Nights out in South Shields were never the same when the likes of La Strada and The Latino opened their doors.
And it was to the Latino that Kenneth Connelly recalls visiting in this, the latest instalment of his fascinating account of the sixties.
“Once inside the Latino, with a cover charge only making a modest hole in my 10-bob note, it was viewed as a different world,” writes Kenneth.
“To begin with there was no smell from the toilet, only a faint hint of eau de cologne – and that was just the gents.
“No squawky microphone. No, this was freshly-laundered elevator music. “Plenty of mahogany-coloured grained Formica, brass fittings, deep carpets and a glitter-ball whose reflections from the spotlights cast a myriad of coloured stars in a black velvet sky.
“Glamorous croupiers sat discreetly behind green baize tables.
“The wheel on the roulette table glinted tantalisingly as it spun.
“Plastic chips were randomly scattered, enumerated with figures well out of range of a 10-bob note.
“The sight of more croupiers ‘shovelling’ playing cards to punters, and the same cards being flicked and shuffled Maverick-fashion, was mesmerising and made my Woodbine look shabby.”
Kenneth says there were no “turns” but cabaret artistes.
Nor was there a stage with a backcloth “shimmering coloured foil curtain, masking the terror of tonight’s sacrificial lamb.
“No, these would be ‘floor shows’. A scan of the walls of the club exposed spot-lit photographs of autographed visages depicting. Bob Monkhouse, Tommy Cooper, Bill Maynard, Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd as well as Peter and Gordon (long before Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown).
“More appealingly, Marianne Faithful, Susan Maugham et al. Impressive, and all of whom were current TV favourites.
“The compere’s shimmering tuxedo and slicked back hair murmured: sophistication, money, glamour and holidays in Majorca.
“A stark contrast against my mohair on the never-never, callow naivety, no money and a dwindling packet of Woodbines. Holidays? No chance bonny lad.
“Nevertheless, I was in there, mixing with a more enlightened crowd, and wondering which bus they came on.
“Looking at the time I began to wonder if I’d get a bus at all. I wondered who the ‘turn’ (sorry) who the floor-show would be?
“The billboard had said Jerry somebody or other and sounded vaguely familiar but no picture on the wall. Hope he’s got a thick skin?”
l We’ll find out if he did, and who he was in the last of Kenneth’s articles tomorrow.