The late, great Tommy Cooper

Tommy Cooper flyer

Tommy Cooper flyer

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Written by Jeannie Swales

The late, great Tommy Cooper. Undoubtedly one of our finest, cleverest and joyously silly comedy stars, he played at Scarborough’s Floral Hall – also, sadly, long gone – for three months in 1969.

And take a look at that punishing schedule for the show, Cooper Live Size – ‘a bigger than ever glamorous spectacular with great supporting company’.

“Commencing 17th June at 8pm, and thereafter twice nightly at 6.15 and 8.40pm until September 13th”. The reverse of the flyer tells us that, mercifully, poor Tommy had Sundays off – but that’s still a grand total of 153 performances over nearly 13 weeks. It’s hard to imagine any show being viable for that many performances today.

Tickets were 10/- (that’s ten shillings, for anyone under the age of about 50) for seats in the centre block, 8/6 (rear centre), 7/6 (side block) and 5/- (side boxes) and, of course, the entire booking process took place through the post (or, presumably, at the box office) – no speedy online bookings back then.

The Floral Hall on the North Side, demolished in 1989 and replaced by the Alexandra (now the Scarborough) Bowls Centre, was an extraordinary venue. Originally called the Alexandra Gardens, it opened in 1911 as, essentially, a large conservatory with open-air seating around it, and hosted entertainments such as the pierrot shows which were popular at the time. Before long, a glass roof was added, turning it into a flower-bedecked theatre; by the early 1960s, it was a more conventional theatre.

Tommy Cooper, he of the tasseled fez and ineffectual magic tricks, was much loved for his blundering personality onstage – so much so that, when, in 1984, he had a heart attack and collapsed in front of millions of television viewers on the LWT variety show Live From Her Majesty’s, many people assumed it was part of his act. He died shortly afterwards, although whether behind the theatre curtain, or in an ambulance on the way to hospital, is unclear. He was just 63.

He was famous for punchy one-liners, and two-line jokes known as Cooperisms: “I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn’t find any”; “I went to the butchers the other day and bet him 50 quid that he couldn’t reach the meat off the top shelf. He said: “Sorry sir, the steaks are too high.” Comedy gold.

The Floral Hall flyer is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects belonging to the Borough of Scarborough and in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust. If you have an enquiry or would like access to the Collections please contact Karen Snowden, Head of Collections on 01723 384506, or Karen.snowden@smtrust.uk.com