The death of Sir Ken Dodd this week has sparked memories of when he became the first big star to appear at Melton Theatre back in the early 1980s.
The comedian was one of the nation’s most popular performers when he staged two sell-out shows in the town on the same day.
Ray Flude, who managed the theatre at the time, said the comic was ‘a lovely man’ as well as a bit of an eccentric.
He recalled: “We booked him for two shows, one at about 6pm and the other at 8 or 9pm. Just before the first house we had a theatre full of 350 people eager to see him but Ken was nowhere to be seen. I remember walking up and down the kerb outside on Asfordby Road with his promoter wondering if he was going to turn up.
“Then five minutes before the show this big hatchback drew up and Ken got out, walked to his dressing room and then went straight out on to the stage. His first line was ‘I’ve never performed in Petfoods’ cold store before.”
The comic was famous for extending his shows by hours and Ray recalls the second house later that night going on until 12.40am.
Sir Ken, who was 90 when he passed away, filled theatres wherever he performed, he was a TV star and also recorded19 top 40 hit songs.
So it was a huge surprise to Ray when he was approached by his promoter.
“I was sitting in my office and this man called John Pye came in wearing a white safari suit and a gold medallion and asked whether I would like to have Ken Dodd performing at the theatre,” he recalled.
“It all seemed very unlikely but it went ahead and the tickets sold out quickly.”
Sir Ken appeared on three different occasions at Melton Theatre and his shows were always laced with jokes based on local issues in the town.
Ray (70) added: “We used to leave a lot of copies of the Melton Times at the front of the theatre and Ken would leaf through them so he had some local material for his shows.
“He was a lovely man and it was terrible news to hear he has gone.”