Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Toot And Come In!

Because our WWDP conference has been focussing on Egypt, there have been lots of very bad Pharaoh and Mummy puns, and frequent references to “Wilson, Keppel and Betty” [That may give you a clue to the ages of many of the people here]

W,K&B formed one of the greatest eccentric dance acts of all time, but their story is shrouded in contradictions and myth. Liverpudlian Jack Wilson and Irishman Joe Keppel were doleful, gangling, moustachioed and skinny-legged. They wore parodies of Eastern dress, usually a fez and a short nightshirt, revealing their scrawny legs. The third member was the glamorous Betty - who over the years was played by several different women[they kept changing her for a younger model!]

tutThe discovery of Tutankhamen’s Tomb in 1922 had led to an obsession with all things Egyptian and they capitalised on this.They performed a side-splitting sand dance based on poses familiar from Egyptian tomb art, with Betty as the central seductress. Their complete seriousness added to the hilarity.

From the early 1930's the trio became an established feature of British variety shows and were chosen for several Royal Variety Performances. Because the act was visual and hence instantly understandable to anyone, they received many offers to perform throughout Europe. In 1938 it was reported that whilst performing in Berlin they upset Goebbels who was disgusted at the display of bare legs, calling them 'bad for the morals of Nazi Youth'. Mussolini, however, is said to have loved the act.

The pair retired in 1963, and Wilson died in 1970, Keppel died 7 years later. I remember seeing them on the tiny black and white TV of my childhood. They were, indeed, very bizarre!


  1. I remember seeing this on tv when I was a child....


  2. I remember this act too. My Mum and Dad could do a mean impression too!
    Jane x

  3. We know this scene very well indeed - my daughter tap dances so we often 'review' classic dances from times past. Thank you for reminding us all of it Angela and thank for making me laugh on my blog too!
    Best wishes
    PS Barry sends his regards...


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