The lady from the Elephant House


THE FACE, the figure are widely known. The hair is rust-red, worn in two sausage coils over the brow, and she has been providing laughs on the screen with nearly every comedian - you can mention.
The lady describes herself as "a fat old bag, with a soppy face, a load of cheek and the language of a billingsgate fishwife" she laughs with the tones of a croaking frog, and is one of the most lovable characters I've ever met.
When she appeared in Blackpool recently for a season of the Arthur Haynes show, she was overwhelmed by affectionate women fans of 50-plus who came up to her, hugged her and said she was "proper grand."
Rita Webb character actress lives in a small terraced house in London's Notting Hill Gate.
"It's a rum area, but they know me here, and I feel at home."
She piloted photographer Peter Abbey and I through the front door and plonked us down in the kitchen, before a huge plate of sandwiches, cups of tea and two large cakes.
The Rita Webb show took the air.
She's twice as colourful offstage as any comedian she acts with; Cockney honour rolls out of her.
The interview in one sense fell down flat. She just talked, I just laughed, And Peter was under strict orders to "stop that bloomin' camera and get some food down yer."
The only interval came with a phone call from a TV wardrobe girl asking for Rita's measurements. Out came the tape and yours truly was enlisted to navigate slowly round a 48-40-49 packed comfily on to a frame of just 4ft. 10in, currently weighing nearly 14 stone.
I read the taped results to be greeted by hoots of laughter:


Valerie Green


Peter Abbey

"I once tried a slimming diet, but the doctor I went to chucked me out after only a week, as a lost cause!"
"Do you know, people in this neighbourhood used to call this the elephant house." She continued . . . apropos of something completely different . . ."Jeffy - my hubby - and I used to have a large China elephant in the window and the children simply adored it. But then my cat jumped at it, knocked it over and it broke.
"soon we'll be putting up our Christmas tree with lights on. We leave the curtains open so that everyone can see.
"There are two old ladies living opposite who wait for it every-one of em's nearly 90-and it would break their hearts if one year, the tree wasn't there.
"I'm not a religious person myself you know, but I believe in doing to others as you would be done by, each Christmas I give a bit of something to a Jewish charity-and the C of E - in memory of my father-then I think I can't leave the Catholics out in the cold and give 'em something too.
"My entire earnings for Christmas week go to charity, and if I'm ever not working them, then it's the week's after.
"I've a lot to be thankful

for you see. Half of my life revolves round my work, which I love, and of which thank goodness, I always have plenty.
"The other half is centred on my hubby, Jeff, he used to be a banjo player in the Black and White Minstrel show. And was also in variety music hall. But now he teaches music at a school.
"He's a sweet, unselfish man and we're still very much in love, mind you he's got more talent than I have.
, if only he pushed himself.
"He invented and patented the first organ-guitar in this country.
"But I'm the one with all the cheek. After the war when I decided to take up acting again, I wrote to the head of the BBC telly and said they could do with one or two REAL actresses, instead of the stuff I'd been seeing lately.
"I was given an audition for Ally Pally and signed on for a fee of seven guineas with one guinea rehersal fee. But this part led to others, people started to recommend me for character parts, and I've never lacked work since then.
"I ran away from home at the age of 14 and because I looked 18 I managed to get a job as a chorus girl for 35 bob a week. In those days my family thought the theatre was quiet shocking, nearly as bad as being on the streets, and they set out to haul me back home.
"After two months they found me and brought me back, But I was still dreadfully restless, so at 15 I got married to a young chemist, seven years older than me, and left home that way instead, Later we were divorced. When I met Jeffy I was much older and much wiser, and we've been happy ever after."

Evening Post Saturday 12th November 1966