Local personality, historian and stalwart of the Friends, Edward Thomas, welcomed a hundred-strong audience of fellow Friends to the Langham Hotel on Sunday 7 February to listen to his conversation with Vicki Goodwin, the latest in a long line of celebrities from stage and variety to make their homes in Eastbourne.  Some of these, including Jan Lynton, Olivia Breeze and Beryl Plummer, were there to support their friend.

Vicki Goodwin and Edward Thomas

Despite the afternoon being dubbed ‘Settle Down Now’ in memory of comedian Ken Goodwin, Vicki – his widow – who moved to Polegate in May 2015, is a formidable singer, dancer and choreographer in her own right.  Born in Abingdon near Oxford, Vicki Lane moved with her parents to Southampton when she was a child.  Performing – particularly dance – was always important to her and she was just fifteen when she was auditioned for the Tiller Girls.  Being the shortest in the line-up was always going to be a challenge for Vicki and realising that ballet was important to her she went on to study at the Southampton School of Ballet and Movement.

Vicki Goodwin in conversation with Edward Thomas

Reminiscences of Vicki’s career read like a veritable Who’s Who of variety:  in 1955 she appeared with one of the country’s best known clowns, Charlie Cairoli, in Little Miss Muffet at the Oxford New Theatre; her first appearance in Eastbourne was with the Fol de Rols in 1957 – at the Winter Garden as, of course, the Congress Theatre was yet to be built!  Here she appeared alongside the likes of Jack Trip and Allen Christie and there followed a Scottish tour with Lesley Crowther and Kathleen West.  These were heady days for variety: Vicki recalled how Lex McLean (probably the last of Scotland’s great Music Hall comedians) packed Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre with record twenty-four week seasons from May to October.  His shows played twice-nightly (curiously at 6.25 and 8.25!) with a regular change of programme.

Vicki married for the first time on 23 November 1963 – an auspicious day remembered for the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas and for the first broadcast of Dr Who!  Vicki and her husband Dougie Charlton performed in floor shows at London venues, such as the Café Royal, Quaglinos and The Dorchester.  Vicki also appeared with Bruce Forsyth and Adam Faith in Aladdin in Bournemouth; with Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson in a David Croft produced show in Hastings; and in 1973 she played Dandini in pantomime in Birmingham alongside Dickie Henderson (as Buttons) and Arthur Askey (the Dame).  There were also lean times and Vicki recalls making costumes in an attic in Chiswick for 7s 6d an hour – those were the days!  She and Dougie were divorced in 1975 after twelve years of marriage.

She first met Ken Goodwin in Sleeping Beauty at Lewisham Theatre.  Despite his having made it big in The Comedians, Ken had never appeared in pantomime before and Vicki recalls his looking haunted and terrified!  They met again in 1977, shortly after the death of Ken’s first wife, and were married in 1978.  Vicki has many fond memories of performing with Ken – including several times in Eastbourne – and the on-stage antics of his alsation dog, Crosby (named after Bing), and their happy years of marriage.

Scrapbook reminiscences

Ken taught her to ride when she was forty – and at one time they owned seven horses.  When she was 50 he taught her to play tennis, a pastime that she still enjoys.  Sadly their professional life together was to be curtailed in 1993 when Ken was taken ill.  He had been struggling for some time to remember his lines – writing them on his ukulele and the back of his hands.  They retired to their villa in Spain and lived there until 2008 when alzheimers forced their move back to the UK.  The Spanish property was sold and Ken moved into a home in North Wales where he lived for three and a half years before his death in 2012.

 

A life full of stories and interesting anecdotes and the audience were grateful Edward and Vicki for sharing their conversation! The Friends wish her many years of happy life here in Eastbourne.

 

The raffle held raised a profit of £146.