A Dorchester woman who discovered she was the daughter of a famous musician and cabaret star had some celebrity company as she unveiled a plaque in her father’s memory.
Gabrielle Markes was joined by television star Stephen Fry when she travelled to London to unveil a plaque at the former home of Leslie Hutchinson, commonly known as Hutch, who was a world star of his day back in the 1920s and 1930s.
For Gabrielle, who moved to Dorchester two and a half years ago, the blue plaque from English Heritage marked the end of an eight-year campaign to recognise her late father’s former home.
Mr Fry had actually asked to attend the unveiling and to speak on behalf of English Heritage because of his admiration for the musician, while Gabrielle was joined at the ceremony by other relatives.
She said: “What English Heritage said afterwards was that it was one of the best events they had had because of the family feel.”
Hutch was born in Grenada and honed his piano skills in New York’s Harlem in the early 1920s before moving to Paris and then London where he became one of the biggest stars of his age.
He was a protégé and lover of Cole Porter and had rumoured affairs with members of the British royal family including Edwina Mountbatten.
Gabrielle, 82, knew she had been adopted but only found out in her 40s that she was the daughter of Hutch, who had a string of children with different women.
He passed away at the age of 69 before Gabrielle even knew of her paternal link but she has since been helped by Hutch’s biographer Charlotte Breese in finding out more about his past.
Gabrielle, who used a private eye she knew to track down her father, said: “I had always known I was adopted but I didn’t know who my real parents were until my 40s.”
With Mrs Breese, Gabrielle, whose mother had been a debutante in Kensington, was able to travel to New York and Grenada to explore her father’s roots.
Hutch was the subject of an episode of Channel 4 documentary High Society in 2008, but while the programme made much of his scandalous love life and romantic links with royalty, Gabrielle said it somewhat ignored just how talented a musician he was.
She said: “His musical abilities and talent weren’t recognised.
“He had a double life really.”