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My life with the stars; END OF AN ERA: Ex pageboy at city's best known hotel tells of his memories.

Byline: By Barbara Goulden

THE Hotel Leofric in the Fifties and Sixties was an autograph hunter's dream as stars of stage and screen booked in while they were staying in Coventry.

Christmas time with the panto at the Coventry Theatre and the annual Spring Show at the same venue ensured a steady stream of showbiz guests.

Now the city's best known hotel is being transformed and will open as a Travelodge in 2009.

The closure of the Broadgate venue triggered a stream of memories for former pageboy Allan Davies, who was on duty on the day it first opened at 8am, on 1 April, 1955.

Allan, now aged 69, who lives with his wife Pam in Villa Road, Radford, will be remembered by many local people as the former steward of the Bedworth Liberal Club, then landlord of White Swan in Bedworth up to 1991.

But for Hollywood stars like Danny Kaye and Tyrone Power, he just might be remembered as the bespectacled young pageboy who served them tea and shyly asked for their autograph.

Other luminaries staying there have included 50s rocker Bill Haley and his Comets who sparked a near-riot of fans trying to invade the hotel; and TV comedy legends Morecambe and Wise.

Even today Allan still keeps his autograph books where the signatures of favourite switchboard operators at the hotel sit alongside the autographs of actress Ruby Murray and comedian Jimmy Jewell, singers Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, crusty Gilbert Harding and grand Dame Cecily Courtneidge.

Allan was doing a shift as a night porter when the cast of the Goon Show arrived after a show.

He still remembers being waltzed around the lift in the middle of the night by Peter Sellars in a bid to persuade him to open the bar.

"Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe were looking on laughing, although in fact there was no need to persuade me. As a four-star hotel we had to serve guests alcohol at any hour of the day or night," said Allan.

That was after he'd spent a year training in the Leofric's extensive wine cellars before being allowed "above ground" as a waiter where he was taught to "present" a beer or cocktail to a customer, not simply hand it over.

It was a skill which served him in good stead when he went on to run the White Swan along with several other pubs around the country.

Allan was taken on with fellow pageboy Carl Van Dooren and they spent three months at the Leofric even before it opened. During the next five "golden years" Allan served breakfast in bed to George Formby and his wife - he still remembers they were in room 512 reading the Daily Express - and helped to smuggle Bill Haley out of the back when his screaming fans were massing in Broadgate.

He also watched the amazing transformation of Danny Kaye after showing the star to his room in 1956. The entertainer was in Coventry on a goodwill mission for the international children's organisation UNICEF.

Allan said: "He flopped face-down on the bed, his face was green with exhaustion. Immediately the phone began to ring.

"He asked if I would answer it for him and I told him: 'Mr Kaye the press are downstairs waiting to meet you.'

"He got up and splashed water on his face. He was still green as I took him down in the lift but with each floor we passed his face slowly began changing back to normal. Just before the doors opened he put on a huge smile and walked out."

Allan can even recall that screen heart-throb Tyrone Power stayed in room 50, radio presenter Jimmy Young was in 410 while Billy Cotton's Band Show and the singer Diana Decker were all over the place.

Allan, who moved to Coventry as a 15-year-old, added: "I also remember Ken Dodd - not only as a great comedian but from when he was our coalman in Liverpool where I grew up!"

CAPTION(S):

THOSE WERE THE DAYS... Allan Davies and (below) police struggle with Bill Haley fans mobbing the hotel in 1957, Princess Margaret at The Leofric for lunch in 1962 and Morecambe and Wise act up while staying in 1971
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 30, 2008
Words:705
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