Cream of entertainment: The Fiesta Club in Sheffield once brought the best in showbusiness to the creme de la creme of Sheffield
It was as near as Sheffielders ever got to a taste of Las Vegas – without ever having to leave the city.
Arundel Gate’s Club Fiesta, which opened in the summer of 1970, captured the hopes and aspirations of a city ready to take on the world.
Sheffield’s confidence was at an all time high as the sprawling cabaret club – then the biggest nightclub in all of Europe – promised to attract the biggest stars in the world to its palatial establishment. It didn’t disappoint.
The glittering, purpose-built venue cost a staggering £500,000 and was opened by Keith and Jim Lipthorpe – former semi-pro musicians from Teesside that made Sheffield their home.
The Fiesta helped launch the careers of a host of national stars spanning Les Dawson to Sheffield’s own Marti Caine and came nearer to landing a gig by Elvis Presley than any other UK venue.
The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, The Jacksons, Tommy Cooper – the list of stars that graced the 1,300 capacity auditorium is a who’s who of star entertainment from the era.
Biting recessions, industrial disputes, changing entertainment tastes, and the rising fees of big name stars called time on the dream – it came crashing down in spectacular style for the Lipthorpes in 1976 when the venue the 1980s.
Neil Anderson, author of ‘No Siesta ‘Til Club Fiesta’ which has just been re-released, said: “It’s unlikely Sheffield will ever see anything like the Fiesta again. Sheffield was booming in the early seventies and nowhere represented that confidence better than the Fiesta.”
‘No Siesta ‘Til Club Fiesta’ is available from www.acmretro.com for just £12.95.
It includes scores of rare photos, interviews with stars, staff and clubgoers.
One of the stars who almost made it to the Steel City for a one off appearance was the king of rock ‘n’ roll himself, Elvis Presley (no really!). Elvis stepped on British soil for the first and last time in March 1960.
It wasn’t exactly a ground-breaking entry in the annals of rock’n’roll history; he was changing planes on his return from military service in Germany. But things could have been very different.
Though ‘the King’ only ever performed five times outside of the States in his entire career (the gigs were clocked up on a three day visit to Canada in 1957), he actually came far closer to playing this country than many realise.
And forget London, the place that came arguably closer than anywhere else to landing a UK performance was actually Sheffield.
The city in the early 1970s was the epitome of affluence and a world away from the post-industrial blight portrayed in The Full Monty.
The steel mills were operating at full tilt and monied-up factory workers were demanding luxury from their nights off.
In August of 1970 their prayers were answered with the unveiling of the sprawling Fiesta venue – a true palace of entertainment run by Teesside brothers, Jim and Keith Lipthorpe. Fiesta Fawns were the venue’s answer to the Playboy Bunnies, there were also dancing girls and a resident house band.
The Lipthorpes were soon persuading some of the biggest names in entertainment to come to Sheffield – everybody from the Beach Boys to the Jackson 5 were getting up close and personal with the Steel City jet set. But landing a gig by Elvis was always their dream.
Things came to a head in September of 1972 when the New Musical Express ran a front page story to say: “After years of speculation Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker (his manager) have finally said NO to a British tour of concerts. Reason given is that no suitable British venue exists at the present time.
“In talks with British fan club organiser Todd Slaughter, the Colonel has ruled out what he calls “ball parks” – an apparent reference to Wembley – and instead wants a supper club showcase for Elvis with seating for upwards of 1,000 diners. In the end it was Elvis’s increasingly erratic behaviour that called time on any plans. The star’s increasing dependency on prescription drugs was taking its toll. He was slurring his words and forgetting lyrics at his Las Vegas shows. Keith Lipthorpe later admitted, if they’d landed the gig that it would not only have truly gone down in history, it would have probably taken the whole club down with it.