ON SONG: Joe Longthorne at the Palace Hotel, Manchester
Showbusiness celebrities, fans, family and friends packed Manchester's Palace Hotel for a Variety Club tribute to Blackpool-based entertainer Joe Longthorne.
Compered by Billy Butler from Radio Merseyside and Peter Price from Radio City the evening celebrated Joe’s “outstanding contribution to the world of entertainment and charitable work” and sold out quicker than any previous similar event said Len Keighley, chairman of Variety Club North West.
Stars turned out in force – and on video – to pay tribute to Joe’s professionalism, his courage in battling cancer and his tireless work for charity.
Songwriter Don Black’s recorded tribute referred to Joe’s “blistering talent” and Des O’Connor called him “the best vocal impressionist of all time.”
The new Lord Mayor of Hull – the entertainer’s birthplace – was there in person and said “thousands of Joe’s fans would love to be in my shoes tonight.” She traced his “humble beginnings” and called him “a true working class hero.”
Coronation Street star Liz Dawn – with whom Joe shared a Top 40 hit in 1994, singing Passing Strangers – said: “The nicest thing about tonight is that you are well. You’re a lovely man who brings so much pleasure to millions of people.”
Jeffrey Archer – sharing a table with the likes of Roy Chubby Brown
and Johnnie Casson – called Joe “one of the greatest talents I have ever heard in my life” and put him alongside Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin in his own Hall of Fame. He added: “I represent millions of people who are simply fans. Your fight against illness is am inspiration to us all.”
Another moving personal tribute came from Dr Guy Lucas, consultant haematologist at Manchester Royal Infirmary who paid courage to Joe’s courage:
“Two years ago we were running out of options when we found an unrelated (bone marrow) donor. I warned that it didn’t guarantee anything and Joe had a dreadful time.
“It could have affected his singing voice but remarkably he pulled through with steely determination, iron resolve and all the good wishes of his fans and family. It is a pleasure to see things going so well. Let us keep our fingers crossed, light a candle and say a prayer.