Archive for the ‘london’ Category

Story Snippet No. 401 – books and covers

I got on the tube at East Finchley heading into town, sitting in a corner seat by the glass. Opposite me was a woman in her late fifties or sixties, loud, stocky and short. To my left was an elderly man with a proper voice, who just added in the odd question or remark to keep the conversation going. Because she was performing diagonally across the carriage the woman’s monologue was audible and, in some way, for public consumption.

She works on the Underground, on the other branch between Edgware and Golders Green, but lives on this branch because she likes the separation. She was highlighting the amassing problems on the Underground – lack of staff leading to lack of team work; well meaning, personable managers who are clueless; growing discontent that she predicts will spill over in the next two years as the individual lines are teed up for privitisation. Watch this space, she warns.

She recounted the lack of demand for the night services, which she saw as mainly politically motivated. She said she mainly sees drunks and stoners, people pissing and shitting on the platforms, which her and her colleagues have to clean up. A man comes in, asks if there are public toilets in the Tube (there aren’t any inside or out in the streets these days), is drunk, is spotted moments later on CCTV urinating on the platform. That’s typical on these night shifts she now has to do. She mentions she has a chronic medical condition which accounts for her short stature. She was not supposed to live into adulthood. She now has grandchildren.

She likes to do art with her grandkids, as doesn’t allow them on phones when they visit. They like this. She does talks in schools and opens with two questions: Who’s got a phone, tablet or similar? (Most of them, even in primary classes.) Who knows how to sew on a button? (None of them.) She recounts the story of a man she met on holiday somewhere in Britain who paid £5 to have a button sewed on by a dry cleaner. Can’t you sew a button on? She was appalled.

She mentioned her A Level achievements, including in Biology. (I’ve a vague memory she wanted to follow a particular course of further study but was somehow thwarted.) She explained how she and her colleagues have to go on many courses each year to retain their licences (many to do with health & safety and emergency procedures), that it is actually a skilled and technical job.

She moves on to talk about how many of the staff are talented amateur artists. (We’ve seen this at East Finchley where for a while, before they pulled out the ticket office and most of the staff, we had an enthusiastic painter decorating the entrance with his framed pieces.) She mentioned a display at the back of Southwark station organised by staff (and where all costs are borne by the staff). She had a shopping carrier which turned out to contain some of her works. She buys high quality sheets from charity shops and uses them as the base of her embroidery. She described three pieces she’d done to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. Then she pulled them out. (She knew I was watching too over my book.) They were very detailed depictions, interestingly composed. One had a soldier writing home to his loved one in a trench enclosure. Another had a soldier silhouetted against a golden sunset in a cornfield. A great deal of work in both, both framed, both a little surprising in contrast to her weighty hands and projecting voice. She rammed them back into the tightly packed shopping trolley as I got off at Euston. She mentioned she had done her own version of the Bayeux Tapestry over many years, 55 feet long.

[This last fact enabled me to find her story online and discover her name, Annette Banks. She is one of eleven children from Canning Town.]

east finchley underground tube station

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Coincidence No. 400 – of Paramount importance

I am heading over to Channel 4 for a meeting from Tottenham Court Road. As I come up to the Circle & District platform on changing at Embankment tube I turn round and spot my friend Scott from Aspen. He is in town for one day only on Paramount Pictures business, flying back to Colorado from somewhere in Northern Europe via London. We get two stops together and mainly talk movies. Small world.

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When I get to my C4 meeting – at The Regency Cafe, one of the best things about the Channel – I join the queue whilst waiting for my old colleague Thom to arrive. I notice just behind me in the line another Tom I know, the son of one of my old college friends. (He lives nowhere near there and doesn’t work in the area when last I heard.) Small town.

 

Typographical London

On my flannage around London yesterday I decided to play a little photographic game – inspired by the Z (as in Ritz). These were gathered between Moorgate and Piccadilly, via St Paul’s and Temple. Can you recognise where any of these come from?

A to FG to LM to RS to XY to Z

Making films not throwing bombs

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Rainer Werner Fassbinder

I was standing under this poster at the foot of Waterloo Bridge on a Skype call to Germany, homeland of Fassbinder. The poster was on the wall of the BFI/NFT advertising a new season of films. The bridge is the next road bridge down the Thames from Westminster Bridge. The call was to fellow participants of Berlin-based Documentary Campus and we were discussing the films we are all working on.

I was Skyping from my phone on the street because I had an adjacent meeting about the creation of an app to address the global problem of 10,000 children dying every day from preventable diseases. I had no time between the call and the meeting so had to dial in from the open air.

The other call participants commented on the noisiness of the London streets – sirens, helicopters, traffic. I said this was just normal for London (which it often pretty much is along the river there). Then one of the callers from Germany said no it’s not, there’s been a terrorist attack. For a moment I hesitated to see if it was some kind of joke, the same reaction as one or two of the other participants. But then it became clear he was not joking, that the site of the attack was around Westminster.

A strange way to learn of such a tragedy.

33592905545_7e22ae807b_oThis was the blood red sky in the direction of Westminster as I left the meeting.

thames london attackThis was the blood red sky as I reached the river under Waterloo Bridge.

33435945812_8afd4c2077_oThis was the view towards Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. The blue lights were still flashing.

A second big indiscriminate attack on the multicultural population of this greatest city in this grim period for the world. Innocent bystanders from Brittany and Romania, Lancashire and Lord knows where, no more than the perpetrator knew where. This beautiful view in stark contrast to the ugliness of the act and the ‘thinking’ behind it.

Why I love London…

…because you can bump into Martin Scorsese (and Tom Ford) totally by accident on your way home from work…

 

Marilynne Marilyn – Picture of the Month: The Only Blonde in the World by Pauline Boty (1963)

The Only Blonde in the World 1963 by Pauline Boty 1938-1966

The Only Blonde in the World (1963) by Pauline Boty 1938-1966

My mum is called Marilynne Marilyn. Not a lot of people know that. My grandfather couldn’t spell the name, got it wrong on the birth certificate, wasn’t allowed to cross it out, so had to have a second go. Marilynne Marilyn is a blonde.

Today I have been reading about Mandy Rice-Davies of Profumo Affair notoriety. Another blonde in the world. Her real first name was actually Marilyn. Not a lot of people know that.

Marilyn Monroe, as the biggest star in the world and the epitome of late 50s female sexuality (at least as far as men were concerned), was a popular subject for Pop artists on both sides of the water.

Marilyn Diptych 1962 by Andy Warhol 1928-1987

Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol 1928-1987

Monroe died (or was hounded to her death, as Boty might say – she considered Marilyn “betrayed”)  in August 1962 from an overdose of barbiturates. Warhol spent the rest of ’62 creating images of her, all derived from a publicity photo for Niagara (1953). The right-hand half of the diptych speaks of fading and mortality.

Monroe died at just 36. Boty only made it to 28.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) by Peter Blake

Marilyn features on the centre line of one of the most famous of all Pop images, the one that was actually just a millimetre or two from the pop itself (in the form of black vinyl). She’s just above Ringo and Johnny Weissmuller, swamped in a sea of men.

‘Randy Mandy’ wrote of her bubbly blonde public image: “Every man’s sexual fantasy – it’s a curious role to play in life. I meet men who were schoolboys when my picture was front page news and they greet me as a figment of an erotic dream. There is nothing I can do about this, it has nothing to do with the real me. That Mandy is a pert blonde who is all things to all men. Perhaps that is her secret – she never disappoints.”

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Marilyn aka Mandy exiting the infamous trial of Stephen Ward (1963)

The big David Hockney exhibition opens at Tate Britain in a few hours, a retrospective of 60 years of painting. The Hockney generation at the Royal College of Art (at which I’ve been privileged to be working recently, under Neville Brody, Dean of the School of Communication) lusted to a man (bar presumably Hockney himself) after Boty who was every inch the attractive blonde.

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Pauline Boty

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in BBC Monitor ‘Pop Goes the Easel’ directed by Ken Russell

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1963 emulating Hockney’s muse

The blonde in Boty’s painting is far from the only one in the world. The title is ironic. It’s Marilyn. It’s Pauline. It’s Mandy. It’s Diana. It’s any number of fantasy blondes.

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Michael Winner directs Diana Dors (28th January 1963)

In ‘The Only Blonde in the World’ Marilyn is contained within a flat, abstract space – both the left and right green panels are higher than Marilyn’s panel. The designs of that space have echoes of Sonia Delaunay’s Orphism which was shown in London around this time.

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Sonia Delaunay 1942

The 2D green abstract panels slide open to reveal a glimpse of a ‘3D’ space in which Marilyn positively buzzes with energy. Her famous legs are descendants of Marcel Duchamp’s celebrated Nu descendant un escalier n° 2 (1912).

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Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912) by Marcel Duchamp

I’m not sure where Boty’s Marilyn image is drawn from. Some critics and commentators say Some Like It Hot but I can’t find any such image – I think it may be from the premiere of The Seven Year Itch. It doesn’t really matter where exactly it came from, the point is I’m pretty sure there will be a specific photo out there that she used as a source, one in a magazine, to align with the popular culture focus of British and American Pop Art.

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Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio at the premiere of ‘The Seven Year Itch’ (1955)

The vibrating energy of Boty’s Marilyn reflects her genuine admiration of Monroe as a woman mythologised through pop culture. The grey background, which links out to the lines and swirls of the abstract framing image, picks white Marilyn out like a spotlight at a Hollywood premiere. She’s a flash of white brilliance as she crosses the gap. The journey between the two green panels is short but Marilyn still steals the show, as she did in her tragically short life.

Little did Boty know but her own would also be cut tragically short. They found cancer when she went for the first scan of her first child. The brevity of her life has left her to a large extent written out of British art history. ‘The Only Blonde in the World’ is the only Boty in the Tate. Otherwise the only British public gallery holding a Boty is Wolverhampton Art Gallery. The bulk of her paintings languished for many years in a barn. She was an exact contemporary of Hockney (born the year after him). She went to the Big Studio in the sky just three years after capturing’The Only Blonde in the World’. Had she lived and had time to evolve I wonder whether it might have been her massive retrospective opening at Tate Britain tomorrow…

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Celia Birtwell and some of her heroes (1963) by Pauline Boty 1938 – 1966

(That’s a young Hockney bottom right having a smoke.)

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Celia Birtwell by David Hockney

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Hockney in his Notting Hill flat with his friend and muse, textile designer Celia Birtwell (1969)

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Birtwell with Hockney in front of his ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ (2006)

(Birtwell was married to fashion designer Ossie Clark)

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Hockney with Birtwell in ‘A Bigger Splash’, directed by my first boss, Jack Hazan (1973)

Related posts:

The last Picture of Month – also touching on the Profumo Affair

An earlier Picture of the Month featuring a young Hockney at the RCA

A recent Profumo walk related to Mandy aka Marilyn Rice-Davies

Profumo promenade

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17 Wimpole Mews, Marylebone, London W1

This weekend’s wander had the theme of Profumo, a pole to pole stroll from Stephen Ward’s house at which the Profumo Affair kicked off to Peter Rachman’s love nest for Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies where all the pieces of the puzzle assembled.

The signs weren’t good. I lost my favourite pale blue & grey scarf, given to me years ago by Una, on the tube from Hampstead (where Rachman lived) to Oxford Circus. I got shat on by a pigeon (supposedly lucky but I’ve never bought that). And then I got to Stephen Ward’s house at 17 Wimpole Mews, Marylebone and it had been killed by developers. Has no-one got any respect for history any more?

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1962 and 2012 {photo courtesy of Euronomad}

Above you can see the place on Friday 14th December 1962 after Johnny Edgecombe lost his shit with Christine Keeler and fired at the door in a vain attempt to get in to where Christine and Mandy were cowering. The bottom picture was taken on Friday 14th December 2012, exactly 50 years on, by Euronomad. Whilst it had been modernised by 2012, it’s now been ripped to pieces by barbarian property developers.

Lost scarf, bird shit, desecrated history – the walk wasn’t going so well.

I headed westwards through Marylebone, across Baker Street, towards Montagu Square and Bryanston Square. In the corner of a mews by the latter is the small house where Peter Rachman installed first Christine and later Mandy.

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1 Bryanston Mews West, W1

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Rachman of course was dead before Edgecombe fired those fatal shots but that didn’t stop the press and establishment making him the second scapegoat of the Profumo Affair, alongside Ward who they would hound to his death soon enough.

Here’s where Rachman lived when life was a little rosier for him. He’d pop down the hill to Bryanston Mews for a shag or a chat.

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Rachman’s house in Winnington Road

To raise the tone of the walk I made a small diversion a couple of streets away from Mandy’s shag-pad to one of the London homes of T. S. Eliot. TSE died in January 1965, just after the Scandal. According to Frederick Tomlin (in T. S. Eliot: A Friendship) Eliot was disturbed by the serious corruption in public life indicated by the Profumo Affair. He strongly disapproved of the letter Kenneth Tynan and Angus Wilson had written defending Ward (although that might have been on account of the review Tynan had written of The Elder Statesman).

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Corner of Crawford Street & Homer Row – Eliot lived at 18 Crawford Mansions, 62-66 Crawford Street, W1 from 1916 until 1920

Eliot must have enjoyed living on Homer Row (not his official postal address but as much his street as Crawford Street, the entrance to his block being on that side). Eliot read Homer at Harvard and borrowed some of his characters throughout his career. Tireseus from The Odyssey, for example, makes an appearance in The Waste Land.

And there on poets’ corner my own mini-odyssey came to a more salubrious but less colourful conclusion. Personally I would have liked to see an intact 17 Wimpole Mews with its very own plaque, indicating respect for modern epics.

Mandy as Fanny

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Terence Donovan’s cover shot of Mandy Rice-Davies for Town (Man about Town) magazine

In 1964 Mandy Rice-Davies was asked to play the lead role in a film of Fanny Hill, based on the novel by John Cleland. However, the film was never made.

This cover shot is currently to be seen at Terence Donovan: Speed of Light at The Photographers Gallery, London.

This is a magazine/pamphlet I bought at an antique shop near Woodside Park for a tenner. It’s Mandy’s response to the Denning Report into The Profumo Affair, hence the cheeky title.

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“Well he would, wouldn’t he?”

Here’s the house of Mandy’s lover Peter Rachman – I found it on Sunday after a walk on Hampstead Heath.

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Brexit

I’m still absorbing yesterday’s dark news. Keeping these to capture the feeling…

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Two

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Preserving this for posterity (snapshot from today) as it’s not something us Spurs supporters get to see too often.

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