Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Farewell, Trumpers

"At my age, you can say exactly what you bloody well think."

She was once invited by a magazine editor to a lunch where Nicholas Soames praised Virginia Bottomley as being “one of the chaps” in parliament. The editor found this offensive and said that a woman cannot be a chap. Trumpers took the fag out of her mouth, put down her gin and simply said: "Balls!"
The world has lost another great raconteur, one of the last remaining masters of political repartee and old-school no-nonsense forthrightness - the redoubtable Baroness Trumpington, veteran of society balls and of code-breaking at Bletchley Park during WW2 alike, who has died aged 96. We're talking of a woman who dodged the groping hands of David Lloyd-George, was a secretary to Churchill's friend and colleague Duff Cooper, became a renowned New York socialite, married a man who became a master of Eton College, entertained members of the Royal Family and partied with the Astors, and (remarkably) sparred with, yet remained a trusted ally of, Margaret Thatcher; and was a stalwart member of the Lords and Commons Pipe and Cigar Smokers' Club. Phew!

And what better way to remember the lady, who is perhaps most remembered for her "two-fingered salute" to a fellow peer, than with a few extracts from her autobiography (a book she later claimed she "never read")?
...My mother’s idea of being poor was going to the Ritz on a bus...

...I attended Miss Vacani’s School of Dance, where I learned ballroom dancing and the correct way to curtsey when presented at court. Lessons took place in a big room on the first floor of a house in Knightsbridge with all the nannies sitting upright and silent in chairs around the edge of the room. Miss Vacani, who also gave private lessons to the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, was a tubby little person who wore the most impossibly high heels. Incredibly, after a year or two of Miss Vacani, my mother removed me and sent me to learn ballet with the Ballet Rambert. Goodness knows why my mother decided that this elephant she had given birth to was going to become a graceful ballet dancer but it did at least teach me rhythm...

...Whenever we could we rushed up to London and danced all night, then ate enormous breakfasts at a Lyons Corner House, with almost everything ersatz – fake scrambled eggs, fake everything. And then the chaps would see us to Euston Station and we would take the milk train and go straight back to work. I had one dress, from Fenwick, and a black fur coat which I had bought with money I’d been given for my sixteenth birthday. It cost £15 and it looked lovely but it was skunk and if it got wet, it smelt. But I wore it through thick and thin, so I guess I just smelt. I had several things made out of curtains, too, because curtain material wasn’t rationed...

...[one evening] my companion and I headed across Mayfair to the Café de Paris, on Coventry Street near Piccadilly. It was a high-class place and a lot of famous people and members of the royal family went there. During the Blitz people went there even more because the dance floor was in the basement and they felt safe from the bombs. What they didn’t realize was that it had a glass roof. That particular night, as we got near to the Café we were held behind a police cordon. The Café had received a direct hit: the young bandleader Snake Hips Johnson, and most of his West Indian Orchestra and a lot of the people dancing had been killed. I knew a beautiful woman who survived but she lost a leg. Imagine. If we had been half an hour earlier, we would have been there, so we were very lucky...

...[In the House of Lords] Lord King of Bridgwater commented that those people who had served in the Second World War were starting to look ‘pretty old’, it was a natural reaction to stick two fingers up at him. I had thought it was between him and me, but the camera was on me, so it was between him, me and everyone who had a television. At first I tried to say I had just been primping my hair but it was perfectly obvious what I was doing so I had to admit it.

That was probably what got me picked for Have I Got News for You. I rather think they saw me making that naughty gesture and thought I might be an amusing guest. I hope I was amusing. I started off on the programme before we’d even really got going by asking why, as a 90-year-old woman, I had been asked to fill in a health and safety form to say that I was not pregnant, and it went from there...
RIP Jean Alys Barker, Baroness Trumpington DCVO PC (née Campbell-Harris, 23rd October 1922 – 26th November 2018). We'll never see her like again.

Monday, 26 November 2018

The matriarch

The eternally-revered matriarch/battleaxe/mainstay of the UK's favourite soap Coronation Street Elsie Tanner, aka Pat Phoenix, would have been 95 years old today...

Elsie Tanner quotes:
  • (about Ena Sharples): "That woman's tongue. If it was a bit longer she could shave with it."
  • "I've left home so many times me suitcases pack themselves every time I whistle."
  • "You know, they used to call us good time girls... well, we did have a good time, and a damn good time at that"
  • "Burglars in Coronation Street? It's like robbin' the blind."

Patricia Frederica Phoenix (born Patricia Frederica Manfield, 26th November 1923 – 17th September 1986)

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Brontës probably never imagined it quite like this

Steampunks galore descended on the small Yorkshire town of Haworth, most famous as the home of the Brontë sisters, for their sixth annual festival this weekend - faboo!

About the 2018 Haworth Steampunk Weekend

Sunday, 18 November 2018

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual...

...like today's birthday girl Jocelyn Brando (who would have been 99 years old)!

Jocelyn was, of course, the older sister of the gorgeous Marlon...

Sunday, 11 November 2018

I'm doing exactly the same as I've always done

"I don't think I'm leading lady material, and I was always the wrong shape. I was never tall enough. But it was more lack of confidence. I shunned doing straight parts. I didn't think I was a good enough actress, so I thought I might as well do something they were supposed to laugh at."

“The three ages of man: youth, middle age and 'my word you do look well'.”

"In terms of work, I'm doing exactly the same as I've always done. It's what's around me that's changed."

Many happy returns, Dame June Rosemary Whitfield, DBE (born 11th November 1925)

Friday, 9 November 2018

Words of the Day...

...are Hedy ...and Lamarr.

[born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, 9th November 1914 – 19th January 2000]

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

“I’ll whistle my way through life until I drop dead”

From the ArtLark website:
On 6th November 1924, Rudolf Schmid was born in Volary, Sudetenland (now in the Czech Republic). In 1941 he enlisted in the Wehrmacht, the German Armed Forces, aged just 17 and served in the beginning of WWII at Udine in Italy. However, Schmid’s constitution was not built for the army.

“A delicate young man, he was unhappy with military life and already confused by his sexual identity. He was, as he later put it, “saved” from the army by typhoid fever, which nearly cost him his life, but also saw him invalided home. But Schmid, like many Sudeten Germans, was forced to flee as the Czechs exacted revenge for the deprivations of the war years. He fled to Munich, where his love of dressing up, singing and dancing set him on a career as a female impersonator.” (Obituary in The Telegraph)

In Munich, Schmid found success as a showgirl and shortly after started performing in the Neue Scala theatre in Berlin. Later, whilst acting in a vaudeville show as “Jeanette” at the Hansa Theatre in Hamburg, he was discovered by the Iranian Shah Reza Pahlavi and his wife Soraya, who were thrilled by his performance and invited him for a private show at their home in Teheran. Schmid’s drag routine and outfits were though way too risqué for the Persian palace and in a bid to save his reputation, Schmid was advised by a friend to try whistling classical pieces, which he was good at. Jeanette then whistled a polka by Johann Strauss and Offenbach’s Barcarole and the Shah was suitably impressed; Schmid was to make her career from here on by this unusual art, continuing an old local Germanic tradition:
“The Austrian ‘School’ of Kunstpfeifen refers loosely to a small group of professional and semi-professional whistlers from the German-speaking lands, especially Austria, who were active from about 1880-1940 and whistled a repertoire consisting mainly of waltzes, Viennese folk songs, and well-known operatic arias.(e.g. Hans Tranquillini, Josef Bratfisch).With the approval of Johann Strauss II behind them, several successors followed. Before 1900, some of these Kunstpfeifer were still known for instrumental repertoire and instrumental techniques (such as nodal articulation and multiphonics) and were occasionally compared to the piccolo; but as light concert music evolved into parlour music and variety entertainment in the 1890s, the word Kunstpfeifen began shedding these instrumental associations and by 1940 was virtually synonymous with singwhistling or whistletainment.” (Dictionary of Whistling)
Schmid made a solid name for herself in show-business, mainly touring the Orient, performing on cruise ships and in private shows, even alongside stars such as Sinatra, Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. He lived in Cairo for fifteen years and there, in 1964 he finally became Jeanette by gender reassignment surgery performed by Dr Ludwig Levy-Lenz.

As she moved back to Vienna, Jeanette Schmid continued a long, more obscure career in whistling, appearing in theatres and cafes for years before director André Heller rediscovered her in the 1980s, reintroducing her to show-business under the stage-name Baroness Lips von Lipstrill. Her show travelled to Europe, then Broadway and even earned Jeanette the Austrian Decoration of Merit in Gold.

When asked at the ceremony about her plans to retire, the flamboyant artist declared, “I’ll whistle my way through life until I drop dead.”
And she practically did just that - she died at the ripe old age of 80, her performances still in demand...

You really couldn't make this stuff up.

Jeanette Schmid (6th November 1924 – 9th March 2005)

Friday, 2 November 2018

Expressing thoughts no mortal has ever gleaned before

There were many geniuses who created the everlasting Mighty World of Marvel (comics, cartoons, movies and all) - the original "pantheon" of Stan Lee (still alive) and Jack Kirby, of course, being the most lauded. But there was another - certainly one of the most innovative graphic artists ever - who made the Marvel legend a reality, Mr Steve Ditko!

The man who created the nerdy-teenager-turned-superhero Spiderman (and most of the friends and foes who persisted with him over the years, including J Jonah Jameson, Gwen Stacy, Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, Green Goblin, Flash Thompson, Electro, Sandman, Kraven the Hunter, Aunt May and the rest) and the amazingly unearthly worlds and incantations that made the "Sorcerer Supreme" Doctor Strange such a cult hit, Mr Ditko's sheer imagination made a huge impression on the comic-buying world (myself included) in those heady days of the 1960s - before he fell out with Mr Lee, packed his bags and departed back to freelancing (for DC and other lesser imprints).

In latter years the born loner became ever more reclusive [he died alone earlier this year and was not discovered for days], and, despite contributing many new artworks and characters for numerous comic titles (Marvel's included) almost up to the turn of the century, he never regained the heady success of his early days - but his legacy is certainly immense, and his name will never be forgotten...

...the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth forbid it!

RIP Stephen John Ditko (2nd November 1927 - c29 June 2018)