|Nesta Wyn Ellis|
Nesta Wyn Ellis! Congratulations on your wonderful bio of Lord Bath, Lord of Love! Has his lordship been in touch about the book? Any of the wifelets? Did he know it was coming out? I see you spent hours with him....
I last spoke to Bath in 2009 after sending him the book to read for inaccuracies. He did not comment other than he did not want to have any more to do with the book. I reminded him that he was the source of most of the material. I spent some 40 hours recording interviews with him, another 20 hours interviewing his friends and more hours observing him and mingling with guests at Longleat and his other residences. Bath may have thought the book would not appear.
After the initial media/publisher interest in the book some years ago, I believe he made great efforts to self- publish and promote his own autobiography in print and on the net as if he were competing with me. Some turgid tomes appeared but nothing else will appear until after his death as his wife threatens she will divorce him if any of his own memoirs covering the period of his life after their marriage in 1969 (that’s some 41 years ago) appear on the Internet, or in print.
I have a written note from him stating the latter, which refers only to his own writing. However, she may have made threatening noises about my book. He is clearly terrified of her. Yet he seemed to want me to know how he dominates her by hitting her when she nags him while he is driving the car. There is quite a bit about this in the book. And about wifelet violence too: some observers think he orchestrates inter-wifelet warring.
Had Lord B read your John Major bio?
He certainly knew all about it and was keen to be a biographical subject, perhaps because of the fact that to be written about by someone who has written an acclaimed biography of a Prime Minister suggests a certain prestige for the subject. Bath told me he would choose power over anything else, if it were offered to him. So, I think being written about by someone who has written about a powerful politician may have had a lot of appeal for him.
How are sales? I know the book was serialised in the Daily Express. I don't know much about your publishers Dynasty Press.... sounds like something Joan Collins might be running.
The book is being sold all over the world via the Internet and in the UK through both Internet and bookshops. The Express and the Mail have both offered it for sale. This is a hardback, of course, though selling at a competitive price (£13.95) Yes, the name Dynasty reminds us of Joan Collins' great success as a glamorous vamp in the 1980’s drama series of that name. A great name for the kind of books they want most to publish—memoirs of Royalty and the nobility, biographies such as mine of Bath.
Would you say Lord B is a domestic abuser? - there is testimony in your book that he has a violent temper. Do you think this is characteristic of him or evidence of rare weak moments such as to which all of us might fall prey in a vast house full of annoying women, some of whom one is 'married' to?
There is a definite incidence of violence in Bath’s relations with women. He really wanted me to know that he hits his wife and volunteered all of the information about her in the chapter about her (entitled “I’m a Happily Married Man.”). After giving me this quote he roared with laughter. He thinks he has the perfect solution in that his wife lives in Paris for three weeks out of every month and he has his assorted wifelets to hand. Of course he has to change his plans to enjoy seductive weekends if Lady Bath suddenly announces her arrival for her one week a month at the ancestral pad. Staff and others testify that Lady B can be rather tempestuous.
She invited me to go to Longleat one weekend while she was there. Alexander laughed nervously, shuddered and said “Oh no no no. I don’t think so.” It was he who gave me her phone number in Paris, which is how I found out that it is listed in the name of a man. Meanwhile Bath has his brood of current and not so current wifelets. But there have been some violent incidents with wifelets too—described in the book. The main problem is that Bath’s inner violence seems to provoke violent behaviour in many of his women—against him and against their rivals.
Would you like to be a Lord Bath wifelet?
It would not interest me in the least. I lived in the most gorgeous place during the first two years of my marriage, and I can't say that I want to get laid just for the sake of a famous house and an important title. I know some women are drawn by a man’s celebrity, or his money or his des res but I’m more interested in the man’s character and other qualities.
Do you think Lord Bath still enjoys carnal relations with his harem?
Oh undoubtedly. That is his goal, but as one recent wifelet told me, “This is an elderly gentleman. There is not much action.”
You live in Paris: has promoting the title in the UK been a trial? And tell us about your London book party. Who was there? (I'm sorry I couldn't make it).
Yes, it may be that I could get the promotion up to speed a bit better if I were in London for longer. After my long absence in Paris people seem enthusiastic to have me back. But I probably need to be around and about a bit more. I am coming and going at intervals and I may start to spend longer periods in London in the future. The publishers seem to be concentrating on book reviews rather than promoting the author. I would like to be able to get it across that this is not just more of the same old twaddle about Bath that he puts out decade after decade. It shows a side of the old libertine that no one has ever been allowed to see. He let me see it by his outpourings of rage and grief about his youthful rejections and his family feuds. There are a number of real scoops in the book if only journalists had time to read it.
It was a great shame that you were unable to attend the launch. It went with a swing. Well over 100 people accepted and the place was bursting at about mid-time because many more had turned up with friends. There were so many people who had not seen me for more than ten years. I did not have time to chat to people at all as books were being thrust under my nose for signing, one after the other. Many people who came were friends of mine most of whom I had not contacted for a decade.
But also some others such as [Sunday Times astrologer] Shelley von Strunckel, Liz Brewer, Ben Duncan, friends of friends and others well known in media circles, were among the guests. The party was filmed by Channel 4 Wales for a news slot and a number of diarists were there. But this is a demure ripple compared to the splashes I made with each of my previous books. The biggest was probably Britain’s Top One Hundred Eligible Bachelors. Peter Stringfellow sponsored a huge party at the original Stringfellows Club. And the TV shows afterwards will live on in legend and song. I was busy for years with those.
You seem drawn to highly sexed male subjects. We now know that your first subject, former PM John Major, was an unsuspected cauldron of testosterone (thanks to Edwina Currie's revelations), and then there's Lord Bath, pluralist shagger. Why is this?
I don’t see them initially as highly sexed, although I did notice how sexy Major was when I first met him. I also realized when I met him in 1989 for a commissioned magazine interview would be the next PM.
Bath? It came about by accident when I was invited by one of his women friends to go to Longleat for a weekend. It turned out later that she had thought I would join her for a threesome in Bath’s big bed in his penthouse apartment. But I had gone to Longleat only out of curiosity and when I made it clear that I preferred to sleep downstairs, well away from the Bath bed, I was allocated the Autobiographical Suite, a room painted all over with little cartoon murals in which the characters had thought balloons coming out of their mouths.
The Bath figures were all saying things like “I’m not welcome here and the others were saying, “You don’t belong here. You don’t fit in. You’re an outsider. You’re not one of us.” I couldn’t help finding this interesting for someone who had been to Eton, then Oxford and had served in the Guards. The truth is that this is what is wrong with Alexander. He has felt such an outsider all his life, despite the heritage of title and Longleat, its treasures and its millions. The topic of his own autobiography came up at dinner on the Saturday night and I asked him had he never considered the possibility of someone else writing a biography of him. He said many had asked. So I said, “Ok, maybe I could think about writing a biography of you. Would you like to think about it overnight?”
By lunch time the next day he had already decided he liked the idea so we proceeded from there, sending each other letters of agreement. I told him I would give him the same option as Major. I would do the interviews, write the story and then show him the final copy once a publisher had offered for it. He would then be able to comment on any inaccuracies or overly embarrassing anecdotes and I might agree to amend them. It was never going to be an authorized biography.
In the end he refused to tell me what he didn’t like about it, said he didn’t like any of it. I reminded him that it was based on 60 hours of recorded interviews with him and some of his closest friends.
Darling, you've lived such a life. Do you not fear that perhaps someone might turn their attention to you and unearth detail you'd prefer shrouded in discretion....
I have nothing to hide. In any case I have completed the writing of a version of my own autobiography and there is stuff in there that is entirely my own private experience: naughty, tragic, complex, and shocking even to myself at times. I gossip quite a lot about other people in it, of course. I suppose there is always a chance that there are people out there who think they have something to tell abut me. But as I’m such a loner, most of my life is lived in compartments.
Tell us of other projects-in-progress. I know you have recorded albums, and I'm sure there may be other people whose life stories are worth investigating. Who interests you most? Sarkozy? Carla?
I once said that biography was like marriage. You get to know so much about the person and you spend hours and weeks thinking about them and their lives. Well, I’ve been married too and I’ve found out that you get to know more about a biographical subject than you do about your marriage partner, and in a shorter time. Anyway, I don’t want to spend a lot of time writing biographies but some characters do interest me.
Male, political, powerful individuals fascinate me the most. I love to spend hours talking to highly intelligent people who have the power to change a country. Sarkozy would have qualified as a candidate, but it's too late for him now. I’m not sure he will make it as the UMP’s candidate for Presidential office in 2012. Carla is despised as an opportunist with a full time PR working day and night to keep her in the news. The truth about her will come out after Sarko leaves the Elysee. And you will be able to write it on the back of an envelope. She’s just a passenger, hitching a ride with a powerful husband.
I would be interested in writing about a woman who had made it on her own. Even Hilary Clinton was riding her husband’s coat tails. Men are better subjects for me. I have some male subjects in my future plans. But they will have to be worth the time and I should be paid a lot better for it than hitherto.
Otherwise, although I realize that I have a powerful gift in this field I am tired of other people’s psychological convolutions, even of my own. I prefer the idea of working more on music. I am planning a new album of both French and English songs. I’ll make that in London where I can be sure of the quality of my collaborator and the studio.
Then there is stage work. I have written most of the book and most of the songs for a musical based on my own life story which moves via London to Africa, then America, to London again for the most dramatic years and then to France. The structure of the story is the same as for my autobiography. The music is however the part that expresses the nature of these different locations. There will be a cast of about ten. The dancing will be an important part, especially in the Africa and the America Acts. Songs: they range from the sad and tender to the fiery and passionate. I write the lyrics and the accompaniment for all my songs.
Before the stage musical, which will involve a lot of work and some funding, I want to put on some more musical cabarets of French and English songs in London. My London audiences really enjoy the French songs. I may do some more in Paris too where my audiences are visibly moved often to tears. There is one show 1.5hrs long with dance and songs. I’ve designed the costumes, lighting, written the music. It’s rather sensual. I will have a dance partner and I will sing the songs. It’s a magical concept. I have written a novella of the same name, “A Love is Like A Day”. That’s so short I will have to publish it myself. It’s available in electronic form from my website. http://nestawynellis.com/.
Film is also important to my future plans. I have one film in development and now that I am shrugging Bath off my shoulders and have completed my autobiography, I want to push on with Children of Violence. I am involved with the production myself with my companies Paris Productions and Paris Production Services. I have a co-producer and we need a known director since the finance people say the film should have a big budget and a box office star. This is what I also believe the film should be, a fascinating well directed story, beautiful to watch and to listen to. There are many lovely songs--French and English, ballads and jazz—integral to the screenplay, which is based on the story of a young singer who follows her lover to Paris and finds another love and great complications that almost kill her. There will be great sound track sales. The story is mystical and dramatic, mysterious and tragic, but it resolves happily for at least two of the three protagonists. It is set mostly in Paris although scripted in English. The important part is there must be beautiful photography, light and settings, Paris and chateau scenes, some play with time shifts. The director has to realise that this is a potential prize winning film at the level of The English Patient. But I’m also looking back to Jean Cocteau’s photographic power in the use of chiaroscuro. We need someone with the very best eye for photography, for love scenes that are erotic and artistic without banality.
The world will be ready for this kind of story again in a couple of years by the time this film is ready to be released.
I’ve written the novel of this story too. I’m starting to look for a publisher.
I’ve been told it’s too short at 175 pages. Really! I’ve often joked that publishers don’t read books any more, they just weigh them. Maybe this is a case in point.
Give us a glimpse of your life in Paris these days. Is there a special someone? Do you busk still on the Paris underground?
I am here because of that special someone. I don’t busk at present. It’s a great way to rehearse because I sing without a mic and pitch my voice around into a corner so that people hear me as they come up some steps into the Metro.
I have not done a concert lately due to other work keeping me at the computer, and also the fact that its not as easy in Paris as in London to find really good reliable musical collaborators. The standard is not as high. Maybe I was lucky in London first crack. Also the audiences in London are bigger, more prepared to pay for an evening out with a concert with a cocktail or a dinner.( And usually there wont be a riot or a strike to stop your audience arriving. I’ve had to deal with that at least twice. To one concert when there was a Metro strike, many people walked. I nearly didn’t get there myself because of the heavy traffic). But being a producer as well as a performer is full time work and I’ve been too tied up with the Bath biography, another biography I’ve done involving China, and my own autobiography.
And finally for now, Nesta, as a former political player in London, what do you make of our Old Etonian government?
Hah! Let’s measure them by their results in a year or two. I’ve no objection to people going to Eton. It’s a very good school. So long as they don’t hold it against anyone else for not going there. So far, I see a human side to Dave. I applaud Nick for opting for the deal. Making it work is harder work than for an arranged marriage, I should think. However, the harmony between these two guys seems a lot more evident than that between the recent Gordon and Blair duo. Or is that making it sound too easy for them?
Thank you Nesta! And good luck with Lord of Love.
To buy Lord of Love, click here