51:32:35 l0:03:22

TGI Paul

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

7 Successes & 5 Secrets Pt 2

Well it's been a couple of days since I wrote the first part of this tag, so I've had plenty of time to think about which 5 things that you don't know about me are fit to print! Apologies to TroubledDiva for the late response!

I've had what some may call a 'chequered past', I prefer to call it colourful, so I thought I'd divulge 5 parts of my personal history that I've been meaning to blog for a while. I hope you find them enlightening!

1) My Famous Aunt

This may come as little surprise to those who know me well personally, but I'll write it for the rest of you; I led quite a 'showbiz-y' childhood. My Mum is an ex-Dancer you see and when I was much younger she still had a few friends in 'the business'.

Way back in '74 we went to see an old friend of hers,
Tommy Godfrey, an actor probably best known as Sid the Caretaker in 70's 'comedy' "Mind Your Language", and met a young singer called Tammy Jones. Tammy quickly became a close friend of the families, and a regular at my parents parties. I used to call her Auntie Tammy.

Soon after we met her, she entered
'Opportunity Knocks', a TV talent show, singing "Let Me Try Again". She won five times, becoming the longest winner until Bernie Flint won six times in a row. Her single went to # 5 in the charts in April '75, and the album of the same name topped the charts also.

Later that year she entered 'Song for Europe' singing "Love's A Carousel". Sadly she came 6th, but at least she lost to 'Brotherhood of Man' who went on to win the Eurovision. I think this is where my fondness for the competition came from! Another album followed and she was named highest selling female recording artiste of 1975.

From then until the end of the decade we would spend some of our holidays with Tammy wherever she was working. She would rent a house for summer seasons at places like Great
Yarmouth and Eastbourne, towns that had the end-of-the-pier theatres that are sadly disappearing, and we would stay with her. I remember spending a lot of time backstage with people like Marti Caine (I used to stand behind her on a chair to help do the top of her dress up!), Les Dawson and Jim Davidson.The Christmas holidays where a similiar thing, full of panto's and magic!

Very often we'd all meet her after the show, and go for dinner with all the acts, along with any others that were in the same town at other theatres. I remember sitting next to John Inman and Bobby Crush one night which was quite a frightening experience for a five year old boy!

I remember also one night in a Greek restaurant in Bradford, where Tammy was doing 'Cinderella' at the Alhambra Theatre. The owner was so impressed that he had Tammy Jones in his restaurant that he got her up to sing. She did gladly; she was always happiest singing, especially after a few drinks! In fact, this actually got us a visit from the police one night when Tammy started belting her lungs out in our back garden at one of my parents bar-b-q's. As soon as the policemen saw who was causing the noise though, they came in and joined the party for a while!

2) Me As A Performer

I suppose, growing up like this, it was inevitable that the stage would draw me in sooner or later! At senior school I was very lucky to have an excellent drama teacher, Frank Whately. He used to regularly cast me in school plays, and I started as Puck in Midsummers Nights Dream when I was 13.

Through him I got involved with the National Youth Music Theatre too as he and our music teacher, David Nield wrote many of their shows. I even had a part written with me in mind for the show 'The Ragged Child'. It was the lead role, and the show was to be staged at Sadlers Wells. It also went to the Edinburgh Festival and was then made into an album, but I had decided to leave school so I couldn't be a part of it. This is a HUGE regret!

When I left school at 16 I joined an amateur group to play Artful Dodger in Oliver! at Wimbledon Theatre. This led on to me playing leads for various groups in, amongst others, 'Godspell', 'Little Shop of Horrors', 'Anything Goes', 'Cabaret' and the amateur debut of 'Me & My Girl' at the Epsom Playhouse.

I must get some photo's scanned and put on here one day!

3) Butlins

I briefly mentioned this once before but thought I'd slip it in again!
In 1989, having just done a dance show called 'Timestep' in Putney, I went and auditioned at Butlins to become a dancer at one of their hotels. I went because it was the only audition in The Stage for weeks that didn't require Equity membership!

I got the job and spent the summer of '88 at The Ocean Hotel in Saltdean, just outside Brighton. I would do redcoat duties during the day, and in the evening take part in the cabaret. We had different guests most evenings, and every saturday was Susan Maughan, of 'Bobbys Girl' fame.

So for the summer of '89 I would spend every saturday being 'Bobby', dancing round Susan Maughan as she sang her biggest hit.

4) Life's A Drag

Yes it's true! I did do drag! Now, this may not sound like a revelation, after all most gay men have, at some time or another, donned a frock at some point for a party or a bet, but I mean I did it semi-professionally for a while! No half measures here!

It was around 1989 and I was living in Ipswich (just don't ask!). Our local gay pub decided they would throw an amateur drag night in an attempt to 'liven the place up a bit'. Unsurprisingly, come the week of the contest they had only one entrant and the owners came and asked me & my flatmate if we would PLEASE take part and help get the night going!

Well, we were young and up for a laugh so we agreed. We got some fab little mini dresses, and worked out a couple of mime routines. I think we chose 'It's Raining Men' and 'Enough is Enough' for that first night.

Though I say so myself, we were pretty damn good actually, and stormed the night, winning champagne and some cash! In fact, we were so good that the owners asked if we would do a full cabaret there! £100 for a 45 minute show. "OK! You're on!" said I, idiotically.

We called ourselves 'Bittersweet' ("I'm the sweet one!"), and worked on more numbers and got more costumes and proper wigs. The full show went down equally well, and we were asked to start doing them regularly. It all started taking on a life of its own.

One night, after a show, we threw our frocks, feathers, wigs and stilletoes in the back of the car and drove down to London to have a night out with our cabaret wages. We partied all night and slept in the car, ducking into a McDonalds in the morning to wash. We went to a pub at lunchtime with our last £5, and, as I glanced through a copy of Boyz paper, I noticed that there was a sunday afternoon amateur drag contest at a pub in Kings Cross. Well, as we had the stuff in the car we thought we'd see if we'd be able to win in London.

We won! We won the final a few weeks later too... more champagne and cash! There was an agent there and we were signed up to them before we could get out of our heels!

For the next coupleof months we were sent all over the place, mostly to pubs that more established acts wouldn't work in! It didn't last for long as we really couldn't keep travelling round the country at weekends when we both had full time jobs, but it was quite good fun for a while.

5) My Ex-Husband

1994, and gay 'weddings' were a long way off. I was dating a singer (the showbiz theme continues), as well as being his manager. I was about 24.

We'd met via a boyband I was in (should this have been number 5 really?). He was on the books at the same agency and we frequently ended up doing showcase nights or nightclub PA's together. It wasn't long before we were became an item.

After some disputes with our manager, the boyband left the agency and I was nominated to take over the business side of the band. Then he left the agency too so I started looking after him too. We got a production deal for him, and a record deal soon followed. In fact, I co-wrote the b-side, the a-side being a cheesy, typically gay club, cover version. It was number 1 in the pop-tip charts for about 9 weeks, and even longer in the charts published in Boyz.

In September of that year we had a 'blessing', performed by a gay minister. It was quite a small 'do' in comparative terms but we just wanted to make a public commitment. My family came, and my Nephew, who was only about 2 or 3 then, was the ring bearer in a little sailors outfit. He looked gorgeous!

Sadly, it only lasted about 2 years. The stresses of working and living together 24/7 became too much and it became irretrievable. But I'm so proud we did it, and have really fond memories of our few years together. We had a lot of fun with the gigs, pa's, radio roadshow tours and the like.

When we split, a leading gay entertainments agency offered me a job as they'd been impressed by what I'd done for my ex, but after a short while I realised the tantrums of the gay scene divas weren't for me and went back to work in restaurants.

Sorry it's taken so long to put this together, but it turned into quite a trip down memory lane for me. I hope it's been as enjoyable to read as it was to write!


  • I'd forgotten about your famous Auntie Tammy...

    Thanks for taking up the challenge and allowing me to pop your meme-cherry!

    By Blogger mike, at Thursday, January 18, 2007  

  • holy mackerel paul- that was absolutely captivating! i honestly don’t know what to say apart from that- fascinating! you know, a book would be great!

    By Blogger angel, at Friday, January 19, 2007  

  • um, paul- i’d like to ask a favour (rude of me since i don’t know you all that well)- could you to drop me an email via the “wanna mail mois” link on my page since you don’t have an email address listed anywhere here? i’d like to pick your brain about something… don’t worry if you’d rather not- i am the queen of internet privacy and security paranoia so i’ll completely understand!

    By Blogger angel, at Friday, January 19, 2007  

  • my e-mail is paulbarton69@yahoo.com

    feel free to ask away!

    as for the book... well it would be along one; what I've written here is just the 'clean' stuff!

    By Blogger Paul, at Friday, January 19, 2007  

  • What a great colorful life so far. I'm going to enjoy reading you for a long time.

    If you ever make it to the states, or I to GB, we'll have to get together for some rousing musical theatre. That's what I studied in college and even made a modest living at it in NYC for a while. My partner is a great accompanist too.

    Thanks for such an enjoyable read Paul!

    By Blogger rodger, at Tuesday, January 23, 2007  

  • That's a brilliant list of things, i had no idea you were such a Diva yourself!

    By Anonymous pinkjellybaby, at Friday, January 26, 2007  

  • don't know if I'd use the word 'diva'! lol!

    By Blogger Paul, at Wednesday, January 31, 2007  

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