Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 4, 2013

Ashes Remembered – Kenneth Williams

Two bouncers in the over

Two bouncers in the over

31 July 1975

The bum had been agony – agony – all night and I was so close to calling Stanley and just canceling the whole thing – but with Mags in New York (and with reviews like that, likely to be there for a while yet) and Bev up in Edinburgh preparing for the annual bore of the Festival, Stanley was the only friend I had in town and I couldn’t afford to upset him.

Dressed immaculately in a cream linen suit with just enough of my ruby red spotted handkerchief on display from the top pocket, I walked through Regent’s Park on a fine sunny morning, the perfect London scene spoiled only by a couple of teenagers on bikes yobbishly shouting “Frying Tonight!” at me – the bloody awful film must have been on the television again.

On arrival at Lord’s – in my experience as quiet a location in London as any – I was amazed to find literally thousands of men queuing up to get in. Many had the bearing of the military about them and I knew from my days in the services that they would be quite happy to queue all day – I wasn’t.

I caught sight of Stanley, wearing a ludicrous tweed outfit like he was off shooting in the Highlands, and, just as we were going to give the whole thing up as a bad job and scan the first edition of the Evening Standard for a matinee in the West End, a voice blared out. “”ere Kenny! Didn’t know you went in for this kind of thing.” I winced – I always did when called by name in public – but was surprised to see my old dresser from some awful revue I did a few years earlier at The Garrick. He was some sort of steward today and seemed to possess the kind of power last seen when the Empress Victoria toured Bengal. A padlock clanked here, a hinge squeaked there and we were inside the ground and sitting in the sunshine waiting for something to happen.

Stanley soon explained that this was actually it, and not some kind of rehearsal or warm-up. All these people had come to watch this? Must be the same house that turn up for Pinter I thought.

It was all very camp – whites for heaven’s sake – with the kinds of macho moustaches I’d last seen in such quantities when holidaying with Joe and Kenneth in Tunisia. There was an awful lot of groin grabbing too – in the guise of polishing the ball – that, had it be seen on the stage of the National Theatre, would have excited the attention of Mary Whitehouse. It didn’t excite me.

Stanley and I left at the earliest opportunity and got a couple of cheap seats for the afternoon performance of some hideous modernist so-called comedy with actors who wouldn’t have passed the audition for RADA in my time.

Ate a little sausage and mash with Mum in the evening, had the Barclays and went to bed.


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