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Liverpool Entertainers (Part Two)

Part Two of a series of articles about Liverpool Entertainers:

Billy Butler MBE
William George 'Billy' Butler (born 24 January 1942). is a radio presenter on BBC Radio Merseyside. In the course of his career, he has presented TV shows such as 'FAX' and the magazine programme 'What the Butler Sees'. He was born in Amlwch, North Wales. In the 1960s he was a DJ at the Cavern Club between 1964 and 1969. Billy has been 40 years in show business and 30 years on local radio. In the early 60s, he came to national attention in the Spin-A-Disc panel on the ITV programme, 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', and he made a single with Polly Perkins, "I Reckon You". Billy made guest appearances with the Merseybeats and he formed his own group, the Tuxedos. He will be forever associated with one of the funniest programmes ever produced, 'Hold Your Plums' was a radio quiz show which ran for over a decade on BBC Radio Merseyside. It was hosted by Billy Butler and Wally Scott. Hold Your Plums won a Bronze Sony award. The series spawned several tapes of The Best of... and two successful Hold Your Plums videos. The first video in 1994 included a special recording of the show from the BBC Radio Merseyside studios in Liverpool intercut with stand-up footage of Billy and Wally in Widnes. The second video released a year later featured a live stage version of the show from the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool. In September 2010 he published his autobiography Billy Butler MBE – Mrs Butler’s Eldest. In 2013 Billy won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Liverpool Music Awards.

Tom Baker the Fourth Doctor
Tom Baker was born in Scotland Road, on 20 January 1934. His parents were working class Liverpudlian; his mother, Mary Jane (née Fleming), a cleaner, was a devout Catholic and his father, John Stewart Baker, was a Jewish seaman. Baker attended Cheswardine Boarding School until he left school at 15 to become a Roman Catholic monk and remained in this lifestyle for six years, but left after losing his faith. He did his national service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving from 1955 until 1957. At the same time, he took up acting, first as a hobby but he turned professional towards the end of the 1960s.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Baker was part of the National Theatre Company, then headed by Laurence Olivier, and had his first big film break with the role of Grigori Rasputin in the film Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) after Olivier had recommended him for the part. In 1974, Baker took over the role of the Doctor from Jon Pertwee to become the Fourth Doctor in the BBC TV series. Baker quickly made the part his own. As the Fourth Doctor, his eccentric style of dress and speech (particularly his trademark long scarf and fondness for jelly babies) made him an immediately recognisable figure, and he quickly caught the viewing public's imagination. Baker played the Doctor for seven consecutive seasons, making him the longest-serving actor in the part. Baker himself suggested many aspects of his Doctor's personality, but the distinctive scarf was created by accident. James Acheson, the costume designer assigned to his first story, had provided far more wool than was necessary to the knitter, Begonia Pope; Pope knitted all the wool she was given. It was Baker who suggested that he wear the ridiculously long scarf, which he did once it had been shortened a bit to make it more manageable. The Doctor played by Tom Baker (1974–81) is often regarded as the most popular of the Doctors.

Alan Bleasdale
Alan Bleasdale (born 23 March 1946) in Liverpool, he is an only child; his father worked in a food factory and his mother in a grocery shop. From 1951-57, he went to the St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Infant and Junior Schools in Huyton-with-Roby (then in Lancashire). From 1957-64, he attended the Wade Deacon Grammar School in Widnes (now the Wade Deacon High School). In 1967, he obtained a teaching certificate from the Padgate College of Education in Warrington. For four years he worked as a teacher at St Columba's Secondary Modern School in Huyton, then The King George V & Elaine Bernacchi School in Bikenibeu in South Tarawa) on the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (now called Kiribati),and lastly at Halewood Grange Comprehensive School (now known as Halewood College) from 1974-5. From 1975 to 1986, he worked as a playwright at the Liverpool Playhouse (becoming associate director) and the Contact Theatre in Manchester .

His first successes came as the writer of radio dramas for the BBC; several of these plays followed the character of Scully and were broadcast on BBC Radio Merseyside in 1971. In 1978 he wrote another single play for the BBC1 anthology series, entitled 'The Black Stuff' about a group of Liverpudlian tarmac layers. The play was not transmitted for two years as it awaited an available slot, but its eventual broadcast in 1980 won so much praise, that producer Michael Wearing of BBC English Regions Drama managed to commission the sequel serial, 'Boys from the Blackstuff',  this was transmitted on BBC Two in 1982, with a cast including Bernard Hill in the role of Yosser Hughes, whose catch-phrase "Gizza job" became synonymous with the mass unemployment of the Thatcher years. The series established Bleasdale as one of Britain's leading television writers and social commentators.

Kenneth Cope as Marty Hopkirk from
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
Kenneth Cope was born in 1931 in Liverpool, He was most famous for his leading role in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1969–1970) as the late private eye Marty Hopkirk opposite Mike Pratt's very much alive Jeff Randall. He had previously starred in Coronation Street as the shady Jed Stone (between 1961 and 1966, and in 2008), and had a regular role in the influential satirical series That Was The Week That Was (1962–1963). He also appeared in three episodes of Minder playing different characters. In 1971 he played Jack Victor in "The Wogle Stone", the sixth episode in the second season of Catweazle. In 1975–76 he wrote three series of the BBC children's television series Striker, starring the young Kevin Moreton and inspired by the local youth football team in the village of Islip, Oxfordshire, where the Cope family was then living. In 1997 Cope played dodgy ex-copper Charlie Fairclough alongside David Jason in an episode of A Touch Of Frost entitled "True Confessions." From 1999 to 2002 he starred as Ray Hilton in the Channel Four soap opera Brookside. In 2008 Cope's Coronation Street character Jed Stone returned to the ITV soap after 42 years' absence, appearing as part of a storyline involving property developer Tony Gordon. Cope now resides in Southport, and writes a weekly column for the weekly Visiter newspaper.

Kenny Everett ©BBC
Kenny Everett (born Maurice James Christopher Cole, 25 December 1944 – 4 April 1995). He was born in Seaforth, Lancashire on Christmas Day 1944 into a Catholic family. Everett attended the local secondary modern school, St Bede's Secondary Modern, now part of Sacred Heart Catholic College. He attended a junior seminary at Stillington near York with an Italian missionary order, the Verona Fathers, where he was a choirboy. After he left school he worked in a bakery and in the advertising department of The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph. While working at a pirate radio station Radio London he was advised to change his name to avoid legal problems. He adopted the name "Everett" from American film comic Edward Everett Horton, a childhood hero. Kenny Everett was heard in May 1967 on the BBC's soon to be discontinued Light Programme previewing The Beatles' forthcoming album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and was one of the DJs on the new pop music station Radio 1 from its launch at the end of September 1967. Everett had struck up a friendship with the Beatles and accompanied them on their August 1966 tour of the United States, sending back daily reports for Radio London. He also produced their 1968 and 1969 Christmas records. In 1978, London's Thames Television offered him a new venture, which became the Kenny Everett Video Show. This was a vehicle for Everett's characters, such as aging rock-and-roller Sid Snot, unsuccessfully flipping cigarettes into his mouth. The program was also a vehicle for his comedy sketches (his fellow writers were Ray Cameron, Barry Cryer and Dick Vosburgh), interspersed with the latest pop hits, either performed by the artists themselves, or as backing tracks to dance routines by Arlene Phillips' dance troupe Hot Gossip. Everett married the singer Lee 'Lady Lee' Middleton in 1969. By 1979 they had separated, and in the mid-1980s, he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. He was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1989, and he made his condition known to the public in 1993. He died from an AIDS-related illness, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, on 4 April 1995, aged 50. After a Roman Catholic requiem mass, Everett was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium.

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