Two entertainers who often appeared in the West End have died this past fortnight.


Joyce Blair - who appeared in many West End musicals and revues during the 1950s and 1960s but was most famous for her dancing partnership with her brother, Lionel Blair - passed away on 19 August 2006, aged 73.

Born Joyce Ogus in London in 1932, she began entertaining crowds in air raid shelters during the war, and made her professional stage debut at the age of 13 in the play Quality Street at the Embassy Theatre in 1945.

Her West End break came in 1951, when she appeared in South Pacific at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, alongside the then unknown Sean Connery and Larry Hagman. Her other musical credits include Kiss Me Kate, Bar Mitzvah Boy, Guys and Dolls, Grab Me a Gondola, Little Mary Sunshine, Irma La Douce, and Dames at Sea.

Blair appeared in many variety shows with her brother, both on stage and screen, and also starred in The Mating Game, The Last Days of Pompeii, The Benny Hill Show, The Saint, Z Cars and the biopic of Lucille Ball, Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter on television. Her film credits included Yield to the Night, Crooks Anonymous and Mister Ten Per Cent.

Blair emigrated to America in the 1980s. She is survived by her brother, and a son and daughter.


Charlie Williams (pictured), Britain’s first well-known black TV comedian, died on Saturday (2 September 2006), aged 78.

Williams was born in Barnsley and left school at the age of 14 to work as a coal miner, but showed such promise on the work football team that he was recruited as a centre half for Doncaster Rovers, before making a name for himself in comedy.

He frequently appeared at the London Palladium, but was best known for his TV appearances on The Comedians alongside Bernard Manning and Mike Reid, and for hosting ITV’s The Golden Shot. He was featured on This Is Your Life, and wrote an autobiography, Ee, I’ve Had Some Laughs, which was published in 1972. He was appointed an MBE in 1999.

- by Caroline Ansdell