REVIEWS OF 'THE DRAGON ENTERTAINS - 100 WELSH STARS'
Meic Stephens, The Western Mail
Magazine, January 2001
Lastly, another book published by Wales
Books, The Dragon Entertains (£13) by Alan Roderick, a highly-readable reference work
listing 100 of the most famous Welsh stars of stage, screen and radio, from The Alarm to
the TV comedian, Ronnie Williams.
The list is a roll-call of the
theatrical talent that Wales has produced over the last century: Ivor Novello, Tommy
Cooper, Donald Houston, Donald Peers, Emlyn Williams from among the dead.
And Tom Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Bryn
Terfel, the Super Furry Animals, Harry Secombe, Kenneth Griffiths, Victor Spinetti and Max
Boyce among the gloriously alive and still performing.
It also includes fascinating
information about the Welsh connections of stars like Glen Ford, Bob Hope, Rolf Harris,
Griff Rhys Jones and Petula Clarke.
This is the book to reach for the next
time someone tells you that Wales has not nurtured any great talent in the world of
entertainment and showbiz.
THE WESTERN MAIL, NOVEMBER 17TH
ENTERTAINERS WE CAN TAKE PRIDE IN
SHOWBUSINESS: MANY TALENTED PERFOMERS
LEAVE WALES, BUT THEY REMAIN ICONS, SAYS A NEW BOOK (reviewed by James Pritchard)
For a nation of less than three million
people, Wales has a musical and theatrical heritage which is second to none. And despite
the fact that many of our most talented performers decide to leave for the bright lights
of London or the lower taxes of the USA, Wales should still be proud of its icons.
That is the message of a new book, 'The
Dragon Entertains - 100 Welsh Stars' written by Newport schoolteacher Alan Roderick. The
book, due to be published next week, contains biographies of 100 high-profile performers
who have either been born in Wales or have close family links with the country. And it
contains more than a few surprises.
Although all the usual suspects are
included - Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Max Boyce, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton -
there are also some names not usually associated with Wales. Bob Hope is included by
virtue of a Welsh mother, as is actor David Jason, Del Boy in 'Only Fools and Horses'.
The book also reveals that Stoke City
supporters have adopted Delilah as an unofficial club anthem, Monty Python's Terry Jones
was born in Colwyn Bay, and Cardiff'-born comic Griff Rhys Jones considers himself a bogus
Professional Aussie Rolf Harris is also
listed thanks to his Welsh parents and a grandfather whose portrait of Viscount Tredegar
can still be seen at Tredegar House in Newport.
The fact that there is hardly a corner
of the world where the impact of Welsh performers and artists has not been felt is
something that Alan Roderick feels we should all take great pride in. "I may be
biased but for such a tiny nation Wales has produced Oscar-winning actors, marvellous
opera singers, internationally acclaimed popular singers and television stars. When we are
compared to Ireland and Scotland I think we have produced amazing people and we should
take pride in that."
He says that although many of our
performers are still forced away from Wales, by lack of performance spaces and
recognition, that should not be used as an excuse to ignore them. "I think we should
cherish these people" he said.
"For so long the only heroes we
had in Wales were Owain Glyndwr and Aneirin Bevan, but people like Richard Burton, Dylan
Thomas, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Tom Jones and all the rest are valid as icons. In an ideal
world it would be good if these performers felt able to stay in Wales and make a living,
but in the meantime we should not resent what they have achieved. They are all
representatives of Wales and for a nation with an at times uncertain view of itself they
can provide valuable role models for the next generation of stars who will look at them
and say, yes, I can do that, too."
The Dragon Entertains - 100 Welsh Stars
is published by Wales Books and will be available in bookshops from next Thursday.
The king of comedy who was to inspire
an entire generation of performers was born Thomas Frederick Cooper at 19, Llwyn Onn
Stret, Caerphilly, on March 9, 1922. His father had been a poultry farmer near Caerphilly
but the family moved to Exeter, where Tommy grew up, when he was still a young child.
Tommy became interested in conjuring at
the age of nine when an aunt presented him with a box of magic tricks and at the age of
13, when still working as an apprentice shipwright in Hythe, Kent, he performed his first
After a spell as an entertainer to the
troops he hit the big time and became best known for his lunatic comedy shows, featuring
rambling anecdotes and magic tricks which never quite worked. Although he died after
collapsing on stage on April 15, 1984, Tommy Cooper remains one of the nation's favourite
The comedian who will forever be
associated with America, golf and entertaining the troops was born in England to a Welsh
His mother, Iris Towns, was from Barry
and used to sing in the local music halls before she met Englishman William Hope, who she
married on April 25, 1891. The couple lived for many years at 12 Greenwood Street in Barry
before moving to Newport and then to Eltham in Kent where Bob, their fifth son, was born.
Five years after the birth the family
sailed to America where Bob, who had been sung Welsh hymns at his mother's knee, was to
become a household name as a comic, film star and singer.
One of the UK's finest actors and
performers, Jonathan Pryce was born in Holywell in north-east Wales on June 1, 1947.
Educated at Holywell Gramar School, he
had a turbulent time at school but after leaving he took a drama course and managed to get
a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Since training he has worked in a
string of award-winning productions, from his first part in the Terry Griffiths play, 'The
Comedians' in 1977 to Broadway appearances of Miss Saigon and even acting the villain in
the James Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Comes'.
Super Furry Animals
Gruff Rhys, Huw 'Bunf' Bunford, Guto
Pryce, Cian Ciaran and Daf Ieuan have been together as a group since 1994 and are one of
the most eccentric, eclectic and talented groups to have emeged in Wales in the last
The Super Furries formed in the
crucible of the North Wales Welsh language music scene but it was when Gruff Rhys moved
from Bethesda to Cardiff that the band started to receive wider recognition.
They are the first band to have had a
Welsh language album in the Top 20 with their most recent, Mwng. As proud patriots, they
have told their record company that they will not work on St David's Day.
NINNAU (USA) Review by Peter Williams
February 1, 2002
It is a celebration of Welsh talent 'in
all its vibrant variety'. With so many Welsh personalities active in the world of
entertainment, the author has given us one hundred autobiographies in which he captures
the essence of each subject's life in a nutshell.
Most of your favourites are here, from
the most well-known movie actors such as Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Milland,
Sian Philips, and Petula Clark, to the lesser-known such as Peter Karrie, star of West End
musicals; Rupert Davies, BBC personality, and Ronald Lewis, tragic actor: from
contemporary heart thron Ioan Gruffudd to past stars such as Lyn Harding and Ivor Novello.
This wonderful book shows to the world
the astonishing range of so many Welshmen and women prominent in the entertainment field.
Lavishly illustrated, it is a veritable goldmine of information about your favourite Welsh
A favourable full-page review also
appeared in The News of the World, 26th November 2000, and a two-page spread
featured in The South Wales Argus , November 16th, 2000