Male stripper who inspired artist dies

The male stripper whose risque show in a Black Country pub inspired one of Britain's best-loved paintings has died at the age of 87.

Male stripper who inspired artist dies

Andy Wade was thought to be Britain's first male stripper.

His performance at Dudley's Saltwells Inn in 1974 is thought to have been the basis for Ladies' Night, one of the most instantly recognisable paintings by novelty artist Beryl Cook.

The moment was captured on camera at the time by Express & Star man Graham Gough, and attracted worldwide attention after the pictures were reproduced in The Sun and German tabloid Bild.

It was then picked up by Cook, who was famous for her cartoon-like paintings featuring larger-than-life characters in different situations. Mr Wade, real name John Hotchkiss, later went on to work as an extra in the television series 'Allo 'Allo. He lived in the Northfield area of Birmingham before later moving to Wales.

Mr Gough, who lives in Kinver, paid tribute to the performer, saying he was a master showman. "He was a nice bloke, really good fun to work with," he said. "I met him a couple of times afterwards. He always said the picture had done him a lot of good, he had received a lot of work as a result of it."

The award-winning image of the hen night at Saltwells Inn, featuring stripper Andy Wade

"He said she had decided to do something on it after seeing the photograph. She didn't copy the picture, but she did get the idea from it. It's quite flattering."

He said it was one of his favourite photographs, and won the Midlands News Picture of the Year award for 1975.

He remembers it being quite a daunting job to work on, but says that was probably part of the appeal.

"When we took that picture there were just us two blokes there among all those women, and it got a bit frisky. I was quite glad to get out of there with all my clothes on. There are some great expressions on the faces of the women," he said. Mr Wade died on January 18. Ladies' Night, which was released in 1980, was one of Cook's most instantly recognisable images, capturing the the astonishment and hilarity of the moment a male stripper reveals all.

The artist was adept at capturing moments in time, creating a picture postcard quality that made her a favourite for calendars and posters across the country.

Cook died in 2008 at the age of 81. Once described by Victoria Wood as 'Rubens with jokes', Cook portrayed a world of innocent naughtiness that divided critics but established her as a firm favourite with the public, who never tired of the cards and reproductions of her work.

She was never welcomed by the cultural elite who dismissed her work as slapstick.

Her paintings featured on postage stamps along with Renoir and Rodin, but never in the Tate or the National galleries. The chief criticism was that she was not serious – none of her works show people having a bad time. Art critic Brian Sewell said she had a 'very successful formula which fools are prepared to buy'. anti-art without 'the intellectual honesty of an inn sign for the Pig and Whistle'. But speaking on her 80th birthday, Cook said: "I don't mind in the least. All I ever wanted was for people like me to enjoy my pictures. So I don't worry about the Tate one iota."

Her paintings, which sell for up to £40,000 each, earned her an OBE in 1995. Shortly before her death she said: "I love to see people enjoying themselves. That's my greatest inspiration. I can't do that myself. I'd really like to be the one singing and dancing while everybody was sitting admiring me, but I can't do it. But my contribution to it all, to the fun, is my paintings."

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