by Erik Larsen
Many sources of information, both in print and online, credit Sue Upton as having been a member of Love Machine, the dance troupe probably now best-remembered for their three appearances on The Benny Hill Show, but who left the group prior to those appearances. This isn't completely wrong, but it's only half the story. But now, thanks to a source who has asked to remain anonymous (but who is definitely in a position to know), the whole truth can be told.
In autumn 1973, a dance troupe called The Love Machine performed for approximately three months at the Stork Room, a now-defunct nightclub in London. This troupe consisted of six female dancers, of whom two performed topless, while the other four were clothed. The presence of topless dancers wasn't unique to this Love Machine: according to my source, "All the nightclub shows of the time had topless dancers eg L'hirondell, Churchill's, The Latin Quarter and The Talk of The Town I believe." Among the members of this Love Machine were Sue Upton, Claire Lutter, and Libby Roberts (all of whom performed fully clothed). They performed twice nightly, at midnight and 2 AM; each performance ran about forty minutes.
After their engagement at the Stork Room was finished, this Love Machine disbanded. At this time, Sue had been getting a lot of work in modeling and in TV commercials, so she decided to concentrate on this work instead, "rather than touring around." The other dancers also went their separate ways.
Almost immediately after the first Love Machine disbanded, Claire Lutter and Libby Roberts were performing at the London Palladium as members of the Second Generation dance troupe, in support of comedian Bruce Forsyth. At that time, they co-founded a second dance troupe, also called The Love Machine. After a personnel change or two, they settled on a roster of four dancers: Claire, Libby, Teresa Lucas, and Jane Newman (also known as Jane Eve and Jane Colthorpe). Lorraine Doyle was later added as a fifth member.
It was this second incarnation of The Love Machine which performed together on stage and TV for a total of seven years, including the three Benny Hill Show appearances.
Although Sue was never a member of the second, more famous Love Machine, she remembers her time with the first Love Machine fondly, saying it was "great fun," and also remembering Claire's affectionate nickname for her, "Sue Hoo Hoo." According to my source, Claire coined this nickname because she "believed Sue's ambition was to join a singing group," and called her "Sue Hoo Hoo as she was always singing!"
Many thanks to my anonymous source, and also to Sue, for setting the record straight. If anyone out there has any more information or ephemera (press clippings, photos, etc.) about the first, 1973 incarnation of The Love Machine, please email me.