Danny La Rue

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Danny La Rue
Danny La Rue.jpg
La Rue in his dressing room at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London early in 1975
Background information
Birth name Daniel Patrick Carroll
Born 26 July 1927
Cork, Ireland
Origin Ireland/United Kingdom
Died 31 May 2009(2009-05-31) (aged 81)
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
Occupations Entertainer
Years active 1959 - 2009

Danny La Rue, OBE (26 July 1927 – 31 May 2009) was an Irish-born British entertainer known for his singing and drag impersonations.

Early life[edit]

Born as Daniel Patrick Carroll in Cork City,[1] Ireland, in 1927, La Rue was the youngest of either four or five siblings. The family moved to England when he was six and he was brought up at Earnshaw Street in Soho, central London. When the family home was destroyed during the Blitz, his mother, a seamstress, moved her children to Kennford, a Devon village where young Daniel developed an interest in dramatics. “There weren't enough girls so I got the pick of the roles ... My Juliet was very convincing”, La Rue recalled.[2]

He served in the Royal Navy as a young man following his father's footsteps, and even had a brief career delivering groceries, but he became known for his skill as a female impersonator (or "comic in a frock" as he preferred to be called) in the United Kingdom and was featured in theatre productions, and in film, television and records.

Career[edit]

Among his celebrity impersonations were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Margaret Thatcher. At one point he had his own nightclub in Hanover Square, and also performed on London's West End. In the 1960s he was among Britain's highest-paid entertainers. He owned the Swan at Streatley hotel in the 1970s. In 1982 he played Dolly Levi in the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also has the distinction of being the only man to take over a woman's role in the West End theatre when he replaced Avis Bunnage in Oh, What a Lovely War![2] and he was until his death still a regular performer in traditional Christmas pantomime shows in Britain.

In 1968 his version of "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep" reached number 33 in the UK singles chart; La Rue later adopted the song as his theme tune.[3]

He appeared in Every Day's a Holiday, The Frankie Howerd Show, Our Miss Fred, Twiggs, Decidedly Dusty, Entertainment Express, Blackpool Bonanza and the BBC's Play of the Month in a production of Charley's Aunt (1969). He made a guest appearance in the Mr. Bean episode Mr. Bean in Room 426 in 1993.

La Rue's final major public appearance was in Hello Danny, a biographical show performed at the "Benidorm Palace", which opened on 11 November 2007. The part of the young La Rue was played by Jerry Lane, who also co-created and directed. La Rue appeared at the start of the show and then in an interview on stage in part of the second half. He also performed a number of songs.

Death[edit]

La Rue suffered a mild stroke in January 2006 whilst in Spain on holiday after his final pantomime and all of his planned performances were cancelled. He had been suffering from prostate cancer for many years unbeknown to his fans. He had several subsequent strokes and developed cancer of the throat. He died in his home shortly before midnight on 31 May 2009 at the age of 81 [4][5] His companion, Annie Galbraith, was with him at his home in Tunbridge Wells when he died. La Rue was laid to rest with his partner, Jack Hanson, in St Mary's Cemetery, Kensal Green, London. [6]

Personal life[edit]

La Rue would often perform parts of his show in men's clothes, and was often seen out of costume on television. In later life, he was more candid about his private life, including his homosexuality. La Rue lived for many years with his manager and life partner of 40 years, Jack Hanson, until Hanson's death in 1984.[7][8]

In the 1970s La Rue spent more than £1million on the purchase and restoration of a country house hotel, Walton Hall in Warwickshire and sold it in 1983. Controversy with the two Canadians who had bought it and agreed to retain La Rue's name on it led to a police investigation where La Rue eventually was cleared of any suspicion but discovered he had lost more than £1million.[8]

Accolades[edit]

He was appointed OBE in the 2002 Queen's Birthday Honours List. La Rue later stated in an interview that this was "the proudest day of his life".[9] Other accolades included Royal Variety Performance appearances in 1969, 1972 and 1978, Variety Club of Great Britain Showbiz Personality of the Year (1969), Theatre Personality of the Year (1970), Entertainer of the Decade (1979) and the Brinsworth Award from the EABF for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment profession and the community.[10] In 1987 he was King Rat of the showbusiness charity the Grand Order of Water Rats.

La Rue was the subject of a specially extended edition of This Is Your Life in 1984 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the curtain call of Hello, Dolly! at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre.

Tribute[edit]

The comics character Danny the Street, created in 1990, is named after La Rue.

Selected filmography[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • La Rue, Danny (1987) From Drags to Riches: my autobiography, Harmondsworth: Viking, ISBN 0-670-81557-8
  • Underwood, Peter (1974) Life's a drag : Danny la Rue & the drag scene, London: Frewin, ISBN 0-85632-081-1
  • Baker, Roger (1968) Drag: A History of female impersonation on the stage, Triton: ISBN 0-363-00014-3

References[edit]

  1. ^ Irish Times obituary
  2. ^ a b Daily Telegraph obituary
  3. ^ Rice, Tim; Jo Rice, Paul Gambaccini (1995). British Hit Singles (10th ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 0-85112-633-2. 
  4. ^ Coventry Theatre favourite Danny La Rue dies, 81
  5. ^ Singh, Anita (2 June 2009). "Danny La Rue dies aged 81". Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2 June 2009. 
  6. ^ BBC: Stage legend La Rue dies at 81
  7. ^ "Biography". Dannylarue.com. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  8. ^ a b Daily Telegraph obituary, 1 June 2009
  9. ^ "QUEEN'S BIRTHDAY HONOURS LIST: The first dame; DANNY LA RUE OBE.(News)". Highbeam.com. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  10. ^ Lasting Tribute website[dead link]

External links[edit]