Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Mae West: June Gray

MAE WEST went to England in 1947 — — not to visit the Queen but to tour like a Bowery countess with her play "Diamond Lil" featuring a British crew.
• • Actress June Uttley Gray was in that cast — — and often remembered for it.
• • According to her obituary, June Gray (nee Uttley), the widow of Danny Gray and sister-in-law of ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray of the Crazy Gang, was a well loved figure in London theatreland.
• • Born in 1926 in East London, June was the daughter of theatrical parents. Harold, her father, was a musician; Joy, her mother, was a singer and dancer. Like her mum, pretty June launched her career as a dancer in several West End shows.
• • In 1948, she was only 22 when she played the suicidal Sally in the London Production of "Diamond Lil" at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Interestingly, perhaps Mae's influence on June led to her touring the United States for two years, learning the trapeze and working with the lions.
• • On her return to London, she met and married Danny Gray, a talented juggler, and for many years they toured together in variety shows all over the country.
• • Never giving up her love for the theatre until the very end, cheerful and warm-hearted June Gray died in England in the month of April — — on 8 April 2008.
• • Ah, those glory days in London town at the venerable Prince of Wales Theatre on Coventry Street, near Leicester Square in the City of Westminster. Established in 1884 (when NYC's Bowery was often in the newspapers), it was rebuilt in 1937, and then extensively refurbished in 2004.

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