They both began their careers as nervous teenage singers on the North West working men’s club circuit but while both have achieved international success as performers their careers couldn’t be more different.
Kurtis Rush and Paul Ritchie were both still schoolboys when they began singing and playing keyboards in the clubs around Manchester in the late 1980s.
Both boys had adopted stage names to launch their showbiz careers. It was only when Kurtis reverted back to his real name – Gary Barlow – that he found fame as part of Take That.
Paul, now 38, slogged on in the clubs until a holiday to the Canary Islands changed his life forever.
Today he is well known to thousands of British holiday makers as Titti Trollop – the lead performer in a drag review act at Lanzarote’s Music Hall Tavern.
But while Gary has earned millions from his song-writing and record sales Paul, whose real name is Paul Carroll, doesn’t envy his success.
Paul, from Manchester, said: “Gary Barlow and I are the same age and we both started out playing the clubs at around the same time.
“I think I was about 14 when I played my first gig. People would compare us in those early days because we were similar acts. Both of us were young kids playing keyboards and singing.
“Obviously Gary’s had fantastic success and good luck to him. I’m very happy with my life in Lanzarote and the success I enjoy as Titti Trollop.”
Paul first went out to the Canary Islands for a holiday in 1994 with his then partner Lee Sanderson. The pair fell in love with the island and soon realised there was a gap in the market.
Paul said: “At that time there wasn’t much in the way of live entertainment in Lanzarote. We became friends with a couple who owned a bar in Peurto del Carmen. They knew I was a singer and they offered me a job singing in their bar.”
Paul and Lee decided to stay in Lanzarote. They launched a cabaret show in the couple’s bar in 1994 at the height of Gary and Take That’s first success.
Paul was still performing as Paul Ritchie and subsidised his wages by singing at complexes around the island. Then in 1997 he and Lee bought their own 35 seat venue and bar – The Music Hall Tavern in Peurto del Carmen.
Paul said: “Our initial plan was just to refurbish it and sell it on. I was singing in the bar as Paul Ritchie but it just wasn’t working. Then one night I just thought, ‘Let’s do something a bit different.’ I got dragged up and Titti Trollop was born. I haven’t looked back since. “
Paul was joined by Lee in the drag act. They quickly established The Music Hall Tavern as one of Lanzarote’s major tourist attractions. They bought the neighbouring property and knocked through to increase capacity to 130 and put on their dinner show six nights a week all year round.
Their family-friendly cabaret review act now features seven performers and has won three Gold awards from tour operator Thompson Holidays. Thousands of UK holiday makers have enjoyed the act – which includes musical numbers from Mamma Mia and Hairspray – and many come back year after year.
Paul said: “Some people’s stories are rags to riches, I suppose you could say mine is drags to riches.
“The success of the show has given me a fantastic lifestyle. I own several properties both in Lanzarote and the UK and also a home in Thailand. I drive a convertible Mercedes SLK and I live in the sun all year round. I’m very lucky.”
Paul and Lee remain business partners and close friends although their personal relationship ended a few years ago.
Paul said: “It was difficult but we carried on for the sake of the business and we’ve managed to remain friends.”
Paul recently married his new partner, Thai-born Pukit. Their marriage was the first same sex ceremony to be performed on Lanzarote.
Paul added: “I might not be quite as famous as Gary Barlow but I like it that way. I’m very well known on the island and Titti is a Lanzarote legend to the thousands who’ve seen the show. Quite honestly, life couldn’t be better.
”And if Gary ever fancies joining me at the Music Hall Tavern I can promise him a night to remember.”
For more information on Titti Trollop’s Music Hall Tavern please visit www.musichalltavern.com