Archive for July, 2011

Loss of manhood!

July 29, 2011

The first time I aroused the ire of the trashier end of Fleet St was when I appeared on a new magazine programme for men called manhood on the newly-launched BBC2. 1966, I think, or maybe 1967. There was a segment called My Type of Girl in which a celebrity of the week would list the features they looked for in their ideal woman. It was purely my bad luck that I was the first to go, so the pitfalls hadn’t been worked out yet – and in those days we had yet to start tiptoeing around the sensibilities of the hairy-armpitted women’s libbers. I can’t recall exactly what I said I looked for in a ‘dolly bird’ as we called them in those days, but it was no more than any red-blooded chap was thinking. I suspect I merely suggested that a woman should be ‘a maid in the bedroom, a whore in the kitchen, and a Trappist monk everywhere else.’ Anyway, there was a bit of a brouhaha. A small minority of the sisters burnt my books, but that didn’t bother me as long as they bought them first. Barbara Castle asked a question about me in the House of Commons, but the old lefty darling was rather obsessed with me so barely a day passed by that my John Hancock wasn’t on her lips. The lady Trots are always such goers, I find. If I met an actress and learned they were a member of the WRP my attention always perked up.

The storm blew over eventually as these things do. I received a few sacks of hate mail from the lasses, but, to be honest, the things they said to me and the punishments they wanted to inflict me reminded me of Nanny somewhat so I found them rather arousing. BBC 2’s poor old manhood got the chop, I’m afraid. It just couldn’t stand up to such scrutiny. No wonder the Beeb’s called Auntie… However, my next stint in the firing line was rather more serious!

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Stirling on the Box!

July 28, 2011

Those old enough to know better may recall that in the golden age of the old goggle-box, that yours truly was bit of a fixture. Chat shows, panel games, political debates… often the frantic call went out, ‘’We need Stirling!’ Someone would drop out or be taken ill or get the heeby jeebies, and so the summons was sent forth. Handily, my Knightsbridge apartment was only a limo ride from most of the major TV studios so I was easily at hand.

Don’t ask me to list of the programmes on which I appeared – I rarely watched the idiot’s lantern so probably didn’t even know what they were called then. I dimly remember miming my job on one – darling Lady Isobel Barnet thought I was a shop cashier, and I’m certain she pick-pocketed me ain the green room afterwards. On another I had to lie about the definition of the word ‘dollymop.’ (I think I claimed it was a Regency loofah).

I also swapped niceties with the leading TV figures (oxymoron?) of the day. Freeman, Dee, Farson, the ghastly Frost, the even ghastlier Levin… In later years it was Parkinson and that frightfully common schoolteacher from Giggleswick. I have often been thought of as a bon viveur par excellence so I was a dream ticket for the chat shows. I could hold forth on most subject, was a fount of anecdotes and gossip, and if the atmosphere turned serious, could expound on most topics under the sun; wine, sex, Her Majesty, the colour problem, the arts, the insidious presence of communists in high places, the class struggle (eg that the lower orders will insist on struggling against their natural place in life and make themselves desperately unhappy in the process), music, religion and motion pictures.

Sometimes, I veered perilously into controversial waters!

(To be continued…)

Literary agents

July 26, 2011

Writers are often asked by the Oi Polloi,’ ‘What exactly do agents do?’ The accurate answer is ‘drink themselves insensible with the proceeds of the hard work of others.’ Of course, this rather presumes they are sensible in the first place.

When I started out I had no need for an agent. I merely popped into the see the pater of an old school chum who owned a publishing house – armed with a top notch bottle of vintage bubbly – and ‘bob’s your uncle in the right place!’ I was an author. And a jolly successful one too. Within a short time I was driving a Jag from my pied-a-terre in Knightsbridge down to my country home in Bucks every weekend. If I had been encumbered with an agent creaming off a minimum of 10% I suspect the Jag would have been a Morris Minor!

But as I became more and more of a publishing phenomenon so it became necessary for me to employ staff to deal with the mundanities of literary success. After all, if I were spending all my day looking at contracts and haggling with publishers and lunching with the necessary people, I wouldn’t have the time to churn out the actual books!

And so I was recommended to look up a chap called Grossner. I have forgotten his first name – if I ever knew it. Even in those days he seemed a rum cove. One presumes he was about the same age as I, yet he wore a curious rug atop his head, of an improbable auburn hue, which lay there unmoving, like a dead hamster which has just succumbed to a lorry in a wrestling match. He breakfasted on vodka, and on the rare occasions he ate, most of the meal clung around his mouth, often for days afterwards.

Grossner had a small client list; writers, director and even a couple of actors – I recall passing Rupert Houghton on the stairs one day, he leaving, my arriving. We didn’t change a word, just raised eyebrows at each other. (Whatever happened to Houghton? Big name at one point, only TV though. He was briefly mooted to play Charles in Chisels’ proposed film of Hell Sailor).

While Grossner was an unsavoury chap, and not someone one wanted to eat with, there was no doubt he was a ruthless operator when it came to contracts. Publishers and producers quaked before him, shivered when they heard his name, and didn’t even laugh at the wig behind his back.
If the money poured in before I engaged Grossner, then subsequently it positively gushed. Yes, I’m sure he creamed off more than his 10%, but frankly I didn’t begrudge it – especially as he pointed me in the direction of his brother, a lawyer, during my second and third divorces, who managed to keep the alimony manageable, despite my being caught with the trousers down and the old todger where it shouldn’t have been in both cases!

I knew little about Grossner’s private life and, frankly, had no wish to pry.  I don’t judge, after all many of my best friends have been disgusting perverts. He never married.
Grossner is still alive somehow – his liver must be a wonder of medical science – and still my agent. The same wig perches inert on his scalp, even more incongruous against the grey tufts that protrude from his ears. Sulky boys proceed through his life and bedroom with an astonishing frequency, cheques arrive through my letterbox pleasingly often, and telephone calls are thankfully rare.

So not someone I would have chosen to feature in my life, but nevertheless I must thank the revolting old pederast for all he has done for me. And my bank manager sends his best to him too!

Sir Desmond Stirling’s
THE DEVIL TALKS THE HINDMOST
Now available from Amazon UK
Amazon USA
An eBook for the Kindle coming on May 23rd from Head Music

Bent coppers

July 19, 2011

As a chap who, in one’s early days, has often bunged a few crisp notes in the direction of plod in order to escape a night in the cells – usually for shenanigans involving too many snifters and too few trousers – I really can’t see what the problem is. Although holidaying in a health club is a tad fairy-ish for my liking. When I feel run-down, I toddle off to a Turkish bath in Walthamstowe where I get a manly pummelling from an ex-boxer called Trevor. He soon gets my knots unfurled and my sap rising again. And I don’t have to wander around the place in a pansy gown!!