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A LIFE IN Rock ’n’ Roll

It’s not all rock’n’roll for Vince Eager, as he recounts days of brief encounters with West End theatre producers as he gets pushed towards auditions for stage plays, musicals and even the movies…

During the 1950s and early 1960s, showbiz agents were in many ways much more important than the artists’ managers. The general public were often under the impression that it was the managers who were solely responsible for the success of an artist, but more often than not it was their agents too. And agents dealt in all sorts.

During the 1950s, there were various agencies located in London’s West End who solely put together variety shows for the hundreds of theatres across the UK. My manager, Larry Parnes, was involved with the Foster’s Agency of Piccadilly Circus which had various specialist departments handling theatres, films and television. Head of the variety department was one Hymie Zahl. Hymie was approximately five-feet tall, and that’s being generous, and his eyesight was even worse than that of Mr Magoo. When he read anything, it would, on occasions, have to be as close as two inches from his face; likewise when he was meeting you! With me at 6ft 4in, I had to lean forward… otherwise Hymie would have been talking to my navel. I really enjoyed Hymie’s company, however, and I think he did mine.

Occasionally, unbeknownst to Larry Parnes, I would call into Hymie’s office for a chat: he was always very gracious and would suggest artistes I should see perform in order to learn my craft, and tell me of the dos and don’ts of the business. He knew I was a massive Johnnie Ray fan and, as he was Johnnie’s European representative, he arranged for me to see every performance of Johnnie’s when he appeared at the Cambridge Theatre for two weeks in the late 1950s.

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