In my capacity as curator of the Savoy Museum I happened to do some research about Fred and his sister Adele Astaire’s first stay at the hotel in 1933. Fred and Adele were a famous dancing duo on the West End and Broadway stage long before the advent of Ginger Rogers and Hollywood. When they first stayed at the Savoy, Fred and Adele were starring in a West End show called Stop Flirting in which they introduced London to a dance called The Runaround. The Runaround was basically a gallop in which the partners circled the stage leaping like gazelles in ever increasing circles.
Why do I bring this up Rowley? Because this past week has been a variation on said dance. One is asked to leap, leap higher, go faster and leap ever higher still. The ringmaster de jour is Thames & Hudson who needed the dummy for my new book Gentlemen’s Requisites: The Pursuit of Luxury in London 1800 to the Present written and laid out at warp speed. Hats off to Team Mayfair for knocking the dummy into shape in record time. But I would surmise that my art director Pete and my editor Jennie will be doing as I do come Friday evening: lifting the elbow, smoking the fags and tearing the crab claw in some glamorous supper club just to take the edge off a rather trying week.
When work begins to resemble The Ballad of Reading Gaol, it always benefits me to get off the hamster wheel and let London surprise me. As I was racing like Usain Bolt after a curry towards Pete’s studio in Bermondsey, I happened to take a riverside meander past the Tower of London. Have you seen the pride of lions sculpted from chicken wire that are prowling the moat of the Tower? A gorgeous, ghostly reminder of the Medieval Royal Menagerie once housed in the Tower.
I really must join English Heritage, darling. Then again, as one approaches 40 I expect it is mandatory along with a disinclination to stand-up in a bar and an intolerance of gum-chewing, iPod blaring, ill-dressed Yoof. I has a lunch at Orso last year with Simon Thurley, the Chief Executive of English Heritage, when Savile Row Bespoke was considering bringing the London Cut exhibition back home. We were keen to present the exhibition in Apsley House at No 1 London, the magnificent townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington. It wasn’t to be but I am rather a fan of the dashing Dr Thurley.
Last night I was invited to a talk at the V&A by Celia Birtwell. Celia is an old friend of mine who with her then husband Ossie Clark set the London fashion world on fire with her prints in the early 1970s. When I was writing about fashion for the Financial Times and the Independent I developed a passion for Celia and Ossie and wrote a couple of lovely interviews with Celia. At the time she was focused on furnishing fabrics. Anyway, long story short Celia was soon commissioned by Top Shop to revive her classic prints for a new collection and she is now acknowledged as a national treasure.
Celia has just produced a scrapbook cum memoir chronicling her life in fashion with Dominic Lutyens; a writer I have worked with on the Louis Vuitton Guides to London. Last year Dominic asked me for a mug shot to include in the book and acknowledge my small part in the Celia renaissance. I bought the book before the lecture began and was there a mention of yours truly? Was there buffalo. Also absent was my dear friend Judith Watt who is the authority on Ossie Clark and author of an earlier exhibition catalogue. However, the book is beautiful and Celia as always was enchanting in conversation with one of the V&As fashion curators.
I think one sets oneself up for disappointment if constantly seeking acknowledgement and approval. I know from writing my Thames & Hudson books that edits of words and pictures are inevitable and the author does not always have the last word. However, I have been rather crabby this month about acknowledgements after The Rake – the men’s style bible for whom I am editor-at-large – ran a piece about Gieves & Hawkes.
As you know Rowley, I spent two years curating an Archive Room at No I Savile Row for Gieves. It was beautiful. When the firm changed Managing Directors let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye about the new direction. So when The Rake asked me to write the feature about Gieves, I had to declare my interests and say it was all too personal for me to write an objective piece. The journalist who did write the piece waxed lyrical about the ‘new archive display’ of pieces that had lain dormant for decades. I spat like a cat to be written out of the firm’s history.
Still, one has to move on as the policeman said to Oscar Wilde back in the day. My last photograph du jour was sent to me by my New York friend Adam B. Brecht. Adam is the man who weaves dreams around the historic perfume house of Creed worldwide. He is also one of the most dashing chaps on the international polo circuit. Whenever I feel particularly blue, Adam can be guaranteed to send me some palpitating photographs of horseflesh and polo playing haunches. On that note I will leave you to have terribly sweet dreams as I hope will I.