De Alba on Chucklebutty
By Entertainer David de Alba*
It is my pleasure to interview on June of the year 2000, Comedienne Extraordinaire Gladys Chucklebutty, (real name Donna Collins) an exciting new UK entertainer. She was born in 'Diddy' Dunbar, home of Sunburn and Chilblaines, 28 miles from Edinburgh, on the South East coast of Scotland in 1973. She is a big fan of entertainer Ken Dodd and finally met him in 1997. Now with his permission, does charity shows all over Britain with her little "Dickie Mint". Let me introduce to you now, my new Cyberspace pen pal, the talented and versatile Gladys Chucklebutty.
David: Gladys dear, how long have you been performing professionally on stage?
Gladys: I have been doing my "One Woman Variety Show," since 1996, but at this level for two years.
David: When did you get that special call in your heart that you knew for sure you were hooked on grease paint and the stage?
Gladys: Christmas 1995. We had been to see Britain's leading comedian, Ken Dodd earlier that year at Blackpool. I was a great fan of his when I was a child. He had a band of little men called the 'Diddymen' who lived in Knotty Ash and worked the Jam Butty Mines, Broken Biscuit Repair Works, and Moggie Ranch. I had always wanted to meet them, and to see Knotty Ash. I wrote over 100 letters to Jimmy Savile, a TV presenter, who made kids dreams come true. I never got a reply. Then in 1995, when in Blackpool, I saw a poster for one of Ken's shows. I went to see it and it brought back wonderful colourful memories of my childhood. I knew at the age of 22 I was too big to fit into the little land of Knotty Ash, so I made a replica of Dickie Mint, the foreman of the Jam Butty mines. I was asked to do a little 10 minute slot for a local pensioners Christmas party by my mum so I could say that I had used the puppet, and he was not just a lump of wood. So I did. Then someone else heard about it, and that was it. It just clicked . . . and I've been clicking ever since . . . a one woman maraca band !!
David: Do you like to perform mainly as a solo artist, or do you like to be in a revue format, allowing you less burden to carry on your shoulders?
Gladys: Yes, I am a solo performer, though I have worked with other artists in the past and enjoy doing so. I enjoy the challenge of the solo act. You get a stronger response from the audience. Make no mistake, it isn't easy. It can often be very cold and lonely, especially when it's not going well. Though I don't know about you, but I know when I'm doing a good show when I start to sweat. I know then that I'm working well. But as I said, I also enjoy working with others.
David: Comedy is the main part of your act, but what other theatrical things do you incorporate into your repertoire?
Gladys: Well, I play the bagpipes in most of the shows. I am also a magician, ventriloquist, and singer. I like to add various aspects of variety to my shows, as well as the stand-up comedy. There is a whole generation and a half, which have never experienced the magical, charged atmosphere of a good live performance. So many of them are turning to it as a 'Fab New' experience.
David: Do you have a particular Star you consider as your idol or that you are so impressed by his/her talents that your own theatrical life has been influenced?
Gladys: There are a few whom I have admired over the years. Les Dawson, one of Britainís most loveable comics, Tommy Cooper, comedian / magician, Frankie Howerd, comedian, Benny Hill, comedian, Freddie Star. The list can go on, but the most influence is from Ken Dodd.
David: You have a very interesting theatrical Web site. Do you feel it has helped you in any way to promote your show other than just letting a lot of people out there in the Web know more about what Gladys is all about?
Gladys: It has helped, though not to start with. The promotion of it wasn't right, but we do get some very interesting responses to the site. It also saves a lot on sending out c.v.'s, etc. to potential customers, as they can log on and have a look at the latest shows.
David: Because of having your own Web site, has it helped you in any way in meeting other entertainers or people who can identify with you and your work as a performer?
Gladys: Here in Dunbar I am rather isolated from other variety artists. I have had people from all over the world, most wonderful people, giving all sorts of advice and sincere support. Though there have been one or two who seem to think they have the right to slagg you off to try and make themselves look big, we just ignore them.
David: If you could let someone out there that represents theatrical talent know something about you and your act that could help you achieve your ultimate goal, what would that be?
Gladys: I would love to get more experience with audiences South of the Border, i.e. England, and eventually do a Summer Season in Blackpool. It would be nice to team up with another comedian for a while as their warm-up act to get the experience. I can work hard enough, and I know I can do it!
David: Do you have a particular medium of entertainment that you enjoy doing best, let's say, among the live stage, television, radio, or movies?
Gladys: But definitely LIVE STAGE. Nothing beats it. When you perform you fling out as much love as you can to your audience. Treat them right and they will respect you and 2,000 in a theatre or just 30 in an old folks home, will smother you with all the love they have . . . a tremendous feeling. Cameras can't shake your hand after a show!
David: At this time of your life, what would Gladys like to achieve and leave behind on this Earth to be remembered by most fondly?
Gladys: Britain's most loved and respected comedienne, who can entertain an audience for 6 hours!!!
David: I understand your shows were mostly geared to mature audiences in the past, but now you also want to reach a younger audience to bring to them a new loving message through your performance. Can you elaborate on that?
Gladys: Yes. I hope to tour schools in Scotland with a drugs and "stranger danger" show, which will enable kids to, (1) identify situations they should avoid, (2) how to avoid them and deal with them, and (3) that they always have the right to say NO. The subjects we will cover will be; Drugs, Strangers, Abuse (physical and sexual), Bullying, Smoking, and Alcohol. We are still trying to get funding for it, but should have it ready for the next school term. I like the experience of working with children. It adds that extra bit to the Variety Shows I do.
David: If you could change your life in any way, (if you had the chance to be born again all over), what would Gladys want changed?
Gladys: My BUM!! Seriously, a little less loneliness.
David: Do you have any unusual hobbies or pets you enjoy and would like others to know about?
Gladys: I do some glass engraving and I go fly fishing. I find both nice and relaxing. If I have a problem to solve, I engrave. If Iím working on some new material, I fish.
David: Is there anything in particular, that through this interview, you would like to let the readers know what Gladys is all about, or what is being misunderstood by some people?
Gladys: A lot of people, when they hear the name Ken Dodd, think I do one of his shows. I suppose it's due to all the "lookie likie" acts going about. I admit I did use a little of his material to start with, an apprenticeship if you like. I wasn't too sure why comedy worked, but my show now is all my own material. Also being young(ish), people think all new comics will be brash and abusive. I am a Family Entertainer who does not swear or be filthy during my shows . . . all original, all truly zany.
David: Is Show-biz your only livelihood, or do you have a "day job"?
Gladys: I work part-time as a care assistant / domestic in a Church of Scotland Day Center. I used to work in their nursing home, but it was closed at Christmas and I was first made redundant, then transferred.
David: If you could ask your Guardian Angel to grant you one wish, what would that be?
Gladys: One word, Contentment!
It was an extreme privilege for me to meet you David in the Internet world. You gave me one of the warmest interviews I've had. Thank you. I also feel honoured that I am included the celebrity interviews with so many talented and interesting people. David has worked extremely hard and is dedicated to the wonderful world of Showbiz, and I hope he is here for many sparkling years to come. With all the love in my heart, Gladys, your little Scottish Rose, XXXXX
Visit Gladys' Web Site at http://members.tripod.co.uk/GLADYS/
You can contact Gladys at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Cuban/American entertainer David de Alba (also known as "Heri, Hairstylist of the Stars") is known for his live singing impressions as a concert artist since 1965. He has worked at the world famous Finocchio Club of San Francisco (USA) for many years. Visit the award winning Web Site "David de Albaís Theatrical Arts & Tributes" athttp://david-de-alba.com and you can e-mail him c/o email@example.com