Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce to you the one and only Helga Stone – impressionist of the stars.
|Never the same girl twice|
Billed as “Never the Same Girl Twice” Helga, now 96, spent the wartime years on stage impersonating the stars of the day.
Born into a theatrical family Helga was destined for the stage from a very early age. She became, along with her parents and sister Billie, part of the very first real radio family in "Breakfast with the Murgatroyds" on the BBC Home Service. Helga starred in pantomime as principal boy, had a double act - The Harmony Gems - with her glamorous mother Josie and was part of a family touring musical comedy act before breaking away and going solo with Impressions of the Stars which made her one of the country's leading female impressionists during the 1940’s.
|The Harmony Gems|
Helga has fascinating anecdotes about life in the music halls and stories of people she met and worked with including Ronnie Corbett, Sid Field, Arthur Askey, Jack Warner, Elsie and Doris Waters, Jessie Matthews, Tessie O'Shea and the Western Brothers.
Some of her experiences resonate today. She was advised by a theatrical entrepreneur at 17 that if she had a nose job he would make her a star. 105 guineas was a lot of money in the 1930s but she had it done and does not seem to have regretted it. Working on pantomimes they broke records for first sisters playing principal boy and girl and first mother and daughter playing Prince Charming to Cinderella. Helga got to travel to Europe in the post war Combined Services Entertainment [which replaced ENSA] where they were sent to keep the British and American troops happy.
As an impressionist Helga had one or two men in her impressionist repertoire including Max Miller who saw her act and complimented her on her impersonation of him, and Maurice Chevalier. Other impressionists were rarely on the same bill but she recalls one time when Peter Sellers was on and they checked out that they were not impersonating the same people – they weren’t. Of course a popular impersonation was Gracie Fields and she enjoyed impersonating Joyce Grenfell. In fact Helga was once mistaken for the real Joyce Grenfell which was quite a boost, and she still has the telegram from Tessie O’Shea giving her permission to impersonate her.
Helga had a period in the 1950’s as a Lady Ratling which sounds fun and riven with riotous ritual. The Grand Order of Lady Ratlings is a women’s theatrical charitable body 83 years old this year.
Helga always wanted to write about her experiences in the theatre but waited until she was 92 before embarking on this. And of course it is full of fascinating music hall memorabilia with a few very precious copies for Helga, and her family and friends. Take a bow Helga Stone...