SCOUSE comedy legend Jimmy Tarbuck has thanked a South Tyneside entertainment pioneer for setting him on the road to stardom almost 50 years ago.
‘Tarby’ was a struggling comic back in 1965 when he accepted a contract from Sandford Goudie to perform at his top nightspot, the La Strada in Commercial Road, South Shields.
But then the comedian received a call from TV impressario Val Parnell asking him to compere the top-rated show Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
It was a chance for him to perform in front of millions across the nation and become a household name.
The only problem was the 25-year-old needed Mr Goudie to release him from his contract at the La Strada.
And although he was a businessman, Mr Goudie recognised Jimmy’s talent and allowed him out of his deal.
That was a decision the pair recalled when they met up backstage recently after the comic’s performance at the Whitley Bay Playhouse.
Mr Goudie, 76, of Cleadon Village, said: “Jimmy was on the Piers Morgan TV show recently being interviewed and he mentioned that he was working at a North East club when he got the call to appear as compere on Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
“He had to go to rehearsals in London on the Saturday when he was supposed to be performing at the club. I released him without hestitation because it was such an opportunity and he was a real talent.
“He went on to compere that show many times and built a very successful career.
“I wrote to his agent to remind Jimmy that the club was the La Strada, and he invited me backstage after his show at Whitley Bay.
“We spent about an hour catching up on old times. He was very friendly and really approachable.”
The stars who played La Strada read like a who’s who of Britain’s entertainment industry of the 1960s and 70s, including Englebert Humperdink, Bob Monkhouse, The Shadows and Roy Castle.
When the La Strada nightclub opened in Commercial Road, South Shields, 51 years ago it marked a new era in glamorous entertainment.
The post-war years of austerity and rationing were finally a thing of the past – and the sixties were preparing to swing.
La Strada represented all that was new – a place where men and women could meet in a sophisticated environment, to dance and hear the best cabaret acts of the day.
Even the name of the venue – Italian for ‘The Road’ – represented something exotic and ‘continental’.