ON GOD´S GREAT DANCE FLOOR
is Lionel Blair now dancing
ON GOD´S GREAT DANCE FLOOR?
Norman Warwick bets you a dollar he is.
I have no sense of dance quality, really. I thought Ernie Wise danced in the rain pretty well and Eddie Waring and his mates looked pretty light footed in South Pacific, (The Morecambe and Wise special version). When the Rochdale Spiraldance company were re-branding as Can´t Dance Can that new name was nearly vetoed because I, a trustee at the time, pretty much disproved that claim. One of the ¨hoofers´ I most enjoyed watching as a child, though, was Lionel Blair, who sadly died recently. He was light and nimble and could do a bit of the old soft shoe shuffle too. As a straight man, he was camp, not gay, at a time when I had no idea of what any of those words meant. He was always cheerful and was something of a National Treasure so it is not only the dance world that mourns his passing. He´ll be up there already tracing steps on God´s Great Dance Floor, and I´ll bet you a dollar he´ll be dancing there still.
The title of this memoriam is borrowed from a web site that seems to be collecting songs old and new that celebrate aspects of faith and is perhaps seeking to be more profound than we are here on our pages. Our cover picture is held on their site and is so good, though, and somehowso appropriate that I found it irresistible, and just had to use it to illuminate this article. I have always loved the notion that Leonard Cohen, Nanci Griffith, John Stewart and Guy Clark and his wife Susanna and their best friend Townes van Zandt et al have joined the Heavenly Choir and are singing out songs like Picasso´s Mandolin and Dance Me To The End Of Love
And in front of them I can now envisage God´s Great Dance Floor, with people like Sammy Davis Junior flitting from floor to stage and back again.
They will have been joined by now by Lionel Blair, whose stage and screen career spanned eight decades, died early on Thursday morning 5th November, his agent has said
Best known as a team captain on game show Give Us A Clue, in recent years he acted Extras, the series written and enacted by Ricky Gervais. and also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother.
Born in Canada in 1928, he moved to the UK as a young boy and began performing in air raid shelters in World War Two.
Henry Lionel Ogus, as he was known before his show-business career, grew up in Stamford Hill, north London and was evacuated to Oxford when the war broke out. His father died when he was 13 and the following year Blair began working as an actor, appearing in musical productions with his elder sister Joyce.
But it was his self-taught dancing skills – inspired by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at the cinema and then copying their routines at home with Joyce – that Blair became best-known for through his long career.
He took part in a comedic dance-off against Sammy Davis Jr (left) at the Royal Variety Performance in 1961 – which he later called the highlight of his entire career – and ensured his presence as a regular on the bill at future royal shows.
He played the role of a choreographer in the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night and life imitated art as he became a sought-after choreographer for films such the 1969 comedy The Magic Christian.
Lionel was choreographer for, and appeared on, programmes such as the Tommy Cooper Hour and the Jimmy Tarbuck Show, before becoming a judge on talent show New Faces in the late 1970s. Blair also became a household name as team captain opposite Una Stubbs (right) who also died earlier this year – on ITV’s long-running Give Us A Clue.
His friend, the actor and presenter Christopher Biggins, called him ´the most wonderful [man], kind, funny, a real giver of life. His energy was extraordinary.´
Biggins said Blair was ´very competitive´ and ´loved to win´ on the game show. ´He’s up there now entertaining with Una, I’m sure´, he said.
Blair (left) was one of the stars who appeared on a Christmas special of the Ricky Gervais comedy Extras in 2007, as one of the housemates in a fictional version of Celebrity Big Brother.
It was a role he would take on for real in 2014, when he spent 15 days in the house, leaving after boxer Evander Holyfield and model Jasmine Waltz.
In 2017 he joined another reality TV show, The Real Marigold Hotel, and travelled around India with other older celebrities.
Broadcaster Danny Baker called him a ´a true chum, an entertainer beyond compare, an archive of a golden era, an immeasurable talent´, adding that it was ´impossible to think he won’t be in some green room somewhere, dropping names and living out fantastic tales´.
Writer and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth (right) told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Blair ´was the personification of va va voom, he had so much charm and dazzle… he loved life and he loved show-business´
The broadcaster also recalled: ´[Blair] actually entered the language, because by the time he became a household name in the sixties and seventies, in cockney slang if you were wearing flares, they were known as your Lionel Blairs´.
Actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, star of Goodness Gracious Me said he met Blair at ´numerous evenings over the years and he was always a gent, warm and fun´. I loved the fact that he’d always pepper every conversation with a bit of a tap dance. Every single time. And it was glorious´.
Comedian Julian Clary described Blair as a ´showbiz trooper if ever there was´, while broadcaster Piers Morgan said ´RIP Lionel Blair, 92. A wonderful all-round entertainer & lovely man. Sad news´.
Singer and presenter Michael Ball remembered Blair as a ´funny, kind, generous, compassionate and gifted man´.
Entertainer Bonnie Langford said ´Dear Lionel. Privileged to have been your dance partner´ before adding ´I’m really sad to hear about the passing of Lionel Blair; it’s wonderful to meet someone that was a TV star when you were small and to find them so impeccably gracious and charming in person. I learnt a lot from him! My condolences to his family´.
Do you live on Lanzarote and Is your dream to be an actor? Do you want to be on the small screen? This is your chance. If you are between 18 and 80 years old, this is your chance, whether you are a man or a woman, since a production company is looking for extras in Lanzarote for a science fiction series.
To participate, all you have to do is follow the link below
and then scan the QR that appears in the image and fill in the corresponding form before December 2.
We have been informed by the extremely diligent Jazz In Reading that Rhythms At The Yurt promise a superb line-up for the autumn. The series has returned to Haddon Acre, Sires Hill, Didcot, Oxfordshire.
Rhythms At The Yurt are operating on slightly reduced numbers from 2019 but with some distancing and additional cleaning measures.
We have reinstated the supply of refreshments Plastic glasses will be provided as no glass can be used in the Yurt. Sensible social distancing and safety precautions will be observed.
The firepit is always popular to gather round for a drink and a chat, especially on a cooler evening.
Off road parking is sufficient for all visitors so no need to park on our lawn!
Comfortable seating allows everyone to see and hear music in a quite special atmosphere. Banter with the band is encouraged but you won’t dare to talk amongst yourselves. Save that for the interval.
Toilet facilities are available next to the yurt. The venue is not ideal for special needs but let us know and we can tell you if we think it is practical.
The intimate and comfortable setting of our special yurt complements live music sessions. The choice of music is varied; we are fortunate to host exceptionally talented musicians from near and far. Audiences experience the unique vibe of being almost at one with the artists, who in turn appreciate the warmth of performing to a captivated audience.
The COVID pandemic has encouraged us to add live streaming and reduce audience size so there are very limited tickets available for gigs after June 21 2021
The Fleur Stevenson Trio will be performing Rhythms At The Yurt on November 26th.
As a professional jazz singer, Fleur (right) works with top musicians and has played in such prestigious venues as Ronnie Scott’s, 606 Club and Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho. In her many years of experience Fleur has played for many different types of events from weddings to festivals, and sings for many of the top clubs and hotels in London.
Fleur Stevenson is fast establishing herself at the forefront of an exciting new breed of jazz vocalists taking London by storm. Gifted with a honeyed tone, an offbeat sense of humour and a naturally charismatic stage presence, Fleur creates an instant rapport with her audience through sparkling narrative and an unerring instinct for choosing the right material to showcase her talent.
She has drawn really positive comments from her peers and the music media alike.
“Fleur Stevenson is a wonderful singer with a great musical ear and natural jazz feel.” Claire Martin OBE
“Stevenson is in possession of a voice which has power – yet she has the control to drop down to a caress in a heart-beat. And she can scat; boy, can she scat!” Something Else
“Fleur Stevenson is a relaxed jazz vocalist with a bright voice, good phrasing and the ability to swing at any tempo.” Jazz Journal
“Fleur Stevenson has a soft and pure velvety tone that make her performances swing effortlessly.” Jazz Views
In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.
This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio 4.
As a published author and poet he was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (where he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.
The purpose of this daily not-for-profit blog is to deliver news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts to die-hard fans and non- traditional audiences around the world. We are therefore always delighted to receive your own articles here at Sidetracks And Detours. So if you have a favourite artist, event, or venue that you would like to tell us more about, or perhaps a review of The Fleur Stevenson Trio playing Rhythms At The Yert, just drop a Word document attachment to me at email@example.com with a couple of appropriate photographs in a zip folder if you wish. Being a not-for-profit organisation we unfortunately cannot pay you but we will always fully attribute any pieces we publish. You therefore might also. like to include a brief autobiography and photograph of yourself in your submission. We look forward to hearing from you.
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correspondents Michael Higgins
Gary Heywood Everett
Hot Biscuits Jazz Radio www.fc-radio.co.uk
Jazz In Reading https://www.jazzinreading.com
Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues https://rvjazzandblues.co.uk
Rob Adams Music That´s Going Places
Lanzarote Information https://lanzaroteinformation.co.uk
all across the arts www.allacrossthearts.co.uk
Rochdale Music Society rochdalemusicsociety.org
Agenda Cultura Lanzarote
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