Cork-born Danny La Rue dies at 81
TRIBUTES WERE last night paid to Cork-born entertainer and female impersonator Danny La Rue who passed away at his home in Kent on Sunday night at the age of 81 following a short illness.
La Rue, whose real name was Daniel Patrick Carroll, was born in Madden’s Buildings near Blackpool in Cork on July 26th, 1927, but his father died when he was just 18 months old and his mother moved the family to London when he was nine.
Years later, when firmly established as Britain’s leading cross- dressing artist, La Rue joked to an audience at a show in Cork: “See what they did to me in England – I left in short pants and I’ve come back in a frock.” He was a regular visitor to Cork in the 1960s and 1970s, where he performed to a packed Cork Opera House.
La Rue’s last performance in his native Cork was in 2005 when he played for a week at the Everyman Palace Theatre.
Declan Hassett – a playwright, former theatre critic of the Irish Examinerand author of a book on Cork comedians, Make ’Em Laugh– recalled seeing La Rue’s performance in the Everyman Palace Theatre during that run.
“It turned out to be his final visit home and his audience loved the performance in the Everyman Palace – Danny was very nostalgic and deeply moved by the great reception he got,” said Mr Hassett.
Everyman Palace director Pat Talbot said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of La Rue’s passing and similarly recalled how emotional he became at playing in his native city after an absence of over 20 years.
“We brought Danny over as part of Cork’s tenure as Capital of Culture in 2005 and he was very grateful and very humbled by our invitation – he played for a week and went down superbly well and was really moved by the reaction.
“He hadn’t played here since the early 1980s and he actually thought Cork might have forgotten him. He used to go to Mass every morning in St Augustine’s . . . Older people in the congregation had recognised him and came up to him afterwards and younger people started coming up to him – he was very emotional about the reception he got both in the streets and every night here at the Everyman Palace.”
Mr Talbot said La Rue was a devout Catholic and open about his homosexuality and saw no contradiction in that. “He was a very compassionate man and very generous – he had been very wealthy but lost his money due to bad business decisions, but he regularly helped out friends in hard times.”
La Rue’s career as a female impersonator began when he donned a wig and eyelashes during a stint in the Royal Navy at a concert party at the end of the second World War. He spent years in repertory and variety before becoming a West End star in the late 1950s He opened his own nightclub in London in 1964, where celebrities such as Judy Garland, Warren Beatty, Shirley MacLean, Shirley Bassey, Noel Coward, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Elizabeth Taylor were all patrons.
A regular on TV on The Good Old Days, La Rue received an OBE in the 2002 queen’s birthday honours list, but he suffered a stroke in 2006. He appeared in a biographical show Hello Dannyin 2007.