Jayne Mansfield visits Batley


The actress Jayne Mansfield packed much into her accident-shortened life - films, nightclub appearances, four marriages and five children. By the age of thirty she was falling out of favour with film-makers but as a seasoned live performer she could make a reasonable lucrative living on the night-club circuit. In 1967 celebrity agent Don Arden booked the sex bomb (vital stats: 40-22-35) to fly across the Atlantic for nine-week tour. She didn’t just have a formidable bosom but guts and came over in April 1967 where she topped the bill at the Batley Variety Club for a week earning what equates to £20,000. Here I am outside the former club (now a gym) and some other places Jayne visited.


From 1967 for a decade the Batley Variety Club was the Las Vegas Of The North. Though built on a disused sewage works in a mill town it was modeled on a Las Vegas horseshoe-shaped nightclub and had 300,000 members. People dressed up posh for the shows that started about 7:30pm. There was the house band, some dancing girls, a comedian and the main star. With it 1700+ tiered seats it attracted most of the big names in the sixties - The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, The Bee Gees, Tom Jones (too many to list here.) Louis Armstrong was paid £27,000 to perform in 1967.


The platinum-haired star appeared here in a sequined dress with small panels to hide her private bits. The northern folk couldn’t quite believe this illumined bombshell was here - the star self-publicist, the chest that seemed to pushed out at every opportunity, the Hollywood glitter-ball whose home was a 40-room pink palace man on Sunset Boulevard. People may not remember the flimsy films but they remembered her. Some actors are actors but some are stars and the northern folk eating chicken in a basket and supping ale couldn’t believe she was so close-up. Blimey. Her live show - honed with various stints in the far more glittering world of Las Vegas - comprised breathy ballads and risqué dancing routines. The club was packed with many folk who had to catch the last bus home to rise early the next morning for the early shift of their £20/week factory/mill jobs.


I took a few photos of the gym where the club once sat. The variety club closed about 1978 and through the eighties and was reopened as "Crumpets" night club and then "The Frontier" which closed in 2016. I stood on a stone wall across the road and a security guard from a factory behind me appeared to enquire what I was doing. I cupped my hands into jugs and said “Jayne Mansfield once appeared there.” He looked foreign and gave me a 100-watt smile that meant “I don’t understand you, Madman.”


For the geeks (I’m one) there’s a book about Batley Variety Club called King of Clubs. Roy Orbison's album Live From Batley Variety Club was recorded at the club in May 1969. Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees met his future wife Yvonne Spenceley.


I also visited:-

1. The Holdworth House hotel near Halifax. Jayne stayed here (as the Beatles did when they did a concert at the Goumont Cinema in Bradford.) She did a press-conference here and was asked to get up on the desk for some photos. Jayne didn't like to miss a publicity opportunity but declined as she wasn’t wearing knickers.


2. Armley Prison. Before the stint at Batley Jayne did a free concert in the chapel within the prison. I went to have a look and a medley of cameras were swiveling of their ball-joints wondering what I was doing. No photos exist of her inside the prison. Jayne caused uproar by asking the prisoners, “Would like to see my Chihuahuas?” (she’d smuggled her dogs into the country under her coat.)


3. The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool. Jayne was in Blackpool to switch on the Illuminations (on an earlier visit.)


While in England she opened a fete in Brighouse, ate fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley, visited Dewsbury and Halixfax markets, performed at clubs in Stockton-On-Tees, South Shields, Middlesborough and Newcastle.


Her stint in England paints gloss on a sad tale. Behind the dazzle Jayne’s life was spiraling out of control. She was fighting alcoholism, dealing with a divorce and her acting career was free-falling. She wanted to be taken seriously as an actress but was reduced to singing in night clubs. In the early hours of 29th June 1967 Jayne had performed at a supper club in Biloxi, Mississippi. She was being driven in a Buick Electra 225 (along with three of her children) to New Orleans where she was appearing on television the next day. Ahead was a truck which slowed down for another truck which was spraying insecticide. The Buick slammed into and under the back of a truck cutting off the car’s roof. Three adults in the front seat died instantly but Jayne's children which had been sleeping in the back seat survived.


To hear a radio documentary about her visit please go here: https://youtu.be/XrhNX9ni3f4








On no!....the club was demolished after a fire...


Before the gym was the Frontier nightclub...





The Beatles stayed here too when they played a gig in Bradford...



A friendly horse on the road leading to the hotel...


Armley Prison nowadays...






Image result for jayne mansfield, leeds prison



I'd have offered to hold her puppies...












Sunday afternoon concert, mini skit, gogo boots., went round halifax market,