Joe’s a true survivor

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HAVING survived bankruptcy, depression, a serious car crash and being given the last rites four times after a 16-year battle with cancer, very little in life gets Joe Longthorne wound up any more.

But the singing star, who performs at Lancaster’s Grand Theatre this Saturday (May 26), does get frustrated when he recalls his last visit to our district.

Two years ago, Longthorne was the last big-name act to perform at the Morecambe Dome, before the bulldozers moved in.

“What a shame, why knock it down?” he says.

“When I speak to people in the business, like Roy Walker, they all have fond memories of coming to Morecambe (during its heyday).

“But it’s the same everywhere. You might be on a fantastic programme like The Voice or The X Factor, and then your record is a hit. But what happens then?

“Venues are closing every five minutes, the clubs have gone; there’s nowhere for these kids to play. But wherever there’s a theatre open, that’s where I’ll go.”

The 56-year-old is a workaholic, playing sell-out gigs all over the world to delighted audiences.

His highly-publicised health problems have not stopped him continuing a gruelling schedule.

Then again, Longthorne has travelling in his blood, as his father was a travelling showman and his mother a Romany gypsy.

“I was brought up singing and acting,” he says.

“Mum was a great singer and dad played piano. They used to go around pubs busking.

“I was playing working men’s clubs by the time I was 15. I’ve always grafted.”

Longthorne developed a knack for impersonations, perfectly mimicking the singing style of performers including Tom Jones and, most famously, Shirley Bassey.

In 1981, an appearance on TV’s Search For A Star shot him to fame. “It was a great thing for me but I only came third. The Irish panel wouldn’t vote for me, they thought I was miming.”

This led to appearances at the London Palladium and his own prime time TV show, The Joe Longthorne Show, from 1988 to 1991.

Then he was struck down with lymphoma, a form of blood cancer which very nearly proved fatal. He carried on working and responded well to treatment initially, but the disease would not go away and he developed leukaemia.

Joe had a bone marrow transplant in 2005 and barely survived, being given the last rites four times. But now he is completely clear of the disease, and says his battle for life has changed his outlook completely.

“I started to see all the good things in life, and all the wonderful things to get involved with. I’m not so natty and jumpy any more. I try to be kind to other people.

“I do a lot of charity work, although I’m not a goody two shoes, in fact I’m a bit of a lad!

“But if you can’t help somebody, it’s a poor world.”

Although originally from Hull, Joe is settled in his adopted home of Blackpool. He moved to the seaside after he went bankrupt, which he says was self-inflicted. “It’s like winning the pools when you get on telly, all this money coming in. Then it all went bump.

“I was living down south in a mansion. I thought I was Donald Trump.”

But Joe realised that money isn’t as important as health and happiness. And what makes him happy is entertaining people.

“It’s nice that people spend a few bob coming to see me,” he says.

“Hopefully they are satisfied by the end of the night.”

Joe Longthorne’s show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £20, available by calling 01524 64695 or log on to {http:// www.lancastergrand.co.uk|www.lancastergrand.co.uk}