Saturday, September 17, 2011


This week's passage comes from a wonderful autobiography by the always handsome Rupert Everett who is a good friend of Joan's..The book entitled 'Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins', published in 2006 by Little Brown.. As well as an excellent actor,always a pleasure to meet, Rupert is not shy about voicing his opinion's as is Joan! Both starred together in the BBC pilot for a proposed comedy series starring Joan called 'Mama's Back'.....

 "I met Joan through her ex-boyfriend Robin, who was several years younger than she. It was generally agreed, however, despite the chasm between their ages, that they were ideally suited. They adored each other. But Robin was afraid to venture out in public and this was the only sore spot in a rather good arrangement. Joan needed someone to get her from book launch to political rally, from Swifty Lazar's Oscar party to Valentino's fashion show. Robin wouldn't play. Actresses were actresses. One day the wind changes and like Mary Poppins, they fly off to nurseries new! Joan unceremoniously dumped Robin and took up with a much younger man, theatre manager Percy Gibson. A lot of people took Robin's side until the wedding bells began to peal, at which point, realising that they would be missing an event of considerable magnitude, Rank's last shout, everyone began to revise and defrost. Percy was in the business. They could work together..etc.etc.etc.
I was on Robin's side and Joan had not invited me to the wedding. But one night we were at dinner with Valentino and we had it out.
"Now look here, Rupert", said Joan, deadly serious. "I'm not twenty-five. I can't show up to awards and fashion shows on my own. I want my man to be with me. If he feels embarrassed or compromised, or whatever it was he felt, then fair enough, but too bad. It's a bore always having to rely on a queen friend to get from A to B. It wasn't fair."
I had to agree. "I'd love you to come to the wedding." she continued. "We've been neighbours in the South Of France. We've had a lot of laughs. So pull yourself together." I did!
The night before the nuptials, I'd been invited to a birthday party at Trade, a legendary and lethal club in Clerkenwall. One thing led to another, so by the time Joan's wedding day dawned, I was still only halfway through my evening, writhing around the dance floor, squeezing five into a toilet and lunging at passing beauties until about two in the afternoon! I left the club with eyes like saucers, drenched in sweat. I had completely forgotten about Joan's nuptials. Back at the hotel where I was staying, the party continued until Ruby Wax arrived to take me to the wedding. "Are you on acid?" said Ruby when she saw me. "Probably." I replied.
"How many faces do I have?" "Two!" "Okay, let's go!"  
Inside Claridge's, there was a line to greet the newlyweds. I could hardly speak and for some reason was walking diagonally like a crab. Joan's tiny publicist swished up to us. "Joan and Percy would love to do a picture with you both." "Uhhhh?" "This Way"
Suddenly we were in a makeshift studio with lights, assistants, make-up and hair (for Joan and Percy). I was standing between them. Percy was kilted. Ruby was playing up, doing high kicks and cracking jokes. I could only just stop my eyes from popping out. Joan on the other hand, looked sensational. Nothing suited her quite so well as a good wedding, this was her fifth. She looked like a portrait by Gainsborough, newly painted for the set of a Rank film, decollete with a lavender train. I sat at a table with three of my favourite monsters, Ruby Wax, Wendy Stark, Lynda LaPlante. Roger Moore was also there with his new wife. And of course no party was complete that year without Cilla Black. From the Shadow Lounge to the Shadow Cabinet, Cilla seemed to be everywhere. The bridegroom sat between Joan and a little old lady with white hair, his mother, who was several years younger than the bride. Shirley Bassey came to sit on my knee halfway through the evening. I wasn't sure whether she was a hallucination or not.

"It's actually happening! confirmed Ruby, laughing. Shirley and I hit it off and vowed to make an album together. She was wearing a pair of red satin trousers with a beret and she suddenly slid to the floor like a slippery fish and disappeared. Everyone laughed, but then the toasts began and we forgot all about her until a few minutes later a manicured hand clasped the edge of the table and she hauled herself back on to my knee. Neither of us remembered having met before! Now the band was playing and she wanted to sing for Joan who arrived at that moment. "Joan, it's fantastic. Shirley wants to sing." I said. Joan looked worried. "Don't encourage her." she said firmly. Soon we understood why. Shirley clambered onto the bandstand. The polite conductor, evidently thrilled, lent her the mike. "Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Shirley Bassey!" We all sat up ready for 'Goldfinger', but Shirley had other ideas, free flow acapella. "Joanie!" she warbled, arms reaching across the ballroom. "Oh oh oh oh. I have known you since time was a baby boy...."
When I left she was still up there. No one could get her off!
(c)  2006 Rupert Everett...                 

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