There were several fashionable restaurants in London besides Langan’s: Eleven Park Walk, San Lorenzo’s and Mr Chow amongst them. The latter was presided over by Michael and the late Tina Chow. Upstairs was the place to see and be seen. However, private dinner parties in the restaurant were normally held downstairs. One I attended (dressed in an Ossie Clark dress) was in Karl Lagerfeld’s honour, but he only had eyes for Celia Birtwell (also in an Ossie dress), whose textile designs he recently declared to be the best. (The late Ossie Clark was the inspiration for one of my characters in my novel "Frantic", set in the Seventies). Val Lownes, commonly known as the son of Victor Lownes III, the head of Playboy Europe and the UK Playboy Clubs arrived late, and introduced me to Roman Polanski. This was before the scandal, when Polanski fled the USA after pleading guilty with having sex with a minor. I was mad about his movies and was lost for words, especially when he gave me the number of his hotel room.
I had known Val since I was sixteen, when he used to regularly invite a gang of us over to his dad’s house in Connaught Square. The gregarious butler loved us and whatever time of day or night we arrived, would make us delicious Italian meals. He had no time for the bunnies though and never cooked for them. I used to love going over to the Lownes’ house, to ogle the massive Francis Bacon painting which was exiled to hanging in the hall. Val was very proud of their grandfather clock that was painted by Timothy Leary, but I was extremely jealous of his Afghan waistcoat given to him by the late Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.
I used to hang out a lot with Val in the Playboy office in Park Lane. Val didn’t invite me to the lavish Playboy parties held in Stocks mansion though. His dad Victor did. Once, I was invited to a 24 hour party there, and was allocated a bedroom to sleep in for the night, but all I did was park my clothes there. The fabulous fireworks displays at Stocks were almost as impressive as the New Millennium explosions. I even went up in a helicopter ride at one of the parties and was sick too. The endless food and drink were lavish, and it was fun watching all the middle aged playboys frolicking in the hot-tub with bunnies young enough to be their daughters. Apparently, the sex/wife-swapping stuff happened in the bedrooms upstairs, but from my point of view on the mansion’s grounds, the proceedings seemed sanitised. All the playgirls had cleavages down to their toes, and the men generally wore a load of gold on their hairy chests, with shirts unbuttoned down to their navels. At one party I went to called ‘The 100 Most Eligible men in the World’, an Australian girl dressed up as Marilyn Monroe was resigned to not meeting her soul-mate at the bash. ’No wonder they’re eligible. Nobody wants them,’ she sighed, fighting off the coked up millionaires. I had to agree with her. I didn’t fancy any of the playboys, and they didn’t fancy me because I wasn’t a Pamela Anderson clone. However, a Viscount offered to drive me home. We had a good old bitch-fest about the party, which lasted all the way from the Stocks mansion in Hertfordshire to central London.
Copyright: Frances Lynn, 2006.