Danny La Rue

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Danny La Rue

Danny La Rue 1975.jpg
La Rue in his dressing room at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London early in 1975
Daniel Patrick Carroll

26 July 1927
Cork City, Ireland
Died31 May 2009(2009-05-31) (aged 81)
ResidenceLondon, England
  • Singer
  • entertainer
  • theatre performer
Years active1944–2006

Danny La Rue, OBE (born Daniel Patrick Carroll, 26 July 1927 – 31 May 2009) was an Irish-English singer and entertainer, particularly in stage theatre known for his singing and cross-dressing performances.

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 in 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.


Among his celebrity impersonations were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Margot Fonteyn, 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. In the 1970s, he owned the Swan, a noted inn at Streatley on the River Thames.

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 had a starring role in the film Our Miss Fred in 1972, and also appeared in Every Day's a Holiday, The Frankie Howerd Show, 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 as himself 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.

Illness and death[edit]

La Rue suffered a mild stroke in January 2006 whilst in Spain on holiday: as a result, his final pantomime and all subsequent performances were cancelled. He had been suffering from prostate cancer for many years, a fact not publicised to his fans. He had several further strokes and developed throat cancer.

He died shortly before midnight on 31 May 2009 at the age of 81.[4][5] His friend & costume designer, Annie Galbraith, was with him (he was living at her 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, west 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 £1 million on the purchase and restoration of a country house hotel, Walton Hall, in Warwickshire, and sold it in 1983 to a pair of Canadian con men. La Rue had given control of the hotel to the two Canadians with a promise of further investment with the retention of La Rue's name on the hotel itself. This eventually led to a police investigation where La Rue was cleared of any suspicion but discovered he had lost more than £1 million.[8]


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.

He has also been described as "the grande dame of drag".[11]

Selected filmography[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

See also[edit]

  • Danny the Street -- comic book character named for Danny La Rue ("la rue" in French translates into English as "the street")


  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. ^ Gibbons, Duncan (2 June 2009). "Coventry Theatre favourite Danny La Rue dies, 81". Coventry Telegraph.
  5. ^ Singh, Anita (2 June 2009). "Danny La Rue dies aged 81". The Daily Telegraph.
  6. ^ "Stage legend La Rue dies at 81". BBC News. 1 June 2009.
  7. ^ "Biography". Dannylarue.com. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  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. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  10. ^ Lasting Tribute website Archived 27 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Simpson, Neil (2008). Paul O'Grady: The Biography. London: John Blake Publishing. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-84454-417-2.

External links[edit]