My First Job: Linda Regan – ‘I was paid in ice-cream and donkey rides’
My first employment, that I remember, was at the age of four. My father was a struggling comic and an agent. He also had a costume and prop–hire business, so I am sure he would have hired me out as a baby, for a fee, but nothing I remember. At the time, my dad was working at a holiday camp as a children’s entertainer and Punch and Judy man. My job was in the back of the Punch and Judy booth, handing up the puppets. I was also instructed to shoo away any inquisitive children who had snuck around the back to see if Punch and Judy were real. I remember I hated the crocodile puppet.
After the show, when my father went around to the front of the booth to perform a few magic tricks, my job was to speedily stuff the puppets into a tatty brown plastic suitcase and zip it up.
The two young audience members who took part in the magic tricks were always rewarded with animal balloons for their input. Daddy blew up the balloons, and I had to tie the knot in the end, as my fingers were tiny and nimble enough to slide in-between the plastic easily, whereas Daddy with, what I called at the time, big clumsy sausage fingers, struggled with the knots. After that, the booth had to be quickly taken apart, and the wooden sticks and curtains, again, thrown hastily in another tatty, brown plastic case and zipped up.
That was it then. Job done. I was paid my wages: one ice-cream cone – flavour of choice – and a donkey ride on one of the holiday camp donkeys. To this day I remember the donkey I rode every day, her name was Florence, and she was my first love. Very happy days, and I believe they set me up for the regular role that I played many years later in the BBC sitcom Hi-de-Hi!
Holiday camps today have changed so much, but then everything changes, including my career – I went on to become a straight actress, with a flair for comedy, but in those days I dreamed only of being a bareback, acrobatic rider in a circus, or failing that choreographer to a team of dancing brown Canadian bears.
CV: Linda Regan
Trained: Left school at 16, went straight into stand-up comedy and then joined Worcester Repertory Company
Theatre includes: The Norman Conquests, The Rivals, Macbeth, Extremities, Stepping Out
TV and film includes: Hi-de-Hi, The Knock, Holby City, Doctors, Quadrophenia, On the Buses, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall
Agent: Jo Hole
Linda Regan was talking to John Byrne