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pride of manchester - norman evans
Norman Evans
"What did you say? That woman at number seven?
Is she .. ? Gerraway!
Well, Im not surprised, Not really. She's asked for it ..
I knew what she was as soon as I saw her!
And that coalman. I wouldn't put it past him, either
Not since he shouted Whoa' to his horse from her bedroom window
." - Norman Evans talks over the garden fence

Norman Evans was born on 11th June 1901 in Rochdale, where he spent his childhood, attending Castlemere Council School. He began his working life as an office boy at the Arrow Mills in Castleton, later becoming a salesman and insurance agent.

It wasn’t until 1934 that Norman Evans became a professional entertainer, after encouragement from Gracie Fields. She had spotted him when she topped the bill in a charity show at the Rochdale Hippodrome in 1931, raising funds for Rochdale Football Club. Norman was a supporting act on the bill and Gracie was most enthusiastic. She suggested he turn professional.

After Gracie took him under her wing his career took off like a rocket and within less than 3 years he made the first of his three appearances at the Royal Variety Show (1936, 1947 & 1951). He even appeared on the world famous Ed Sullivan TV show in America in 1949.

   

The centre piece of his music hall act was his brilliant characterisation of a woman gossiping over the garden fence, bosoms thrust out in indignation and face contorted into all kinds of comical expressions. The one way conversations covered everything from local scandal to the price of groceries, but 'she' gained most mileage from descriptions of medical problems and operations, with quick glances around, as if to check for eavesdroppers, and usually involved the silent mouthing of words deemed too embarrassing. (This act was later the inspiration for Les Dawson who faithfully followed the style of Norman in homage).

When he hit a bit of a lean period in the early ‘50’s he turned to his first love, pantomime, and became one of the most highly acclaimed ‘Dames’ of all time.

Norman Evans
   

He lost an eye in a car accident in 1955 but that didn’t stop him from achieving popularity on BBC TV between 1956 and 1958 with a series of 4 shows under the banner 'The Norman Evans Show', followed by 4 episodes called 'Evans Abode', (playing a boarding house landlady) and finally compering 3 variety shows called 'Make Yourself At Home' (one of which included his daughter, the singer Norma Evans).

He kept on working until his death in 1962, shortly after his final TV appearance on 'Comedy Bandbox'. His life was commemorated on 8th August 1999 when a plaque was unveiled in his name at Manchester’s Opera House Theatre, very appropriately on the same day that his ‘pupil’ Les Dawson was honoured with a plaque just down the road at the Palace Theatre.

 
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