Comedy duo who went from city market to TV stardom
- Credit: Archant
They were loved by millions. After Morecambe and Wise these boys were the top double act in the land... and to think were once selling clothes on Norwich Market.
When they walked out on to the stage at The Talk in Oak Street it was like coming home and the people were on their feet cheering their very own heroes. And many were friends.
Thank you for all your memories of the city night spot now celebrating its diamond anniversary and several of you remembered the much-loved Mike and Bernie Winters who appeared at the club over the years, along with long summer seasons at Great Yarmouth when they were also happy to support charities and good causes.
They may have been cheeky chappies from London but they were born-again Norfolk boys. They had a soft spot for the city and county... and we loved them.
Mike (the straight man) and Bernie (the silly one) really were brothers and they had a bitter/sweet relationship which eventually led to the end of their double act.
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It's easy to forget that at the height of their fame they were second only to Morecambe and Wise. They presented their own programmes in the 1960s shows on prime-time television and tickets for their stage performances were like gold dust.
One week the brothers turned up for their TV show and were surprised to see that none of the kids outside the theatre were bothered about them. 'I asked the doorman what it was all about,' said Mike.
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'He told me The Beatles were on the show,' laughed Mike. They appeared with the Fab Four on several occasions.
Before the heady days of the 1960s the brothers had been travelled up and down the country, following in the footsteps of Laurel and Hardy, Jewell and Warriss and Abbot and Costello, trying to make a living.
It was hard graft. They arrived to appear in a show at the Norwich Theatre Royal in the early 1950s... and liked the city so much they decided to stay.
For the next four or five years they ran a stall on Norwich market selling stockings and clothes – and the people took them to their hearts.
'We had a good laugh,' recalled Mike later.
'We lived in Unthank Road. We had a mate named Ray Stott who later on had several shops,' added Bernie.
'We worked the area, going to Spalding and King's Lynn and on Saturday nights and Sundays we used to come down to Yarmouth. And all the time we were going broke together,' he said.
Eventually the boys moved back to London and had another ago at treading the boards.
Talking to Peter Bagshaw of the Evening News/Eastern Daily Press at the start of the 1965 season in Great Yarmouth where they topped the bill at the Wellington Pier, Mike said: 'We have been doing our double act for 11 years now. The first eight were hard. The last three have been very good.'
'Thanks to TV and Big Night Out,' chipped in Bernie.
Television projected them into the country's homes, the public lapped up their crazy slap-stick humour and they became among Britain's top laughter-makers.
Mike and Bernie became known as 'Yarmouth's own' doing many summer seasons in the town and people have fond memories of seeing them on the coast and at The Talk in Norwich during its cabaret days in the 1970s. And they were always prepared to help local charities and good causes.
The brothers, born Michael and Bernie Weinstein in a tough area of London, also travelled the world and were big stars in Australia and South Africa but they often had a difficult relationship behind the scenes and the double act finally broke up in 1978.
Mike turned his back on showbiz and went off and started a new life as a businessmen in Florida, while 'gormless' Bernie found a new partner, a St Bernard dog called Schnorbitz. Remember him?
Although they were later reconciled, they didn't perform together again.
Bernie died of cancer in 1991 and Mike passed away in the summer of 2013... their memories live on. Making people laugh is a precious gift.
Perhaps you have memories of characters who worked on Norwich Market over the years? If you do I would love to hear from you. Drop me a line at email@example.com or write to me at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.