Danny La Rue brings glitz to The Repair Shop

Danny La Rue brings glitz to The Repair Shop

The Repair Shop (BBC1) 

Rating:

Cancel The Repair Shop! Jay Blades and his band of artisans committed a shocking faux pas when they referred to drag queen extraordinary Danny La Rue as a ‘female impersonator’.

La Rue, who stood seven feet tall in heels and ostrich feather fascinator, loathed the phrase. According to his former compere Barry Cryer, he insisted on being known as, ‘a man who dressed up in women’s clothing — not a man pretending to be a woman’.

One of his favourite and most outrageous gags was to stand legs akimbo in his fishnet stockings, and muse aloud, ‘Where does he put it?’ And when the audience had pondered that, he’d announce: ‘I’ve been doing this for so long that when I whistle, it goes away by itself.’

Danny La Rue brings glitz to The Repair Shop

Jay Blades and his band of artisans committed a shocking faux pas when they refer to Danny La Rue as a ‘female impersonator’

Costumes are a regular feature of The Repair Shop but, because they are so personal

Costumes are a regular feature of The Repair Shop but, because they are so personal

Panto dame Ceri Dupree brought one of Danny’s most spectacular pieces of couture, a voluptuous yellow chiffon gown spangled with diamante, into the barn for restoration. Danny, who was both Ceri’s idol and a friend, bequeathed the gown to him when he died in 2009.

Jay was intrigued to know that Princess Margaret, the Queen Mum, Bette Davis and Barbra Streisand were admirers of La Rue’s rudery. It’s a shame that Barry Cryer isn’t around to add to that list, because he wasn’t so much a name-dropper as a carpet-bomber.

Among the A-listers who came to Danny’s club in Hanover Square, Baz said, were Noel Coward, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and Judy Garland. One night, as he was doing the introductions, drunken heckling started from a table where Peter Sellers, Lionel Bart and John Lennon were sitting.

‘This is satire, I suppose?’ sneered Lennon. ‘No, it’s nightclub filth,’ Barry retorted. ‘You need to get out more.’

Filth was the least of the problems with Ceri’s beloved, 55-year-old confection of frills and froth, a sort of canary-coloured meringue. The gossamer material was frayed and split, so delicate that sewing it was impossible. Textile conservator Rebecca Bissonet worked miracles with a silk crepeline lining to hold it all together.

Jay was intrigued to know that Princess Margaret , the Queen Mum, Bette Davis and Barbra Streisand were admirers of La Rue's rudery

Jay was intrigued to know that Princess Margaret , the Queen Mum, Bette Davis and Barbra Streisand were admirers of La Rue’s rudery

Bike restorer Tim Gunn polished up a battered BMX owned by one-time amateur stunt rider Dave, who sadly is now wheelchair-bound

Bike restorer Tim Gunn polished up a battered BMX owned by one-time amateur stunt rider Dave, who sadly is now wheelchair-bound

Ceri dreamed that the V&A might want it for their collection. Well, why not?

Costumes are a regular feature of The Repair Shop but, because they are so personal, they’re especially interesting. Given the growing popularity of The Great British Sewing Bee, a spin-off just for clothes might work well.

Every item has a tale to tell, and teasing out the memories is half the pleasure of the show. Bike restorer Tim Gunn polished up a battered BMX owned by one-time amateur stunt rider Dave, who sadly is now wheelchair-bound.

And restorer Lucia Scalisi removed the cloudy varnish from a painting that hangs at Holloway fire station, honouring the brave men and women who constantly risk their lives fighting blazes.

As she slipped her palette knife under the frosted yellow layer of protective film, Lucia mused, ‘That looks like a crocodile under water.’ Crocodiles are one problem the fire service can do without.

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