Thursday, 23 August 2012
Remembering Dickie H
Back in my boyhood days, I'd often be there, with my brother, neatly clad in our little sports jackets, enjoying the beautiful airy seaside ground, the comings and goings, the old geezers in white coats selling the Pink 'Un, and whatever was going on on the field. Those were Yorkshire's glory days - from the all-conquering Ray Illingworth team to Brian Close and the rise of a young bespectacled chap called Geoffrey Boycott - and the visitors always seemed to be having fun, cutting loose and giving it some welly. I remember seeing even the notoriously stroke-averse Australian Bill Lawry ('the corpse with pads on') whacking the ball all over the ground...
Sometimes the stars of the summer shows would drop in too. One I remember seeing is Dickie Henderson, a comedian and entertainer who is no doubt forgotten now by everyone but me and my brother (and, I'll warrant, Malty). A short dapper chap, permatanned and nimble on his feet (he was a dancer as well), he was long on easy, not to say oily, charm and somewhat short on comic material. He had a relaxed air and a mid-Atlantic accent that suggested rather more sophistication than he possessed - but at least the accent, unlike the similar drawl affected by his pal and frequent collaborator Bob Monkhouse, was earned. Dickie spent much of his childhood in Hollywood, where his father, rotund singer and dancer Dick Henderson (who made the first British recording of Tiptoe Through the Tulips), was touring in vaudeville. As a child actor, young Dickie appeared in the film of Noel Coward's Cavalcade, and, with Cicely Courtneidge and Max Miller, in Things Are Looking Up. He was being seriously considered for the young David in George Cukor's David Copperfield when his father hauled him back to Blighty. And there he was, a quarter of a century later, topping the bill at the Floral Hall, Scarborough, and enjoying the hospitality at the cricket ground. I may be wrong, but he looked like a man who hadn't often said no to a drink.