You know that old saying about never working with children and animals? I have learned not to take it too literally. There are more than a few people I have encountered in my professional life whose behaviour borders on the infantile or the positively beastly. Great word, ‘beastly’, and much underused with the exception of my dear Mrs T.
Actually, I don’t mind the feral ones whose behaviour is nothing more than an irresistible urge to follow animal instincts: snap, bite, fight, flee, whatever. It is the ones with arrested development who are the slippiest little critters to handle. My ex-husband summed-up infantile behaviour terribly well when he was observing his three-year old niece interacting with her baby sister.
Whenever said older sister was in her parents’ eye line she kept up the pretence of ‘nice baby, nice baby’ but the minute their backs were turned she got that Joan Crawford in Straight Jacket look in her ice blue eyes and you knew the thought bubble above her head was saying ‘kill baby! kill baby!’ I am no longer surprised when a professional ally who has played nicely for months – even years – suddenly turns and directs a bucket load of resentment at one’s head.
Sometimes one deserves a good telling-like-it-is but nine times out of ten the dung being flung is a mass of insecurities, neuroses and petty jealousies that have been percolating 0ver time. Being an alumni of the Bette Davis school of knee-jerk reaction, I don’t percolate. I either perform a controlled explosion on the spot or walk away calmly but drop the match behind me. When someone shows you who or what they really are and what they really think of you, believe it.
A fabulous New York cabaret artiste of my acquaintance once gave me the perfect analogy for disloyalty. He said that monogamy to him was like a perfect crystal champagne glass. All it takes is one chip, and he has to throw that glass away. ‘Now’, he says, ‘there are people who continue to use their chipped crystal. But who wants to go through life with a cut lip?’
Being a person who thinks Monogamy is a board game put out by Waddingtons, I am not the right person to tell this story. But I applaud the sentiment. Don’t quite know why I had the urge to share that with you but I am glad I got it off my chest. After the most recent ‘Troubles’ I have been in ponderous mood and there’s one thing I have learned. When the going gets tough, the rats are indeed the first to leave a sinking ship.
There’s a scene in Bette Midler’s Janis Joplin semi-biopic The Rose when the heroin-addicted superstar singing lady is sitting in a gutter wearing he sequinned stage costume screaming to the heavens ‘where you going? where’s everybody going?’ … her last words as well as it happens. There were times over the past four years when I wondered where everybody had gone. Of course the answer was that when you drill deep into a serious depression, you yourself have gone. Everyone else is still where they were…
Recently an old friend of mine got quite shirty when she thought I had suggested she had not been ‘there for me’. As I said, ‘I wasn’t there for me for the longest time so how could I expect anybody else to be?’ People like you and I pull-up the drawbridge when times are hard. We don’t ask for help and when we finally do it is usually to the wrong people.
But back to the rats. Quite a few coves I considered good friends faded faster than a summer tan when my star began to fall. I was quite sanguine about it. There’s nothing wrong with fair weather friends as long as you know that they are in it for the champagne not the real pain. So it is with huge gratitude that I have been reconnecting with the extended Sherwood Massive of late who I know have kept their eye on me and checked-in sparingly when a text on a lonely night was a life-saver.
If this letter gets any more maudlin, I’ll be running Patience Strong a close second for platitudes. Two of my pictures today are taken from the US hit Broadway TV show Smash about the making of a Marilyn Monroe musical. The lesson of Smash is that you aren’t always guaranteed a lead role. You have to bide your time, take the knocks and believe with every fibre of your being that life gives you that Big Finish.
So I want you to meet my agent, Geraldine Woods of the Yellow Poppy agency, with whom I spent an afternoon of laughter and Angostura the other day in the Ivy Club. Geraldine has kept the faith with me for all the years of BBC Royal Ascot fashion criticism and beyond. I’ve barely earned her a buffalo nickel but she hasn’t given-up on me so I haven’t given-up on me either.
I love G. She’s got big-hitting clients who bring in the bucks but she always has times for her ‘loose box’ of clients who might – just might – come through with a little bit of luck. I almost did in the last two Royal Ascots with Suzi Perry when I was in very safe hands, knew what I was doing, loved the team and felt that the balance of viewers who liked what I did as opposed to loathed me had tipped 70/30 rather than vice versa. Admittedly, I fucked it up a year later but that’s a big lesson learned and I’m ready to get back into the saddle again. Tally-ho, ducky.