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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
La Rue: Clown in a gown
Danny La Rue
Danny La Rue, pioneer of cross-dressing
Danny La Rue's OBE comes to a man who has spent more than half a century dressing up as a woman on stage. BBC News Online looks at how a spell in the navy spawned a successful career.

Danny La Rue has always disliked being described as a "drag artist".

He prefers the epithet "comic in a frock".

The 74-year-old entertainer made drag respectable, playing to any kind of audience without giving offence.

With his catchphrase "wotcha mates", he swept on stage in spectacular costumes and wigs, impersonating such celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dorothy Squires, even Margaret Thatcher.

La Rue on stage
La Rue has a spectacular stage presence
A great exponent of vaudeville, he has become synonymous with such songs as Mother Kelly's Doorstep.

La Rue was born Daniel Patrick Carroll in Cork, Ireland, the fifth of six children. His father died when he was two and his mother brought the family to London seven years later.

He first donned his wig and eyelashes during a naval concert party, having been sent to Singapore as part of Lord Mountbatten's invasion task force towards the end of World War II.

Progressing from amateur revues to cabaret in London's West End, he was among Britain's highest-paid entertainers in the 60s. One of his shows ran for two and a half years.

Performing on The Good Old Days
He is a stalwart of vaudeville
He has played before the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance, and was the first female impersonator to appear there.

And his audiences have also included the likes of Princess Margaret and Marlene Dietrich at his own night club in London's Hanover Square which achieved cult status in the 60s.

In the meantime, La Rue began working for a variety of charitable causes. Over the years, he has quietly raised thousands of pounds, and it is for this that he has received his honour.

In 1973, he announced that he was going to hang up his wig and retire, but he changed his mind 18 months later.


I've made millions and lost millions, but I'm still here

Danny La Rue
He has worked mainly in Britain, being careful to ration his television appearances. But in the 1980s, he became very popular in Australia and bought a home there.

Although he has made a lot of money, he reportedly lost 1m when his partners in a hotel venture in Stratford upon Avon were arrested and his company went into liquidation.

In October 1987, he announced, to widespread disbelief, that he was considering marrying an Australian millionairess. He denies it was a stunt to publicise his autobiography, From Drags to Riches.

And while Danny La Rue sends up feminine allure, the thousands of fan letters he receives from women admirers underlines his claim that his act is really a celebration of femininity.



Arise, Sir Mick

Other stars honoured

TALKING POINT
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