A Life In Cartoon Motion. February 2015.

Dear Rowley,

The spectre of Comic Relief is upon us once again and various ‘national treasure’ comedians are exhorting Britain to ‘do something funny for money’. In my youth doing something funny for money was definitely not to be encouraged let alone televised and usually ended with compound fractures or a night in the cells. Forced jollity always smacks of desperation as, incidentally, did London Fashion Week’s charity catwalk show (in aid 0f ebola if you please) starring a gurning Duchess of York and Naomi ‘blood diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ Campbell.

Credit where it is due that London Fashion Week has reached a level of professionalism that is to be applauded. But it can’t go unnoticed on Oscar night that media both social and professional will inevitably be looking towards Los Angeles. Interesting wasn’t it that Tom Ford once again led the way by presenting his catwalk collection in LA and filling his front row with what MGM used to call ‘more stars than there are in heaven’?

Mr Ford is that unique creature who has major credibility at the top of the fashion and film business. His choice of LA for a runway show looked like a velvet revolution against the big four fashion capitals. Anna Wintour chose Tom and Oscar over London Fashion Week suggesting that fashion is most effectively shown on the red carpet rather than a runway these days.

Who do you think will win the Oscars this year Rowley? I can’t help but applaud the actor and actress nominations. They have to work so damned hard these days. We’ve got Eddie Redmayne wringing every last bit of pathos out of an aggressive degenerative condition, we have Benedict Cumberbatch as a brilliant autistic homosexual and we have Julianne Moore with Alzheimer’s disease. Leonardo di Caprio must be trawling The Lancet for his next picture.

The Oscars are part popularity contest and part moral compass. Marilyn Monroe was never even nominated though her performance in the 1956 film Bus Stop was far superior to the winner Anna Magnani. The Academy begrudged Monroe’s success and her rejection of the studio system when she told 20th Century Fox that she would choose her roles, her directors and her co-stars. Hollywood does not forgive those who bite the hand that feeds.

Garbo only won an honorary Oscar and Judy Garland a pygmy statuette for The Wizard of Oz but the Academy never gave her another. Garland’s performance in the 1954 film A Star Is Born was an epic compared to Oscar winner Grace Kelly’s careful performance in The Country Girl. But the Academy turned its back on Judy Garland as too publicly troubled a face of Hollywood. The moral of the Oscars is that timing, luck and fashion can always pip the rightful winner to the post.

Timing is so important don’t you find Rowley? I think we all agree that if we knew how cute as a button we all were in our youth we would have made different choices built on confidence rather than insecurity. I also think we’d all have walked away from bad situations – relationships, bosses, disappointing friends – months if not years before we did.

My timing has been off lately. When a charming London College of Fashion student interviewed me about my career this week and asked for my motto I trotted out an old line: ‘we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it’.  I have progressed by destroying the bridge back to the old life more times than I can count. It is a strategy not without risk and not entirely voluntary.

I suppose moving on without looking back is a necessary evil when you are a member of the high-low club. I was diagnosed with the high-low in my early twenties and it has been a constant companion ever since. Without this letter turning into On The Psychiatrist’s Couch I will only say that I consider it a success to keep the personal and professional friends I have but inevitably there have been casualties who – in the words of Sondheim – ‘leave you halfway through the woods’. Whenever I hear gossip from one of the aforementioned I remember one of Marilyn Monroe’s most perceptive lines: ‘those who know me better know better’.

You might well ask why this letter is filled with Tony Hart cartoons of me. Well, Miss Mingay’s mother spotted the last cartoon in a Swiss magazine called Das Magazin (natch). I’d met the journalists in Emma Willis’s shop and they did an interview based on the rather fanciful premise that all of the Londoners interviewed were encountered on a sunny afternoon in Hyde Park. I have never done an interview demanding  Method Acting before.

Anyway I forgot all about it until Miss M sent me the magazine. Everyone interviewed was sketched in this rather charming ‘life in cartoon motion’ fashion. Everyone else looked friendly. I, however, have a basilisk stare that could melt an ice sculpture. The top sketch was made for a Pitti Uomo book and reminds me of very happy times.

Onward and upward, eh? Thames & Hudson and I do need to agree on a talented young illustrator for my Discriminating Guide to London. The manuscript is being edited as I type. Digging out all those cartoons reminded me of the best slogan T-shirt I have ever seen. It was worn by a lady in Soho and read ‘my life is based on a true story’.