Liberace, Glasgow, 1960

4 Mar


There was little danger of the American entertainer Liberace slipping quietly into his hotel when he arrived in Glasgow to take up a three-week residency at the Empire Theatre on a sunny Sunday in 1960. The 41-year-old known as Mr Showmanship went walkabout among fans of all ages, many of whom would have just recently seen him headlining the inaugural Royal Variety Show on TV – and would have read in the morning papers that he was due to arrive at the Central Hotel at 3pm.

Much of the coverage of the OTT pianist and vocalist’s visit centred on his lavish props and bling-tastic wardrobe.Before he arrived in town, the press was rife with stories about his signature candelabra and piano which had been shipped over from the States for his British tour. The piano, with its inch-thick glass top, was said to be guarded so preciously that it had to be locked between performances.

Over breakfast at noon the day after his arrival (that meal would last him until after his opening show), he told reporters that he had brought 40 suits for “walking out” purposes; the reason he had brought so many being that his 22-week season in Britain took in three seasons of cold, mild and hot weather.

Offstage, Liberace – or “Lee” as he said friends called him – was conservatively dressed in a blue suit and tie. Onstage, however, it was a different matter. On the first night at the Empire his black sequin jacket proved to be just a warm-up for a series of ever more outlandish outfits, culminating in a glittering, beaded tail suit with diamond buttons down the front that spelled out his name. Each costume change was preceded by a droll comment. “I hope you folks will excuse me while I slip into something more spectacular,” he said at one point, adding: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

And just in case anyone couldn’t spot such details as his diamond rings – one in the shape of a grand piano; the other in the form of a candelabra – he descended into the stalls to show them off to individual audience members.

His music – a tribute to Gershwin and a highly personal take on Tchaikovsky were the only musical aspects mentioned in reviews – went down well. However, it was his wry patter – not at all, said the critics, as gushing and “sugary-voiced” as it had been during his old TV series – which most endeared him to the first-night crowd.

Apparently overwhelmed by the applause, he said: “I am going to have so much fun in Glasgow that I’m ashamed to take your money. But I will!” It was a different story by the end of his three-week run, however. Speaking of his disappointment with box office figures in Glasgow – the result, it was speculated, of the fine weather and the steep ticket prices in particular – he told the press that he was unlikely to return to Scotland unless it was for a series of one-nighters.

Text (c) Alison Kerr (2013)

To order a copy of the photo from the Herald Scotland’ s photo sales website, click here


Roy Rogers & Trigger, Glasgow, 1954

13 Feb


Roy Rogers & Trigger at Central Station, Glasgow, February 14, 1954 (c) Herald & Times Group

The arrival of singing cowboy Roy Rogers and his trusty “four-legged friend”, Trigger, at Central Station on a cold Sunday in 1954 is the stuff of local legend, and a whole generation of wee boys remember the excitement of seeing their heroes in the flesh.

 Children had begun assembling outside the Central Hotel from as early as 5am, and, at around 1pm, Rogers and his cowgirl wife Dale Evans pulled up in a red sports car and entered the station where thousands had been expecting them off a train. Crush barriers and police struggled to contain the excited youngsters, many of whom were kitted out in cowboy gear. Like a Pied Piper, Rogers was followed by many of them as he made his way to the Empire Theatre – where he would be performing in a week’s worth of sold-out shows – and then back to the hotel.

The greatest excitement, however, came when Trigger arrived at around 6pm. Rogers, in his white cowboy suit and silver pointed shoes, led the world’s most famous horse round the crush barriers. To thunderous cheers, Trigger bowed for the thrilled youngsters – despite being jet-lagged after his long flight from the States earlier in the day and despite having already met 3000 members of his public at Prestwick Airport.

A seasoned celebrity, Trigger performed beautifully for the assembled cameras, “signing” in at reception (he had a pen in his mouth), prancing up the hotel’s grand staircase (two steps at a time) and trotting along the second floor corridor to “his” room, number 130. After having his mane combed, the horse star showed off a few of his 100 tricks. He bowed on one knee, nodded “yes” then “no”, yawned heartily and kissed Mrs Rogers.

Tarpaulin covered the floor of room 130 – which was otherwise appropriately decked out for Hollywood royalty, with a pile of plumped-up pillows, a gold eiderdown and a bowl of roses. After his personal appearance and photo call, Trigger left the hotel to “sign in” at another establishment – the British Rail Stables on Parliamentary Road, where, his young fans were assured, he was the guest of some friendly Clydesdales.

(c) Alison Kerr, 2012

To order a copy of the photo from the Herald Scotland’ s photo sales website, click here

Classical City of Stars Exhibition

14 Oct

Saturday was the official opening of the new Classical City of Stars exhibition, commissioned by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – 30 images, sourced from the archive of the Herald & Times, of world-famous classical music stars when they visited Glasgow.  Here’s the online version of the news story that appeared in Saturday’s edition of The Herald.Classical City of Stars - Herald story 2

City of Stars 2

7 Jun

The Herald gave the new City of Stars exhibition a great show in the news pages …. It’s at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for the rest of the year.




James Stewart, Kincardineshire, 1959

20 May
James Stewart

James Stewart, Kincardineshire, Wednesday October 28, 1959 (c) Herald & Times Group

It’s a miracle this photograph of James Stewart exists, given that he came to Scotland for five days in the autumn of 1959 with no fanfare or fuss – only a passing mention in the Daily Record at the start of that week. Accompanied by a picture of him with his wife Gloria in London, the item quoted the 51-year-old star of such all-time-great movies as It’s a Wonderful Life as saying: “I don’t know anybody in Scotland. I’ll be staying in Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, just relaxing and shooting.”

At the time of his visit, Stewart had most recently been seen on Scottish screens in the masterful psychological thriller Vertigo, the last in a run of films he made with Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s. His latest film was Anatomy of a Murder, the Otto Preminger-directed courtroom drama which had been causing an unprecedented amount of controversy back home in the States, since it dealt quite explicitly with the subject of rape.

Like the character he played in Anatomy of a Murder, Stewart was very much the outdoors type who liked to escape to the countryside to relax. It’s probable that his Scottish sejour was the antidote to the media hoopla that followed the new film as it opened around the world through the second half of 1959.

The Bulletin caption for this photo simply reported that Stewart had thoroughly enjoyed a day’s pheasant shooting on the moors of Kincardineshire. Later he said: “We bagged three or four. I confess we saw plenty which are still flying.”

(c) Alison Kerr (2013). This photo, along with 15 others, can currently be seen in the Stars in Scotland exhibition at the Dunoon Film Festival.

Stars in Scotland @ the Dunoon Film Festival

15 May

Dunoon Film Festival launch - programme & fizzI’m absolutely thrilled about the fact that the very first exhibition of Stars in Scotland (featuring photos of movie stars in locations all over the country) is now up and running  in the town of Dunoon, in its lovely Burgh Hall.

The exhibition was commissioned to tie in with the inaugural Dunoon Film Festival, which will run from June 14-16. The launch of its terrific programme, last Thursday evening, also marked the opening of the exhibition which will run through to the end of the festival weekend.

The cast of stars who have sailed “doon the watter” to Dunoon includes some photos which have not been seen for over half a century. Film buffs might be tickled by the fact that we”ve got three Hitchcock movies’ worth of stars in the shape of James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and James Mason.

Not only do we have the trio of stars from The Philadelphia Story (Stewart, Grant plus Katharine Hepburn) but we also have the stars of its musical remake, High Society (Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby & Grace Kelly). You can also see two great Hollywood couples – Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton and Elsa Lanchester & Charles Laughton. Among the other stars featured are Judy Garland, Mae West, Sophia Loren and Deborah Kerr. All snapped in Scotland, by photographers from the sister papers the Evening Times, the Bulletin and The Herald.

Here are some photos taken at the opening. Stars in Scotland @ Dunoon - gallery

Stars in Scotland @ Dunoon - Hepburn, Burton

Stars in Scotland @ Dunoon  - James Mason

Stars in Scotland @ Dunoon launch - Bing visibleAll photos (c) Jean Donaldson, Powan Media.

Marlene Dietrich, Glasgow, 1966

4 Apr
City of Stars 1 - Marlene Dietrich with child

Marlene Dietrich, Glasgow Airport, Monday November 7 1966 (c) Herald & Times Group

Little did Marlene Dietrich know, when she stepped off the plane for her first visit to the city of stars, that by the end of her stay she would be stepping on to the top of her limo and proclaiming “I belong to Glasgow!”.

She was met at Glasgow Airport by dozens of reporters who tried to solve the mystery of her age. Asked why she looked so terribly young, the witty 65-year-old superstar simply said: “But I’m not so terribly old.”

Also waiting for Dietrich on the tarmac was seven-year-old Iain Robertson, the son of John Robertson, assistant manager at the Alhambra Theatre where the star was appearing in her one-woman show that night. She was delighted with the tartan doll given to her by the youngster, but dismissed the suggestion that she might include some Scots songs in her programme. “The Scots sing their own songs much better than I,” she smiled.

Dietrich clearly didn’t need to resort to trading on the tartan in order to win over her audience that night. She swept onstage in white fur and simply seduced the 2000-strong Alhambra crowd with her charisma and presence – and the beguiling way she sang the 22 songs that made up the 90-minute show.

The Evening Times reviewer said: “She needs no props, no artifice. She looks round the theatre with almost savage disdain as if to say ‘I’m Dietrich, who are you?’.” Accompanied by a 20-piece London orchestra, she sang many familiar, signature, songs from her long career – among them Lili Marlene, See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have and Falling in Love Again. Her performance of the folk song Where Have All the Flowers Gone hushed the spellbound audience.

By the end, she had earned a standing ovation and the stage was strewn with red roses thrown from the audience. At the stage door, more than 100 people waited in pouring rain to catch a glimpse of the star, and she made a point of signing autographs before climbing on top of the car and declaring her love for Glasgow – and Scotland. Cops tried to break up the ever-growing crowd, but Dietrich refused to budge and chatted on to her fans, triggering cheers from Post Office workers assembled on the roof of their building.

(c) Alison Kerr, 2012. To purchase this photo, visit

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