Sad news that Keith Salberg, Impresario and agent passed away at Brindsworth House this week. He was Eighty-Four and had been a resident of Brindsworth since 2008.
Keith was my agent for Pantomime and Summer Season in the 1970’s and had a truly encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Variety! When I was involved with a show at Wimbledon he stood with me at the back of the circle and reeled off the CV’s of all the artistes onstage without drawing breath. His memory was almost photographic for detail . His wit for sharp and ascerbic and very very funny!
He was a very familiar figure in West End theatres for most of his life- his familiar black coat and homburg hat could be seen every night at a theatre. Keith told me he even went to see a variety show on his honeymoon! He always paid for his seat, and would give you a full “crit” the next day.
The Salberg dynasty were almost as famous as the Grades. Derek, Keith’s Uncle was associated with the Birmingham Alexandra Theatre. He presented many years of popular and spectacular pantomimes there, and his Uncle Reggie had repertory in several Midlands and Northern theatres. Keith’s Father Stanley Salberg was a businessman.
Keith left school in 1948 and worked as a student in the Box Office at The King’s Theatre Gainsborough. He also played small parts and helped out backstage. At 16 he approached The Queen’s Theatre Cleveleys and persuaded them to let him put a rep season on there, and later expanded the seasons to other theatres
His fortunes rose, and they also fell. At one point Keith gave up his Rep to become cinema manager outside Birmingham for £9 a week, before bouncing back and returning to his agency.
By the mid 1950’s Keith began working with Variety Artists with an office in Gerrard Street, Soho.
In the 1960’s he joined Geraldo Agency, and then Bunny Baron’s Organisation before setting up his own Variety Agency in Oxford Street.
He toured “one Nighters” with Reg Dixon, Tommy Trinder, Leslie Welch (The Memory Man) and Adelaide Hall. He specialised in variety and in Pantomime. When I met Keith in the ‘70’s he had a “zoo” of pantomime animals- people who specialised in playing Goose, Cat or Cow, and that is when I joined his (pardon the pun) Stable, and joined Reg Dixon at Belgrade Coventry in “Mother Goose”, before finding my feet as Puss In Boots for Keith!
He presented touring Old Time Music Hall shows, Variety Bills and cast many pantomime productions.He had various acts from Bavarian Bands to The Kosack Cavalcade on tour. He was sought after by local councils for shows to put into their venues. When Keith would leave a show and was asked what he thought he would invariably say “A nice little show for the Civics” in a slightly caustic way!
He was booker for what was always described as “the World’s Longest Touring Pantomime”- booking dates around the UK for Aubrey Phillips’s “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” which often featured Brian Johnson, Charles Hawtry and Johnny Dallas. I did Summer Season for Keith in Rhyl and played that “Snow White” every Thursday three or four shows a day!
Keith visited me in pantomimes years and years after he was no longer my agent. He would unexpectedly appear backstage at Croydon or Wimbledon or Richmond- once with a steaming pasty in his top pocket- I never enquired and he never offered an explanation. Pantomimes can make you peckish.
He once asked me to introduce him to one of his clients who he had never actually met. This gentleman provided Pantomime Ponies for “Cinderella”. As I went to fetch him to meet Keith in the foyer he called out “Tell him to look out for a man who looks like Tony Hancock”- and he was right. He did!
Keith continued to book artistes and to visit the theatre each night through until he retired shortly after the death of his wife Joyce.
He entered Brindsworth House in 2008 and necome a well loved member of the community. He continued to go out to the theatres- mostly matinees now, often accompanied and driven by his pal Jack Seaton.
Keith was a true character – a man of the theatre, and will be much missed in pantoland and Theatreland.