Anorak | Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Tarbuck And The Diamond Cigarette Holder Heist

Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Tarbuck And The Diamond Cigarette Holder Heist

by | 30th, June 2014

TV's elegant comedian Terry-Thomas, who exhibits a distinctive sartorial style, returns from a holiday in Madeira sporting a cap and extended cigarette holder. He carries a bush of orchids for his wife. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images


TERRY-Thomas had arrived. It wasn’t exactly overnight but most people thought so. It was 1946 and he was compèring a revue called Piccadilly Hayride at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The revue, its star Sid Fields and the gap-toothed compère were a tremendous success critically and with the paying public. Within three or four weeks of the run the newspapers were already reporting that Terry Thomas (the hypen was to arrive the following year) was to appear in that year’s Royal Variety Performance.

As well as compèring the show, T-T also performed a sketch called Technical Hitch where he played a hassled BBC DJ who has broken or mislaid all his records. To cover this up to his listeners, and with the help of an accompanying pianist, Terry-Thomas used his vocal range of four and a half octaves to mimic the singers; including Noël Coward, Paul Robeson and Yma Sumac before meeting his Waterloo with…the entire Luton Girls Choir. It was an extremely popular routine and he would perform all his career.




Born in London, Thomas had actually made his stage debut in 1930, albeit a very minor turn, when he performed as Thos Stevens (his full name was Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens), at the Union of Electric Railwayman’s Dining Club in South Kensington. He worked briefly at Smithfield’s market and also as a travelling salesman of electrical equipment a job he didn’t dislike as he was able to dress up and entertain people while pitching his wares. In his spare time he began playing the ukulele with a local jazz band called the Rhythm Maniacs but also took up dancing and formed a partnership with the sister of Jessie Matthews, the London-born filmstar. The act appeared in local dancehall exhibitions and they earned well from it. Terry-Thomas also occasionally appeared in small roles in British films, although all but one were uncredited. During the war he was with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) and Stars in Battledress. Both of which honed and sharpened his cabaret and comic skills.


Piccadilly Hayride programme, 1946.


Piccadilly Hayride was so successful it ran for 778 shows that T-T decided it was time to live the live he thought was due. It didn’t take long before he went out and found an elegant and exclusive place to live 11 Queen’s Gate Mews in South Kensington. He also took on a housekeeper, a secretary and a butler-cum-chauffeur called Harrup. His very expensive suits were made by the celebrity tailor Cyril Castle from Savile Row. The suits all had one very special requirement, however, the breast pocket had to be seven inches deep to accommodate a cigarette holder.

Despite giving up smoking soon after the war for health-reasons, Terry-Thomas , throughout his career, always carried a long, expensive cigarette holder. When he started smoking as a teenager he came to believe that he had, what he called, ‘classic hands’. He hated the thought of them being sullied by nicotine-stained fingers.


Terry-Thomas in 1957


In January 1960 Terry-Thomas’s carefully nurtured fame was at its height. He was appearing in midnight charity event at the Odeon Theatre in Liverpool. After coming off stage and getting back to his dressing room he quickly realised that his expensive custom-made cigarette holder was missing. It wasn’t just any old cigarette

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Posted: 30th, June 2014 | In: Celebrities, Flashback, Key Posts Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink

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