Monday, 27 July 2015

Exit Stage Right....

RIP: Dick Ray, (real name Richard Raymond Marks)

Dick Ray along with his sister (the late Peter Sellers' mother), pioneered The Touring Revue or ‘Travelling Shows’ and with Peggy whom was also a dancer (and soon became a Jazz singing sensation working for Dick), travelled the world before they both married and settled in Jersey where they soon became well known for the major names and shows that Dick was to produce on the island.

As Jeff says below, if it was not for Dick, we would not have an Opera House today. And as well as the summer season, he also brought the "Gilbert and Sullivan for All" company over to Jersey, and I was with a school party, expecting something highbrow (as a typical schoolboy!) and was instead totally hooked on Gilbert and Sullivan, for which I am most grateful.

A guest posting today... a tribute to Dick Ray who died last week from Jeff Hathaway.

Exit Stage Right...
by Jeff Hathaway

Sad news. Knew Dick only too well. One of the last true impresarios. A devil of person to do business with, but in true old fashioned showbusiness tradition once he struck a deal he would stick to it and pay you on the nose even though he had a reputation for being a terrible skinflint. Fond memories of him. He was always straight with me and I could definitely regard him as a friend.

There is a story, whether true or not I don’t know - but its totally credible. He regularly travelled to London as he had interests in the West End - and over the course of time had amassed many air-miles with BA. Enough it would seem to fly him free Jersey to Honolulu (return), first class too. So he decided to do just that, taking his family with him - but he booked them tickets in economy.

Must be true as that was Dick to a tee.

It was Dick that brought me to Jersey. I first met him at Hatfield Civic Centre in the mid 80’s when I was playing in a ‘middle of the road’ pop group that was trying to break into recording. We were playing a 2 set gig for what I recall was an ‘Evening of Entertainment'. He simply just wandered up and said,: “I have just the contract for you - a summer season”. He did not say where, nor would for some time, for reason we later found out; he didn't actually hold the contract. But somehow he secured it and sign us he did and booked us into Les Arches for a summer season. It was perhaps at one of the same time both the best and worse move we could have ever made. But that’s another story.

He has left something of a legacy in Jersey. Without him, and his care with money, I doubt if the Opera House would have ever survived. It was only the summer shows that kept it just about solvent and of course Dick was quite adept at getting some household names to star in them - John Inman and Barbara Windsor being two in particular. Many will recall the endless line of coaches outside the Opera House in the evenings…full of holidaymakers dressed in their best ‘travelling' finery - and often, Dick patrolling the foyer to greet them, resplendent in bow tie and full evening suit.

Then there was Caesars Palace at Greve de Lecq which in its heyday would also be packed every night - a cabaret show which it must be said was every bit as good as anything you would have found elsewhere. Roger Bara was its Musical Director and as to be expected, Stuart Gillies (who he discovered - and that is true) topped the bill alongside the likes of Charlie Daze and Pat Mooney - two great comedians. Dick had a good eye for talent. He personally directed the show and was a stickler for getting the detail right. Yep. End of an era in some ways when Caesars finally closed.

Since, Dick has been a regular commuter to the Isle of Man where he is something of a legend. Just like the Opera House in Jersey he breathed new life into the Gaiety Theatre and has kept that going for years, pretty much with the same Jersey Opera House formula of a resident summer show, and touring productions of West End plays and musicals and various ’showcase’ concerts at other times. He had boundless energy.

Last I saw Dick he was still living in St. Peter on Old Beaumont Hill. No idea how he came to be in a Torquay hospital - but knowing Dick, their private wing was probably cheaper than ours at the General Hospital!

I did not know he had been battling leukaemia for so long, and a rather sad end to his life which was all about the razzmatazz, the glitter, the celebrity, the theatre in all its forms, the lights of the West End; showbusiness.

God bless Dick, God bless Mr Showbusiness.

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've travelled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

‘My Way’ - Frank Sinatra

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