Harry’s wages were cut... by royal command!

Sir Harry Lauder
Sir Harry Lauder
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DID you watch the Royal Variety Performance on ITV1 last night?

As usual there was a star-studded line-up, this time joined by a dog act, which a public vote earlier this year proved to us all that Britain’s Got Talent!

But Memory Lane readers will no doubt be interested to know that on Friday night at 9pm there is documentary, again on ITV1, called 100 Years of the Royal Variety Performance.

Classic moments will be recalled as the story unfolds about the show that has entertained generations of the royal family and raised vast amounts for charity.

Look out for Lady Gaga’s bizarre performance in front of the Queen here in Blackpool at the Opera House on a 20ft high piano in 2009.

Perhaps there will be footage from 1955, the only other year that this much-loved annual treat has ventured to the resort.

But whatever else the 90-minute programme reveals, there is unlikely to be mention of the tight-fistedness shown by Blackpool Tower Company towards one of the big stars of the very first Royal Variety Performance, or Command Performance as it was originally known.

Blackpool showbusiness historian Barry Band says: “The first of these Royal shows was staged at London’s Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue in the summer and one of the main stars was appearing the same week at Blackpool’s old Palace Theatre.

“Harry Lauder, the famous Scottish entertainer and the highest paid artist in variety, was booked for Blackpool at a fee of £500 for the week beginning Monday, July 1, 1912.

“Then came a ‘Royal Command’ for him to appear in the prestigious London show on that Monday evening.

“The owners of the Blackpool theatre, the Tower Company, were delighted to mention the honour in their Gazette News advertisements ahead of the run, but without Harry on the bill decided to close on Monday and start the Blackpool show from the following day.

“After travelling overnight by train back to Blackpool, the star began his engagement at the Tuesday matinee, which was at 2.30pm.

“The Tower Company, ever careful with money, deducted Harry’s wages by one sixth – a fact recorded in the manager’s bookings diary kept in the Winter Gardens archives, now owned by Blackpool Council,” says Barry.

The Scot, who was knighted in 1919 for his wartime charity work, continued to come to the Blackpool Palace until he retired in 1935.

Barry says: “From mentions in The Gazette, Blackpool and Sir Harry Lauder has a special relationship. Even after he retired he visited the resort every summer to see the season shows.”

And Barry reveals: “On his last visit, shortly before his death in 1950, the mayoral car was put at his disposal for a trip to Stanley Park.”