28 December 1974 – Series Three (15)

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Vocalist Jo Vartan. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The panel of judges who were on hand to score the acts were Clifford Davis, Alan A. Freeman, John Robins and Jack Parnell.

The seven acts looking for a place in the next All Winners Final were;

  • Ken Graham and Family (unusual ventriloquist)
  • The Duvals (magic act)
  • Jo Vartan (vocalist)
  • Colin Phillips Combo (seven-piece group)
  • Goody Two Shoes
  • Jefferson Lincoln (vocal/comedy act)
  • Mike Lancaster (comedian)

Comedian Mike Lancaster was almost unrecognisable to those that may have previously seen him on the comedy club cicuit as in the previous ten months he’d shed six stone in weight dropping from 17 stone to his new slim look.  While he didn’t win the show, the panel recorded an unusually high score for a comedian and he was invited back to appear in the Viewers Winners show on 1 February 1975.

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Magic act The Duvals. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Stylish vocalist Jo Vartan was born in the Lebanon of Armenian parents. He was a previously an overseas bandleader and played all over the Far East and at the famous Casino Du Liban in Beirut.  Following his New Faces appearance Jo took up a residency as compere, producer and performer at the Celebrity (later trenamed El Nile) in London’s West End.

The Duvals were a highly successful and very slick illusion act, producing doves of all colours, parrots, cockatoos, rabbits and poodles during their cabaret act.

Ken Graham and Ginger vs Clifford Davis

The biggest controversy of the all the shows to date were marks of judge Clifford Davis for the ventriloquist act from Coventry.  After Ken Graham and his assistant, his wife Lillian and his Black Country monkey puppet Ginger completed their act they waited expectantly for the judges scores. Two of the judges awarded them eight and nine points for Star Quality but Clifford Davis was clearly not impressed.

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Coventry ventriloquist Ken Graham with Ginger. Their act failed to impress Clifford Davis. Image: Trinity Mirror. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

When Clifford gave his scores he was booed by the audience. For Presentation he gave one mark, for Content he doubled that and gave just two points.  Finally came the Star Quality category, he hesitated and Derek Hobson prompted, “Don’t you want to give him any marks at all?” “No, that’s right. None at all” responded Clifford causing uproar in the studio. It was the first ever score of nil awarded on New Faces. Scores of viewers phoned in to the ATV Centre in Birmingham to protest.

Clifford Davis was surrounded by a dozen angry men and woman as he tried to leave the studio at the end of the show. One was so furious about the treatment of Ken that they slapped Clifford Davis round the face.

The Monday after the show aired Eamonn Andrews invited Ken Graham to appear live on Thames Television’s Today show alongside Clifford Davis.  The London viewers saw a replay of the act and the scoring which was followed by the two adversaries engaging in a ‘slanging match’ over the events on the show, all while host John Stapleton tried to keep order.

However, despite the low marks Ken, a former Coventry window dresser from Tile Hill, was offered work all over the country and was billed by Stan Stennett as ‘The World’s Worst Ventriloquist’ thereby proving that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

What did Ken think of all the controversy? Ken decided to ride the wave of publicity by making his act even worse and found he got even more laughs. Speaking after the event Ken said, “If my lips decide to move I let them and Ginger, my monkey, turns his head and gives me a telling off. It gets me work. If I hadn’t been voted the worst act I might have finished up like lots of others – a quick spot and then never heard of again.”

Archive footage of the Colin Phillips Combo

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