The Carpenters rode a throaty Harley Davidson on a Blackpool stage but the memory of Karen's anorexia is more vivid

Still with the letter C in the A to Z series of Blackpool's Century of Stars, it's Ladies' Night, writes Barry Band.

By Claire Lark
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 3:45 pm

Picture this: You're at the opening night of the 1960 Opera House summer show. Centre stage is a glamorous vocalist in one of her famous frothy gowns.

But Alma Cogan (1932-1966) can't do a waltz or a tango (one of her Top 10 discs) because she's broken a leg and it's in a plaster cast for two weeks. How many readers saw that?

Alma (Alma Cohen, 1932-66) was billed second to Tommy Steele in this show. It was her second Opera House season, having been "second top" to comedians Jewel and Warriss in 1955, when she had a chart-topper with Dreamboat.

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The Carpenters, Richard and Karen Carpenter, in concert with a motorcycle used as a prop during their UK tour, 1976. When they came to Blackpool, they rode a Harley (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In April that year she was also in the first Blackpool Royal Variety Performance at the Opera House.

It was a charmed decade for the singer with the laughing voice and catchy songs.

With success as resident vocalist on radio's Take It From Here, she was booked by promoter Harold Fielding for Opera House Sunday concerts in 1952. She was billed top on 14 of 17 occasions. Her last visit was in 1963, before cancer struck her.

Petula Clark, born 1932, was a child star in the Huggett family films before she also came to the Opera House in Sunday concerts between 1950-60, topping four of those bills.

Alma Cogan (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Petula returned to Blackpool as the bill-topper in the Royal Performance (for Prince Charles) at the formal reopening of the Grand Theatre on May 29, 1981.

In 1982 a Petula Clark tour visited the Opera House, reminding her audience of a big catalogue of hits that included Downtown, Don't Sleep in the Subway, This Is My Song and I Couldn't Live Without Your Love.

You wouldn't forget a concert where the stars arrived on stage on a throaty Harley Davidson. From the third row, centre aisle, we got a brief waft of the exhaust!

That's how the Carpenters, sister and brother Karen and Richard, opened at the Opera House on November 19, 1976.

Petula Clark in 1965 (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Karen's honeyed voice was wonderful but, sadly, there is another strong memory from that night. The anorexia that was to cause her death in 1983 was obvious.

From music to drama and a star who few people will remember. But Fay Compton's stardom was seen in Blackpool over a span of 37 years and is included here as a reminder of how top actors came here in great plays.

The sister of author Compton Mackenzie came to the old Opera House in 1921 in the play that made her name.

It was J.M.Barrie's ghost story Mary Rose, which made such an impact that it was revived, with Miss Compton again starring, and toured again to the Opera House in 1927.

Fay Compton (1894-1878) came to our resort at five year intervals in major London successes, finally as Mrs St. Maugham in Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden, at the Grand in March, 1958.

A few readers have just remembered her. She was Aunt Ann in the original TV series of The Forsyte Saga in 1967.

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