Former editor shook hands with Laurel and Hardy: ‘it was a great privilege’

They say you should never meet your idols. But when Tony Mustard shook hands with Hollywood royalty Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on their tour of the United Kingdom in the early fifties, it was a moment he would never forget.

The tour has become the subject of a new biopic starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, part of which was filmed at Worthing Lido.

The 77-year-old, who worked at the Littlehampton Gazette for 40 years, said: “They are the top of the tree as far as film stars are concerned.

“Everybody knows Laurel and Hardy – it doesn’t matter whether they are 15 or 85, everybody knows their name.”

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Tony and his younger brother Gordon were around 10 and eight when the iconic double-act came to the Brighton Hippodrome in Middle Street, Brighton, as part of their ‘Birds of a Feather’ tour.

As big fans of their films, Tony’s mother took them to see the variety show – and they were determined to get a souvenir of their favourite performers.

He said: “We both had autograph books, and we were told to hand them in at the stage door, and at the end of the performance to come and pick them up.

“We were told we might have to wait a little while because they need to sign all these books.”

It was worth the wait. Not only did they get their books back with the signatures, the comedy duo also came out and mingled with the crowd, shaking their hands.

Reflecting on the moment, he said: “You are pretty blasé at that age, but looking back, of course it was a great privilege.

“I remember what a thrill it was. Wonderful.”

Worthing’s art-deco Lido features in the new film, when Laurel and Hardy judge a beauty pageant as disaster strikes.

Filming took place in the town in May 2017 with crews adding a 1950s flavour to the Lido, complete with a bespoke mural which remains in place today.

Tony, from Felpham, said he was looking forward to seeing the film. He said he saw a side-by-side comparison of a dance routine from the movie and a film of the original performance on The One Show and described it as ‘déjà vu’.

The BAFTA-award nominated film documents Laurel and Hardy’s final tour together.

Hardy, suffering from ailing health, died in 1957 aged 65 and Laurel refused to perform without him.

Tony said: “It was in their blood. They just kept going until they dropped.

“They were wonderful.”