The Queen isn't the only one who's celebrating a diamond jubilee

JOHNNY Beattie's 60-year showbiz career is all set to be celebrated with a star-studded party.

Performers from stage and screen, including Alan Cumming and the cast of River City, will gather at the Citizens' Theatre next month to pay tribute to the 85-year-old comedian.

But before his special night Johnny allowed the Evening Times an exclusive insight into his life and times by releasing his personal photographs, his family portraits and by reliving the remarkable stage appearances which brought him success.

The pictures trace Johnny's career from 1951, when sitting in the University Cafe on Byres Road the young man with the matinee idol looks was approached by a total stranger and asked to join an amateur dramatic show.

"That moment changed my life," he says. The move from the muck and grease of the Clyde shipyards into the world of make-up and grease paint was a revelation for the young Johnny.

"It was all so different but great fun," he says. "However, I guess there was an inevitability about it.

"I'd always loved the theatre. You see, before the am-dram I'd seen the famous show the Tintock Cup at the Citizens and was enthralled by it."

His eyes twinkling, he adds: "And of course I'd heard there were lots of lovely women in am-dram."

Johnny went on to join the showbiz circuit tours with impresario Robert Wilson, he worked in variety at the Ayr Gaiety, and went on to become a favourite panto dame.

He also performed alongside such showbiz legends such as Jimmy Logan and Duncan Macrae.

He says: "I had seen Macrae work at the Citizens and he was quite something. You idolised someone like that. To work alongside him was great. He was a genuine character."

Johnny is a true showbiz survivor, making an almost seamless move from comedy into presenting and straight acting.

Over the years he has appeared in TV drama shows such as Taggart, and acted alongside Liam Neeson and Billy Connolly in the 1990 film The Big Man.

In recent years he has been a regular on BBC Scotland soap River City, playing Malcolm Hamilton.

"I've got a pic on the wall of my dressing room," he reveals. "It's of Jimmy Logan, Walter Carr, Jack Milroy and me, and we're all dressed as teddy boys. And I'm the only one left.

"But I think doing something you enjoy is a big part of longevity.

"I'm a very lucky man."

l Johnny Beattie – A Diamond Celebration, The Citizens' Theatre, Sunday, May 20. Tickets £25. All proceeds go to the Scottish Showbusiness Benevolent Fund and St Margaret of Scotland Hospice.