ON SEPTEMBER 30, 1998, the Island’s theatregoers were stunned by the closing of Sandown Pavilion ­— to create more amusement facilities on the pier.

Many still think the Island’s entertainment scene has never recovered, and the popular 1,000-seater seafront theatre is still fondly remembered by thousands of locals and many holidaymakers.

One star name who was particularly disappointed was Bob Monkhouse.

On family holidays back in the late ‘30s, he’d been inspired by the comedians he saw there ­— stars of the era, like Eric Barker and Dickie Hassett, plus Arthur Askey, who he saw at the Summer Theatre in Shanklin.

He came back as a superstar entertainer himself to top the bill in the 1988 summer show at the Pavilion.

The new Sandown Pavilion was opened in 1934.

Previously, there was a smaller building at the sea end of the pier, which later became a dance hall.

The Sandown Town Council borrowed £26,000 from Whitehall to build it.

Over the years, so many stars headed for the venue.

These included Cyril Fletcher, Dick Emery, Jimmy Tarbuck, Tommy Cooper, the Supremes, David Essex, Frankie Howerd, Freddie Starr, Diana Dors, Max Bygraves, the Shadows and Larry Grayson.

Prior to the war, resident touring productions like the Fol-de-Rols provided seasonal entertainment.

In 1947, Bill Scott-Gordon took over from the Bouquets and ran his own summer shows for the council ­— for ten years.

At one time, he was being paid £350 to provide 20 weeks of entertainment.

How times were to change.

In the ‘80s, a top comedy duo were paid 30 times that amount for a one-nighter.

Famous comedian, Cyril Fletcher, provided his Masquerade summer shows, with his wife, Betty Astell, for many years.

The summer shows always had two changes of programme, so holidaymakers could see two different shows in the same week.

Before Jimmy Tarbuck changed the Pavilion’s image in 1979, when it became a number one seaside date, alongside Bournemouth, Blackpool and Great Yarmouth, many up and coming comedians enjoyed long seasons in Sandown.

These included Felix Bowness, Bill Pertwee, before his Dad’s Army fame, Billy Burden and Bobby Dennis.

Sandown Pavilion always had a reputation for amazing Sunday Concerts.

Many were due to the popularity and skill of their entertainments director, Don Moody.

He brought stars like Dick Emery, who was a personal friend, Petula Clark, Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd, The Springfields, Craig Douglas, Adam Faith, Jon Pertwee and, firstly in 1964, Britain’s newest comedy sensation, Jimmy Tarbuck.

The acts all appeared at both Sandown Pavilion and Shanklin Theatre.

The main star would close the first half at Shanklin and top the bill in Sandown.

The supporting acts would also perform at both theatres.

All the artists had to take the taxi ride from one theatre to the other.

There were a few problems when they got caught in traffic.

When Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd, the stars of TV’s Hugh and I, came they had a special treat for the Sandown audiences.

Hugh would nip over from his show-closing spot in Shanklin to join Terry on stage for their wonderful two vicars routines.

Personally, I loved going to the Sunday Concerts.

Coaches came from all over the Island and I always got a Fountain Garage coach from Cowes.

In those days, the floating bridge was so reliable, so I could get back to East Cowes.

You could always rattle the chains and the night operator would come over for you ­— those were the days.

I can remember Don Moody outside the theatre, before the entrance was covered in, which was in 1973, wondering where his star singer Gary Miller was.

The very casual Mr Miller arrived with minutes to spare.

On another occasion, Stan Boardman turned up very late and went straight on in his street clothes ­— he went down a storm.

Over the years, many future stars came to the Pavilion as unknowns.

On June 22, 1952, Tony Hancock came as a support act.

Sheila Hancock, who was born in Blackgang, had a season with Cyril Fletcher, and others who came included June Felix, who later changed her name to Julie Felix, Anna Quayle, Bobby Davro and Brian Conley.

The Sandown Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society were also always delighted to use the theatre.

Their Easter productions became quite legendary and they would sell out.

They specialised in hit musicals and had their own local stars, including Reg and Kay Milton, Cyril Amey, Bernard Meatyard and Linda Hagan.

Hazel Meatyard, who directed some of their great productions, later became the professional wardrobe mistress at the theatre.

The Pavilion has had some wonderful resident stage managers, including Albert Smith, Mike Richardson, Chris Wilcox and finally Chris Gardner, who is now based at Shanklin Theatre.

Another local favourite was front-of-house doorman, Fred Scovell.

He worked seven nights a week in summer for 27 years, and he had a day job as well.

When Tarby had his fish and chip night for the company and staff, Fred was sent to Scotties at 11pm for 50 portions of large cod and chips.

In the next part, you can find out how the Bachelors singing group created the biggest change in Sandown Pavilion’s history.

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