Brand New Retro: Mr Pussy (Alan Amsby) 


Posted 1 month ago in More

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In 1969 English entertainer and female impersonator Alan Amsby came to Ireland for a week and stayed forever. Brian McMahon of Brand New Retro spoke to Alan about his success with Mr Pussy, his previous life in London and compiled these 50 Pussy facts to celebrate his 50 years living in Dublin.

1  Born and raised in Peckham, London.

2  An only child, he left school at 15.

3  Worked as a wig stylist where he met Marlene Dietrich, Shirley Bassey and Dirk Bogarde.

4  Went to drag shows at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London.

5  Began performing drag as part of a duo at the Vauxhall in 1968.

6  Met Judy Garland, Johnny Ray, Kenneth Williams, Noel Coward, Brian Epstein, and Rudolf Nureyev.

7  Modelled as a girl for a Carnaby Street fashion promotion, the photo caused a sensation.

8  Marjorie Proops featured the photo in her Daily Mirror page with the headline “Which one is the guy?”

9  The photo also appeared in Titbits, Weekend, Queen and Nova magazines.

10  Shay Healy ran a similar “can you tell the difference?” story in the Evening Press later in 1970.

11  Jeremy, the UK’s first gay magazine, featured Alan and an up-and-coming David Bowie in the same issue.

12  Met Bowie backstage at the London Palladium in 1969 and discussed Space Oddity.

13  His first overseas gig was in Belfast in 1969, just after the Troubles started.

14  The show was a sensational hit and was extended by three more weeks.

15  Came to Dublin and secured gigs at the Baggot Inn and The Drake Inn, Finglas.

16  After performing to adoring capacity crowds he decided to remain in Ireland.

17  Rented a flat in Mount Street and did over one hundred gigs in his first year.

18  In 1970, journalist Donal Corvin said, “He has become the most successful cabaret act ever to visit Ireland.”

19  Played at venues all over the country and became known as Ireland’s “leading misleading lady.”

20  Appeared on RTE and the Late Late Show over many decades.

21  Also appeared on BBC, ITV, UTV and TV3.

22  Gave Dermot Morgan one of his first stage breaks.

23  Held a residency in Butlins Mosney in the 1980s and 1990s.

24  Had previously visited Mosney as a child on holiday with his parents.

25  Wrote, directed and performed Cinderfella, Ireland’s first adult panto in 1985.

26  Did traditional pantos including Jack and the Beanstalk with Eileen Reid and Sonny Knowles.

27  Became great friends with Thom McGinty (The Diceman) who came to Dublin in 1976 from Glasgow.

28 Carried Thom’s coffin down Grafton Street at The Diceman’s funeral in 1994.

29  Talks in the forthcoming TV documentary about the Diceman.

30  Performed at Mountjoy Prison in 1986. As a guest!

31  First saw his idol Danny La Rue in 1965 and later became lifetime friends.

32  A good friend of Paul O’Grady (Lily Savage), he often stays with Paul on his farm in Kent.

33  Appeared with O’Grady in Jim Sheridans’ movie In The Name of The Father.

34 Previously worked with Jim Sheridan at the Project Arts Theatre in the 1970s.

35  Starred in Peter Sheridan’s production of The Ha’penny Place with Jeananne Crowley, Ciaran Hinds, Virginia Cole. Agnes Bernelle and Mannix Flynn.

36  Sang Kiss me Honey, Honey Kiss Me with Bono at Gavin Friday’s wedding in 1992.

37  The Big Issue magazine featured a Q&A with Mr Pussy in its first issue.

38  Opened all night cafe, Mr Pussy’s Cafe De Luxe in Suffolk Street with Bono, Gavin Friday and Jim Sheridan in 1994.

39  Cafe sign said, “No drugs, no dogs, drags by approval.”

40  It became the in-place for visiting stars including Mel Gibson, REM, Shane MacGowan, Naomi Campbell, Van Morrison, Britt Ekland, Andy Bell, Sinead O’Connor, Marrianne Faithful, Christy Turlington, Sean Connery and Gabriel Byrne.

41  Mr Pussy performed at three in the morning, followed by bingo.

42 The menu included Pussy Pies, Pussy Fries, Gavin Fry-days and a Pint of Pussy (a milk bottle)

43  Alan’s mother celebrated her 80th birthday at the cafe in July 1994.

44  Gavin Friday wrote the song Mr Pussy for his 1995 album Shag Tobacco.

45  Pat McCabe’s book Breakfast on Pluto was also inspired by Alan’s story.

46  His biography Mr Pussy, Before I Forget to Remember, written with David Kenny, was published in 2016.

47  Rory O’Neill (Panti Bliss) wrote the foreword and Paul O’Grady provided a quote.

48  Rory wrote, “It takes balls to be a fairy, but to be a fairy in full drag in 1970s Ireland (and with an English accent to boot!) took more than mere balls.”

49 Received Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cork Style Awards in 2018.

50  Was special guest of honour at the 50 Years of Pride Celebration at the National Concert Hall in November 2019.

Words: Brian McMahon, Brand New Retro

Image Credits:

Professional photo 1967 (Photo: Mike Arlen)

Alan today (Photo: Brian McMahon)

Alan as Mr Pussy with Anne Doyle at 50 Years of Pride in Nov 2019 (photo: Mark McMorrow)

Alan in 1970 (from New Spotlight)

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