'Mr Grand': Tributes to theatre worker and friend to the stars after cancer death

By Deborah Hardiman | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Tributes are pouring in for ‘Mr Grand’ Barry Noakes, who has died from cancer aged 84.

Barry Noakes, centre, with Terry Giles, Hilary Rowe and a Marlene Dietrich doll at the Grand Theatre

Over the decades he held various roles behind the scenes including as a dresser and as top floor bar manager and met many stars, some of whom became personal friends.

Among the many stories he loved to tell family, friends and colleagues was how he got chatting to legendary Hollywood actress and singer Marlene Dietrich when she performed at the Lichfield Street venue in 1966.

In an interview in 2014 he told the Express & Star: “I was cleaning the bar when she popped her head round and asked me where the stage door was. Can you imagine how shocked I was? My jaw dropped, I was astounded.

"You would hear things about Marlene being high maintenance or a bit too much, but I found her to be lovely.”

Barry Noakes at the stage door

Paying tribute to him, family friend Linda Jeavons said the former theatre volunteer died on January 21 at Atholl House Nursing Home, in Compton.

He was born in Willenhall and worked at the town’s Josiah Parkes lock factory. Later on he became a chef and clients included the Wolverhampton mayors’ office.

Mrs Jeavons said: “He was a character in Wolverhampton. Barry and I were friends for a long time.


"He has worked with many people over the years at the theatre including Su Pollard who came to see him recently when he was ill.

"He was great friends with Danny La Rue who used to give him his suits, which Barry would then alter and wear to work. They were often very bright in colour.

Councillor John Rowley with Barry Noakes and late Wolverhampton South East MP Dennis Turner

“He also had the most fantastic drag act. I’ve never heard anyone else sing like Shirley Bassey. Barry was also a television extra and had walk on roles on many shows, such as Boon, Howard’s Way and Crossroads.


“A lot of the stars knew him by name including Brian Blessed and Robert Lindsay.

“We went on holidays with him and one year we went to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and while there we bumped in former Emmerdale star Frazer Hines.

"He just walked up and said ‘hello Barry what are you doing here?’ Then the same thing happened on the cruise ship when the entertainment manager recognised him also from working on a show at the Grand.”

His funeral service will be at St Giles Church, in Walsall Street, Willenhall, on February 28 at 12.30pm followed by Bushbury Crematorium and a wake at the Masonic Hall, in Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton.

Grand Theatre associate director Iain Watkins said: "We are sorry to hear the news about Barry. He will be sadly missed by both staff and audience members who knew him as well as performers who worked with him over two decades at the Grand.

"He is truly a part of the Grand’s history and had a seemingly limitless supply of stories about both his days at the Grand and his career in television."

Deborah Hardiman

By Deborah Hardiman

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based out of the head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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