JUNE RODGERS is 25 years in show business. It began with the John Player Tops of the Town talent show. She was a chorus girl: “I was stuck in the back row, for what felt like six months of rehearsals, just swaying. Eventually, I got a few little hand movements here and there, and then got the legs moving a bit.”
The comedy writers, Martin Higgins, who still works with her, and the late Tom Roche, developed the characters, such as Jacinta O’Brien, for which Rodgers has become famous. Her variety shows, which include a tour of Ireland’s theatres this month, have been a hit since.
Her current show references singing-and-dancing celebrities from the 1990s, including Ricky Martin, who, instead of ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ is living in Poulaphouca, Co Wicklow. ‘Kylie Minogue’, with trademark hot pants, will also make an appearance.
“I want to assure you,” says Rodgers, “that the gold hot pants I will be wearing is an actual chute that has been made, in case your readers will get a fright and think that June Rodgers is going to appear in a pair of hot pants.”
Rodgers spent several years on the pantomime circuit. In the early 1990s, she and Eileen Reed played the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella. She recalls vociferous feedback from audience members.
“My name was Scarlett, Eileen was Charlotte. We had torn up the invitation to the ball for Cinderella. The kids absolutely hated us. This little tot, with big National Health-issue glasses, I’d say she was about five years of age, came barrelling down the front of the stalls, and shouted up: ‘Scarlett, you big fat cow. I hate you!’ Nobody was expecting it, but she got so into it that she put me in my place and let me know where I’d gone wrong.”
Rodgers was born in Tallaght and went to school at St Patrick’s Catholic Grammar School ,where Bono was a classmate. “Of course, I knew Bono as Paul Hewson,” she says. “He was just a normal guy. I’ve no gossip on him, unfortunately.”
Rodgers is connected to Munster rugby royalty. The two-time Heineken Cup winner Ian Dowling is married to her niece, which gives her Dubliner husband Peter Lane leeway for being a Munster supporter. “We can’t say that too loudly,” she says. “It’s only when we get on the Naas Road that we can get his Munster colours on him.”
Rodgers has acted in a plethora of films, including with Robbie Coltrane (On the Nose), and Anjelica Huston on the Brendan O’Carroll vehicle, Agnes Browne.
Her character, Fat Annie (“I was a size six before shooting started and had to eat my way into the part”) was the only one from Agnes Browne that O’Carroll revived for his follow-up film, Mrs Browne’s Boys D’Movie.
She says O’Carroll is a rogue on set. “He has everyone roaring with laughter every day. God knows what will come out of his mouth, and he’s a fella dressed as a woman, so he can get away with murder.I wouldn’t be coming out saying the things he says. He gets away with it. He has a very kind personality and people take to him straight away.”
She believes some people have a knack for being risqué. “It depends on the personality of a person — if you like the person or not. Billy Connolly is a terrible man for using bad language, but it’s his accent. He has a very sexy accent. He gets away with that. Brendan does as well.”