If someone were to ask me what I consider to be the greatest musical of all time I would have to say Cabaret. Director/choreographer Bob Fosse is a hero of mine and Liza Minnelli’s greatest mentor on a par with Kander & Ebb and Halston. It is to Liza’s credit that she emerged from the pressure of being a twin legend baby – she is the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli – and rocked it out with one of the most powerful, dark musicals in Hollywood history.
I particularly liked Liza’s Best Actress Oscar speech for Cabaret when she said ‘thank you for giving this award to ME’. You know I love Liza and empathise on many levels with the lady if that doesn’t sound too presumptuous. Like she, I have been known in the past to ‘lift a few’. As she says, when most people taste alcohol it feels good and cosy. When she and I take a drink, we feel ggggggrrrrreat!
Like Churchill, I can safely say that I’ve taken much more from the booze than it has taken from me. But perhaps if I’d have had a few more Diet Cokes along the way my career might not have been such a circus ride. I was fed a teaspoon of brandy on the day I was born so perhaps it was predestined. But that’s not quite true either. I think my first lick of gin was love at first sip. I genuinely believe that most Englishmen are two drinks below par. It’s the ‘and the rest’ that tends to cause the odd problem or two.
Cabaret is in my mind the National Anthem. ‘That’s what comes from too much pills and liquor’ and all that. I was amused by a performer in New York who used to say ‘what good is sitting all alone in your room when you can sit in a cabaret all alone?’ But the glamour of the night has always had an irresistible pull for me. I’m never happier than when perched on a random bar stool sipping a gin martini and passing the midnight hours chatting to fellow barflies.
However, of late I have realised that I’m not twenty-one any more. Not that I believe for a second that you aren’t as young as the guy you are feeling. Suffice to say, I have resolved after the recent ‘troubles’ to take a few days off the sauce every week and look forward to the Prosecco nights as a treat rather than a necessity to get through the anxieties of London life. So far so good Rowley.
It has been a huge pleasure to get back to my old routine again. I’ve been suited and booted all week and reacquainting myself with Savile Row. The plans for the London Cut exhibition at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington are full steam ahead and we now have the green light at Henry Poole & Co to restore the rest of the ledgers. I had a super lunch with Angus Cundey – the Godfather of Savile Row – and Richard Craig today and caught up on all the Row gossip.
The Wicked Witch of the West End has been busy while I was on my health sabbatical and has now alienated just about everybody on the Row. Pity. I am most excited for The London Cut Washington that the Savile Row Bespoke board have agreed that we should include all the young bespoke tailors who are bringing new energy to the trade and deserve to be shown next to the historic houses when we go to the US.
So what else is new? I popped in to St James’s Church Piccadilly today to photograph the remarkable Grinling Gibbons wood carvings behind the altar. A lovely chap who it transpired was the Treasurer of the church showed me the font. Apparently, Sir Henry Jermyn insisted that Gibbons carve the marble font. Gibbons did not work in marble but executed a rather fabulous font that is exquisite in parts and crude in others. I don’t think he liked working with marble but the St James’s font is unique.
The Treasurer also showed me a plaque dedicated to the royal physician who was on duty when George IV’s daughter Princess Charlotte miscarried and died. The poor chap committed suicide hence his memorial plaque having very few words. In the early 19th century suicides could not be buried on consecrated ground. An exception was made. Apparently, the vault beneath St James’s is filled entirely with concrete. It was deemed safer to do this after the church was Blitzed in 1940. So the bodies will never be brought up.
It is days like this that make me realise how much London is under my skin. I could not live anywhere else. Strike that. I could not live anywhere else other than Bloomsbury Square. It is my ‘hood’ and where I belong. Naturally one lives in a shoe box but think of the money saved on cab, tube, train and bus fares. My lovely girl in Waitrose Holborn tells me she pays £2000 for a season ticket on the train. Think how many bottles of Prosecco that would cover…
So nice that life is feeling like a cabaret again. I’m filming tomorrow for a new BBC2 antiques programme so we’ll see whether I can still perform on camera. You never know after confidence is knocked by a rather too public illness. Still, I am grateful to have the chance one more time. It is gratifying that all of my clients and contracts have agreed to ‘bear with’ and welcomed me back after the health hiatus. That makes me feel like a very lucky old lush. Not so much of the old and not so lush any more! Until next time…