My Old friend George Savva passed away recently. Here’s a story about him
The day George fainted.
The nineteen seventies gave the world many things. Concorde, Thatcherism and the Electric Light Orchestra. It also gave us Cabaret night clubs. There were twenty big ones up and down the country. Jollies in Stoke. The Night Out and the Dolce Vita in Birmingham. The Lakeside country club, still going, and the most famous of all, Caesar’s Palace…in Dunstable.
Named after the real Ceasar’s Palace in Vegas, the club was the one of the first venues offering food drink and a top line cabaret star for the perfect night out.
Caesar’s was run by George Savva. He was the best: He could pack em in, don’t you worry ‘bout that! George knew every trick in the book. Seven nights a week, one thousand people a night. George truly was king of the clubs.
George had a Greek father from Cyprus and his real name was Savvas Gieogious! He didn’t sound a bit Greek, so when he changed his name no-one commented. He was known to all, simply as Sav and we all loved him
Sav told the best stories ever. They all contained disaster. Sav’s life always threatened danger. He lived continually on the edge. He always had a scheme and they nearly always came off…nearly!
After successfully running Caesars he became the manager of Blazers nightclub in Windsor. It was a great success…all down to George and his team
He used to sell cuddly toys in the foyer of the club. People when pissed would always buy something they didn’t want. Cuddly toys fitted the bill perfectly.
One night a visiting guest star, who will remain nameless, told George that he had a pirate copy of the soon to be releast film E T. After the club had closed they sat in the dressing room and watched it. All were moved to tears by this heart-wrenching story. George’s brain however was working overtime.
By the next evening George ‘s toy man had had made a little cuddly E T. It looked great. About a foot tall, brown and furry. In real life ET was a greeny colour but the pirate copy made him look brown, hence the colour of the toy.
A punter offered him a tenner for it. George’s eyes lit up like pound signs. Within a week George’s little toy maker was churning out one hundred ET’s a week. They were selling like hot cakes. George, never being satisfied decided that ET would sweep the Oscar’s and ordered another thousand ETs to anticipate the rush of sales.
There were ET’s stored everywhere in the club. If you opened a cupboard thousands of ET’s would tumble out. Business was so good the little toy maker had to take on staff to churn out these ET’s
George sat up all night to watch the Oscars and in his own words “Fucking Ghandi won it”
‘We’re broke’ they all cried.
George however had other ideas. He had made, a thousand nappies, put them on the ET’s and sold them as Ghandi’s.
“The worlds’ first dual purpose toy”. He was a star
This was his best story…
It was 1976 and George was running the hugely successful Caesar’s Palace in Dunstable. Stars were plentiful, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Little & Large, Freddie Starr, Gene Pitney, The Four Tops…you name it, they all starred in Bedfordshire’s copy of the famous Las Vegas venue. To stop them being sued George changed the spelling of the word Ceasar’s by swapping the e and the a around…genius.
The club was always packed and miraculously all were fed. Serving a thousand people all at once was a problem. Firstly keeping the hundreds of meals warm and secondly getting them to finish eating by the time the star came on. It was driving George crazy.To add to the mess some customers had paid in advance, some customers had to pay on the night, most of the waiters couldn’t speak English and in George’s words, “It was a fucking nightmare love!”
A new invention changed everything; Boil In the Bag Food. Gone would be the frying pans, ovens, chip pans and deep fat fryers and in would come huge vats of boiling water into which the food, encased in a plastic watertight bag was placed then fished out later, snipped open with a pair of scissors and pored onto a plate
There were three types of dish, Beef Bourguignon, Chicken Supreme and Duck A La Orange all in identical plastic bags.
It worked perfectly; everyone could be fed at once as the huge vats of boiling water could hold two hundred dinners at a time. One evening George was sitting in the foyer having a fag when a woman approached him. Savva could sense grief through lead; he could spot a complainer a mile away. One evening a man came to him and asked, “What film is on tonight?” George said “it’s not a film, it’s cabaret. It’s Jim Davidson the comedian.” The man said, “Well, I must be watching a film”. George asked him why. He replied, “’cos I’m facing a fucking wall!”
The poor man couldn’t see a thing. George applied his normal get out of jail free card, a bottle of wine and two complimentary tickets to see Cannon and Ball!
Grief would always find George Savva. Whilst at Blazers he decided to have a fancy dress evening in aid of charity. All was well until a fight broke out. The police were called but George couldn’t speak to them because of hysterical laughter after he heard a policemen speaking to Anne Boleyn who had a nose bleed. George was in tears as he listened to the conversation (imagine this in a coppers voice).
“So madam, you were sitting with Frankenstein and Marilyn Monroe when you were punched by Elvis?”
“No she said, “Elvis was trying to help. It was the fucking Pope that did it.”
Bottles of wine all round and everybody was calm, apart from Quasimodo who threw up in the lift!
Yes, George could spot grief; and now here in Ceasar’s he was looking at it walking towards him. He eyed up the enemy, a woman in her 60’s, expensive two piece suit, too many jewels and “is that a tiara she is wearing?” George immediately stubbed out his fag, straightened himself up and put on his pious butter wouldn’t melt in his mount’ look, and faced this imminent shit storm that was coming his way.
“Can I help you madam?”
“Are you the manger?”
“I am. Is there a problem?”
“Yes” she growled. She handed him a card. George couldn’t read it without his glasses, he didn’t’ wear them very often those days as it made his right eye look even worse than it actually was. She said her name out loud. As she said it, her nose rose two inches at least…
“My name is Lady Forstesque-Smythe. I am an ornithologist. I am also a chef. My expertise is the study of ducks. I photograph them, I draw them, I write about them. I have been all around the world watching ducks, from the marshes of Breydon Water in Norfolk, to the Nile delta in Africa. I have sometimes spent months waiting for one particular duck to arrive, to photograph it, to write about it. I am the world’s leading authority in ducks. I have duck wallpaper in my house. I have ornamental Chinese ducks, Turkish Porcelain ducks, ducks formed from clay of stone-age Britain. There is nothing about ducks I do not know”.
As she said this, George, aware of what is coming had started to get smaller in an attempt to disappear. By the time she had finished this salvo he was four feet two and bent double like Uriah Heap.
Crouching down to look him in the eye, Lady
“…so as you can imagine, I am rather fond of ducks. I am also fond of eating them. I have eaten duck all over the word. I have eaten Aylesbury duck in Aylesbury; I have eaten Peking duck in Peeking. I have even eaten duck at the seven seas restaurant in Tibet. I have probably tasted every version of duck there is” she raised her voice to a crescendo…
“and tonight I have eaten your duck!”
After a milli- second he sprung back up like a military target and started to search for the words to say…
Normally when you’re in the shit, you keep quiet…not George. His mouth dropped open and the word “erggghhh” came out several times.
This would take him more than a bottle of wine and two comps for the Nolan Sisters.
“Yes”, she said, “I have eaten your duck and can I just say…”
George shut his good eye and prepared for the worst…
“…it is the finest duck I have ever eaten in my life.”
Down he went again and sprung back like a plastic thing in a budgie’s cage
George was speechless and started to straighten up, “thank you madam and what a compliment coming from such an expert, a true genius of the duck world.”
He mopped the sweat away from his brow and smiled as the imminent disaster was once more averted.
Her ladyship continued, “I was so impressed that I made my way up here to speak to you”
“Thank you” said George almost bowing
“I must have the recipe.”
“ I beg your pardon?”
“One moment madam, I will go and speak to Chef.”
The chef was tucked away at the back of the club. He was of foreign origin and worked for readies; he was an affable bloke but was the filthiest dirtiest looking unshaven chef you could ever wish to set eyes on. Also, and for good measure he was having an affair with the one legged Irish bar manager.
George was a live and let live type of chap and took no notice of these things, but now however, he had to face the chef and beg for the recipe. He rushed into the kitchen in desperation, “Chef, Chef!” he cried.
“What is it a boss?” came the reply.
“The duck, the duck, I must have the recipe for the duck”
The chef removed his woodbine, flicked the ash onto the floor and said
“Ittsa a simple innit…I getta de big ladle, scoope out of de pan, sometime I getta Beef, someitimes Duck. I cut open de bag wid de scissors and pour on de plate and serve wivva da rice..init”
“Bugger” thought George, “what am I going say?”. His brain went into overdrive.
“Look chef, just put on your clean hat, stick you head out the serving hatch and wave at that women over there.”
When this was done George returned with the news, “Lady Fortesque-Smythe” he said, assuming a posture of servitude.
“I’m afraid it is impossible for me to give you the recipe for our duck; the chef comes form a long line of Sicilian chefs and the recipe, he tells me, has been passed down through the generations, from grandfather to father from father to son and if he was to pass to you that recipe his life would be worth nothing and the shame would be upon him and his family forever”
He held his breath
Lady Fortesque-Smythe lifted her hand and stopped Sav in his tracks. “Say no more” she cried, “I fully understand”. She produced a pound note from her purse.
“Please give this to the chef, tell him I fully understand and tell him that tonight in your night club I have sampled the ultimate Duck!
George fainted again!