Showbiz autographs to go under hammer

A collection of showbiz autographs built up over the lifetime of an actor's love affair with London's West End is up for auction.

Gary Rice worked in the theatre both on and off stage and, with his mother Joyce, built up a large collection of mementos from bygone and current stars.

He died aged just 54 from cancer, just months after the death of his mother, with whom he lived in Leyton, east London.

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His sister Gill, 61, is now selling the signed photos at auction so fans of that bygone era can enjoy them.

Among them are five prized autographs of his idol Liza Minnelli, who Gary and Joyce saw on stage.

Other highlights of the sale include a signed Tommy Cooper caricature, autographed photos of The Two Ronnies and Elizabeth Taylor.

Gary attended stage school and appeared in TV and film, including Hi-de-Hi! and Men Behaving Badly, performed cabaret in Soho and worked in the box office of West End theatres.

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He gained many friends in showbiz throughout his career, which was put on hold so he could care for his mother in her latter years, before her death aged 86.

Gill, from Suffolk, said her brother got the autograph bug from their mother, who was always interested in film and theatre.

Gary would politely ask stars for an autograph and even came with stamped addressed envelopes for them to send him a signed publicity shot.

He did not take up the more modern habit of asking celebrities for a selfie as technology was not his thing, his sister said.

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Gill said: “Gary had a true passion for London and visited the theatre at least once a week, his favourite being the London Palladium, and fulfilled a dream by visiting New York in the late Nineties, ageing mum in tow, and had a wonderful time visiting the theatre on Broadway.

“During all this, he worked hard to secure auditions and to add to the ever-growing autograph collection.

“He frequently wrote to stars he admired and spent time at stage doors handing in letters, always organised by including an SAE, and often waited for the stars to leave.”

Gill, a retired banker, said: “I really hope that all the years of hard work reflected in this collection will now find a good home.”

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There are 76 lots in the auction, with the estimate for each being £30-£40.

The sale is being held by Vectis Auction House in Thornaby, Teesside, on Tuesday July 10.

Valuer Kathy Taylor said: “It’s fascinating to look through the collection and see all these faces.

“It represents popular culture from when we were younger.”