Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Reg Varney 1916 - 2008
"Varney was born in Canning Town, which was then considered a part of Essex but is now a part of East London. His father worked in a rubber factory in Silvertown and he was one of five children who grew up in Addington Road, Canning Town. Varney was educated at nearby Star Lane Primary School in West Ham and after leaving school at 14, he worked as a messenger boy and a page boy at the Regent Palace Hotel. He took piano lessons as a child and was sufficiently proficient to find employment as a part-time piano player. His first paid engagement was at Plumstead Radical Club in Woolwich, for which he was paid eight shillings and sixpence. He also played in working men's clubs, pubs and ABC cinemas, and later sang with Big Bands of the time. He and his mother decided that show business was the career for him, and he gave up his day jobs.
During World War II, he joined the Royal Engineers, but continued performing as an army entertainer, touring the Far East for a time. After being demobbed, he starred on stage in the late 1940s in a comic revue entitled Gaytime. His stooge in the act was Benny Hill. He then went on to become an all-round entertainer, working his way around the music halls.
In 1961, he was given the role of a foreman in the popular sitcom, The Rag Trade, which made him a household name. Also around this time he starred in a show for BBC TV called The Seven Faces of Reg Varney where he performed seven different characters in front of an audience at the Shepherd's Bush theatre in London. Varney rushed about at a frantic pace on stage as he changed clothes between characters. After that followed another comedy role in Beggar My Neighbour; this also starred Pat Coombs, June Whitfield, and Peter Jones. Pat Coombs played the wife of Varney's character and she would later appear in the On the Buses movie. The series ran from March 1967 to March 1968 (24 episodes of 30 minute duration) and a short special was shown as part of Christmas Night with the Stars on 25 December 1967. In 1966 he starred in The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery as Gilbert.
On 27 June 1967, the world's first voucher based cash dispensing machine was installed at the Enfield Town branch of Barclays Bank (Varney lived in Enfield at the time). For publicity purposes, Varney made the first withdrawal.
His greatest success was in the sitcom On the Buses which was written by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe, who had also written The Rag Trade. Varney played the lead character of Stan Butler, a long suffering but loyal man who never gets his way with the ladies."
Reg Varney - Paper Doll Medley
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