Les Dawson's hilarious interval gag at Blackpool's Stanley Arms wouldn't have been allowed on stage

We're on letter D in the A to Z of Blackpool bill-toppers in the 20th Century - and still with the comedians, writes Barry Band

By Claire Lark
Saturday, 23rd July 2022, 4:55 am

Last week Ken Dodd was number one, for his 63-year span of Blackpool appearances, which included ten long summer seasons.

Doddy's statue is being unveiled today (Friday) at the Grand Theatre but another of our favourites is also in the news.

Les Dawson (1931-93) is the subject of a tribute act by impressionist John Culshaw and tops our D list today.

Les Dawson at The Grand Theatre in 1993

Blackpool had a significent place in Les's rise to the front line. He'd done TV's Opportunity Knocks but it was in 1967 that he really hit the mark.

On Sunday, July 30 of that year, Les made such an impression with a supporting spot on a televised Blackpool Night, from the ABC Theatre, that he was rebooked for two weeks later.

It led to a stand-up spot in the Central Pier's 1968 summer show, while Les's second local season was supporting Dora Bryan and Ronnie Hilton at the old Queen's Theatre in 1971.

He topped the bill at the ABC for the 1977 season and the Grand in 1984 and 86. But what would have been Les's biggest Blackpool season, at the Opera House in 1988, was curtailed after a few weeks because of his health problems.

Billy Dainty

The Manchester-born comic, whose success bought him a fine home in Lytham, is fondly remembered for his droll compering of TV's Blankety Blank, his introduction of Blackpool's formidable dance line the Roly Polys, and his Cissie and Ada sketches with Roy Barraclough.

A few locals may have a memory of a hot night the 1977 ABC season, when Les and Bobby Bennett (standing in for Roy) still in drag as Cissie and Ada, walked out of the stage door and into the nearby Stanley Arms for an interval drink.

The lucky topers saw Les and Bobby give an impromptu performance that wouldn't have been allowed on stage!

Jack Douglas is second on our list today for his four Blackpool summer seasons but he was also a Blackpool resident when his father, stage producer John D. Roberton, moved his family to the resort in WW2.

Jack Douglas during a tour of a workplace

Jack (1927-2008) learned his craft backstage at the old Feldman's Theatre and was a solo comic at 19. He was in the 1958 ABC summer show in a double act with Joe Baker and with Des O'Connor for the 1966 season at the North Pier.

Jack was at the Grand in comedy play seasons in 1968 and 72. During that second season the theatre owners (EMI) gave notice they were applying to demolish the theatre. Jack was the first star to to speak out against the plan, using two local Rotary talks.

He is remembered for creating his twitchy character Alf Ippititimus and for roles in eight Carry On films. His last Blackpool role was Baron Hardup in the Grand's 1996 panto, Cinderella.

My third comic choice, for four Blackpool seasons, is Billy Dainty (1927-86). He never topped the bill but could steal the show with his eccentric dancing and facial grimacing.

Billy was at the North Pier in 1958 and 62, was Tommy Steele's comedy support in 1970 at the ABC and in the Bachelors' 1978 ABC season.