Deal or No Deal. It’s not a game show: it’s a cult. I tell you, the Scientologists could learn a trick or two about brainwashing. I am now hardwired to climb the stairs in Bloomsbury Towers like La Somnambula at five to four and am quite simply transfixed for an hour of sheer bliss baby. If a guest at a dinner party doesn’t know what I mean by ‘five box’ I simply go into a narcoleptic fit.
And now the series is ended. Bereft. If my year was likened to Deal or No Deal, I’d have to say I’ve been picking far too many reds. I lost one of my power five (Royal Ascot). But as all Deal addicts know, the game can turn. Are things looking up? I’m ready for the question, Noel. I had my first meeting set up by my agent Geraldine. You’ve got to love a woman who can rock a Schiaparelli pink shift dress before noon. Whenever I meet Geraldine I keep hearing my inner Pet Shop Boy singing ‘You’ve got the looks, I’ve got the gall, let’s make lots of money’. We’re already on the boil with an ITV project and Geraldine has booked me for a US show about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In the words of Ronald MacDonald, ‘I’m lovin’ it’.
The divine Lucas Dietrich, my publisher, took me to dinner last night at Cigala, the chi-chi tapas joint on Lamb’s Conduit Street. Who knew tapas could be purely alcoholic? We started with a fizzy red, progressed to Negronis and after that all bets were off. Productive though. We should have some sample layouts for Handmade in England next week and this always gives one a fillip…or a boot up the backside more like.
My week has been spent monkey typing new features for The Rake. Specialised subjects this issue? The life and style of Yves Saint Laurent, the man whose lover said he was born with a nervous breakdown, Anderson & Sheppard’s magnificent new book in association with Vanity Fair and a tome called Youth, Art, Tragedy: basically a romp through the history of talented doomed youth from Icarus to Amy Winehouse. My favourite Rake feature is always Notes From The Row, my column. The Row in question is of course Savile not Skid although I wouldn’t rule that out considering my finances at present.
Whenever times are tight, I always think of the Barbra Streisand film On A Clear Day You Can See Forever when the heroine Melinda tells her rakish Regency good for nothing husband. ‘I know what it’s like to be poor. You have merely been without funds’. Well, I am laying it on a bit thick. Better Half won’t have to say ‘let not poor Nelly starve’ on his deathbed as Charles II quoth of Miss Gwynn. But if there was a metaphor for my cash flow at the moment it would be Death Valley.
There have been moments of levity this week to ease the deficit. I swear, the mood I’m in I deliberately listen to the Today programme blithering on about America’s Double D credit rating just so I can bellow, ‘and you think you’ve got problems, buster’. Back to levity. My best friend Gill happens to work in the same office as Geraldine. She told me a gorgeous story about her eldest son Ed. She was struggling through Waitrose looking for something to cook for supper and Ed turns to her and says ‘Mummy, why are we here?’ ‘We’re here to buy fish fingers, son’, says Gill. ‘No, Mummy’, says he. ‘What are we doing here ON EARTH?’ Can’t make it up can you.
I had a very giggly conversation with one of my oldest friends Tessa from the Newcastle days. I’ll tell you how we met. She was a mature student at Newcastle University on the same English Literature course as me. One afternoon I was leaving the library in a blue funk and there was Tessa stoating towards me in a leopard skin fun fur and heels that would make a drag queen think twice. She threw her arms wide and said ‘darling, let’s go for a gin’. That was twenty years ago and I don’t think a week has gone by since when we don’t have a gas on the blower.
Tessa and I think we must have met in a past life as courtesans at Versailles. Isn’t it amusing that people who believe in reincarnation always think they’re Cleopatra and not the sweating Nubian slave rowing the barge? Knowing Tessa as I do, I think we were more likely two old tarts working the docks in Limehouse circa 1890. Anyway, one of Tessa’s neighbours was in high dudgeon because her sister (who wouldn’t see fifty again) had fallen for a 25-year old Turkish boy who stole her money and then refused to have sex because it was Ramadan. Neighbour was on the moral high ground and expected Tessa to concur. ‘I have two words to say to a 25-year man old courting a 50-year old woman’, says Tessa. ‘Up and Stairs’.
The happy snaps I am sending you are just that. I found this Avedon fashion plate of the great Dovima shot in the 1950s that simply took breath from body at the sheer goddam elegance of it all. When tree huggers bang on to me about the beauty of nature I wave this photograph under their noses as a prime example that art beats nature every time. The portrait of La Divina performing Donizetti’s Anna Boleyna is heading for the Maria Callas Signature Suite at the Savoy. The ripped Adonis in his pants? I’d like to say I snapped him in the camp Greco-Roman swimming pool I frequent of a morning but that would be a bare faced lie. I just thought a hunk in trunks might put a smile on your face and give you a rise. Until next time…