The many faces of Marshal Pete Wood
In the second part at his look back at the history of a building at the heart of Norwich's entertainment scene, Derek James remembers one of its leading lights - Peter Wood, AKA Marshal Pete.
So many stars appeared in person and on the screen at the old Carlton/Gaumont on All Saints Green, but when it switched to bingo, one star shone more brightly than any other.
He was a cowboy, he was Rocket Man, he was Zorro, he was Ned Kelly, he was Howard Keel ....he was Peter Wood. And he was known to one and all as The Marshal – one of the greatest characters the city has seen in recent years.
Yesterday we heard from comedian Peachy Mead about his memories of the former cinema turned bingo hall on All Saints Green which is now closed.
It was a centre for live and screen entertainment from 1932 until 1973 when it became Top Rank and later Mecca Bingo.
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But the entertainment carried on in the shape of Pete Wood – the celebrity caller who entertained thousands of people every week. Many people loved going to the club because of Pete and became good friends with this gentle giant.
For years his day job was calling the numbers at the bingo hall and making sure everything ran smoothly, but he was also an excellent singer with a rich voice and an urban cowboy who once held the official world record for drawing and firing a gun.
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It was such a shock when Pete died in the summer of 1995 at the age of just 55, leaving wife Vivian and daughters Zillah, Bernadette and Naomi heartbroken. His parents were theatre people and on leaving school Pete worked behind the stage before joining the RAF and got his first taste of being a 'lawman' when he became a dog handler and arrived in Norfolk.
He met the love of his life Viv and in the early 1970s they settled in Norwich where he started to make a name for himself on the entertainment scene.
'I am a lucky man,' he once told me. 'I always wanted to be a cowboy and I have made a living from it. I have brought up three children and paid for my house by being a cowboy.'
His unique mix of gunslinging, cowboy capers and songs was a smash hit in the pubs and clubs.
He transformed himself into a host of Hollywood heroes – and he walked the streets of Norwich as Aussie bandit Ned Kelly – not many could say they did that!
Pete also loved the movies and had his own museum at his home.
He was one of the hardest-working and most genuine entertainers in the region and he was one of the good guys...helping so many other young people make their way through the rough and tumble world of showbiz.
'And he was also one of the best singers this region has ever known,' added his old sparring partner Peachy.
Happy memories of a great character.