Robin Duke has bowed out after 40 years – most of them as our entertainments editor – to deafening applause. Here are some of the edited highlights of tributes – all of which have been passed to him in full.
Leading West End and film producer Bill Kenwright: “Robin Duke has been part of the Blackpool entertainment scene for as long as I can remember. A big part! It will always be the greatest Capital of Entertainment in the World. Robin has been a huge part of that for so many decades.
“For 40 years he has kept the flag flying for all things good in entertainment in the ‘Amazing Technicolour World’ on the Lancashire coast. I thank him for that, for his dedication, enthusiasm, the good reviews, not so good reviews. They all count! It must be wonderful to know that you will always be part of a magical world that has given so much pleasure to so many millions. Robin Duke deserves that accolade – and his place forever at the heart of Showbiz Blackpool. I salute him.”
Veteran comedian Ken Dodd: “A majestic scribe – and a grand friend of The Grand. But I always keep some raw meat in my pocket – for you treat journalists as you would lions at the circus! This man has enthusiasm – and talent – in abundance.”
Punk rocker John Robb: “The Duke parachuted into our precious punk rock community like a refugee from the mid-1970s. He could have gone for the easy life and written about the Charlie Chuckles showbiz that infested Blackpool but seemed equally fascinated with the fevered punk and post-punk scene.
“The support he gave was invaluable. He also created the often controversial Battle of the Bands competition which got far too much stick for creating a mini oasis in a desert of a town where pubs, in those days, would not serve you for looking vaguely punk rock.
“Farewell Mr Duke, God knows how you stuck it out for so long and remained physically unchanged and remarkably youthful by the decades of hideous local cabaret and unfunny comics and thanks for the endless support you gave to my continued horrible racket.”
Amanda Thompson, managing director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach: “The family have had the pleasure of working with him for more than 30 years. His love of live shows is always a delight to read, he has always been honest in his opinions and will be sadly missed at the many venues he has visited.
“On behalf of everyone at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Stageworks World Wide productions we would like to wish Robin a well deserved break and to thank him for all he has done for the entertainment industry and the resort of Blackpool.”
Neil Thomson, Grand Theatre General Manager: “Robin has been a valuable member of our extended family and he always gave his honest opinions and critiques of our shows.”
Basil Newby, In the Pink entrepreneur: “Robin was the first reporter to feature me in the 1980s when I opened the Flamingo and he helped break down many barriers in town with his positive outlook to us.
“Over the years he has been a huge part of my success. It took him a while to come round to Funny Girls but when he did he gave us amazing publicity. Robin, you will be so missed.”
Professor Vanessa Toulmin, writer, academic, Showzam founder: “The Duke’s words of support, praise and occasional criticism have made my work all the richer.
“His passion for the stage and knowledge of the business has made The Gazette and entertainment business a more interesting place.
“His comments never miss their target, are never aimed with malice, but with a desire to see something beautiful and great for Blackpool.”
Maureen Nolan, left: “He’s been such a part of our lives in Blackpool, always constructive, even with criticism, always truthful. We girls think the world of him.”
Dancing on Ice star Dan Whiston: “Robin’s followed my career from the start. It’s been great. He has always been really supportive of me and my work.”
Pearl Mina, showbiz PR: “Robin is Blackpool’s unrivalled Mr Showbiz, respected and cherished among all involved in Blackpool’s glittering theatre, arts, live entertainment and leisure scene. Blackpool is in Robin Duke’s DNA through and through.”
Russell Grant: “Love and congrats to a bit of old theatre about to go to the green room of life.”
Impresario Tony-Jo: “It had to be one of the toughest jobs on the planet, show business critic for Britain’s Las Vegas with nowhere to hide. Robin’s always been fair, occasionally brutal, and able to maintain the respect of the turns first to buy the Gazette on review days.”
Singer Joe Longthorne: “I still have his write up from my first night in Blackpool at the Layton Institute and last season’s at the wonderful Grand Theatre – only 30 odd years in between.
“We have shared some great headlines together.”
Entertainer Joey Blower: “Anyone expecting anything other than an honest appraisal did him an injustice. We are arranging a dinner in his honour.” Comedian Billy Pearce: “Robin has done a great job for showbiz in Blackpool, has always been very kind to me. I have nothing but respect for him.”
And comic Bobby Ball: “Tommy and I go back a long way with Robin. Our best times have been in Blackpool and he has always been there for us pal. Rock on Robin!”
Of the other stars paying tribute to Robin Duke, veteran comedian Roy Walker turned to rhyme...
“His column he wrote for many years in Blackpool by the sea, he wrote of opera, ballet, pantomime and top variety. At clubs and pubs and talent shows he never missed an opening night, then told the truth the following evening whether wrong or right. His job was to just to critique the shows that came to town, some he gave them rave reviews and others he put down. As years moved on the people cried ‘Where did he get that skill?’ And I’m about to tell you – this could leave you with a chill! I realised that he’d listened to the advice he’d got from me. Those words I gave him years ago: ‘Robin, just say what you see!’”
Roy’s son, fellow comedian Phil Walker: “Robin has been a true servant, supporter and ambassador of Blackpool entertainment for many years. He will be sorely missed.”
Comedian Mick Miller: “Robin did my first Gazette write up many moons ago and I have enjoyed many more since then as well as the odd pint. Have a great retirement and I will see you in the village.”
Comedian Johnnie Casson: “Robin is a constant in an ever changing world. His critiques were objective, fair and like most artistes I can take advice as long as it is out and out praise.”
Julian Wilde, retired head teacher, occasional reviewer: “I will always associate Robin with the word encouragement.
“Robin has taught me in his subtle and understated way how to present a well balanced view and include constructive criticism. I particularly admire his mantra of ‘tell it how it is’.”
Dave Daly, North West Unite union chairman for licensees: “Robin deserves to be honoured for the entertaining way he has kept Blackpool’s night and day economy alive and well for the last 40 years. Blackpool owes him.”
Former DJ Robin Ross: “My God if he had a radio show it would be an audience winner and as legendary as the man.”
Brenda Chance, managing director Trevor Chance’s Legends: “Robin’s name is as synonymous as The Tower, Pleasure Beach or piers. Duke’s Diary is the first page you look for and has been a must-read and showbiz symbol for 40 years. No matter how long his working day Robin has supported each and every one of us. Duke’s Diary will certainly go down in the town’s history books as the most comprehensive record of our industry – ever.”
DJ Joe Curran, pictured left: “Since working in Blackpool for the last 20 years as a DJ/entertainer I’ve found Robin a font of knowledge. As an ex-DJ himself his knowledge of music is Mastermind potential.”
Duggie Chapman, impresario: “I have known him over 30 years and always found him fair in his reviews. His interest in the theatre locally will be sadly missed.”
Club magnate Pete Schofield, below: “I’ve known Robin for more than 40 years during which time I have seen him develop the scene immensely through his coverage. “Robin always tells things as they are, even if you’re a friend. The word legend is often overused but Robin has written his name large in the entertainment history of Blackpool and qualifies for such.”
Entertainer Steve Royle: “Blimey, Duke, the Legend, leaves? Everyone should have a Robin Duke. He’s like a wife, you never know what your faults are until you have one!”