Con­rad the ‘Brix­ton boy done good’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NOSTALGIA -

CON­RAD’S love af­fair with show busi­ness be­gan when, as a boy in south Lon­don, he saw stars such as the leg­endary Sophie Tucker at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium.

Fam­ily out­ings to the Brix­ton Em­pire and Cam­ber­well Palace also left him star struck.

Early in­flu­ences in­cluded Al Jol­son (as played by Larry Parks, though he be­lieved this was Jol­son – un­til he saw him in a cow­boy film), Guy Mitchell, Johnny Ray and Frankie Vaughan, whom he ad­mired more for the style of their per­for­mance than for their singing. There was, he says, ‘a look’ one needed to cul­ti­vate in or­der to be no­ticed.

Jess him­self was no­ticed when work­ing as a reper­tory ac­tor and film ex­tra.

Im­pre­sario Jack Good, the Si­mon Cow­ell of his day, spot­ted him in a TV role as a pop singer and promptly launched him in the TV mu­sic show Oh Boy.

Record deals and chart hits fol­lowed but, ever the all-round show­man, Con­rad con­tin­ued to ap­pear in fea­ture films through­out the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Th­ese in­cluded Se­ri­ous Charge; The Boys; Rag Doll and The Queen’s Guards. He also fea­tured in Konga (subti­tled: I Was a Teenage Go­rilla), which he de­scribes as ‘the worst hor­ror film ever made’ but which spawned a comic book se­ries and a sur­pris­ing cult fol­low­ing which con­tin­ues to­day.

The 1970s saw Con­rad make the suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion into hit mu­si­cals, play­ing Je­sus in God­spell, and he was the first to play the ti­tle role in Joseph and his Amaz­ing Tech­ni­colour Dream­coat.

He lauds rather than laments the fact that sev­eral of his hit songs were in­cluded on DJ Kenny Everett’s 1977 al­bum World’s Worst Records. Con­rad would have the mu­si­cal last laugh, how­ever, when awarded a gold disc in 2012 for the mil­lion-sell­ing al­bum con­ceived by Con­rad Three Steps to Heaven.

The 1990s saw Con­rad send him­self up via reg­u­lar cameo roles on shows such as the Gen­er­a­tion Game. Si Since then, he has re re-in­vented hi him­self as a po pop­u­lar racon­teur, ai aided by his ph phe­nom­e­nal mem­ory for events in in­volv­ing other fa fa­mous celebri­ties (h (he flat-shared wi with Michael Caine an and Ter­ence St Stamp; dated Di Diana Dors and Ava Gard­ner and gigged with Joe Brown and Tommy Steel).

His in­ti­mate Evening with Jess Con­rad events con­tinue to en­ter­tain theatre au­di­ences and celebrity cruise pas­sen­gers, and 2016 sees the re­lease of his lat­est film Mob Handed, with Ly­sette An­thony.

Pressed to di­vulge the se­crets of his en­dur­ing good looks (in a bad light he might be taken for a fifty-year old), Con­rad at­tributes th­ese, not to surgery or sil­i­cone, but to his good genes and gym work­outs.

His mother Lynda, a south Lon­don beauty queen, en­cour­aged him to care for his youth­ful skin in an era when lead­ing men of the film world ap­peared rugged, stub­bly and middle-aged. This ‘Brix­ton boy done good’ be­lieves in putting some­thing back, how­ever, and, hav­ing raised mil­lions of pounds for char­i­ties and disas­ter re­lief via his celebrity golf and show­biz foot­ball events, Con­rad was awarded an OBE in 2011.

Con­rad’s fifty-one year mar­riage to Re­nee, the beau­ti­ful for­mer Miss Ca­may, must be one of the long­est in show busi­ness. He cred­its this to the fact that, as Re­nee quips, she loves Jess Con­rad – and so does he.

Thus it is that, with an en­ter­tain­ing mix of nar­cis­sism and self­dep­re­ca­tion, and with no in­ten­tion of slow­ing down or re­tir­ing, this ge­nial rock ‘n roller turned racon­teur, hus­band, father and grand­fa­ther, Jess Con­rad OBE, rocks on into his 80th year.

In­set top, Jess Con­rad re­ceives his OBE and Jess in his hey­day. Above, Jess Con­rad meets Princess Diana

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.