Sabrina goes back to her pork pie
The time is 3.55 yesterday afternoon. Val Parnell steps up to the microphone on the stage of the London Palladium to announce "a shattering message from Buckingham Palace."
The cast of stars for the Royal Variety Show had been rehearsing their acts, were assembling for the finale when the blow fell.
The most disappointed were not the stars, but 112 working men from Wales —the Morriston Orpheus Choir, who paid their own expenses to sing their songs for the Queen.
THE pink gown which Sabrina was to wear hung unfinished in a wardrobe. And the extra inch of bodice added "for the Queen's sake" was not necessary after all.
The 400 performers attending for rehearsals were told the Queen would not be coming after all — and that though there had been no request to stop it the show would not go on.
Then Tommy Trinder spoke for the artist. " Just think," he said, "trying to make people laugh with THAT BOX empty."
And great-hearted Gracie Fields — as one woman to another — said : "I'm sure the Queen must be feeling dreadful. I think it was the right thing to cancel it."
Liberace, at, first, said nothing. He issued a written statement. "Disappointed, but…". He returns to America today.
It was Harry Secombe — the Big Goon — who thought up the party. The stars had missed one of the biggest dates in show business. So Harry got as many of them as he could in his dressing-room.
There they were—Secombe, Winifred Atwell, Max Bygraves, Liberace, Jimmy Wheeler, and Sabrina's mother, all round the TV set in the cosy dressing-room.
Sabrina, wearing black tapered slacks and tight sweater, sprawled out in an armchair.
"Perhaps people think I am dumb," she said, twiddling her toes. "But there is an art in being dumb. I have been looking toward this night — and couldn't sleep for thinking of meeting the Queen. For the very first time in my life I was going to sing. A wonderful number called "Temptation," and now I won't have a chance to sing."
She pouted, and went on: "My lame dress was something out of this world. I can't say how much it cost, but it had to be seen to be believed. There were yards and yards In the skirt which did marvellous things for me, and the bodice was covered over with pearl drops.
'"But I hadn't had the final fitting, it was going to be sewn on me before the show started to make sure that it was really a perfect fit. Now it will never be finished."
And Sabrina reached over for another pork pie from a paper parcel.
Liberace, wearing his casual clothes — a gold-threaded, crew-neck, black pullover and black trousers, gripped me fiercely by the shoulder. Tears veiled up into his hazel brown eyes, and he said: "I'm more disappointed than I can even talk about. But I quite understand how the Queen feels. She has all my sympathy… and I sincerely hope and pray that this sad business in Hungary and all the rest of it will work out.
"Our disappointment tonight is just a tiny cog in the misery that thousands of other people must be going through."
He sipped at his gin, made his good-byes, and hurried off to his hotel.
While the party was going on the last props were being removed from the theatre. Eric Delaney's band collected their instruments and stacked them in their van.
Chic Murray. the Scots comedian invited to his first Royal Performance, was so unhappy about it.
"My wife had an evening gown made for her by one of the big Paris dress shops at fabulous cost. Now she is sitting in her hotel, too disappointed to think about anything else."
Max Bygraves played a solitary blues tune on a ramshackle piano in one of the corridors and then went back to help Sabrina finish the pork pie.
One of the members of the Palladium management said : "One of our biggest headaches now is giving back the £13,000 which has been paid by the public for tickets for the performance which didn't come off."