Tommy Cooper in World War 2

“I got the military cross. Mind you, I got the Navy a bit annoyed as well!” is just one of those classic one liners from the legendary Tommy Cooper,

He was one of my all time favourite comedians, and despite what people may think he actually was a talented magician. But there is so much more to the man.

He was born on the 19th of March 1921, at 19 Llwyn On Street, Trecenydd in Caerphilly, Wales . His father was a Welshman, , was as a recruiting sergeant for the British army, later coal miner . His mother, Gertrude, was English, coming from Crediton in Devon. The Coopers did not own the house but were merely lodging there. Apparently, in those pre-maternity hospital days, Tommy was born at home and the owner of the house acted as the midwife for the birth. To escape from the heavily polluted air of Caerphilly, Tommy’s dad accepted a new job and the family moved to Exeter, Devon, when Cooper was three.

In 1940 he was called up as a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards. He joined Montgomery’s Desert Rats in Egypt.

After a short while, his reconnaissance unit was sent to North Africa working in conjunction with armoured cars and tanks. He then lost his A1 rating after he received a gunshot wound to his left arm. This allowed him to audition, with great success, for the army concert party.

He became the Horse Guards boxing champion, he was so good that he was offered a contract to turn pro.​

While serving, he travelled to Egypt and began to develop his act incorporating the now iconic trademark fez.​
His famous red fez was introduced rather luckily during a NAAFI concert. The concert took place in a Y.M.C.A. in Cairo. Tommy was going to wear his pith helmet but he had somehow mislaid it. Quick as a flash he “borrowed” an Egyptian waiter’s hat instead. during the audition, his trick went wrong. But the panel were in hysterics and said that should be his act.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

His life ended tragically though. On April 15 1984 he died in front of a live television audience.

The comedian was performing on the London Weekend Television show called Live From Her Majesty’s. While on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Westminster, London, he slumped down and subsequently collapsed.

Initially the host assumed it was part of the act and so did the audience. The audience erupted in laughter assuming it was all part of the joke. After his initial collapse, he slowly fell back onto the stage curtains.

However, the show’s director recognised something was very wrong, and switched to an unplanned break. Tommy was pulled from the curtains and efforts were attempted to revive him backstage. He was pronounced dead at arrival at Westminster Hospital.

But the show continued, and Les Dennis and Dustin Gee were two of the proceeding acts.

Although I did not go into the comedy of Tommy Cooper in this blog. I could not end it without one of his famous gags. “Spoon, Jar, Jar, Spoon”



sources

https://www.entertainmentdaily.co.uk/tv/did-tommy-cooper-die-on-stage-and-how-old-was-he/

https://www.tommy-cooper.com/horse-guards

The time I nearly booked André Rieu for my Mother’s wedding.

Rieu, Vrijthof, Maastricht

This is a historical blog however not  so much about a big historical event but more a personal historical tale, which I was reminded of today.

In 1991 hardly anyone had heard about Andre Rieu, I know I didn’t. My Mother was getting remarried and I had told her that I would pay for the music on her wedding day. Not knowing that this would be more difficult then I had envisaged.

I tried to call may bands, all the local bands were booked for the date. I decided to look further afield for the night’s entertainment. I opened up the Golden Pages and went to the section of musicians/entertainers. Most of the names in the section I had already contacted or they were just too far away.

I spotted one name though I hadn’t approached yet and he lived also only10 miles away from my hometown. The name was Andre Rieu, nothing else, no full page ad, no bells and whistles, just a name and telephone number, not even an indication what kind of music he did or if he even was a musician, just a name and number

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I tried ringing several times but to no avail, no answer machine, it just rang out.

This left me with no music. Luckily one of the bands I had contacted, had a cancellation and was able to book them for the wedding.

What a story it would have been though if I had booked Andre Rieu for my Mother’s wedding.

My story with Andre Rieu doesn’t stop there though.

In July 2015 I had the pleasure to see the great man live in Maastricht.

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How that came about is quite magical and it involved my other parent, my Father.

He passed away on June 27 2017, his funeral was on July the 2nd. My siblings and I had decided that the day after his funeral we would go to his birth place, Maastricht, to remember him and to celebrate his life.

We’d go by train so no one had to drive in an emotional state. The train journey was only 25 minutes anyway.The plan was to have a drink or 2, have a bite to eat and do a bit of shopping.

Not realizing that Andre Rieu was staring his first of 7 concerts that day in Maastricht.

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While we were going about fulfilling our plans for the day a thought came to my mind. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could stay for the concert”, knowing there was no chance on earth we’d get a ticket, leave alone 4. And the signs around town had said they were going to close the main square’Vrijthof’ at 6 PM that evening. This would also mean our time was limited to go for dinner.

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But we took a chance and asked at the box office if there were still tickets. The answer was “No, it had been sold out for nearly a year” We had seen some restaurants though who were advertising dinner and concert arrangements. So we asked around and all we got was the same answer as  at box office.

However been raised as people who never give up, we decided to try one last restaurant. The Azie Tapaz restaurant on the Vrijthof.

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Initially we got the same answer, but I don’t know what prompted the manager, since we did not tell him about the recent passing of our Dad, but he said “If you come around the back ally at about 6.15 PM, I’ll let you in via the back entrance and I’ll sort you out.

So we did as advised, and true to his word there he was at the back door and let us in. He set us first down in the restaurant and then prepared a table for us at the terrace on the Vrijthof square. At that stage I thanked him and told him how much this meant to us since we had just lost our Father, and we were there to celebrate his life and the concert would be the perfect end to those celebrations.

Not only did he go out of his way to accommodate us at the end of our fabulous dinner there was no bill either so the meal and concert were free, but we did leave some money behind anyway as a tip

That day we felt our Dad was looking out for us from heaven.

I know this is a very personal story but since it was such a wonderful experience I feel I had to share it.

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