In July 1974 I was half-way through my second season as a Butlins Redcoat at Skegness when the Entertainment Manager, Alan Ridgway, put me in a trilemma. He said I could go to Butlins Pwllheli and be the Chief Redcoat (or it could have been House Chairman); go to the Metropole Hotel in Blackpool as the Compere; or stay at Skegness and be the Camp Compere.
I had absolutely
loved my 1973 season at Skeggy.
It had been the most enjoyable experience of my life but, here in
so many good things were missing. Only five weeks earlier we had lost
Princes Ballroom complex in the fire, which had almost literally ripped
heart out of the Camp (go to: - THE BIG FIRE of
Just after that, three of my best Redcoat pals had left - Shane
Steve Johnson, and DDDave Roberts. I was also missing my Redcoat
Jane, from 1973. So, as my raison d'etre for being a Redcoat
get as much stage experience as possible, I chose Blackpool and, on
13th July, went there by train.
When I arrived I was informed that the previous compere had walked out. "Here are his trousers. Put them on!" ordered the Ents. Manager Ricky Gibson. I took one look at them and said. "I'm not wearing them." "You WILL wear them," he said. "I won't I said," and I never did. The Compere Comedian to whom they had belonged was Mike Jerome, who is still going strong to this day. But, if I tell you that Mike is a few inches shorter in the leg, and a few inches bigger around the waist, you'll understand why I chose to wear the trousers I'd brought with me from Skeggy. However, Ricky didn't appreciate what he thought was insubordination. Little did he know that during the next few months I was about to disagree with most of his proposals. I'd gone from one Ents. Manager whom I respected, to one whom I was never going to like or agree with. So much for "The grass is greener ..." principle.
During the next 12 weeks I got my desired stage experience, and broke in an estimated three hours worth of working gags. The guests loved me, which maybe I let go to my head, as some of the other Reds didn't share their feelings. Maybe I should have chosen the stage name "Marmite" instead of "Marriot." Things came to a head the second week in November.
It was the Finals of the Glamorous Grandmother Competition, and Tony Peters was brought in to compere the event. When you're a young ego-filled comic just starting out, you don't want replacing by someone you believe you can match, if not better, in the comedy stakes. That was problem No.1. Problem No.2 was that we Reds were told that we all had to work until 2am, partaking in a Sing-along and other raucous activity. Let me explain that the Glamorous Grandmothers were noted for being the heaviest set of drinkers from any of the Competition winners - and that includes male darts and snooker players - so the hotel was determined to let them cane the bar.
Problem No.3 was that, the following day, I was on Radio Butlin duties. This was an ABSOLUTE KILLER. You were given an early-morning call by the night porter, around 7pm. As there would be no time to have breakfast at the regular time, you had to go to a cafe across the road, and get one there. When you returned, you were making almost continuous announcements from 8am till 8pm. The announcements were so frequent that you were virtually tied to the mic', and barely had time to turn around and spit (and I've cleaned that term up).
Believing there was no justification for making me stay up till 2pm, then knock me out of bed at 7pm, I refused to do the Sing-along, and stated that I thought it only fair that I be allowed to retire to bed at midnight. After consultation with Ron Stanway and Alan Ridgway, who had come to the hotel for the Finals (or maybe to grab-a-granny), my request was granted. One - to me! So, come midnight, I was about to go and get my head down when a guest brought me two bottles of Guinness as a "Thank You" for the Entertainment I had given him and his party during the week. Spotting me at the bar at ten minutes past midnight the security man, Ken, grabbed the bottles and told the barman to pour them down the sink. The holidaymaker protested and insisted that he had bought me the drinks, and he wanted to witness my drinking them, to which I duly obliged. Two - to me. However, word had spread that I had caused a scene at the bar (not true) and Alan Ridgway told me it had been decided that I be sacked. "I sent you here to do a job," he told me, "and you didn't do it." Not true again. I'd done a very good job. The problem was, the management had waived my well-being in order to satisfy a load of drunks who wanted to stay up half the night. [If you want to know why the kids of today get drunk out of their heads at every opportunity, take a look at their grandmothers.]
I'd done a lot of talking on the microphone during my twelve weeks at the Metropole, but bar-takings speak a whole lot more, and so I was the one to go. C'est la vie. No regrets! I was leaving with three hours of comedy material, which was to stand me in good stead for fifteen years when, in June 1975 I turned full-time professional Comedian.
Thank you, Butlins. And I mean that. They were great days.
('A.J' Marriot - October 2007)
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