Positive Discrimination. August 2015.

Dear Rowley,

As you know my life has not been without incident. If it was a soap opera the theme tune would be I’m Still Here from Sondheim’s Follies.  Admittedly a bottle of Bombay Sapphire was never far away from the scene of the crime but let’s face it nobody likes a quitter. That said I’m on the clock and off the bottle right now.

So it is with immense gratitude that so many people are still at my side as well as on it. We were debating how to launch James Sherwood’s Discriminating Guide to London (available in all good bookshops from the 21st of September) when Nick ‘Spencer’ Hart’s head of bespoke Chandni suggested Spencer Hart hosts the party at their fabulous shop opposite Claridge’s.

Nick was always a favourite of mine when I was more at large on Savile Row. He has the ability to make intelligent, very cool suits f0r men that don’t compromise dignity or style. Anyway, like Nick’s last fashion show this is going to be strictly friends and family. So we’ve decided to land the event on my birthday the 27th of October.

I am fortunate to have several families in London not least the Sherwood Massive who convene at Ciao Bella on Lamb’s Conduit Street and are always the highlight of my month. There’s also the Henry Poole family, the Turnbull & Asser family and of course the Thames & Hudson family. We won’t talk about estranged family such as the neighbourhood witch but suffice to say the people invited will all be there on a big thank you for all the years in London.

Did I tell you that La Farmer, Mr Bowering and I are jetting off to Delhi on Christmas Day for a fortnight in Jaipur? Tessa is convinced I will marry a Maharaja and never come back. Come to think of it I’m quite warming to that scenario. If I do come back I hope I don’t go native and become one of those hopelessly pretentious Hampstead types who  waft around in saris, sandals and busy jewellery.

So what’s new on the Rialto? Well I had a lovely assignment from Time/Life in New York to mediate a discussion between marvellous milliner Stephen Jones and the supremely talented fashion designer Erdem. We were fortunate to have the great Benjamin McMahon behind the lens who, incidentally, kindly took the portraits of me with my paws wrapped round the Discriminating Guide.

I’ve know Stephen for a considerable time not least as my favourite person to interview at Royal Ascot bar none. I love his back story: emerging from St Martins with the Blitz Club kids, renting a basement in Covent Garden underneath Steve Strange’s P.X. and opening the most amusing hat shop equidistant between where he started and the old Blitz Club itself.

Stephen and I have friends in common such as Judith Watt and Vicki Sarge so always have lots to dish about. Erdem I’d only met once very briefly with Judith who was I believe his tutor. We were in a bedroom at the Hospital Club for the interview. In breezes Erdem who I didn’t recall being as handsome as he undoubtedly is. The conversation was, I think, riveting.

It was so interesting listening to Stephen talk about Andrew Logan, Duggie Fields and Brian Eno inviting 500 people t0 the opening of his basement shop that could only take 20 and how Molly Parkin turned-up in a transparent tulle mini dress that had his father’s eyes popping. Nowadays the anarchy has gone and fashion is much more grown-up more’s the pity.

Erdem is opening his first shop on South Audley Street in the old C.John antique carpet and tapestry shop that’s been there since the 1940s and holds HMQ’s Royal Warrant. It is a beautiful corner site and should be the envy of the Mount Street boutiques. It is so good to see a Brit/Canadian maturing into an important international fashion brand after ten years in the business.

Can you remember last year when I was having another mid-life crisis, buying black jeans and so forth? I took singing lessons from a lovely girl in Marylebone. Much as I liked her she would keep asking me to sing mournful emotional ballads by obscure indie bands when all I wanted to do was sing There’s No Business Like Show Business like the second coming of Ethel Merman.

Well, eventually I gave up because I was quite depressed enough already thank you very much. So for my next trick I’ve found – drumroll – the Drury Lane Tappers. The Drury Lane tap classes are in the Dragon Hall on Stukeley Street and are led by a West End pro. I’ve looked at the clips on YouTube and it looks like an absolute hoot.

I recall going to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield with Mum and Dad to see a rip-roaring revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes that ends with a hurricane of a group tap number to the eponymous song. When the stars and kids in the chorus finished they (and the audience) were absolutely beaming with an energy and endorphin rush. Dad nudged me and said ‘would you like to be up there?’ It’s a yes from me, Simon.

So it’ll be off to Freed in Covent Garden for a pair of black leather jangles. I just have to think of tap and it makes me smile. Stepping Out is I think my second favourite Liza film after Cabaret. I shall report back when I’ve explored further but I’m with Jerry Herman on this one: Tap Your Troubles Away. Can I get an Amen in here? Altogether now, shuffle off to Buffalo, shuffle off to Buffalo…