What happened when we ‘jumped ship’ from normal life
- Credit: Su Anderson
Life hasn’t worked out quite as Eve Regelous planned when she was a young dance student but she and husband Peter have still got plenty of showbiz stories to share. Sheena Grant listened to a few of them.
It all started, says Eve Regelous, theatrical agent, event organiser, public speaker, presenter, wedding florist and greyhound lover, with her husband, Peter, a Buddy Holly lookalike and two jugglers.
It’s a statement that raises more questions than it answers (all will be revealed later) but anyway, Eve’s showbiz career actually started way before that.
She began dance classes at the age of just two and by her early 20s was running her own variety group, through which she met her husband, Peter.
“We lived 10 doors down the road from each other,” she says. “He played guitar, joined the variety group and we got together.”
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They’ve been together ever since, through good times and bad. Over the years they’ve held down desk jobs, quit to work as entertainers and rub shoulders with the stars, seen their hugely successful business falter after the 2008 financial crash and risen Phoenix-like from the ashes.
Eve and Peter are survivors who have learned to turn their hands to all manner of things in order to do what they love best: entertain and connect with others. They’re also very warm, welcoming people, who lay on copious amounts of tea and biscuits when I visit their Witham home, where they’ve lived since relocating from Goodmayes in 1976 as part of the London overspill.
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Most recently, Eve has moved into the world of public speaking, regaling audiences with stories of her life as an event organiser and celebrity booking agent and her time working with Harrods.
And what stories they are.
At times it’s all seemed a bit surreal, speaking to stars of stage and screen on the phone from their spare bedroom ‘office’. There was, for instance, the time Peter was redecorating when Bruce Welch from legendary guitar group The Shadows phoned.
“The Shadows are my heroes,” says Peter. “That was a strange moment. Something similar happened with Suzi Quatro. Even when you run a business from your home, moments like that take you by surprise.”
That business is Showstoppers, the events and entertainment company Eve started in 1991.
It was launched when Peter left a 9-5 police job after a period of ill health and decided to make a living through singing, going under the stage name Peter King.
“I didn’t know anything else,” he says.
But in order to get work he had to deal with agents, some of whom, claims Eve, were not always as straightforward as they should have been.
She herself had been working in a variety of admin jobs after her ambitions to be a dancer were thwarted.
“My mum had wanted to be a dancer too and had pursued those ambitions through me, dragging me to dance classes from the age of two,” she says. “I went on to ballet school but I was the wrong shape and wrong height to be a dancer. I tried for a bit but then started the variety group, teaching kids, and had secretarial training as a standby.
“I’d worked in a variety of offices. So when Peter was having trouble with agents, I thought, I’ve got an admin background. I could do this. And that’s what I did, starting off with Peter, a Buddy Holly lookalike and a couple of jugglers.”
It wasn’t the first time Eve’s can-do attitude had led her to new areas of work. When a magician in one of her variety shows dropped out she taught herself all the tricks of the trade in six weeks and ended up becoming one of the first women to be admitted to the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
Showstoppers soon took off and before she knew it, Eve was booking celebrities, entertainers and organising events in shopping centres and for corporate clients.
“We started off providing jugglers and face painters but then one client came along and asked if I booked celebrities,” she says. “I said yes, even though I had limited experience at that time, and ended up booking Mr Blobby for an event in Chelmsford.
“Over the years I booked 70 different celebrities for that client, everyone from Peter André to (celebrity chefs) James Martin, Jamie Oliver and (television presenters) Caron Keating and Charlie Dimmock. They would make personal appearances or do a performance or demonstration for the event in question. It was really good fun, challenging and interesting.”
Almost all the celebrities were charming and easy to work with but some were very different to their on-screen personas.
“Denise Van Outen was quite surprising,” says Eve. “In front of an audience she is very confident but on a one-to-one basis she comes across as being very shy. Almost all the celebrities were lovely. James Martin was so sweet and (actress) Tamzin Outhwaite was super. So was Caron Keating.
“Peter André was a dream. He was so generous and kind. I worked with him at the height of when he was a pop star. We did a Christmas lights switch-on with him.”
Eve also worked with ‘90s pop duo Alisha’s Attic, siblings whose father is Brian Poole of the Tremeloes fame.
“We met Brian Poole during a summer season and told him about the agency. He mentioned his daughters and when we had a light switch-on in Slough we booked them,” says Eve. “It was just at the time their single The Incidentals was in the charts. After they’d switched on the lights, they said: ‘Don’t you want us to sing?’ They’d brought their acoustic guitars and just sang for about 20 minutes. It was brilliant.”
Of course, there were celebrities who came with a long list of diva demands, but, says Eve, even that was not always as it seemed.
She mentions booking one soap actress “and her management company made all sorts of demands ? she had to have a club class flight from Manchester to Heathrow, a five-star hotel, flowers and so on. After the event we were talking and she asked why we’d laid on all those things for her.
“When I told her she said: ‘A cup of tea and a sandwich would have been fine. Here’s my card; ring me direct next time’. She was actually very down to earth.
“Sometimes it’s management companies that make the demands, not the celebrity themselves. It’s almost like they think demanding a certain fee or other things give their clients more credibility.”
Another major client was the Knightsbridge store Harrods, for which Eve organised instore events, parades and Christmas shows.
“We worked with Harrods from 1996 to 2007. It was an incredible decade,” she says. “It was quite humbling because you don’t imagine you are going to deal with a company like that. It was a magical place and I got to meet (then owner) Mohamed Al-Fayed, who was very charismatic.”
But in 2007-2008 things started to go wrong.
“The recession hit the business,” says Eve. “It was horrible. A lot of my work was corporate. I was doing work with banks and other businesses and it went overnight. It was awful, but it led us to where we are now. We spent six months asking ourselves what we were going to do.”
It was at this point that Eve’s ‘I can do that’ attitude intervened once more. She had done some floristry courses after watching a demonstration at her local flower club.
“I sat there and said to myself: ‘I can do that’,” she says. “It’s a recurring theme in my life. I ended up becoming a flower demonstrator, going to flower clubs, doing six designs and talking a bit about flowers.”
It kept the wolf from the door and gave them a grounding for the talks they do now. “Nowadays, I’ve given up the flowers to do talks about my life,” says Eve. “Peter does them too.”
Eve’s subject matter includes her experiences working for Harrods, her life as a celebrity booking agent and magician. Peter, meanwhile, talks about his life as a jobbing, professional entertainer and his experiences of working on TV shows such as Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game and coming face to face with stars such as Michael Caine, Roger Moore and even sharing a lift at the BBC with David Frost and Alan Whicker. He and Eve were also supporting artistes on Lovejoy.
They admit the talks don’t make them a fortune, but they love doing them.
“For me, because my first ambition was to be a dancer, going back in front of an audience has been great. I love it,” says Eve.
As the economy has improved, the events business has picked up again too. We’re still doing it, but not one the scale we did,” says Eve. “I’m 65 now so I don’t want that level of intensity again.
“It’s been an incredible 25 years since we jumped ship from normal life. We’ve learned that out of negative comes positive. Change is nearly always good, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.”
To find out more, visit www.showstoppers-group.com; www.everegelous.com or www.peter-king.co.uk.