The latest show of series four saw the professional panel of four, made up of Ted Ray, Tony Hatch, Jimmy Henney and George Elrick critique the following seven acts;
- Jack Lillie (comedy entertainer) from Torquay
- Whiskey Mac (four-piece group) from Southend
- Louise Barry (vocalist) from London
- Ivan Richards (harmonica) from Birmingham
- Tony Andrews (vocalist) from Blackpool
- David James (impressionist) from Bromsgrove
- Burnt Orange (five-piece group) from London
According to The Stage, show fourteen of series four was ‘the most dire for some time’ with only one act standing out from a poor crowd.
The winners of the show were Southend based group Whiskey Mac who were showered in praise by Tony Hatch, who not only claimed they were ‘the best thing I’ve heard on this programme for years’ but backed up his comments with a maximum 10/10 in all three scoring categories of content, presentation and star quality.
Whiskey Mac, who at the time of their appearance were the resident group at Zhivago’s Night Spot in Southend, were Trish (Pat) Fields (vocals), Terry Stevens (bass / vocals), Keith Maxon (keyboards / vocals) and Ian Fernsides (drums / vocals).
The band had previously played a season at the ill-fated Summerland Complex on the Isle of Man, under the name The Vacations, where they recruited Keith Maxon. Their next residency, now as Whiskey Mac, was at the Excel Bowl, Middlesborough, where they met New Faces theme singer Carl Wayne (ex- The Move).
On the show they performed their latest track called I’ll Always Be Around, which was released as a single in 1976. They were previously a five-piece group but it seems that John Wintony (keyboards / guitar / vocals) may have left the group shortly before their appearance on the show.
In 1980 Whiskey Mac were selected from over 2,000 acts that auditioned to appear in the second series of the BBC talent show Rising Stars, presented by regular New Faces judge Arthur Askey and Jenny Lee Wright. They appeared on the sixth show of the series, recorded at Blackpool’s ABC Theatre, broadcast on 30 November 1980 where the acts were competing for a spot on a major BBC light entertainment programme.
Keith Maxon is now musical director for pantomimes and has taken the name Keith ‘Paddington’ Richards. He married ‘Allo ‘Allo actress Sue Hodge in 2002 and they have travelled all over the world together as he looks after the musical side of her one woman show, ‘Allo ‘Allo Again Mimi and Me.
Meanwhile at the other end of the scoring was 21 year-old Bromsgrove impressionist David James, who failed to make an impression with the judges, especially Tony Hatch, who gave him a verbal blasting.
David, a jewellery worker by day, went through his impressions which included Nana Mouskouri, Terry Scott, Alan Ball and Benny Hill before an unimpressed Tony Hatch awarded him zero out of ten in the star quality category, a score that resulted in over 200 phone complaints to the studios about the judges cruelty.
It was a performance that left many TV critics bewildered as to how the act had got through the audition stages and why such an ill-equipped performer was cruelly shoved in front of the cameras at all.
Defending his comments Tony Hatch later said; ‘This was the worst act I’ve ever seen on the show. There’s no point in my being on the panel unless I’m free to say just what I think. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.’
61 year-old comedian Jack Lillie was born in Bristol, but had relocated to Torbay on the south coast of England and following his appearance he performed a twenty-week stint at The Beach Holiday Centre at Dymchurch, Kent.
For a period during the war, Jack was stationed at a Paignton holiday camp, later to be known as Devon Coast Country Club, a scene of many of his triumphs in later years. It was during his wartime stay there that he decided to make his home in Torbay when the war was over.
Over the years Jack played outrageously funny dames in pantomime, including Widow Twankey in Aladdin, opposite a young Mike Parker, later to be renamed Barrymore. Fellow New Faces act Michael Barrymore claims that he learned a great deal from Jack, particularly his comedy timing.
Jack never drove a car but managed to work in cabaret and theatres all over the country. He had copies of timetables for every railway station and bus depot and he was often seen with his holdall containing his gaudy sweater, flat cap and string props at the local bus stop.
In 1991, at the age of 77, variety veteran Jack was still performing, delivering his shuffling and shambling persona with tremendous timing and demonstrating how to work an audience at the Riviera Showcase in Bournemouth.
This great character comedian, often affectionately known as ‘Tubby’, due to his expansive girth, died in May 1998.