I was very fortunate to get in touch with another famous star of the Benny Hill Show, the lovely Lorraine Doyle (Greening). A special thanks to Lorraine for consenting to this special interview and passing along these fantastic photos. Click on each image on this page for a larger view. Enjoy!
Love Machine Q&A
Lorraine Doyle (Greening)
Lorraine Doyle (Greening) and Benny are newlyweds
What was it like to have known Benny Hill, one of the world's best comic genius actors that England has ever produced?
To be associated with such a group of talented people like the hilarious Bob Todd, the brilliant Henry McGee, the fantastically talented Jon Jon Keefe and the extremely gifted, lovely, Anna Dawson was such a wonderful time in my life. Just being in the company of some of the funniest, nicest people you could wish to meet on British television, could not truly be classified as work. Don't get me wrong, Benny could be and was a hard taskmaster in his never ending quest seeking perfection, but you would never find a kinder more genuine and sweeter film and television star anywhere in the world.
The first Benny Hill Show I appeared in was in 1977. At the time I was a member of the singing and dancing group, Love Machine. We had been booked on the show to perform our song called "Think of the Boys", and were also involved in a few of the sketches. I remember doing a sketch called "Villain of the Year" and a take-off of Starsky and Hutch. This was well before Hill's Angels existed. Benny had asked our manager if we would like to be a permanent part of the show. For whatever reason, which, for the life of me I just cannot remember, we declined. However Benny liked the idea of having his own group of girls, so Hill's Angels were born some time later.
Lorraine Doyle (Greening) and Benny
Benny was a wonderful person to work with. He was so kind to newcomers like myself, virtually fresh out of Theatre school. Although I had a taste of what it was like to be in professional show business while still in school. I performed with the coups de ballet of the Royal Festival Ballet Company for two seasons of the Nutcracker Suite and two seasons of the Sleeping Beauty. My first TV work was for BBC 2 whilst still in school playing Sandy, in an adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and also for BBC 1 in Memories of Bridget Hitler.
However, I had never worked with such a huge star (let alone my Dad's favourite comedian). I remember my first day on the set as if it were yesterday. The other girls from Love Machine had worked with and knew Benny quite well, but I was rather daunted and very shy, as anyone could imagine, meeting such a famous person for the first time. In a studio full of people, Benny looked at me, opened his arms wide and said, "Come and give Uncle Benny a kiss". I didn't know what to do. Then I saw the twinkle in his eye and Benny said, "look she's gone white", (which was one of his favourite sayings), where everyone on the set fell about laughing and I relaxed. I saw that happen many times after. It was just one of his ways of breaking the ice and making you feel welcome.
Standing, from left: Johnny Hutch, Gary O'Bee, Derek Deadman, Benny, Jon Jon Keefe, Duncan Pettigrew, Bob Todd and Henry McGee. April 27, 1988 "Club Chic-a-Go-Go" sketch.
Benny was a perfectionist as far as his sketches were concerned. For instance, there was a joke involving me having to blow a big bubble gum bubble for a sketch which had to be on cue. So, at the end of the day's rehearsals he handed me a pack of gum and told me to go home and "practice, practice, practice", (another of his favourite sayings). One day later, with a terrible aching jaw, but with the greatest bubble blower of old London town in his presence, Benny dropped the sketch. I think he only gave me the gum to wind me up. Ha Ha!
With Benny, as with all great comedians, timing is all-important. When we were doing silent gags, if he thought it necessary that someone required guidance to hit the cue correctly, he would make little noises like a chicken having successfully expelled a very large egg from its rear end.
Lorraine Doyle (Greening) and Benny
When it came to the live recordings in front of a studio audience you had to be really on the ball if you were doing a sketch with him. If Benny liked the reaction he was getting from the audience, he would ad lib. For instance, I remember a sketch we did about an American, (Benny's character was called Barney), involving a wife swap mix-up with Cathy Staff, Helen Horton, Henry McGee and myself. In the middle of the sketch, Benny had to spill a little tea on me. But, as he was enjoying himself, he decided to throw a full jug of milk over me as well, which was not so tough on me on that occasion, but was a pain in the backside for the costume people who had to run around like headless chickens, helping clean me up, as well as changed into a different costume in seconds. Then, get back onto the set in time for my next line to carry on filming the rest of the sketch.
Working on his shows was like being part of a great big happy family, especially for me from 1985 onwards. From makeup artists and camera crew, Angels and cast, Dennis our lovely director and Benny, we were all for the show and had fun at the same time.
The lovely Lorraine Doyle (Greening).
Were you always interested in working in Show Business?
All I ever wanted to do from a very young age was be in show business. It sounds corny I know, but true. I started once-a-week ballet classes as lots of girls do which progressed to four lessons a week. At the age of 10 my parents asked if I wanted to go to Theatre school and train properly. (I had a clue they were keen for me to start as when I came home they had moved, ha ha!). Of course the answer was yes, so I spent from the age of 11 until I was 17 doing hard labour at the Arts Educational School. I absolutely loved it. My first love of ballet turned to a love of all aspects of show business.
The Members of Love Machine pose for a photo. Left to Right: Claire Lutter, Libby Roberts, Lorraine Doyle (Greening), Teresa Lucas and Jane Eve (Colthorpe).
I was lucky enough in 1976 to be asked to join the all-girl group "Love Machine" straight from school. This gave me as a starry-eyed youngster, the fantastic opportunity to tour all over the United Kingdom, Europe and around various parts of the world with a wonderful friendly group of girls, namely, Libby, Claire, Teresa and Jane. Love Machine was always in demand and was kept awfully busy by our supportive and caring manager Ian Burton. We worked extremely hard whilst on tour, supporting many wonderful people including one of my favourite comedians Tommy Cooper, who was nearly responsible for my early demise. After we had finished our part of the show, we ran 'round to the stage front to watch his act which was so side-splittingly funny, I ended up hysterically laughing so much I was unable breath properly! At the time British music groups were all the rage in Germany, so consequently we were invited to appear in many German pop programs as well as the International Pop Proms. We also appeared for a whole series on The Little and Large UK television show plus numerous appearances in other TV work.
I was frequently featured on various TV commercials on my own. You name it, I seem to have done it. From Levi jeans to Dog food. To give you an idea of the range of commercials I've appeared in: from swish exotic ads like Martini to the milk marketing board trying to entice people to buy gallons of wholesome cows juice; KP nuts, which must have driven people mad who suffer from nut allergies; Clearasil skin lotion to help all the spotty teenagers dodge acne and Flymo lawnmowers, great for cutting the grass lawns but hated by slow moving frogs. Good money, ha ha!
Clockwise, from top left: Tracy(?), Benny, Lorraine, Sue Upton, Laura Wynne, Louise English and Emma Bryant.
Did you have other areas you were interested in working?
No, I had no time or interest in anything else except my work and a little bit of playing now and then? After Love Machine and before I rejoined The Benny Hill Show, I decided to embark on a solo career, during which time my work was quite varied. For instance, I joined Hot Gossip for a short spell. I also got involved with the C.S.E., (Combined Services Entertainment) and flew all the way to the Falkland Islands. A 36-hour journey in a somewhat battered, freezing cold Hercules C-130 Transport aircraft with no toilets, crossed-legs all the way! Except for, what we think was an enamel bucket behind a flimsy curtain. It could have been a chemical loo. Who knows? The things we did to entertain the thousands of fantastic service personnel over there on those freezing cold, windswept islands. That was an experience! By the way, all the guys were complete gentlemen!
Left to Right: Louise English, Benny and Lorraine Doyle make Benny feel like a million bucks with a kiss.
I was also lucky enough to be in a few films and was jammy enough to be asked to join a rock band as the lead singer. I'm sure they only choose me as the local pig was off sick with a sore throat. I then had the luck to meet one of the UK's most eligible bachelors and was invited to be in a Jim Davidson Special. (And by the way Jimmy me-boy, you still owe me for a half a dozen drinks). All quite different, but fun.
Benny and I had mainly kept in touch with birthday cards and postcards etc.. He rang one day out of the blue and asked if I would like to join his team again. I was thrilled. I was lucky and proud to be a part of The Benny Hill Show from 1985 until the last show made for America.
Are you married or do you have any children?
Sadly, I am now a widow. I lost my lovely husband, best friend and partner Vincent to cancer in May, 2004. I have two beautiful daughters Rebecca and Lauren. Rebecca has just turned 15 and Lauren is 13. Lucky me, two teenage daughters with a house full of hormones. Yippee!
What kind of work did you do after the Benny Hill Show?
After Rebecca was born in 1991, I tried somewhat reluctantly going back to work and had a small part in a Michael Winner film. But, as my Rebecca was so young I spent all of my days missing her, so I thought I would have a break and devote all my time to her. Eighteen months later Lauren was born, so I decided it was really time to give up the business completely and concentrate on my family. Vincent, who was a jeweller, had just opened our own jewellery shop and as it was rather a manic time in our lives, it was nice to be home with the children and there for my husband.
The Members of Love Machine pose with Benny (seated) for a photo. Left to Right: Lorraine Doyle (Greening), Claire Lutter, Libby Roberts, , Teresa Lucas (seated with Benny) and Jane Eve (Colthorpe).
Did you have any close friendships with the other members of Love Machine or Hill's Angels?
I will always feel close to Love Machine. After all, we basically lived in each others pockets for years. The nicest bunch of lunatics and totally professional girls you could ever wish to meet. We still stay in contact and meet up now and then and have hilariously funny lunches, chatting about all the wonderful and weird times we had together. When we meet the years just melt away. (And I mean years, ha ha!).
Have you been able to keep in touch with people from the Benny Hill Show?
I have to admit that I am the world's worst at keeping in touch, much to my regret. Lovely Anna Dawson and I swapped Christmas cards, but since I lost Vince, I have let that slip, too. You know how it happens, you get on with your life, you say to yourself, "I really must phone or write to whomever" and leave it too long.
I was very sad to hear that we had lost Henry McGee. To learn that we also lost the fantastic Dennis Kirkland was a shock. Dennis and Benny worked so well together. They were a real team. My heartfelt sympathies go to Mary Kirkland and the family.
Left to Right: Unknown, Dennis Kirkland, Fizz Waters, Lorraine Doyle and Benny at a Thames Television Awards Ceremony.
Would you be interested in a Hill's Angels reunion?
That would be a nice idea, but awfully difficult to achieve I would assume.
Would you take part in a featurette for a future Benny Hill DVD?
If I was asked and if any of the sketches I appeared in were on the DVD then I don't see why not.
Are you surprised by the response of fans to Love Machine and Hill's Angels?
Yes, I am very surprised. I only found out about this site because my younger daughter was messing about on the computer, (at school I may add, must have been a boring IT class), looking for images. She put in my name and a picture from your site came up.
Benny, Lorraine and Jon Jon Keefe in a gorilla suit.
I am obviously not at all surprised that Benny has a huge fan base. His humour will last through the ages and appeal to all ages. My girls love to watch the shows and have done so since they were little. Not just because their mum is in them, but because they make them laugh, and I love to hear my girls laugh.
I was astounded by the amount of research you guys have done on the shows. You have reminded me of routines and sketches I had long forgotten that bring back so many lovely memories of a special time in my life. Every now and then I look in on your guest page to see what you are discussing. Long may you continue.
Thank you so much for a magnificent site dedicated to dear, wonderful Benny and thank you for asking me to contribute.
On behalf of all of your fans Lorraine and Benny Hill fans everywhere, I wish to express my gratitude for your time and being so candid. All the best.
Lorraine Doyle has gone into the jewellery business! So not only is Lorraine a very talented entertainer, she is also now an entrepreneur! Feel free to take a look at her site, Laurie D Designs.