Friday, January 15, 2010

John Player Tops of the Town: Cherished Memories and Following Your Dreams.

I can clearly remember watching a Ballerina dance on TV, when I was a child, and saying: "I want to do that Mammy". I was 3 years old.

We lived in Drimnagh (south Dublin)  at the time and as there were no local Ballet classes  I was brought to Irish dancing classes instead, which did not impress me at all!  It was not until we moved to Coolock on the Northside of Dublin and we found a Ballet class in nearby Whitehall, that my dream was finally realised. I was 8 or 9 years old.

I loved Ballet and was quite good at it although I was quite shy. Towards the end of my Ballet years I knew I wanted to do a more modern style of dance. I was influenced by Arlene Phillips and her Hot Gossip Dance Troupe. I also regularly watched  Pans People on Top Of the Pops,  BBC TV, every week! I knew I wanted to "dance on stage" in "shows" but I had no idea exactly what it was I wanted, let alone how I'd go about it.

Around the same time I became aware of an annual event on our own National TV...RTE. The National Finals of John Player Tops of the Town were televised live in June every year, and I LOVED IT! Oh, yes...this is truly what I want to do. I remember  going to see Irish Life in a JPT  Dublin Final in the Olympia Theatre in 1981, and seeing it live totally captivated me. A new dream to be realised! Little did I know that a certain someone backstage in that show would, in the future become a good show pal of mine.....


John Player Tops of the Town was founded in 1962 and began life in Waterford where it was simply called "Tops of the Town". It went nationwide in 1964 with John Player providing financial support. Local Community Groups entered alongside local Businesses, all across the nation in the Regional and National rounds. RTE came on board and commenced filming the National Finals in 1975. You could even say that John Player Tops was the X Factor/ Britain's Got Talent of it's time!

Love it or loathe it, JPT was an absolute institution. It was a much needed opening for talent in this country. Yes, you had your local Musical societies and Panto groups, but Tops was different! A Tops show was a Variety show with a difference. You had dance numbers, soloists, duets, production numbers and comedy routines all interspersed with each other. However, you also had a limited time-frame (55 minutes) in which to perform all this, so that made for very fast-paced and entertaining shows! There is nothing like the added edge of competition to add spice to your performance. However as it was competition, you never knew how many times you'd get to perform the show that you'd worked so hard on. If you were knocked out at local level the most shows you would do was 4, I think. But.... if you got to the National Finals, you had 6 glorious months of rehearsing and then performing! Ahh......the memories!

I got to "dance on stage" in "shows" after a fashion, by joining a local musical society, Panto Group and a fabulous local dance class! Lorraine Barry, Billie Barry's daughter started her own dance classes for teens /young adults and we eagerly signed up. Oh my God....this was exactly what I wanted. She is a fantastic Choreographer. Another dream realised. We danced with her for about 14 years, whilst also performing in numerous shows. Through this class we got to hear of the Aer Lingus show being choreographed by another Billie Barry daughter, Joan Kenny. Another fabulous Choreographer. Lots more shows came from this. Things were really happening!

All the while we (my best dance pal and I) were avidly following our friends in Bank of Ireland as they performed in JPT. Only dying to get up there ourselves! We got a chance in the early 80's when we performed with Telecom but the company couldn't invest properly in it, so we were knocked out in the early rounds.

The thing about JPT was that your chances of progressing to National Final level was greatly assisted by the money behind you. Money that paid for the best Production Team, Lavish sets and fabulous costumes. Unfortunately that meant that Company Groups tended to fare better than Community Groups but over time an attempt was made to redress that balance, and a separate Dublin Final was introduced for Community Groups. As the years went on Dublin had by far the biggest amount of Group entrants and another anomaly had to be addressed. The year that my best dance pal and I finally got to be involved in a show, that went all the way to the National Finals was 1989 ..... Aer Lingus.   That year there were, as far as I can recall, 6 groups who were serious contenders. That was in comparison to some regional rounds that only had two group entrants, so this clearly needed  addressing. Thankfully that year the rules were changed and 2 runners up, along with the regional winners  went through to the National levels. That was very good for us in the Aer Lingus Show because we lost the Dublin Finals and went on to win the National Finals! Which only went to prove the necessity of the rule change.


We, my best dance pal and I, went on to do two more shows in John Player Tops getting to the National Finals with both shows. Namely, Irish Distillers in 1991 (Winners!) and Telecom again  in 1992 (Runners Up). There are others with a far better pedigree than me and have been involved in Tops for far longer.

So, after all those years of yearning to be up there in a live JPT National Final did it live up to my expectations? Hell, yeah!! It was truly amazing and another dream realised!

To be in a Tops Show was entirely different from any other onstage experience. Rows over Dressing Rooms??? Dressing rooms....what Dressing rooms?! We had no time for that. We could never make it to a dressing room due to all the quick changes! We changed in the closest area to the stage we could find....behind the back cyc of the Olympia Stage for example! And woe betide ANYONE who touched your meticulously laid out costumes! Sometimes we wore layers of costumes so velcro is another strong memory! Other times we 'd just make it to the wings and changed there..... once we even changed onstage behind some scenery and came straight back on!! All done with military precision.

The best part of the JPT experience was touring in the Regional rounds. Yes, there was a serious job to do but after that there was the serious parties! Great fun. One lasting memory is the Aer Lingus aftershow party, in Jurys Hotel Cork (national semis) ..... party was in the dying stages at 4 am when out came Earl Gill and his trumpet players to rock the joint!

The scariest part was the nail-biting wait for the adjudicators to announce the Finalists, at all levels. And we can never forget the Adjudicators , especially the regulars like Jim Bartley or the Presenter of the National Finals, Marty Whelan, with his jet black hair!!


John Player Tops made a very significant contribution to community life in Ireland, and to the cultivation of theatrical knowledge and skills. Participation in Tops involved thousands of dancers, singers, musicians, comics, stage hands, set builders and painters, producers, directors, choreographers, writers, costume makers, fund raisers, committees, lighting and sound technicians. In fact (per a 1992 programme I have) it was estimated that 300,000 people had been exposed to or involved in all facets of stage work through the event to that date!

Involvement in JPT shows taught us all so much. Any professional group of people would be hard pushed to achieve we did. Stage sets were built and had to be adapted, at relatively short notice, for ever changing venues. We also had to cope with a quick turnaround between two shows in the interval. In the National Final you only had the 9pm news slot ( 20 minutes on a Sunday night) on RTE, in which to strike one set and set up the second show!

Aside: Anything could be forgotten in these get-outs ..... National semi in Cork 1992: in our Jesus Christ Superstar Finale of our Telecom show, Jesus Christ is seen hanging on the cross just before final curtain. In order to create the illusion of cross rising we dropped the set. Set is being struck....Jesus is still on his cross, high above floor level...backstage forgot cross and were preparing to leave when they hear a little voice..."eh...helloo..anyone there...can someone get me down!!" Hilarious!!

Fast forward a few years and John Player Tops is no more. Rumors of it's demise were ongoing for some time.The big companies began to pull out as John Players position as Advertiser was in jeopardy, due to the banning of cigarette companies advertising their products in any way. Companies were no longer willing to invest as the spend was getting crazier each year. Also another advertiser could not be found. The last two years of Tops saw Community Groups dominating the Finals....had Tops gone back to it's roots?? That was 1996 and 1997....when the roaring Celtic Tiger was just a kitten purring! Oh...the money that might have been found to keep it going! But maybe it had met it's natural end.

And so, to all us JPT performers??? Some are still involved in shows. Some went on to perform in the West End and some made it big on the home stage here in Ireland .... like June Rodgers, for example. 

Some of my fellow performers have their own stage schools! Such as my best dance pal who is also a wonderful choreographer and choreographed a National Winner towards the end of Tops. With Greenhills I think, so it was possibly 1994 or 1997. Other friends of mine moved on to choreography and JPT was a great starting point for them.

My Show pal who was in Irish Life all those years ago, now has his own children's entertainment company... Really Grand Events.... and does rather well! My Director friend I talked about in previous show posts (Slice Of Saturday Night) is also a JPT stalwart , from a very young age, and he danced/choreographs/Directs/does lighting and sound...and even makes the Tea and sweeps the floor!! 

As for me... well, I just choreograph the local Panto every year but in so doing  I believe I, along with the rest of the production team, am helping to instill a love of the Theatre and live performance in children of Primary School age. I would love that to stay with them....I would also love for there to be something more out there for them to aim for.

What does today's 3 year old.....or 9 year old....or early Teenage budding performer  yearn for when they look at TV??? To be on X Factor?? How achievable is that dream??

Was John Player Tops the X Factor for the ordinary people??

Some of us have been reminiscing about those halcyon John Players Tops days over on facebook. We grew up with Tops and made wonderful friends. My show pal, and his show pal recently set up a facebook page..here and we now call on all people with any involvement in John Player Tops over the years to drop in and say "Hi". We'll make you a cup of Tea, or pour you a glass of wine and you can share your memories ....and your videos/DVD's! We are urgently rounding up all videos.

You see 100 people signed up in the first 24 hours...just over a week ago. At the last count there was 314. And now there's talk of a mega Reunion!

Next thing you know there'll be a campaign to bring back JPT ...... in a new format...of course ;)

(*NOTE - Aug 2012: see here for exciting news of Tops of the Town revival in 2013!!)

xx 


PS: If you've had any involvement in Tops ...even if you just enjoyed watching over the years...please, please comment and share your memories. I would love to get as many perspectives on this as possible! Thank you.

UPDATE: See Here for my latest post, with photos and videos, and my request for information rregarding Tops of the Towns as it operates today!!  Thanks!

68 comments:

  1. Oh the innocence! Imagine getting a cigarette company to sponsor a talent competition for young people now?

    As a former junior member of Altona Calisthenics Club I remember how much I loved the costume/character dance part of our repetoire so I can smell the grease paint and that creamy tan in a tube we had to plaster all over ourselves for a bit of color.

    Good on you for reviving this. Sounds way more entertaining than the All Ireland Talent Quest - that's for sure!

    (and I wonder why Aer Lingus did so well? few of the Stewards into their show tunes huh?)

    *jazz hands*

    xx

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  2. hey there missus...your passion for dance is just fizzing out of my screen....I'm a GREAT dancer (in my head)...but only after waaay too much merlot and with my shoes on the wrong feet.
    I was never involved in this, and never heard of the JPT...like the Hamster, I had a little giggle at a fag company sponsoring it, but sponsorship is sponsorship, right?
    Sounds like youfound yr calling xxx

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  3. AaaaaH, the JPT's on tele every year. I so remember watching them, while living near Waterford, where for years we resided in 2-Channel-Land. This was one thing one could not miss.

    As Hammie says, the innocence!

    And to think I might have seen you on the screen and not known I'd be chatting to you today via the net...

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  4. Oh I remember watching the finals every year, it was the summer equivalent of the Late Late Toy Show. If only I had known you were in them I would have kept recordings lol. Jen.

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  5. Add story teller and articulation to your existing talents of dancing and choreography.

    Wonderfully written and told and captures what JPT was all about. And you are correct!

    I see it in my own children - what have they got nowadays when the see X Factor. My lot set up their own dance games in the front room - to the music of the 70's and 80's! (Shoule I be thankful to Jedward for something?)

    We were doing something right with JPT.

    Paul xx

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  6. Ah yes HAMMIE & JEAN ... that thought never even crossed their minds!

    Panstick makeup for us Hammie...another strong memory!

    Glad to know you watched and enjoyed NAN P & JEN. The finals always topped the TAM ratings...more than All Ireland Talent Quest I'd say!!

    Hey there Paul! Thank you so much for your very appreciative comment....and for becoming my newest follower!! Your guys will be better than Jedward. Now that they've seen your Cannibal that is ;))

    Thank you all for your comments. xx Jazzy

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  7. Jazzygal....oh what a lovely treat to wander down memory lane with you on JPT. You were and still are an amazing dancer....I knew jazzygal back then and she really burned up the floor! We had some great laughs and how can we ever forget the shots of Regina Royal Jelly side of stage for that extra burst of energy before going on, our harmless drug of choice to counteract the effects of the late nights when on tour ! It was a pleasure to know you and to see the incredible journey you have taken since those halcyon days in front of the lights. Thanks for the memories my pal. xx Mary Mc

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  8. Oh how it does bring back memories for me and my younger days in ballet and dance. I wish that I could have been across the pond to have seen you. I sounds so absolutely marvelous! So exciting! I adore the work that you do now and have often dreamed of doing it myself but only came close enough as a ballroom dance instructor. Kudos to you for all that you have done and all that you do now!

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  9. just tingling to my toes it brings it all back.keep up the good work in the panto.

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  10. i remember watching it every year, was a big hit in our house

    wow your passion for dance and the excitement it generates from you is amazing xx

    hey there mrs, you from same neck of woods as me

    i was also coolock although near zimmerframe land, the uci cinema coolock, ring a bell ??

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  11. im to young to remember any of it jaz but sounds cool. i was an irish dancer so i get ur enthusiasm. id no idea when u were sayin bout doin dance routines and stuff it was for this kinda thing. never thought to ask lol
    great blog xxx

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  12. Hi MARY MC! So good to see you here and thank you so much for your very generous comment! High praise indeed coming from such a good dancer as yourself;)We went to the same Ballet School too didn't we? Although we didn't know each other well then. Oh, yes the laughs! I'd forgotten the Royal Jelly!! Do you remember kissing my cuddly toy George before every performance??! And the party we had on Dollymount Strand after the it was all over??!! Such fun! And the pleasure is all mine......

    Thanks LORA! Oh if I can do it so can you Lora! I was one of the last of my pals to turn to choreography and then only 'cos the previous Panto choreographer wasn't doing it any more! And I was terrified....still am!!

    Thanks MARY MUL....good to see you here too;))Oh yes it sure does bring back all the memories.

    Thanks also CLAIREH....I feel old now!!

    You know I couldn't fit all the memories in. I hope that others might join in and leave their memories..... Like the John Player Theatre itself...the nerve wracking feeling that the John Player Theme music instilled in you when you heard it before every performance as you stood quaking behind the curtain!! Oh my, my tummy has just flipped.....17 years later!!!

    xx Jazzy

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  13. Hi Jazzy, Joe Burke here.
    I really enjoyed reading your blog. Brought back all the memories of great times and people. Yes indeed innocent times with the sponsor, I expect in a few years we will be looking back and thinking what was all these drinks companies doing sponsoring sports games. Times change but memories linger in that good place that warms your heart.
    Does anyone remember the small John Player theatre in Players Wills in Dublin?
    It was a small 250 seater stage with only 1 wing. How the Crew loved this when they had to rescale the sets (if you made it through to the Finals in the Olympia). But they always managed it with no fuss and within a short space of time that would frighten the bejazus out of professionals.But of that great little theatre itself remember getting onto the stage?
    Up the metal stairs....someone shouts QUITE for jaz.... sake.The noise was unbelievable as the metal platform flexed with every footstep. Add tap shoes ...exactly!
    2 small dressing rooms. Ladies dressing room had the stage left entrance / exit. Quick changes and the clang clang as paniced feet ran across the fire escape to stage right or left depends on which way you were panicing.A clear path was alway advisable in the ladies dressing room to cater for the rampage of starlets that flocked through for each sceen change. Rain causing the make-up to streak as you crossed over as the staires was open to the elements. Having the sly smoke, (free cigs from Tom, stage manager), on the fire escape to calm the nerves, Just about chilled till someone shouts you should be on stage now....More panic. The audience murmer behind the curtain. Ladies and Gentlemen, the John Player tops....La Lalalala...Slow hand clapping from the neutral audiance....as if, then getting faster as the tempo increases on the theme song,(they added lyrics for a few years...Its showtime again in the John Player tops la la la ). Nerves almost shot. The loud humming as the front curtain slowly opens.Nerves getting worse. Then showtime. 1 hour of organised mayhem. The hugging and kissing when the crew and chorus made it through to the end in good shape. Meeting friends and family at front of house where a glass of awful wine was waiting...Red was a little better then white. Then the post mortem in a pub. Good days.... what have I left out.

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  14. Emigrated to England in 85 because the John Player Specials were cheaper over there so didn't really ever see it. Saw the video last week. Cool hair. Wasn't really sure whidh one was you. Tell us what minute you are centrestage.

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  15. Sorry, that was me above. Dont have a goggle acxcount, Bill D

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  16. I loved the videos you posted last week of the JPT. I could pick you out easily as apart from the hair, you havent' changed a bit! You should embed them into your blog for posterity :) xx

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  17. Welcome to my blog JOE! And many thanks for your fab comment. You capture the excitement backstage very well. God, there was barely room to queue up to go on stage, wasn't there?!! Oh, I loved that theatre. What a loss it was when they closed it down :(( I think it closed down before Tops even finished...am I right??

    Thanks for your comment BILL D ....I'm the one to the right of the solo singer as you're looking at the video. Emmm...I'm kinda centre stage all the time....well, why d'ya think I chose that video;))Tee hee hee!!

    Thank you too PETUNIA....very generous comment indeed!! I doubt very much I'd fit into that costume now!! I like your idea of embedding videos in my blog....good thinking;) Thanks!
    xx Jazzy

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  18. Yes, you're right, the theatre closed down, I think it was getting to expensive to insure.(Someone made that statement at the time). After it closed Tops went on a little tour around for a few years. I remember staging the shows in ST.Anthony's hall, St Patricks, (some other place?) and finally in the Rupbert Guinness Hall in Wattling Street. Then the semi's were located in the Olympia. Final altered between the Olympia and Gaiety.
    I loved the travelling to the other theatres (if you were lucky enough to get out of the Dublin stages). Can you imagine travelling with over 120 people and all having a similer purpose to preform the best show they could possibly do and follow that by the best party you could put on. Standards were high, and achieving both was always a great reward.
    This also gave a lot of business to the local communities, hotels, restaurants theatres,printers, press, coaches etc.
    Another great spin off was meeting people from all around the country.
    I remember meeting people from Tops when I attended the Waterford Art Festival for many years, we made it a point to meet up for a chat.
    And what about the Cork Opera house! I always enjoyed Cork. Great weekends there with good friendly Cork people and indeed all the other shows from around the country.

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  19. Hi jazzygal, i have alot of memories of John Player Tops i was only 8 when i took part in 1989 agianst aer lingus, i was in anglo irish banks, i remember the heartache losing was soo disappointing even at that young age.

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  20. Hi Jazzygal, I was part of John Player Tops in 1989 to and was up against Aer Lingus this is mad i was in Anglo Irish Banks at the time although i was only 8 at the time the memory of being on a stage is something i can't describe and still carry with me to this day and the feeling of losing to aer lingus i remember being heart broken.

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  21. Ahh...thanks Joe for info re:the theatre. Now that you say it I do remember something about insurance. Oh yes.... I too loved the travelling! Such fun! I LOVED sitting in the Olympia, Gaeity or Cork Opera House watching Backstage setting everything up and I especially LOVED to here the band tune up! I knew then we had a show to do!

    Welcome Karen and thank you so much for your comment! It must have especially difficult given your young age. Where you the child they held up at the end of Les Mis???!! A few of my dancing friends were in Anglo Irish and we were altogether in Irish Distillers and Telecom in 1991 & 1992!!

    XX Jazzy

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  22. Yeah that was me in le mis at the end. Loved every minute of it, i remember we were like one big family all the memories out of all my 29 years i am glad i had the chance to be apart of John Player Tops.

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  23. Jazzygal, it was great to read your JPT memories. I too was involed in the Distillers show as comedy writer. I think Joe Bourke was in it too. I also did An Post and Dunnes after that Through JPT I got to know June Rodgers and having writing her material ever since as well as pantos for the Gaiety.

    Those JPT says were soemthing else

    Martin Higgins

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  24. Jazzygal, it was great to read your JPT memories. I too was involed in the Distillers show as comedy writer. I think Joe Bourke was in it too. I also did An Post and Dunnes after that Through JPT I got to know June Rodgers and have been writing her material ever since as well as pantos for the Gaiety.

    Those JPT says were soemthing else

    Martin Higgins

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  25. Hi MARTIN and thanks for commenting. They were great years, weren't they?

    I remember you! My "Best Show Pal" who co-runs the Centre Stage stage school would have been in touch with you over the intervening years. You probably wouldn't remember me but I'm Val O'Donovan (nee Grimes).

    Thanks again for comment.

    I must do an update soon.... and embed that video clip of mine! xx Jazzy

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  26. P.S. Oh..meant to say Martin, your comedy sketches were the best! I had actually been thinking of posting one of them on the fb page if you didn't mind?? But which one to choose? Hmmm...... X J

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  27. Yes, I recognise you from your FB photo, you haven't changed a bit. Is Debbie your "best show pal"?

    I still see some of the Distillers crowd from time to time (Jean Byford, Clare Keogh, Frances Campbell), and still work with Noel McDonagh on the odd occasion

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    1. i have just been watching tops of the town 1980 which they won my dad and 2 sister's were in it and it was part of our family for years as my daddy was an irish distillers man borh and bred he has since passed away in may 2012 and i feel so close to him watching that dvd love it i do i rmemember fiona cambell

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    2. martin i put the show that distillers won on you tube yesterday great viewing my dad and sisters were in it have a look

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  28. Why thanks Martin...what a compliment. Although, I guess you mean the fb photo BEFORE I changed it to Wonder Woman!! Damn...

    No Ger Q.

    All very talented people. I haven't seen any of the Distillers crowd in years! Lets hope this JPT mega reunion becomes a reality...although I know it will. Stay Tuned. xx Jazzy

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  29. just to let you know tops is still going strong in wexford and carlow
    in fact the final was last night
    the standard in the last few years has risen significally. you should check them out groups like taghmon, kilrane/rosslare harbour, kilmore, rathnure, our ladys island, tinryland

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  30. Hi there Annonymous and thanks for taking the time to comment!

    We were made aware of this recently when someone posted it on the JPT facebook page. I even became a fan of Tinryland!

    Who was in the Finals and who won?

    Would be really nice to do a piece on Tops as it exists today, wouldn't it??
    xx Jazzy

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  31. sorry for only getting back to you now yea im in kilrane/rosslare harbour tops group (become a fan on facebook!!!!) we have the best singers no joke and best choreographer and we had our best show ever this year, the judges loved it but we didnt make the final :(
    we came 3rd by 2 points
    taghmon and kilmore went through with kilmore winning overall.
    both us and tinryland have some videos of previous years shows on youtube
    heres a link to one of our scenes from 2009

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aORVKHchozs&feature=related

    i'll let you know when this years are uploaded!!!! if you thought the 2009 scenes were good u wait til u see this years!!!!!!

    yea that would be deadly maybe inspire some old areas to start up again!!!

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  32. Thanks anonymous, I will check out those videos.

    I'm trying to gather info on the recent competition and background info on the last 18years then I'll see if a post develops from that! Any info, pics, links etc can be sent to me via facebook (see badge on my sidebar) or email....under Scamp's photo on sidebar too!

    Many thanks! xx Jazzy

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  34. Hi Jazzy

    Tom Gallagher here. I started JPT in Aer Lingus in 1975. We got to the Dublin semi final in 1976 but lost in the semi final. We had great talent but our format was more of a concert. We learned quickly and got to our first dublin final in the Abbey in 1976. Great thrill to perform in the Abbey but lost to Jacobs who took the biscuit that year. The following year we made it to the National Final even though the company was on strike. We were beaten by Carrigaline Pottery by 3 points after leading all the way to the last vote. we didnt compete the following year but lost the next two dublin finals. Our producer in those years was Maureen Gilligan and Joan Kenny, Billy Barry's daughter
    We continued to do shows in the Gaeity and Olympia and we had a fortnight show in the Olympia in 1986 celebrating Aer Lingus 50th Anniversary. Brendan Balfe scripted the show and starred with Twink in the show. Finally we gave the Tops one more shot in 1989. What a wonderful adventure. I persuaded Joan Kenny to produce the show and shs did a wonderful job paricularly on the choreography, which was the most spectacular ever seen on Tops. The all american routines and the Jungle piece were fantastic and brought the house down. Maeve Mc Donough wrote the comedy with soeminput from yours truly. The comedy was intertwined with the main items and worked a treat. You mentioned we lost the Dublin final against Anglo Irish which was down to two problems. Andy O'Callaghan could not conduct on the night and the show lacked drive.We also had a weak sketch at the end of the show. Following on from the final I went to the local Extravision store and found a Benny Hill video which feture 4 flashers with a great bcaking. Joan did a wonderfully hilarious routine and this combined with a new parody finalised the show. We had great fun on the road in Dundalk (quarter final) and Cork's Jurys hotel (semi final. The final day was terrific. After the morning rehearsal we stayed in the Marine hotel util we were bussed to the show. What a night...we were spectacular against a strong Anglo performance. Tension was huge and finally,,,finally we won and won well..It was all worth while. Fourteen years of fun, hard work, friends and performers too many to mention, made this adventure a truly wonderful experience. And to Paul Furey..a real trooper..long may it last....Tom

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  35. Hi there Tommy! I remember you well! Que Sera, Sera ;-)(Great number!)

    Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your memories. Yes.... you are the man responsible for it all! And I know Paul was involved too. I often wondered who thought of that Benny Hill sketch...pure classic it was! Saved the show, I believe.

    I joined Aer Lingus in 1981 and I have very special memories of all the Aer Lingus shows I did since then. Very special indeed. Loved working with Joan Kenny... and Maureen.

    Do you remember the video we did with Gay Byrne (Biggles!) for the 50th Anniversary?? Remember he played it on the Late Late Show and had to re-show it at the end 'cos he received so many requests? God, it would be great to get posted on here....

    Oh my, I remember that Dublin final against Anglo. I too remember we didn't have the same edge and that Andy couldn't MD for us. I also remember that in the Finale dance I was the one that came up too early to spread the glitter!! Oh the mortification! I blamed myself for us losing that night! If you look very closely at the video of that dance routine in the finals you will see that I am a split second behind everyone else coming up.... I NEVER made that mistake again!

    Dundalk and Cork were very special shows indeed and the craic we had! Magic.

    I especially remember the Finals. I had a wedding in Galway and came back on the day before...straight to the Theatre. I remember being so very sick the day of the finals. I had severe food poisoning and was vomitting all day! I spent the time in the Marine Hotel resting in a room someone let me use! I had gone into the swimming pool first as that's what we had done for every other show and I didn't want to bring bad luck on us!

    NOTHING was gonna stop me from performing on that stage that night. And it didn't.

    Oh yes, very special memories indeed.

    Thanks again Tommy... really good to hear from you.

    If you're on facebook please join our JPT page. We'd love to see you over there.

    We are going to try and organize some sort of reunion so please check in with me here from time to time...or contact me by email? (See "Contact" on top left of my blog)

    xx Jazzy (Val O'Donovan nee Grimes)

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  37. Well hello there Tommy Gallagher!!!!

    Let's test your memory - name the year, the act and the context for the following -

    "Where's Tommy?"
    "Gone to Malta, Gone to Malta"

    Hint: Sing it to the correct tune :)

    I remember being dragged down to the canteen kicking and screaming by Elaine O'Callaghan - just for one rehersal mind you - in September 1978. I suppose you could say that I'm still at it. I'm off to Cork in a few minutes for a kids entertainment gig at a wedding! (Can I indrectly blame you for that????)

    They were great years and I always said that in most cases, it was the one person in each organisation that kept driving their Tops shows - some of these being:

    Charlie McCann - Bank of Ireland
    Harry Nolan - Jacobs
    and yourself in Aer Lingus!

    Even though you were not the group leader in 1989 (Ann Tyrell up to the Dublin Final and moi to the National Final) the adventure would not have got going and there would have been no National Final without you.

    As Val says have a look at all the stuff on the JPT facebook page - its a bit mad! And thanks also for everything that you have done (fekkin hell do you remember those meetings with Terry Byrne!!!)

    Best of luck and I hope things are going well in NearFM - I have spend the last year and a bit visting the offices below.

    Thanks again
    Paul Furey

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  38. Hello Martin Higgins way up there!

    I'm only reading all the comments.

    Thanks for the towels - they cetainly helped with all the sweatin going on :)

    You were there too Val?????

    Cheers
    Paul

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  39. Ah Jaysus, and look at Anglo now and what they're doin' to the country! Oh the nostalgia! And OH to be young again and able to dance! X

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  40. @PAUL FUREY: You are so right. That one person being the driving force made all the difference. Gosh... Tommy has a lot to answer for. You paying him commission??!! Lol!

    @LIAM BARRY: Ah, Liamo..good to see you here! it's gas, I make that connection every time Anglo is in the news! And now you're playing the music for others to dance to ;-)

    Ahh...ya gotta love Tops!

    XX Jazzy

    PS I was where Paul????

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  41. Have great memories of Players Tops tho never
    participated....My Uncle Billy Brophy was instrumental in starting the whole thing going
    in Waterford City back in the sixties...he had always been very involved in the De La Salle
    Musical (Operatic) Society of previous years.
    He hopped the "ball" and others ran with it...
    The Tops, I mean. His family were very involved in the commercial and sporting life of the City
    .....his sister being the famous "Annie Brophy"...first professional lady photographer
    in Ireland who went into business in Waterford
    at age 23 in 1922 and operated very successfully
    for the next 65 years....her Work is now owned by
    the City and her 65,000 negatives are held in the City Archives and are exhibited from time to time in Christ Church Cathedral and The City Library in Waterford. Im sure she would have had
    some "Tops" memories in her camera.

    Just a little bit of memory lane information for
    whoever might be interested. Nice reading your own memories.

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  42. Hi there anonymous! You come from very fine stock indeed....what an interesting family you have. Your aunts camera must harbour some very fine memories. And I'm sure you yourself have very special memories too. Tops was very special from an audience point of view too....especially watched live in the theatre. TV could NEVER capture the tension and excitement in the audience, could it?!

    Tanks for taking the time to comment!

    xx Jazzy

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  43. Hey, I grew up in Drimnagh too. I can remember as a kid in 2 channel land and even after that, that the JPTOTT was required viewing. To be honest I hated it, but it was an institution and definitely a fore runner of today's factor type stuff, which I hate too. Ah well I was in a minority then and am still in one now.

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  44. @ALANBROPHY: Yes, I am very aware that it wasn't everybody's cup of tea. I totally understand that. It's a bit like football on the telly.... I HATE it but it's compulsive viewing when Ireland's playing! I'm a football pundit then...fully qualified too!!

    I will repeat though.... TV cameras never did it justice. Seriously. Cameras would be on lead singer whilst some amazing complicated dance routine going on other side of stage! And they ALWAYS did the long camera shot in the parterre just under the under-hang of the dress circle which could be clearly seen!!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Alan :-)

    xx Jazzy

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  45. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane just as much the second time :D Jen

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  46. i liked tops of the town 2 i was part of aurthers team loved the buzz of the show night in john players on the scr and going 2 the olimpic andthe gaiety and hoping u might get on the toy show aaaaaaa the good old days

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  47. @ANONYMOUS: The good old days indeed! some of my very good dancing friends were also in Arthur's Team and we did Distillers and Telecom Tops shows togetner! Thanks for taking the time to comment :-)

    xx Jazzy

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  48. anyone know where charlie mccann of bank of ireland is now.

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  49. just trying to remember the marking system or categories used think [1] entertainment value[ 2 ]production[ 3] variety??? and what else? can you remember? Great entertainment.! what substitutes to day such as "britain got talent" and " all ireland talent show" seems to just provide ego trips for the so called " judges"

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  50. Absolutely aggree present day " Talent shows" are ego trips for so called Judges some of whom have now failed careers and some who never had a career in the business anyway. Cant understand how the humiliation of contestants by these judges can be justified.It seems they want an ego trip at any cost!!! Seems maybe RTE may have got wise to this form of abuse

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  51. won it in 94 with waterford crystal,great times,great memories

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  52. @Alan Brophy: Don't know why but I'm only noticing your November comment now!! Ah well, I was deep in panto preparations then so that might explain it;-) Oh yes, you are not alone. LOTS hated JPT. TV cameras didn't always do it justice and then again musical theatre ais not to everyones taste. You're right, it was an institution and it was also great opportunity/starting point for talented people in this country. You came from Drimnagh too...wow, small world!

    @Anonymous: Sorry for delay..I actually checked this on your behalf but never got around to replying! Charlie (I remember him too) is still on the circuit doing shows here in Ireland.

    @Tom Murray:Agreed! JPT was the XFactor for the 'little people'. Such a pity it's no longe. The categories...don't you remember?:

    Max marks 100:

    Comedy (10)
    Creativity/Originality (10)
    Variety (20)
    Production (10)
    Entertainment value (50)

    Ok, I cheated and copied the above from an old programme!!

    @Anonymous: Congrats! Wonderful memories to have..none of us will ever forget:-)

    Thank you all SO much for taking the time to comment. It's wonderful that this post is still getting comments 18 months after it first appeared! Thanks for that :-)
    xx Jazzy

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  53. Wow.....living in Hong Kong now and was just trying to explain what Jonn Player Tops was to a few local friends.....I searched on google and this is what came up......I was fortunate enough to be involved for a long time, from humble beginnings in the 70's to finally getting on live TV for the final before it all ended. A fantastifc experience that I will never forget.....it would be great if you could find some old videos.....I have some at home and maybe I will try to get them the next time I am on the other side of the world.

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  54. @Annoymous: Apologies for delay in publishing your comment... I thought I had!! Blogger seems to be archiving comments rather than publishing them. Wow, how amazing that you found this blog all the way from Hong Kong!! Hope you found and joined the facebook page?? See badge on my blog sidebar or click the link within my post above! Thater are some videos over there and tons of photos! I posted 2 of our Aer Lingus videos here on my blog...see UPDATE note at end of post and click on 'here' if you want to have a look ;-)

    Thanks a million for taking the time to comment...all the way from Hong Kong!

    xx Jazzy

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  55. Hi Jazzy, Sharon here (@autism mum eire) was really enjoying your blog when I came across this post, it has brought great memories back for me, of fun, and laughs and being terrified at the same time. I took part in the Athlone Apparell shows for I think for about 3 seasons, and it was the best thing, even though we never did get too far I think the furthest we went was the quarter finals, but we did seem to do a good few shows and had a few trips around the country which was great with all the after parties etc, I had a part in one show, which was like a silent movie and I had to go out onto the stage on my own and pretend to be waiting for a bus, and then charlie chaplain comes out and starts pestering me , it was slapstick. I will never forget it as it was awful being on your own on the stage I dreaded it and at the same time I had to try to make it fun. But they were great times the preparation, rehearsals, anticipation, happy days.

    Thanks for bringing those memories back, I really had forgot the whole thing

    Sharon S @Autism mum eire

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  56. My dad James Fitzgerald used to do top of the town for Bailey Gibsons on Dolphins Barn. Her performed Kung Fu fighting and it was great. He also helped to put together some of the dance acts. I remember it well,

    Sharon Dune, Cork

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  57. @Anonymous 1: Sharon, I remember The group name Athlone Apparell...I also remember a Charlie Chaplin scene like you describe but it may have been a different group. And yes, that's exactly it.... fun, laughs and being terrified!!

    @Anonymous ": That's a wonderful memory to have.... they were great times and JPT was a wonderful platform for talent in this country.

    Thanks so much for your comments :-)

    (wow....57 comments??!! Cool!)

    xx Jazzy

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  58. JPT Helped me on my way to the professional carreer i had. I Never looked back (except at the memories + good times) Shame the new generation miss out

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  59. Hi Jazzy. I started my stage careerer late in years with woodville variety group and learned my craft with them. I still am involved with a group called Inchicore Variety Group and every summer we put on a show similar to TOPS.Ihave nothing but great memories and lucky to be still on the boards

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  60. Hi Jazzy - Very happy memories of the Community Tops with the Whitehall Variety Group, Dublin performing at the Guinness Theatre in the late 80s/ early 90s. Lots of rehearsals,lots of fun,lots of friendships.Will never forget the pre-show nerves before our first outing - but what a BUZZ once we got started!!! Nothing like it - and nothing like a live audience reaction and some appreciation, even though it was largely made up of family, friends, neighbours and whoever we could drag in! Always remember the things that went wrong (ie: Mag's skirt falling down in the middle of a rock & roll number / radio mics falling off - ...we were on a very basic budget!!) Thanks to Betty & Evelyn, our choreographer and producer who managed to make us look competent out there. Never quite learnt how to tap properly but the experience of singing and acting was nothing but fantastic and I can honestly say it has given me a love of variety and theatre that has stayed with me since.I agree with an earlier contributor, in that there was none of the current talent show judging which plays to an audience and is largely egotistical on the judges part. We were just happy to see our names in the programmes. All in all, being involved with the Tops gave us all confidence in our own abilities (no matter how small)and a sense of fun and adventure.Very occasionally, the video casettes are dusted off and viewed and, while we can cringe at the hairstyles, we remember a very special happy time in our lives. Still involved in variety on an occasional basis. Would love to see the concept return. Maybe(post celtic tiger) now the time is right.... Claire

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  61. @Anonymous: Yet another one to get a great professional head start from JPT! That is good to hear and I hope it's been successful for you.

    @Anonymous: That's fantastic that you keep the JPT spirit going in your area. I really admire you for doing that. Not easy in these recessionary days yet it is precisely live theater that can put a smile back on people's faces when most needed!

    @Claire: I'ts a wonder we haven't bumped into each other before Claire (or have we?!!) Look, you could have the biggest budget in the world and still have skirts & radio mic malfunctions, believe me!! That is so true, we were so happy to see our names in the programmes...I still have mine. But it was really good to see yourself on live TV I must say. There has to be a happy medium between that and the celebrity fame madness that exists today?
    As regards the return of the concept it seems that it's still there! Check the JPT FB page. 2012 Finals are on June 3rd in the Gaiety Theatre!

    Thanks so much for your comments and for sharing your memories with me:-)

    xx Jazzy

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  62. what a blast from the past, used to love the jpt's, Sinead variety group from Dublin, we managed to win it one year, I was only young in it tho, played very little parts, but rest of my family all involved at the time, was great fun!

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  63. @Anonymous: Sinead Variety Group were great...maybe they'd reform and enter the new Tops in 2013? You're young enough to get another go at Tops!!


    Thanks for your comment :-)

    xx Jazzy

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  64. I recently received this lovely comment from @Gina Cully :

    'i have just been watching tops of the town 1980 which they won my dad and 2 sister's were in it and it was part of our family for years as my daddy was an irish distillers man borh and bred he has since passed away in may 2012 and i feel so close to him watching that dvd love it i do i rmemember fiona cambell '

    Thanks for your comment and apologies Gina... I did publish your comment here but it disappeared into the blogger ether. Happens from time to time.

    Sorry to hear about your dad's passing. Sounds like your whole family have wonderful JPT memories :-)

    As far as I remember Irsih Distillers did Tops only twice, 10 years apart and won it twice! Your dad and sisters were in the first one....and I was in the second! Small world.
    There was also a girl who appeared in the first one as an 11 year old, then came back for our one as an adult and sang a beautiful solo number.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment :-)

    xx Jazzy

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    Replies
    1. im just seeing this now jazzy aw i had my son put the time me dad and sisters were in it on you tube yesterday,cried my eye's out our family have wonderful memorie's of t,o,t,t,i think if im right was that girl called adel or something like that thanks again for answering jazzy and maybe by the time you see this lol happy christmas xxx

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  65. hi im just letting you's know i have put tops of the town with irish distillers winning it in 1986 at the gaitey my dad and sisters are in it my son put it on you tube yesterday the 6th nov 2013 its a great show hope you's check it out thanks gina

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