After all, Tap & Chat with Lionel Blair is billed as
an exclusive glimpse into the colourful world of the cult TV star and dancer. Alongside his beautifully choreographed songs Lionel shares anecdotes from his celebrated career which has seen him share the stage and screen with among others The Beatles, Sammy Davis Jnr. and Ella Fitzgerald.
which (glossing over the clearly meaningless use of the word “exclusive”) sounds right up the Whingers’ alleys. They just can’t get enough of those showbusiness anecdotes.
Sadly, it has to be said that the flamboyantly heterosexual 78 year old Lionel Blair’s show is short on anecdotes but very long on name-dropping. They came so thick and fast that the Whingers couldn’t keep up even with both of them scrawling as fast as their tremulous fingers would go.
Here are the ones we managed to catch:
Roger Livesey, Zena Dare, Helen Cherry, Binnie Hale, Kenneth McKellar, The Crazy Gang, Dickie Henderson, Dickie Valentine, Roy Castle, Arthur Askey, Harry Secombe, Dave King, Angela Rippon, Bonnie Langford, Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald (“lovely”), Peggy Lee, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Joan Collins, Mike & Bernie Winters, Morecambe & Wise, Roger Moore, Dorothy Squires, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley Jones, Alma Cogan, Bernard Delfont, Anthony Newley, Honor Blackman, Roman Polanski, Yul Brynner, Peter Sellers, The Beatles, The Everly Brothers (“lovely boys”), Sophie Tucker and Eartha Kitt.
But the mostly very senior audience were thrilled just to hear each name and each one dropped drew either a gasp or an “Aaah” or a “Yes” as memories of long forgotten entertainers were unexpectedly invoked.
The audience was, in fact, marvellously relaxed about the whole thing and when it came to question time they were so at home that they soon gave up raising their hands and just shouted over each other. Even the Whingers – not known for their reticence – were unable to make themselves heard. One younger member of the audience (about 40) did manage to ask a question which didn’t start “I saw you at…” and – like the Whingers – he was clearly hungry for something a bit meatier and asked if there was anybody in showbusiness that he didn’t like. Mister Blair said he could count them on one hand and tried to move on swiftly but Andrew just kept shouting out, “Names, names, names!” until the poor show-business legend caved in and didn’t deny that one of them may have been someone off Just A Minute.
Mister Blair did a couple of song and dance numbers, proved that at 78 he can still tap rather well, threw in quite a lot of Jewish slang and showed us a video of him and Sammy Davis Jr in the 1961 Royal Variety Performance:
(Incidentally, did you know that on top of all his other talents, SDJ was a drummer? We didn’t. Or we may have, but had forgotten.)
After the show, the Whingers retired to the bar and so did Mister Blair and Triangle veteran Larry Lamb (also in Gavin & Stacey and Eastenders) who you can just glimpse in the background and who – interestingly – looks much younger in real life. But sadly there was no time to press him for beauty tips because this was the opportunity finally to ask our questions of showbusiness legend Lionel Blair.
Phil wanted to know what it was like being one of the few people to be immortalised in Cockney rhyming slang. Disappointingly for Phil, Mister Blair didn’t seem to be able to express how he felt about it.
Andrew went on to ask how Mister Blair (who is, let the record state, married to a woman and a father to three offspring) felt about the regular double entendre at his expense in the radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (example: “The expert’s expert [on Give Us A Clue] was of course Lionel Blair. Who could ever forget opposing team captain, Una Stubbs, sitting open-mouthed as he tried to pull off Twelve Angry Men in under two minutes?” Sadly at this point the atmosphere grew frostier than the air outside and Mister Blair made his excuses and left.
The Whingers have themselves been dropping some big names this week. But for sheer show bizz name droppery we just can’t compete with the legend that is Lionel.