Look At It This Way - July 4, 2014

Funny Girls celebrates its 20th birthday this weekend
Funny Girls celebrates its 20th birthday this weekend
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Happy 20th birthday Funny Girls.

Yes, I’m there tonight. Not on the stage. Not tall enough, talented enough, pretty enough, or male enough. Just in the audience – the Muppet gallery with the old dears from the visiting coach parties and some rather glam guests of my own.

But I’m definitely old enough to remember Funny Girls opening on Queen Street 20 years ago.

It straddled the Strand. Back then it was fairly downbeat, the resort’s definitive quality street fallen on hard times, the neighbouring ginnel the haunt of down and outs and caught-at-it rather than courting couples.

Basil’s on the Strand, a deliciously upmarket feeder bar to the spectacularly successful Flamingo Club, helped change all that. But Funny Girls became the cornerstone of the commercial renaissance there – ultimately outgrowing the premises and relocating to the former art deco Odeon on Dickson Road. It’s a glorious base but I still miss the old place.

Nobody gave a damn what you were – straight, gay, transgender, transvestite, hermaphrodite – so long as what you wore reflected Blackpool’s born again glamarama.

It attracted one of the first fly on the wall TV teams long before 999: What’s Your Excuse, Blackpool, For Agreeing to This Series played upon other excesses.

And it made Betty Legs Diamond and DJ Zoe stars of National Geographic ... and an uncomfortable clash on primetime telly’s Weakest Link hosted by quiz-inatrix Anne Robinson.

Prior to coverage of Basil’s on the Strand and Funny Girls, Basil had won a disdainful press that stopped just short of judgemental. Banks and breweries showed much the same attitude – and he even struggled to get contractors in.

But Basil’s a fighter. I like the showman but I love the recluse, the man who invests in 
giant redwood trees and tiny 
falabella ponies at his rural Fylde home. He would have kept cancer to himself had it not been for mounting public speculation concerning his health. It coincided with the fallout from some spectacularly bad financial advice.

How he fought back from that double whammy is beyond me – but he richly deserved that MBE in the new year’s honours list.

So tonight’s party is as much about Basil and his place in Blackpool’s heart – as it is about the Funny Girls. And, at a time when small charities really struggle to get a look-in amidst the bigger more emotive causes, I’m delighted to say that Basil and the Funny Girls are supporting the local charity’s campaign to fund a Young Carers’ champion – someone to fight the corner for hundreds of local kids looking out for their parents or after their brothers and
 
sisters. Tonight’s party is some down time for us, too. I’m there with a good friend from Blackpool Carers, Jo Henderson, who looks after the volunteers.

We’re being joined by two super local businesswomen who are both helping us out – and two other friends.

Tonight is about fun rather than fund-raising. And there will be other familiar faces there, too, such as the Goal-den Girls, formidable fund-raisers and running mates in their 50s, who will be teaming up with the Funny Girls, later this summer, for what promises to be a charity event to remember – again in aid of what’s become MY charity.

There’s only one more thing that could make my night complete – and that would be a rematch with Joan Collins who I met at the opening of the new-look Funny Girls after being sneaked backstage by Basil and PR Pearl Mina.

She wasn’t officially giving interviews and, when I asked a question, she shot me a diva look and rapped “don’t you read my column, darling?”

“No, Ms Collins,” I responded. “Do you read mine?”

Awkward timing for hit show Benidorm..

Can you tell what it is yet? It’s a repeat of a programme first aired long before Rolf Harris fell from grace.

An old episode of Benidorm featuring Tim Healy singing Two Little Boys – written by Harry Lauder but made famous by Harris – apparently got viewers incensed.

The timing was spectacularly awkward. It was followed by the News featuring an update on Harris’ serial sex abuse trial.

Then the Sun, that unerring guide to the moral high ground, surpassed itself for hypocrisy by complaining about the “sick” timing of the show.

Well, I watched Benidorm and didn’t complain.

We have enough deviant TV celebrities falling from pedestals to make The Rat Trap the longest running show.

But you can’t revise history, edit the now infamous out of popular culture, for fear of offending sensitive viewers.

How long before there’s a disclaimer before all programmes? “We apologise in the event this programme or any repeat thereof contains material which could potentially be seen as offensive should it reference or involve characters who subsequently transgress against the law.”