Thursday, 31 October 2013


Dusty Anderson

Clara Bow

Nancy Carroll

Virginia Welles

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes!

(Macbeth, 4.1)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy

"I have been here before,” I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were white with fool’s-parsley and meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour, such as our climate affords once or twice a year, when leaf and flower and bird and sun-lit stone and shadow seem all to proclaim the glory of God; and though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned on this, my latest.

That day, too, I had come not knowing my destination. It was Eights Week. Oxford - submerged now and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonnesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in - Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman’s day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days - such as that day - when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft vapours of a thousand years of learning. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening clamour. Here, discordantly, in Eights Week, came a rabble of womankind, some hundreds strong, twittering and fluttering over the cobbles and up the steps, sight-seeing and pleasure-seeking, drinking claret cup, eating cucumber sandwiches; pushed in punts about the river, herded in droves to the college barges; greeted in the Isis and in the Union by a sudden display of peculiar, facetious, wholly distressing Gilbert-and-Sullivan badinage, and by peculiar choral effects in the college chapels. Echoes of the intruders penetrated every corner, and in my own college was no echo, but an original fount of the grossest disturbance. We were giving a ball. The front quad, where I lived, was floored and tented; palms and azaleas were banked round the porter’s lodge; worst of all, the don who lived above me, a mouse of a man connected with the Natural Sciences, had lent his rooms for a Ladies’ Cloakroom, and a printed notice proclaiming this outrage hung not six inches from my oak.

No one felt more strongly about it than my scout.

“Gentlemen who haven’t got ladies are asked as far as possible to take their meals out in the next few days,” he announced despondently. “Will you be lunching in?”

“No, Lunt.”

“So as to give the servants a chance, they say. What a chance! I’ve got to buy a pin-cushion for the Ladies’ Cloakroom. What do they want with dancing? I don’t see the reason in it. There never was dancing before in Eights Week. Commem. now is another matter being in the vacation, but not in Eights Week as if teas and the river wasn’t enough. If you ask me, sir, it’s all on account of the war. It couldn’t have happened but for that.”
For this was 1923 and for Lunt, as for thousands of others, things could never be the same as they had been in 1914. “Now wine in the evening,” he continued, as was his habit, half in and half out of the door, “or one or two gentlemen to luncheon, there’s reason in. But not dancing. It all came in with the men back from the war. They were too old and they didn’t know and they wouldn’t learn. That’s the truth. And there’s some even goes dancing with the town at the Masonic - but the proctors will get them, you see.... Well, here’s Lord Sebastian. I mustn’t stand here talking when there’s pin-cushions to get.”

Sebastian entered - dove-grey flannel, white crepe-de-chine, a Charvet tie, my tie as it happened, a pattern of postage stamps - “Charles, what in the world’s happening at your college? Is there a circus? I’ve seen everything except elephants. I must say the whole of Oxford has become most peculiar suddenly. Last night it was pullulating with women. You’re to come away at once, out of danger. I’ve got a motor-car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Château Peyraguey - which isn’t a wine you’ve ever tasted, so don’t pretend. It’s heaven with strawberries.”

“Where are we going?”

“To see a friend.”


“Name of Hawkins. Bring some money in case we see anything we want to buy. The motor-car is the property of a man called Hardcastle. Return the bits to him if I kill myself; I’m not very good at driving.”

Beyond the gate, beyond the winter garden that was once the lodge, stood an open, two-seater Morris-Cowley. Sebastian’s Teddy-bear sat at the wheel. We put him between us - “Take care he’s not sick” - and drove off. The bells of St. Mary’s were chiming nine; we escaped collision with a clergyman, black-straw-hatted, white-bearded, pedalling quietly down the wrong side of the High Street, crossed Carfax, passed the station, and were soon in open country on the Botley Road; open country was easily reached in those days.

“Isn’t it early?” said Sebastian. “The women are still doing whatever women do to themselves before they come downstairs. Sloth has undone them. We’re away. God bless Hardcastle.”

“Whoever he may be.”

“He thought he was coming with us. Sloth undid him too. Well, I did tell him ten. He’s a very gloomy man in my college. He leads a double life. At least I assume he does. He couldn’t go on being Hardcastle, day and night, always, could he? Or he’d die of it. He says he knows my father, which is impossible.”


“No one knows Papa. He’s a social leper. Hadn’t you heard?”

“It’s a pity neither of us can sing,”
I said.

At Swindon we turned off the main road and, as the sun mounted high, we were among dry-stone walls and ashlar houses. It was about eleven when Sebastian, without warning, turned the car into a cart track and stopped. It was hot enough now to make us seek the shade. On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine - as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together - and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, to the blue-green shadows of foliage, and the sweet scent of the tobacco merged with the sweet summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger’s breadth above the turf and hold us suspended.

“Just the place to bury a crock of gold,” said Sebastian. “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”
Bridehead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

"We cherish our friends not for their ability to amuse us, but for ours to amuse them."

"He was gifted with the sly, sharp instinct for self-preservation that passes for wisdom among the rich."

"Manners are especially the need of the plain. The pretty can get away with anything."

Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh (28th October 1903 - 10th April 1966)

Monday, 28 October 2013


Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say
That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It sounds that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day today.

[Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day]

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Friday, 25 October 2013

This weekend I'm mostly dressing casual... the socialite and fashionista, the Countess Consuelo Crespi!

Two choice extracts from her obituary in the New York Times:
In 1981, when wealthy French women lined up to cancel orders for evening gowns after the election of the Socialist François Mitterrand, Countess Crespi declared that Italian women would never do anything that silly. “They’d rather go down in their taffetas,” she told The New York Times.

Her position at the centre of the fashion world was underlined by a story told in 2007 by Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino’s long-time business partner. Speaking to Women’s Wear Daily, he said that in 1973 he and Valentino were thrilled to get an order from Bloomingdale’s - until the countess showed up in what the newspaper described as “a tizzy.” She reported that the Valentino coats were being sold in the basement. Mr. Giammetti asked what the basement was. “It’s where they sell home detergents,” Countess Crespi said in horror.
Consuelo Pauline O'Brien O'Connor Crespi (31st May 1928 – 18th October 2010)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Without women to decorate it

Extracts from The Untold Story of Jacob’s Pillow By Norton Owen, an article in the Gay and Lesbian Review back in 2006:
"Ted Shawn was a fascinating and complex character whose driving ambition and tireless exploits laid much of the groundwork for American modern dance. [His] fame and fortune came in 1914 after he travelled to New York and formed a partnership with the legendary Ruth St. Denis. He had worshipped St. Denis since first seeing her perform several years earlier (she was thirteen years his senior) and, before the year was out, they became husband and wife.

"Their union was formalized in the name of their dance company - Denishawn - and the couple’s marital status was of considerable importance to the success of their enterprise. Dancing was not considered to be much of a profession in the early 20th century, with most Americans considering the words “dancer” and “prostitute” to be almost synonymous.

"In spite of the public respectability that Shawn and St. Denis cultivated, there were extra-marital affairs from the very beginning, most of these allegedly pursued by St. Denis. The marriage was irreparably harmed around 1928 when Shawn hired a business manager named Fred Beckman, who became romantically involved with both husband and wife. This three-way affair accelerated an end to the mighty Denishawn empire, which had exerted a considerable force in the performing arts world for fifteen years. The scandal could have also ended the career of Ted Shawn, as St. Denis threatened to divorce him and name their mutual lover as correspondent. This never came to pass, but St. Denis and Shawn did formally separate in 1930."
Left to his own devices, Ted Shawn decided to do something radical - in the midst of the Depression, with little money of his own, he bought a lowly abandoned Massachusetts farmstead called “Jacob’s Pillow” where he began to formulate his plans for a dance academy that would shake the artistic world.

"While the groups of dancers that Shawn gathered at the Pillow in the summers of 1931 and 1932 were little different from the Denishawn company that he’d been directing for the previous fifteen years, there were more dances in the repertory designed exclusively for men.

"Ted Shawn trained His Men Dancers and created dances that were concerned with themes considered suitable for men; for example, American folk material and dances about work, war, and sports. For the first time, American men danced on stage in a masculine, boldly muscular style. Looking at his work today makes his achievement all the more remarkable. Not only was he making the case for men dancers publicly, but privately he opened the way for you to be a gay man and not have that be an issue.

"Surprisingly and ironically, the very battle cry that Shawn shouted with His Men Dancers - that it was possible to be a male dancer without being a sissy - seemed to be contradicted by his relationship with the company’s lead dancer Barton Mumaw. Or was Shawn’s larger point an even farther-reaching one than audiences of his time could fathom? Even though it was not framed as such, perhaps Shawn’s real crusade was to prove that a performer’s own personal sexuality was not a public issue and therefore should not be inferred by his behaviour on stage. Audiences of the 1930’s would certainly have not been ready for such a message.

"Indeed, a Time magazine report in 1935 stated: 'Sophisticated observers regarded the venture as a freakish experiment, pooh-poohed the idea that a troupe could survive without women to decorate it'."

His Men seemed quite decorative enough, however, as the success of Ted's idea - helped in no small way by their almost perpetual nakedness - became a hit with the artistic viewing public.

Kinetic Molpai (1935) by Ted Shawn with His Men Dancers:

  • Jacob’s Pillow survives to this day as a centre for the creative arts in dance.
  • Martha Graham, considered the "Mother" of modern dance choreography, graduated from the Denishawn company.
  • Joseph Pilates (whose exercise regime is so popular today) was a prominent member of the Pillow faculty in the 1940s and 50s.

"Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made."

"I believe that dance communicates man's deepest, highest and most truly spiritual thoughts and emotions far better than words, spoken or written."

"I wanted to see if the American man in plain brown pants and a bare torso could speak profound things."

Ted Shawn (Edwin Myers Shawn, 21st October 1891 — 9th January 1972)

Monday, 21 October 2013

A serpentine slither of priceless jewels

From The Telegraph:
...the Cheapside Hoard glistens, spilling over with torrents of loose gemstones, some faceted, some rough, most polished into the glossy cabochons favoured in late-Renaissance jewellery. There are precious emeralds, rubies, sapphires, amethysts, wine-coloured garnets, legions of agates, and curious, brown-mottled 'toadstones’, which are, it turns out, fossilised fish teeth, once believed to be an antidote to poison.

What is so extraordinary and engaging about the jewels is that they are not the haughty, grandiose masterpieces usually associated with Renaissance jewellery, but charming and refined ornaments made for the upwardly mobile, wealthy merchant classes, presumably the jet set of the day.

The jewels are delicate, intricate, light, and light-hearted in spirit, with a stylistic simplicity that gives them modern appeal. There are lacy sautoirs enamelled in white and lightly scattered with gems, which would have been worn lavishly looped, gold wire-work pendants, chandelier earrings hung with clusters of tiny amethyst or emerald grapes, aigrettes (hair ornaments), crosses, pendants, little shepherd’s-crook-shaped pins, and plenty of rings, many designed as rosette-shaped clusters.

Wit and allegory, so important to Elizabethan culture, add depth to design. The salamander, believed to withstand fire, was the emblem of François I of France and a favourite Renaissance symbol across Europe. One of the highlights of the Hoard is a salamander brooch consisting of a perfectly formed serpentine slither of cabochon emeralds accented with table-cut diamonds and enamels, with the creature’s teeth detailed in black.

This is a beautiful and fascinating collection indeed, encapsulated by the BBC programme to accompany the exhibition, Secret Knowledge: The Hidden Jewels of the Cheapside Hoard:

Part 1:

Part 2:

The Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels is on at the Museum of London until 27th April 2014.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sex goddess

"I think all women have a certain elegance about them which is destroyed when they take off their clothes."

"I never really thought of myself as a sex goddess; I felt I was more a comedian who could dance."

"The fun of acting is to become someone else."

Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino, 17th October 1918 – 14th May 1987)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

I am Angela Lansbury!

"I've never been particularly aware of my age. It's like being on a bicycle - I just put my foot down and keep going."

"I'm eternally grateful for the Irish side of me. That's where I got my sense of comedy and whimsy. As for the English half–that's my reserved side... But put me on stage, and the Irish comes out. The combination makes a good mix for acting."

"Actors are not made, they are born."

"Bringing humour and bringing happiness and joy to an audience is a wonderful opportunity in life, believe me."

Angela Lansbury as "Salome Otterborn" - Tango from Death on the Nile:

Angela Lansbury, Joan Collins and Dana Wynter performing at the Oscars:

Angela Brigid Lansbury, CBE (born 16th October 1925)

Monday, 14 October 2013

I can never go out of style

Happy 120th birthday today to Miss Lillian Gish - one of those rare beasts, a silent movie star who remained a successful film actress for the rest of her (long) life.

Facts about Miss Gish:
  • She was born the same year the movie camera was invented.
  • Both she and her sister Dorothy were drawn into acting at a very early age. "Baby Lillian" made her stage debut in 1902.
  • Legend has it that at their movie audition, and without warning, DW Griffith shot a prop gun over their heads. The girls' horrified shrieks convinced him that they could emote onscreen, and he hired them both.
  • Lillian's first film was An Unseen Enemy in 1912. Her last was The Whales of August (alongside Bette Davies) in 1987 - 75 years later.
"You know, when I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather. Later he played my father and finally he played my husband. If he had lived, I'm sure I would have played his mother."

"Young man, if God had wanted you to see me that way, he would have put your eyes in your bellybutton."

"I've never been in style, so I can never go out of style."

"Never get caught acting."

Lillian Diana Gish (14th October 1893 – 27th February 1993)