Getting ready to go back to UK later this week and looking forward, despite dire warnings from friendly acquaintances to stay away from the underground…useful advice…but not very practical, it’s the fastest way to get around London. I do think about it as I jog down the escalator to the train, but what’s the point. I was a baby during World War II, often evacuated to the country and I remember my mother telling me that she and my uncle, who lived with us at the time, got fed up with traipsing up and down the stairs to the Anderson bomb shelter in the garden, when the air raid sirens went off and just used to get under the bed and hope for the best. Anyway…. enough of that …..my motto is and always has been “don’t look back”, except now and again on some nice memories.
One of my closest friends in the UK is Stella Richards McGurk, agent extraordinaire, but not for actors, actors have been known to be difficult once in a while. Looking back…I do occasionally, especially if it keeps you entertained…I was visiting London from LA, where I was living at the time and went to leave a very large package in Stella’s car, a nice little mini and she said “Oh no, don’t do that, the police will come along and do a controlled explosion, if they see a package in the car, they blow it (the car) up.” That was one way the police dealt with suspicious packages…in a parked car….controlled explosion….just in case it was a bomb. This was in the days of the IRA, (Irish Republican Army) setting bombs in London and elsewhere. Thank goodness those days are over. I never forgot Stella’s great concern at the idea of losing her lovely little mini, don’t blame her!
I met Stella on a play “The Kings Mare”, written by the wonderful Anita Loos, which was staged at the Garrick Theatre in London, starring the talented Glynis Johns. Stella was our wonderful stage manager, the job she started out in life and she and I became firm friends…a friendship which has lasted over 50 years. The play was about Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII‘s fourth wife, supposedly beautiful, from a portrait painted of her, but in fact very plain, much to Henry’s disappointment. Henry’s chancellor Sir Thomas Cromwell…(he of Wolf Hall fame…. read the book…. watch the series.. with wonderful Mark Rylance and Claire Foy) got his head chopped off for the disappointing match making. I played Catherine Howard, wife number five, who got her head chopped off for sleeping with her personal musician, right under Henry’s nose…silly girl. I had to sing in the play and accompany myself on a guitar, neither of which I did mightily well, so after I exited for the final time I would cross under the stage, humming loudly to myself with relief, that I got through the song once more, without making a total fool of myself. Night after night, Stella would wearily tell me I could be heard everywhere and maybe I should stop.
Having finished my part in the play, I would then climb through the window of my dressing room, traverse the roof to the adjoining the theatre the Duke of York’s and visit an actor friend John Standing, to gossip and chat, while our respective plays continued.
Happy light hearted times. We didn’t take life too seriously, nor ourselves.
“What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
That’s all for now friends.