20 October 2017 by Laura
A new display at Museum of Liverpool marks the first anniversary of the death of Herbert Howe, award winning hairdresser, radio show host, reality TV star, charity fundraiser, actor and even pantomime dame! Linda McDermott, Presenter of Late Night Live, BBC Radio Merseyside and one of Herbert’s closest friends, tells us more about this Liverpool legend:
Herbert Howe was a terrific Liverpool success story. Over 54 years in business, Herbert of Liverpool employed hundreds of people, giving many a future salon owner a masterclass in the art of hairdressing and in how to look after the client. His exuberant character and his shining ability as a wit and raconteur attracted national TV producers and Herbert was the star of many series of his ITV Docu-soap, called Shampoo. Even the makers of the popular TV series Benidorm created a character inspired by and entirely based on Herbert, played by Coronation Street’s Ken Morley.
Success brought Herbert the opportunity to give something back to the city he adored, helping thousands of disadvantaged children, young carers as young as five or six years of age and the old and lonely trough the charity he established in loving memory of his mother, Queenie’s Christmas. Though not his motivation, Herbert won countless awards and national recognition for both hairdressing and for his humanitarian work.
As Shakespeare himself said:”The apparel oft proclaims the man”; Herbert certainly believed so and matched his sparkling personality with his immaculate appearance, always impeccably groomed and sporting an array of colourful and stylish outfits whether in his daily working life, for weekend downtime or the many gala occasions at which he would outshine even the glitter ball! It would have been difficult to find a better dressed man at the Grand National or on his annual outing to Ascot where he would treat his female employees to a grand day out, all turning heads in their finery and fascinators. Herbert was often eagerly sought out by paparazzi and featured in national newspapers in his bright red suit and his famous racing binoculars case in the form of a monkey.
In the 1970s and 80s, Herbert also ran a gentleman”s outfitters’ shop in Richmond Street and prided himself on kitting out the stylish man about town in his personally chosen shirts, suits, ties, shoes and casual wear. Along with one of his closest friends, the entertainer and broadcaster Pete Price, the two men would stand out on the Liverpool street scene in their sharp, colourful, eye catching clothes.
Herbert was a huge fan of cruises and sailed on many of the world’s most luxurious ships including the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. He delighted in being able to dress to impress and was never happier than when making a grand entrance into dinner, dressed to the nines and with his devoted sister, the beautiful Christine dressed in a gorgeous gown on his arm.
Herbert was invited many times to receive awards in London where he would stay at The Dorchester, his favourite hotel. One of his last appearances was to receive the award for Humanitarian of the Year from the Guild of British Hairdressers. Herbert was greeted with a standing ovation as he swept onto the stage in a lilac suit with lilac bow tie and lapels studded with his favourite sparkling Swarovski crystals. He told the audience:”If I’d have known I’d be on stage tonight, I’d have worn something special!”
In any speech, Herbert never failed to talk about his mother, the glamorous Queenie who was his receptionist for 32 years and who, he said, looked like the Hollywood star Lana Turner. Queenie had worked as a ‘meeter and greeter’ at the Odeon, London Road, greeting patrons in a floor length black, chiffon evening gown. She had also been a floorwalker model in George Henry Lee’s department store (John Lewis), showing off the latest fashions to customers as she swept elegantly round the store. Queenie had also been a ballroom dancer with Herbert’s father Frank and had been a professional whistler with a band!
Herbert was a man of great faith and among the many thousands of stories he told my listeners every Friday night for ten years on my show on BBC Radio Merseyside, he recounted how he had come up with the idea of Queenie’s Christmas. “I said to God one night:” recalled Herbert,”well, you’ve given me EVERYthing, now what can I do for you? Only don’t ask me to be a Monk ‘cos I don’t suit brown and I couldn’t cope with a bald patch!”
He also recalled when he was first starting out in hairdressing and as a 15 year old from Stoneycroft, had taken himself off to Paris to ask to see the greatest hairdresser in the business in that style capital of the world, a “tonsorial artist” by the name of Monsieur Antoine. The Parisian stylist took an immediate shine to the smartly dressed, blond haired lad from Liverpool and taught him top tips. But, Herbert recalled, when he got back to Liverpool and began his training at the well respected Hill’s Hairdressers in Bold Street in the city centre, he asked his first clients how they wanted their hair. “They told me I want it “dead ‘igh, dead wide an’ a lorra lacquer!”
Herbert Howe put the sparkle into Liverpool and his passing is a huge loss not only to his family but to the city he contributed so much to and his army of friends and admirers who will never forget him. His legacy will live on for a very long time. Enjoy looking at many of the wonderful clothes that were so much a part of the unique and forever missed Herbert.
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