Johnny Lamonte, known as Juji to his family, died last year leaving his coin collection to RNLI Rye Harbour
For more than 30 years Johnny and his sister Suma were one of the most popular and in-demand speciality acts in British Variety. They appeared at Les Folies Bergère in Paris for a season and upon returning to Britain toured the country and performed in every major theatre.
Despite the advent of commercial television in the 1950s, Variety was still big business and Johnny and Suma continued to thrive. Although at times they were paid well, there were many lean times too, as all Variety stars had to pay their own expenses including accommodation.
Juji’s fascination with coins began some 50 years ago and he became quite a collector. The custom of appreciating and collecting coins goes back to the 14th century and because generally only the wealthy could afford to pursue this pastime it became known as the “Hobby of Kings”. When Juji died last year he left no will but his family knew of his wish to have his coins sold and the proceeds given to the RNLI.
On Sunday March 3, Juji’s family, including his brother Juno and his wife Jan, visited Rye Harbour station and proudly presented a cheque for £3,100 to Tony Edwards LOM (Lifeboat Operations Manager). Joan spoke fondly of Juji, remarking that he was the loveliest man you could ever wish to meet.
Darryl, his nephew, said: “It was a huge loss to everyone when he died. He was a true family man and was selfless. I spent a lot of time with him as I was growing up and would travel with him for the summer seasons to Blackpool and Yarmouth.” At his funeral a well-wisher said simply: “He was the nicest bloke I ever met.”
When Variety dried up, Juji had to look for other work but this was difficult as he had no qualifications or experience. He applied for a job at BOC and at the interview said to the foreman that his experience in Variety had taught him to be punctual, reliable and, even if ill, still to perform. He was given a trial and secured the job. He found having a regular salary rather strange as his income in the past had been so variable.
Juji had fond memories of Rye Harbour from visits during his lifetime and it was wonderful to welcome his family to the lifeboat station and to receive his generous donation which helps the volunteer crew to train and maintain their equipment, enabling them to help save lives at sea.
Image Credits: kt Bruce.