Fred Jester Barnes|
(May 31, 1885 - October 23, 1938) U.K.
Music-hall singer and dancer
Music hall character and comedy vocalist Fred was born in Birmingham on 31 May 1885, the son of Thomas William, moderately successful local butcher, and his wife Lady Alice (née Jester). He was educated at a school in Malvern, and made his first appearance at the Gaiety Theatre, Birmingham, in December 1907. His London debut was at the Empress music hall, Brixton, in March the following year, where his success was immediate.
Afterwards he was featured at one time or another on the bills at almost every metropolitan and provincial music hall of note in the British Isles, as well those in Australia and South Africa; he also starred briefly in vaudeville in America. Fred Barnes made the occasional pantomime appearance, including as one of the Dandies in Cinderella at the Opera House, Middlesborough (Christmas, 1907), and was seen in the London Palladium revue The Whirl of the Town in 1915.
The latter part of Fred Barnes's career was overshadowed by self-inflicted misfortune about which he wrote an article, "How Success Ruined Me," for Thompson's Weekly News in 1932. Off stage he lived a scandalously carefree life, never hiding his preference for the company of other men. In an age when this was not openly tolerated he was increasingly shunned, even by friends in the music hall profession. A minor incident in a motor car, in which his passenger was a young sailor, in Hyde Park on the evening of 19 October 1924 lead to a charge of being drunk while driving and driving without a license, for which he was later imprisoned for a month and fined.
Although Fred Barnes's career continued, his fondness for alcohol rendered him unfit to perform on several occasions and by the mid 1930s he had all but dropped out of sight. Eventually suffering from tuberculosis he went to live with John Senior, friend and manager, in a small flat at Southend-on-Sea where on 23 October 1938 he was found dead from the effects of gas poisoning.