Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jane Russell in Newport

In 1968 entrepreneur Annis Abraham opened Cleopatra's Palace in Newport. It was a restaurant-casino type establishment which put on cabaret acts. Having spent a lot of money on the joint he wanted quality entertainment to match.

Scoring something of showbiz coup he managed to secure the services of Hollywood sex bomb Jane Russell. Yes, she of the most famous cleavage in pop cultural history fame. Incongruous though it might sound the star of The Outlaw and muse of Howard Hughes did seven shows in Newport.

Her act consisted of singing a few standard cabaret numbers - Mack the Knife, When the Saints go Marching In - that kind of stuff. Apparently she didn't have a particularly great voice but it didn't matter, it was her the punters were paying to see.

She mixed a few gags into her act too but nothing risque - there were no references to her famous boobs. In fact by this time in her life (she was 47) she was a dedicated Christian. Back home in California she had even built a family chapel.

Despite her advancing years she still looked good. She was slim, tanned, with her dark brown hair worn short. Her figure was an impressive 37-27-37. In her Hollywood heyday it had famously been 38-24-36.

Russell was certainly no stranger to the work ethic. After each Newport show she sped off to the Webbington Hotel and Country Club near Weston-super-Mare and did a late night concert there. She was reputedly earning £6,000 per week.

At that time she was also picking up a residual income from a film contract she'd signed with Howard Hughes - an arrangement that would continue until 1976. She was getting handsomely paid for films that would never get made.

Jane Russell is still alive today and living in California. She is 85 years old. As far as I'm aware her residency at Cleopatra's Palace was her only visit to Wales.