HE might count the likes of Bruce Willis and Sylvestor Stallone among his friends now, but multi-millionaire Robert Earl’s own entertainment pedigree has its roots here in Blackpool.
For the founder of global businesses including the Planet Hollywood brand, fondly recalls a childhood spent partly on the Fylde coast, while his dad, also called Robert, launched his career as a singer.
Now Robert Junior, whose investments include the vast Planet Hollywood hotel and casino in Las Vegas, has put his cash into Blackpool – opening one of his Buca di Beppo Italian dining experiences as part of the £8m upgrade of the De Vere Village Hotel at Heron’s Reach in the resort.
Two weeks after the restaurant was officially opened by cricket star Andrew Flintoff, Robert paid a flying visit to see how it was going.
He said: “I have a very close affinity to Blackpool.
“My dad was a popular singer and he did everything from the piers to the Winter Gardens to Derby Baths.
“We would live here for the summer while he was in a show. Those were amazing days in the 1960s. I was a bingo caller once on the Golden Mile. It was so busy in those days and I would like to see Blackpool get back to that again.
“But I think it’s Blackpool’s turn and we have to do new and exciting things here because the price of going to Spain or Disneyland Paris is so competitive.”
London-born, but US-based Robert, also built up the famous Hard Rock Cafe chain and is a director of Everton FC.
He recalls his last visit to Blackpool was for the Royal Variety Performance at the Opera House when he says he had lunch with The Queen, but this visit was rather more low key as he joined diners at Buca di Beppo.
He said: “I have been most excited about this restaurant opening in Blackpool, because to me putting Buca inside the Village hotel is a winning formula.
“You have the visitors, the people who live in the town that love to come out to a hotel for dinner and the people sleeping in the hotel.
“We have designed something where for £15 a head, you can get some good grub, and if you don’t eat it all, you can take it home in a doggy bag.
“Everyone is price conscious and we’re confident this will become the place that everyone in Blackpool comes to celebrate.”
Robert was accompanied on his visit by chief executive of De Vere Hotels Gary Davis.
He said: “This hotel has a great mix of clientele, and it’s a fun place to stay, so it was a natural choice for Buca di Beppo.”