Friday, November 05, 2010

Review: Welcome to Mollywood by Molly Parkin: Dodging the conventional cunts

Moll. Picture by Anthony Lycett
Back in the summer of 2009, Molly, a few of her family members and I spent a wonderful week or so together in torrid Croatia being filmed by Robert Chilcott for a fly-on-the-wall TV show (see labels for dispatches). One afternoon Robert mentioned in passing to me that Moll had written a memoir - including a sensational chapter on Elizabeth Taylor - but had now set it aside as other interests crowded in. Over the coming weeks we both encouraged her to find a publisher: and so 15 months later here it is at last - Welcome to Mollywood.

I came up with the title, partly inspired by the idea of a high bohemian Mollywood theme park based on her extraordinary life - turban-shaped bumper cars, haunted houses of very peculiar happenings (who else but Molly would could lose her dentures to kleptomaniac mice?); The Colony Soho drinking den reconstructed and peopled with boozing android versions of Francis Bacon, Jeffrey Bernard, Dan Farson, Muriel Belcher, Moll herself and other monstres sacrés of lowlife high life; fashion catwalks a-swirl with 90-year-old models (hello Lady Astor) and 20 year-old boys with semis; basement clubs for the recitation of bawdy poetry and filthy jokes followed by wild dancing; ashrams for meditation and incense sniffing; nightclub art galleries staffed by ambitious fellationists (hello Croatia)....

And a psychic pagoda for a working cyborg of ... Madame Arcati herself, as played by Moll's unlikely early fashion muse Margaret Rutherford in Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit. Your future to be told.

At the entrance to this imaginarium of din and raffish incongruity would be a message, the same words to be found on p171 of Mollywood, of the people she might have encountered in her alternative fantasy careers as corporate boss or parliamentary Speaker: 'I didn't want to move amongst such a boring set of conventional cunts.'

Among writers, poets, painters, actors, fashion queens and (oddly) barristers she has found refuge from the conventional cunts all her adult life: and even among the last, she will detect the pulse of a hidden fellow sensitive across a long room, or distant on the internet. Wisely, her publisher Beautiful Books has not attempted to restore order where whim, caprice, impulse, inspiration, addiction even, reign. Anecdotes of famous lovers and friends, stories of bankruptcy, alcoholism and victory, are interrupted by long sideshows and nattery hitchhikers in a funny, readable stream-of-consciousness. There's no question Moll can be daffy as a duck. Then she'll shock you with a sudden laser of insight, just when you thought she had a screw loose.

Which reminds me, Molly on Radio 4's Loose Ends with Clive Anderson the other day. The one-time (yes!) barrister host plainly found some of her stories hard to believe, such as spanking barrister John Mortimer's arse or nearly losing her cherry to Louis Armstrong or fucking a 23-year-old surfer boy at the age of 73. 'I don't do pinches of salt,' responded Moll before taking her plastic denture out to studio gasps. All I can say is that her version of our friendship and relationship is intuitively true as well as subtly told. Between the raucous broad brush strokes of her life narration is some very fine miniature work.

Gossers hoping for nuggets about the Sunday Times or Nova, or about the soapy detail of her marriages, will have nothing to repeat at the garden fence. Huge life events are pole-vaulted in a sentence while matters of eccentric interest to her hog the book in pages of comedy and character. Mollywood is a distillation of a life nowhere near its end, but there's enough killer detail to fill a wanker's imagination. What exactly did she do with those entire rugby teams away from their mammies?

Oh yes, one for Christmas, dearies (and the late George Melly sends his love).

Welcome to Mollywood, buy here

12 comments:

Joe MacFarlane said...

Wish I had been in Croatia. Well, I was, but it was '91 and the war broke out...I was collecting butterflies...

Madame Arcati said...

How lovely. Moll will love that - the butterflies.

Michael Allen said...

Madame et al. Please -- get the book into Kindle. This is the 21st century.

Madame Arcati said...

I believe it will be, but I prefer books. So much easier to random roam through.

BOUDICCA BEAZLEY said...

When Molly bared her bosom at dinner in a Soho restaurant. It was a moment to be savoured - a pair of full but perfectly cantilevered orbs

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

I read all Molly's books when I was a teenager. I'm eagerly awaiting my copy from Amazon now. I rather fancy Ronnie Scott's too. I must look on the website. Hope you're having a good weekend. xx

Anonymous said...

Madame must be a masochist.

Anonymous said...

I loved hearing Molly on Loose Ends. She was so funny. Time for her own show!

Joe MacFarlane. said...

I wish I could get my book onto Kindle. It is called "The Legend of Dunmurry".

Madame Arcati said...

I have yet to see anyone reading anything on kindle in a public place.

Anonymous said...

bugger kindle. It's just not the same. Molly is too marvellous for words.

Anonymous said...

Is that fucking hag still alive?