Updated 26 May 2016
For want of nothing better to write about this week, I thought I’d share a little story which involves pathetic name-dropping and also show what a complete idiot I used to be. Let’s go back to 1972, to South Kensington, a swanky part of Swinging London where I used to share a one-bedroom apartment with two mates. That’s how we used to live in those days, all squeezed in together, one sleeping in the living room and two packed into our tiny bedroom. An expensive area then, rents are astronomical now – billionaire territory.
|GV, foreground top left, wangled us a great flat in ritzy South Kensington. Above: shooting the movie, Two Lane Black Top|
Another drawback was the kitchen, bathroom and toilet were split level, separated from the living area by the communal stairs, so the girls in the apartments above, ventured through our first floor home to get to their homes. That we barely saw them I put down to the blue fug of substances enveloping our part of the stairs.
|The actress Laurie Bird in Two Lane Blacktop|
Graham got to know James Taylor quite well, possibly because James was constantly dipping into Warren Oates’ portable drugs cabinet. Taylor’s love interest at the time, Joni Mitchell, was there too. In fact, I answered our London flat’s telephone one day and who was on the end but James Taylor … looking for Graham. James was performing that evening at the South Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall just down the road. Or was it the London Palladium? It all blurs into one.
|Ladies and gentlemen, the legendary Miss Eartha Kitt|
I saw Eartha many times as a child in the 1960s, on ITV’s Sunday Night At The London Palladium. Always squeezed into the tightest, slinkiest of dresses, Eartha would purr like a cat, growl, pout and roll her Rs as she spoke or sang. If anyone deemed to annoy her, she would surely scratch their eyes out.
So that’s the scenario. I’d been passing Eartha Kitt in Gloucester Road every day for months. If she recognised me, she never let on, and why would she? She was an international star and I was a young, hairy nobody in the street.
Every day, Eartha’s cat-like face would be in repose, looking, as I said, like she’d scratch one’s eyes out, should anyone dare to approach her. The one day, their was a spark of recognition.
It was at a Leonard Cohen reception, held by CBS Records at the Dorchester, or some equally fancy London hotel. I floated in late that night, high on the usual substances of the era. A curved stairway, about 40 feet wide, swept one down to where Leonard’s reception was being held – except I didn’t sweep down. I rolled down, head over heels or, as we say in Britain, arse over tit.
|Leonard Cohen in 1972 – That year was the first and last time I met him|
I rolled and rolled down the staircase until, unbelievably, I landed squarely on my feet at the bottom, where I continued walking as if nothing untoward had had happened, maintaining my stride, and strolling casually to where drinks were being served.
I had landed a bit like a cat lands, actually, since we were talking felines a moment ago. In my memory, my tumble consisted of somersault rolls as neat as a circus acrobat would produce. I’m sure the reality was vastly different.
“Ah, Paul, I’d like you to meet Leonard Cohen,” said my boss Maurie Oberstein as I sipped my freshly poured beer. Now Maurie Oberstein, CBS London’s colourful American deputy MD at the time, deserves a post all of his own. Instead, here’s his Wikipedia Link for anyone interested in bygone record company executives:
|Eartha was also Catwoman in TV’s Batman|
Too embarrassed to renew acquaintances, I made my excuses to Messrs. Oberstein and Cohen and left with my tail between my legs. P.J. Proby, the American pop singer big in Britain in the 1960s, might have had the front to stand around in split trousers, but not this pussy. Just in case you’re interested in who P.J. Proby was (and still is), here’s a link to his Wikipedia page.