Mrs. Shufflewick and Patrick Newley

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A Mrs Shufflewick LP Cover | Mouse | 14286

Mrs Shufflewick was the drag persona of Rex Jameson, real name Rex Coster, a music hall great and one of radio and TV’s most original and brilliant comics, who was bisexual, and bacame a Dame Comedian. Jameson was abandoned as a baby and brought up in Southend on Sea, Essex. He needed a stage name, and was drinking a Jameson’s at the time…

As homosexuality was outlawed at the time, he was courageous: he developed a cockney charlady character he named Gladys Shufflewick, when he appeared on BBC radio in 1950, becoming the first dame comedian to perform in female clothing on radio. He actually arrived, usually by taxi, already dressed and stayed in character. He was usually billed as Mrs Shufflewick, and many in the audience were unaware of Rex Jameson, taking Mrs Shufflewick to be a woman.

Born in 1924, just before his 59th birthday in 1983 he popped out to buy cigarettes and Guinness and dropped dead on the pavement. Over 500 people turned up for his funeral.

For many years his manager was Patrick Newley, who died age 54 in 2009. The Telegraph obituary noted: “Newley took on the task of pouring into cabs, and out of dressing rooms, the ageing drag artists Douglas Byng and Rex Jameson”.

Patrick Newley | Public domain | 14287

Newley was born Patrick Nicholas Galvin in Dublin on March 25 1955. In the 1960s the family moved to Brighton and Patrick was sent to a boarding school. By now well aware that he himself was gay, and showing typical 1960s style and panache, Newley dropped out of school at 14 to work in an underground bookshop owned by the American poet Bill Butler. He completed his education reading the banned Kids’ issue of Oz, and typesetting works by Aleister Crowley – and a hashish cookbook.

Newley first met Rex Jameson eking a meagre living on the gay club circuit. He had a great following, but so many fans sent round bottles of spirits that he sometimes forgot whole routines. Newley persuaded Dorothy Squires to include him in her 1974 London Palladium comeback. The show, attended by Barbara Cartland and Danny La Rue (“Which one is which?” someone asked) won “Shuff” a standing ovation and within a month he was the highest-paid act on the gay club scene.


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