Never mind Miss Southsea, what about Mr Southsea?

Finalists in a Miss Southsea competition. (Left to right) Valerie Bezzant, June Days, Elaine Rawlings, Marion Thustain, Diana French, Daphne Collin
Finalists in a Miss Southsea competition. (Left to right) Valerie Bezzant, June Days, Elaine Rawlings, Marion Thustain, Diana French, Daphne Collin

THIS WEEK IN 1976: Big crowds for the big band sound

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I recently wrote about the Miss Southsea competition held on South Parade Pier in the 1950s and 1960s. But did you know that for a short time in the 1970s there was a Mr Southsea competition where local beefcakes lined up to be judged by the audience?

The Miss Southsea competition featured many girls whose whole life was entering these competitions in the seaside resorts of England – but there were exceptions.

The winners and runners-up in the Best Body competitions. (Left to right) John Booker, Marion Thustain, Derek Manthorpe,  Valerie Bezzant, Ann Hayward and Leslie Henson

The winners and runners-up in the Best Body competitions. (Left to right) John Booker, Marion Thustain, Derek Manthorpe, Valerie Bezzant, Ann Hayward and Leslie Henson

Wendy Brudnell, now of Buckland but then living in Trevor Road, Southsea tells the story.

Wendy and her friends used to work at David Grieg’s the grocer in Albert Road (remember ham on the bone?) and every Wednesday was half-day.

Wendy and three or four friends used to go to the pier, get an entry form and line up with other contestants just for the fun of it.

This went on nearly every Wednesday afternoon during the summer months.

They also received a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate for entering.

They knew they never had much chance as the pro girls knew how to walk and stand and make the best of their attributes.

In the final the girls lined up and a stage assistant stood behind each one and placed a hand in the air. The audience then clapped as loud as they could for the one who they thought should win. As simple as that.

Robina Patrick tells me that Jeanette Castle, who was featured in the original article, worked with her as a GPO telephonist in the Post Office opposite the Town Station in Commercial Road.

Robina says that some of the girls used to enter just for a dare, but never wore a bikini. Instead they had one-piece swimsuits.

Gordon Allen of Milton tells me that the pier was run by Trust House Forte and the manager was a James Bare. Mr Bare asked Gordon if he would run a show on the pier for bodybuilders, which he agreed to do.

The shows took place on a Wednesday night and afterwards Steve Kingsley turned up to do a disco show. Over the seasons extra events were added such as The Most Tanned Figure, also known as Miss Fitness.

Then there were bodybuilding competitions for the over-45s and under-18s, plus a beauty contest which all went off very well.

Gordon tells me that there were in excess of 500 people and some had to be turned away for safety reasons.

Some of the people Gordon remembers who made the shows so good were Glen (Norman Wisdom) Ford, Shaking Jimmy (an Elvis impersonator) and Scottie who did the raffle. On wet nights when Miss Southsea entries were low, she would put herself in aged 60!