In Search of My Father 2017 Writing Project

In Search of My Father 2017 Writing Project
In Search of My Father, 2017 writing project supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

EARTHA KITT WAS BANNED IN OUR HOUSE

Eartha Kitt was banned in our house. Anytime she came on the telly, my mother would switch over or switch off. Ms Kitt was deemed to be a too sexy and therefore unsavoury singer whose vocal style involved breathy sighs and frequent purrs, accompanied by seductive eye movements.

I was reminded of her when I chanced upon an old edition of The Good Old Days from 1972. For the younger generation, The Good Old Days was a very popular BBC variety show that ran from 1953 to 1983. That's 30 seasons in today's parlance. The show based itself on old music halls and the enthusiastic audience dressed up in period costumes to add to the atmosphere. The bill included singers, comedians, magicians, acrobats, ventriloquists et al.

The compere was Leonard Sachs. He would use strings of long, pompous words to introduce the acts and at every word the audience would oooh and aaaah their delight at his thesaurustical dexterity (oooh, aaah). As he announced the name of the act about to appear on stage, he would bang a gavel.

In the 1972 show I mentioned, Sachs was on top form. The bill included not only Eartha Kitt slinking and gliding her way across the stage but also Terry Lightfoot's jazz band, an intentionally clumsy comedian called Larry Parker, ventriloquist Neville King, acrobats The Macardis, singers The Barrie Brothers and Eira Heath and the one and only Arthur Askey who kidded around and sang a song about a penguin. The audience loved it all.

The variety show format as we used to know it is long gone from television. Today's versions of variety shows, including the Royal Variety Performance, seem to be dominated by performers from The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and the non-stop conveyor belt that delivers the recurring roster of comedians taking a break from regular appearances on panel games. I reckon not many from the modern generation would have much of an appetite for the old musical hall acts. Why would they? Why should they? This is the Ant and Dec generation that seems to enjoy ordinary people doing funny things and celebrities being pranked.

As I watched Eartha Kitt from over forty years ago (I'm allowed now), I reckon if she had performed her act for Simon Cowell back in the day, he would have snapped her up. She had the allure, something unique and a nice line in sparkling frocks.

I don't know if The Good Old Days and TV back then really were the good old days but a wee dose of nostalgia every now and then is not a bad thing.


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