Memorial Mass for Danny La Rue, Vince Powell

Annie Gailbraith, Fr Chris Vipers, Geraldine Powell

Annie Gailbraith, Fr Chris Vipers, Geraldine Powell

A Memorial Mass was celebrated yesterday at Corpus Christi Church in Covent Garden,  for three stalwarts of the Catholic theatrical community: female impersonator Danny La Rue,  filmmaker Vince Powell and  actor Alan Martell.

Organised by the Catholic Association of Performing Arts, the chief celebrant was Fr Chris Vipers, CAPA National Chaplain. The soloist was Anne Chivere. The organist was David Hoyland.  Those present included Danny's longtime companion Annie Galbraith and Vince Powell's widow Geraldine.

La Rue, whose  real name was  Daniel Patrick Carroll, died  at his home in Kent on  31 May at the age of  81.

He first donned his wig and eyelashes during a Navy concert party in Singapore at the end of the Second World War. He soon was performing  on London cabaret circuit, where he starred alongside Barbara Windsor.

In 1964 he opened his own nightclub in Hanover Square. La Rue appeared in dozens of TV shows and was  one of Britain's most established panto dames. He was the first female impersonator to appear at the Royal Variety Performance before the Queen and was awarded an OBE in 2002.  La Rue was named Theatre Personality of the Year in 1970 and Entertainer of the Decade in 1979.

Much loved by other entertainers, Noel Coward called him 'the most professional, the most witty and the most utterly charming man in the business', while Bob Hope hailed Danny as 'the most glamorous woman in the world'.

During his homily Fr Chris described La Rue as "a man of deep faith". "When he was on tour, when he arrived in a new town he would find out where the nearest church was and always send a bouquet of lilies to be put in front of the statue of Our Lady.  In his final illness he always received Communion at home."

Fr Chris praised Vince Powell's film: 'Journey to Lourdes', describing it as a "beautiful achievement". "To watch his film is to be there" he said.  he also spoke highly of Alan Martell's work and contribution to CAPA.

"Each one of  three wonderful men is now beginning to that vision of glory that we are made for" Fr Chris said.  It is something we can only glimpse.. something that can only be described in poetry and music." Recalling Newman's Dream of Gerontius, Fr Chris said he could imagine Danny La Rue singing the hymn 'Praise to the Holiest in the Heights'.

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