'Roger was wearing sandals. The last person I remember wearing sandals at his own book launch was Jeremy Sandford, circa 1985.' So reports Duncan Fallowell, one of many notable guests at Roger Lewis' launch party for What Am I Still Doing Here?, his fabulous and funny autobiographical follow-up to acclaimed Seasonal Suicide Notes.
Madame Arcati couldn't make it, of course. but she had not one, not two, but three famous appointed ambassadors dispatched to the Chris Beetles Ltd event on Tuesday (Oct 18) evening in London's SW1: the blessed Duncan (a biped concordance on party lore), the divine fiancee Molly Parkin and last and never least - oh yes - Jonathan King, lately the recipient of an apology from the BBC DG Mark Thompson himself.
|Molly Parkin portrait by|
He adds: 'Molly Parkin looked gorgeous and took most of the attention in a room which ranged from Richard Littlejohn and Quentin Letts through Barry Cryer to Lynn Barber and Valerie Grove. Literally anyone who is anyone in London literary society was there and most had read about the BBC apology on Madame Arcati's site, so I spent the time fielding journalist questions. But the main puzzle was - how does Arcati know everything? I'm sorry to say I revealed the existence of the crystal ball, the cards and the stars.'
Isn't he adorable? OK, if you're a tabloid cunt he isn't adorable.
A little confusion attended the opening minutes of the do. 'We couldn't get in initially and it was already 6.20 pm,' says Moll. 'Then a funny little girl opened the door; a bit of a cock-up. It was in a gallery of sorts with loads of water colours on the wall; the party was split over three separate areas.' Duncan adds: 'It was such a weird basement of cramped chambers.'
Moll continues: 'I met that wonderful journalist on the Independent Matthew Bell who was there with a difficult girl - he told me Duncan was trying to get my attention - it was terribly crowded. By the time I was free he'd gone - Roger wasn't happy about that. Roger said, "Duncan's prematurely disappeared."'
Moll paraded in a self-made tall magenta turban which excited the interest of author and journalist Valerie Grove - 'What have you stuffed the turban with?' she asked after calling it a 'fantastic hat'. Moll replied: 'Adult nappies.' Poor Val gave a disgusted 'Oh' and hoped the nappies had not been used first.
And as for Duncan's early exit... he explains: 'I had to leave Roger's launch to go on to the Keats-Shelley party at Carlton House Terrace - followed by dinner at the Academy Club.
'But I then caught up with Roger around 11 pm at the Groucho where he was staying with his wife [Anna] and 3 sons - they'd been for a slap-up at Rule's. There were more drunks in the Groucho than in the Academy which must be a first. And so the Groucho was strangely quiet, several out cold slumped in armchairs. Roger on the other hand was just warming up and waving a glass of champagne around in the air and chatting up the pianist.'
Moll pays tribute to the surprising youthfulness of their 50-something host Roger and the 'beauty' of his sons. Duncan adds: 'I asked Roger, "Where did you find your handsome barman?" He replied "That's Sebastian". I didn't recognise his youngest son who last time I saw him some years ago was a hippy in embryo.'
How annoying! Madame Arcati regrets not attending this party. And yet she feels she walked among Roger Lewis' guests after all, in three persons, one nappied.
What Am I Still Doing Here? can be bought here.
Oh, and a letter from Roger Lewis himself....
Dear Madame Arcati,
Yes -- a great do. Barry Cryer said, "It's your book come to life!"
Luckily, the Booker Prize dinner siphoned off the dreck.
A highlight for me (in addition to your Molly) was the presence of Biddy Baxter! It was as if Dame Sybil Thorndike had turned up. She said: "Did you get a Blue Peter Badge" and I said, "No I bloody well did not!"
Also, we had Lord Archer, who unsportingly refused to exchange Belmarsh tales with young Jonathan King.
We also had Eric Potts, the world's greatest pantomime dame -- this Christmas he's doing panto in Wimbledon, but with Barry Humphries. How can that work? Dame Edna as one of the Ugly Sisters ?
Perhaps Chris Beetles was still mourning his chum Rob Buckman, the celebrity doctor, who died on a plane heading for Toronto last week, but he was so gloomy, Rachel Johnson went up to him and said: "Are you Hungarian?"
Beetles shut the lights off at 8 sharp and 30 seconds later we were all on the street. A humorous sight, Gyles Brandreth, Barry Cryer, Stephen Frears, Joe McGrath, Molly Parkin, Francis Wheen and documentary-maker Tony "All You Need Is Love" Palmer tottering up the spiral stairs, from this dungeon where we'd been boozing. Everyone hung around for so long on the pavement, I thought, Christ, I'd better write another book so we can carry on celebrating.
A cab then drew up at the kerb, and executive editors from the Daily Mail piled out. A mob from the Sunday Express squared up to them, as if about to have a fight out of a Western.
Myself, Lady Lewis and the 3 little Lewises then went to Rules. The rest is as Duncan described, including my orthopaedic sandals for my diabetic foot.