“We’ve got a great bill and, if I say so myself, it’s good value,” said Roy, who would have turned 84 in May. He wasn’t wrong. Stars treading the boards at The Royal Hippodrome, Eastbourne, on June 6 include award-winning actress Alison Steadman, comedy veteran Bernie Clifton and US singing star Lorna Dallas.
Only now the show will go ahead as a tribute to Roy.
“Pros love to come and do it,” the jovial Londoner told me. “It’s real old-style variety. After last year’s show all the artists were on such a high in the dressing room they didn’t really want to go home.”
Hudd, who had been president of the British Musical Hall Society since 1992, was also excited about starring in a new show called Naturally Insane: The Dan Leno story, about the Victorian music hall star who, like Max Miller, was one of his comedy heroes.
“He had an incredible impact, in an age before radio and television,” said Roy, who took a framed photo of Leno to every show he did.”People think of theVictorians as being very ‘straight’ in relation to their comedy, but Dan Leno was so off-beat.
“Some of his humour was actually quite crazy. He was the trailblazer for the likes of The Marx Brothers, Spike Milligan and The Goons, and Monty Python. He’s always fascinated me.”
Roy was set to play the actor and theatre manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, with young comedy juggler Steve Royle as Leno. The play was due to start in Bury St Edmunds before moving into theWest End.
Hudd was equally thrilled about appearing at a Good Old Days live show at the Leeds CityVarieties theatre later this month and had a mini-tour this spring discussing his long career with his wife of 21 years, former dancer Debbie Flitcroft, 61 (to whom he proposed atWatford Gap services).
“Debbie knows more about me than anyone,” he said, adding with a chuckle “Probably too much!” The Roy Hudd I knew was one of life’s great enthusiasts.As well as variety comedy and Music Hall, Roy was passionate about Crystal Palace Football Club, although he’d become a fan of Ipswich Town after relocating to Suffolk.
The son of a carpenter and a waitress, Roy got hooked on showbusiness as a boy when his granny Alice took him to the Croydon Empire to see the likes of Max Miller, Max Wall, Hetty King and Bud Flanagan perform.
After National Service in the RAF, he became a Butlin’s Redcoat in Clacton, an experience he likened to “being on stage from eight in the morning until midnight, raving with a big smile”. His fellow Redcoats included Cliff Richard and Dave Allen.
His first big break was on Ned Sherrin’s TV show Not So Much A Programme, More A Way Of Life. But this “gangling short-sighted herbert”, as he called himself, made his name on BBC radio’s The News Huddlines, a ratings-topping news-based topical comedy show which ran for 26 years until 2001.
Roy proved himself a versatile actor appearing in everything from Dennis Potter’s Lipstick On Your Collar to Broadchurch via Coronation Street where he played undertaker Archie Shuttleworth.
But above all he loved entertainers.The idea that the grand Day By The Sea would go ahead in his honour would have tickled him pink.
The British Music Hall Society’s Day By The Sea, Royal Hippodrome, Eastbourne, 10.30am, Saturday, June 6. Tickets £32 (britishmusichallsociety.com/01323 802020)