I got chatting to a man in Gorton Cemetery who said he'd been mugged there recently so "get out before it goes too dark." As we parted he nodded and said, “Foo Foo’s buried up there with his mum.” I went to have a look. Here lies the famous drag-queen/female impersonator "Foo Foo" Lammar who I used to think was a manly woman. As I got older I found it was a womanly man. I heard of many folk going to stag and hen parties at Foo Foo’s but it’s not my kind of thing. As a boy my mum would sometimes take me and my sister shopping down central Manchester. We used to park near Foo Foo’s Palace and sometimes his Rolls Royce was parked outside (registration : “FOO 1”.)
He left school at 15 without a qualification but lots of drive. His dad was a rag-and-bone man but he wanted more than that. He got a job as a manager at a waste paper recycling company and sang in pubs in the evenings. When his dad found out he was singing he went to see him in The Ancoats Arms, saw him dressed as a women and threw a bar stool at him. He was a success from the beginning though. His wit, risqué lines and repartee with Northern audiences made him an effective performer. He always said he was a comic in women’s clothes rather than a drag queen. Performing in the pubs in of east Manchester wasn’t for wimps and Frank was a handy boxer, quick to defence himself if the occasion demanded.
His business timing was spot on. In the 1960s there had been a boom in drag acts in Northern clubs. Danny la Rue had paved the way for many female impersonators with his lavish family stage shows, and comedians such as Larry Grayson had made camp humour respectable on television. Frank was only 33 when he bought his first club “The Picador”. Later he bought “The Celebrity” which became Foo Foo's Palace.
He was particularly in demand for hen parties and soon coach parties of women were travelling from all over the country to see him perform. The club was well-visited by Manchester United players and show-business personalities. Though homosexual he knew where Frank stopped and "Foo Foo" began and the sequin gowns, bouffant wigs and shoes were just working clothes. Behind the brassy front was an astonishingly successful businessman, amassing millions by investing in clubs, bars and restaurants across Manchester. He was devoted to his mother, Leah, and visited her daily to go shopping at the fish market. She lived in a bungalow he’d bought for her in Moston. For nearly thirty years he lived with his long-term partner in Piccadilly Village, not far from the club.
Though he made a fortune he never forgot the people of Manchester and helped raise even bigger fortunes for local charities, especially the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. At 65 he refused a bus pass saying he’d buy his own bus. Irony is a cruel creature: Frank raised sacks of money for The Christie Hospital (where my mum died) and it was here where he died of cancer aged 66. He’s buried here with his parents and brother.
I’ve visited the grave twice and a mix of photographs from both visits are here.
Outside the Christie Hospital where Frank died (I know the place well...my mum died here.)
Foo Foo's Palace then and in 2020...