Memory Lane: Hetty was ‘ideal boy’

Hetty King, male impersonator
Hetty King, male impersonator
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WHEN she appeared in Blackpool, at the old Alhambra Theatre in 1899, Hetty King was listed down the bill as a “serio comic”.

Six years later at the same theatre, which by then had become the Palace, she was a male impersonator billed as The Ideal Boy.

But her first brush with Fylde coast fame came at the age of 11, when she won £5 in a comic singing competition in Blackpool.

Hetty told The Gazette some years later: “With the prize went an engagement at the Wellington pub. My name went up in soap on the mirror!”

The entertainer was a regular bill-topper at the Palace until the 1950s, and in 1926 a Gazette reviewer told readers: “Of the four songs she gave us, The Bird Cage Walk, one of her famous successes, was a great hit as, in a smart soldierly kit she sang of the birds the Guards prefer.

“Another success was Polly in which Miss King, as a sailor homeward-bound, instructs his parrot to ‘shut its great big mouth about the happenings abroad’.”

She appeared at the Queens Theatre in 1959 in an Old Time Music Hall tour and, in 1961, was back at the Palace for the Frankie Vaughan Show, joining the star for a music hall spot.

During that summer The Gazette reported “an amusing but flattering experience” for Hetty, then 77, when she overhead two men talking about the show.

They had both enjoyed her act, but one of them remembered “seeing her mother 30 years ago and she was marvellous” not realising that it was in fact Hetty he had applauded in her younger days!

The male impersonator was back in Blackpool for her final season in 1964, taking a similar music hall theme in the Mike and Bernie Winters’ North Pier summer show.

She continued to work almost up to her death, at 89, in September 1972.