Forgotten memoirs of Banbury’s famous son

New play about life of Larry Grayson gets Arts Council funding SUS-161201-122427001
New play about life of Larry Grayson gets Arts Council funding SUS-161201-122427001

A new book on one of Banbury’s most famous exports features insights from the star’s personal memoirs that have been lost in storage for over 20 years.

Entitled Shut That Door! – The Definitive Biography of Larry Grayson, the book features newly-discovered memoirs revealing the TV star’s innermost thoughts about his one lost love, Tom Proctor, who was killed in the Second World War.

Larry Grayson with his foster sister Fan in their back garden in Nuneaton. NNL-170612-111753001

Larry Grayson with his foster sister Fan in their back garden in Nuneaton. NNL-170612-111753001

The memoirs also document his clashes with gay activists at the height of his career and his complicated upbringing.

Written by scriptwriter and producer Tony Nicholson, Shut That Door! also includes never-before-seen photographs found in the star’s archive, along with research obtained from his leather-bound scrapbooks that featured posters, flyers and tickets which he collated throughout his career.

Mr Nicholson said: “Larry and Tom were at school together, having bonded age five. They hated sport and woodwork, and anything that involved getting their hands dirty.

“Neither of them were academically inclined, preferring to giggle in class and discuss the latest Hollywood gems – they were both film mad. The pair left school at the age of 14. Tom got a mundane job and Larry went straight into professional show business. He added:“Both were called up for national service when the Second World War broke out; Tom was taken into the army, but Larry failed his medical.

“Tom was killed at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy towards the end of the war and Larry never really recovered from the loss.”

The rediscovered memoirs also document his time at school, his first stage appearance in a nativity aged five and disclose his famous characters, such as Apricot Lil and Slack Alice were real people and dated back to him entertaining in air raid shelters. Mr Grayson was planning to call his autobiography And It All Came True.

Mr Nicholson said: “When I was writing the book, I kept hearing about this autobiography Larry was supposed to be writing in the 1980s. He also mentioned it in several interviews I viewed and read.

“No-one else seemed to have any recollection of it and it was only when Paul Vaughan invited me to go to a storage warehouse, where all Larry’s personal effects had been gathering dust since his death 20 years earlier, the puzzle fell into place.

“There were countless boxes of pretty mundane stuff, but then I had an Indiana Jones moment! I found a lot of photographs, many of which are included in the book, and then this bulging folder of hand-written A4 pages. It was the incomplete autobiography, all written in Larry’s own fair hand.”

Born illegitimately in Banbury, in 1923, Grayson’s mother arranged for him to be fostered by a family in Nuneaton, Warwickshire at just nine weeks old, where he lived most of his life.