1 Dec 1973 – Series One (10)

Roger Blakiston. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The judging panel for this episode were John Smith, Katie Boyle and Clement Freud.

In an interview some years later, John Smith said that on one show he appeared on, Katie Boyle had smuggled her pet pekinese and hid it under the table. He said of the encounter, ‘I could feel something tuggling at my trouser leg throughout the recording.’ Based on their confirmed appearances together it would have been either this show or on show 2.4 where Katie’s small dog took a fancy to John’s leg.

The six acts battling for a place in the winner’s final on show ten were;

  • Roger Blakiston (novelty comedy)
  • John and Laurie (guitar and vocal duo)
  • Steve Paccitto (accordionist)
  • Philip John Lee (flamenco guitar)
  • Les Dennis (comedian)
  • Trotto (folk trio)

The winning act, voted for by the judging panel, was Trotto, however, Les Cocks admitted that the show had received thousands of calls for the young impressionist Les Dennis, now I wonder what happened to him?

Trotto would appear again in the Grand Final on 29 December 1973 and it wouldn’t be the last appearance by Les Dennis either. Les would appear a further three times on New Faces reaching the first All Winners Final in series three.

Roger Blakiston‘s act was novel indeed as it often involved magic, dramatic acting as well as a giant-sized skeleton. He’d spent the summer performing his unique acts of illusion, mystery and comedy in The Amazing Penny Whistle Show ’73 at the Queen’s Theatre, Cliftonville, Margate. The show also featured comedian George “I’m Not Well” Williams and a chorus that included future star of Guys ‘n’ Dolls and Dollar, Thereza Bazar.

Roger’s agent had put him forward for the New Faces auditions held at the London Palladium in August 1973. Roger describes his audition performance in his own book The Spiritual Stage;

I combined my skills as an actor and as a magician. I read from the works of William Shakespeare, and all sorts of things started to go wrong on purpose. First, the book burst in to flames. I picked up another book, and the book itself disintegrated into dust during the recital. The third book was the unpredictable one. There was a wind-up bird embedded between the pages. I had been performing this act at the seaside town of Margate all summer, and each time I opened up the book, the bird seemed to have a mind of its own and would either fall straight to the floor, land on someone’s lap in the audience, or even disappear into the wings. It always got a good laugh.

At the London Palladium, the stalls in the theatre were full of people. Many of them were other acts waiting to audition. I opened the book, and out flew the wind-up bird. It flapped its paper wings as it flew up into the dress circle. It followed the arc of a rainbow, returning all the way back to me, and landing on my book. It got a massive amount of applause; more than I had ever received on any night during my summer season.

After his appearance on New Faces Roger was given a contract with the Bailey organisation by judge John Smith to work the Northern clubs. Roger continued to perform his act for several years, for a while under the name The Sorcerer, and in the mid 1980s he beat hundreds of applicants to secure the role of Chuckleberry the Magician for the Huckleberry’s hamburger chain. For 12 months he became a minor celebrity and in his yellow wig, green spectacles and blue and green costume he visited numerous towns where he was magically produced out of a giant milk shake by a television star.

Roger even provided the entertainment for a seven year old Prince William and he also was one of the support acts for Faith Brown. He also spent a long spell overseas, touring clubs in Australia, working on nine different cruise ships and doing cabaret in the United States, where he met his wife, who joined his act which was renamed The Blakistons.

Entertainer, magician, author and poet Roger Blakiston still performs shows and now lives in Sedona, Arizona. Image: https://www.comicmagician.com/

In the late 1980s Roger advertised his skeleton and other magic items for sale and started the Jolly Roger agency specialising in bookings for magic acts from around the world.

In 1992, Roger sold the agency and moved to Arizona where he still performs hundreds of shows a year for both adults and children.

Roger is a published poet and set up the creative Facebook group Forest of Song which soon became a place for other poets to showcase their works. Forest of Friends, a collection of over 120 poems from 40 poets who are members of the group was published in 2018. Roger has also had two books of his own poetry published, Forest of Song in 2016, and Meadow of Verse in 2018.

Credit: Huge thanks to Roger Blakiston for confirming the judging panel line up for this heat and the additional information about his post New Faces career.

9 thoughts on “1 Dec 1973 – Series One (10)

  1. Wonderful Mark! I actually lived outside Birmingham for many years, in Alvechurch. I went to drama school in Edgbaston. I saw the Bull Ring being built, and even worked for a short time at the old Birmingham Rep in Station street. Yes, I drove down from London for the filming at ATV studios in Broad Street. Paul Stewart Lang was the director. Fond memories. I can actually remember every single word that the three judges said about my act, and will let you know if interested. Such a shame there is no film of it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Roger
      I live in Birmingham and used to organise TV location walking tours of the city centre, which included the former ATV studios on Broad Street (until they knocked them down a few years ago). My interest in New Faces stemmed from these tours and I soon found a wealth of archive material online. My personal project is to document as many shows and line ups as possible, so a huge thank you for sharing the judging panel for your heat, that really helps me out. Believe it or not we toured the Western States of the US last summer and spent a couple of glorious nights in Sedona watching the sun at on those stunning red rocks. You have certainly found a place in paradise for your magic act. Glad you liked the page and the photo and if you have any more memories of the show you would like to share them please let me know. I’ve already made contact with a few other acts from series one and two so great to hear from you, it makes my project all the more enjoyable. Cheers Mark


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