The late great Graham Peel left us a wealth of stories here at Locarno Boy, and on the day of Margaret Thatcher`s funeral it seems fitting to tell the following story – which we have titled –
The night Graham Peel waited and waited and waited for Margaret Thatcher at the Blackpool Locarno.
Graham was one of the most successful and nomadic nightclub managers in the industry. Working in almost every town and city in the country, he dealt with issues ranging from the Krays holding court at Tottenham Royal as they collected their protection money from “clients” – attempting to run Liverpool Tiffany`s in the face of fanatical union pressure because he had sacked someone for stealing – and meeting and greeting Prince Charles and Lady Diana at Hammersmith Palais.
On this occasion he had been sent to manage Blackpool Locarno.
On arrival he introduced himself to the staff and read the private function sheets, one of which referred to a Conservative Party event, so in his inimitable and stoic style he rang the local party office about “a Conservative Party Dance”.
At this point he was subjected to the blistering response of ” A Conservative Party Dance……..THE Conservative Party Dance”.
And from thereon things moved apace. The building underwent a transformation as it was cleaned, polished, painted and adorned with spectacular displays of plants courtesy of the Blackpool Corporation Parks Department.
On the night, with everyone standing in their allocated positions, the Locarno waited in anticipation. The dance floor shimmered under the reflection of the cleanest effect lighting in any of the Locarnos.
The was band primed and ready to ensure that Mrs Thatcher`s favourite tune would greet her the instant she arrived.
Graham stood to attention at the front door, and eventually the phone call came to say that she had left her hotel.
It was as though the building itself gasped in anticipation as the band glided seamlessly into “Hello Dolly”.
But by the end of “Hello Dolly” there was no Mrs Thatcher. So the band played it again, while Graham hopped from foot to foot. Anxious faces peered along the road……. as the band played on and on.
Suddenly the entourage appeared, Mrs Thatcher and Denis were greeted and ushered into the building to the fourth or fifth rendition of “Hello Dolly” at which point everyone began to relax.
Specialist police officers had been brought over from Northern Ireland to assist with the security for the event, a number of which were on duty in and around the Locarno as result of activities by the IRA in other parts of the country.
However this caused something of a difficulty for the then Home Secretary William Whitelaw.
Whilst attending to the needs of nature he was spooked by a number of dinner suited Irish speaking males, which made him somehow lose concentration.
All of which resulted in his exit from the Stag Room with somewhat damp shoes.
Other than the Home Secretary`s damp shoes the night was a great success, and we are indebted to Graham for relating the story.
I wonder if those who had the pleasure of working with him have any doubts as to where he will be tonight!
Hl will be standing at the Pearly Gates with his band playing……
Ready to say “My name`s Graham. Do you remember that night at Blackpool Locarno?”