29th Jun, 2022

Memoir of a life treading the boards with the stars in Coventry and Warwickshire

A SHOWBIZ veteran has written a book of his memories treading the boards in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Former dancer and theatre director Bud Brooker, who lives in Stratford, has charted the colourful accounts of his life – from living through the blitz in Coventry and flogging medicine from the bathroom cabinet, to discovering stars such as Richard Armitage of The Hobbit fame.

Rugby-born Bud said he always had a head for business and his first pursuit, aged 12, was selling his parents’ ‘liver pills’ because they had the ability to turn urine green. The tablets were a hit among his peers until Bud was forced to shut up shop after being caught by his mother.

Bud – who says being in the blitz was an ‘exciting time’ – went on to scavenge metals from rubbish heaps at bomb sites.

He began his working life as an ironmonger before going into the family engineering business.

But he admits dancing was always his first love.

The dad-of-two told the Observer “I’ve had my fingers in many pies but my heart was always in theatre.

“There’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.

“One door closes and another one opens. I get really fed up with listening to people whinging ‘you had it lucky’. You have to work for yourself or you’ll never be happy – money and a begging hand doesn’t help you as a person.”

The 80-year-old had his first taste of showbiz when he worked in an office which overlooked the stage door to Coventry Hippodrome.

He used to dangle notes pads on string out the window to try and bag autographs and even used to sneak in and knock on dressing rooms when the door guard was distracted.

Bud never dreamed he would be treading the same boards some years later – especially since at 18 he was consigned to the army and posted in Germany.

He jokes he would have been shipped straight back had his comrades witnessed him twirling about to classical music ‘like Billy Elliot’ in the officers’ mess.

Two years later Bud left the army and married his late wife Mary who was a pianist.

He finally began dipping his toes in the entertainment industry and was accepted into a ballet school where his first performance ‘The Music Man’ left him with aching limbs and bleeding feet. But this did little to put him off.

His dancing repertoire steadily grew and he performed in more than 30 musicals including in The Merry Widow at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre where he rubbed shoulders with renowned Russian dancer Rudolph Nuryev – hailed ‘Lord of the Dance’.

Sadly Bud’s wife Mary died from an illness and Bud moved to Stratford a year later where he met his husband Alex.

The duo began dancing together and performed Tudor dancing in venues across Stratford, and at Dudley castle during a visit from the Queen.

He eventually began his new career as a theatre director and his first assignment was Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat at Princethorpe College.

“They showed me the stage and said ‘it’s yours’. My heart was pounding.

“It wasn’t until a week later it really sank in that I was in charge.”

Bud inspired many of his cast and created stars.

The former director – who later owned a costume shop in Coventry – also counted first ever Bond girl Unice Grayson and world famous ballerina Margot Fonteyn among his celebrity friends.

He says he always wanted to write a book and plans to write a second account of his many varied roles in the working world.

His book ‘From the Back of the Drawer’ costs £7.99. Call 01789 299 439 to order.

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