For years one of the stage’s brightest and most glamorous stars, Danny La Rue has died. The cross-dressing comedian, who had been suffering from cancer, passed away peacefully in his sleep at his Kent home.
Though La Rue did appear on television, the majority of his career was spent on stage as a cabaret performer and panto dame. A superstar in the 60s and 70s, when he collected accolades including Theatre Personality of the Year and Entertainer of the Decade, at one time he was reported to be the highest-paid entertainer in Britain.
La Rue, who was born Daniel Patrick Carroll in Cork, Ireland, enjoyed a number of hit shows in the West End, among them Come Spy With Me, The Danny La Rue Show, At The Palace, Aladdin and Hello Dolly!, in which he became the first man to play a female role in a major musical, taking the lead part of Dolly Levi.
Born on 26 July 1927, La Rue first performed in drag while serving in the Navy. Making his West End debut in the mid-1950s, by 1964 he was a big enough star to open his own club in Hanover Square. In 1969 he was the first drag performer to appear on the Royal Variety Performance, a show he returned to on two subsequent occasions. He must have impressed, as in 2002 the Queen admitted to being a fan when she awarded him the OBE.
It is a mark of La Rue’s personality that Noël Coward referred to him as “the most professional, most witty and most utterly charming man in the business”.