One of my favourite Marilyn Monroe fashion portfolios was shot by Richard Avedon in 1958 entitled Legendary Enchantresses. In the pictures, Marilyn is transformed into Gaiety Girl Lillian Russell, vamp Theda Bara, It Girl Clara Bow, Teutonic Goddess Marlene Dietrich and Platinum Blonde Jean Harlow. Of course all shoots with Marilyn Monroe from the day she changed her hair from auburn to champagne blonde is an act of reinvention.
What I adore about these pictures is that MM doesn’t really get away with it. Her unique brand of beauty seems to shine through the costumes and make-up. There is every indication that Marilyn was aware of her own power. When making her last uncompleted movie Something’s Got To Give, she instructed director George Cukor, ‘remember, you’ve got Marilyn Monroe. Use her’. Ordinarily I would say anyone who speaks about themselves in the third person is loop the loop. But Marilyn was no fool. Norma Jean Baker knew that Marilyn Monroe was a self-invention and one that she should and was proud of.
I believe that even those of us not in the acting profession develop a patina of persona. We become what we want the world to see and that is hopefully our best. For many years I was Savile Row Barbie: suited and booted, formal and reserved. In many ways that persona became a straight jacket (no comments please) that hid the deeper truth. Until you show your truth to the world, there will always be an element of performance or masquerade.
Interesting isn’t it that the true friends are the people who saw beyond the performance all along and liked one for who one is. They might appreciate the performance element but it is what lies beneath that attracts them to you and vice versa. I’ve never been much of a naval gazer until two periods in therapy that were super useful in finding the T. I think we all like to be liked and love to be loved. There’s nowt unusual about that. Trying to be liked by everybody you are on a hiding to nothing.
I do believe manic depressives inspire great love and great hatred sometimes in the same person. Divisive is the perfect word for it. A manic depressive attitude means that the desire to please is strong. It usually manifests itself in a strong work ethic and a career with more twists and turns than Grace Kelly on the coast road to Monaco. It has taken me forty-six years to work out that I am equally black and white with reactions to people. The minute I sense animosity, the scorpion’s tail is up and ready to sting.
The one common denominator in all of my friends is a striving to work very hard and play as if it is their last night on the planet. All of my tribe like to get a little ragged around the edges with one more glass of wine at the end of the evening. We also get up off our arses the next morning and are at our professional activities with gusto. There is a single exception with a dear, dear friend who went AA and was that rare bird: a tee-totaller who is as gorgeous and amusing as he was when lifting the elbow.
The friends I have lost along the way are the ones who practise self-denial. One in particular was such fun as a drinker and turned into Miss Vinegar Tits 2000 when he put down the G&T. I think all of the true friends are two drinks down being on peak form. Churchill was famous for that tankard of champagne of a morning to kick-in a good mood. I would not be at all surprised if my tribe practised what Churchill preached. Meeting them is like coiffing Dom Perignon.
I think what draws me to this inner circle of friends is a common questing. None of us sit on our laurels despite having achieved highly in our particular endeavours. We all think we can do better and we all have an insatiable curiosity about life. We might let other people into the inner circle and funnily enough we are usually unanimous about who fits in the Sherwood Massive and who doesn’t.
What we all do is have each other’s backs. We can all be brutally honest collectively or individually. We pull each other up when we’re not kind or not thinking before speaking but we also forgive the occasional night when one of us has had one over the eight. For many years I put work first. Now I put work in perspective. It is what I do not who I am. This is such an important lesson to learn. Our circle are always there to support the mates but it is for the person not the project.
I’m in contemplative mood this evening because I had a super low key pizza evening with La Farmer, Mr Bowering and Fran the other night. There is nobody’s company in which I feel so relaxez-vous and able to speak easy knowing these friends have my best interests at heart. We all find each other hilarious which helps an awful lot. We laugh at each other’s jokes, fill each other’s wine glasses and leave feeling a million dollars for each other’s company.
My tribe aren’t cookie cutter. We all lead very different lives despite hovering around the same professions. We’re all at different stages of the ride which is incredibly useful when advice is called for. We also all keep each other young. There isn’t one member of the Sherwood Massive who isn’t keen to try new experiences and meet new people. That said, we’ll all still be together at the end of the night making sure we all get home safely.
So here’s to friends. Who’s like us? Damned few. Until next time…