We received sad news here at IBY that two friends have left us this week- Gordon Jay and Peter Baldwin. I had the great joy of working with Gordon & Bunny Jay in Summer Season, and having Peter Baldwin as my “Dad” , Baron Hardup in Pantomime. Both lovely and warm people, and sadly missed by friends and family.
Gordon Jay’s funeral will be held this week on Tuesday October 27th at Holy Ascension Church, Upton By Chester CH2 1DJ where he lived. The funeral service is at 1pm, followed by a private service.
I first met Gordon when I auditioned for a Summer Season for Butlins Variety Theatre, Filey. We were introduced by William (Bill) Dickie who presented the show for his company SADFU, and through Richard Stone’s agency.
I was lucky to be taken on board, and to do one of the last “Big” variety shows in Filey, with a full orchestra and a chorus, with Gordon directing and he and Bunny starring, and at Scarbourough in the Grand Hotel cabaret rooms. Gordon took me under his wing, and taught me things that have been invaluable to me in shows and in Pantomime.
He and Bunny were masters of quick fire timing. They did not pause, or “hang about” with a line or a cue, and Gordon instilled a level of professional conduct and reverence to tradition that can only be passed on to others. I became his tennis partner most mornings, even though I had never played. He showed me how to play “Musical bottles”, to never move on a punch line, and how to make a laugh last longer- he and Bunny were the perfect double act. Everything Gordon taught me I discovered when Peter Robbins and I teamed up for the next twenty eight years.
Thank you Gordon for introducing me to Paddy Dickie who became my friend- one of this country’s finest costumiers, sadly missed- and thank you for showing me what goes into becoming a “double Act” in Panto. Here is a very brief resume of Gordon & Bunny’s career:
Stalwarts of the pantomime double act, Gordon and Bunny Jay appeared in Cinderella in Weston-Super-Mare and announced that 2005/6 was be their last pantomime season as performers.
Gordon continued to stage and direct productions.
The brothers were born in Birmingham , and as their mother was “In the business” it was a case of “Following in Mother’s footsteps” from an early age. From dancing lessons and appearances in local theatres and charity shows they graduated to the world of variety, beginning with a dancing act that played in revue and on the variety circuit.
With a leaning towards comedy, they established themselves as a comedy double, but due to their musical skills were able to add songs, dance and musical speciality into their act- to this day no-one could rival their skill with hand bells and even “musical Bottles”, and turn their hand to impressive soft shoe shuffle.
They continued to be in demand for Summer season, cruises and pantomime with their unique style of double act.
The straight man, Gordon is constantly being harassed by the mischievous Bunny, and they posses a lighting fast quick fire “cross talk” that has made them pantomime favourites as Broker’’ men, robbers and Chinese policemen. At the New Theatre in Cardiff in 1982, with Ted Rogers, they illustrated the way to make a first entrance that had the audience in fits before they spoke a word- on their knees!
Almost without exception they have appeared in pantomimes throughout the country, with every major comic and star. From Sandy Powell and John Hanson at Wimbledon in the 60’s to the London Palladium in 1977 with Yootha Joyce, Brian Murphy and Richard Hearne as the Broker’s Men in “Cinderella they have brought pantomime comedy into a fine art form
In recent years they also played Ugly sisters as well as King and Dame in panto, and were recognised as a comic’s comic double act.
They performed in 52 pantomimes. First at Salford Hippodrome in 1953 and their final panto on 8th January 2006 at the Playhouse Theatre, Weston Super-Mare for Paul Holman in “Cinderella”.
PETER BALDWIN 1933-2015
Peter appeared with Peter Robbins and I in Nottingham Panto. In 1997 he had just left the cobbles of Coronation Street” where his character Derek was “killed off” to the sound of “Tit Willow, Tit Willow..Tit Willow”, and plunged into the world of Pantomime as Baron Hardup.
This poster and its matching companion were given to Peter Robbins and I at the end of the Panto run by Peter. He had searched the antique shops on the Derby Road, and had them both framed, and I treasure mine very much. A lovely thoughtful gift from a truly lovely man.
I enjoyed our chats about his love of all things historical. He continued to be the manager of Benjamin Pollocks Toy Museum and store in Covent Garden, and I used to pop in there to have a chat, often getting confused if his Brother ( the mirror image) was there that day!
Peter was a funny, gentle and totally charming man. Our Panto time together was a joy- we both loved the history and stories of pantos past. Along with Judy Cornwall we would all head off for tea or dinner and have many funny and jolly times.
His death this week at 82 has left a huge gap. There have been many tributes from his theatre friends- from “Summer Holiday” and Theatre tours, and this is mine from the world of Pantomime. RIP Peter, a very kind and lovely man.
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