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Obituary: Marcus Levey

Soul of Newcastle night-life who pushed out the cultural boundaries

    Photo: John Fisher

    Artist, showman and entrepreneur, Marcus Levey, who has died aged 79, brought the swinging sixties to Newcastle as co-owner of iconic nightclub La Dolce Vita.

    In the years he and his brothers ran the club and were responsible for bringing global luminaries of that period to Newcastle, the venue hosted performances by some of the best known singers and comedians of the day, from Bob Monkhouse, Cilla Black, Tommy Cooper to Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones. Marcus made sure that La Dolce Vita was the core of Newcastle's nightlife as established and aspiring stars alike found it an invaluable showcase for them to strut their stuff.

    Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Hetty (nee) Goldstein and Alec Levey, and raised in Gosforth, Marcus had four brothers, Norman, Abe, David and Maurice, and two sisters, Ada and Mandy,  and was "a remarkable man in so many ways" according to his wife Michelle, to whom he was married to for over 20  years. Marcus helped to reshape Newcastle's culture scene by opening La Dolce Vita after visiting similar places during a visit to America. He was educated at Monks Eaton Grammar School, Whitley Bay and did national service with the Royal Fusiliers.

    A great part of his legacy was putting Newcastle firmly on the social map, creating a golden opportunity for the city to compete with bigger cities.

    The club's main source of revenue came from its casino, but a law which came into force restricting gambling sounded the death knell for the club and resulted in its closure.

    Following the club's demise Marcus relocated to Leeds where he eventually met Michelle Pollock, his wife-to-be, and where he settled for the remainder of his life.

    Charismatic and artistic, Marcus possessed a warm disposition which endeared him to many. Michelle recalls how he could captivate a room full of individuals not only with his magnetic presence but with his show-biz anecdotes and witticisms. He also had genuine compassion and would always resolve disputes by bringing people together to argue out their differences and then part amicably. He was a remarkable peacemaker.

    In the 1990's Marcus turned to painting and established himself as an artist of some repute. “He always loved culture; discovering visual art was a way of channelling his passion”, noted Michelle. His paintings, large and colourful, have been described as "devices for the imagination."

    Michelle described Marcus as "a sensitive, warm and deeply spiritual man" who cherished every moment he spent with his three children, two step children and 18 grandchildren.

    As well as rubbing shoulders with renowned public figures, particularly from the arts, Marcus's charity work also saw him at ease with politicians such as the late Shimon Peres, former Israeli president and Nobel Peace prize winner. Marcus was always well informed and could speak articulately on many topics.

    Referring to the many messages of condolence she received where people noted his artistry and charity work, Michelle said she has been deeply touched by the obvious affection and admiration he received from people from numerous walks of life, and was moved by how many lives he had touched.

    Marcus was also keen to push people's cultural boundaries, and he was not shy of taking risks that others felt were slightly too radical. The infamous Kray twins were also admirers of Marcus and La Dolce Vita and even praised the Levey brothers and the club in one of their books.

    Michelle noted that Marcus was also passionate about the Haftorah on Shavuot, dealing as it did with the Shesh Kenafayim, the heavenly creatures with six wings, ascending and descending.

    She consulted a learned friend and lecturer about his take on these passages. "He said that in the Zohar, Kabbalists speak similarly about the text being other worldly."

    Last Yom Kippur, when it was a struggle for Marcus to walk, he made great efforts to attend shul and drew much comfort by attentively following the prose and poetry of the prayers. He is survived by his children: Tania, Alexa, and Elliot from his first marriage to Jaqueline Sheldon, step-children Joel and Suzi and 18 grandchildren. His siblings predeceased him.

    JOHN FISHER

    Marcus Levey: born February 23, 1938. Died December 4, 2017.

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