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Strongwoman, 80, is ripped off by publisher

PUBLISHED: 17:47 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:32 07 September 2010

Joan Rhodes 80 year old strong woman got ripped off out of £20,000 by her publisher.

Joan Rhodes 80 year old strong woman got ripped off out of £20,000 by her publisher.

© Nigel Sutton 17 Redington Rd,London,NW37QX. Phone 020 7794 3008. email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

AN elderly lady from Belsize Park, who used to be a world-famous performer, is the latest innocent victim to lose thousands of pounds in the collapse of a book publisher. Joan Rhodes used to be a strongwoman in variety shows, sharing the bill with perform

AN elderly lady from Belsize Park, who used to be a world-famous performer, is the latest innocent victim to lose thousands of pounds in the collapse of a book publisher.

Joan Rhodes used to be a strongwoman in variety shows, sharing the bill with performers like Marlene Dietrich and Shirley Bassey.

In 2006 she decided to write a book on her incredible life and handed over £8,400 of her life savings to publishers Serendipity, but never saw a penny for the 3,000 copies which she believes they sold. The company pocketed thousands - and has done the same to more than 100 other people up and down the country.

She finally learned they had gone into voluntary liquidation this month. "I was supposed to get royalties in December last year and then July this year," said Ms Rhodes, who is in her 80s.

"I used to phone them all the time asking why I hadn't got any money and they kept telling me the man dealing with it was on holiday or wasn't in. They kept saying they would get him to get back to me but it never happened.

"Then they started saying the cheque was in the post, but it never was, or that it must have been lost and they would send me another one, which never came.

"I was ringing every day and it was costing a fortune in calls but I thought it was worth it. I suppose I was stupid but I trust people, or at least I used to. I didn't think there could be people like this because I've always been so lucky in life, with nice people."

Ms Rhodes was homeless at 14 when she discovered her amazing strength, which she quickly put to good use as a street performer on Charing Cross Road.

An attractive blonde bombshell, she quickly started stealing the spotlight, dressed in high heels and sequined costumes.

Billed as The Mighty Mannequin, she was soon a variety show favourite performing at the London Palladium and the Savoy, throwing Bob Hope over her shoulder and being asked to appear in Bond films.

Various stars came to the book launch she organised for herself last year and reviews flocked in from the likes of The Spectator. But even then the money raised from the books, bought by friends such as June Whitfield, was being pocketed by the publishers.

Ms Rhodes has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and already suffers with painful arthritis which confines her to a wheelchair most of the time.

She now only has two copies of her book and can't get hold of any more because of the company's collapse. Likewise she is unlikely to get anything from the liquidation proceedings.

"I didn't know if I would be able to write a book so I was really pleased with it," she said.

"The launch was lovely too and I sold 79 copies there but Serendipity insisted on keeping the money.

"I enjoyed my work very much and people kept saying to me to write it all down. It was going to be the thing to earn me enough money to see me through the rest of my life. I think the stress of all this is what has damaged my health. I wish I'd never been involved with them."

RMT Accountants and Business Advisors in Newcastle are dealing with the liquidation of Serendipity which operated under the company Ardrope Limited.

The company is said to owe £197,000, much of which belongs to authors - mostly pensioners - who were never paid the royalties they were promised.

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