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Friday, March 28th 2008

3:23 PM

JOE LONGTHORNE LOVES HIS LIFE AND CAREER

(FROM HALIFAX EVENING COURIER)

ADVERSITY has been a shadowy figure lurking in the wings of Joe Long-thorne's career, particularly the latter years.

For almost 20 years he has battled cancer, finally undergoing a life-saving bone marrow transplant in 2005. Then he suffered pneumonia and was given just a one in 50 chance of survival.

Sheer determination and the support of friends, family and a legion of fans has sustained the singer and impressionist through his darker days. And next month he promises to deliver yet another outstanding show at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax – and tickets are selling fast.

Joe takes to the stage on Saturday, April 26, just five days after his good friend and charity cohort Johnnie Casson entertains Calderdale senior citizens with a free show at the theatre.

Joe and Johnnie, the Brighouse comedian, are also heavily involved in an annual charity extra-vaganza in Blackpool, where Joe now lives, called All Hands on Deck.

Directed by entertainer Tony Jo, the show is in its 12th year and is likely to be staged in September at the North Pier Theatre.

"Johnnie and I are big pals, we go back a long time," says Joe.

"Johnnie's the ship's cat, I'm the captain and Tony is the first officer."

Tony, who used to live in Walsden, Todmord-en, said: "It's a massive event. Everyone wants to be involved and we raise a lot of money for the Joe Longthorne Cancer Appeal and local charities."

Joe, famous for his impressions of stars like Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, was born in 1955 and raised on the east coast.

He was found to be dyslexic, which probably accounted for his lack of academic success. He's also deaf in one ear – but neither has stood in the way of a career spanning nearly 40 years.

He joined Yorkshire Television's Junior Show-time in 1970/71, the talent show that made stars of Bonnie Langford and Pauline Quirke and achieved national recognition following an appearance on London Weekend TV's series Search for a Star.

He had his own TV series in the 1980s and has shared the stage with many of the world's greatest artists, including Bob Hope at the London Palladium.

Following his Halifax gig, Joe will be travelling the length and breadth of the country before heading back to the Palladium for a concert on Sunday, June 1, with other gigs to follow.

He takes to the road in a huge American tour bus driven by his two nephews. "My niece is also involved – it's a family affair," he said. "They stay in the tour bus and I stay in hotels. I have to be completely quiet. I find it hard to wind down.

"I have quite an army of very loyal fans. I like looking into the audience. It's amazing, some of the people there are not even in their 20s.

"It's not work, it's enjoyment going on stage and delivering the lyrics to the songs and getting it right. The main event is the gig of that night.

"The next gig is what's important, that's how I see it. That keeps me going night after night. The less I do, the harder it gets, although you'd think it would be the other way round.

"I'm a survivor. You get what you deserve and I'm determined to have some fun," he said.

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