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Page last updated at 08:36 GMT, Monday, 11 October 2010 09:36 UK
Queen Elizabeth masseur recalls 'naked' celebrities
Massage table
The original QE had three Turkish baths and one steam bath

"They were all naked," 91-year-old John Dempsey remembers his celebrity clients during his years as a masseur on the original Queen Elizabeth liner.

Film stars, politicians and royalty all felt his hands at work as they relaxed on board the trans-Atlantic crossings.

They included Bing Crosby, Noel Coward, Burt Lancaster, David Niven, the Duke of Windsor and General Eisenhower.

Mr Dempsey recalls: "They all came down to the Turkish bath to have a good sweat, a shower and a massage."

Life at sea

Mr Dempsey joined Cunard at the age of 14 and spent 31 years at sea.

John Dempsey
John Dempsey spent 31 years at sea with Cunard

It was the era of the great liners which sailed between Southampton and New York before transatlantic passenger flight took over.

Working as a masseur in the hot, wet conditions of the Turkish baths and one steam bath, his "uniform" was a single towel.

He said: "They [passengers] were drinking pints of beer and they used to buy us beer because we were perspiring all the time.

"David Niven was the number one for storytelling. The one I met most of all was Noel Coward."

New generation

Despite not having been on board ship for three decades, Mr Dempsey was given a tour round the new Queen Elizabeth liner berthed in Southampton.

John Dempsey in the new fitness suite
The new Queen Elizabeth has state-of-the-art beauty and fitness facilities

Although the old ship was a byword for luxury in its time, he was astounded by this new-generation of cruise liner.

The Queen Elizabeth has the latest spa and beauty treatments as well as a hydro-pool, gymnasium and thermal suite.

He said: "The first thing I noticed when I came aboard this ship was windows, not ports"

"It's big business, I've never seen anything like it in my life. It's a palace."

John Dempsey's last crossing was in 1967 when he returned from Bermuda. He used his savings, boosted by tips from his famous clients, to buy a house - "The Cunards were my life," he said.

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