Just the Ticket! is a veritable Who’s Who of local and international entertainment figures who have graced our shores with their blend of talent and audience appeal, all of whom Percy describes as ‘lucky enough’ to have met along the way. Not only an amusing account of the financial, logistical and political travails the artistic community has had to overcome during the past fifty odd years. It also serves as a comprehensive history of the entertainment industry in South Africa.
About ‘Just the Ticket!’
After his official retirement in 1994 from Computicket, the computerized booking empire, which he had pioneered, and run since 1971, Percy Tucker drew on his extensive archives and rich experience to write Just the Ticket!
Published by Jonathan Ball in 1997, this autobiography is as much the history of the live arts in South Africa from 1935 to 1994 as it is a memoir and, fittingly, an entertainment.
While the book details Percy’s extraordinary life and achievements, more importantly from his point of view, it has served as a rich history of and invaluable reference book about the South African theatre before and during the apartheid years.
Between 2002-3 Percy Tucker recorded Just the Ticket! in 50 half-hour programmes, which were broadcast on national, radio over 52 weeks, and captured for posterity on CD.
The recordings extended the story to 2003, and enhanced it with interviews both current and archival, as well as relevant and historic musical interludes.
The wide dissemination of Just the Ticket! has brought an unending flow of enquiries and requests from students and historians of the theatre as far afield as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as countless speaking engagements (proceeds to charity) ensuring that, in retirement, Percy Tucker is busier than ever.
“Computicket was Percy Tucker’s brainchild. There’s no question but that Percy had a profound influence on South African theatre. The scores of well-known personalities he introduces us to in this book, in their particular time and space, make for intriguing speculation. In the theatrical sense he is truly a man for all seasons.” The Star
“It is a formidable history of South African theatrical achievement, conceivably the most comprehensive ever penned. It is filled with amusing anecdotes.” The Citizen
“In this book Tucker recounts the dramatic and exciting history of entertainment in South Africa over the past 50 years. His intimate knowledge of South African theatre history and its outrageous personalities, and the visits to South Africa of all the great artists of the world over the 5 decades are all chronicled. It is a fantastic addition to the theatre history of South Africa!” Cape Argus
“An indispensable account of South African theatre across the decades.”
“Just the Ticket! is written with disarming modesty yet Percy manges to convey a picture of a life packed with incident, good friends and unquenchable love of theatre and an excellent memory for events.” Cape Times
I am delighted, on behalf of our profession, to have the opportunity of expressing form the heart a few thoughts about a very special man. It was in 1963 that I, then a bumptious teenager, first met Percy Tucker. I arrived in Johannesburg just having signed pianist Russ Conway to tour South Africa and was taken to lunch by Percy. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. The book you are about to read chronicles the four decades, and more, of his life spent in our strange and exciting world. Percy has earned a very special place in the history of South African theatre and entertainment. He was the first true gentleman that I met in the business and was always in a class of his own – a friend of the theatre – and the theatre is deeply indebted to him.
Percy, bitten by the theatre bug at a very early age, has dedicated his life to the performing arts. By creating first Show Service and then the gigantic Computicket network, he has had an enormous influence over the development of the full spectrum of entertainment in our country. Without and audience a performance is meaningless, and he enabled people to see anything they wanted to with ease. The importance of this contribution can never be exaggerated.
A book about the theatre is born long before the actual writing begins – in Percy’s case it was when he was a young stage-struck theatre-goer from Benoni and went on to become a fledgling ticket agent with one booking office in Jeppe Street, Johannesburg. He persevered where so many others had failed until he controlled the ticketing of every theatrical, entertainment and sporting event staged in our country.
Percy Tucker is an extraordinary man who personifies everything a ticket agent ought ideally to be. His vision of the theatrical world is always clear-sighted, true and steady. He is unbelievably generous, always scrupulously fair and understanding, treating everybody – stars and beginners – in exactly the same way, and he is entirely devoid of malice. – unusual traits in our profession. A wonderful showman, he has inspired people to think that the theatre is not only important but also indispensable to our lives. Self effacing (‘And what do you do, Mr. Tucker?’ ‘Oh, I just sell tickets’), always optimistic and supportive, generous with advice and encouragement, he has been a true patron of the arts.
How well I remember his kind remarks about some of my early abortive efforts, and his praise, so gratefully received, for later and better efforts remain etched in my memory. He has had a great influence on a great many careers and we have all benefited from his wise counsel. For many reasons, connected with finance, the changing structure of the theatre, and the times we now live in, we will not see his like again – and more’s the pity. His departure from Computicket marked the end of and era and left a huge gap. Things will never be the same again, but his legacy remains.
No one I know goes the theatre more often then Percy Tucker, and indeed, the entertainment world has always seemed to nourish and elate him and he has spent his life organising the chaos endemic to the theatre business. He has enormous integrity, an accolade given to many but deserved few. His prodigious memory for productions and people is a source of wonder to me, and he himself soon became one of South Africa’s best-loved theatre personalities.
Always in the wings, alert to every need and every crisis, Percy Tucker has played a vital role in keeping entertainment alive, coping with the changes that both the years and our political developments have brought, and feeding the arts with his love and admiration. Today, with the decline of both funds and respect, the arts are more vulnerable then ever before and people like Percy Tucker are needed more then ever. He served our industry with fanatical loyalty and is the nearest thing we have to a guru. Friends like Percy Tucker come only once in a lifetime/ read and enjoy this indispensable account of his – and our – world across five decades.
Cape Town, 1997