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Corrie star Pat amuses the crowds

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Believe it or not, the Showboat amusement arcade at the bottom of Wellington Street, Luton, has been open for well over 40 years.

And older fans of long-running TV soap opera Coronation Street will quickly recognise the actress who opened it in December 1970.

Pat Phoenix, who played devil-may-care divorcee Elsie Tanner in Corrie, was one of the biggest names on the telly at the time and it was quite a coup when she accepted the invitation to perform the opening ceremony.

As well as playing the ‘one-armed bandit’ machines, punters flocked to the Showboat for a game of bingo, and during her visit Pat was more than happy to call the numbers during one session.

Can anyone identify the arcade manager standing next to her and the little girl in the other photo about to present the actress with a large bouquet? According to the window display now, bingo is still played at the venue, pictured right, which these days is called Showboat Casino Slots.

Phoenix was Elsie Tanner from 1960 to 1973 and again from 1976 to 1984. Her character became known for her fiery red hair and Prime Minister James Callaghan described her as “the sexiest thing on television”. The singer Morrissey was also a fan and he featured her on the cover of one of the Smiths’ singles, Shakespeare’s Sister.

Phoenix was married three times and her third husband was actor Anthony Booth. Through this marriage she became mother-in-law to future Prime Minister Tony Blair.

A 60-a-day smoker, the actress was found to have lung cancer in 1986 and she died a few months later, aged 62 – just eight days after she married Booth on her deathbed.

 

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