Anita Harris was just 16 when she got her first job as a dancer in Las Vegas.
“It was an amazing time,” recalls the 74-year-old who is currently appearing at Leeds Grand Theatre in Rehearsal for Murder.
“We had one night off in 12 and we could go and watch another show on the Strip, with our chaperones of course. I got to meet the likes of Frank Sinatra and Mae West, it was an incredible time but I was homesick for my darling parents as well.”
Harris, who went on to become possibly the highest paid cabaret artist in the world, actually started out wanting to be a ice skater.
“My parents took me down to an amazing coach and it was there I was spotted and invited to go to Las Vegas, it must have been very hard for my parents to make that decision to let me go. I was a convent girl and still a child really.”
She spent six months in Vegas which she still recalls as a magical time.
“I think of all those incredible memories every time I set foot on the stage.”
Despite being offered another job in Vegas, a homesick Harris decided to return to England and landed a job with the Cliff Adams Singers, which led to her first television appearance.
She was spotted by John Barry’s manager and her solo singing career was launched.
“Cabaret was really big in the sixties and seventies and we toured the country to some huge venues. Then I would be at the Palladium with my great friend Harry Secombe.”
It was also with Secombe that Harris toured the Army bases, which was a real eye-opener for her.
“We would visit injured soldiers and when Harry walked in their eyes lit up and by the time we left he had lifted their spirits.”
But it was meeting her beloved husband, songwriter Mike Margolis, which Harris credits for her real success. The couple have been married for 43 years and have known each other for 47 and seem as much in love as when they met.
When we chat Harris is actually in the waiting room at a Leeds dentist as Margolis needed an emergency appointment for a loose crown, she is relieved when he appears unscathed.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing, with the pair famously facing financial ruin just a year ago.
“Life is a roller coaster for everybody,” she said. “I thank God that I am still able to perform.”
And Harris is a born performer and it is hard to see her not in showbusiness.
“I still get those bubbles in my tummy every time I walk into a theatre and I will continue to perform as long as I am able. I love the team work and camaraderie.”
He current role in Rehearsal for Murder is a straight acting part, something she also loves. In this murder mystery play within a play she is reunited with Mark Wynter whom she starred with in Annie.
“It is a great cast,” she says.