From the Washington Club to the Eurovision for Engelbert

Who remembers the one and only Washington 400? A touch of 'Viva Las Vegas' in Norwich.

In 2012, he is preparing for the biggest gig of his life – back in the Swinging Sixties he was sipping champagne with Les 'Mr Wymondham' King and singing at an intimate Norwich club.

Here we have Engelbert Humperdinck when he starred at the still-talked about Washington Club with two of the great characters who worked there – Les King and Tony Weston.

'He was a nice chap with a good voice,' recalled Les after hearing that Engelbert, one of the great survivors on the international music scene, is to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest.

The evergreen Engelbert, now in his 70s, is tuning up for the weird and wonderful contest which is taking place in Azerbaijan in May and is said to be watched by more than 100 million people.


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'Let's hope he wins it for us,' said Les, who back in those days ran the Regal Cinema in Wymondham before climbing on his scooter and heading for the Washington Club where he worked alongside owner Roy Dashwood and his brother Colin.

Engelbert – who had No 1 hits with Release Me and The Last Waltz – was just one of the stars who appeared in cabaret at the Washington on Salhouse Road where you could also gamble at the tables and watch exotic dancers.

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'You could also get a chicken supper for 7/6 – about 37p,' smiled Les, the former boxer who has done so much to help and promote the Norwich Lads Club and sport in general across Norfolk over the years.

Among his duties at the Washington was to look after the stars when they appeared – the likes of Bob Monkhouse, Danny La Rue, Frankie Howerd, Ray Martine, Diana Dors and former Miss World Ann Sidney.

But one of the most popular people at the club was the outrageous, talented and quick-witted singer and compere Tony Weston.

There was never a dull moment when he was around. The Washington Hotel (Club 400), to give it its correct title, was the gaming and cabaret capital of Norfolk.

Opened in the 1960s by colourful Norwich businessman Roy Dashwood, this was the city's own touch of Las Vegas, but it closed after the gaming laws changed.

At the time Roy said: 'You will note that I walk out of the Washington on the day the gambling expires on June 30, 1970 – timed to the minute.'

Drop me a line at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email me at derek.james@archant.co.uk if you have any Washington memories to share. If you ever went, you will remember it well.

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