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Piccadilly Hotel, Pavilion Theatre (Dovie Street to Dixie), Cavour, Shaftesbury Theatre (Stop Flirting), The Ivy and The Embassy.

Wednesday 5th June

I am back in London and feeling a little miserable without Lorenzo, so I am delighted when Eva telephones.

“Fynes darling. How are you?“ She squeals. “I am fine.” She continues. “But I am stuck. I wanted to go out tonight to the Piccadilly Hotel. But Aubrey is busy and so is Biffy. Are you free?”

Eva tells me that the Piccadilly Hotel has hit upon the novel idea of altering from time to time the design and decoration of the ballroom and of celebrating, in a special and appropriate manner, certain days and events of outstanding social importance.

“This week they have the marvellous theme of ‘A week under the waves’.”
“What is it to celebrate?”
I ask.
“Oh heaven knows.” She says. “Who cares anyway. It will just be fun.”

I pick Eva up and as usual she is in good form and looking quite delightful in her long, slim, gold-thread-over–pink Worth Couture gown with fur border and an enormous spray of pink orchids on her shoulder. Although she is lacking in intellect she certainly knows how to dress and look good. When we arrive the ballroom has been transformed to look like an underwater cave with fairy like seaweed festoons and coral rocks everywhere. Sheets of radiant misty blue and green tinsel festoon the roof and fake exotic fish and sea plants sway in motion all over the place. Irridescent goldfish swim in bowels on the tables and there is soft shaded lighting that enhances the underwater effect. Clearly someone has been observing the efforts of Jean Gabriel Domergue’s Fetes at Cannes.

We have a truly wonderful evening and dance like water nymphs through the crowd, who clearly love the entire ambiance.

“I will get Aubrey to bring me here tomorrow night. And Biffy on Friday.” She says as we leave. She has no tact either.

Thursday 6th June

After a long day what is there to do? I am out with Priscilla Fry. We haven’t seen each other for ages so we have a lot of catching up to do. Unlike Eva she is interested in hearing what I have been doing and all my stories and is quite tactful. She is wearing a gown by Elspeth Phelps-Paquin (her current favourite couturier), which is a Victorian inspired design of teal green peau-de-soie with panniers and a deep berthe of oxidised gold and black lace. She looks divine.

We have drinks at the Criterion and are joined by Monty and Dolly and then walk across to the Pavilion Theatre to see Dover Street to Dixie. It is a black and white show – the first half with white performers, the second half with coloured. Of course we are all well aware of the controversy that surrounded the Plantation sequence in The Rainbow that we saw in April. But the opposite has happened with this show. It is divided into two halves, the first all white with the talent of comedian Stanley Lupino and the wonderful Odette Myrtil and the second, all black featuring the debut of the incomparable Florence Mills in an adaptation of Lew Leslie’s original Plantation cabaret show from New York.

Florence Mills

The first half of the show definitely lacked something despite the best efforts of Odette Myrtil singing ‘Blue Danube Blues’ and playing a violin-playing dancing master in ‘The Dancing Lesson’, Lloyd Garret singing ‘My Wayside Rose’ and Myrtil (as a mermaid) and Stanley Lupino (as an angler) in the comedy interlude of ‘Fishy Story’.

However, the second half was nothing short of phenomenal. The music of Will Vodery’s Plantation Orchestra was fabulous and a great background for the frenetic black chorus dancers as the Dixie Vamps who galvanised the audience with their delirious high spirits. This was followed by the upbeat singing of the statuesque blues singer Edith Wilson in Yankee Doodle Blues. The frail little figure of Florence Mills electrified everyone in her opening number ‘The Sleepy Hills of Tennessee’ followed by other more lively numbers including ‘Homesick’ and ‘You Got to See Sweety.’ There was also the very droll singing of the Plantation trio called the Three Dixie Dudes and the acrobatic dancing of the Two Jailbirds (Thompson and Covan). It is no surprise that at the end they received ovation after ovation.

We decide to go to the Cavour restaurant in Leicester Square for dinner. For many years this was the rendezvous of sportsmen, men of letters and men of the world but now it has a much broader, more glamorous clientele. It has been controlled for the last 16 years by Mrs Julia Dale. It still successfully stands the march of time and retains that delightful old world atmosphere. The food is as good as ever it was and the cellar is one of the best in London.

We sample a delightful menu that includes hors d’oeuvre, Oxtail Claire or Crème d’Asperges, File de sole Americaine or Merlan Frit sauce Tartare, Ballotine d’Agneau Jardinaire or Polet Roti with Cresson, Salade and pommes nouvelle and finally Biegnet Souffle Vaniile or Glaca Panache.

We discuss the show and I say. “The first half was quite colourless – excuse the pun. Lupino just lacked his usual sparkle. Perhaps it was because he has been ill. But Myrtil was her usual amazing self. I know the Times called the first half dreary and they are almost right but I am sure Cochran will knock this bit into shape. As for Miss Mills what can I say? She has an exquisite voice and what a performer!”

“I have never heard anyone sing like that.” Says Philippa “Her frst song about Tennessee was completely haunting.”

“I think a lot of those tunes will be destined for great popularity.” I add.

Friday 7th June

Another trip to the theatre is needed because the American dancers Fred and Adele Astaire have just made their debut in the musical farce Stop Flirting at the Shaftesbury Theatre. They have received rave notices and have become the talk of the town. I am totally intrigued because their dancing is supposed to be terrific. So Priscilla and I have another outing with Monty and Dolly.

The plot is threadbare and rather ridiculous and it is pointless to describe since the entire show is designed to act simply as a showcase for the dancing of the Astaire’s which is magnificent. The Astaire’s are clearly the most original dancers to appear on the West End stage. Suffice to say there is much exuberant high spirits that punctuate the many incidents and fabulous tunes including “Oh Gee, Oh Gosh’ and ‘The Whichness of the Whatness.”

“It is impossible to compare the Astaire’s to any other couple. They represent pure mischievous joy.” I say.

Fred & Adele Astaire


“Their unprecedented twin-like collaboration is the personification of humour in motion.”
Says Priscilla.

“It is not what they do but the cheeky, joyous, inimitable way in which they do it.” Says Monty.

We are all in agreement. We will definitely see the show again.

We go the Ivy Restaurant for dinner. Situated just opposite the Ambassadors Theatre in Seven Dials it is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the West End and distinguished for its good food, clientele and general atmosphere. Since opening just after the war it has been frequented mainly by famous writers, actors and actresses. It is in a V shaped building and there is nothing sumptuous about it within or without since M. Abel, the proprietor, is a modest man. He once was described as ‘originally a bohemian and decorator’ and I am he told features in the pages of a recent novel.

The room is irregular rather like an ivy leaf, there are no flowers on the table, the chairs are of plain leather, the walls are a mix of modern panelling and cream distemper. It is a place absolutely without ostentation where one always expects to see someone.

“I like it here because it has the snugness and impersonality of a club.” Monty says.

We sit around a table in a cosy corner of the restaurant and Dolly nods to two charming actresses who were dining nearby.

We take an amazing selection from the menu: Grapefruit au Maraschino, Supremes de Soles Bonne Femme, Tournedos Grille Sauce Bearnaise, Poussin en Cocotte Plonaise soufflé en surprise Helene (a delightful combo of vanilla ice whipped cream and hot chocolate sauce), Bombe Diable Rose and Friandises. We also have two modest bottles of Sauterne.

We end the evening at the Embassy and attempt to dance off all the calories.

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Ambassadeurs (Paris Sans Viole), Weber’s, Ouisiti Roof Garden, Acacias, Ciro’s, Club Daunou, American Midnight Frolics and Abbeye Theleme.

Friday 31st May

We are in Paris again with Monty and Dolly. Lorenzo is on his way back home to Italy and we have all been given special preview seats to see the Dolly Sisters debut. We settle in at Claridge’s since Aunt Mimi has a houseful of guests and meet Cécile and Gabrielle at Fouquet’s for cocktails. They both look ravishing as always. Cecile had taken Gabrielle to Paul Caret’s and they were wearing their purchases: Cecile in a sleeveless dancing gown of lemon georgette, belted with double silver ribbon strewn with rococo roses and Gabrielle in a low cut, backless taffeta gown with shoulder straps of flowers in soft glazed red and silver. They immediately start talking frocks to Dolly.

We wander down the Champs-Elysees to the Ambassadeurs Theatre, tucked just off to one side. Here in this small yet perfectly appointed theatre Oscar Dufrenne, presents the Dolly Sisters in a show entitled Paris Sans Viole or Brighter Paris, a title clearly used as a reflection of the success Brighter London was having at the London Hippodrome.

Programme for Paris Sans Voiles at the Amabassadeurs, Paris, 1923

The show, also includes the home grown talents of Edmonde Guy and Ernest Van Duren, and our friend Eddie Dolly, fresh from his London triumphs for C.B. Cochran, arranged all the dances for a troupe of 8 ‘London Boys’. The Dollies first appeared as American roses in ‘Let us make a pretty bouquet’ and then danced a rollicking mazurka in a scene depicting the Grand Prix in 1883 contrasted with the Grand Prix of 1923. Oddly they became negresses in Plantation Days, where, surrounded by growers and planting machines, they danced and sang plantation songs. By far their most important scene was Destiny, a sketch in four acts, where the Dollies dressed by Jeanne Lanvin, performed a melodramatic depiction of the life of an actress, tragically terminated by an acrobatic dance in a seedy nightclub. This apparently had been a big success in New York. The sisters alternately held the role of an artist who was reduced to the lowest ebb of misfortune by the spirit of evil in the form of a tempting man about town played by Max Berger. We are led to believe that the same woman is playing the character throughout and marvel at the quick change in costume until the couple appear together in the last act where the dying dancer sees the image of her happy girlhood being a reproduction of the first scene revealed at the back of the stage.

The Dolly Sisters in their Mazurka costumes

Monty was effusive. “Wow the Dolly Sisters were enchanting and they will have a formidable triumph on their hands I am sure.”

We take a short walk and go around the corner for dinner at Weber’s, 21 Rue Royale, regarded as a very salubrious place. It was started many years ago by an Alsatian who made a speciality of Alsatian beer and food and originally the clientele was mainly English but now it is more mixed

This is regarded as the traditional place for posh Parisians to sup after the theatre and this vast café-restaurant is crowded with actors, politicians, writers and mere theatregoers like us. We particularly like their boullabaisse which is highly recommended.

Monty then tells us about his recent interview with Edmonde Guy. “She is simply the most ravishing creature and during the run of Oh Quel Nu at the Concert Mayol earlier in the year she posed for the great Dutch painter Van Dongen. At one of his soirees she was introduced to a certain Giovanni Dal Terroni from Palermo, Sciliy. A man of means, he convinced her that he was producing a movie of Mascagni’s masterpeice called Cavalleria Rusticana which was to be staged near Palermo and he wanted her to play the part of Santuzza and pay her $1,000 per week and all expenses for her and her maid. It was a great opportunity. The only way to get out of her obligations at the Concert Mayol was to feign illness and so she vanished.”

By now we are all sitting riveted to his words.

“Arriving at Terroni’s country villa in Sciliy, he informed her that preparations for the picture were not complete and there would be a delay. She was suspicious. The next morning her maid saw Terroni beating a young servant girl and Edmonde came to the conclusion she had been lured into a trap. She decided to play Terroni at his own game in order to escape. She had lunch with him dressed seductively and he admitted his plan to abduct her because of his infatuation. Later Edmonde lured into her bedroom and managed to lock him in, while the mad did the same with the caretaker. They found the girl that Terroni had been beating who claimed he was a monster and she took them to the French consul at Palermo. Edmonde returned to Paris but the shock forced her to bed for 2 weeks. Then a package arrived from Palermo containing a diamond sunburst and a card that said “you are very clever mademoiselle.’”

After coffee we visit the Ouistiti Roof Garden at the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees and delight in the dancing of the wonderfully dainty Florence Walton and Leo Leitrim backed by the famous Red Devils band. I know she is familiar and Monty reminds us that she is American and the ex-wife of Maurice Mouvet.

“She only married Leo last December, and although no-one can compare to Maurice, he is a good partner for her. She always presents class and style in both her dressing and her dancing. And in my opinion she is far superior to Irene Castle in both personality and skill.”

We soon dart off to the other side of Paris to visit the Acacias, which is in essence a glorified hall in the rear of the Hotel Acacias at 7 Rue des Acacias near the Bois de Bologne. There is also a delightful garden very useful for the hot weather in the summer.

Programme for the Acacias Nightclub, Paris

Cecile tells us the history. “It was originally opened in the summer of 1921 by the legendary singer and dancer Maurice Chevalier and the comedian Saint-Grenier. Last year it was taken over by that rather obnoxious society social fixer Elsa Maxwell and the charming English couturier Captain Edward Molyneux. They re-modelled it as a Southern plantation and had Jenny Dolly and Clifton Webb as the opening act.”

“This year it has been taken over again by that wonderful American dancer Harry Pilcer.”
Says Gabrielle. “And, he has had the good fortune to get that incredible dancing team of Moss and Fontana for a 6 week season.”

“We saw them in London at Ciro’s in March.” Dolly says. “And they are magnificent.”

Monty adds. “M. Andre de Fouquieres known everywhere as the Beau Brummel of Paris society and dictator of its amusements, paid them a handsome compliment saying ‘with them it is the art of dancing seen in all its beauty’.”

Saturday 1st June

Tonight is Lorenzo’s last night and we all decide to go out with a bang and visit lots of places. First stop is Ciro’s for a spot of dinner, followed by the Club Daunou where we watch the exquisite dancing of Joan Pickering and Charlie Stewart. Dolly is entranced as are the other girls with Joan’s frock by Ninette of London in ecru lace on powder blue faille over flesh pink georgette.

“Its absence of adornment is its greatest charm which lends its wearer that coveted jeaune fille appearance.” Dolly tells us. “It is a masterpiece.”

She is so generous in her praise of others.

We move onto to the new American Midnight Frolics at 30 Rue de Grammont which is a Souer-dansant de luxe and like so many places of the same ilk, hailed as the most chic location in Paris. It is of course no better and no worse. The cabaret produced by the English-Australian Dion Titheradge has two sittings from 12.30-1am and 1.30-2am. We catch the former show. Joyce Barbour and Max Rivers (the latter we saw in Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre in April) dance nimbly and Tex McLeod is amazing replicating his act that we also saw at the Midnight Follies. There is also a West End chorus and other acts that include the singing of Winifred Roma.

“It was bright and snappy and not bad but not good.”
I say afterward. “The girls were gorgeous though…”

“The place was opened in mid-May and I thought here we go again, another attempt to imitate Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolics. I also remember reading an odd comment somewhere that said ‘it had a real American atmosphere of intimicy so necessary to the proper expression of the artists talents’. What? The only American in the cast is Tex and the chorus is from the West End.”

Our last call is the Blue room on the first floor of L’Abbaye de Theleme. The Trix Sisters have now left and there is a new show with favourites Fay Harcourt and Harry Cahill, who dance amazingly, the American Goode Sisters, Rene Gagan, Barry Barnard and once again, the glorious singing of Dora Stroeva.

We all retire to my suite at Claridge’s and order breakfast. Lorenzo has had a great send-off before his departure for Rome.

The Cri Bar, The Palace Theatre (Music Box Revue), Kettners, Murrays and The Embassy

Thursday 17th May 1923

I have returned to London via Paris. The building work on the villa is superb. All is well. And, a week with Lorenzo on our own, was quite simply bliss. He has come to London with me and my parents have allocated him his own room in our London house in appreciation for keeping me company on the Riviera. I am in great demand and after only a day of rest we are out and about.

First Julian (Lucile) asks us for an early drink at the basement bar in the Criterion that I never knew existed. It is clearly a place you go if you are in the know. The bar is simply known as the Cri and you have to get to it via the less obvious service entrance in Jermyn Street which is better than the grand staircase from Piccadilly if you are wearing a tiara and furs.

“Hello darlings.” He squeals as we enter the rather busy room. Tonight he is the correct gender as Julian since he is coming out with us and will be meeting the crowd. He orders drinks and says “Now, before we go any further, this is the meeting place in London before and after the theatre.” The room is full of men in smart dinner suits like us and rather elegant ladies who look a little out of place since they are all really men and certainly not as beau as their French counterparts. Suddenly there is applause as a rather large and older matron descends into the room covered in gold chains and diamond jewels. “Oh that’s Rosie Baroness Bothways.” Julian says with a giggle .“He is a Welshman He lets everyone think he is a millionaire but he is in fact a cook for a rich old boy in Mayfair.”

After the frivolity downstairs we go upstairs to the more salubrious bar and meet Monty and Dolly who I have not seen for sometime. Amidst some rather lovely cocktails, Dolly tells me about developments with Eddie.“He’s gone off with an actress called Velma Deane.” She says with a sigh. She is in remarkably good spirits given the circumstances. Perhaps Millie’s words of caution about Eddie’s reputation lessened the blow.

“We are still friends and they are meeting us in the foyer of the Palace along with his sister Jenny and the free tickets.” She says with a shrug. Monty has his eyebrows raised.

Julian interjects aiming his comments more at myself and Lorenzo. “By the way, you have both missed an amazing performer called Barbette. A kind of glamorous, trapeze strip act with a twist that was launched first at the Finsbury Park Empire and then transferred to the Alhambra. I am told that Barbette will be appearing in Paris soon so look out for her.”

Julian then adds. “Oh and Monty I would definately hunt her down for an interview. Barbette is going to be a big star darling…..”

We meet the others at the Palace Theatre. Velma is charming but quiet which is understandable. Jenny is in good spirits and says we will all love Dover Street to Dixie that she and Eddie are choreographing for the Pavilion Theatre. The Music Box Revue is another C.B. Cochran show and it is a mix of exquisite stage scenes, beautiful dresses, music and dancing and first rate fooling around. In the beginning, the alleged plot is stolen by a troupe of dinky burglers and then one gloriously splendid scene after another unfolds.

The classically statuesque and glittering ballet ‘Fountains of Youth’ showcases the daring dancing of the Americans Chester Hale and Albertina Viback, the black and white brocaded ‘Legend of the Fan’ scene is sumptuous and the shimmering and phosphorescent effects of the ‘Legend of the Pearls’ is breathtaking. Another set of dancers, the husband and wife team of Joseph Santley and Ivy Sawyer – are the exponents of modern ballroom dancing and in the ‘Dinner Menu’ scene they are the diners who sample the delights of the chorus dressed as the oysters, chicken, cauliflower and French pastry followed by the bill. My new friend Peggy Marsh is the French pastry. There is also comedy and eccentric dancing from Fred Duprez and Renie Riano, the three Brox Sisters doing a Duncan sisters act and more dancing from Dickson and Culver.

Jenny and Eddie are effusive. “It is great to see so much excellent dancing.”

Monty adds. “Well you know I hate to say it but it is of that skilful whirling kind that the us Americans prove so exhilarating at.”

We nip into the wonderfully sublime Kettners Restaurant which is a short hop and a skip from the Palace theatre. With a distinct atmosphere it is one of the main restaurants to bring in customers to this part of town. Established in 1869 it grew until it included a block of three houses and King Edward, then the Prince of Wales was a regular. After a period of decline the restaurant has recently been bought by Giordano who was for sometime Chef de Restaurant at the Savoy and before that the Berkeley. He has made it smart again with a major face-lift although it does retain its old world charm which I think is rather endearing.

You enter into a small entrance foyer and on the left is a pleasant little lounge and opening out of it a restaurant they still call the Shaftesbury. The décor here is a modern Florentine style. On the other side of the hall are three restaurant rooms leading from one to the other. The décor here is modern Parisian and very attractive with bright pink silk lamp shades distinctive floral arrangements on every table. In the third one there is a small central dancing area and it is just the right size for our modern dancing taste. There is an unobtrusive orchestra in one corner and often a performance from one entertainer.

The food is exceptional with a speciaility for Italian dishes. We eat our way through numerous plats du jours including Gnocchi a la Romaine, followed by Cannelloni Charlotte Kettner’s that contains a national macaroni made from a lighter paste than usual and in larger form, vaguely like an omlette and also something like a giant ravioli.

After dinner we decide to pop into Murray’s and take a look at Harry Day’s new ‘Rockets’ cabaret with Hilda Newsome, Levoi and Moran and the Rocket dancers. It does not really capture our attention and before long we move to the more salubrious ambiance of the Embassy Club. It was established at the same time as Murray’s at the end of 1913 as the 400 club. Its success is partly down to the presiding genius of Luigi, a small alert personality, who took over the club just after the war and made it extremely fashionable as the Embassy. It is not open to the general public and is regarded as the best dance club in London with a first class restaurant and bar.

The Embassy Club

The Embassy Club

Situated among the shops in the Piccadilly end of Bond Street the entrance is through a wide marble passage. At the end is two unpretentious looking glass doors. Within there is a tiny lobby guarded by some magnificent footmen and a counter to admit guests. On the inner side of the lounge are two more glass doors with attached curtains forming the entrance to the restaurant-dancing room. The room is a vision of grace, wealth, beauty and boredom. It is decorated in violet, jade green and white, luxuriously furnished with sofas and tables along the walls which held glass mirrors. Each table has a couple of green electric candlesticks with pink shades and amber lights hang from the ceiling. In the centre of the room was the dance floor and at one end of the room, on a balcony was the delightful Ambrose and his orchestra dispensing fabulous sounds.

“This is a most exclusive and sophisticated place, and anyone who really belongs to society belongs to the Embassy. It is of course a favourite of our current Prince of Wales.” Says Jenny to Lorenzo who has never been here before. “Look! Half the celebrities in Europe are here….” She waves at a dozen different people and tells us who they all are.

“The atmosphere is that of a rather intriguing aloofness.” Says Julian with a smirk.

“Well, the Embassy is the place where you must be seen fairly frequently if you have any aspiration to be in the mode.” I add. “Members come here to see, be seen and to dance. One third of the room is on the lazily intimate, wink and grin terms with another third while the remaining third wishes it was.”

“Which third are you?” Says Monty with a giggle.

“Definitely the lazily intimate variety!”

“Hey Fynes.” Says a familiar voice followed by a peck on the cheek.
“Peggy darling.” I squawk. “We saw you earlier and what a delicious pastry you make.” I say. We all laugh. And Lorenzo kicks me under the table.

Arrigoni, Claire de Lune, La Petit Moulin Rouge, Chez Ma Cousine, La Petite Chaumiere

Friday 27nd April

After a long lie-in, I spend the afternoon with Lorenzo. In the evening we have, what I can only describe as a clandestine adventure into the shadowlands. It turns out that Lorenzo was educated partly in Rome and partly in Paris. He lived here for a while attending the Sorbonne and knows his way around the less obvious night spots frequented by what he calls the third sex. I am intrigued. We eat first in another Italian restaurant called Arrigoni located in the Passage des Princes in the middle of all the boulevards and not far from the Opera. An older establishment than Poccardi it is more distinguished because it is quieter and more refined and the food is just as good.

We start our excursion in Pigalle at the Claire de Lune in the Café Biard near Place Pigalle. I am astounded. Here in this modest little space are cramped dozens of men all in close proximity to other men. I notice a rather large sprinkling of military and naval types and a sprinkling of what Lorenzo calls ‘fairies’ or men dressed as women. At the back of the room sat sedately on a bench is an elderly matron who I gather is called variously Bijou or Mother and dispenses wisdom and jokes to anyone who listens.

Lorenzo says little but smiles and allows me to observe clutching me tightly as we drink glasses of wine together.

We move to a venue called Chez Ma Cousine, at the top of Rue Lepic (behind the Moulin Rouge). Here we have a rather raucous time drinking and dancing. It is full of a wide range of different people. But nothing is what it appears and it is difficult to deduce which of the bewildering array of glamorous women are real women. I am staring at one in particular sat opposite us who looks vaguely familiar and the recognition annoys me.

“What are you staring at?” He says in a loud feminine voice in English.
“You my dear. You are quite beautiful!”
“What do you expect mon cheri. I am the star of this place!” He says blowing me a kiss as he swivels around on the arms of a very dashing young man who winks at me with a big grin.
“You have no idea who I am do you?”
Suddenly the voice registers.
“Julian! Oh my oh my. Fancy seeing you here….”

We are soon introduced by Julian (who is called Lucile) to many of ‘her’ friends. All had women’s names and all were equally glamorous. Although I have to confess some had not perfected the illusion as well as Lucile, who was wearing an expensive white satin gown from Patou along with some stunning diamond accessories.

“These are real diamonds you know.” Says Lucile.
“My companion, Emile is heir to a fortune. Not that that is particularly an issue since I am too!!!”

Lorenzo and I dance together and to my surprise he kisses me. No-one butts an eyelid. It is a difficult thing to understand, but I feel really good about it.

We are swept up by Lucile and his troop and descend on another nightclub called La Petite Chaumiere on the slopes of Montmartre which is a picturesque small cottage-like-building with a rustic front and windows covered in turkey red cotton. Inside the walls are decorated with cubist paintings and a pianist plays. The place is packed but the crowd mixed like La Petit Moulin Rouge.

Lucile tells us. “This is a little like a zoo here. We are usually on display to sensation seeking foreigners.”

I can see his point. Lucile and his friends are surrounding by dozens of other ‘fairies’ all wearing a miss-match of outfits with in array of kimono’s, Oriental outfits, lame gowns and other bizarre creations. All are playing up for an audience. It is as if we are in a strange play where performers and spectators mingle and interact in an impromptu fashion.

Our last port of call is the larger and more salubrious La Petit Moulin Rouge also called La Feuillee Montmartre, somewhere in Montmartre, but the location of which I forget. It is a nightclub and dance hall but a very smart one with a large capacity and a very mixed and sophisticated crowd. This is more to my liking! Lorenzo and I immediately take to the dance floor where our dancing is clearly admired.

Another big troupe of glamourously dressed ‘ladies’ arrive and make a bee-line for Julian who is clearly adored. “Mon cheri!” Says the leader of the pack, kissing him on both cheeks.

“Bonsoir. Vous avez un air radieux.” Says Julian to the beautiful tall figure.

“Gesmar, je vous presente mes amis Lorenzo and Fynes. Boys this is the famous costume designer Gesmar – Charles Gesmar – who creates all of Mistinguett’s wardrobe and his own. We all marvel at his conconctions.”

“Enchante.” Says Gesmar “J’aime votre danse. aimez-vous danser ?” He asks me.

Later, Lucile and Lorenzo tell me all about the other favoured locations including the dance halls in Rue de Lappe (near Bastille), the drag balls at the Magic City (which I am told take place during Lent) and the less salubrious Turkish baths. This is an entirely new vision of Paris to me.

It is getting late and we retire to the more plush surroundings of Claridge’s my mind agog at the sights I have seen.

Saturday 28th April

I am up late. Aunt Mimi and Sir Oliver have gone to Morocco on honeymoon. My family are returning home but Father is despatching me to Cannes and the Cap d’Antibes for a week to inspect progress on the rebuilding and decorating of our villa. Lorenzo is coming with me to keep me company

Poccardi, Club Daunou, Fysher’s, Le Perroquet, Caveau, Zelli’s, Larue Restaurant, Mitchell’s, Theatre de Vaudeville (Rip Revue), Trix’s Blue Room (Abbaye de Theleme) and Jardin de Ma Souer.

Saturday 21st April

It is almost time for Aunt Mimi’s wedding so on that pretext I go to Paris early on my own. This time I take the usual transit by train and boat. I conspire to help aunt Mimi with her wedding arrangements and Papa is fine about my missing work days. Lorenzo is in Paris for business and pleasure and staying at Claridge’s. After depositing my suitcase at aunt Mimi’s, who is out, I head straight there. We have a rather pleasant re-union. But there is no time for extensive pleasantries. The night is beginning. We meet Gabrielle and Cécile in the foyer. They are thrilled to see us and look incredible – Gabrielle in a blond lace gown by Patou and Cécile in a Calvarrac dancing gown of lemon georgette decorated with silver ribbon and rococo roses. We wander to Fouquet’s for cocktails and Mimi and Sir Oliver are there with a big group of friends.

“Fynes darling. There you are.” Exclaims Mimi engulfing me with a big hug and kiss before she introduces everyone. Sir Oliver orders more champagne and we have a jolly hour before the four of us head off to eat.

Lorenzo has decided to visit an Italian restaurant called Poccardi situated rather appropriately I thought, at 9 Boulevard des Italiens. I am told it is highly regarded and it certainly appears to be very popular because it is overflowing with people. We immediately begin with a range of hors d’oeuvres washed down with a sparkling Lacrima Crisiti Rose. Moving onto the Chianti we devour a rather extensive menu of minestone soup, lobster Fra Diavolo, linguine with red clam sauce, thick country bread and shaved Parmesan cheese, mini Calzones, eggplant Parmigiana, grilled Italian sausage and Veal Sorrentino. Lastly, a simple zabaglione and then cheeses with some delightful dessert wine.

I have chosen a rather interesting route for our Tourne Du Grands Ducs. We start the night at the Club Daunou where Ted Trevor and Dina Harris perform their wonderful dances. We then visit Nilson Fysher’s spot on Rue d’Antin for the exquisite singing of Yvonne George and Dora Stroeva.

Yvonne George is a Belgian blonde sensation, who, over the past few years, has been making a big impression in Paris and has just returned from appearing in the Greenwich Village Follies in New York. She is tall and beautiful with an expressive pale face and unusual violet coloured eyes. With her bobbed and slicked back hair with a single lock over her forehead, she gives off an air of utterly natural feminity. But her ‘look’ is also intense and ‘wild’ a little like her songs and her voice. She gives an emotive performance channelling what must be her own pain into her delivery with a series of tragic songs about real life but then lightens the mood with parodies of Russian and Spanish songs displaying a sophisticated sense of humour.

Yvonee George

Yvonee George

The exotic gipsy singer Dora Stroeva, the latest star of Paris cabaret, sings her songs in Russian or French accompanying herself by guitar. She commanded complete silence when she mounted her high stool to begin. She had a white face, scarlet lips and black hair like a painted skull-cap and was dressed in a simple black skirt and jacket, a low cut white shirt and bright scarlet scarf wrapped about her throat. She is wild and quiet all at the same time with a masculine edge to her voice.

We then move on for an extended stay at Le Perroquet and dance for what seems like hours. Finally we climb the hill to Montmartre and visit the Caveau at 54 Rue Pigalle. This spacious haunt was famed in revolutionary days and currently has two artists who have an equal genius for casting a spell. Mme Efremova sings strange gipsy songs in the dim lamplight conjuring up love and romance while the beautiful Cora Madou sings deeply moving songs with an amazing voice accompanied by a piano only. We then pop into Zelli’s for a spot of cheek to cheek dancing before ending up at Mitchell’s at about 5.30am.

Cora Madou

Cora Madou

As a regular habitué of Le Perroquet, Cécile tells us all about Louis Mitchell. “He is an American singer and drummer who came to Europe in 1912 with James Reece Europe supporting the dancing team of Vernon and Irene Castle. After the war he returned with a 7 piece band called Mitchell’s Jazz Kings and performed at the Casino de Paris and later at Le Perroquet. Now he has opened his own club here.”

Gabrielle adds. “You always come here on at the end of a Paris night out. It is the last resort. We are told by our American friends that it is Harlem transplanted to the Place Pigalle.”

“By the look of it, I am sure Monty would agree if he was here.” I say.

It is a tiny place with a small dance area and it is packed solid but we do get a table, drink the usual fizz, nibble on the house specialities of hot cakes and sausages and listen to a trio bang the piano and sing and then we dance on the 2×4 floor space.

“This place is so small that it has the air of always being overcrowded and therefore highly successful!” Says Cécile.

Monday 23rd April

I assist aunt Mimi with her wedding preparations and post a series of After Dark pieces to my newspaper. By the way, my weekly column is being received well.

Tuesday 24th April

All the family have now arrived and we meet in the drawing room of Mimi’s house for cocktails. We then go to the Theatre de Vaudeville on the corner of the Rue de la Chaussee – d’Antin and the Boulevard des Capucines to see the new Rip revue. Rip, whose real name is George Thenon, is a French institution and a famous cartoonist turned revue writer and satirist.

Programme for Theatre du Vaudeville

Programme for Theatre du Vaudeville

Mimi warns us beforehand. “The show will display all the wit and malice in which Rip excels but to fully appreciate a Rip revue one has to be acquainted with all the current potins of Paris so as to follow the allusions.” She pauses. “Ah, potins means gossip darlings. I will try and fill you in as we progress.”

The stars of the show are Marguerite Deval and Gaby Montbreuse. We had the joy of hearing the latter sing at Chez Fysher’s last September. It is sumptuously staged and costumed with an interlude showing the latest creations of Madeleine and Madeleine each baptized with a name. However, the most intriguing portion for me was the ballet ‘Arlequin et ses Poupees’ performed by Robert Quinault and Iris Rowe with the theme of the illusion of a harlequin who takes a doll for a woman. Quinault uses his acrobatic skill intelligently to express a beautiful conception. They both also appear in Les Pirates, the finale of the revue.

They are an amazing combination and in the interval I overhear someone talking about them. “Iris Rowe is English and a pupil of Margaret Morris. Quinault is French and was a performer for the Opera Comique. They met when he made his debut in Cochran’s London, Paris and New York in 1920 and she danced Columbine to his Harlequin. They have been dancing partners since.”

After the show we congregate at the famous Larue Restaurant at 27 Rue Royale for dinner. It is amusing to be given a royal salute by the three smart chasseurs on the door step. Regarded as one of the gastronomic delights of Paris all the treasures of the earth are perfectly prepared by an illustrious chef. It is indeed delightful with its little tables with rose coloured lamp shades and pink satin seats and we are surrounded by famous writers, foreign princes and charming women. I am told that much wit sparkles here and though I am unable to deny or confirm that rumour I can assure you that the multitudinous diamonds, sapphires, pearls and rubies, beyond price, sparkle here nightly. We indulge in the house specials of Caille a la Souvaroff, Becasee Flambee and Crepes Suzette.

I am allowed to leave early and meet Lorenzo, Gabrielle and Cécile at Le Abbaye de Theleme to see the lovely Trix Sisters once again in their Blue Room cabaret. This time they have the added bonus of the singing and dancing of Josephine Earle. She spots me, waves and blows me a kiss. Later she comes over and I introduce her to everyone.

“What is happening with that Dolly Tree?” She asks. “Still engrossed with that cad Mr Dolly I guess.”

“Yes, Jo.” I say “She is as busy as ever.”

“Well, I will see her in a few weeks time. I have fittings. Oh I guess you do not know. I have a big part in the movie that she is dressing called Woman to Woman. We start filming shortly.”

Thursday 26th April

Today is Aunt Mimi’s wedding. It is rather auspicious because it is also the day of the marriage between Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and the Duke of York in London.

Mimi’s wedding gown is from Lucile of course and she looks divine. It is of soft silver tissue cut on straight Grecian lines. Gracefully draped at the back with a large bustle bow and the two ends forming narrow trains. Plus an enveloping veil of Brussels lace secured with clusters of orange blossom.

The simple ceremony is in the town hall with just close family. Sir Oliver has quiet a following but they are a very cosmopolitan crowd that fit in with us terribly well. Perhaps I have forgotten to tell you, like Mimi, Sir Oliver had been married before but his wife had died. Included in this throng is one of his son’s called Julian who is slightly older than me who is rather tall, slender and delicate but very handsome. He is an artist like his father and works in London and Paris.

We all swiftly decamp to Ciro’s on the Rue Daunou for lunch. This is followed by a vast evening dinner and party at a private room in Claridge’s to which Lorenzo, Gabrielle and Cécile have been invited. I am thrilled that there is an exquisite series of exhibition dances by Samya and Sawyer who are also appearing in the ballroom. Needless to say my father is pleased too.

Much later as the mmod gets quieter we scoot off in our finery to visit Le Jardin De Ma Souer at 17 Rue Caumartin on the suggestion of Cécile. This resort, also called The Embassy, was opened in late 1922 and managed by Oscar Mouvet.

“Why on earth have we not been here before Cécile?”
I ask. “This is incredible.”

We are in, what I consider to be, the smartest and most beautiful room in Paris. It is spacious and airy and the general décor and ambiance is delightful.

Jardin de Ma Souer (The Embassy)

Jardin de Ma Souer (The Embassy)

“I have been keeping it a secret.” Says Cecile slyly with a grin. “I have brought you here because tonight the cabaret features a special act!” I am intrigued.

After a lot dancing to an excellent band, the cabaret begins. The first dancers are sisters – Ethel and Marion Forde – who are dressed beautifully and give a spirited repetoire of dances.

“They are American and arrived in Paris late last year making some appearances at Le Perroquet. We saw Marion Forde in En Douce at the Casino de Paris.” Cécile says.

However, the real stars of the night were the imcomparable Maurice Mouvet and Leonara Hughes. Cécile smiled when they came on. Partly because she knew about my lessons with Leonara in Deauville last year and the fact that I have been wanting to see Maurice dance. They were sensational and received the most rapturous applause I have ever known.

Afterwards, Leonara came up to us and asked me to dance.

“My oh my Fynes, you have progressed rather well. In fact you are quite simply marvellous.” She said. I was very happy.

The Empire, the Rendezvous, Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies), Court Theatre (Carte Blanche) and Murray’s.

Thursday 12th April 1923

I am taking out Priscilla Fry one of Mama’s latest matches. Priscilla is beautiful like Eva but not quite as spectacular. However, she certainly has more umph. She is wearing a sumptuous ‘baccante’ gown from Elspeth Phelps (Paquin) in gold tissue and sunset tinted georgette decorated with fine leather leaves which sets off her auburn hair perfectly. She was educated in Switzerland, comes from a very well respected family, she paints, she sings and she loves dancing. She also has an opinion.

We have cocktails at the Criterion before seeing Alfred Butt’s new show at the Empire called The Rainbow, a fairly typical lavish Albert de Courville revue. The comedienne Daphne Pollard does an amusingly grotesque dance with Fred Leslie, Ernest Thesiger is hilarious when dressed as Miss Violet Vanbrugh to sing The Price of Love, the dancing of Gaston and Andree was superb and the knockabout comedy of Willie, West and McGinty is excellent. There were also several spectacular scenes including My Lady’s Boudior, In Old Versailles, Indo China and the Great Street in Scarlet and Gold featuring amazing costumes by Hugh Willoughby.

The programme for the Rainbow

The programme for the Rainbow

Within the show is a segment called The Plantation, comprising a coloured entertainment set on a mythical Southern plantation on the Mississipi which has caused a little furure.

“I particularly liked Lola Raine and Alec Kellaway’s pretty singing duet ‘Sweethearts.’’ Says Priscilla afterward as we walk through Soho. “The 16 Empire Girls were superb in this number too. But, I also rather enjoyed The Plantation.”

“Well I must admit I rather liked that bit too. It is good to see something completely different. The dancing was amazing especially Leonard Harper and his wife Osceola Banks and the acrobatic Archie Ware in the Crackerjacks troupe.”

We meet Monty for dinner at the Rendezvous at 45 Dean Street with its latticed windows and rows of quaint Noah Ark trees in green tubs outside. It is in fact a row of two old houses knocked into one, The two front rooms are decorated to represent the parlours of an old English farmhouse with heavy thick black beams, walls panelled with green cloth in wooden frames, electric lights as old lanterns and silver wine coolers with ferns on window sills.

We are greeted by the ruling spirit of Luca Martini and taken to our table in the back room which is decorated in dark oak and mirrors with oriental carpets and a handsome oak gallery.

“He is as cheerful as the cocktail.” I say. “And endures endless witticisms about his name but remains sweet and dry. But one does not get on his wrong side. He is a rather fiery Italian and devoted to Mussolini and thus a fascist.”

The clientele of the restaurant comprises every class of Londoner from Princes to Arts students and it is a Soho landmark.

“There are fashions in Soho restaurants.” I continue “As a rule when a Soho restaurant becomes the fashion it is doomed. It loses its character, its intimacy, its charm and the cuisine declines. And like a faded beauty it lives upon past reputation. This place is one of the few exceptions.”

We have a delicious dinner comprising melon cantloupe, crème fermeuse, aile de poularde en casserole and aubergine a l’espagnole. We partake their two specialiaties as well with Sole Rendezvous (the fish is cooked in white wine sauce) and Souffle Gallina, with branded cherries served in a little lagoon of fine champagne cognac which is set alight. All washed down with a nice Vieux Pre champagne and a bottle of Mottoni.

“Ah, so you went the Empire did you? Because therein lies an interesting story.” Says Monty “Alfred Butt rejected an offer to stage Lew Leslie’s Plantation cabaret show from New York starring Florence Mills on the grounds of cost so Charles Cochran stepped in and secured it for the Pavilion. Butt then engaged another coloured attraction called ‘Plantation Days’ for the Empire that was running at the Green Mill Gardens in Chicago. But Cochran and Leslie issued an injunction against Butt for using the name of The Plantation as it was misrepresenting it as the original Florence Mills show. There was been a huge fuss that is still ongoing.”

“I have heard that there has also been huge opposition to the importation of black musicians and entertainers.” Says Philippa. “Daddy owns a newspaper and tells us all about these things.”

“Yes, you are right Philippa. On opening night the audience hissed and booed.”

“There is nasty odious man called Hannan Swaffer who whipped up a frenzy of racism in the Graphic I believe.” Philippa replied.

“Very disrespectful if you ask me.” I say “Considering where all our dances and jazz music originated from.”

“Very profound Fynes, but you are right of course!” Says Monty. “By the way did you enjoy the songs? They were all from a Yankee composer called George Gershwin. I think he is going to be big.”

We decide the night is still young. Monty suggests a visit to The Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole. “They have added a novel attraction called The Follies Derby.”

The cabaret show has some wonderful scenes including an Hawaiieen number, China Love with the dancing of Vera Lennox and Carl Hyson, Zwadir (the God’s of Passion) and Gipsy Night in June. The costumes by Gordon Conway are magnificent.

The Follies Derby is indeed packing in the audience night after night as one can enjoy the excitement of Newmarket in miniature! The chorus girls in the guise of bookies distribute coloured discs representing racing colours. The odds having been called, four steeds made of papier mache and mounted on tiny wheels concealed in their hoofs appear and they race, albiet rather slowly, across the floor with the winner snapping the tape at the end of the line. What fun!

The highlight for me of course was the speciality dancing of Carl Hyson and Peggy Harris. I watch them intently. However, the featured artist is Odette Myrtil and what a lady she is. This French born artist scored a triple hit as a violinist, dancer and singer. She is a clever performer and, according to Monty she bears a strong resemblance to Mlle Polaire.

Odette Myrtil

Odette Myrtil

“Odette made her first appearance on the stage at the age of 12 at the Olympia in Paris. Florenz Ziegfeld saw her and engaged her for his Midnight Frolic in 1915.” Says Monty “She has been in great demand ever since. We ought to see her in the revue at the Court Theatre.”

Priscilla is a rather capital dancer and even taught me a thing or two. I think we are going to get on fine.

Friday 13th April

I am moping around at home when Monty phones to say he is bored and fancies a night out and says he has got tickets for Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre.

Monty tells me .“I am told it has been modelled along the lines of the Mde Rasimi productions in Paris and all the dances have been arranged by the rather clever Max Rivers who is also one of the specialist dancers. He has just returned from a two-year dancing trip around Europe, so you should enjoy his performance.”

It is a little of a trek out of town but worth it as the show turns out to be rather original, whimsical and colourful. The humour is provided by Tubby Edlin and the Two Bobs, the latter are hysterical when they sing Spain, Spain, Spain with Bob Adams dressed as a large Spanish lady with Donna Rosita and Bob Alden as typical bandaleros.

The French touch is made clear with Odette Myrtil (who doubles up later at the Midnight Follies) singing the charming ‘Bon Soir Madame La Lune’ dressed as a pierrot and standing under the light of a street lamp, packing in all the poetry and melancholy of Montmartre.

“Let’s go to Murray’s Club.” Says Monty. “Dolly will be there with Eddie.”

When we arrive Dolly and Eddie are on their second bottle of champagne.
“I am celebrating boys.” she says with a big grin. “I have just got the job to design all the costumes and gowns for Graham Cutts’ film Woman to Woman that will star the American actress Betty Compson. I am so excited.”

“Congratulations my dear.” Says Monty.

“Wow! Dolly that is terrific.” I add. “Is this film to be based on the stage play of the same name?”

“Yep, it is Fynes… we start shooting in mid May so I have got a lot of work to do!”

Harry Day who controls the revue productions at the Palladium has been assigned the responsibility for all the entertainments at Murray’s for the next two years. His first attraction is called ‘Harry Day’s Crystal Cabaret’ and is derived from his show Crystals that is running at the Palladium and which I have to confess I have not seen.

This is perhaps the first time that a full company of fifty performers has been seen in a dance club. The principals include the comedian Jimmy Leslie and Harry Day’s wife Kitty Colyer, But the star is the very eccentric Douglas Byng as a dude wearing an eyeglass and small moustache. He has a curious mixture of sophistication, schoolboy humour and double entendre that works perfectly in cabaret.

Douglas Byng

Douglas Byng

Dolly loved the costumes designed by George Crisceudo.

After the show, we are milling around and suddenly Monty darts off and talks to a rather attractive lady with a large group of people. He beckons me to join them.

“Fynes, let me introduce Peggy Marsh.” He says to a vivacious, leggy, dark haired beauty.

“Why howdy.” She says.

“We know each other from New York.” Monty says. “Peggy has been in the wars recently and certainly needs cheering up!”

Could have fooled me. She looks more than happy. Hmm that name rings a bell.

“Ah I am sorry to hear that. What has been wrong?”

“My husband Buster Johnson accidentally shot himself in September and died in January. But we were getting divorced!” She says.

Peggy Marsh

Peggy Marsh

A little later when Peggy is powdering her nose, Monty tells me her story which I do now remember. She was a chorus girl in New York but had worked in London during the war where she met and fell in love with fellow American Henry Field, the multi-millionaire heir to the Marshall Field department store in Chicago. She had a son by him but Henry returned to New York and married the right kind of girl. Peggy followed him, got a job in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and secured a financial agreement for her and her son. But then disaster struck. Henry died and the agreement was not honoured. Peggy went to court and eventually reached a settlement before marrying Buster.

“She is now in London and dancing in Ciro’s and is likely to appear on the West End too before long.” Adds Monty.

Peggy is great company. And, naturally an excellent dancer. We hit it off. I am not surprised that she also likes lunch.

Revelle’s, the London Hippodrome (Brighter London), the Monico, Ciro’s and Les Gobelins.

Thursday 15th March

When I get home the first thing I do is plan a night out. Aubrey meets me for lunch and tells me to join a new dance club called Revelle’s at 30 Wardour Street. which of course I do. It is not huge but perfectly proportioned with a really nice parquet floor, music by Hugh Mayo’s Reverie Revels band and good food. Luckily, tonight is a gala night and it is packed to overflowing and we are not short of dancing partners. There is a cabaret with the dancing of Vincent Davies and the delightful Flora Le Breton (wearing a beautiful dance gown from Ninette).

“Who is she?” I ask Aubrey. “She is quite exquisite and looks like a dainty piece of Dresden China.”

“You must know of her Fynes. She started off in the chorus of Murray’s cabaret and was then snapped up by film producers. She scored a big success with the boxer Georges Carpentier in the swashbuckling film Gypsy Chavalier last year.”

“Ah. Of course. She is quite an amazing dancer!”

Tuesday 20th March

I am thrilled when I receive a letter from Lorenzo. He is arranging a trip to Paris and we may see each other soon.

Dolly has been totally engrossed with Eddie so it came as a surprise when she telephoned to invite me to see the launch of the new show at the Hippodrome which she has dressed. I meet her and Monty for a drink at the Criterion first and it is like old times which is a relief. To her credit she apologised for her neglect. Eddie is busy but meets us later in the foyer of the Hippodrome.

Programme fro Brighter London at the Hippodrome

Programme fro Brighter London at the Hippodrome

Julian Wylie’s new show Brighter London stars Annie Croft, Reginald Sharland, Lupino Lane. Elsie Prince and Billy Merson. It has no real story but comprises a series of episodes with Cupid setting out to brighten London. There were some stunning scenes. Brighter Shakespeare had Billy Merson playing Hamlet in a contemporary context and the entire company jazzing up many Shakespearian characters. Shawls illustrated a parade of girls wearing Garden, Paisley, Indian, Lancashire and Spanish shawls with a finale of the chorus in picturesque black and white costumes arranged on four shelves, who by reversing their shawls produced a large and beautiful curtain. The Jackdaw of Rheims was founded on the Ingoldsby Legends and had Ruth French dressed as a Jackdaw in a costume of black tights and four hundred black feathers which was very clever. The finale culminates at the Palais de Dance with the appearance of the celebrated American band leader Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.

A scene from Brighter London

A scene from Brighter London

“I think that was a tour de force.” Says Monty afterward. “It is jolly and colourful with never one dull moment. I have a sneaking feeling that this is going to run and run and run…”

“Well my dear” I say to Dolly. “Your costumes and gowns are gorgeous and the colour schemes brilliant. In my opinion they alone are worth visiting the theatre for.”

I decide to take them all to the Monico Restaurant to celebrate. This wonderful establishment stands in Piccadilly Circus and runs through into Shaftesbury Avenue and thus has two entrances. The original Mr Monico came from a village in the Italian provinces of Switzerland and worked for the Gatti’s before founding his restaurant in 1876 in Tichborne Street. The building evolved into the current great bee-hive of different dining rooms. It is a London institution and a temple of excellent international cuisine, but with a more traditional feel about it.

We enter the building on the Piccadilly side through a glass canopy with two gables and emerge into the café which acts as an antre room and sometimes called the Winter Garden. Part of the ceiling is solid  and the other half is glazed over. We walk into the great gilded Saloon or main al la carte restaurant, which was the original restaurant. The walls, mirrors and raised ornamentation are all of gold, there is gilded ceiling with golden pilasters and a golden balcony for the musicians. It is always full and always busy and four maitres d’hotel in frock coats and black ties and a battalion of waiters run from the kitchen to the tables. Further toward the Shaftesbury Avenue entrance is the grill room which is less gorgeous with simple buff marble pillars and walls. There are two marble staircases at each entrance leading to further banqueting rooms upstairs and there is a famous German beer cellar in the basement.

We eat a rather exquisite dinner with oysters served on plates of crushed ice, soup in earthenware bowls with toasted bread, Sole Falciola (sole with white sauce, mushrooms and tomatoes and herbs & garlic), partridge stuffed with rice, foie gras and truffles served with braised celery and soufflé potatoes in a dainty basket of potatoes mounted on toasted bread. And all washed down with lashings of Louis Roederer 1911 champagne.

After dinner we visit Ciro’s where some of the Brighter London crew are having their first night party. I dance with Anne Croft, who is married to Reginald Sharland, Ruth French and another featured dancer in the show Ettie Landau.

A little later, we watch the cabaret which is provided by the renowned dancing team of Moss and Fontana. They started off just after the war and appeared at all the dance places in London and on the continent and have become hugely popular.

Moss and Fontana

Moss and Fontana

“Marjorie is a dear” says Dolly. “She started off as an understudy to Phyllis Bedells in the Empire ballet and also served her apprenticeship with the Kosloff Company. Her ballet training has been invaluable. Off-stage she has a limitless capacity to socialise despite her cockney accent! Sadly she had a severe operation last summer and was forced to cancel her season at the Embassy club and at the Casino in Deauville. I always love watching her dance. She is so graceful and elegant. And Georges is quite simply divine!”

Marjorie, wearing a series of stunning creations from Charlotte in Paris, was tiny, fragile and delicate and as a dancer appeared as an incorporeal creature who seemed to defy gravity. They did a reprise of all their old favourites including a Bacchanalian dance, a Pierrot and Pierette number and an oriental piece. Their acrobatic work was restrained and dainty and executed without effort.

“I am told that these two are without doubt the most attractive exhibition dancing couple now performing in Europe.” Says Monty.

Dolly replies “When the Tatler described them as ‘the greatest pair of dancers since the Vernon Castles’ they were without doubt completely correct.”

“Their dancing is excellent.” Says Eddie effusively. “But, I would argue there is very little of ballroom dancing in their work. In this they differ from the Castles and Maurice. They actually have a style all of their own which will, I am sure, find many imitators. When George raised her from the floor in the ‘grand jete en l’air’ it appeared without any semblance of effort on his part. Marjorie looked as light as a feather and graceful as a bird on the wind. This has to be one of the most beautiful things to be seen in dancing today….”

What an observation I thought. Well Eddie is a choreographer so he should know these things!

Wednesday 21st March

“Hello Fynes darling.” Says an excitable voice on the telephone. It is Eva. “I have missed you. Could we have a night out?”

Eva is a strange creature. It is as if I have not been away. She is not really interested in my tales of the Riviera. She is however delighted to see me and we have a wonderful evening. It looks like Eva is back in the picture.

Thursday 29th March

I meet Monty for a modest lunch at Les Gobelins tucked away in Hedden Street, off Regent Street. Its name is derived after the style of tapestries, which together with the oak panelling on its walls, are in keeping with the Tudor style of decoration. The food here is always nicely cooked, savoury, deliciously hot and remarkable value of money.

I am slightly agitated and need to talk to Monty since Mama has introduced me to more eligible young ladies at a little soirree last night at home.

Oh don’t worry Fynes” Monty advises “Just play along. We can still have a lot of fun! And, who knows perhaps I can entertain the cast-offs!”

Changing the subject he tells me “I have just written a piece all about Toutes Les Femmes. Remember it is the show we saw at the Palace Theatre in Paris? Poor Harry Pilcer has come a cropper. There has been some agitation in puritanical circles in Paris about some of the dances in the show and the dancers and managers were charged with indecency and offensive behaviour.”

“What! Puritanical circles in Paris?” I ask aghast.

“Yes, I know it is hard to believe but apparently they do exist!”

“What dances have caused objections?”

“The oriental dance by Mlle. Zulaika and the dances in ‘L’Après-midi d’un Faune’ by Harry Pilcer and Mlle. Rahna. The latter is no doubt a risky dance, although it has been danced in Paris and elsewhere for donkey’s years. It was a shock to Pilcer that his rendering should be questioned. He wears tights, and his performance is exactly as given at the Petit Casino at Marseilles several months ago, when no objection whatever was made.”

“What silliness…”

“Well it is all a matter of interpretation. You see nudity is permitted in a theatre if it is artistic but not if it is vulgar.”

“What on earth is the difference?”

“It is argued that the difference is motion. But the management maintain that the performers were clad in transparent rubber fabric and therefore were not nude.”

“What a fiasco.”

“Well it gets worse Fynes. Rather amusingly, to judge the accusations, the magistrate asked the defendants to perform the dance before him. The entire scandal is certainly boosting attendance of the show.”

“I think there is some skulduggery going on here.” I say “What excellent publicity. Sounds like a careful engineered ploy by Varna the owner of the Palace Theatre if you ask me.”

“The case will probably turn out to be merely a storm in a teacup, and the artistes will no doubt be acquitted with the classic injunction, ‘Not guilty, but don’t do it again.'”

We both laugh.

“Oh and by the way. Just so you know your friend Jessica Brown has sailed to America to marry Lord Northesk at her home in Buffalo New York. I just thought you should know.” Monty tells me.