June 1, 2009 / 2:00 PM / 10 years ago

Cabaret star Danny La Rue dies aged 81

Cabaret and theater star Danny La Rue speaks at a photocall to launch his two week residency at the Brick Lane Music Hall in this 1995 file photo. REUTERS/Simon Kreitem

LONDON (Reuters) - Cabaret and theater star Danny La Rue, who famously impersonated the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor during 60 years in showbusiness, has died aged 81.

“Danny La Rue died peacefully in his sleep just before midnight last night (Sunday) after a short illness,” his spokeswoman said in a statement. “His beloved companion Annie Galbraith was with him at their home in Kent.” According to La Rue’s website, playwright Noel Coward called La Rue “the most professional, the most witty ... and the most utterly charming man in the business.”

Reflecting the cross-dressing roles for which he was famous, Bob Hope said he was “the most glamorous woman in the world.”

La Rue was born Daniel Patrick Carroll in Cork, Ireland in July, 1927. He was nine years old when he was brought to England, and was evacuated from London during World War Two.

La Rue left school aged 15 and worked in a fashion store in Exeter, southwest England, and gradually worked his way up from the regional variety circuit to the bright lights of London’s biggest stages.

La Rue was one of Britain’s highest-paid entertainers in the 1960s and appeared regularly on television.

Toward the end of his life, he was more open about the fact that he was homosexual, and he lived for many years with his partner and manager Jack Hanson until his death in Australia following a stroke.

La Rue was appointed an OBE in 2002.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison

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