MATTY SUTTON met the King Of Panto and judge on Glasgow's Star Turn
MOST people in Glasgow may know him best as a pantomime dame, but Dean Park has many strings to his entertainment bow.
When we meet, at his local country club in Newton Mearns, he regales me with stories from his time in show business.
He even breaks into song with a rendition of his Top 20 hit, Wee Andy Webber's Scottish Medley, and a Scottish version of Hey Jude, by The Beatles.
The idea for singing Lord Webber's famous London West End classics with a Scottish twang came from his experience of bad Scottish bands at weddings.
Dean, 61, from Newton Mearns, said: "We released it in 1998 and got into the charts with it and it was in the Top 20 in 2000.
"It all comes from when you go to a Scottish wedding and they have got a Scottish band on. In years gone by they were dreadful, and they would try to play pop songs on the accordion.
"I have a pal who is an accordion player and he started doing the tune from Les Miserables and I was falling about laughing. So we started doing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs."
Born in the South Side, Dean learned to sing at the age of three, inspired by his mother, Josephine, and father, William, who were singers.
William worked in the Alhambra and Empire theatres in the city and Dean recalls sitting in the back of the circle as a little boy, watching the shows.
In 1962 he was Boy Soprano Of The Year and by the end of that decade Dean was performing in a group in dance halls across Scotland.
He said: "I could sing songs before I could speak and I liked it because I got a lot of attention.
"Then, when I went to school, I could sing songs and people liked that."
In 1974 he went solo and a year later turned professional, before turning to stand-up comedy in 1979.
He did his first pantomime in Scotland in 1977 at the Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, where he played principal boy in Mother Goose.
But it was not until 1984 that he first put on the drag outfit he is now well known for.
Dean, who lives with his partner Karen Logan, the ex-Dollar and Bucks Fizz singer, said: "A lady asked me to do it one year and I said, 'I'm not doing that'.
"It was 1984 in Inverness and that was the first time I put on a dress and I couldn't believe the laughs I got.
"I loved it, I was addicted. The main thing is, especially in west Scotland, they took me to their hearts, they loved me as a woman.
"I look like my mother when I am dragged up with a wig and make-up on.
"My father used to say, 'There is no way you look like your mother', but I do."
This winter, when he takes to the stage as the Lion in The Wizard Of Never Woz, will be his 31st panto, his seventh in a row at the Pavilion and his 10th overall at that theatre.
The father of three and grandfather of six, said: "It is fantastic. The tradition of pantomime in Scotland is very strong.
"West Scotland has a great market for people going to pantomimes. I think it lets people get away from the mundane parts of life, it gets you out of yourself and it allows me to behave like a clown for four hours a day. I enjoy doing it."
In the late 1970s he worked the holiday parks and tourist destinations south of the border before returning to Scotland to star on Scottish Television.
But he first discovered that people found him funny when he was working in Glasgow as a compere in The Golden Garter pub in the then Hill's Hotel, Drumchapel.
He said: "I found out people reacted to me and Ken Dodd was the one that said to me, 'You should be telling jokes. People like you'.
"The thing about being a comedian is people have got to like you. It is difficult being young and being a comedian because when you are 25 or 28 it is difficult for people to relate to you.
"You are working people who are a lot older than you so it is harder to relate.
"So by the time I became 40 – and they say you don't become a comic until you're 40 – then people reacted to me more because there is a respect thing too."
For the past 11 years he has been the voice of weekend morning radio on Clyde 2.
And this summer Dean will appear in Juke Box Memories 3 - The Love Years at The Pavilion, a showcase of 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s music set in a Glasgow cafe.
l Tickets for Juke Box Memories 3 are £14-£17. Show opens on July 19. For tickets call 0141 332 1846 or see the website: www.paviliontheatre.co.uk
AS A judge on our Star Turn talent contest, Dean said he was looking forward to the Grand Final on July 30.
He said: "I am sure it will be very exciting for the contestants and I just hope they are not too nervous and are relaxed.
"I enjoy not having to compete. Over the years I have always enjoyed going to see other acts working, so on the night I will enjoy watching other acts singing and dancing and being funny."
Tickets are available for the final at the Old Fruitmarket, Merchant City, cost £10 (£7.50 for concessions, £30 for a family ticket).
For information, call 0141 353 8000 or see the website: www.glasgowconcerthalls.com