Supermarket sweep for mysterious Mario Lanza artist

Following on from a visit to Sedgley’s Beacon Hotel earlier this year, it seems local legend AJW, renowned for leaving beermats in pubs featuring a drawing of 1950’s star Mario Lanza, has been getting hungry for more exposure.

Anthony Arnold, a regular reader of Sedgleyscene, was amazed to discover the mysterious artist’s latest calling card drawn on an empty box of chicken pies in the somewhat unglamorous surroundings of a local Morrison’s supermarket toilet.

He says: “On Monday, November 21, I found a drawing of Mari Lanza . It had been drawn on the back of one of those frozen chicken packages. It’s got the usual picture and signature AJW and the Facebook.com under the picture and a Yahoo address down the side. No message except ‘Super Mario!’ written on it. I found it on top of the thingy machine in the gents toilet at Morrison’s, Wednesbury. I thought he only did them on beer mats – don’t know if it’s the real thing or what.”

Could this be the latest calling card from the mysterious AJW?

Impressed by his discovery, Anthony took a picture, which is posted here. All the trademark signs are there – the line drawing of Mario Lanza, together with this anonymous artist’s Facebook page and email addresses. However, Tony is unsure as to whether this latest offering is the real deal and is appealing to Sedgleyscene readers to help.

The mysterious drawings, which have been appearing on beermats in pubs since the 1970s, have continued to baffle local residents.

No-one seems to know why each inscription by this phantom artist – who simply calls his or herself AJW – bears a dedication to Mario Lanza, a famous American tenor singer and actor who died in 1959.

This enduring mystery has led to a Facebook page being set up in this mysterious character’s honour which now has 172 members. It seems AJW also likes to get around, leaving calling cards in pubs and other public buildings across the Black Country and Birmingham – often with personal dedications to members of staff.

Some avid followers of AJW also believe there could be several artists at work – especially as the original phantom would now be more than 80 years old – but no-one has been able to confirm this.

Can you help Sedgleyscene and Anthony confirm this latest discovery? Get in touch with us at sedgleyscene@gmail.com We’d love to hear from you.

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Beacon Hotel gets a ghostly visit

Alex Marchant, general manager at the Beacon Hotel, Sedgely, with the mysterious beermats

For more than 40 years, this mysterious figure has ‘haunted’ pubs across the Black Country and Staffordshire, leaving only their calling card – an image of American opera singer and actor Mario Lanza drawn on a beermat accompanied by a quote and often signed simply AJW.

But now, bar staff and regulars at the Beacon Hotel, Sedgley, are one step closer to cracking the mystery of this local enigma – they know what he or she likes to eat for breakfast.

Because, along with beermats featuring newspaper clippings of the historic pub’s staff stuck to them, the mystery customer also left one with a receipt attached from Rob Newey Butchers in Kingswinford, listing home-cured streaky bacon as one of the items.

“He or she must have been in the pub around 12.30pm on Friday, July 15 ,” says general manager, Alex Marchant, who was delighted to find several beermats dedicated to her in reference to the pub’s recent Camra award.

“And, when I checked the CCTV later, I saw a figure get up to leave with what looked like a range of beermats on their table.”

But, despite having captured this famous ‘ghost’ on camera, Alex remains tight-lipped as to this individual’s identity.

She jokes: “I’m not telling anyone who he or she really is – especially not a member of the Press!”

The mystery fan of Mario Lanza – a tenor and Hollywood movie star who died in 1959 – has continued to arouse interest since the first beermats were discovered in the early 1970s.

Over the years, this secretive spectre has displayed a keen interest in local news stories, referring at one time to nearby Woolaston as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ when there was a large rise in numbers of missing pets there.

As well as being the subject of a documentary by professional filmmaker Barney Snow, AJW even has a Facebook page set up in his or her honour, which currently has 159 members.

And, since many beermats now also include reference to this, along with email address, theblobologist@yahoo.co.uk, some local people think it may now be a younger person who has taken up the role of Mario Lanza’s ghostwriter.

But Alex isn’t giving any clues away. “He could be a younger person, he could be older,” she says, before adding with a smile, “but I’m still not telling.”

Have you recently found one of these famous beermats or already own a collection?

Get in touch with us at Sedgleyscene – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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