Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Beyond Biba, Winston Churchill's mistress and Garbo's peeing
I didn't realise Winston Churchill - the warrior PM, not subsequent copies - had a mistress. Is this public knowledge? Poor Clemmie. Perhaps volumes have been written about this; Google will remain virgin on this one. I can't be bothered to research. Her name was Eleanor and she lived Chelsea way. You want to know more? Please, let's respect people's private lives. Madame Arcati disapproves of rummaging about in celebs' dustbins. How unhygienic!
This story was told me last night when I attended a screening of Beyond Biba: A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki at the Kensington Roof Gardens. Barbara, in her trademark shades, was over from Miami and I was there with my fiancee Molly Parkin and her biopic film director Robert Chilcott. "This is my fiance," Moll said, introducing me to her old mate Barbara. "Oh Molly, another fiance!" An ordinary person might have felt flattened by such a response. Me? I was flattered to have found my place on such a glittery assembly line of love: eternal engagement has much to recommend it, and no prenup or late night phone excuse is necessary.
Beyond Biba is a fascinating reminder of Hulanicki's influence on fashion, architecture, interior design, music. Of the last, her Roxy Music connection is mystifyingly overlooked as is her early championing of iconic American singer stars. By far the best bits are her salty conversations with Moll who recalled Garbo and her mannish approach to urination. Greta would ask where the little boys' room was and then leave the seat up. You have to wonder.
Sight & Sound editor Nick James gave me an excellently sharp appraisal of Beyond Biba - I think he's planning to write a piece about fashion movies, what with The September Issue due out soon. Moll, Robert and I then retired to the Chelsea Arts Club where over dinner our talk returned to Winnie and Eleanor, Croatian plots, the bitch Anna Wintour and the perils of big cocks and buggery.
Short film on Hulanicki