Your friends the stars – 9

Reg Dixon

Shustoke is not a bit of nonsense. It names a point on the map of central England where Reg Dixon farms seventy-two acres, with pigs, Ayrshires, and hundreds of chickens. There, too, is Mrs. Dixon, an Austrian by birth and British by adoption, and their six-year-old daughter, Josephine. Reg also has a step-son, Toni, who is going into the hotel-management business.

Reg, the Coventry son of a midwife, went into a butcher’s shop, a carpenter’s, a hairdresser’s, a watchmaker’s, a greengrocer’s, and took a turn as a gentleman’s valet before performing for pay. He started in the entertainment business at a local circus, not intentionally entertaining the public as cleaner of elephants.

For six years he toured the small music-halls as half of a double act, and first broadcast a week after the Abdication of King Edward VIII. Then, playing a music-hall in the North, he had a bad cold one night. He wanted the audience’s sympathy, so when he went on he told them frankly that he was “feeling proper poorly.” He never looked back.

He considers his most nerve-racking experience lasted all of two years —the whole time he appeared in radio’s Variety Bandbox, writing his own scripts for each fortnight’s broadcast.

It was Henry Hall who heard him sing “Confidentially,” and suggested it should be finished — it was only half a song then — and be published. It became a best-seller. Mr. Dixon, albeit, takes TV seriously. He always tries to do something new for the viewers, and refuses to come before them at all regularly. He knows that the TV millions, having seen and heard once, are not going to care so much when they see and hear the same stuff again. He says he won’t be able to appear at all frequently on TV until the BBC buys him four scriptwriters to keep up a constant flow of new material for him. But that would make the BBC feel proper poorly.

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