To be Frank

This is the third in my occasional Great Mancunians following the death of Frank “Foo Foo” Lamarr from cancer last Friday. Now Frank would not exactly be called great in the obvious sense, but he was a great institution in the city. Drag artist, nightclub owner and tireless raiser of money for good causes, Frank’s Foo Foo’s Palace Club is just

Drag artist, nightclub owner and tireless raiser of money for good causes, Frank’s Foo Foo’s Palace Club is just round the corner from where I work and his Rolls Royce with the number plate Foo 1 was regularly seen in the area.

There can’t be many people living in Manchester who won’t have visited the club at least one as it was a favourite venue for stag nights and hen parties. Not really my sort of place, but I did go there about twenty years. Tacky and tawdry and chicken in a basket cuisine, it symbolised what Frank was – broad, brash and full of fun.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

2 comments… Add yours
  • Trevor Rowley 28th December 2011

    Never saw Frank “Foo Foo” Lamarr on stage but I do remember some other Mancunian artists of a similar bent. In the early 60s, there emerged performers like drag artist Bunny Lewis and comedians Al Showman and Jackie Carlton. I seem to recall that they often either appeared together or on the same circuit with “saucy” humour that was (for then ) outrageously risque.

    After his local success, Al Showman ventured to London to try national TV exposure and could be seen on the late night programme “Stars and Garters” with the likes of Kathy Kirby, Vince Hill and Clinton Ford. I recall a song which the rather camp Mr. Showman always featured in his act. A strange little ditty about

    “The virgin sturgeon needs no urgin’
    The virgin sturgen is a very fine fish
    The virgin sturgeon needs no urgin’
    That’s why caviar is my dish”

    Jackie Carlton was a bit more mainstream and was a regular on the Manchester club circuit but he often leaned towards the blue side.

    Bunny Lewis seemed to last a bit longer than the other two and was a big name in the drag world long before the likes of Danny LaRue started topping the bills. I saw him on stage at the old Ashton Palais (or was it the Birdcage by then?). He took a volunteer from the audience – they snuggled up to each other (a la Flanagan and Allen in “Underneath the Arches”) and Bunny’s ending remark was “Young man, I must remind you that it may well be legal but you seem to think it’s compulsory”.

    No doubt they will all now be chatting together in that great big dressing room in the sky as they reminisce and wait for curtain up.

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 29th December 2011

    You have awakened memories of Bunny Lewis who I saw several times. I found this excellent interview recorded before his death in 2008.

    As for Ashton Palais, I only remember it as the Birdcage around 1970.

    Reply

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