Sir Tom Baker and Tiaras (Again!) October 2010

Dear Rowley,

We all know you disdain television in preference for the wireless but I do urge you to see a hideous Saturday night show called Total Wipeout in which a collection of the simpler members of the British public are flown to Argentina and actually agree to participate in a giant obstacle course that sees them sucker punched into a pool of mud, half drowned by a water slide in reverse that releases a tsunami if you’re not fast enough and three enormous balls that the numpties are supposed to bounce across over water. They never make it.

The show is basically the It’s a Knockout de nos jours and terribly funny. My better half and I practically dissolve with laughter when we see some fat mechanic from Leeds flying off the big balls like an ant committing suicide on as tennis ball. Heaven! The reason I bring this up is because there is a game in the show called Dizzy Dummies. In this game, the contestants are strapped to a merry go round that goes round in circles at warp speed before being released to commence an obstacle course of unmeasurable difficulty. The Savoy has turned me into a Dizzy Dummy. My head quite literally spins at the thought of all we have to do before 10.10.10.

Brief respite was given to Mrs T and I when we were invited to the magnificent new Bentley & Skinner flagship on Piccadilly by owner/chairman Mr Evans to inspect an 1860s tiara worn at the 1953 Coronation and (possibly) at the Savoy Coronation Ball. This I wanted to borrow for our circular showcase in the Savoy Museum to add a little drama to an otherwise rather charming display. As you’ll see from the picture of Mrs T wearing this pearl and diamond beauty, we have been terribly lucky to loan. Isn’t it marvellous to have an executive assistant who is not fazed by tiara elastic?

Mrs T (something of a stage name for Katy at the Savoy) has proved such an asset to all of my endeavors. She is quite simply unflappable and is able to cope with every emotional gear shift that this project demands. Without her, I do not think I would have had the luxury of time to secure all the precious objects in the Savoy Museum that have been discussed for years but never confirmed. A case in point was the Faberge framed portrait of Russian Imperial Dancer and mistress of Tsar Nicholas II (when heir) Mathilde Kschessinska. This magnificent piece of the ballerina who stayed at the Savoy in 1911 wearing two million Roubles-worth of cabochon sapphires and diamonds was loaned by the marvellous Geoffrey Munn, chairman of fine jeweller Wartski.

Mrs T went to Wartski to pick the piece up then corralled four big chaps at the Savoy to lift the circular showcase while I dressed the display with tiara, frame and gorgeous supporting photographs expertly scanned by my marvellous picture and web supremo James Hamilton. As a journalist you are inevitably a bit of a lone wolf. I have since become used to working with creative teams on projects like The London Cut exhibitions and my T&H Savile Row book. But the Savoy Museum is the first time I’ve rallied my own troops. As bony old Madonna said in her Confessions on the Dancefloor tour, ‘I cannot make it alone’. She wasn’t just whistling Dixie.

Another diversion on the Saturday before 10.10.10. was a brief visit to Sir Tom Baker at his Soho atelier on D’Arblay Street. Tom, you might recall, has cut me one of his signature black sequin dinner jackets and I was well overdue for the final fitting. Well, I rocked-up to Soho to find Tom having a glass of vino with Joe Corre at the pub on the corner. Though it is indelicate to say so, I have been drenched daily from working at the Savoy and usually ended-up going home to Bloomsbury Towers to change my shirt once a day.

Tom very sweetly found me one of his own black V-neck T-shirts to wear before the fitting. There’s nothing worse than a perspiring customer in a fitting. Anyway, long story short the sequin DJ was magnificent, we toasted it with a glass or three of Malbec and I hot-footed it back down to the Savoy with the sequins in a garment bag and a Savoy green silk DJ and waistcoat tailored by Tom on order. Quite a tasty garment isn’t it? I think Tom Baker is a great talent in bespoke tailoring and if we’d have been acquainted when I was finishing my Savile Row book he’d have had a chapter. As it is, he has a mention and the promise of a new chapter when we reprint. And, yes darling, I do pay for my suits. He’s worth it.

Once back at the Savoy on the evening before the opening, Mrs T and I were somewhat shellshocked to find that neither the Beaufort Bar nor the American Bar were serving. We bought a naff old bottle of pink fizz from Tesco, took it back to the Beaufort, slipped on the sequins and popped the cork to toast the end of chapter one of our Savoy story. Who should then appear but the GM Kiaran with the lovely Brett and the ITV camera crew in tow. Ever charming, Kiaran instructed the head barman to change the pink Tesco Cava for Moet & Chandon. We then toured the Signature Suites, glass in hand, and a good time was had by all. God only knows how it will come out on camera…