Benny Hill's standing ovation

Old Hippodrome (date unknown)
Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre
Hippodrome 2002
From a private collection

My schoolfriends and I started to visit the Hippodrome about 1956/7.  As young teenagers we had to go there to see the very rude Benny Hill singing one of his madrigals containing a words rhyming with ‘a lover and his lass’, although he pronounced it “a lover and his larse”. He had done the sketch on television a few weeks earlier and the public were outraged at such obscenities on public broadcasting. We bunked off school to go to the box-office when we heard he was coming and although we were quick, almost all the tickets had gone. I’d never seen a standing ovation before, but I believe he got one for every single performance.

Norman Wisdom
I remember Norman Wisdom in an oversized penguin-suit, trying to sing opera to a piano accompaniment. Shortly after starting he got the (intentional) giggles. Very soon the entire theatre was laughing hysterically. More standing ovations.

My first visit with my first love – Frankie Vaughan and ‘Green Door’. I didn’t want to go but she did. So I took her. Young love!

Lesser spots on the bill
Lesser spots on the bill saw the likes of Roy Castle, Dave King, The King Brothers, Shirley Eaton, Lenny the Lion, Hilda Baker and many others, all starting to become well known mainly because of the ‘box’. Sadly, after a television appearance many of them never went back to the variety halls. The ‘one-eyed monster’ in the corner of the room contributed enormously to the theatre’s downfall.

And who can forget the name smack dead centre on safety curtain’s advertisements:
“A. BRICK – Glass Merchant”

Comments about this page

  • Ah! I well remember going to the Hippodrome as a child over the years. Particularly I remember the Summer Shows featuring many famous variety artistes such as Frankie Vaughan, Roy Castle and Tommy Cooper to name but a few. Supporting acts at these summer shows included the fabulous Kaye Sisters, Beverly Sisters etc etc. Great entertainment which sadly is not available anywhere today. I also specially remember going to the Hippodrome on what turned out later to be called D-Day! The show was Old Mother Riley! I do think that there is a market for variety shows today but of course talented artistes such as these are in very short supply indeed! Brighton really was an entertainment centre in those far-off marvellous days!

    By Derek Taylor (10/12/2007)
  • I used to go to the Hippodrome often in the early 1950s. I remember seeing Max Miller, Tommy Cooper who was a comic magician, Bella Lugosi, Billy Daniels (that old black magic) and Johnny ‘Cry’ Ray. This was our main entertainment as we had no television. I remember that you had to be careful choosing seats because some had a balcony support pole that would obstruct one’s view.

    By John Manton (02/01/2008)
  • I think I was one of the lucky people who had a great uncle by the name of Eddie Gray. Whenever he was at the Hippodrome, we could gaurantee that tickets would be available to us. Uncle Eddie was one of the nuttiest people both on and of stage. You would always know that he would be up to some prank and if you didn’t know him, you would have thought he was mad. He was also great friends with Max Miller who was often a visitor to our house in Brighton.

    By John Wignall (14/05/2008)
  • With reference to my comment on Eddie Gray, I should have said Monsewer Eddie Gray who was also a member of the Crazy Gang. Note the complete craziness of the man,during the Crazy Gang’s rests, which were not very often, he would often team up with Arthur English as a double act.

    By John Wignall (14/05/2008)

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