Old friends not only remind you how far you’ve come. They also remind one of who you were before it all got quite so serious. I mention this because one of my bosom buddies Anthony is briefly back in town. He came to Bloomsbury Towers a couple of days ago and we drifted of for tea at the British Museum. ‘How are you darling?’ says he. ‘Wonderful’ says I. Quick as a flash he says ‘me neither’ and there we are back in the early 90s where we first met.
For my first full year in London I was an MA undergraduate in fashion journalism at St Martins. We’ll save that back alley off memory lane for another letter. Suffice to say little time was spent there and at one point I found myself doing work experience at Tatler by day and hustling as a Soho cocktail waiter by night at The Yard. Talk about life’s rich pageant. Anyway, it was behind the bar at The Yard that Anthony and I met. Soh0 then was really rather fascinating. The Colony Rooms and The French were still bringing in the louche old lags while the gay bars boomed and the glamour centred on the Groucho and the Atlantic Bar. Every night without fail we’d cash-up at The Yard, slug back a salutary G&T and be out until God only knows when living on tips and cocktail peanuts.
Anthony was always destined to be a fashion designer and his dream came true: working at Armani and Versace in Milan and finally migrating to New York. When I earned my spurs and reported on the runway shows for the Financial Times I’d stay with Anthony at his apartment off the Corso Buenos Aires in Milan. Perhaps it is a mercy there weren’t any photographs of that time. I do remember it was a bitter winter so it must have been the Spring/Summer shows and I’d bought an ankle length chocolate brown greatcoat from Zara. That was the year I found Mutinelli (Milan’s oldest hat shop) and took to wearing flat caps. I must have looked like a camp Bill Sykes.
Anthony and I remained close no matter how many air miles separated us. We holidayed together at my parents’ apartment n Menorca several times in the days when you had to count out your cash and budget for the fortnight because there weren’t any cash points. That dates us. We were so broke at the end of one particularly fabulous vacation that we even contemplated ordering up a storm at the bar where all the waiters wore roller skates then doing a runner down several flights of stairs knowing pursuit was futile.
A some stage – I don’t recall the date – Anthony was posted to Treviso in Italy to work at Benetton’s talent factory Fabrica. Our Yard compadre Lee and I flew out to spend a couple of summers in Treviso with Anthony. As you know Treviso is only a whistle stop on the train to Venice and somehow Anthony had the use of an attic apartment at the top of a palazzo overlooking the Rialto Bridge. That was the summer when I had the most godawful toothache and couldn’t pantomime agony sufficiently in the Venetian pharmacists to score the correct drugs. So I decided to medicate with a shot of brandy every time we came across a cafe in Venice. I’m sure you know the rest. Anthony and I ended up on the balcony of the Hotel des Bains on the Lido doing a passable impression of the last five frames of Death in Venice.
That Rialto apartment and the nights in Treviso were magic for both of us. I do recall Anthony had made an artwork for his apartment called Never Ever Again. It was simply that: the phrase box framed in various colour ways. I had a series of three of these pieces hanging in my old apartment in Clapham. I’d love to have them again. In retrospect a lot was said in those three words.
Like all old friends Anthony and I have had our Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? moments. Ours was played out on Fire Island and the less said about that little escapade the better. While that memory has faded others sparkle like crystal such as the times when I’d be reporting from Pitti Uomo in Florence and Anthony would hop a train from Treviso to join the fun and games. We attended Sibilla’s bal en tete in the Boboli Gardens after the Gianfranco Ferre party at Palazzo Pitti and somehow ended the evening at the American Consul’s townhouse drinking cognac and doing Evita impersonations on the balcony overlooking the Lungarno. Speaking of Pitti are you going next month?
I could write a book about my friendship with Anthony and might just do that.I haven’t even mentioned Tokyo when he flew out to work with me on the Savile Row London Cut exhibition at the British Ambassador’s Residence. Remind me the next time we meet to tell you all about Anthony’s speech at my 30th birthday lunch. We were both rather refreshed and the first line didn’t entire;y come out correctly. I think it was something about having me over the bar at The Yard when I think he meant to say having met me behind the bar at The Yard. Of course now this would all be captured for posterity and posted on YouTube. I much prefer to keep it all in the memory bank.
How the hell 40 snuck up behind us I will never know but it was really rather wonderful celebrating over dinner at Bob Bob Ricard only a rickshaw ride away from where it all began at The Yard. God bless us and all who sail with us. Off to ITV at 8.30am this morning to film a Great Gatsby fashion and fine jewels piece with Holly and Philip on This Morning. Do have a butchers if you’re loitering next to the flatscreen at noon. Until next time…