Dorothy Squires: An Intimate Portrait By Her Friend & Confidant
During her heyday, Dorothy Squires was Britain's most popular female singer, and one of the wealthiest. Fate was rarely on her side, and though frequently a fool to herself with her many frivolous lawsuits, and with her obsession for one man, Roger Moore, which nevertheless gave way to some of her greatest songs, she remained hugely popular until her death in 1998.
I was her friend and confidant for many years and one of the few she stayed in touch with until the very end. For my book I have used extensive notes made when talking and meeting Dot, as she was lovingly known, to create a biography which is told mostly in her own words. Dot also approached me to ghost-write her autobiography, and sent me a script that she had written and submitted to a publisher. I haven't used any of this verbatim to break any copyright laws, but I have paraphrased it. I hasten to add that it is not the same script which Dot submitted as Rain, Rain, Go Away.
Here's an extract:
After the show, we decided that I wanted to meet Dot. We got backstage and a small bespectacled woman, her secretary Doris Gaard, asked us to stand outside the door at the end of the corridor. I was walking towards this when a strong hand grabbed my collar—one of the security men.
“What do you think you’re playing at?” he growled.
Then all of a sudden this booming voice, “Hey, you! Get your fucking hands off him!”
This came from the tiny figure who had just emerged from the door—Dot, who had eschewed the Darnell gown for a brown skirt and cream blouse.
Over a bottle of wine, we hit it off at once. Dot arranged for us to have tickets for her show the following week, and for seventeen years we were part of her entourage. I sold albums in the foyer, Jeanne took pictures backstage for Dot’s “family album”. When I finished The Piaf Legend, she read the script before it went off to the publishers. I wrote her a song, “I Sing My Life”, with the French singer, Gérard Berliner:
I wear my life upon my sleeve,
Because I know just what it’s like to take the blows,
I face each storm, and I pull through
Each hopeless mess of broken dreams, and I survive…
At Dot’s concerts we met dozens of celebrities and politicians along with so-called socialites she had little time for. There were nice people, such as the ailing pianist Russ Conway, who had a different young man with him each time—two A-lister footballers who turned up with male lovers, introduced as their “personal assistants—until they had downed a few drinks, when the truth came tumbling out. There was Marion Montgomery, who along with her then performance partner, Richard Rodney Bennett, also became friends. Nicky Welsh, Dot’s orchestra leader, was an absolute scream, especially after a tipple, as was Johnnie Gray, a man with a huge handlebar moustache which would have put Jimmy Edwards to shame. Then there were others who were not so nice: a soon to be well-known, over-the-top bitchy camp television presenter springs to mind, a couple of spitting-cat camp pianists, and a crooner who had seen better days but still considered himself the next best thing to Frank Sinatra. There were other celebrity Squires fanatics who, whilst raving about her, disliked one another intensely and often hissed and clawed at each other like angry snakes, backstage.
I only saw Dot lose her cool once—and I mean really lose it to the point of almost passing out with rage. This was in Birmingham, when she was made aware of the comment in Cosmopolitan—in the wake of a sustained campaign of taunts by Private Eye, which described Marianne Faithfull as, “Britain’s most famous wreck since Dorothy Squires.” Dot even broke up the editor’s name to get a “fuck” between the syllables, and sued for libel. The judge, Patrick O’Connor, awarded her £8,000 in damages. Ironically, the pub that we all headed for that night after the show, the Mulberry Bush, was one of the two involved later that year in the Birmingham bombings which killed twenty-one people. It was O’Connor who presided over the appeals in 1988 of the so-called “Birmingham Six”.
With Dot, life could be frantic and frustrating, but it was never dull. In her final years, she became a victim of her own insecurity and always believed that the world and its mother were out to get her. She penned her memoirs under the title, Rain, Rain, Go Away! These were so litigious that once they had been ditched by the original publisher on account of the multitude of threatened lawsuits, not least of all from Roger Moore, no publisher would touch them—whilst Dot refused to compromise and change a single word. She sent me part of the script when there was talk of me becoming her ghost-writer—a sizeable portion of this is legally paraphrased here and thus does not infringe copyright, whilst some of the chapter headings may not be repeated for legal reasons, and sometimes because their wording was illegal! Dot told me much more, however, than was printed in the press at the time, well aware that I would tell her story, one day. This is that story….