I’ve just heard the sad news that Peter Prichard, agent and manager to the likes of Bob Monkhouse, Jimmy Tarbuck and Ray Alan, has died. He was very helpful to me when I was writing Turned Out Nice Again, and when I interviewed him in his office, I asked him about a story I’d been told by Jack Parnell. Peter confirmed that it was exactly as Jack had told it. Here’s how it appeared in the book.
“The international guest stars at the Royal Variety Performance were not always best remembered for their performance, such as Mario Lanza’s involvement in the 1957 show. Grade agent and personal friend Peter Prichard had been deputed to keep an eye on the singer and notorious drunk. Unfortunately, a rehearsal call caught Lanza asleep, and he rose from his slumber to hit Prichard. Prichard explained what had happened to Leslie Grade, whose first reaction was that treating one of his agents like this was unacceptable, and that Lanza should be removed from the show. Pragmatism prevailed and Grade replied ‘Peter, let him do his song, then, when he comes off, hit him back’. Word of the altercation soon got out, and resulted in a Daily Mirror reporter doorstepping Prichard’s grandmother. Explaining what had happened in the hope of eliciting more information, the reporter was told “Oh, most probably. Peter fights all the kids in the street”. Momentarily, in his aged relative’s mind, the successful theatrical agent had regressed to being a Shepherd’s Bush street bruiser.”
Prichard’s grandmother was no stranger to show business herself, as he explained.
“At the turn of the century, the theatres had their own carpenters, because they made all their own scenery and things like that. My grandfather had been a stage carpenter when it was a profession, but he went from theatre to theatre. My grandmother’s bid to fame was that she had been wardrobe mistress on Buffalo Bill’s last tour of England. Her sister, my great aunt, had a boarding house and some of the cast lodged with her. She said that it included the American Indians who were in the show, because they weren’t allowed in the hotels in London. We had a lot of the props still in the cellar, but we were bombed. We had a load of spears, bows, arrows and shields of the Red Indian period that were left there.”