I didn’t know singer Joe Longthorne had died or was homosexual until I read he’d died of cancer “in his husbands arms.” I remember seeing him on television intermittently over the years and reading an article about a woman so obsessed with him she’d had some tattoos of him on her back. He lived and died in Layton north of Blackpool Tower and is buried here in the local cemetery.
He was born in Hull from a line of travelling gypsies families (his dad was a scrap metal merchant). He was just 14 when his career started, winning a part in television series Junior Showtime. Being a born entertainer, attractive, ambitious and hard worker he was never going to be a plumber, plasterer or postman. In his early twenties her served his apprentice doing impersonations and singing in working men clubs, sharing dressing rooms with comedians, strippers, jugglers and magicians. Aged 26 he graduated to television and became well-known after appearing on television series Search For a Star. He fitted the title of the show and was in strong demand appearing at London Palladium for a month. By 33 he was presenting his own television series The Joe Longthorne Show (I remember my mum enjoying it - not my kind of thing.) His uncanny impersonations included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tom Jones; he could even impersonate women singers.
Aged 34 he even toured America and did a stint in Las Vegas. His late thirties saw most success - filling the Royal Albert Hall and doing a record-breaking 19-week season at the Blackpool Opera House. Despite earning many millions of pounds he was naive and somehow so much slipped through his fingers he went bankrupt aged 41. The following year he met James Moran who would become his manager (and then husband) and it was back to square one financially.
Away from the bright lights and television cameras there was a son Ricky from a previous relationship. Twenty albums were released, there was a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and MBE for thankless charity work. Cancer cares zero for charity through and aged 50 Joe was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic lymphoma. Tirelessly he kept performing while having treatment but aged 50 the lymphoma degenerated into leukaemia. A bone marrow transplant ensued but aged 59 throat cancer was found. Sadly he was only 64 when he died at home. His body was taken to Hull where'd he been born where there was much pomp as a horse-drawn carriage leading a funeral procession along the street where he grew up. He was returned to the Lancashire coast to be buried here at the back of Layton Cemetery.
I took some footage of the grave though I had to wait over an hour to do it. I'd parked up in the motorhome just as a couple of vans of council workers arrived. Using strimmers they started on the grass and were going to be whirring for many hours. I made some dinner and a coffee and settled down with a book. When they stopped for a tea break I eventually emerged and took some footage.
Get me out of here!!!