- December 4, 2017
This week I met a man from the world of TV who has over the years produced some of the most iconic British TV shows. Tony Nicholson worked on shows like It’s A Knockout and in particular the one where the Royal Family joined in the silliness. I’m sorry, I failed to ask how they all got on with Stuart Hall, I know you will want to know.
The reason Tony came in to be on AK Soufflé is to talk about a new biography just published called Shut That Door. Now some of you will immediately know who the subject of the book is and I suspect that some of you will be slightly bewildered. But you should know because in my view, many of the great gay comedy voices that we now know would not be there if it hadn’t been for Larry Grayson.
Larry Grayson was a remarkable entertainer who was overtly camp from the very start of his career, trawling two acts around the working men’s club circuit, until in the late 1950s when he got his big break into the then dying variety theatre circuit.
A flight of fantasy peppered with figures like Vinegar Vera, Slack Alice and Pop-It-In Pete
Amazingly he went on to become a national TV star, eclipsing even Bruce Forsyth’s success when he took over as host of The Generation Game. There was a defiant mince to his gait, a delicately placed limp wrist, and imperious glances delivered from above his spectacles that he wore on a chain like a dowager’s jewels.
His act, never gag-based, was a flight of fantasy peppered with characters: Vinegar Vera, Slack Alice and Pop-It-In Pete and of course Larry’s long time companion Everard. Yes it was a world littered with innuendo and campery that perhaps would now offend the PC sensitive, but it did a wonderful job in exposing a world of gay humour that until then had been something of a clandestine affair. And without it where would Julian Clary and Alan Carr be now?
Tony knew Grayson well and has had access to Larry’s own notes whilst writing the book. He has a wealth of detail about Grayson’s career, some anecdotal, some from personal experience but above all he is revealing a rich and too long neglected thread to the story of gay entertainment.