London Boys May 2011

Dear Rowley,

Was it Saint Oscar who said it was the misfortune of all women is that they turned into their mothers and the misfortune of men that they don’t? My mother rides every day in Chatsworth Park, cooks like a dream and inspired my early love for Ascot and fashion so here’s hoping. Actually, I think I’m turning into my grandmothers. One was addicted to Countdown and the other to vicious bridge and gin. Whenever deadlines allow, I find myself on the daybed in Bloomsbury Towers with a game of online bridge on the Ipad, a glass of fizz in my hand and Deal or No Deal on the goggle box. Deal or No Deal is like the crack cocaine of the broadcasting world. Am I addicted? ‘I’m ready for the question Noel’.

Last night saw a pre-Ascot launch party at Amanda Wakeley on the Fulham Road. My partner in crime at Ascot for the BBC, Suzi Perry, is in town next week for dress and millinery fittings and we are planning an Amanda Wakeley/Stephen Jones two-hander for one Royal Ascot day. Amanda wrote one of the forewords for Fashion at Royal Ascot: A Century of Thoroughbred Style and is a bit of an Ascot classic herself. I was going to go to the opening night party for the St Pancras Renaissance but as fate would have it HMV had just taken delivery of Burlesque on DVD so it was home to Bloomsbury Towers for a very guilty pleasure.

OK, so it is like Cabaret after a lobotomy but I was transfixed by Miss Aguilera’s pipes (behave, Rowley) and absolutely adored her rocking out to Mae West’s A Guy who Takes his Time’ wearing nothing but a rhinestone bikini and an ostrich feather fan…not me, her. There’s only so much audience participation one can take. Mind you, thank God the walls are thick in Bloomsbury Towers because the neighbours would certainly talk if they heard me singing along to ‘get your ass up, show me how to Burlesque’ complete with bump and grind that would do Tessie the Texas Twirler proud. In a past life I could have given Lily Saint Cyr a run for her money…or Mama Rose at least.

This afternoon it was off to the Savoy to see if we couldn’t nail down plans for fifteen of Debbie Reynolds’ MGM Hollywood costumes to travel to the hotel for an exhibition in the Savoy Museum and the Grand Salon birdcage. What Bretty and I really want is for Miss Reynolds to fly over for the opening night at the Savoy and belt a couple of numbers in the Beaufort Bar afterwards. I think it would be utterly elite and lovely if we avoid the plastic bag brigade treating the hotel like a tourist attraction and open the exhibit only to an invited audience of fabulous Savoy types and collectors who are in the market to buy the exhibits in the upcoming LA auction. The Marilyn Monroe seven Year Itch dress alone is estimated at $2 million. Deal or no deal darling?

Do you like my photograph of Brett looking handsome as sin as we marked out the exhibition? I do dote on his dimples. But without pecs like a Bondai surfer or a security guard ear piece I don’t think I’d get a look in. The other snap is of a guardsman at the Royal Wedding. He was right in my eyeline when I was doing the BBC Five Live interview with Rachel Trevor-Morgan. Quite put me off my stride. There really is something about a soldier.

My final picture this week is of a memorial stone on the Strand to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra I’ve never noticed before. On one face of the obelisk is a small rondel relief of a young man in naval cadet uniform. It is a memorial portrait of their late eldest son Prince Eddy: the King England never had. You know I am obsessed by Eddy. He was implicated in the Ripper scandal (unlikely) and the Cleveland Street male brothel scandal (more than likely) and is thus an object of great interest in the footnotes of Victorian history. He was also a great dandy man of fashion thus one of my poster boys for Savile Row style.

Talking about Savile Row style, I have observed as the sun and my summer suits come out that sartorial high water marks such as my new baby blue linen Hardy Amies suit do make the boys wink. If proof were needed that a new generation of men are switched-on to terrific tailoring then look no further than working an extraordinarily smart suit and tie while one struts the streets of Mayfair and W1. I have to tell you that it is the chaps in T-shirts and tattoos who are the ones that clock a tasty bit of tailoring and say ‘sharp suit Sir’ or some such. Equally, it is the black fly boys in sportswear who vocalise when they appreciate  a fellow peacock. This gives one hope that the great suit revival is spreading way beyond the square mind surrounding Savile Row.

That said, once the sun comes out it has to be observed that most Londoners wear clothes that you wouldn’t line a robber’s dog’s basket with. It is truly distressing to see topless men in town: not appropriate unless one happens to have a washboard stomach like David Gandy. Sadly I still don’t despite swimming, steaming and sauna bathing every morning at 7am in the camp Greco Roman spa at the Holborn Hotel. But I’m getting there Rowley. Actually, it’s not the swim that thrills. It is walking home after the spa in cycling shorts and noticing how many men and women passing one have their eyes down for a full house.