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An Ulster Log: Strictly's Katya's putting on the Ritz

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 06/06/2015

Smart move: Katya Virshilas is heading to the Grand Opera House
Smart move: Katya Virshilas is heading to the Grand Opera House
If you have a vintage copy of the Dandy comic No 294, published 70 years ago on June 9, 1945, keep it safe. It is definitely a collector's item. You see, in that edition Korky the Cat was relegated from the front page cover after a marathon run as the star and replaced by Keyhole Kate

Strictly dancer Katya Virshilas (31) will be putting on the Ritz at the Grand Opera House in Belfast from Tuesday, June 23, for a week.

She's appearing in a production of the musical Puttin' On The Ritz, which features the music of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin and their songs from the golden age of Hollywood. Unforgettable numbers like Cheek To Cheek, Alexander's Rag Time Band and Birth Of The Blues are in the show.

Katya was a Vancouver British Columbia Dancesport Champion four times and she and her partner have won the Canadian Latin Dance Championship.

She has also appeared in the Hollywood films Shall We Dance?, Take the Lead and John Tucker Must Die.

With Kate on the cover, all wasn't fine and Dandy ...

If you have a vintage copy of the Dandy comic No 294, published 70 years ago on June 9, 1945, keep it safe. It is definitely a collector's item. You see, in that edition Korky the Cat was relegated from the front page cover after a marathon run as the star and replaced by Keyhole Kate.

Publishers DC Thomson of Dundee quickly realised they were making a mistake after protests from scores of young (and older) readers and had Korky back on the front of the Dandy the very next week.

And there, Korky and his comic strip remained for 47 glorious years - with that one exception in June 1945 - until 1984 when he was retired for good, with Desperate Dan taking his place.

The first Dandy with Korky adorning the front appeared in December 1937, with sales peaking down the years at two million.

But with around only 8,000 being sold in 2012, the final print edition was issued in December 2012 - the date of the comic's 75th anniversary. The comic was relaunched as an online Digital Dandy but by this time the magic of Korky, Desperate Dan and all the other strips, including Keyhole Kate, had gone.

However, there are many vintage copies out there lurking around car boot sales or to be read online. Except for the rare and in demand No 294 with Kate on the cover. I know that book and comic collectors are searching in their attics hoping to find a real 294.

I learned to read as a little boy before going to public elementary school with the help of the Dandy and sister comic the Beano. As I grew a wee bit older, I graduated to the Rover (It's Goals That Count) and the Wizard (super athlete Wilson).

How Titanic inspired one of our finest D-Day heroes

On this June 6 - the anniversary of the day in 1944, the Allies launched D-Day to win back Europe from Hitler - it's important that I have a Second World War action story to tell. And the courage and expertise of Royal Navy seaman Nick Mead, in April 1945, qualifies admirably.

As the offensive against the Nazis continued, Nick, who has died at 93, will be remembered as the anti-submarine officer who directed the sinking of a German U-boat in that memorable month - the last sinking of an enemy sub during the war.

First Lieutenant Mead, who was born at Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in the Republic, the last port of call of the ill-fated Titanic, was on the bridge of the destroyer Watchman on a voyage to Portsmouth when he detected the submarine U-1195 on the seabed preparing to attack the convey he was protecting.

He ordered a counter-attack as the sub sank an empty troop ship and U-1195 was downed at the first pass.

Nick, who had relations in Fermanagh, was inspired to join the Navy after listening to stories of bravery on the Titanic when a boy.

How Titanic inspired one of our finest D-Day heroes

On this June 6 - the anniversary of the day in 1944, the Allies launched D-Day to win back Europe from Hitler - it's important that I have a Second World War action story to tell. And the courage and expertise of Royal Navy seaman Nick Mead, in April 1945, qualifies admirably.

As the offensive against the Nazis continued, Nick, who has died at 93, will be remembered as the anti-submarine officer who directed the sinking of a German U-boat in that memorable month - the last sinking of an enemy sub during the war.

First Lieutenant Mead, who was born at Cobh (formerly Queenstown) in the Republic, the last port of call of the ill-fated Titanic, was on the bridge of the destroyer Watchman on a voyage to Portsmouth when he detected the submarine U-1195 on the seabed preparing to attack the convey he was protecting.

He ordered a counter-attack as the sub sank an empty troop ship and U-1195 was downed at the first pass.

Nick, who had relations in Fermanagh, was inspired to join the Navy after listening to stories of bravery on the Titanic when a boy.

An itsy bitsy teenie weenie lie

Songwriter Paul Vance (86), who wrote the novelty hit Yellow Polkadot Bikini, has one intriguing chapter in his just published autobiography, Catch A Fallen Star - it's all about how he read his own obituary in newspapers.

Actually it was the obit of a Paul Van Valkenburgh who claimed to have written Bikini under the name of Paul Vance.

In 2006, newspapers repeated Van Valkenburgh's claim in that bogus obit that he had written the Bikini song under the pen name, but that he had sold his rights. Associated Press ran the obituary based on information received from Van Valkenburgh's widow. The real Vance quickly announced he was still alive and produced documents to prove it.

Prince proving a bit hit and missus

The honeymoon period is over for Prince William. Newspaper columnists gave him a hard time for refusing to talk to journalists on the day his new baby was born. And then they took him to task for not accompanying the Queen to the state opening of Parliament.

Now this future king is under fire again for referring to his Duchess, Kate Middleton, as "the Missus". William may have been joking, but he wasn't speaking like a Royal. Serves him right for having to endure the worst FA Cup final on record at Wembley when Aston Villa were hammered by Arsenal. What a bore that match was.

Sir Stanley Matthews, who played in the famous final of 1953, now known as the "Matthews Final", must have been turning in his grave.

Now, here's a gilded prize Bond

Here's a story about another collector's item - the Great Pan paperback of Ian Fleming's Bond thriller Moonraker. Copies are in short supply, almost non-existent in fact, so if you have a 1956 edition take care of it.

It so happens that I have a vintage Moonraker paperback on my shelf, published a year after the hardback from Jonathan Cape appeared. I picked it up a few years back at a church sale in Belfast and it is in good condition.

Moonraker was made into a film in 1979, starring Roger Moore as 007.

It's a typical Fleming thriller with his secret agent facing up to another dangerous assignment aided by a beautiful double-agent played by Lois Chiles.

Belfast Telegraph

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