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Ralph Lancaster

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Ralph Lancaster
Ralph Lancaster
Occupation Club proprietor
First appearance 14th May 1975
Last appearance 13th February 1980
Number of appearances 16
Played by Kenneth Watson

Ralph Lancaster was the slightly effete owner of the Gatsby Club, where Rita Littlewood had the occasional singing engagement in the 1970s.

Ralph first auditioned Rita in May 1975, when agent Alec Gilroy mounted a revival of her singing career. Immediately impressed, Ralph signed Rita for a spot but insisted that she perform with the club pianist instead of Ernest Bishop. Rita went down well and was given further engagements, with punters coming from as far away as Crewe to see her perform. On one evening, a fracas in the club between Ray Langton and Maurice Gordon over Deirdre Hunt became so severe that Ralph threatened to call the police, although the two men agreed to leave the premises quietly. Ralph blamed Rita for the incident as Ray was part of a group from the Street who had come along to watch her perform, as a result of which he decided against extending her contract with the club, claiming that he only did so "in exceptional circumstances".

Ralph re-appeared on the scene in September 1977, when he called 9 Coronation Street to offer her a spot. Since she last worked for Ralph, Rita had wed Len Fairclough, and it was Len who answered the phone to Ralph. Being against his wife playing in night clubs, Len told Ralph first on the phone and then in person (when Ralph paid a visit to No.9) that Rita had given up her singing career, although it was obvious to Ralph that her "stiff-necked Victorian husband" was making his wife's decision for her and did not intend to tell her about Ralph's offer. Persevering, Ralph finally got hold of Rita by phoning The Kabin. Rita was delighted to hear from him and allowed Ralph to sweet-talk her into taking the gig, although she saw through his flattery and got him to admit that his seeking her out was actually a result of him being let down by another act. Len continued to be a problem, confronting Ralph at the Gatsby when he heard that Ralph had taken Rita out to lunch, which Ralph described as a business meeting, but he agreed not to stand in Rita's way when she offered to restrict her "comeback" to one engagement, which was a charity night. In the event, the spot gained something of a mixed reception; with Ernie Bishop unable to accompany Rita due to injuring his hand, Ralph had to appeal to the Gatsby crowd for a replacement. The only respondent was Fay, an elderly woman who could only play sing-alongs like She'll be coming round the mountain..., which gained a rousing response from the crowd but not the billed singer.

Nearly a year later, when Fairclough and Langton was going through a bad patch, Rita went to see Ralph at the Gatsby to ask for work, with Len encouraging her due to their financial situation. Ralph was full of the usual compliments about Rita's talent but disappointed his "favourite songbird" by telling her he was booked up for the foreseeable future. After seeing him being affectionate with singer Jilly West, Rita wondered if Ralph thought she was past it and was letting her down gently, but Ralph insisted he would have offered her work if there was any going and suggested she go to The Tannery social club - a Working Man's Club - as it was audition day there. Baulking at the idea, Rita took her leave of Ralph.

In February 1979, Ralph shared a brief conversation with Suzie Birchall when she was on an evening out at the Gatsby with Paul Stringer. When Suzie commented that his singer wasn't up to much, Ralph replied that she was the best he could get as the other lady was down with flu, and that he'd considered giving Rita a call. Made aware of Ralph's predicament, Rita accepted an offer of a week's work at the Gatsby, with Len going along to watch her, unwinding enough to make small-talk with Ralph.

A year later, when Rita left Len and moved into Poppy Watts's boarding house in Salford, she contacted Ralph asking for work. Ralph keenly came to her aid, giving her singing engagements at the Gatsby and a rent-free flat, with the work dependent on her accepting the flat. At one point making a fumbled attempt to kiss Rita, Ralph's intentions were clear, and so Rita decided to turn down his help entirely. However, having obtained Rita's address from Mavis Riley, Len turned up at the flat and found Rita and Ralph together. He managed to scare Ralph off, but when he failed to convince Rita to return to him, leading to Rita leaving the flat and the area entirely, Len only had Ralph's involvement to go on as a clue to his wife's whereabouts, and started hanging around the Gatsby until Ralph divulged the information. Ralph tolerated Len's presence but when Len tried to start a punch-up, Ralph had him thrown out.

In January 1981, Ralph got Rita a job in Stockport, which she accepted but kept Ralph's involvement a secret from Len, with whom she had been reconciled since their last meeting. Taking a message for Rita from Ralph, Hilda Ogden hinted to Len that Rita had a fella, causing Rita to come clean to Len about Ralph getting her the job.

List of appearancesEdit






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