Canal Street Online Manchester

Long lost love of Larry Grayson revealed

Long lost love of Larry Grayson revealed

A new biography about the late entertainer Larry Grayson launches this weekend at Birmingham City University, and features insights from the star’s personal memoirs that have been lost in storage for over 20 years.

The newly-discovered memoirs reveal much about his one lost love – Tom Proctor, who was killed in the Second World War – his later clashes with gay activists at the height of his career and his complicated upbringing.

The new book, ‘Shut That Door! – The Definitive Biography of Larry Grayson’ has been written by scriptwriter and producer Tony Nicholson, and also includes never-before-seen photographs found in the high-camp star’s personal archive, along with research obtained from his leather-bound scrapbooks that featured posters, flyers and tickets which he collated throughout his career.

Discussing the revelations Grayson’s memoirs reveal about his soulmate, Tony Nicholson said:

“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 were academically inclined, preferring to giggle in class and discuss the latest Hollywood gems in class – they were both film mad. The pair left school at the age of 14; Tom got a mundane job and Larry went straight into professional show business.

“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 the Second World War broke out; Tom was taken into the Army, but Larry failed his medical. Tom was killed at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy towards the end of the war and Larry never really recovered from the loss.”

Tom’s sisters wrote a poem to commemorate his death and Grayson carried it round with him all his life, and would read to himself at the back of churches, especially on Remembrance Day.

The found memoirs also document his time at school, his first stage appearance – in the nativity aged five – and disclose that his famous characters, such as Apricot Lil and Slack Alice were real people and dated back to him entertaining in Second World War air raid shelters. Grayson was planning to call his autobiography ‘And It All Came True’.

As a long-time fan of the comedian, Tony Nicholson also produced Larry Grayson on ‘A Question of Entertainment’ in the late 1980s, and it was that experience that later inspired him to pen the first detailed biography of the flamboyant comedian and TV presenter

Larry Grayson didn’t achieve commercial success until he was almost 50 and has no descendants, and while researching for the book, Tony struggled to document the early years of his life. The author was almost at the point of giving up when Paul Vaughan, Grayson’s former manager, invited him to Malvern, to search through a storage unit where all the entertainer’s personal effects were housed after his death in 1995.

Tony Nicholson said:

“When I was writing the book, I kept hearing about this autobiography Larry was supposed to be writing in the 1980s. He also mentioned it in several interviews I viewed and read. No-one else seemed to have any recollection of it and it was only when Paul Vaughan invited me to go to a storage warehouse, where all Larry's personal effects had been gathering dust since his death 20 years earlier, that the puzzle fell into place.

“There were countless boxes of pretty mundane stuff, but then I had an Indiana Jones moment! I found a lot of photographs, many of which are now included in the book, and then this bulging folder of hand-written A4 pages – it was the incomplete autobiography, all written in Larry's own fair hand! Unpublished and forgotten for about for 20 years, it allowed me to complete my book, with facts straight from the horse's mouth.”

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Published: 30-Nov-2017

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