Sunday, 28 October 2012

Never go walking out without your hatpin

110 years ago, an icon here at Dolores Delargo Towers was born.

Facts about Elsa:
  • She was only 5'4" but for the role of the Bride of Frankenstein was placed on stilts that made her 7' tall. Her performance was apparently inspired by the swans in Regent's Park. "They're really very nasty creatures," she said.
  • Her fantabulosa albums Songs for a Smoke-Filled Room and Songs for a Shuttered Parlour were the culmination of a lifelong love of the traditional Music Halls where Elsa began her career as an Egyptian dancer.
  • After only two years of marriage to Charles Laughton she discovered he was homosexual - in flagrante dilecto with a "chorus boy" (according to some accounts it was Danny Kaye!) - but they remained married until his death in 1962.
"There is no such thing as a person that nothing has happened to, and each person's story is as different as his fingertips."

"I always got large parts in lousy pictures and small parts in big pictures."

"You might call what I do vaudeville. Making a joke, especially impromptu, and getting a big laugh is just plain heaven."

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester (28th October 1902 – 26th December 1986)

Our previous entry for Elsa Lanchester in the Museum of Camp

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

‘If you don’t take care you may serve an entire meal pinkish mauve.’

Having been inspired at the Big Gay Lifestyle Show on the weekend by Rose Collis and her tales of "trouser-wearing character" Nancy Spain, I felt it was appropriate to do a little more research into this remarkable woman.

Ms Spain was a Roedean girl from a respectable middle-class family (related to none other than the "housewife's friend" Mrs Beeton), who broke new ground as a journalist (an unusual career for a woman in the 1950s) for the Daily Express and the News of the World. When she met the woman who was to be her life partner Joan Werner Laurie, together they launched the women's magazine She (which is still around today). Nancy also forged a bit of a career as a crime writer, and appeared on radio (especially Woman's Hour) and on TV in light entertainment shows like Juke Box Jury and What's My Line? - and all this while maintaining a radically "mannish" demeanour in her butch clothes and short hair.

Joan Werner Laurie

"There are people whom one loves immediately and forever. Even to know they are alive in the world with one is quite enough." - Nancy Spain

The couple became society hostesses and friends of the famous; regular house guests included Noel Coward and Nancy's supposed lovers Marlene Dietrich and Lena Horne. Nancy's death (alongside Joan) in a light aeroplane crash on her way to the Grand National seemed almost an appropriate end to a flamboyant and high-profile career.

Of her death, Noel Coward said: "It is cruel that all that gaiety, intelligence and vitality should be snuffed out when so many bores and horrors are left living."

Apart from her in-your-face dykiness (despite having a child via an affair with the husband of fellow crime writer Margery Allingham), one of her campest legacies is The Nancy Spain All Colour Cookery Book - a copy of which I have no doubt my erstwhile other half Madam Arcati will be seeking out as we speak. We have never read this inspirational tome, but a rather marvellous blogger called "Katyboo" has, and she provided me with some gems of quotes from it:
  • "Since the age of five, when a dish cloth (honestly) used to be attached to my skirt, it has been almost impossible to keep me out of the kitchen. This was the age at which I discovered I had Mrs. Beeton dangling in my family tree, hanging over my head like a small (she died when she was 28, was very pretty and an expert pianist 5 foot 2 inches in height) crinoline shaped cloud."
  • "The Duchess of Windsor once told me that colour was all-important in presenting food. She was dead right: ‘Watch out,’ she said. ‘If you don’t take care you may serve an entire meal pinkish mauve.’"
  • "Without guests there is no party, so take a lot of trouble with your guest list. For each star you invite (and it’s a good thing to have stars at a party, so people can have a look at them) remember you will need about five nice, ordinary cosy people to act as audience to the illustrious ones. Usually stars find it very hard to talk to one another, and they top each other’s gags and are inclined to jealousy if someone is getting more attention than they are. So watch it: and provide an audience."
  • "For some reason in my house I always think I’m cheating if I light the oven. (Elisabeth Welch, the singer, used to keep her fur coat in her oven, to spite the burglars. Incidentally, she’s one of the best cooks I know and has never yet served faintly frizzled Persian lamb as a main dish.) So long as I have a gas-ring going on top of the stove, or I am bent double over a little bonfire in the countryside with potatoes roasting in the embers (or a very rare recipe I got from a gypsy, Hedgehog in Clay) I feel that I am honestly and truly cooking."

Nancy Brooker Spain (13th September 1917 – 21st March 1964)

More gems from the Nancy Spain All Colour Cookery Book

Rose Collis's A Trouser-Wearing Character: The Life and Times of Nancy Spain

Monday, 22 October 2012

"If I die first, she'll undoubtedly be livid"

Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine when the sisters were still talking

January 2012

“The main problem in marriage is that for a man sex is a hunger like eating. If the man is hungry and can’t get to a fancy French restaurant, he goes to a hot dog stand. For a woman, what is important is love and romance.”

"If you keep marrying as I do, you learn everybody's hobby."

"My sister is a very peculiar lady. When we were young I wasn’t allowed to talk to her friends. Now I’m not allowed to talk to her children, nor are they permitted to see me. This is the nature of the lady. Doesn’t bother me at all."

"I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she'll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!"

Joan Fontaine (born 22nd October 1917)

My previous blogs about Miss Fontaine are here and here

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Cover star

The remarkable Iris Apfel is the cover star of the November issue of British style magazine Dazed & Confused.

Of course.

The woman is a marvel!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Assertive, passive

"I’ve never known anyone who liked being in front of a camera as much as Monty. He was the same way in front of a mirror – never ashamed; he enjoyed looking at his reflection. He was like a woman in this regard. He could stare for minutes on end at his image unselfconscious – totally relaxed." - playwright Bill Gunn

"Monty belonged on the stage. There are certain actors who walk out in front of an audience and they belong there. You believed him the instant he spoke a line." - director Herman Shumlin

"He could never carry a tune, but, my God, did he believe in the lyrics!" - best friend and icon Nancy Walker

"The essential Clift character tended to be a loner, outside the mainstream, isolated - intense but always struggling against conformity, and within that framework Monty's range was extraordinary; his characters were by turn extroverted, withdrawn, articulate, or monosyllabic, assertive, passive." - biographer Patricia Bosworth

"That’s the worst part about acting. Your body doesn’t know you’re acting. It sweats and makes adrenalin just as though your emotions were real."

"I don't want to be labeled as either a pansy or a heterosexual. Labeling is so self-limiting. We are what we do, not what we say we are."

Montgomery Clift (17th October 1920 – 23rd July 1966)