Lionel Blair, veteran dancer, actor and choreographer turned television institution on Give Us a Clue – obituary

Throughout the 1940s, Blair worked in magazines, musicals like Annie Get Your Gun and Kiss Me Kate and pantos. He remembered losing his “last vestige of innocence” at the Windmill Theater, the famous London venue for the static tableaux of half-naked showgirls. Blair was booked for a dance spot by impresario Vivian Van Damm (popularly known as VD), and recalled being told to check audiences for the twins. All the offenders were forced to walk to the door.

In 1957, Blair discovered that a dancer he had had an affair with was pregnant but, after ending the relationship, refused to see her or her son after he was born. “I behaved like an absolute bastard,” Blair said. “I was too busy, too cruel.”

With his sister Joyce, Blair danced for the cameras on Southern Television’s opening night in 1958 and choreographed an ATV Saturday Spectaculars series while appearing as a dancer in variety and cabaret. In the meantime, he had also embarked on film, as a choreographer on The Ugly Duckling (1959) and In the Nick (1960). More rewarding was The World of Suzie Wong (also in 1960), in which he played a dancing sailor.

He was a television choreographer in the Beatles’ first film A Hard Day’s Night (1964), for which he was paid a daily membership fee at the union rate. One evening he went to play with the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, who won £ 89,000, ‘all in chips’. Forty years later, when Blair appeared on a Channel 5 reality show, The Farm (2005), he earned ‘insane’ £ 50,000 for 13 days of work.


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Karl M. Bailey

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