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Time for a Fiesta...

THE Club Fiesta in Norton was one of the most legendary nightspots on Teesside.

Almost everybody around between 1965 and 1976 remembers the popular venue.

Keith Lipthorpe used to run the club with his late brother Jim, while Lynn Horsman and Sandy Whyte used to be Fiesta Fawns.

For more than a decade, Fiesta Fawns enjoyed the most glamorous job on Teesside.

As hostesses at Stockton's legendary Club Fiesta, they were chosen for being tall, attractive and able to serve chicken in a basket in four-inch platforms. They earned more in tips than they did in wages and mingled with some of the biggest celebrities of the day.

"It was such a lovely era to live in," said former fawn Lynn Horsman from Stockton.

"It was one of the best times of my life. It's something you never forget and other people don't, either. People still say, 'you used to be a Fiesta fawn, didn't you?'" The Fiesta opened in 1965 in Norton Road, Stockton, where customers enjoyed dinner before watching a cabaret show featuring artistes like Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey, Tommy Cooper and Olivia Newton-John.

The club enjoyed its most prolific success under the leadership of businessmen Keith Lipthorpe and his brother Jim, both Teessiders who understood the "eat, drink and be merry" culture existing in the 1960s and 1970s.

In an effort to introduce some pizzazz to the experience, Keith came up with the idea of bringing in the scantily clad fawns.

"I went along to the interview and I had to stand on a chair and show them my legs," said Sandy Whyte, who joined the Fiesta as a fawn in 1969.

"We used to wear fishnets with a seam up the back and ears with a tail and a white stiff collar with a bow tie. We would have different costumes for different times of year. It wasn't just going to work, it was going for a night out."

Lynn added: "It was a glamorous job so it was inevitable that there was going to be a bit of jealousy. Some of the women didn't like their men sidling up to you. We were well looked after because obviously wearing costumes like that you got a lot of attention."

Sandy, who remembers being serenaded by Stevie Wonder and ambushing The Searchers with a custard pie said: "We went to dinner with Cliff Richard one night -it was his mum's birthday. It was lovely."

But by 1976, times had changed and so had the attitude of stars. Many had engaged agents and were seeking appearance fees, which couldn't be covered by the Fiesta's pounds 7-a-head admission.

In May 1976 the Lipthorpe brothers decided that their company, Norton Entertainments Limited, would be voluntarily wound up.

The Fiesta's home -a former cinema built in the 1930s -went on to open as a nightspot in a number of guises such as the Colosseum, Henry Africa's and Black Cats.

Today it's a place of worship, having opened in 2004 as The Destiny Centre.

But for Fiesta fans who saw the venue close in 1976 the end of great nights out packed with cabaret, celebrities and the fabulous Fiesta Fawns -it was the end of an era.

CAPTION(S):

FAWNS AND FAME: Keith and the late Jim Lipthorpe, above, at the Fiesta, top left; Lynn Horsman with rock and roll legend Bill Haley, left, in about 1973; and, right, Lynn Horsman with fellow Fawns Sheila Cropper, left, and Janet Peacock, centre
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2010
Words:583
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