Remembering Rudolph the entertainer


Everyone knew him as Rudolph Paulse the entertainer, the MC and the singer. He brought much laughter and smiles to the thousands of people he entertained during his 50-year career.

To his family he was Rudolph Porthen, the warm father. He was private but proud to show off his children. He always made their birthdays special, and always left them with a song in their heart.

Mr Porthen died last week at his home in New Woodlands, after a long illness.

Mr Porthen’s stage name was changed to Paulse after he performed in Durban during the 1960s.

His oldest son Alister spoke to the Plainsman at a family gathering on Sunday May 15.

Alister said the surname originated from Mr Porthen’s immigrant father who was Indian and landed in Cape Town after WWII.

“Porthen was an Indian surname and when my dad performed in Durban during the 1960s a reporter decided his surname could not be Porthen because he did not look like an Indian. So she assumed it was Paulse. It was an honest mistake and the name stuck,” he said.

Mr Porthen grew up in District 6, then moved to Athlone. He moved to Westridge in the late 1970s and later moved to New Woodlands.

He managed the Inn on the Plain, the Galaxy nightclub in Rylands, and Goldfinger in Athlone. He also MCd at local and international events, started a band, organised music shows and had received many accolades over the years for his contribution to Cape Town’s entertainment industry and Mr Porthen was even featured in a book on influential people from the Mitchell’s: A place in the Sun.

Alister spoke about the different decades and how his dad evolved in the music industry and nightclub scene.

Mr Porthen started his career in the 1960s with the touring group, the Golden City Dixies and the Black and White Minstrels. They played to massive audiences while touring the country and Namibia, said Alister.

“In 1970s my dad sang for a band called The Excitement. The members were from Athlone and surrounds. He played predominatly at the Rock Den and Las Vegas in Athlone,” said Alister.

It was in the 1980s that Mr Porthen’s career really took off.

“In the 1980s my father shot to fame in a big way in Cape Town. He formed his own group called Afro Express and that was also his dream. One of the female vocalists, Felicia Marion, from the gospel group Joy which rose to fame in the 1980s with their single Paradise Road, was part of Afro Express.”

Mr Porthen held many variety shows and specialised in Motown and cabaret acts.

“My father managed the Goldfinger, which was the hub of the Sunday night cabaret scene. That is how the cabaret circuit started in Cape Town. My dad established that phenonomon. It is where most artists started.

“In the late 1980s, he was recruited by businessman Peter Swartz to manage the Inn On The Plain Hotel,” Alister said.

Alister said his father always had a passion for the people – more than for fame.

“My father has always been driven by doing shows for the community, and in most instances with no charge attached. He believed the people need to live and enjoy the music. It is the main reason why my father never entered the international scene even though he had been approached by international promoters.”

Mr Porthen has 10 children, 22 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Some of his children spoke to the Plainsman about their best memories of their father.

His son, Tyrone, said: “I won’t forget that my dad sang at each of our weddings and one of my fondest memories was when I would visit Inn On the Plain with my dad.”

Daughter Natasha de Klerk remembers how she became her teacher’s favourite after she found out who her dad was.

“My dad was very busy, but I remember a time when he was home for an extended period. We had a fireplace where we lived in Vanguard Estate. I remember how we would sit in front of the fireplace and how my dad taught me the song Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder. My teacher, who used to frequent the Goldfinger, asked the names and occupations of my mom and dad. And when she made the connection, she asked me if I could sing like my dad. She gathered the whole class Standard 1 group and I had to sing Isn’t She Lovely and I became her favourite. I have now played and taught that song to my daughter, just like my dad did with me,” she said.

Tanya Solomon said her dad treasured everything that the children made for him and he loved collecting pictures of the children.

“My dad still had a painting that I made when I was a child. I painted a picture of our family where my father was holding my and Tyrone’s hand. He always treasured those things.

“My dad’s life was busy but he always made time to focus on the family and he would always make a fuss about our birthdays,” she said.

Machelle Seekoei said her dad always ensured that she remembered Saturday morning breakfast the most.

“Saturdays he made us breakfast which consisted of toast, bacon, eggs, and fresh juice from the milky (people who came around to homes selling fresh milk and juice). He loved spending time with us and made sure he spent time with his grandchildren. He always wanted the best for us,” she said.

A memorial service will be held for Mr Porthen at Shekinah Church in Beacon Valley, tomorrow, Thursday May 19, at 7pm. His funeral will be held at Christ the Redeemer Church in Park Avenue, Westridge, on Saturday May 21. The viewing will be at 8am and the service at 9am.