P.S. It's Paul Squire
Paul Squire was once a big name on British television, with shows on ITV and BBC1. As he stars as Professor Crackpot in the pantomime Beauty and the Beast at Oakengates, he tells Andrew Owen why he's quite happy not being famous.
Two Paul Squire stories for you.
It's the 1980 Royal Variety Show and Paul has jumped from the clubs to the London Palladium, and he can't believe the company he's in.
During a rehearsal break he's at the bar talking to an American called Hank.
Later, he hears someone asking after composer Henry Mancini - "and I'd just been chatting to him for 10 minutes and I didn't have a clue!"
He met James Cagney "and I said the stupidest thing in my life: 'I've never seen you in colour.' He laughed and shook my hand."
Danny Kaye was there, looking nervous, Aretha Franklin was on the bill, and then Paul spotted Sammy Davis Jr and asked him to sign his programme.
"Only if you'll sign mine," said Mr Entertainment, and you can almost hear the great man's jewellery rattle as Paul tells his story in a quiet Oakengates pub.
"So I signed his book. And my hand was shaking as I wrote, 'To Sam…'
"These people," he says over a post-matinee show pint, "I never dreamed in a million years that I would meet people like this; little old me from Manchester."
He had been working abroad and doing TV guest slots when he got the Royal Variety invitation. His parents, both entertainers, had passed away by then, "but I must admit when I opened the envelope I looked up and said 'I did it!'."
He certainly did. Paul's act was a hit. He over-ran his eight minute slot (which you were not supposed to do) and threw in an unscripted gag about newly-elected Ronald Reagan (which you absolutely were not supposed to do), and it led to four years of his own shows on ITV and BBC1.
The second Paul Squire involves Tommy Trinder – once one of the biggest names in showbiz.
And here was the even younger Paul Squire, in a family singing group called the Millionaires, sharing the same bill.
But it wasn't at one of the great theatres, it was at the Billingham Constitutional Club, and The Millionaires' name was chalked up outside next to Tommy Trinder's.
Paul and family were on the way up; poor Tommy Trinder on the other hand...
And Tommy's act died. Paul heard him afterwards - "this little old man" - arguing with the manager for his full fee.
"And I remember thinking. 'How dare they do this to this man," says Paul.
"And maybe I decided then that I wouldn't get that big that I could get knocked down. Maybe that's in my subconscious, I don't know. Freud could answer that."
And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have Paul Squire, the famous TV star who wasn't comfortable being a famous TV star. "I was told many years ago by a very old pro, Paul, the best place to be on any bill is the support act. Close the first half and you've got all of the plaudits and none of the critics.
"So therefore rather than have to depend on being the headliner and putting bums on seats you can actually say, 'Let someone else put the bums on seats'. You go on and take all the credit because you're working to a full house because he's put everybody there. And you can't fail then. It's a comfort zone."
And so here we are, in a pub in Oakengates. Paul Squire is 58 now and quite happy with his lot. He's enjoying his run in Telford – although the 10am school shows have been a killer for someone used to performing at 10pm - and he is genuinely impressed with the schoolchildren he's met - "I've never known such polite kids in my life."
Although he makes the occasional appearance on television back home up north, he doesn't miss being a big star - not that he ever played the "star" card even at the height of his fame. He never got photographed falling out of nightclubs, and he always drank in the same pubs with people he knew.
Still, he says, he has never been entirely comfortable with TV - even after his Royal Variety success."I knew I had done well when I did it by the applause, but when I actually saw the re-run of it on television... I don't know what it is about me, I can work on stage, but television... I know I'm not the most handsome fellow in the world, but television does nowt for me.
"Some people have got faces that can fit on television, and some people have a face that's never going to fit on television, and it doesn't matter how talented they are. Their face doesn't fit. Does that sound weird to you? It's a fact, honestly."
Paul Squire grew up on stage, performing with his family in clubs and forces air bases in Britain and Europe. He was just five when he started, singing with his dad.
He's worked with big names, from Bill Haley to Stanley Holloway, and could easily fill a book of anecdotes if he wanted to.
As a boy he played an American air base one July 4 with Bob Monkhouse, and remembers sitting on "Uncle Bob's" shoulders watching the fireworks. Years later Monkhouse gave Paul a guest slot on his TV show.
He worked with Bernard Manning when he was just eight years old. "He was a very clever, intelligent man, even though he didn't come across that way. People thought he was racist bigot, he wasn't. He gave more money to charity than you and I will even think about. He was a very, very nice man."
Paul Squire is definitely old school, a clean comedian who dislikes the swearing and coarseness of some modern acts.
He doesn't share the X Factor generation's obsession with fame, although he's amazed how much they can earn. "I did an entire series that was sold out to Swaziland and I got seventeen and a half quid for it – and my agent took 15 per cent. That's true."
For 25 years he's toured the world on cruise ships, played golf, performed in clubs and cabaret, played golf, watched his two musician sons, Ben and Jamie, sign a recording deal in America… oh, and played golf.
He's also a proud member of the Grand Order of Water Rats, an entertainers' organisation which raises money for charity.
"I've never sought out fortune and fame," he says. "I've always been a turn, as it were. I love the term 'turn' because basically it means 'I do what I do what I do'. I'm an entertainer and I enjoy being an entertainer, I really do, but as for the stars in my eyes, I'm not really that bothered.
"I got a massive kick coming out of there today when a little girl comes up and says 'Professor Crackpot, can I have your autograph?' That's wonderful. She probably doesn't know who I am, but as far as she's concerned I'm Professor Crackpot."
As he sums it up, if he has an audience "whether it be in a theatre, a club, a cruise ship, whatever, as long as they're getting satisfaction and I get that pat on the back I'm a happy camper – and I've got a nice cheque too!
"It's a damn sight better than going down a pit."
- Beauty and the Beast runs until January 4. For tickets call the Box Office on 01952 382 382 or click here
- To find out more about Paul Squire's sons and their music, click here
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