In Loving Memory of Danny La Rue

Danny La Rue
In Loving Memory of Danny La Rue

Danny La Rue,  (26 July 1927 – 31 May 2009) was an Irish-born British entertainer known for his singing and drag impersonations.

Born as Daniel Patrick Carroll in Cork City, Ireland in 1927, La Rue was the youngest of either four or five siblings. The family moved to England when he was six and he was brought up at Earnshaw Street in Soho, central London. When the family home was destroyed during the Blitz, his mother, a seamstress, moved her children to Kenn, a Devon village where young Daniel developed an interest in dramatics. “There weren’t enough girls so I got the pick of the roles … My Juliet was very convincing”, La Rue recalled.

He served in the British Royal Navy as a young man following his father’s footsteps, and even had a brief career delivering groceries, but he became known for his skill as a female impersonator (or “comic in a frock” as he preferred to be called) in Britain and was featured in theatre productions, and in film, television, and records.

Among his celebrity impersonations were Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, and Margaret Thatcher. At one point he had his own nightclub in Hanover Square, and also performed on London’s West End. In the 1960s he was among Britain’s highest-paid entertainers. He used to own the Swan at Streatley hotel in the 1970s. In 1982 he played Dolly Levi in the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also has the distinction of being the only man to take over a woman’s role in the West End theatre when he replaced Avis Bunnage in Oh, What a Lovely War! and he was until his death still a regular performer in traditional Christmas pantomime shows in Britain.

In 1968 his version of “On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep” reached number 33 in the UK singles chart; La Rue later adopted the song as his theme tune.  He appeared in Every Day’s a Holiday, The Frankie Howerd Show, Our Miss Fred, Twiggs, Decidedly Dusty, Entertainment Express, Blackpool Bonanza and the BBC Play of the Month. He made a guest appearance in the Mr. Bean episode, Mr. Bean in Room 426 in 1993. He most recently appeared in Hello Danny a biographical show performed at Benidorm Palace, Spain on 11 November 2007. The part of La Rue was played by Jerry Lane, and La Rue appeared at the start of the show and then in an interview on stage in the second half. He also performed a number of songs, including Jayne County’s “Queenage Baby”, accompanied by Dave Peterson to a sellout crowd.

He was appointed OBE in the 2002 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. La Rue later stated in an interview that this was “the proudest day of his life”. Other accolades included Royal Variety Performance appearances in 1969, 1972 and 1978, Variety Club of Great Britain Showbiz Personality of the Year (1969), Theatre Personality of the Year (1970), Entertainer of the Decade (1979) and the Brinsworth Award from the EABF for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment profession and the community.

La Rue suffered a mild stroke in January 2006 whilst in Spain on holiday after his final Pantomime and all of his planned performances were cancelled. He had been suffering from prostate cancer for many years unbeknown to his fans. He had several subsequent strokes and developed cancer of the throat. He died in his home shortly before midnight on 31 May 2009 at the age of 81. His companion, Annie Galbraith, was with him at his home in Kent when he died. Danny is laid to rest with his partner, Jack Hanson, in St Mary’s Cemetery, Kensal Green, London.

Danny La Rue Tribute Site

Author: admin