Stephen Fry unveils plaque to forgotten singer who escaped the Ku Klux Klan before making and losing a fortune

Thursday, 11th October 2012

Singer Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, who died penniless, and the plaque (right) that honours him in Belsize Park

Published: 11 October, 2012
by DAN CARRIER

ENGLISH Heritage has unveiled a plaque at the former Belsize Park home of a singer who made millions before blowing the lot and dying penniless and largely forgotten.

Leslie “Hutch” Hutch­inson had once taken London’s swankiest night­clubs and grandest theatres by storm. He kept the Blitz spirits up by performing impromptu for people sheltering from bombs in the Tube, had scores of lovers and recorded hit after hit. But by his death in 1969, he was broke.

On Friday, the conservation group put Hutch back on the map by marking his old home in Steele’s Road with the plaque.

Writing about Hutch’s life has not been easy for his biographer, Charlotte Breese, who was at the unveiling. She said: “Frankly, he was a liar – he told terrible stories about himself. He would tell people things that were complete fantasies.”

After careful detective work, Ms Breese has uncovered a life that needed no embellishing. Grenada-born Hutch moved to Europe after a being attacked by  the Ku Klux Klan in Miami. He had met and befriended English aristocrat Ed­wina Mountbatten while she was visiting New York and started an affair which was to last 30 years.

In 1927, he came to London. Ms Breese said: “Hutch moved to Steele’s Road in 1929 and stayed there until 1967, when he finally had to sell his house to pay off debts.”

She added: “He was a multi-millionaire but he spent it all on wine, women, song and gambling on horses.”

Hutch’s daughter Gabrielle Markes, who was taken away from her parents when she was born, unveiled the plaque.

She said: “I was born in 1930, taken away at birth and placed in a nursing home pending adoption.

"As soon as I was able, I began the long struggle to discover my parentage, and finally discovered in my middle-age that Leslie Hutchinson – fondly known as Hutch – was my father.

“This ceremony is a very special day for me, and is the culmination of over 60 years searching for the truth.”

 

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