WHEN the American entertainer Danny Kaye played the Empire Theatre in Glasgow, fans would congregate en masse outside the venue and his hotel, hoping for a glimpse of him. Mary Coyle, however, took it all in her stride.

He was a “lovely man”, to use her favourite expression. She herself was a well-known fixture at the Empire. “I used to take a wee cup of tea to his dressing-room”, she said. “I’d knock and call out, ‘Here’s your tea, son’ ... I call all the boys ‘son’.”

Kaye would respond, “Just bring it in, Ma, and a tomato sandwich if you’ve got one, as well”.

Mary, now 62 (she was interviewed in December 1952) had started work as a house dresser at the ‘old’ Empire when she was just 16. “My, it was a fine, friendly place,” she said. “Not as big as this, of course. We had only about nine dressing-rooms. Now we have over 20”.

Back in the day, quick changes for variety stars meant that dressers such as Mary had mere seconds in which to help the women performers out of one costume and into another. Now, zip-fasteners had largely done them out of a job; Mary still did it a few times a year but she mostly concentrated on running a canteen, five floors up at the top of the building, for the benefit of the artists.

She had fond memories, not to mention autographed photographs, of such music-hall stars as Marie Lloyd and Lily Morris: "they were lovely people, lovely people". And of the newer crop of celebrities, as well as Danny she had a lot of time for Eleanor Powell.

“I’ve been coming to the Empire six nights a week, almost without a break for 46 years”, she said. “Although times have changed it’s the life I love. I wouldn’t be happy away from the theatre”.

Tomorrow: More memories of the Empire.

Read more: Herald Diary