Portions extracted from the London
from an article by June Southworth
Josef Locke is briefly back in London, back from the 'dead' and
firmly in the limelight for the premier of Hear My Song, a modest £2m film which features
Ned Beatty In a role firmly based on Josef himself.
Did this 6'3" ladies' man enjoy his encounter with Princess
Di at the Premiere? What did he think of her legs ? After all, they had reputedly lured
him from what is now a self-imposed exile in County Kildare to the bright lights of London
he never thought to see again.
"Sure now, isn't every man one for the ladies? I had
Princess Diana come to see me, and I'll tell you she has a beautiful figure, a beautiful
face and a beautiful nature. Yes, her legs are very fine too"
"She couldn't have been nicer, such a lovely sweet
personality and not big-headed at all. She'd read I had a bit of a throat, and so I had.
She said she'd read about it in the tabloids.
"I sang Danny Boy to her and it seemed to go down well. In
fact I had a standing ovation. At least I thought it was for me. I went over so big I
thought she'd not mind if I sang another song. I was just going to start If I can Help
Somebody as a tribute to her work. The pianist played a chord, I opened my mouth, and
there was Michael Aspel * with the red book, and every beggar seemed to know about it but
This Is Your Life would be a perilous
enterprise for someone with such a chequered past. Jo, after all, was a very naughty boy.
With such a colourful background, perhaps the biggest surprise is
that it took so long for his story to make it to the big screen.
In fact, ex-actor Peter Chelsom, who devised and directed Hear My
Song, heard a tape of Jo singing as he drove to Blackpool and thought there would be quite
a life behind that voice.
"It was beautiful, sentimental, outrageous, even a little
ridiculous" he says. "I thought someone ought to research that man - madman that
I am. Jo had become a myth. Apart from some dreadful films he made and some crackling
records, only the legend existed and the memory of his stage performance."
He originally wanted Jo to appear and sing in Hear My Song, but
to get the financial backing he needed a name actor, and Jo's voice today, great though it
still is, did not quite fit Ned Beatty's face.
Tthe recording quality of Jo's original tracks would have been impossible to mime to, and
so it went on. persuading Jo to lend his name to the enterprise was no pushover.
"I only saw Jo genuinely thrown twice" says Chelsom.
"Once was This is Your Life, and the other time was when I tracked him down to a bar
in Spain after he disappeared without signing the contract for Clearance Rights that would
have allowed us to make the film. I had to have him. He was the dream-maker.
"In the film he is watching some young girls dancing and
says "Would you like to be responsible for their dreams?"
"It carries responsibility being the leading man. I used to
tell Ned Beatty all the time that he was playing a universal commercial showman and there
was no such thing as going over the top. Then he saw Jo perform in Ireland and said he
could have done more.
"What does Jo get out of it? Well. it's a genuine
celebration of his career. He gets some money, but very little. Everyone gets pathetic
fees. I deferred nearly half my fee and it all went."
*Michael Aspel, host of the TV biography show This
Is Your Life
From the Blackpool Evening Gazette, March 1992
by David Pearce
Showman and singing star Josef Locke returned in
triumph to Blackpool where he made his name
And he quickly turned back the clock to put audiences where they always ere - in the palm
of his hand.
But the Irish tenor slipped away from his seat at the Cannon Cinema in Church Street as
soon as the lights went down.
After all, he had seen the show before.
Written and directed by Blackpool man Peter Chelsom, Hear My Song is a delightful movie
loosely based on aspects of Josef's colourful lifestyle.
After a soothing pint of Liffey water to ease a bad chest caused by 'flu, the 75-year-p;d
entertainer returned to the auditorium just in time for the credits.
Nearly 700 people packed the cinema, which stands on the site of the Hippodrome where
Josef played seven of his 19 seasons in the resort.
"Blackpool was my second home" Joe told the audience, which included
locally-based stars of today like Les Dawson and Roy Walker.
They had come to help raise around £7,000 for the cancer research charity Friends of
Peter Chelsom confessed "I'm nervous. Whether a local boy has made good lies in the
opinion of his home town"
The applause told him the film had received another rave review. Audiences all over the
world are voting it a big hit.
Stars Shirley Anne Field and Tara Fitzgerald got a warm welcome.Shirley Anne, who had flown from Los Angeles especially for the
northern premiere of the film, remembered when she turned on the illuminations.
"You switched them on for me tonight" she said.
Then there was a standing ovation when Josef Locke walked the catwalk decorated with his
Complete silence awaited a faultless unaccompanied performance of the folk song She walked
through the Fair.
Afterwards, at the Imperial Hotel, Joe confessed "I had the words in my pocket
because I was worried I wouldn't get it right. Blackpool has been good to me. It's a great
town but I'm looking forward to heading home to Ireland".