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An Article on the Windmill Theatre

From the Speedway Gazette, December 4th, 1948 - Entitled: The Windmill Tilted - Cyril (Quixote) Roger

Script: Basil Storey - Photography: John Alexander

The cover of Speedway Gazette, December 4th, 1948 featuring Cyril Roger and the Windmill Girls."THIS," I said to Cyril Roger and John Alexander, "is the most embarrassing self-assignment ever undertaken by a speedway racing editor. I still feel like dashing back to Fleet Street while the going is good."

A trifle pale of countenance, New Cross cinders star Cyril Roger slid his car alongside the curb in Great Windmill Street, just off Piccadilly Circus. GAZETTE cameraman Alexander was the only cool and collected member of our party of three.

"Blame Cyril, not me!" exclaimed John as we poured on to the pavement and he carefully collected his photographic paraphernalia from the back of the car, "You asked him to name his greatest wish outside of speedway racing and he told you that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to pay a visit backstage at the famous Windmill Theatre."

Right - The cover of Speedway Gazette, December 4th, 1948 featuring Cyril Roger and the Windmill Girls. Caption Reads: Windmill Theatre Girls surrounding New Cross speedway rider Cyril Roger on this week's Cover Picture are (left to right): Judy Paton, Joy Marlowe, Carole Jeffries, Rosalie Witham and June Kennedy.

SO TIRED!

"FEEL O.K., fella'?" I asked Cyril sympathetically.

"As well as can be expected," came nervously from Roger. "But who are all those guys lined up over there?"

"That's the tired London businessmen queuing up for to-day's first performance," supplied the knowledgeable John. "First there gets the best seats in the stalls."

"Tired businessmen!" I exclaimed, "But it, isn't midday yet!"

"The Windmill opens at midday and businessmen are always tired," said John indifferently.

Feeling self-consciously like a stage-door Johnnie, I led the way round to the stage entrance. The commissionaire eyed me suspiciously and I endeavoured to create the impression of a country parson seeking to view a museum. On my left was a forbidding notice relating to dressing rooms being strictly out of bounds to unauthorised persons. Behind me were John and Cyril sort of slinking in the background and ready to run if I was shot.

HAZEL TO RESCUE

At last to my rescue, came an efficient young lady, name of Hazel, who announced that Mr. Kenneth H. Bandy, the Windmill Theatre's Press representative, awaited my pleasure. Having proved my respectability, I darted a glance of triumph at the stage-door-keeper, shouted "Come on chaps!" to my companions, and followed Hazel up a winding staircase.

Ever climbed a lighthouse, folks? Well, that's exactly how it feels reaching Mr. Kenneth Bandy's office at the Windmill.

"Next stop Heaven!" I called back to Cyril and John.

"Heaven can darned well wait!" panted John, toiling upwards well in the rear.

Thus to Mr. Bandy and a cordial welcome. The walls of the Press Office were decorated with photographs of the famous Windmill girls. Cyril was so entranced that I had to remind him that Mr. Vivian Van Damm was standing by awaiting an introduction.

THEATRE CHIEF

With photographs of his famous Windmill girls decorating the office wall in the background, Mr. Vivian Van Damm (left), brains behind the famous theatre, welcomes visitor Cyril Roger. Mr. Van Damm was associated with speedway racing in the early days of the sport. GENIAL, business-like, Mr. Van Damm, the brains behind the Windmill Theatre, staggered Cyril by his intimate knowledge of the speedways.

Left - Caption Reads: With photographs of his famous Windmill girls decorating the office wall in the background, Mr. Vivian Van Damm (left), brains behind the famous theatre, welcomes visitor Cyril Roger. Mr. Van Damm was associated with speedway racing in the early dlays of the sport.

The Windmill chief embarked upon interesting anecdotes relating to such cinders giants of the past as Vic Huxley, Billy Lamont and Frank Arthur. He knew Cyril's veteran New Cross captain Ron Johnson intimately. In fact, showman Van Damm had been in speedway racing at the very start, 20 years ago, with International Speedways.

"But it isn't me you want to see," said the Windmill boss. "I'm wasting your time, you must meet the girls."

"Yes, please!" came eagerly front Alexander.

"Pipe down, wolf!" I hissed warningly as Kenneth Bandy led us to the rehearsal room.

CHERCHEZ LA FEMME

Caption Reads: Beryl Catlin (with cape) rehearses with Marion Lynde while (seated left to right) Madeleine Hearne, Ronnie Hudson, Cyril Roger and Maureen O'Dea look on. Cyril was beginning to overcome his stage-fright.This was where Cyril Roger's ordeal began, but for an ordeal he seemed to enjoy it immensely. Three charming Windmill young ladies, Madeleine Ronnie and Maureen, took charge of the New Cross hero and sat beside him watching Beryl Catlin and Marion Lynde rehearse a Spanish dance. Cyril spent the next hour surrounded and lionised by more beautiful girls than is good for any young man.

Right - Caption Reads: Beryl Catlin (with cape) rehearses with Marion Lynde while (seated left to right) Madeleine Hearne, Ronnie Hudson, Cyril Roger and Maureen O'Dea look on. Cyril was beginning to overcome his stage-fright.

Meanwhile John Alexander wistfully sighed as he photographed the happy Cyril with a variety of charmers. There are forty-seven of these delightful ladies on the Windmill pay-roll, but Cyril was too elated to count. There are, you see, figures and figures. He chatted in the wings with Joy Marlowe and Carole Jeffries before they made their entrance. I heaved an editorial sigh of envy as Cyril met Judy Paton, Rosalie Witham and June Kennedy.

Then came Cyril's big moment. He went up to the canteen where some of the girls were having lunch and had his hair tousled by Miss Anita D'Ray, one of the best known and most talented of the Windmill ladies. At this stage John Alexander, greatly depressed, almost hurled his camera through a window and, for my part, never at any stage in my career did I so much regret never having become a speedway rider or having the decorum which is expected of Editors.

AND SO TO BAR

Caption Reads: With such charming companions I wish the lunch session could last for ever!" sighed Cyril as he joined the Windmill ladies in their canteen above the theatre. The girls wanted to know what it was like to be a speedway hero.RELUCTANTLY we allowed the kindly Kenneth Bandy drag us from the beauty of back-stage to the Windmill bar. Liquid refreshment was definitely needed.

"Sam Goldwyn can keep his bathing belles!" came rapturously from Cyril Roger.

"Get some good photos, John?" I asked Alexander.

"What d'you think!" snapped John, still smarting under the lack of foresight which had prevented him from asking Cyril to hold the camera for half-an-hour.

Left - Caption Reads: With such charming companions I wish the lunch session could last for ever!" sighed Cyril as he joined the Windmill ladies in their canteen above the theatre. The girls wanted to know what it was like to be a speedway hero.

Cyril drove us back to Fleet Street. It was sheer coincidence and the result of mis-direction by traffic-happy Alexander which caused us to circle three times round the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus before we found our way into the Haymarket.

HIS HEADACHE

While the tired businessmen waited in the orchestra stalls, lucky Cyril chatted with charming Joy Marlowe (centre) and Carole Jeffries in the wings before they made their entrance.PICKING our way down the Strand, Cyril who had been ruminating quietly for some minutes, suddenly exclaimed: "I say, Basil, I'm going to have a lot of explaining to do among my female friends when you publish those photographs in the GAZETTE!"

"That's your headache, fella'," I replied with editorial callousness. " What's worrying me at this moment is that in future every speedway rider I invite to participate in our `What's Your Wish, Chum?' series is going to ask for a trip to the Windmill!"

Curled up in the back of the car, completely out of this world, Alexander murmured: "Wonder how much they charge for a season ticket in the stalls!"

Right - Caption Reads: While the tired businessmen waited in the orchestra stalls, lucky Cyril chatted with charming Joy Marlowe (centre) and Carole Jeffries in the wings before they made their entrance.

Murder At The Windmill

A Lead in the current search for new British talent will be given by Daniel Angel Films in their musical-thriller "Murder at the Windmill." More than a dozen youngsters who have never before been in front of a movie camera will be given a chance supporting Garry Marsh, Jack Livesey, Elliot Makeham, Jon Pertwee, Jimmy Edwards and Diana Decker. For instance, one of the juvenile leads will be played by Windmill girl Jill Anstey.

Beautiful 21-year-old Jill Anstey, who five years ago went to the Windmill Theatre as an usherette and graduated immediately to the other side of the footlights, was chosen from a glamorous selection of forty other Windmill girls. Jill is London-born, has chestnut hair and a mischievous personality.

Oh! you big, handsome chunk of cinder-man!" exclaimed Anita D'Ray as she Playfully vamped Cyril in the theatre canteen.Smaller speaking parts go to seven other Windmill girls, who thus get their first break on the screen - Anita D'Ray, 18-year-old red-head; Margot Holden, 16year-old blonde from Mexboro', Yorkshire, who is at present appearing in her first Windmill show; June Kennedy, 21-year-old brunette, a Windmill "veteran"; Maureen O'Dea, 17-year-old Irish red-head; Pat Hamilton, petite blonde, 22 years old, who welded jerrycans during the war; Tauna Beckham, 19-year-old, with a mass of blonde hair; and Linda Gray, born in Leicester 18 years ago and who has been at the Windmill since 1945.

More Windmill girls will appear in shots of the actual show.

Left - Caption Reads: Oh! you big, handsome chunk of cinder-man!" exclaimed Anita D'Ray as she Playfully vamped Cyril in the theatre canteen."All this, and lunch, too! " gasped Cyril as the bewitching Anita ruffled his hair and tweaked the Roger ear. Cameraman Alexander was green with envy. Anita, 18-year-old redhead, is appearing in the Windmill film.

Diana Decker, who takes the leading role, is herself a former Windmill girl. She was born in New York, went to school just outside Hollywood, yet came to England to make her name in films. She will be remembered for playing the only feminine part in "San Demetrio" and for a leading role in "Fiddlers Three," with Tommy Trinder and Frances Day.

Most of the shooting will take place actually in the theatre overnight so that the show will not be interfered with, and the Windmill will be able to stand by its "We Never Closed" slogan. The story of " Murder At The Windmill," written by Val Guest, is, of course, fictitious; but will present an authentic picture of backstage life.

The above text was first published in the Speedway Gazette, December 4th, 1948 and is Courtesy Maurice Poole.

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