Tony Whyte | Undated | Unknown photographer | 14398
“From the late 1950s to the ’70s his limp-wristed camp act, long before the days of Larry Grayson and John Inman, was the talk of the town. His catchphrase was, ‘Shut your gob, Tony’s speaking’. Glasgow-born, Tony’s real name was Frederick York Clark Wight. He spent much of his childhood in the Fulwood Cottage Homes orphanage in Sheffield, reflecting: “I was born of good parents but on the wrong side of the blanket.” National Service saw Tony stationed in Germany and Austria with the Army Medical Corps, then he signed up for six years as a medic in the Navy. Out on Civvy Street he worked first for a tailor in Attercliffe, standing in the doorway to attract custom, later becoming the ‘singing waiter’ at the now demolished Rotherham House pub, near Castle Market. Later he worked at Firvale Infirmary – now the Northern General Hospital – as a geriatric staff nurse.”
He took up residence as compere at Sheffield’s Fiesta, introducing top acts from Ella Fitzgerald to the Three Degrees and Gene Pitney.
“He was a pure professional. There was nobody any bigger in Sheffield – an icon,” said Marlene Clare, a long time friend and fellow act. She described him as ‘a very private person but on stage he came alive’. “He was completely in charge,” she said.
Tony made no secret that he was gay, though it was then frowned upon. His long time partner Karl lives in Germany, and in 2006 Tony went to visit him rather than collecting a lifetime achievement award from local clubland.