I’m so excited that my moving finger keeps hitting the wrong keys. Following up my mention of Go Pontinental in the last article, I was pointed in the direction of Eastenders star Polly Perkins and sent an email to her via her filter system – her son Tim Arnold. I asked Polly if she remembered her cabaret days in TenBel and her reply, almost by return, was an explosion of joy. So much so that here it is in full.
Hi Ken I hope this finds you well. I did cabaret for Fred Pontin through his booking agent Bridie Reid in the70s and 80s. Christmas in Tenerife was great. There were really excellent musicians in all the Pontins resorts – a definite plus and I always took my two sons along who also loved their holidays at Pontins in Torremolinos, Estepona, Greece, Morocco and Sardinia. Everything ran smoothly offstage and on – the bluecoats were hardworking and fun for the kids. The entertainment managers really knew their job. Mel Williams on the Costa del Sol and of course Shane Ritchie both top class entertainers. It was always live shows, top class entertainers and musicians – no backing tracks or miming!!! Possibly the last bastion of variety before the hype of the X factor type show.
Good performers, big names or simply first class acts. I loved it. What could be better than singing to an audience of happy holidaymakers in the sun? The food and facilities were pretty good too. A stint doing a Pontinental gig set me up for the months ahead. I even turned down a TV show and a pantomime rather than cancel my Pontinental season!!!!! Kind Regards Polly x
The first impression we get is that Pontinental was a massive operation and fun to work for. We also have to remember that for thousands of visitors this was their first trip abroad thanks to the new cheap charter flights. Fred’s whole idea was Blackpool with sun for £50. The Bingo stays in.
The second is Polly’s devotion to her sons which continues to this day and is returned in spades ““ I know.
I wondered what Polly had done between Cabaret and Eastenders and discovered that she’d starred in the ill-fated BBC series Eldorado as – oh no ““ a washed up cabaret singer.
Whilst Polly was wowing the happy punters in the South, I had a hefty share in a night club called the Stars and Garter in the Edificio Belair, Puerto de la Cruz. It was a non-profit making concern due to reasons too painful to mention. However, during its short existence we had a lot of fun.
Lennie Peters, of Peters and Lee fame, appeared there in April 1982, and filled the club nightly. I had arranged this gig personally but we needed continuity and after a brief interlude hired a booking agent in the UK. Lord luv us! I don’t know where he found them. But the disasters were not one sided.
Ricky Valance (Tell Laura I Love Her) came to do a week’s stint. One night he was late for his spot and we sent a waiter to look for him. Ricky was found stuck in the lift of the Belair – a quivering wreck (both the lift and Ricky). But he was a trouper and, a couple of slugs of cognac later, Ricky appeared on stage asking us to pass the message on to Laura; and no one was any the wiser. There was a loud cheer from the staff as he completed his hit tune.
“But as they pulled him from the twisted wreck
With his dying breath they heard him say
Tell Laura I love her tell Laura I need her
Tell Laura not to cry my love for her will never die”
His hair turned white round about this time. Fair play to him though ““ he’s still going.
Talking of troupers, Polly worked at Battersea Funfair when she was 14 and at 15 became the youngest nude to appear at the Windmill, Still in her teens she was the first presenter of the cult TV show Ready, Steady Go. I have it on record that she taught the aforesaid Ricky Valance a dance routine to use in his act. She drew the short straw there.
Polly and I talked on the phone recently about the early days at Battersea. “I miss the hungry years,” I said, quoting from the song of the same title; “I don’t!” she replied adamantly. We both laughed.
Catch up with her at Polly Perkins
Credits: Above image of Rose Cotton © BBC EastEnders 2011/2012. Grateful thanks to Polly and her family for the use of their wonderful photos. Thanks too to Trevor Jones for the Stars & Garter image.