Saturday, March 24, 2007

In search of ghosts with Rupert Everett

Bliss this week was a haunted castle near the England/Scotland border in the company of Rupert Everett. Well, even a scandal-soaked media practitioner requires a break; but I can't speak for Rupie.

I flew up to Chillingham Castle in Northumberland, the property of Sir Humphrey and the Honourable Lady Wakefield - whose family, the Greys, has owned it since the 13th Century. Aside from the several marketed ghosts - recently investigated by Living TV's Most Haunted frauds, among others - its chief virtue is its rented apartments: logs and kindling are supplied for an evening's crackling heat should the electric blankets compromise your appreciation of the mixed period decor of a mediaeval fortress.

Certainly I regarded it as a good omen when I learnt that I'd just missed the Diabetes UK Fright Night event.

I stayed in the Pink Room with Rupie - I should explain, before gossips get carried away, that he wasn't with me in person: his memoirs Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins proved to be an excellent counterfeit - and I was warned that the afterlife would attend to my social needs. One of Sir Humphrey's scullions - given to breaking noxious wind - gave me a scripted account of the Blue Boy ghost said to haunt this room: periodically, a blue haze emanates from the fireplace to various disembodied cries. A face is occasionally discerned in a superimposition over flickering flame. He told me about other ghosts in the castle and the netherworld sprites and goblin-like abominations said to scuttle up and down the quadrangle's stonework at night. To my surprise, photos - of the Wakefields and related, and of some royals - stared up at me in standing frames on the old woods. That's trusting.

Don't imagine I was here for the ghosties. The experience I sought - apart from respite from the pesky living and their neuroses - was temporal alienation: and I have found castles to be perfect to this end. Mere hotels, mere inns (even themed ones), subvert their vows of time travel with lobby muzak, looped video porn and staff with TV soap-shaped behaviours and hairstyles. An authentic castle, on the other hand, is a still Tardis: its slate or granite stonework, its cawing unpaid rooks or ravens, its feudal karmic crimes - all these suffice to suggest a pretend- time refuge. And once pretend-alienated, how perfect to find the company of a trivially intelligent person, someone whose actual presence and temperament might be intolerable, but whose sieved, distilled, edited persona (in a book, say) serves a need of entertainment. A pretend companion. Enter Rupie.

His autobiography is one of the best of a showbiz kind: unlike most other actors, Everett writes very well. He understands that discriminated detail is the mother of evocation so by the time I'd finished his St Tropez chapter I swear I had a tan. Thanks to his impulse for indiscretion we learn that Roddy McDowall was hung like a donkey and that Joan Collins dumped a long-term lover simply because he refused to be her social crutch at parties. Orson Welles' last months were a distraction of aborted movie ideas. Warhol's manager Fred Hughes died a long, lonely death of MS. And just when you try to be clever and dismiss Rupie as a lazy gadfly and a roving dilettante - a pity we can't inoculate against the superior urge to be reductive - he devastates the celebrity-media-charity racket in a tell-all chronicle of his fiasco visit to Ethiopia for Oxfam and The Sunday Times. Only a grown-up soul with a light-steely touch could have seen what he allows us to see.

Ah, Rupert, perhaps you frightened Chillingham's ghoulies away. "Did you see a ghost?" Sir Humphrey asked me before I left. "No," I replied. "In fact I've never slept better. It's a very peaceful room. I found the whole castle to be at rest." Sir H smiled bravely, even though I'd just torched his paranormal trade myth. "That's interesting," he said. "We don't tell people but in fact we took away the bones of a baby boy from the fireplace a few years back and gave them a Christian burial. Since then the room has been at peace. We catch out a few people who claim to have seen something."

Mmm, interesting. The last line in Rupie's book came to mind: "Suddenly, and with total clarity, I knew it was time to leave."

For more on Chillingham Castle click here


Banksy said...

Dmmit, M. Arcati . . . when at Chillingham Castle you are just ten miles from Banksy's country seat. Should've dropped in for that exclusive ivw!!

Arcati said...

Dear Banksy, I haven't heard from you in ages - I thought you, the ex-Daily Mirror editor, had gone off me, otherwise I'd flown in to the Banksy country seat. But you can still give me an exclusive interview - Arcati has deep media penetration, as you must know.

Incidentally, my apologies for the odd literal in the copy. These will be corrected on Monday. My present machine won't allow me to correct copy for some reason. And my new state-of-the-art computer still lies in its boxes awaiting instalation.

Liz said...

Hmm. On March 12 I was lying in bed watching telly when at the bottom of my vision a dark cat sized shape moved along the floor. A few hours earlier I’d had my little cat Amber put to sleep. She always had an uncanny knack of materialising at unexpected moments, once getting her head slammed in the fridge door.

Anonymous said...

Arcati to "Banksy" (but which one?):

< But you can still give me an exclusive interview - >

Oh yes, I'd really enjoy that. Can't wait !

< Arcati has deep media penetration, as you must know. >

We'll see. :-)

The daughter-of-a-bitch.

Anonymous said...

"Oh yes, I'd really enjoy that. Can't wait !"

Neither do I. Until now, Arcati has almost exclusively interviewed pathetic nobodies, some of them also being kind of congenital morons. Not very exciting.
A genuine press boss would be a nice change.

Arcati said...

The moron above is Jasper Gerard who's bitterly upset that I have condemned him for his weekly column in the Observer as utterly useless. So, when he should be putting greater effort into tracing the grail of one single cogent sentence (at least), he larks about here. Bless.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, this has me laughing to tears! You really should stop flattering yourself, madame, you know...

Banksy's interview now, and quick, please. ;-)

The daughter-of-a-bitch.