Wilson, Keppel and Betty. They sound like a firm of solicitors and look like a bunch of Tutankhamen’s hieroglyphs that suddenly fancied a boogie. To many they are the epitome of the bizarre speciality act, shuffling through silver sands during the golden era of British variety. They inspired Morecambe and Wise, Legs & Co, the Chuckle Brothers. But what do we know about the Englishman and Irishman who clog-danced round America, returned home with two fezzes and a Cleopatra from Kansas, and proceeded to walk like three Egyptians? Precious little.
Until now. This lovingly pieced together story of their lives, onstage and off, reveals for the first time the flirtatious Irish dandy with the dicky ticker, the scruffy Liverpudlian party animal, and the teenage tearaway turned tap-shoed temptress who abruptly changed career and became a frequently outspoken war reporter. Their dancing outraged Hermann Goering; years later, in Nuremberg, Goering performed while Betty wrote the reviews.
Alan Stafford has ransacked dusty attics, thumbed crumbling newspapers and buttonholed countless experts and colleagues to discover the trio’s hidden past. He’s unearthed rare photos, and movies that were presumed lost. And he’s tracked down and interviewed three women from the long dynasty of Wilson and Keppel’s subsequent Bettys.