Seventies Nostalgia

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Eccentricity Used To Be The Norm

There was an abundance of eccentric personalities in the late Seventies, and Olga Deterding, the Shell oil heiress was one of them. She wasn't as wild as the characters in "Frantic", my nostalgic novel about the early '70's ('A lion coat clad white girl, with waist length black Japanese hair, was leaning against the stage, mouthing excruciating obscenities from her exquisitely shaped lips. .... every time this creature from a lost planet opened her shaggy lion coat, she was totally nude underneath), but she came pretty close. Olga was an enthusiastic socialite, and at the opening party of Wedgies nightclub in Kings Road, was so sloshed like she regularly was, that she spent most of her time crawling around on the floor underneath the tables. This anti-social behaviour was regarded as the norm in those days, so nobody cared if she made a fool of herself. One person who did was a German girlfriend, who was staying with me at the time. She thought it was shocking that this middle-aged woman was making a spectacle of herself. Maybe members of café society were hesitant to reprimand an heiress, but my girlfriend had no idea who anybody was and even if she did, she wouldn’t have cared less.
‘Get up immediately! You are making an idiot of yourself. Can’t you see that everyone is laughing at you,’ my Teutonic friend barked. Olga Deterding might have been inebriated, but she actually listened and managed to pick herself up from the floor, and plonk herself down on a chair where she promptly fell of again.

She entertained lavishly in her multi-storey penthouse in Piccadilly, which was ideal for parties. She gave an after show party for her equally eccentric crony, Quentin Crisp after his one-man show at the Duke of York. If I recall correctly, the penthouse walls were painted a glossy white and the décor, made up of realistic sheep sculptures nibbling at the grass coloured carpet was a topic of conversation. Olga was single, and similar to women of ‘a certain age’ was regularly escorted by members of the gay community, which included Quentin Crisp. Olga was a louche socialite, from whom everyone ran away from when she was peaking in a fit of drunken exhibitionism. But, she possessed a heart of gold, unlike a lot of ‘ladies who lunched’ in those days. The majority of them lionised their hairdressers and fashion designers, and were committed to the art of looking fabulous. Olga was past caring what she looked like while she lurched from one party to another. At least she was dressed for dinner when she choked to death on a piece of meat, while dining out in a club. Her shocking exit made the headlines.

Copyright: Frances Lynn, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The VIP Room

I first came across the VIP mentality when I attended an after concert music party in the late Seventies. It was a two tier party, as 'the VIPS', i.e. - the rock stars and their groupie entourages dined in a cordoned off area of the party – on a raised pier, so that they could be seen by the rabble. The mob partied in the rest of the room, only permitted to speak to the cordoned off diners, if the burly bodyguard zealously guarding the rope separating the stars from the plebs allowed them to. Getting near the rock stars was considered harder than getting an audience with the pope. I put it down to Music Biz elitism, as God forbid the performers would have to mix with their audience! Perhaps they were terrified of catching a throat infection, which would have been fatal for them, as rock stars sing from their throats, not from their diaphragms.

In the Seventies, there didn’t seem to be so much elitism in clubs and professional parties. Although, the commercial concept of VIP rooms was in its infancy, Studio 54 was a trendsetter. Its VIP room was the club's grubby basement where the jaded chosen few were freely allowed to snort drugs unobserved, a savoury step-up from doing drugs together in the lavatory. 'Cosy, cosy,' Alice murmered, eyeing the lewd graffiti daubed walls of the tiny cubicle in which she and Brent had locked themselves in,' is an extract from "Frantic", my nostalgic '70's novel when a lot of the party action was held in toilets.

In Seventies' London, VIP rooms/sections didn’t really exist in private nightclubs. Everybody was mixed up together. However, the VIP concept has existed in restaurants for years, invented to keep the ‘out of towners’ separated from members of the ‘A’ list. One of the mâitre d’s tasks in fashionable restaurants is to intuitively know whom to place in the ‘right’ section of the restaurant. Not only has there been an invisible cordoned off area in trendy restaurants for years, but there has always been a top table. Social climbers would kill to dine at this rarified table, which is usually reserved for the restaurant's owners and his friends. It must be tragic for people who care about such things to be seated on the wrong side of the restaurant, or to be led to a bad table by the lavatory. Some people don’t even attempt to go to fancy restaurants if they’re not on first name terms with the mâitre d’, for fear of being seated on the wrong side of the restaurant, which for them would mean social Siberia.

Los Angeles is the ultimate city for VIP sectioning. The city's social structure is divided into strict streams, where the 'A' list is hard to penetrate. It's rare for different lists to socialise together. But, you would certainly be considered 'Z' list fodder, if you were seated at a table in the Beverly Hills Hotel’s beautiful garden. It's the done thing to eat inside, even if the weather is glorious. But, as long as you don't care about the top table mentality, and are purely interested to eat good food produced in a clean kitchen, you are probably not interested in showbusiness, or are a potential Zen Buddhist monk!

Copyright: Frances Lynn, 2006