Seventies Nostalgia

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Freebies

One advantage of being an exhausted gossip columnist during the late Seventies was I didn't have to pay for a thing. I was given loads of freebies/surreptitious bribes in return for a bitchy comment about the donators in my column. The only time I paid for something was a priceless black Cerutti suit after the producer Don Boyd commissioned me to write a film treatment. Normally, I interviewed everyone including Cary Grant in my Levis, but the designer label came in useful; especially when I devoured steak tartare with interview victims such as the late producer Allan Carr re: "Grease" in restaurants like the extinct White Elephant. I remember wearing the Cerutti when I interviewed David Cronenberg (in jeans) at the Savoy. He was in the process of telling me there was a dearth of women directors and was advising me in intricate detail on how to become one: I didn't have time to study the frames he was making with his hands, as I was late for my (successful) interview at the Evening Standard's "Londoner's Diary", hence the job interview suit.

Manolo Blahnik gave me free skyscraper shoes (he gave me free ones before I got my column), and the head of Olympus Cameras gave me a tape recorder to tape my interviews with (consequently, I lost my shorthand speeds). And, Leonard, the hairdresser never charged me for cutting my hair at his palatial salon in Grosevnor Street until I stopped writing gossip. He was a genius cutter. He never glanced at me while chopping my hair, but looked round the salon while 'feeding' me suitable fodder for my column, like info about the wigs he created for Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon". Daniel Galvin, the hair colourist who worked at the salon at the time used to colour my hair. Once I looked like a red setter after he poured a henna mix over my locks, but I wasn't complaining as it was free. Bruce Oldfield used to take me out for dinner at Mr Chow, and invited me to borrow an outfit from his shop in Beauchamp Place any time I wanted. I didn't even have to invest in dry cleaning the garments before returning them.

I never had to pay for a meal, but in retrospect, I think one of the best perks I had was free membership at all the London clubs except for Annabel's. Mark Birley did treat me to lunch at Harry's Bar (which he also owned) though, the Cerutti suit came in useful then. I was a founder member of the late Zanzibar, my favourite club in Great Queen Street. The membership cost £12 but I didn't even have to fork out for that. Once, I had a birthday party at a wine bar called Blitz down the road. Marinka, the professional artist's model was moonlighting there as a waitress at the time (her day job consisted of posing for artists like Ron Kitaj), and persuaded the owner to give me the party for free. Hundreds of gatecrashers including David Hockney guzzled and drank, courtesy of Blitz. Zanzibar had a strict door policy of allowing a member to sign in a couple of guests only. I was obviously exempt from this bureaucratic rule as I invited all the party guests to the club, who swarmed in like a swarm of locusts. I felt a bit disturbed when I later discovered some of them had signed themselves in as 'Frances Lynn' though. Although I made the nightly round of the clubs after the parties in the early hours every evening, I didn't really appreciate my free memberships: I was always conscious of Groucho Marx's quote, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."

Copyright: Frances Lynn 2008

1 Comments:

  • At 4:22 PM, Blogger Learning Korean in Suwon said…

    Frances, what a great career. Basically, you got to interview famous people and be honest about them. Then, getting freebies on top of it. I would give alot to be there in the room when you interviewed celebrities and talk about you with it after the interview was over. I loved the part when you were talking with Cronenberg and not really paying attention because you were late for a job interview. Also, the "Barry Lyndon" haircutter making you look like a red setter was hysterical, but it was free, so what the hell? Great article.

     

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