‘My stepfather never spoke to me. He was not of my essence is the diplomatic way to put it. I’ve kept quiet about it until now mostly for the sake of my half-sister but she doesn’t mind me talking about it now,’ he confessed.
He deeply resented stepdad Stanley for coming into his life as an ‘intruder’ after spending the first four years of his life with beloved mum Joan in Plymouth.
‘I had been getting all of the attention and now it had to be shared. He had come in as an intruder into what I thought was a perfect situation.’
Wayne had been born out of wedlock in 1948 when waitress Joan was just 25 and fell for a married bandleader in his forties at a summer holiday camp.
A year after his stepfather came on the scene and adopted him the family moved to Hartlepool where Stanley’s sister had married a local lad.
The couple had big plans to take in lodgers and make money from the scheme. When they found no demand for people seeking digs Stanley landed a nightshift job on the production line at the town’s Steetley Magnesium works.
‘He was a tough working class man. He just didn’t want to spend any time with me. If I was watching TV and laughed I would be sent to the neighbours to watch TV instead.
‘And I was bullied at school because I wanted to be a dancer. But at least he did provide the money for me to go to dance school.’
Wayne was even afraid to play the piano at home in case the din of him practising woke Stanley who slept during the day because he worked nights.
They lived at Friar Terrace on the Headland and Wayne attended Baltic Street Junior School. Although musical as a child – he was also a choirboy at St Hilda's Church – he was happiest when dancing.
And like the eponymous hero in Billy Elliot, Wayne was fortunate to meet an inspirational dance teacher. In the movie it’s the character played by Julie Walters.
‘She was Muriel Carr and she taught in a studio above a bike shop in Lynn Street,’ he recalls.
She entered him for the Middlesbrough Tournament in the under 12s section and he sang the prophetic ‘Five Foot Two Eyes of Blue’ where an adjudicator spotted his early promise and urged him to study ballet. She had been impressed by his ‘turnout’ – the technical term for his way of standing and walking which made him a ballet natural.
He recalls: ‘I could almost hear my mother thinking: “My son learning ballet! Boys don’t do that.”
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