Thursday 27 October 2016

Obituary: Krish Naidoo

The man who brought glamour and excitement to the Miss Ireland and Miss World contest writes Liam Collins

Published 18/10/2015 | 02:30

Krish Naidoo
Krish Naidoo

Krish Naidoo who has died in Dublin aged 72 was best known as a nightclub proprietor and owner of the Miss Ireland franchise from 1980 until 1996, and an International Ambassador for the Miss World Organisation until 2010.

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It is difficult in the internet age to convey just how big the Miss Ireland/Miss World competition was in its time, but in the drab Ireland of the 1980s it added colour, controversy and a faint touch of celebrity to ordinary people's lives.

The colour came from Naidoo who was an expert at self-promotion and the controversy came from the 'Women's Libbers' who were outraged at the seamier aspects of the competition, in which young women paraded in bikini's in the hope of being picked as the Irish entrant for Miss World, an event which was televised to a global audience.

Miss Ireland was also a stepping stone to stardom and among those who won the competition and became household names as a result were Michelle Rocca (1980) who became a television personality and married Van Morrison; novelist Amanda Brunker (1991); television personality Pamela Flood (1993) and Andrea Roche (1997) who became a well known model and business woman.

But probably the woman who brought the most credibility to the competition in its early years was Olivia Tracey who was crowned Miss Ireland in 1984 and has since worked as a model, actress and writer and now divides her time between Dublin and Los Angeles.

Krish Naidoo was born into a wealthy family in Durban, South African in September, 1943. A bright student with a passion for football he came to England with hopes of playing for Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) football club. It didn't work out, the then manager, Bill Nicholson, telling him to "stick to your studies". Despite that setback he maintained a lifelong affinity with the club and became an honorary director.

Instead of following his sporting dream he came to Dublin to study Science at Trinity College Dublin, where he discovered that what are now called the 'Swinging Sixties' were only arriving in Catholic Ireland in the early to mid-1970s. After a sojourn at Queens University where he studied medicine, Naidoo returned to Dublin to practise briefly at Rathgar Road.

However, the lure of the entertainment industry was too great. Although not a hairdresser he opened up the first unisex salon in Ireland, M'Lord's & M'Ladies, off the South Circular Road in Dublin. He also began running themed dances in the South County Hotel in Stillorgan with the Paddy Cole Band and others, enlivening the ballroom with imported Palm Trees and sawdust masquerading as sand.

Through his connections with night-club promoters he became a partner in Sloopy's Nightclub in Fleet Street, and went on to run Rumours in the Gresham Hotel on O'Connell Street and Barbarella's, which is now McGrattan's, in Fitzwilliam Lane off Baggot Street, in his own right. They were all money spinners at a time when Dublin was opening up after decades of isolation.

In 1980 he acquired the Miss World franchise for Ireland from Julia and Eric Morley and using his extensive contacts in the entertainment and media world turned it into a lucrative business that would make him a very wealthy man, with a trophy home in Sorrento Heights in Dalkey and the latest model Jaguar car, at a time when such opulence was rare in Dublin.

Among the many celebrities who acted as judges in the competition were Louis Walsh, radio presenter Aonghus McAnally, Olivia Tracey and other former models, hairdresser Aidan Fitzgerald and many others. "He was very conscious of the charge of sexism that was levelled at the competition, but he was meticulous in the criteria for selection," says FitzGerald, who attended three Miss World pageants with Naidoo in the glamorous surroundings of Grosvenor House in London. "Most girls saw it as an excellent career opportunity and made the most of it."

Naidoo himself enjoyed the celebrity status but in reality stayed very much in the background and while he got to know famous footballers and musicians, he always kept his distance. "To him it was strictly business, he loved the razzmatazz, but he always went home to his family," says another survivor of that era.

He was the subject of some controversy after Rosanna Davison won the Miss World crown in China in 2003, as he was a neighbour of her family in Dalkey and a judge in the competition, along with Bruce Forsyth and the Morleys.

Krish Naidoo, who died of a heart conditions on October 8 is survived by his wife Lelia and children Krishna, Rajah and Natalya.

The fact that he was essentially a family man was emphasised during his funeral Mass in Donnybrook Church last Tuesday.

Among those in attendance was the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, musician Paddy Cole, former rugby player Tony Ward, businessmen Michael Ryan and Michael Murphy, Aidan Fitzgerald, and footballers Pat Jennings, Chris Houghton and Phil Babb as well as representatives of the Heartbeat Trust and other charitable organisations he helped over the years.

Sunday Independent

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