The funeral service for Barrie was held at St Paul’s Church, The Actor’s Church,Covent Garden on Wednesday 16th February 2022.
It was, as Barrie would have loved. A full house. Standing ovations, much laughter, and much joy remembering this truly unique and hugely theatrical man. To many of us sitting in the pews he was our first agent. When you arrived in London his office would be the first port of call. He selected you for his books purely and simply on instinct. He rarely, if ever read your CV or made many enquiries. “We don’t need all that stuff, Daughter- we need to get you working!”. To all of us, Male or Female, we were his “Daughters”- I have no idea why, but there was something in the way he exclaimed “Daughter!” as he ran into you that had a touch of Arthur Lucan’s “Old Mother Riley” about it!
Barrie lived for old variety and films- he watched every Hollywood film from the Golden Era and absorbed them. Barrie SAW Hollywood in everything and everyone. His coffin was carried out of the church, after a standing ovation to the voice of Marlene Dietrich singing “See what the boys in the backroom will have”… Just as we entered the church to music from various Children’s shows that Barrie presented over the years to help with “The Handbag” Daughter!
My memories , sitting there with all Barrie’s Daughters- were about the tours we did for him, the jobs we did for him and the many many stories we filed away as “Barrie” stories. The Service was perfect. Under the twinkling eye of the Revd.Richard Syms it was a joyful celebration of Barrie’s life.
Keith Hopkins, Barrie’s partner of a lifetime- over fifty years- organised it as it was to be, a fitting tribute to this funny, camp, warm man who fell in love with Show Business as a child, and kept that love up to his death aged 95.
I have Barrie to thank for introducing me to Peter Robbins. Barrie knew I was looking for a “Sister” to join me in a one off panto at Ilford. He knew his stuff. We did nigh on thirty years! My Brother Vivyan ran the Kenneth More Theatre, he produced that panto, and sat next to me at the service. Keith Hopkins was a Swansea lad, and appeared in some rep plays at The Grand Theatre there, and we have that South Wales connection.
All of us in that Church, and later at the pub.. and even later at the CAA in Bedford Street (Where we rehearsed so many of Barrie’s shows- and some of them were shall we say not lengthy rehearsals!) were remembering the man who brought us all together. A lot of us forty-five odd years later, all saying “You’ve not changed a bit””.
There are too many people to name, so I’ll attempt a few, and apologise for those not mentioned in the hundreds who turned out to see Barrie off. The principal ones to name are Keith of course- known to Panto veterans as Keith ‘Appy Hopkins, Panto Dame for many seasons at Hunstanton, and Summer seasons with Tommy Trafford at Bridlington and Scarborough. Simon Bashford (Panto Dame of long standing) who was a long time friend of Barrie and Keith- he organised so much of the service. Christopher Hare, who gave a funny and affectionate eulogy. Chris ran the Lewisham Theatre for many years, and presented Barrie’s shows, and was his long standing friend. The gorgeous voice of Alexandra Waite-Roberts (Currently in ALW’s “Cinderella”) singing “Over The Rainbow”, and Joshua Lawson’s heartfelt words. It was lovely to see producers Paul Holman, John Newman and Daphne Palmer at the service.
I first met Barrie I think at Swansea rep before I went to college. In those days the rep was weekly, and Barrie used to cast the season for John Chilvers and my Brother Vivyan was John’s assistant manager. I then met Barrie when Keith Salberg was my agent, and he and Barrie would share commissions, often with Jean Charles a fellow agent.
That’s how I ended up in Sweden, paying Barrie split commission, playing piano in the Bachi Wapen club in Stockholm. White suit, tinkly piano and a room called “Albert’s Hall” with mostly very drunk diners!
I still have a letter Barrie sent me. He was busy writing “Oh Camille!” a camp comedy musical at the Arts with Ruth Madoc and Audrey Leybourne starring. It had a mixed reception – at this point Barrie was writing Act Two. “On Act Two of Camille now. It won’t take long. She just coughs a lot….”
I looked around the pews and saw the friends made through Barrie. I call it “Barrie’s web”. He spun a web that made all of us connected to each other through him. As an agent, as a producer, as a friend. It’s a vast web, as he was still involved in his beloved Show Biz up to the end. That’s a lot of people involved in a lot of years of Show.
When Barrie heard I was looking to find an Ugly Sister partner for “Cinderella” at the Kenneth More Theatre in 1981 he had a few thoughts, but he knew that putting Peter & I together on a long day’s commercial for Lager (neither of us touched the stuff!) would give us ample time to see if we got on. It started at 7.30am and with overtime ended at 10pm. By that time we’d worked out entrances, thought up costumes and become the friends we were to remain up until Peter’s death in 2009. Barrie knew people- he KNEW we would be perfect together! Thank you Mr Stacey for those wonderful years.
Peter and I not only played “Sisters” at Christmas, for the rest of the year Barrie put us together as a “Double” in his shows. Peter played Ernst and I played Hansel in “Hansel & Gretel”. (Russell Grant had previously played Hansel, and became a lifelong friend of Barrie’s). The witch had a cat, a feisty assistant-and in those early days Sue Hodge was that feline! We toured in Hansel for many years, with me graduating to Witch when I matured a little! By now Peter Robbins, Andrew Ryan and I were touring regularly on the “Barrie Circuit”.
Peter and I played Fox and Cat in Barrie’s “Pinocchio” over the years- again doing our “Double”, and always putting in “The Echo Gag” , our favourite routine. Lorinda King was a frequent “Pinocchio”, and our pupetteers were often Jo Castleton and Zimon Drake. It was lovely to see them both at the service and catch up afterwards.
Jo has recently been playing Rose Narracott in “War Horse” in the UK and Australia, and appeared as Siobhan in “The Curious incident of the dog” in London’s West End. She was with her writer and producer husband Duncan MacInnes- his first theatre appearance was in a Barrie Stacey Show, in Hull!
Barrie always had puppets in his shows- Andrew, Peter & I created “PAN PUPPETS” for Barrie- Our names making up the title- clever stuff! The Puppets were always UV, and over the years the puppets were often created and performed by Sue Dacre & Chris Covington . Sue & Chris sat behind me at the service . Pom Pom Puppets were courtesy of Madam Pom Pom, or Alexandra Dane as we called her.
Today a plethora of Panto Dames were at St Paul’s: Keith, Simon, David Rumelle, Marc Seymour, Ben Roddy, Damian Williams, Michael Garland, Patrick Kearns and myself to name but a few. Andrew Ryan and Chris Hayward were unable to attend. A clutch of Dames in fact!
I often costumed Barrie’s shows over the years- “Wizard Of Oz”, “Pinocchio” and “Hansel”, as well as a “David Copperfield” production out of Crewe Lyceum, when Barrie ran the theatre for a while.
We had sandwiches at the CAA. That is important, as anyone who knew Barrie will understand. Barrie upon arriving in London from his family home in Boscombe, was to own the “As You Like It” café in the heart of London’s Denmark Street. Frequented by the bohemian and the casual passers by, it soon became the hub of “who is casting what” in the West End. Quentin Crisp was an early patron. The “Naked Civil Servant” was a regular.
That might explain why I randomly ended up sharing a car to Blackpool wedged between Barrie and Quentin Crisp. From Charing Cross to Blackpool – to appear in The Kathy Kirby show on the pier. A one night Barrie variety show.
Mr Crisp wasn’t in the show- I have no idea why he was in the car- but once we’d set up and I had sorted my dots with David Carter and Perry Clayton, and put on my sequinned Piano act suit, Barrie got the news that Kathy Kirby had been arrested in the Barbican- a fracas with her Mother I believe?- and back to London we went!
Barrie not only made sandwiches for the café, he was of course an impresario- he made sandwiches for his resting actors to deliver to stage doors across the West End! Delivering food for between shows, and gathering gossip and information. “So and so is leaving the show. There’s a vacancy coming up…”
Legend has it Barrie dispatched a lad to deliver a sandwich to Hollywood star Betty Grable at the Palace Theatre between shows. He later returned to ask for the wrapper. “It’s ok honey. It’s in the trash can”. “Ah.But Barrie wrote a telephone number on it , for a casting”. Miss Grable duly retrieved it!
At Crewe Barrie not only ran the theatre, but did good business with a café upstairs, and for a while commuted to Ilford to run a buffet there pre show. Always a success, and always with a singer and a pianist to entertain before the curtain went up.
My touring family for Barrie included Peter Jameson, Julie Faye, Julie Fox along with Adrian Jeckells , Lorinda King, Scott Howard, Zimon, Jo, Michael Morgan, Lewis Phillips, Vivienne McMaster, Laura Nayman, Virginia Graham, Maggie Beckitt and so many others. Petrina Derrington, Debbie King, Sarah Whitlock, Sylvia Carson, and Audrey Leybourne were there- Audrey was a friend of Barrie’s since early rep days, and through her days as a “Roly Poly” with Les Dawson- I grew up watching Audrey in Swansea rep. So lovely to see there today too!
From “Jungle Book”, “Snow White” and “Wizard of Oz”, through to “Hansel” and “Pinocchio”, we were all represented in St Paul’s today. The off sales were of the utmost importance to Barrie. He manned the Front Of House stalls before, during and after the shows. Flashing wands, Balloons, Witches Fingers (That always puzzled me. I played Witch and didn’t think my fingers were worthy of an offsale?) Often Peter Robbins and I would visit Barrie’s table during the second act of “Pinocchio” on a Saturday and leave with our wages in carrier bags. “Coinage Daughters! Is that all right?” Oh it was Barrie. It was!
There were tributes at the service to Barrie’s Ladies- his star turns who he adored. Jessie Mathews, the first British film star to go transatlantic was represented in her songs, played as we entered. “Over my shoulder goes one care”.. Barrie presented her in her own show many times, and as a double bill with June Bronhill.
I was always delighted to be in a Variety show with Ruby Murray for Barrie, and he presented Kathy Kirby (although not at Blackpool), Diana Dors,and Coronation’s Street’s Liz Dawn. We did The John Hanson show several times together, and The Bob Monkhouse shows, as well as being in his shows with Frankie Howerd, Tommy Trinder and Billy Burdon.
Barrie presented his friend Quentin Crisp at The Duke Of Yorks, following his West End show “With A Little Help From My Friends” at the same venue. He also presented the American Female Impersonator Jim Bailey at The London Palladium.
Birthday Parties at Barrie and Keith’s flat in Charing Cross Road were memorable. His West End To Broadway show and his Jerome Kern shows were employing talented singers who were also his clients across the country. Barrie DID find us the work he promised when we first visited his offices.
Barrie wrote several books about the days of the “As You Like It” café, and his career in “The Biz”-from the 1940’s through- “A Ticket To The Carnival” and “Life Upon The Very Wicked Stage” and “One leaf left on the Old Oak Tree”.
Over the years a succession of cats, all called “Maud” helped Barrie in the office on Charing Cross Road. Maud Poppysocks III being the most recent!
At the Service was Nick James and Paul Giddings. Nick represents to me the most recent of Barrie’s proteges- He is current performing as an actor with the Royal Ballet. He originally got the job through Barrie, and through Barrie performed pantos with us at the Kenneth More. His current job courtesy of the gentleman we came to honour at St Paul’s today.
Barrie’s web was a wide web. All of us in that church have that connection. An extended Stacey family. He was outrageous, he was theatrical , he was someone who saw you as one of his stars- what more could you possibly ask of him? Barrie Stacey- you have left a legacy behind you- a packed church full of people working in the business because of you. You bequeathed us that joy of theatre. Bless you Barrie, you are much loved!