The Royal Zanettos
George, Pip, Arthur, Frank & Albert Bale
artistes of the golden age of music hall

How it started ...

 

Many people had contacted me via the website, with wonderful stories, photos and documents.  Among them was Jill whose connection to the Bales was through her relatives The Poluskis. 

In the summer of 2010, I found out that Jill has a home in southern France not far from where Gerard's brother lives.  So during a visit to Gerard's family that autumn, we arranged to meet up with Jill.  We spent a lovely afternoon talking about music hall and family stories ... but also discovered that Jill and I had attended Worthing College the same year without knowing each other!

There had been other coincidences since I started the website, but meeting with Jill prompted Gerard to suggest it might be fun to try to organise a get-together and meet some more of these people, which I thought was a fabulous idea!

Early in 2011, I e-mailed everyone I could think of with the invitation for August, and the reaction was sufficiently positive to make us decide to go ahead.  We expected around 30 people, and started to look for a venue.  We were most fortunate in finding Clymping village hall, because everyone there was incredibly friendly and helpful.

Then we needed caterers.  Our friends Betty & Tony who live near Clymping offered to take care of that.  Then we met Julie who'd often done catering at the hall,  and she agreed to join the team which was great, because by now there were about 50 people on the guest list!  When we realised we were going to cater for more than 60, we were again really fortunate that friends Denise and Irene said they'd be happy to help.

Many guests had travelled long distances across England, but also from Scotland, Sweden, France, Jersey, Portugal and Australia.  The generation span was surprising, the youngest addition to the Bale family being Millie, born on 14th July, great great granddaughter of Fred Skilton, a stage carpenter who worked at the London Palladium with the Crazy Gang!  The senior guest was artist Peter Bale, born in 1926.

The Zanettos were essentially the 5 Bale brothers George, Pip, Frank, Arthur and Albert.  With the exception of Albert, they were all represented at the reunion by family members.  But also present were descendants of other well-known artistes connected with them:

- Terri and Pauline, granddaughters of Pip with his mistress Mary Fleming, who subsequently married Tom Leamore taking her Bale boys with her.

- Brian O'Gorman, grandson of Joe O'Gorman, the lover of "The Beautiful Jessica" who was George's first wife.  George divorced Jessica and she married Joe.

- Jill, Sandy and Barbara, all three related to the Poluskis who were frequently on the bill with The Zanettos (see the page 'Poluskis & Bales').

- David Robinson, writer and biographer of Charles Chaplin who toured North America with The Royal Zanettos.

- 'A.J' Marriot, author of "Chaplin, stage by stage".

Also present was Max Tyler, the official historian of The British Music Hall Society.  [Unfortunately, at the last minute Adrian Barry and Neil Morkunas of the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain & America were unable to join us.]

Entertainment was provided by juggler Michael Pearse, and by singer Anita Elias, both of whom joined in the spirit of the day and were a great success!

It was an incredible experience for Gerard and me, we were blessed!  Everything came together without a hitch, thanks to the guests and to every single person involved.  There were a few emotional family moments, but mainly it was just lots of fun as I think can be seen by the photos ... (see PHOTO GALLERY)

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Max Tyler prepared the following write-up for the autumn edition of The Call Boy (the British Music Hall Society's publication):

Some three years ago we received a request for information on an act of 'Japanese' jugglers called The Royal Zanettos, all members of the Bale family of entertainers. This request came from Karen Nesbitt, great granddaughter of Frank Bale, one of The Royal Zanettos.  

At the time, little was known of this act that was on the bill for years with many well-known names (The Poluskis, Tom Leamore, Marie Lloyd, Chaplin, etc.), in England, on the Continent and in America.  Then Karen learned she had a cousin, Jane Koszuta, who had inherited many photos and documents from “Pip” Bale, her Zanetto grandfather.  The two of them beavered away, discovered more relatives with memorabilia, and there is now a substantial web site containing a great deal of information on these music hall entertainers.

On 7th August last, the village hall at Clymping, near Littlehampton, was hired for the day by Jane and her husband, and 65 people, all in some way connected with the Royal Zanettos, were invited to view all the memorabilia and information obtained and also to enjoy an excellent buffet luncheon.

Michael Pearse and Anita Elias provided the entertainment, and Brian O'Gorman, David Robinson, “A.J” Marriot and Max Tyler were also present. It was a most enjoyable day and showed what hard work and persistence can do to obtain details of a music hall act.

A.J Marriot was kind enough to express his enjoyment:

I simply had to write and thank you for inviting me to your "Family Reunion" on Sunday last. What a wonderful event it was. I imagined there would be about 30 people walking around with plates of buffet food, spitting crumbs at each other whilst conversing about their genealogy. But, my oh my, it was much more than that. Firstly was the fantastic display of memorabilia, which I never expected. I thought it may have been laid out in scrapbooks, which you would have had to thumb through, and take larger exhibits out of their plastic sleeves. But there it all was, in highly legible form, with no need to thumb or delve.

The two acts I saw were a well-chosen addition. Michael was very amusing - in fact, so-much-so, that his banter made us forget, at times, that he was actually doing highly-skilled juggling feats at the same time. The lady who did the Pearly Queen sing-along was also a delightful and entertaining act, and an inspired choice.

The food was exquisite and, had I not had my 5 o'clock meal at Butlins to consider, I would certainly have attacked more voraciously.

And then, of course, there were the people there, whom I did tell you in advance would be the highlight of the event - which indeed they were. What a lovely crowd. If they had stayed together for 3 days, they would still have left not having asked all the questions they meant to ask; not having said everything they meant to say; and not having spoken with everyone they meant to speak to ...

And the events of the day inspired Brian O'Gorman to write as follows:

 

Family research has made it evident that the Bale and Zanetto troupes were of very much more than average ability and interest in the World of Variety - that immensely important form of entertainment in the lives of the people of eras when the Music Hall, together with Circus, were the only readily accessible forms of popular amusement.

The Bale Family may be ranked with other dynasties of Theatre, such as the Colemans, Austins, and Lupinos.

Sons and daughters followed fathers and mothers in to the profession and  assimilated the lessons of singing, dancing, musicianship and dancing from their earliest years.  It was a hard school.  The rewards were not to be taken for granted.  The imperative was to work and to set out an offering acceptable to the Public. 

 

The Zanettos and Bales were preeminent in presenting tumbling, knife throwing, juggling, adding a dash of sensationalism to boot by cashing in on the Japanese and Turkish exoticism for their costumes and make-up, or using the naval interest of the day as a background tableau.

They were so accomplished as to appear as Top-of-the-Bill.  This was a rare distinction for acts of their sort, later reserved for such classic offerings as the specialities of the Ganjou Brothers and Juanita, and Zaleski ''' The Golden Spider'' .

They branched out when opportunity allowed, so that Frank Bale was for years the Bognor Clown appearing on the sands, typically with a performing dog close at hand.   

George Bale was married Jessica Prosser - ''The Beautiful Jessica '' a slack wire artiste.  Jessica also figured as a Bill Topper, thus joining the elite of her genre.

Later Jessica, not without some scandal and upheaval, married Joe O'Gorman (Tennyson and O'Gorman ).  She visited Australia with him and later South Africa (1906 ) by which time she was working a song-and-dance act.  It was in this act that her step-sons, Dave and Joe O'Gorman, made their debut as the O'Gorman Brothers, supplying the dancing for the offering.

The research reveals a great deal of the convoluted and problematic marital lives of the Performers, complications inherent in mobile and transitory world of the Variety Circuits and the tensions of them.  But also revealed was the striking evidence that there was marked concern by the Artistes to stand by, and make provision for, the dependents new partners brought with them.  Both Leamore and O'Gorman give solid indications of this.  The emotional pressures of the Business could prove more than intense, but duties were understood.

Significantly  the Zanettos and Bales left a mark on their own and subsequent generations, as so amply indicated by the very large gathering of interesting, interested and vital descendents at Climping in August of 2011.

The physical presence and display of associated memorabilia provided an absorbing exhibition, and showed yet again the absolute need for a specialised and dedicated Museum to preserve such material.  Much material is of supreme intrinsic relevance in the History of the Country, and the people whose lives were touched and enhanced by the ubiquitous presence of the Variety Theatre and its Artistes.