What They Do in the Dark - By Amanda Coe

Lallie Paluza

Child star with an uncanny gift for impersonation.

The child star Eulalia ‘Lallie’ Paluza, who has died two days before her 35th birthday, never attained the profile of her stage school contemporaries Bonnie Langford or Lena Zavaroni. Only eight years old when she won the talent show New Faces in 1973, her career was effectively over by the time puberty struck at 13. A precociously pneumatic teenager, Lallie seemed ill at ease with the decision to make her play the nymphet in her LWT show Me Myself and Her. Having already endured a brief, fruitless foray to Hollywood, she subsided into a working life of pantos and summer seasons before retiring at the age of eighteen.

Her talent was mimicry. Clive James wrote of her New Faces performance that she was ‘a phenomenon less entertaining than, frankly, eerie: like watching the product of some mad eugenicist let loose among the chromosomes of Shirley Temple and Mike Yarwood.’ Yet there was some evidence that this gift for mimicry was the tip of an iceberg-sized acting ability. Lallie made a memorable straight acting debut in the film That Summer, playing a child murder victim. Her portrayal of a troubled child semi-consciously manipulating the paedophile who ultimately kills her, played by Dirk Bogarde, stands out as a performance still remarkable for its unmannered complexity. But Lallie’s parents and management were unhappy with the tone of the piece. After cashing in on the short-lived interest from Hollywood, they threw her back into the world of light entertainment, Tommy Cooper impressions and all.

Lallie was married twice: briefly, at eighteen, to actor Steven Garden, who she met in pantomime, and for four years to a property developer, Tim Brian, with whom she had a daughter. Her weight climbed during adulthood, and there were tabloid rumours of problems with drink and drugs. Yet Lallie remained adamant that being famous young hadn’t affected her life. ‘I was just a little show-off,’ she said in a 1993 interview, ‘and I loved the attention – every minute of it.’

Lallie (Eulalia May) Paluza. Born April 13th, 1965, died April 11th, 2000.

June, 1975

IT’S NOT EXAGGERATING to say that Lallie Paluza’s show is the highlight of my week. Watching her is the perfect end to my perfect Saturdays, which begin with me going swimming with my best friend, Christina. After two hours of splashing and diving but not much actual swimming, we get dressed, shivering and exhausted. Then, hair dripping into the neck of our clothes, we each buy a hot chocolate from the machine at the baths. It’s impossible to get warm, so drinking the so-called hot chocolate, with its sweet, powdery bottom layer and topping of tepid purple foam, is the best we can do. We’re starving by the time we leave the baths, and each buy a bag of chips with bits from the first chip shop down the road, eating them as we walk.

After that, fingers still greasy, it’s a trip to the newsagent, to spend the rest of our pocket money on comics and sweets. The choice of comics is always the same. I pretty much get them all, because I’m spoiled and get 80p a week. There’s the Beano, Whizzer and Chips, the Beezer if there’s a free gift, and my favourite, Tammy, now incorporating Jinty, which I used to buy separately. Comics often merge like this, mysteriously. When they do, the week after a surprising announcement, some of the stories you’ve faithfully followed for weeks fall by the wayside, for ever unfinished.

Choosing sweets takes much longer than comics. Although the way we each spend the ten pence for assorted chews, drops and candies doesn’t really vary, it’s an important part of the ritual, the weighing-up of five milk drops for a penny against the jumbo lolly at two and a half p, the balance between pleasure and value. You want a lot in your bag, the little white paper bag which, within minutes, will have worn wrinkled and slightly grubby, its paper so thin that as soon as the newsagent drops a lolly in it, the stick pokes a hole. The main thing I have learned is that it’s never worth buying the chalky imitation chocolate in the penny selection. I’m pretty shrewd, and so is Christina, and if either of us turns out particularly to covet a gum or novelty shape the other has chosen, there’s the pleasure of swapsies as we each lay out our spoils on the carpet in her front room.

We always go to