18 May 2016
Veteran Cape Town entertainer Rudolph Paulse died last week. In the idiom of the theatre, he has left the stage, “exit left” . . . largely unannounced save for a few postings on Facebook.
Rudolph was more than that, much more. He deserves to be acknowledged for all the years he put in entertaining people as a singer, and helping other entertainers with gigs when he was managing some of the top clubs in the Cape.
Strangely though, having known Rudolph since our first meeting back in 1967, I don’t think he would be bothered were there no trumpets and alarum accompanying his passing.
In that soft-spoken, self-effacing way, he would probably simply have shrugged his shoulders and said, “aah, it’s alright”.
That’s typical of the man. It’s almost as if he didn’t really want anyone to make a fuss of him, which is almost a contradiction in terms. Most entertainers thrive on that adulation.
Those who have been around a long time, however, are well aware of his stature and his contribution to local entertainment.
One such person is Dave Bestman who was already a seasoned performer when Rudolph first made his stage debut in 1965.
“I was with the Dixies at the time when Rudolph had a stint with us in the late Sixties,” Dave recalled this week. “He was quite an accomplished singer performing the popular ballads of the day.
“The thing I remember most about him, though, was his reserved demeanour. He was just so quiet. He hardly spoke. And he stayed like that throughout his career.
“I called him the ‘quiet legend’, he delivered in so many ways but you would hardly notice.
“He hardly ever made a fuss, unlike some of those other prima donnas we had to put up with.”
Here’s a fer’instance of Rudolph not putting up a fuss: when he started out as a singer, he was Rudolph Porthen, his real name.
In a publication called Mitchell’s Plain: A Place In The Sun, published a few years ago, it featured a profile on Rudolph. In it he said: “My surname is not Paulse, it’s actually Porthen. People constantly mispronounced my name, so Rudolph Paulse became my stage name.”
No fuss, no bother.
Rudolph was born in District 6, and as the profile says, his life was defined by music.
I first came across the name Rudolph Paulse when I started out as a journalist with the Cape Post and covered the entertainment beat. The newspaper ran one of its popular Mr Entertainment contests and Rudolph was a finalist along with Zane Adams, Cliffie Moses, Roy Gabriels, Terry Smith, Jay Jay, Chico Levy and Vernon Saunders.
For the next 20 years or so, I had regular contact with him be it at a stage show or, in the latter years, when he managed top nightclubs like The Goldfinger, The Galaxy or Club Fantasy in Mitchells Plain. He was always the same . . . affable, approachable and urbane.
In his time he worked with the likes of Dollar Brand, Jonathan Butler, Sammy Hartman, Sophia Foster, Taliep Petersen. His star may not have burnt as brightly as theirs but he earned their respect with his professionalism.
As club manager, he provided work for top groups like Sakhile and Bloodshed and jazz gigs for the Leslie Kleinsmiths and Robbie Jansens of this world.
One particular highlight was being MC for the popular Manhattans group when they played Cape Town.
Leslie Kleinsmith, now living in France, has fond memories of Rudolph.
“He sure was a quiet, kind of a gentle giant with a big heart. He was very good at bringing and putting people together for various variety shows,” Leslie said.
“He managed The Goldfinger for a number of years. Most of the work I did there was through him. If I told him, I was already working at two places on that night, he would increase the money and rearrange the program. Then, I would find myself working at three places on that particular night.
“In his quiet way, he would make things happen.
“He also founded the vocal group, Afro Express, with himself as the baritone but always featuring others in the lead roles, like Sandra Butler and a few others whose names fail me now. Rudolph was also very adept in the role of an MC and compere.
“In the last few years, he spent about six or seven years in a show or various retro shows in Spain as or in the role of Barry White style singer.
“It was during that time that his health took a bad turn. He came back to Cape Town, we did a benefit show for him at Club West End and that was the last time I saw him.”
As the stage work dried up in the Seventies, Rudolph turned his hand to managing clubs. He organised dances, fashion shows and talent contests. He realised that if he wanted to be a competent manager, he needed better skills.
He undertook a management course and soon after opened his own business in the Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre.
His life had its up ands down. His business venture was one of the downs. His presence at the clubs was one of the ups. Wherever he went, the clubs drew a crowd.
His later years saw regular trips to Spain to perform, but his health started failing.
His wife Geraldine said in recent years Rudolph was diabetic, suffered with gout, had high cholesterol and a heart condition.
I saw Rudolph two years ago at Kader Khan’s memorial service. We hadn’t seen each other for more than 20 years. He didn’t look well. It’s not a memory of him I’d like to keep.
Rather, I want to remember that smooth voice easing through My Way or any one of the numbers of ballads he crooned so effortlessly. I want to remember that whispered aside when I walked into the Galaxy those many years ago: “I’ll have a whiskey on the table in a minute”, he would say.
He didn’t disappoint. I’ll drink another whiskey in his name tonight.
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