CategoryYork

Why was there always a clown trying to dance to a drum solo?

Many thanks for the comment from Sue regarding The Cats Whiskers York.

Yes it was a special club. Seating for up to 200 people dining around the horse shoe shaped dance floor. The Richard King Set playing for the diners, including waltzes, quicksteps, and a St Bernards Waltz with a cheeky chorus from Dick Smith that went – Dinah, Dinah don`t be slow – On the sofa you must go – Off with your …… Well! we leave the rest to you, but poor old St Bernard would not have been impressed.

Sue is correct, the “Cats” had some excellent cabaret – The Nolans, The Dooleys, Ruby Murray, Kieth Harris and Orville, Max Wall and a host of others. Convoys of coaches streamed into York from Hull, the West Riding and the north.

Tony Adams would often sing with the Richard King Set, as well as working as DJ. One night the inimitable Eric Morley visited the “Cats”, and was captivated by the dancers innovative clapping to the Four Tops “It`s the Same Old Song”. It could be that Tony left “Jump up and Down with Your Knickers in the Air” out of his program that night – but he certainly included The Bedrocks reggae floor filler the “Lovedene Girls.

The whole atmosphere was tremendous – behind the scenes there was Carlo the head chef, with a famous soup that was rumored to have had the same base for years, as it morphed from Oxtail, through to Spring Vegetable, into Minestrone, and onwards and upwards towards Pea and Ham, and only stopping as it approached Mulligatawny.

One of the greatest and most amusing characters was Tilly Clayton. Tilly was overtly gay – which was no mean fete in the middle to late 60`s. He worked as a waiter, and adviser to any of the female staff who were getting married, seeking a new hair-do, or deciding what to wear for a special occasion. An early day Gok Wan, and an amazing character just to be around.

Michael was the kitchen porter. An unsung hero, who suffered the indignity of being knocked off his bike in Exhibition Square by the Rentokil van.

Jack Alison was the first manager, then Brian Sanford, then Derek Lacey. Barbara Hopwood and Linda Lovel were the cashiers, and the reception was managed by John Haig.

Ken worked the lighting effects for both the cabaret and the dancing – all based on theater and professional stage lighting which added that special dimension to the night by accentuating mood and atmosphere.

Opposition clubs were The Hypnotique, The Old World Club and Jack and Jills.

But there was nothing to touch the excitement and professionalism of The Cats Whiskers, yet there was one part of the night that beggared belief –

Why was there always a clown trying to dance to a drum solo?

 

 

The Sound of The Cats Whiskers

There`s nothing like a few pints and a bit of like minded company to bring the old memories into focus.

Alan used to be a waiter at The Cats Whiskers. In our free time we were lads about town, drinking in the Burns, White Horse and Big Coach and Horses. These are now The Hansom Cab, part of the Viking centre and the RBS. We liked these because they had live bands.

Mustn’t forget The Tavern in the Town, now Yates’s. Duckling in Orange Sauce – for working lads!!!!!!! By `eck!

Then up to The Cats Whiskers.

Jack the commissionaire stood at the entrance, dressed in top hat and a long royal blue coat with red and gold braid. He was chief greeter and door opener to a long walk up the corridor –

 


Then into the Bali Hai for few beers and back out to the right hand side of the room where the girls stood waiting for the Trevor, Dick, Max, and Bill from resident band The Richard King.

Tony Adams was resident DJ, and there was a different cabaret each week – Max Wall, Keith Harris and Orville, Jimmy Cricket, The Dooleys etc. The Richard King Set were brilliant at reproducing the records of the time – such as –

 

 

On reflection the raised dance floor/stage area was quite small. Especially at the end of the night, when the lights dimmed and the slow music came, as couples moved towards the centre to smooth and fumble to –

Call us easily pleased if you like, but we had never seen anything like the Polynesian themed Bali Hai before; eaten chicken and chips from the basket, and legally drunk beer into the wee small hours.

But above all the Cats Whiskers attracted girls like we had never imagined.

 

The Ebor Suite forgotten

I have seen a picture of the Rialto and can`t remember a thing about The Ebor Suite! But I think it was originally the casino (before gaming laws changed in the late 1960s).

I suppose it was the ideal link up to the dinner dance cabaret of the joined on Cats Whiskers, and a step into slinky highlife. The office had a two way mirror so that the managers in the office could watch the tables. A man called Don attended to security. He was rumoured to be able to do anything except fly – but I only ever saw him smiling. A large man called Lynden Potter gambled regularly with sums of money that made my toes curl.

The Ebor Suite was eventually redeveloped as a standalone discotheque called Vanessa`s. And if you were lucky you were allowed through the side exit into The Cats Whiskers. It eventually became the Heartbeat and you paid one fee for both rooms.

Joe Whaley was one of the original managers; Barry Jones was the unforgettable one though. A trained actor; tall, slim, dark, theatrical and a manner that charmed the ladies of all ages! His DJ was little Chris Crossley, who made the audience sit on the dance floor while he read “Noddy” stories. He was the master of the double entendre, and a first class entertainer.

The Cat’s Whiskers was crap

The Cat’s Whiskers was crap. What was the point of opening a nightclub for people to relax, then letting coach loads of idiots in to fight and wreck everyone`s night out. No wonder it closed. Unless you could fight or enjoyed watching one it was not for you!

The Boulevard along Tadcaster Road was something else! There was a casino next door and the Wild Man further along. If there was the odd scrap the bouncers knew how to sort things out.

Late night transport was poor, a late bus or expensive taxi. My Triumph Herald got me home in a different direction each weekend – and without Satnav – great times!

I`ll never forget seeing Geno Washington and the Ram Jam band there shortly after the Funky Butt Live album charted for a full year. Great tribute to him by Dexy`s Midnight Runners – Geno!

The Hypnotique was legend! Tucked away off Fossgate in Lady Pecket`s Yard. Dave Cullen oversaw the club for hypnotist Martin St James. I believe the door was managed by Arthur Rhodes, and the lovely Ann Thompson managed the bars. Some of the best times ever – and I don’t remember any violence. But I do remember great music – Mott the Hoople, Rod Stewart, Roxy Music, Canned Heat, Free, Spencer Davis, Manfred Man, Traffic, The Kinks, etc

After months of crawling over rooftops…

“After months of crawling over rooftops, abseiling down buildings, racing along the river Ouse and surviving motor shows, attempted flights off bridges, beauty contests, searches for Guy Fawkes etc. for Derek Lacey and Dick Child at the Cats Whiskers in York – they invited me to Hull Tiffanys and Annabellas to take pictures.

As you will imagine we have a large archive of images going back to the 1960s, and will pass them over to Locarno Boy as we find them.”

Dennis Kaye – KL Photographers, York.

 

Carmen hair products promotion @ Tiffany's Hull

What can I say Denis but thank you, can’t wait to see more !

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