Danny La Rue

The Auction - Brick Lane Music Hall

Friday 12th March 2010

A full house at the Brick Lane Music Hall today for the sale of Danny La Rue’s costumes. The viewing started at 10am with the sale beginning shortly around mid-day.

Over the next three and a half hours Vincent Hayes, creator of Brick Lane ran the auction in his own inimitable style- this was no cold sale, this was the dispersal of Danny’s glamorous gowns  that Vincent handled with warmth, affection, and a great deal of humour.

Vincent Hayes

One costume, from Plymouth Theatre Royals Mother Goose that I purchased (I had no intention of bidding when I arrived!) has a large bustle frame attached to the back of it. Vincent peered at it and said “I think Ronnie Corbett is still in there!” I’m collecting this rather sturdy costume on Sunday and working out ways to get it into a car!

Coming to a theatre near you in 2010! My new purchase!

If I have problems with transporting this and storing it in the Theatre’s wardrobe, think how relieved Annie Galbraith must feel today.

For the past Twenty five plus years Annie, Danny’s long time companion, costumier and dresser has stored Dan’s entire wardrobe of fabulous frocks in her house in Tonbridge Wells. The vast array of over 90 lots in today’s auction is not the whole collection. Annie told me that it was going to make a “bit of space”, and that the remainder will emerge on sale at a later date. Vincent believed she can now get to the kitchen without parting rails of frocks for a change!


The auction is believed to have raised  around £40,000. Not bad for three and a half hours. All praise to Vincent for keeping the pace up throughout single-handedly. Danny left his costumes, wigs and properties to Annie as her legacy and indeed, her pension. It is good to think that the Victoria and Albert Museum had already purchased four iconic costumes for display, and that several bidders (including Qdos) were intending to display their purchases as a tribute to one of this country’s popular entertainers.

I arrived with Isobel Hurll and Andrew Ryan in time for the viewing. Isobel worked with Danny when they were both at Winston’s club- the club that Danny left to set up his own at Hanover Square, and remembers doing what might have been club land’s first pantomime with Danny and Barbara Windsor.

Barbara sadly was not able to come. At the last minute her filming schedule changed. She and Danny appeared at Brick Lane (and its predecessors) over the past eighteen years since it began as London’s Music Hall. Attending the event was Richard Mawbey, Richard supplied Danny’s Wigs (and indeed creates wigs for major West End & Broadway Productions through “Wig Specialities”) and accompanied Danny in his tours and West End appearances throughout the years.

Among the panto folk  here today were a clutch of Panto Dames and Sisters- Myself, Andrew Ryan joined by Peter John, Ian Adams, Martin Ramsdin, Roy Alvis, Bobbie Kent, Graham Hoadley, John Barr and Stevie Marc. Stevie has purchased Dan’s wigs and jewellery to present in productions of “La Cage Au Folles” both in the UK and abroad. This is something Danny would have been very pleased about. Apologies to those I’ve missed mentioning, but there wasn’t very much time to socialise between viewing, bidding and briefly taking part in the documentary.

with Ian Adams

Jonathan Kiley from Qdos was here; bidding on some items intended to go into a display, and pantomime producer Stuart Morrison was among the bidders. I also chatted to James Arnott , and saw Richard Gauntlett, one of Danny’s  fellow Water Rats.

Jonathan Kiley

A documentary film crew were at the venue continuing a profile they are doing on the life of Danny La Rue. This together with several television news teams combined to give the whole affair a glamorous appearance- made more glamorous by the wealth of photographs Vincent had displayed of Danny, some memorabilia and the man himself singing from his albums as a “play In” and “Play Out” at the end of the auction.

The Lots:

The bidding began a tad cautiously and slowly- in fact the first few costumes were bought ridiculously cheap- I feared for the rest of the auction at this point, but thankfully as confidence grew in the hall, the bidding increased for the later items.

Early lots included Danny’s Bathing costume from the 1983 “Mother Goose” at Plymouth- photographed on this site he appears with veteran goose Kay Lylle. This costume was actually the lowest bid at £70. The bids today ranged from £70 to around £750. A few costumes were pre bid in sealed bids and a few bidders were from Europe and from America. Certainly the stunning double “Marlene Dietrich” set of costumes have been sent off to the States. The Black and diamante Tutu and companion costume worn by Danny and Ronnie Corbett as Margo and Rudolph went to a sealed American Bid for over a thousand pounds.

Those first lot was followed by a few more Panto costumes from Plymouth, with bidding starting to pick up. £90. For Shirley Temple (when Mother Goose steps out of the pool of youth too early!) then £150, for a cycling costume. This Victorian themed pantomime had some beautiful costumes, which is why by lot 10 I decided to stick my hand in the air and bid on the “Yellow/gold bustle dress with separate train in the form of a wheeled steel frame” from the ballroom scene . Hopefully this will be making an appearance in Panto with me next season, when its trick will be revealed!

Andrew Ryan made a successful bid on one of the most photographed costumes in the room- described as “The Night Of The Oscars” this black and gold costume with an enormous pleated gold cape will be making a special appearance in his pantomime this year!

Lot 60 - The Night of the Oscars

The lots continued with the prices increasing- Costumes from Danny’s “Privates On Parade”-A Copacabana set at £500,  Vera Lynn (£180) and Carmen Miranda (£490) competing with sumptuous sequin dresses with matching coats trimmed in ostrich or fur, which attracted the fiercest bids. Prices included £675 for a Royal Blue sequin ensemble, the same for a Red sequin and fur trimmed coat, then £475 for Zsa Zsa Gabor in Pale Pink, £500 for a stunning Copacabana outfit (someone got a bargain there!) and £600 for Mae West, £400 Ginger Rogers, £200 for Joan Collins (don’t tell Joan!) and Danny’s earliest costume from his Hanover Square Club reached the highest sale room price of £750.

Poor Margaret Thatcher. She was the second cheapest costume, finishing after a struggle at £75.00- for three pieces!

All in all the money was on Danny’s Glamorous ladies collection, and on his cabaret style dress, coat and headdress combinations- the trimming alone on some of them worth much more than the buying price.

The main thing is though, these costumes, pride of Danny’s collection, and looked after with loving care by Annie- with all their associations to Dan’s life and his career- they will continue to appear on stages all over the place, and will continue to do what Danny intended them to do- to bring a bit of glamour into a show. Danny claimed to be “A Comic in a Frock”- now those frocks will continue to draw the gasps or the laughs for a good while longer.

Thanks to Vincent and all the staff at Brick Lane Music Hall for an amazing amount of work that went into the sale, and for handling the whole occasion with care, respect and a lot of joy! Apart from Vincent the Brick Lane stalwarts who created today’s events were Zara Kattan, Joanne Hayes, Ian Adams,  Michael Moore, Oliver Savage and Robert Dilbo. Danny would have loved every minute, sitting at Brick Lane’s bar watching the proceedings over a glass or two of pink Lanson!


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This page was last updated 15th March 2010

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