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 MY FRIEND CAL DeGREY - by co-creator of That's The Way It Is! RODDY LEE

On 2 November 2008 Calvin DeGrey passed away. He had struggled with cancer since being diagnosed in late 2004.

I booked Cal for his last gig - where he was MC at a lush 60th birthday party at Darling Harbour on 4 October. He was not a well man but gave so much in a performance that brought the house down. Watching on, I couldn't help but flashback to the musical we created back in the late 70s and how far Cal had come from his very first "standup spot" in That's The Way It Is! - what he called his "intimate chat".

For Cal not only co-wrote the book for That's The Way It Is! with me - he composed some great show songs, directed it and played the role of Bob The Bartender in the cast.

His connections with the entertainment world was how the show actually got on stage - and why it was what it was and where it was.

Born into showbusiness, and growing up surrounded by show-biz contemporaries of his father, Slim DeGrey, by his late teens Cal seemed to know everyone in clubland - thus through this large circle of connections he first secured us a support spot at St George Leagues Club at the John Campbell Roast to promote our show in front of a room full of proffesional performers, then got us a showcase evening at Maroubra Seals Club, thanks to his friend and club booker Marlene Atchison and then came up with the venue for our first season, Newtown Rules Club, through brothers John & Jack Armstrong.

In December 1977 our musical was seen by two businessmen, Geoff Widdowson and David Pert, who, again, came to us through Cal's connections, and they became our financial backers for a 2nd season, played at the 269 Playhouse in North Sydney in the winter of '78.

The 2nd season had played for 10 weeks when we closed in July 1978.

That's The Way It Is! was just the beginning of Calvin's life as a performer - comedian, actor, author, song writer - and the cementing of a endearing friendship between us.

In 1980 we teamed up again to create The 1980 Flaw Shows, which was staged in July 1980 at Newtown Rules Club following a preview at Macquarie University.

Also, in 1980, Flim Flam's Singing Telegrams opened in Sydney, and Cal was one of the first Flim Flammers in Australia - I was soon working there as Sydney Area Manager.

From 1981 to 1983 we presented Caught In The Act - a variety show that played at South Hurstville RSL, Woronora RSL and Newtown Rules.

During this time Cal & I opened a booking agency called Upstairs Entertainment - situated in Paddington above the offices of jazz agent and DeGrey family friend Barry Ward & worked with Georgie Fame and Ricky May.

Then, in 1983 Margaret Lane Comedy Store opened and Cal was a regular performer from the very early days - and I played piano there in a double act with comedienne Saturday Brander.

Cal performed standup for many years - offset with some TV and film work - whilst I was drawn into the world of animation at Burbank Films.

But our friendship was strong - and respect reciprocated - and we were happy to be working together again in the 1990s - I produced Cal's comedy cassette "Piss Funny" in '96 - and Cal provided the voice of Roddy The Rooster for my children's puppet video and CD in '98.

In 2007 we saw Cal son, Asher, starting his showbiz career - carrying on the DeGrey tradition - as a standup comic - writing his own material and delivering his lines in that sure DeGrey way - and a prouder father than Calvin there could not have been.

Those last few years I saw Cal for what he really was - a fighter greater than all - a professional to the end - a loving friend and funny to the bone.

Thanks mate!


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