi, but I haven't got the fare.
# If I hitchhike on a lorry Well, it might'nt go past there... #
'He said to me,'
"How would you feel about doing Sunday Night At The London Palladium?"
I really...I nearly fainted.
# If I don't get back tomorrow
# Come looking for me, please. #
'Up to then, I just could not
'get anybody interested in making records. They didn't want to know.
'The next day, three record companies wanted to sign me up,'
and I think they wanted to sign me up not because they thought I was brilliant,
but they thought I was going to be popular.
# Ladies and gentlemen
# Welcome to Sunday Night At The London Palladium... #
It was the plum job,
the biggest job on television
was to be the host of Sunday Night At The Palladium.
# Hip-hip-hooray... #
'I was working in this terrible theatre at Eastbourne.
'A cast of ten, an orchestra'
of two pianos and drums,
and I came to that -
'the 30-piece orchestra going as I arrived,
'and then looking out at that vast...you know,
this empty theatre,
wondering what it would be like with 2,500 people in there.
# I used to hold you, baby
-# So tight... #
# Each night, that's right
# I kind of hoped that maybe you might
# Fall for me
# Why, oh, why, do voices say to me
# Sit and cry, that this was meant to be?
# Love's unkind and love's untrue
# Oh, why did love pick out you for me?
-# Poor me
-# Poor me
-# Oh, oh
-# Poor me
-BOTH: Poor me. #
'The bills changed, the top of the bill changed, the acts changed -
'the host was the glue that held it together'
from week to week to week.
And getting that job made you a star.
I love you too.
Within two or three months, I was one of the biggest names in the country.
Are you really?
-Well, we're going out tonight, aren't we?
I hope we are.
I'd go into restaurants and they'd give me a meal on the house.
Before, when I was starving for a meal,
no-one even gave me a loaf of bread and some water.
But that's...that's so-called stardom for you.
It will be wonderful tonight, it really will.
We'll go to the same old place.
October the 27th, 1963. That one appearance
totally changed my life.
Totally, and that's this theatre that does that,
because it is the most famous theatre in the world.
Between you and me, don't you think marriage is wonderful?
Between you and me marriage would be ridiculous.
I'd had George Raft on the show, who was a very famous gangster film star,
and he'd gone back, he was a pal of Sinatra's and said,
"There's a kid in England who looked after me great, Jimmy Tarbuck."
And I was in Florida and a guy said, "The man wants to meet you."
I said, "The man?" He said, "Frank."
I said, "Frank who? Are you kidding?" And there I was,
I was sat with him. And it was like a film set. He stood up and said, "How are you, Jimmy?"
I said, "Hi, Mr Sinatra." He said, "Frank."
He said, "I believe you're at that beloved Palladium."
You just knew that you are witnessing something that was live.
It wasn't pre-recorded or edited afterwards as shows are now.
And that frightened a lot of your favourite performers,
your mum and dad's favourites.
Just that one word. They couldn't say, "Stop that, I'll do it again."
The energy that that generated, well, it was... You could almost taste it.
It was fabulously exciting.
What would happen, at five minutes to eight, "Ready, sir?"
You could hear it out there, the buzz. The warm-up comic would be on.
And then they'd say, "You've got 30 seconds, sir.
"We're approximating tonight we're going to have 17 million viewers."
You had to hear that just before you went on and then you'd hear this...
It was most wonderful. There was one chord, it went whoosh,
# Da-da-da-da-da! #
And you think, "Here you go, you can't go home now."
# Pretty woman Walking down the street
# Pretty woman The kind I'd like to meet
-# Pretty woman... #
Should've seen your faces. "There's Roy!"
# Pretty woman, won't you pardon me?
# Pretty woman
# I couldn't help but see Pretty woman... #
Your battle is won before you start
because the theatre gives you everything you need.
It gives you the guts, shall we say, to go out there and do your act.
MUSIC: "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison
'Because it had been so successful for me,
they then put me into the pantomime.
Our pantomimes, of course, were very famous.
Doors on the left.
Oh, they were enormous. They were musicals, really,
they were mega-musicals.
We always opened on Christmas Eve
and we played twice daily right through to Easter Saturday.
We're used to one, two stars, maybe, playing in pantomime.
The Palladium would have maybe six, seven stars, who in their own right could top a bill.
Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Frank Ifield,
Tommy Steele did pantomime.
Engelbert Humperdinck did Robinson Crusoe and as the ship went down
at the close of the first half, he stood on the stage and sang There Goes My Everything,
which got a round of applause and a good laugh.
Somebody at the Grade office had been in Las Vegas
and seen this act, Tanya the Adorable Elephant,
and it was a baby elephant with its trainer, Jenda Smaha -
the name is engraved on my heart.
'She'd have to pass my dressing room'
so her trainer brought her by, and very often he'd say,
"Can we come in?" And I'd go, "Yeah."
And she'd come in, and there was a little round-backed chair with red velvet
and he'd say, "Sit, Tanya, sit." And Tanya would just lean on it like this.
And it was just...just fantastic.
Tanya was pretty cunning. I have no idea why she took a dislike to the wardrobe mistress.
After she'd left the stage, she walked past my dressing room
'and then she had to go outside the stage door
'and there was a ramp leading up, and the wardrobe mistress leaned back towards the wall'
and she stopped beside her and slowly learnt on her like that
and the woman was going, "Oh, oh!"
This cunning way of just standing there almost just...
not really looking but squashing this lady.
Oh! Thank heavens nothing happened!
Great days, those were. Classy theatre.
# God save our gracious Queen... #
Last Monday, I had the honour of appearing in a show
which the business rightly regards as the highlight of the year.
The Royal Variety Show is at its best and at its most natural
when it's at the Palladium.
# Send him victorious... #
There is an emotional relationship between the Royal Family, there's an emotional relationship
between the audience and the stars that are on that stage and the combination of being at the Palladium
for a performer and doing a Royal Variety Show is a double whammy.
Welcome to the one part of tonight's Royal Variety Show
that the audience here at the London Palladium won't see.
It's those few moments of excitement and tension that build up backstage.
And on tonight's show, the ice-breaker is Des O'Connor who's just over here.
I've just found out, by the way,
that it's a bit nearer than we thought and I'm going to have to hurry this, I'm sorry.
-I've just had a signal, the Royal Car has arrived.
-Oh, I'm off! I'll see you later.
-Good luck, Des.
-Don't forget, enjoy yourselves.
Good evening, it's a fast show, I'll advise you to fasten your seat belts.
I told my mum and dad I'm doing the Royal Show
and I'll try and get you tickets for that.
"Oh, we don't want to see that." I said, "Well you always do."
"No, we want to come and see YOU in your show."
# If you want to get a thrill, if you want to see the sights
# Jump right in
#I got an unidentified flying object
# Let's go for a spin... #
So I booked them seats for the next night, the Monday night, which was the straight show.
The red carpet was left there.
They were put in the Royal Box.
# Nobody will believe their eyes. #
They'd seen me working in the working men's clubs and here we were at the Palladium.
It was just a magic moment.
And then when she came through she was all excited, she said it was fantastic.
I said "What, the show?" "No, I got to use the Queen's loo!"
# You don't have to say you love me
# Just be close at hand
# You don't have to stay forever, I will understand. #
Oh, can you imagine doing a Royal Variety Show
in the London Palladium?
It's those showbiz little dreams, and I'm a sucker for it.
# Close at hand
# You don't have to stay forever, I will understand. #
You know, you're in your best bib and tucker, you come out and perform and you meet the Queen.
Those are kind of the highlights of a career.
# Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
# Don't you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me? #
The Pussycat Dolls there, singing to Prince Charles, don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me.
Brave choice, girls.
See you in the Tower.
The rules that you had about the Royal Family were that you never
looked up to the box to see what their reaction was.
If you've got any sense, you don't want to look, no!
You do glance, of course you do, yeah.
Now and again you might sneak a little glance, see if they're laughing.
You never addressed anything to them.
I mean, they wouldn't allow me, I had a great opening gag.
And you never referred to them directly.
I came on with a crown on, walked in and went, snap.
Under no circumstances, they said, can you do that.
You went on stage and you did your act and at the end of the act,
you bowed once to the front, once to the Royal Box, once to the front and then you went off.
You're told desperately not to overrun.
And that was absolutely adhered to and people were rehearsed and that was what they were supposed to do.
"We've overrun", they said. "Cut."
I said, "No." "You will."
I said, "Don't tell me what I'll do.
"All those Yankee comics had been on here and overrun, no."
So I went on and had a go and scored heavily but it had overrun.
And our blessed lady was not pleased.
And she's come down the line and it would be my, I don't know,
sixth, seventh, eighth, whatever I've done and she said, "You've done a lot of these now, Mr Tarbuck.
"How many of them have you done?"
I said, "Four more than you, Your Majesty," laughing and she went,
"It certainly seemed like it tonight."
So Tom Jones had his hand out and he got, good evening, and off.
And he went, "Well thank you very much," he said.
"You got me, I never got a chat, all down to you," he said.
So I was put in my place, quite rightly so, I suppose.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Mr Larry Hagman. Would you please.
I was backstage there for some reason,
probably just being nosey, you know.
But we're looking along there and it was the year that Larry Hagman was a surprise guest.
And I'm standing in the wings there, waiting for this
next to Larry Hagman's mother who was the great musical comedy star, Mary Martin.
# Cheating at poker to win me some dollars
# Twisting the ear of a kid till he hollers
# Scaring young girls with lascivious grins
# These are just some of my favourite sins.
They went into a parody that they'd written and he blew the line.
# My garden's a pasture for greenhorns and suckers
# I rear 'em and shear 'em and skin 'em alive
# Er la la la, and I forgot that particular lyric
# Rum tee ti ti day day di di di di
And she said, " My God, he's blown it." So he tried again.
Can we start again on the "one pound of given", or can't we do that sort of thing?
I knew we would panic. My daughter's in the audience, you know how this happens.
Start off anywhere you want to.
He blew it again and she said, "I'll do this." And she ran out.
And afterwards they said to Larry Hagman, "Don't worry, we'll cut out that."
He said, "No fear. The old girl saved my bacon. Keep it in." And they did.
# A hundred and one hands of fun, that's my little honey bun. #
# Get a load of honey bun, la-la. #
Mesdames et Messieurs, Miss Josephine Baker.
Josephine Baker made an appearance like you've never seen in your life.
Hi, everybody, hi.
Come on, say hi to me, make me feel at home.
I feel at home, thank you very much.
There was this lady in a turquoise diamante suit
and a 5 ft plumed headdress.
# Quand il me prend dans ses bras
# Il me parle tout bas
# Vie en rose. #
She went out and stayed outside for well over an hour, signing autographs and speaking to people.
# ...Ca me fait quelque chose. #
I always remember a vivid memory of this elderly couple and this young boy.
And she said to this boy,
"You shouldn't be here tonight.
# It's very late, you should be at home in bed.
# Does your mummy know you're out late?"
And he said, "I think so."
And I presume it was the grandmother spoke to her and said, "No, we've brought him out.
# Sadly, his mother's in a hospice
# and we're looking after him."
And she immediately turned round, went back into the theatre
and came back with a stage hand holding this huge basket of roses.
And she said to this little boy, "You take those to your mummy tomorrow
# and tell her they're from Josephine."
# ...mon coeur qui bat. #
A good night out is to go to a ravishingly beautiful theatre,
which the Palladium is, and then feast your eyes on something wonderful happening on stage.
There's only certain shows that can be put into the Palladium.
When producers think of the Palladium, they think of
big production values.
Royal Princes and Princesses...
The modern tradition of the Palladium hosting big family musicals
started in 1979 when Louis Benjamin persuaded Yul Brynner to come over and appear in the King and I.
This was the first opportunity for British people to see
the huge sort of megastar that Yul Brynner was.
# Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. #
Oh dear, oh dear.
# Getting to like you, getting to hope you'll like me. #
I don't want to swear in this programme, and I would have to.
But it was not a happy time.
Out of 20 years, that was the only time that I felt really down.
I did everything possible, but you couldn't please Mr Brynner.
Anybody else would appreciate whatever you did, not him.
I am in the business, I am a manager, I am relatively successful.
I could no more have called him Yul than fly to the Moon.
He was Mr Brynner.
And he had that aura about him.
He WAS the King of Siam.
# I close my eyes, drew back the curtain
# To see for certain
# What I thought I knew. #
Nobody thought of the Palladium still as the great place where
you occasionally had musicals but not really
as a first run West End musical house.
So putting Joseph in there was a bit of a gamble.
# Any dream will do. #
When I first heard of Andrew Lloyd Webber I thought he made barbecues,
so it took a long time for me to realise the true currency of the Palladium.
It's not just a brush of pop, the Palladium.
It's not just about the one-hit wonder.
The first night was astonishing.
I've never in my life been more terrified.
You're in the number one dressing room of the Palladium where just about everybody has been.
I felt like an impostor, like some sort of pretender.
And as we got closer and closer to the show and the flowers were
arriving, I was getting good luck messages from other West End shows.
And all this was so alien to me as a TV person.
Joseph starts in front of the black screen and you're behind in the dark,
and you're on a little hydraulic platform and they lift you up through the dry ice in the dark.
And I can hear the show starting in front, thinking, "What am I doing here?
"This is the worst mistake I've ever made in my whole life or the best move I've ever made."
And I could hear the show and I lifted up in the dark
about 10 feet off the stage, so there's no hope of running away.
And I looked up and there was a lamp, dimmed right down, and I was on my own.
And as I looked up, about to make my West End debut,
a little hand came round the front of this lamp
and did the thumbs-up sign.
And that was my only connection with any humanity at all.
And then the curtain went up and there it was,
there was the audience, there was the Palladium,
there was the band and that was it.
It was "Get this right or they'll remember this for a long time."
The day the circus came to London Town, the Big Top was pitched not on our Broadway equivalent,
Shaftesbury Avenue, or even down Drury Lane,
but perhaps more suitably at the London Palladium, which must, over the years,
have balanced its books with a greater variety of
jugglers, tumblers and high-wire acts than any other theatre.
I was walking past Liberty's and I looked up the street and I could see
"Michael Crawford in Barnum", and my face, I was just glowing.
And then the fear factor set in of what it meant, the responsibility.
The opening night was
unbelievable, to see and hear this crowd.
And so truly one of the greatest experiences of my life was playing on this stage.
The Palladium created a sort of, I don't like the word credibility,
but it sort of made people look at me a little differently.
My grandmother suddenly started to say, "Oh, he's such a good boy, you know."
Suddenly I'd sort of arrived in a lot of people's minds.
You do think about
other people who've been through that door.
When you're in Number One dressing room, you think,
"Who else has sat in this chair and looked in this mirror to do their make-up?"
And there's something about that.
It's a sort of spiritual quality, really, that you, as a singer, you
kind of absorb the fact that you're in this historic place.
And it makes you perform better.
It makes you sing out of your socks.
You don't dream of those things happening in your lifetime.
I shouldn't think there are many performers that dream.
You want to act, you love to act,
but you never dream that you'll see yourself in that position.
And then, when you get to the point I'm at now, you're just terrified of being in any position like that.
When I'd finished the show,
we had a big after-show party at the Langham Hotel.
And Mike Smith and Sarah Greene,
who had recently had the terrible helicopter crash that they had, said, "We'll run you up to the hotel."
So I said, " OK, fine." So we came out of the
street and turned left.
I said, "You're going the wrong way. It's right."
They said, "No, no, we've got something we need to do first.
"This night has been so amazing we've got something we need to do first."
And we drove down to Westminster Bridge. You're |not allowed to stop.
And they said, "When we had our helicopter crash, we were so pleased to be alive we stopped
"on Westminster Bridge, we looked at London and we shouted, just shouted.
"The sheer exuberance of being alive.
"And tonight you've got to do it because it was such an incredible moment."
So we stopped on Westminster Bridge and we opened the car door, and we stood and looked out.
It was dark and there was St Paul's and it was a beautiful night, shouting.
And within a second a police car arrived and the copper got out and walked up to us.
And he looked at me and went, "How did it go?"
And I thought, "Now that really is, there's a moment for you."
It was a special time, you know.
It was a special time for me.
I'm sure in the Palladium's history it's probably seen many Jason Donovans in its time,
but it felt very special to me at the time.
One of the best nights was the very first preview
because they were still trying out the sound system.
Andrew Lloyd Webber decided after the first few moments
that he wanted to mix the sound himself.
I do enjoy interfering.
So by the time it got to Climb Every Mountain he was well on his way.
I think it was like a demented Tommy, you know,
on his pinball machine.
And he was sliding things up and down, and there was this maniacal light in his eye.
And the "climb every mountain till you find your dream,"
when I heard that big top A at the end, I, honestly, fillings were dropping out in front of me.
I could see there were teeth bouncing all over the place.
In the Palladium you can do things that you can't in other theatres.
And the chandeliers, the chandeliers I remember, they were rattling.
I remember thinking, "Turn me down, for God's sake!
"What are you doing, Andrew, you mad fool?"
She knew what I was up to, and it is quite fun. Look, I mean,
when you go into the Palladium, you smile.
# Till you find
# Your dream. #
The Palladium is part of my childhood,
it's part of my career, it's part of my heritage.
It's just a shrine for me,
and I still get the same feeling walking in the theatre that I did the first time.
Just coming here to do this interview, you know, it's the Palladium.
The Palladium to me is everything that ever made me want to be in showbusiness.
Everything anybody really ever wants out of this business
is wrapped round, one way and another, with the Palladium.
It just enabled me to do things I would never have been able to do,
so I am grateful to this place more than anything.
If I was down to my very, very last absolute everything,
I think the one thing, even, in a way, above my copyrights of my music,
I think I'd want to keep the Palladium.
That's how special it is.
Anybody who was anybody has performed here and done well.
And to have been part of that just for a few months,
it really was heart-stopping.
# The guy who was waving the flag
# That began with the mystical hand
# Hip hooray! The American way
# The world is a stage
# The stage is a world of entertainment. #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Cliff Richard, Bruce Forsyth, Michael Crawford and Andrew Lloyd Webber are among the stars sharing the gossip, glamour and behind-the-scenes shenanigans of the world's most famous theatre as it celebrates its 100th birthday.