A new biography of British media entrepeneur Lew Grade – without whom shows such as Thunderbirds, UFO and The Muppets might never have been made – is to be published by Aurum Press next month.
All My Shows are Great is the first biography of a giant of British show business and the story of a pioneer of commercial television. A portrait of a genuinely larger-than-life figure legendary for his witticisms, Lew Grade was the last of the old-time media moguls – a genuine show business tycoon. From humble Jewish immigrant beginnings in east London, he became the world Charleston dance champion (and could dance it well into his eighties), from which he drifted into theatrical agenting, at which he discovered he was extremely good.
Soon he was a top impresario, with his brothers Bernard (Delfont) and Leslie Grade putting together variety bills, owning theatres, and eventually booking showbiz’s biggest names from both sides of the Atlantic.
The birth of commercial television saw him win a franchise with ATV, where Grade was a pioneer of popular culture, responsible for such TV hits as Saturday Night at the London Palladium, Robert Powell’s epic portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth and bringing shows like Thunderbirds, Space:1999 and The Muppets to British TV screens. It was his genius that also, then, paved the way for fan favourite comics such as TV Century 21 to reach the news stands.
Grade then went into films, most notoriously with Raise the Titantic! whose cost over-runs inspired his most memorable witticism, that “It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic”.
Grade was still working until he died in his early nineties, in the office at dawn, puffing on his trademark giant Montecristo cigars, and never losing his love of a deal. “Some of my shows are good, some are bad,” he once said. “All of them are great”.
Former Sunday Times journalist Lew Chester’s biography – the first to be written, is an entertaining portrait of someone who was truly larger than life.
• All My Shows are Great by Lewis Chester is published by Aurum Press on 18th February at £20 in the UK