Graham White has passed away and now joins his old mate Ray Park – what a team! Gun point negotiations – bottle skip races – and a “wonderful” lie.

We are saddened to hear that Graham has passed away. He had cancer, and his sons wanted the funeral arrangements to be made quickly. So his funeral took place last Thursday.

Graham was one of the industries larger than life characters. He began his career with the Bailey Organisation, and eventually with First Leisure, where he worked with Mike Payne at Bailey`s Leicester. He later became manager of Bailey`s Watford where he worked alongside Ray Park.

Graham and Ray were something of a joint enigma. Each had his own style and personality. A pair of opposites forming a management team that entertained royalty and the greatest entertainment acts of the day. Each in their own inimitable style. Ray had his bizarre recruitment policies, including the balcony test, embarrassment test and the 100,000 volts test (each best described over a beer or two). As well as looking after the catering aspect of the business, while Graham dealt with the cabaret, security and overall running of the club.


Dealing with cabaret acts can be dangerous, as Graham discovered the night he gave one of the black American soul groups their show time. After which he was quickly confronted by their manager, and the conversation went something like –

Manager: “These guys is going on stage at 8.30”

Graham: “No. Top of the bill goes on at 10.30”

Manager: “These guys is going on stage at 8.30”

Graham: “I told you 10.30. Top of the bill goes on at 10.30

Manager – producing a handgun and holding is to Graham`s neck: “8.30”

Graham: “Dead right. These guys is going on stage at 8.30”

I think you know what time they went on stage.


Bailey`s Watford was also famous for after hours “bottle skip races”, whereby the skips normally used to collect empty bottles on the bars became “chariots”. Wives, girlfriends and smaller males became the “jockeys”, as they were raced around the club at crazy speeds, by enthusiastic males.

We have no record of serious injury, although perhaps they were hidden by a “what goes there stays there” doctrine.


A favourite Graham and Ray story comes from one of the First Leisure management conferences, and of course alcohol was involved. In fact quite a lot of alcohol. Sufficient for a somewhat inebriated group of individuals to decide to stack as much furniture as possible into the hotel lift, and for Graham to fall asleep in one of the lounge chairs. After which information became somewhat confused.

The following day, back at Bailey`s Watford, a very stern looking Ray approached a very sad looking Graham.

“I am absolutely shocked at you,” growled Ray.

“What. Why?”, spluttered Graham.

“After all that man has done for us and the company, and you treat him like that,” continued Ray.


“Only John Conlan, our Chief Execute,” glared Ray

“What did I do?”

“You were sitting in a lift full of furniture. The door opened and he was about to get in when you told him to “fuck off”.

The last of any colour drained from Graham`s face as he spluttered. “No. I didn`t. Did I?”

“Oh yes you did,” replied Ray sternly. ” and the best thing you can do is go and apologise straight away.”

And so it was that a very ill looking Graham presented himself at the Soho Square London offices, where he sheepishly approached John Conlan and apologised. In fact he apologised for everything else that he may have done (because he had no recollection of anything from the later part of the evening), and could still have been apologising the following day had John not stopped him.

“Graham I didn`t see you after dinner last night. I went to bed early,” he grinned, “who told you this?”

“Ray Park……..Ray Park I`ll……”

And of course when Graham returned to Watford, Ray was nowhere to be seen.


Treasured memories and wonderful days to remember.

We would love think that Ray and Graham are together now – playfully tormenting each other and presenting the most amazing cabaret shows with St Peter as Chief Executive.

Really miss you guys!





Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961

We thought you would like to see a list of the Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961.

Clearly there are many town and cities not mentioned – such as Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, and many many others, but perhaps there is a clue in the number of planned openings highlighted in the list below.

Basildon Locarno – Town Centre – Manager     M Green

Belfast Plaza – Chichester Street – Manager    D R Clark  – Phone Belfast 25294

Blackburn Locarno – St Peter Street – Manager B Gee – Phone Blakewater 85538

Bolton Palais – Bridge Street – Manager W. McLeish – Phone Bolton 1451

Bradford Locarno – Manningham Lane – Manager Alan Boyce     (Opening 9th September 1961)

Burnley Locarno  – Manchester Road – Manager  C Isherwood   (Formerly the Mechanic`s Institute)

Bury   Prince`s Ballroom – Bolton Street – Manager L Byron – Phone Bury 1705

Coventry Locarno – Smithford Way – Manager R Bloxham – Phone Coventry 24570

Derby Locarno – Babington Lane – Manager A Ferris – Phone Derby 41441

Edinburgh Palais – Fountainbridge – Manager G Knowles – Phone Fountainbridge 7427

Hull Locarno – Ferensway – Manager J Munro       ( Opening 16th September 1961)

Ilford Palais – High Road – Manager B Foster – Phone Ilford 3128

Leeds Locarno – County Arcade – Manager J Savile – Phone Leeds 31046/7

Leicester Palais – Humberstone Gate – Manager G Pickavant – Phone 69967

Liverpool Grafton Rooms – West Derby Road – Manager T Reid – Phone Anfield 3928

London Lyceum – Wellington Street, The Strand – Manager D Preedy – Phone Temple Bar 3715

London Carlton Rooms – 140 Maida Vale, W 9 – Manager J H Richardson – Phone Maida Vale 5289

London Empire Rooms – Tottenham Court Road – Manager C Self – Phone Euston 4173

Manchester Plaza – Oxford Road – Manager P Wild – Phone Central 7441

Newcastle upon Tyne  The Mayfair – (Planned for opening during October 1961)

Norwich  Sampson and Hercules Ballroom – Tombland – Manager R V Shackell – Phone Norwich 21541

Norwich Norwood Rooms – Aylsham Road – Manager G Barbour – Phone Norwich 46751

Nottingham Sherwood Rooms – Greyfriar Gate – Manager N F Kemp – Phone Nottingham 50555

Nottingham Locarno – St Anns Well Road – Manager G Lloyd – Phone Nottingham 44354

Rochdale Carlton – Great George Street –  – Manager E Mills – Phone Rochdale 3347

Sale Locarno – Washway Road – Manager J Goodings – Phone Sale 1508

Sale Embassy Rooms – Washway Road – Manager H Burnett – Phone Sale 7522

Sheffield Locarno – London Road – Manager M S Proctor – Phone Sheffield 22586

Stevenage Locarno – Manager B A Elmer-Smith   (Opening September/October 1961)

Wakefield Locarno – Southgate – Manager R Keith – Phone Wakefield 6515/6

Marty Wilde and Billy Fury with Henry Quinn after one of Billy`s Last Shows

We received this picture of Marty Wilde and Billy Fury with Henry Quinn – after one of Billy`s last shows. On the far right is Jerry Dobbins, Henry`s bandleader at Leicester Palais.

That image of Marty stripped to his waist would have driven his female fans crazy.

Well! Better late than never!

Henry is now a respected author, and is currently in America promoting his Dr Darwin of Shrewsbury novels.

We wish him every success and a safe journey home.


“Leicester Police here – there are Indians on your roof”

It seems like only yesterday but every time I hear a phone in middle of the night I think about back in the sixties and once again Leicester Palais.

In those days all Mecca branches had an unique order number for branch ordering ( 172 mine )

The problem was when you’re so called mates got hold of your branch number hell was to play.

These mates would ring Rothmans Players Gallaher supplier’s and order half a million cigarettes/ 200 cases coke, also two stone of fresh fish ( Cod) to be placed outside managers office. This practice although bad enough – there were also the middle of the night home phone call like – “ Would you like to buy a battle ship” –  next night it would be – “ Battle Ship Grey “etc.

These pranks led up  to a call one morning about 4 am (04, 00 hrs.) –

I picked up the phone to hear “Leicester Police here – there are Indians on your roof “. So I replied thinking, it was an hoax, “Well send for the cavalry, not me “
Proud of my answer I put the phone down and returned to sleep no sooner was I lying down than the phone rang again. This time an irate voice said in an official tone “ This is Leicester police Sgt Strong speaking if you do not respond I will send a car and take you into custody “ I laughed again but this time, the I began to think it was serious The sergeant went on to say that our two night /watch cleaners of Asian descent had gone for some fresh air and had locked themselves out on to the roof.

I still take care even 50 years on when the phone rings in the night !!!


Image from

Henry Quinn – Mecca Dancing – Leicester Palais – and the Eurovision Song Contest???

Henry Quinn sent us the following snippet from his early management days at Leicester Palais 

Leicester Palais 1960

On Monday night we had Uncle Mick`s Talent Show

Prizes £10 – £5 – £3, for the best competitor.

After running the competition for just over a month – a dummy-town boy won 5 times on the trot.

Bill Pickavant the General Manager decided this was not fair – as all the boy had to do was sing a couple of lines from a Bobby Darin song (Mack the Knife) – and the girls would bring down the house –

And the boy would walk off and pick up his easy money!

So Bill told me to tell the boy he could not enter again – I was in fact barring him.

Well I`ll tell you what! If I had been at the Eurovision Song Contest a couple of weeks ago I could have saved the country great embarrassment by performing that duty again.

That`s right!

The dummy-town boy was Gerry Dorsey-

Better known as Englebert Humperdink!!!


Many thanks Henry – a great story – “Sorry Englebert”

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