I was deliriously happy and I know Val felt the same. Even so, there was never any question of using my association
with him as a means of advancing my own career. On the contrary, the fact that I was Val Parnell's girl friend actually
hindered my career and worked against me.
Most people would think that my romance with one of the world's most powerful impressarios would open every door for
me in the theatrical profession; that I would get starring roles at the drop of a hat, tour the world and finish
up a major international star. It didn't happen that way. Work wasn't any easier to come by. Val would never
use his influence to get me a job.
I had to attend auditions and slog along like any other young actress. I was once out of work for a whole year.
There were always ups and downs and if my parents hadn't supported me I would have had to get some other kind of job - though
what else I could have done I can't imagine.
We saw as much of each other as we possibly could but always in secret. Only a handful of close friends knew what
was happening. Val never offered me any money. Just as well, I wouldn't have taken it anyway.
From Let's Face It, I went into The Lisbon Story at the London Hippodrome. Val used to go abroad regularly but
as I was in a long-running West End musical I had to be left behind.
Our first trip abroad was to Paris, my first visit to the world's most romantic city. We stayed at the swish Georges
V hotel - in separate suites. We never signed into any hotel as Mr and Mrs Parnell, Smith, or any other name.
We may have been madly in love, but we were always circumspect.
Soon after Paris we went to Madrid. This time Lew Grade was with us as we were on a talent-spotting expedition.
Lew and Val shared a splendid suite in a huge hotel overlooking the park. I was there too, in my own room as usual,
for appearances sake.
One evening we went to judge a Spanish ballet. After the performance the leading dancer made something of a pass
at me. We had an interpreter, and when he explained to Val that the dancer had paid a compliment to my blue eyes, Val
was livid, displaying acute jealousy. He broke up the meeting and led me away. The Spanish ballet was never booked
At first, all our close friends had thought my involvement with Val was merely a flirtation which would not last for
more than a few months. But, by now, they had to accept that we were plunged into a deep, sincere, permanent love match.
Instead of burning itself out, our love became stronger with each day.
When I signed on at the labour exchange I used to get some funny looks from the other Equity girls who knew my boy friend.
But this time Val had become managing director of Moss Empires. The Palladium was at its height. Lew and
brother Leslie were bringing over all the top American acts and Val booked them at the Palladium. Mother and I went
to every Palladium first night.
I toured in variety. I put an act together - not a very good one - and, here, Val did help me with the production
of it. I did 20 mintues of songs and cheated over the dancing, for I was never much good as a dancer.
Then came my big break. A part in the musical Brigadoon at Her Majesty's Theatre in the West End. It
was one of the first big American musicals to come over here. I had worked on the songs for months. They were
very hard to sing but I knew them backwards when the time came to audition.
I had two wonderful numbers, My Mother's Wedding Day and The Love of My Life. Brigadoon was a big success,
and though I had a small part I was one of the show's hits. Val was very proud of me and threw a big celebration party.
But I had got the job on my own.
Overnight I was a big star, but in typical showbusiness fashion, nothing happened after Brigadoon. When the show
finished I was out of work again. However, thanks to Val, I got a job as a principal boy in a Palladium pantomime -
the one and only time he used his influence to get me work.
By now I was getting fed up with the British theatre scene.
"They don't write suitable parts for my type of performer in British musicals," I told Val. "And the Americans
always bring over their own players. I'm going to try my luck in America.
Val advised that I should first go and see what life was like in the States. So, on their next talent-spotting
trip he and Lew went on one plane and I went on another.