Archive for April 9th, 2021|Daily archive page

Do they pay you properly? (a memory of Prince Philip)

1992: HRH The Duke of Edinburgh photographed in the Chinese room, Buckingham Palace

I crossed paths with Prince Philip only once. It was in the conference centre named after his wife (The Queen Elisabeth Centre) near Westminster Abbey, where they got married in November 1947. I was there with Barnardo’s for whom I was making films at the time. It was a huge room, conference centre scale. I was standing beside the CEO of the charity, Sir Roger Singleton. Philip entered right at the other corner of the room but I knew from the moment he entered he was going to come up to me. I’ve no idea why, I just knew it. 

And that’s what happened. He gradually made his way across the room and eventually reached us. 

” What are you doing here?”

“I make films for Barnardo’s.”

“Do they pay you properly?” (The CEO is beside me, two feet away.)

“They do indeed.”

The bluntness and inappropriateness is the kind of thing, of course, that people loved about him.

The Angel, Islington this afternoon

When I started my career in Marshall Street, Soho at Solus Enterprises with Jack Hazan, Roger Deakins, Dick Pope and David Mingay, Wheeler’s restaurant still existed in the Cambridge Circus corner of Soho, on Old Compton Street from memory. We went there for the company Christmas lunch one year at a time when Jack and David were looking at making a film about Rachman, the pantomime tabloid villain of the Profumo Affair. They told me that Philip had been a very naughty boy upstairs at Wheeler’s at that time (1963). I was surprised that Wheeler’s got a mention on the BBC TV news tonight, with photos of a couple of bottle blondes I didn’t recognise, starlet types. He was married to the Queen for 74 years so fair play to him, no mean achievement. That, the public service and charity work, his awards scheme for young people – plenty for one life, even a 99 year one.

Camden Passage, Islington this afternoon (solar-powered waving arm)

The boozy lunches upstairs at Wheeler’s were known as the Thursday Club – all lads, lots of drink, don’t think they were that interested in the fish. Members included David Niven and Peter Ustinov (film actors), Larry Adler (harmonica player), Kim Philby (undiscovered Russian spy) and Stephen Ward (osteopath and fall guy for the Profumo Affair). 

Private Eye – Dec 1963 (Christine Keeler in the dock)

Apparently there was a Private Eye cartoon cover showing Philip’s coronation robe cast off in the bedroom of Ward’s young protégée, Christine Keeler. It seems to have mysteriously vanished from the Web. Philip’s wing man at the time was his equerry Mike Parker. Parker’s wife claimed that Philip and Parker habitually tore up the town together using their party aliases Murgatroyd and Winterbotham. 

Wheeler’s was no stranger to alcohol-fuelled bacchanalia – the top-equal artist of the 20th century liquid lunched there (Francis Bacon). 

Wheeler’s the year before Profumo (1962) –
(L-R) Tim Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews
1973 – 19-21 Old Compton Street

Update 11/4/21

I found this among my grandparents’ stuff a few years ago when clearing the house. It is printed on tin – my grandfather was a scientist who specialised in print-on-metal technologies. I liked it for sentimental and ironic reasons but I’ve come to see it in a different light these last couple of days. 

Portland Ware manufactured by Metal Box
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