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Neil Sean meets Mike Winters in this exclusive interview for arthurlloyd.co.uk

Neil Sean's exclusive interviews for this site - Des O'Connor - Alan Scott - Mike Winters - Ann Montini

Neil Sean and Mike Winters holding up a copy of the Music Hall Magazine 'Call Boy' - Courtesy Neil Sean.

Above - Neil Sean and Mike Winters holding up a copy of the Music Hall Magazine 'Call Boy' - Courtesy Neil Sean.

Mike Winters was without doubt a comedy legend. As one half of the very successful "Mike and Bernie" who enjoyed fame across all bands of showbiz from TV, Radio, Panto and film it appears that they could do no wrong... so being given the chance to sit down at our TV studio "Westminster Live"in early 2013 and invite Mike in for a chat about his latest book was too good an opportunity to miss...

Neil – what got you started really in showbiz... what was the big break?

Mike – Cisse Williams who was the main booker at Moss Empires... she came to see us and basically that was it, I am not sure she loved the act mind but what she did like was people who dressed well and we did... she told the guy "I am not so sure about those two but the suits are good" so in effect it was our tailor who got us the big break (laughing) she was a dynamic lady and when you think about it was her own mini X Factor or BGT, you know she could make or break you, prior to this we did our act in any place we could... We performed quite a lot at the Cumberland Hotel in London and places like that... Sometimes getting paid sometimes not but we learned all the same and you know honed the act as they say.

An early postcard showing the Palace Complex, Blackpool, with Harry Lauder on the Bill at the Palace Theatre

Neil – When did you decide you were funny?

Mike – We did not really, it was all down to the audiences and you know trying out stuff and hoping we would get a laugh, sometimes we just died... I will tell you a story – years ago we are in summer season at the Palace in Blackpool (shown right)... A huge date and well our big break again really but we are dying six nights per week and I mean really dying... so we had a word with the producers George and Alfred Black and begged them to allow us to change the material but they insisted that we kept it in... Everything... so we went on and on – the weeks rolled away and suddenly we noted that George and Alfred kept bringing people in you know to watch us at the back... At first we were flattered you know I mean they are the bosses after all... years later though they told us "We used to bring people in just to watch you dying..." I mean they loved it, the fact we were just not been able to make this holiday crowd laugh at all... So while cruel so very funny. We did of course make the people of Blackpool laugh eventually and it was a great town to us.

Neil – Blackpool Night Out?

Mike – Oh a great show and of course from the new ABC theatre... it was huge and basically they had to come up there and film as the stars were all in Blackpool... I mean we had big names like The Beatles, they were great boys and totally unaffected by the fame they had... They created a riot of course in and outside the theatre but made sure we had huge ratings.

Paul played through the very first public outing of "Yesterday"on the show... no one knew what a classic the song would become of course... The boys loved appearing in our sketches too and had a great gift for short comedy... John Lennon had a great mimic about him and was a good actor with great timing... you have to remember though it was all in the time so no one at that time had any idea that a band say like The Stones or The Beatles would still be around today and in fact more popular than ever... they were great days... The show though was hard work in one sense as we were also appearing in Summer Season in Great Yarmouth but flying over to Blackpool to film the show every Sunday so it was a fast turnaround looking back and we never really knew until the day before like who the guest stars were... It was all fun though looking back I mean we were young, had energy and were doing a job we loved, what was not to like? Blackpool was great in those days of course... every major name played the resort and it had a buzz about it plus the length of employment it gave was even better, and then if you could land a panto well you were quids in then... The resort though was well managed then and many of us used to stay in caravans up in Squires Gate... sometimes you could look out and see the great Frankie Vaughan working out or little Hylda Baker taking her animals for a canter around... It was all very friendly looking back and we all had the same quest nightly... to entertain and to be funny so you know we all had jobs to do.

Many times we all had to attend an event to help promote the show say something like a Mayor's afternoon tea or Garden party, there was no hiding behind dark glasses or refusing to turn up you know, you had to go to promote the show you were in, after all it was expected and mostly fun... sometimes though for all the wrong reasons.. (Laughing)

Many stars in Blackpool though were heroes for me and Bernie I mean Frank Randle was a comic genius and really could have the audience in the palm of his hand... It’s hard to imagine though how it would have gone on because he really was that famous up there... everyone loved him and you know he simply could have the audiences howling with laughter for ten minutes before even saying anything... That really is a comic genius in my book but there were so many.

An early postcard depicting the Central Pier, Blackpool in 1922 - Courtesy Roy Cross

Above - An early postcard depicting the Central Pier, Blackpool in 1922 - Courtesy Roy Cross.

We both loved Sid Field and to see the bits of him on film is not really showing him to the best possible light... he was great with the audience reaction and the like... Our Albert, Albert Modley, was another comic great and we worked with him on the central pier in Blackpool... a great guy and as funny off as on but then these guys had worked years horning an act... they knew their audiences and had lived many of their lives so they had a great connection with them really.

Al Reed was a super guy but quite reserved off stage and liked the good life. Quite a few of the set felt he has conned his way in because he has other wealth outside the world of showbiz as they say but for us he was funny... Simple as that... When you work with big stars like we did, Tommy Trinder, Bruce you name it etc. you're not in awe as such as you're all kind of starting out and foolishly believe that you will be as big as them with the right breaks and such, but for us we just tried to learn from them... Our act (laughing ) truthfully we would work many aspects out while travelling. It was that bad really but after a while we had a great set up and mainly would ad-lib around what we had... Play off the audience and I would play my Clarinet and of course the comedians get off the song and dance... Thank god for that Mike laughed.

Mike who was interviewed for Neil’s new documentary film "Empire’s Hippodromes and Palaces" also set to rights the true story of his infamous fall out with his brother and comedy partner Bernie and one that Mike addresses in detail in the film... "Truth is we never really fell out I mean not in the way the media said... I wanted to do other things and so did he but what mattered was we were still brothers and remained so... I loved him and adored him but it was a business, you know it’s called show business, and sometimes the lines can get blurred, but truthfully we always remained pals and that was so important."

Sadly Mike Winters passed away in Gloucestershire aged 82 in August 2013.

This Article was written by Neil Sean and kindly sent in by him for exclusive publication on www.arthurlloyd.co.uk in 2013 and may not be copied or otherwise distributed without prior consent.

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