Larry's Hidden Heartache; A Newly-Discovered Memoir by Larry Grayson Reveals the Real Love of Hislife Was a Schoolfriend Who Died Fighting the Nazis

Daily Mail (London), February 23, 2018 | Go to article overview

Larry's Hidden Heartache; A Newly-Discovered Memoir by Larry Grayson Reveals the Real Love of Hislife Was a Schoolfriend Who Died Fighting the Nazis


Byline: Michael Thornton

THE man who stood huddled in a shop doorway, coat collar pulled up around his face, was not at all identifiable as the nation's new high priest of camp.

Any TV viewer spotting him there on that October night in 1974 would have struggled to recognise the star who had them doubled up at outrageous caricatures such as his imaginary 'close friend' Everard Farquharson, whose speciality was dancing the Gay Gordons.

Or Apricot Lil, 'the broodiest girl in town', from the local jam factory. Or Slack Alice, the coalman's daughter and barmaid at the Cock and Trumpet. Could this middle-aged man sheltering from the rain really be that master of the double entendre whose catchphrases reverberated throughout the land -- 'What a gay day!' 'Seems like a nice boy' -- then, running his fingers fastidiously over a surface: 'Look at the muck in 'ere!'. And the most repeated of all: 'Shut that door!' It was cold, dark and wet on the street, but the man in the raincoat didn't care. Like his idol Judy Garland, the movie star who had seen his act and laughed until she cried, he was somewhere over the rainbow.

He just stood transfixed, staring across the street. He was 51 years old and since the age of 14 had been battling his way up from the obscure lower reaches of showbusiness. Now suddenly, unbelievably, he had made it to the top of his profession.

Facing him across that rain-drenched street was the facade of arguably the most famous theatre in the world, the London Palladium. And up on a 12fthigh sign was his face with the words in giant letters: Larry Grayson in Grayson's Scandals.

A recent play by Chris Mellor, 3 Days And 3 Minutes With Larry -- at times hilarious, at times moving and at times shocking, --told of the tense and dramatic encounter between the ageing (and panic-stricken star) and a young psychic healer, Mark.

The plot was fictional, but had a keen ring of authenticity.

It recounted how the young psychic, whom Grayson clearly found attractive, prepared the 71-year-old star, whose health, memory and confidence had all ebbed away, for the ordeal of his final public appearance -- only a month before his sudden death -- in a surprise and unscheduled three-minute spot in the 1994 Royal Variety Performance at London's Dominion Theatre, with Prince Charles up in the royal box.

NOW Larry Grayson's story has been dramatically transformed by the discovery in a warehouse in Malvern, Worcestershire, of an unfinished autobiography by the late King of Camp.

It reveals that the hitherto unnamed love of his life was a schoolfriend, Tom Proctor, who died in the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy during the Second World War.

Television scriptwriter and producer Tony Nicholson has completed the book based on the newly-discovered handwritten memoirs and his own extensive knowledge of Grayson. The result, published under the title Shut That Door: The Definitive Biography Of Larry Grayson, is deeply revealing and moving.

Nicholson says: 'Larry and Tom were at school together, having bonded from the age of five. They hated sport and woodwork and anything that involved getting their hands dirty.

'Neither of them was academically inclined, preferring to giggle in class and discuss the latest Hollywood gems -- they were both film-mad. The pair left school at 14. Tom got a mundane job and Larry went straight into showbusiness.

'It would be pure speculation to say their relationship became sexual in any way, but it seems likely they experimented in their teens, as they remained extremely close.

'Both were called up for National Service when World War II broke out. Tom was taken into the army but Larry failed his medical. Tom was killed at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in 1944, and Larry never really recovered from the loss.

'Tom's sisters wrote a poem to commemorate his death and Grayson carried it around with him all his life. …

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