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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Famous faces launched at Butlins
Butlins holiday camps celebrate their 70th birthday this year. A vacation destination for millions of people over the years, the ranks of red coat entertainers have also launched the careers of some of British entertainment's most familiar stars.


Des O'Connor
O'Connor appeared on the US' Ed Sullivan Show three times

Holiday camp:
Ayr, 1950s

Des O'Connor's career has spanned TV, stage and music over five decades.

Before finding fame, he was a Butlins red coat, a holiday camp entertainer who wears the designated jacket.

The red coats organise games and provide all the camp's entertainment, particularly when the British summer rain limits outside activities.

O'Connor found fame as a singer in the 1960s, while also hosting his own sketch and stand-up show for ITV.

He became a staple of TV light entertainment during the 1970s and 1980s.

One of ITV's most familiar faces, he has had his own chat show on the channel for many years.

More recently the 74-year-old has formed a successful on-screen partnership with Melanie Sykes, presenting an afternoon talk show that has been running since 2002.

He said of his time in Butlins: "I've always had the gift of the gab. I think that started when I worked at Butlins where I did the tombola five hours a day for five months.

"Actually playing the game took 25 minutes, the rest was selling tickets and so on and I had to keep 2,000 people entertained and I had to think about funny things to say and I suddenly found the way to get humour out of it."


Jimmy Tarbuck
Jimmy Tarbuck attended the same school as John Lennon

Holiday camp: Pwlhelli, 1950s

Jimmy Tarbuck is one of Britain's best-known comedy performers, although he has disappeared from TV screens since the early 1990s.

He started his first TV show, It's Tarbuck, in 1964 just a year after a stint as host on stage at the London Palladium.

His show was a mix of stand-up routines, sketches and guest performers.

He was regular on TV screens with this mix of comedy and guests during the 1970s and 1980s.

A pilot for a BBC series, Life's a Pitch, in which Tarbuck mixed sport and comedy was not commissioned after being broadcast in 2000.


Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff's hits include Living Doll and Summer Holiday
Holiday camp: Clacton-on-Sea, 1950s

Sir Cliff Richard's red coat days saw the birth of his rock and roll career, performing with a backing group called The Drifters for 25 a week.

The singer, whose camp show repertoire was heavily influenced by Elvis Presley, scored his first chart success, number two hit Move It, shortly after leaving his Butlins engagement in 1958.

He is now regarded as a national treasure - a singer whose long-running career has seen more than 35 Top 10 albums and seven number ones.

He has sold more than 21 million singles in the UK alone and in 1963 was the world's biggest-selling artist.

He holds the unique distinction of having a UK number one single in five different decades.

A committed Christian, he splits his time between gospel and secular concert tours and appearances.


Michael Barrymore
Barrymore came second in this year's Celebrity Big Brother

Holiday camp: Clacton-on-Sea, 1970s

Michael Barrymore, 53, has enjoyed a brief renaissance in his career since appearing on Celebrity Big Brother in January this year.

The former TV star returned to the limelight after his reputation plummeted following the death of a man at his home in 2001.

He had been one of the biggest names on British TV, presenting a string of game shows and programmes focused on ordinary people.

Barrymore began his career in light entertainment when he became a Butlins red coat after leaving school at the age of 15.

The comedian and entertainer went on to serve his time on the club circuit, before winning the ITV's New Faces talent show in 1979.

Other notable redcoats: Dave Allen, Ted Rogers, Rod Hull, Terry Scott, Darren Day and Ian "H" Watkins and Lisa Scott-Lee of Steps.

No place like holidaying at home
17 Aug 05 |  Magazine
In Pictures: Behind the scenes at Butlins
29 Apr 04 |  Photo Gallery
Bright future for Redcoats
31 Jul 02 |  UK News

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