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Posts Tagged ‘Peggy Marsh’

Saturday 4th August

Millie has completely re-decorated and furnished Lorenzo’s apartment. She has spent week’s co-ordinating everything with help from Liberty and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s atelier in Paris. The result is stunning. Well, when you have unlimited funds supplied by a rich Italian what do you expect?

She has also organised a spiffiing welcome party from 6.30 -8.30 pm. Rather early I know but we do not want to start off on the wrong footing with the neighbours by having loud and noisy parties late at night. We have Champagne and canapés. The latter of which Lorenzo has co-ordinated himself which are delicious.

Millie has taken it upon herself to become the hostess with the mostess, in the most delightful way possible and greets everyone who arrives from her husband Henri and Henri’s sister Yvette, to Mama, Papa, Aunt Mimi and Sir Oliver. She introduces Lorenzo to dozens of her society friends and friends of our parents, but finally gives up when a flood of familiar faces descend including Monty, Dolly Tree, Eddie Dolly, Velma Deane, Julian (Sir Oliver’s son), Eva with Peregrine, Aubrey, Priscilla, Dora, Josephine Earle and Peggy Marsh and a host of all their guests. There are even scores of Italians – friends and acquaintances of Lorenzo’s family – that arrive and add to the joviality. We have a wonderful evening.

Much later when most people have left we take a late dinner at Bellomos nearby on Jermyn Street. Mr Bellomos is an artist in food and the restaurant is run on the most up-to-date lines (as is the hotel above). The menu was delightful with Hors d’Oeuvre Varies or Crème Jackson, Supreme de Merlan Italienne or Oeufs Brouillles au Jambon, Poulet Bouilli au Riz Sauce Supreme or Entrecote Minute or Hamord a la Newburg or Poulet Saute Chasseur with all the trimmings and either a Rhubard Tart or Beignet Souffle St Joseph for dessert.

In the following days we get ready to decamp to Deauville.

Wednesday 8th August

The promenade at Deauville

The world and his wife is at Deauville. It is tremendously busy. We take our usual rooms at the Normandy Hotel and Lorenzo and I share. Tonight, after dinner, we are in the Casino but something appears different. Mama is the first to observe ‘Oh dear it is far too crowded’ as we struggle to find seats in the gilded ballroom. ‘Not only that but it is full of rather vulgar rich Americans’ says Aunt Mimi with disdain, as we are all squeezed into a space that is really not to our liking. But we are positioned adjacent to some of Mama’s friends who come over to greet us and end up gossiping.

‘Oh it has been frightful this year. There have been the most rancorous disputes between the various French, English and American circles.’ Says Mrs Fitzgibbon. ‘Really, some people are losing the art of etiquette and politeness.’

‘Deauville’s reputation seems to be enhanced when it is contemplated from a distance. That is certainly the case with Americans. So many of them cross the Atlantic simply because they think that they must see Deauville’ says Lady Rocksavage.

‘The trouble is’ says Comte de Maza ‘Deauville is losing its exclusivity. There are more and more provincial tourists coming here trying to appear fashionable.’

‘….and then’ says Mrs Fitzgibbon ‘there is a new fashion to have a suntan. Some women are becoming brown you know!”

‘Heavens above’ Says Mrs Reggie Fellowes ‘Whatever next?’

Millie is uncomfortable, blushes and covers herself with her shawl saying ‘hmm it is a bit chilly in here tonight isn’t it?’ as the other ladies continue to gossip.

‘Come and dance with me’ I say and we head off to the dance floor to join Lorenzo who is already dancing with the daughter of the Comte de Maza. ‘That’s a nice tan’ I whisper to Millie.

Despite the congestion the evening is pleasurable and the cabaret with the dancing of old favourites Robert Sielle and Annette Mills is quite delightful.

La Potinaire Cafe, Deauville

We swiftly settle into the gentle rhythm of life – breakfast, the beach, lunch at the Potiniére café, horse racing, beach walks, cocktails, dinner at Ciro’s or the Casino, followed by dancing and sometimes a little flutter.

Thursday 9th August

The tennis star Suzanne Lenglen with her mother and a party are the talk of the day on the beach. Lenglen is becoming bronzed like so many others. I am intrigued by this sunbathing fad and following a discrete tip from Millie head off for a walk following another chap who she tells me is a journalist writing about the subject.

The mystery of how beautiful creatures manage to get sunburnt all over as lavish décolleté gowns at night reveal, was solved when we stumbled upon a secluded spot about half a mile from the usual bathing place. We discovered a dozen charmers tanning themselves in full glory. Since we stumbled upon them by accident there were screams of surprise and a great scurry to button up shoulder straps on the bathing sits and don bath robes as we gawp in disbelief.

One of the ‘girls’ recognises me ‘honestly Fynes fancy sneaking up on a girl like that.’ Peggy Marsh scolds me.

‘Ah Peggy my dear’ I say with a smile ‘I didn’t recognize you…’

That night in the Casino, we nip into the gaming rooms and watch George Carpentier, the handsome French boxer, lose a large sum at chemin de fer. Despite his losses he dances very well in turn with Peggy Marsh and ex-Ziegfeld beauty Muriel Miles. Lorenzo and I catch both of them afterward.

Sunday 12th August

The Terrace at the Casino, Deauville

It is my birthday and I have a more sedate celebration than last year. A simple family dinner at Ciro’s, followed by an evening of even more dancing at the casino. Peggy tells me she is to make her debut shortly in the cabaret with a certain Marshall Hall and they are practising routines. She says that he is one of the most versatile of American dancers and creator of the role of Prince Guidon in Le Coq D’Or at the Metropolitan Opera six years ago.

Monday 20th August

We are out in force for the new cabaret entertainment in the Casino that features the exotic acrobatic dancing of the American Nina Payne and the new team of Peggy Marsh and Marshall Hall. They are all sensational.

Frank J. Gould, his new wife and Edith Kelly Gould his former wife were all present at the same baccarat table in the gaming rooms creating a bit of a sensation. They did not look at each other, and Edith Gould enjoyed winning a small fortune back from the new Mrs Gould.

Papa says ‘One has ceased to be impressed by wins or losses of a mere few hundred thousand Francs. When Sir Alfred Butt was counting out a win of over a million Francs, the other day it was considered a pleasant little haul, but nothing impressive.’

As for the dresses and jewelry – the displays in the Casino ballroom are becoming more intense every day like the frenzy of gambling. One woman walked past our table and put all the chandeliers to shame by the brilliance of her earrings – four great stones gleamed from each ear and reached to her shoulders. Many people gasped. Millie was amazed but said ‘if you think they are the biggest diamonds in existence, observe the three even larger ones hanging from her necklace!’

‘Look at that woman with the belt of real diamonds on her brocaded dress’ says Mama ‘Soon the usual glitterering bracelets and ropes of pearls will appear quite insignificant.’

Aunt Mimi adds ‘Well I still do not like those barebacked dresses. And I know you wear them Millie, but allowing one to contemplate the vertebrae of the wearer is for me most disturbing.’

Sunday 26th August

A view of the Normandy Hotel, Deauville with the Casino on the right

We wake up early since today is the Grand Prix racing but the weather is vile and has become dreary and wet. We amble down for breakfast but enthusiasm to go out in the rain is slight and many people have not even got up.

‘Goodness’ says Henri (Millie’s husband) as we eat our bacon and eggs ‘it is ghastly and like being in Scotland for heaven’s sake.’

As the rain subsides a little, we persevere and along with thousands of others, trail to the race course carrying umbrellas for a rather dull Grand Semaine with a French horse, Sao Pauloa, a comparative outsider, winning.

In late afternoon we are sat taking cocktails in a slightly wet La Potinaire Café. There has been huge excitement regarding the arrival of Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova for a flying visit and everyone is talking about them.

‘It is their belated honeymoon you know…’ says Millie ‘they have already seen the sights in London and Paris.’

‘I am told they arrived in three cars’ says Mama ‘The first for the luggage, the second for secretaries and the last for the Valentino’s and guests. They are staying in a villa rather than a hotel that is wise for privacy: they would be swamped in a hotel.’

That night the Valentino’s arrive in the Casino, take drinks, dinner, visit the baccarat rooms and watch the cabaret but are rather aloof and do not mingle much. Needless to say they cause a huge flutter. But gossip spreads like wild fire as usual. Mama comes back from conversations with her nearby groups of friends and tells us ‘they are in ill humour and not happy with the weather or their accommodation. They are also disappointed with the Casino, upset with the food and rather disdainful of all of us. Mrs Valentino apparently has her nose stuck in the air and was heard to ask ‘where is the fashionable crowd?’ I can see no smart women and no smart men’ What a cheek.’

‘Mind you’ retorts Millie ‘you were only saying the other day that Deauville has lost its attractiveness and had become less exclusive. So she might just have a point.’

Friday 30th August

The season is winding down and many people are leaving. We are having fun dancing in the Casino again but were all rather shocked to learn that Harry Pilcer narrowly escaped death in an automobile accident while racing the Dolly Sisters from Paris to Deauville. The Dollies and Pilcer had completed their respective performances in Paris and left at midnight in two cars with a bet of 2000 francs for whoever got to the Casino first. In heavy mist, Harry Pilcer tried to pass the Dollies who were being driven by the Vicomte de Rochefoucauld. His car jumped the road and struck a tree. The Dollies stopped and rescued Pilcer and his chauffeur both of whom were unconscious and bought them to Deauville. With Pilcer being cared for, they made a dash into the ballroom and Lorenzo and I managed to get a dance from each of them despite their ordeal.

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New Oxford Theatre (Little Nellie Kelly), Romano’s, Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies), Murray’s River Club and The Riviera

Friday 27th July

We are back in London. Lorenzo has been very busy with an assortment of family business issues. Taking Papa’s advice he is also thinking of opening a restaurant. Then he surprises me by leasing a rather splendid and perfectly placed apartment in Bury Street just below Piccadilly. It is spacious and very roomy. Since Millie is in London he asks her to help re-decorate and furnish it but it is going to take a while before it is all complete and we can have a party.

I have got tickets for the theatre and as usual meet Monty and Dolly at the Criterion for drinks. We tell them all about our adventures on the Riveria and Aix-le-Bains before going to the New Oxford Theatre to see Charles B. Cochran’s production of George M. Cohan’s song and dance show Little Nellie Kelly. The elegant but rather snooty actresss, simply called June, plays the lead and the other stars are Sonnie Hale, Maidie Hope and Anita Elson. It has an interesting story, with pretty frocks, pretty faces, pretty dances, clever people and moves along at slap-dash speed.

The programme for Little Nellie Kelly

Although Eileen Idare of Idare et Cie costumed the entire show, Dolly was called in at the last minute to design several modern gowns for Anita Elson and Maidie Hope, all executed by Peron, where she is now house designer. They are exquisite.

“This all happened via Eddie Dolly”
she explains “he was responsible for the dances and ensembles and was not entirely happy with some of Idare’s creations.”

The show is a mish-mash of traditional musical comedy, a romantic drama, a good ‘spoof’ crime play and a satirical revue but dancing is one of its most important features, which suits me down to the ground. There are speciality dances from the graceful and charming Forde Sisters, Henry de Bray and Terri Storey are superb in the flirting salesman dance, Santry and Norton provide some amazing acrobatic turns and Sonnie Hale and Anita Elson feature in Dancing My Worries Away.

‘Hmm that was as clean and exhilarating as a glass of dry champagne or two’ says Monty afterward. He also reminds me that Marion Forde was an American and that I had seen her in En Douce at the Casino de Paris earlier in the year and in cabaret at Le Jardin De Ma Souer.

Afterward, I take them all to Romano’s restaurant for dinner to give Lorenzo a feel for an Anglicized Italian restaurant with an international flavour. Of London’s restaurant’s few have a more distinctive character and atmosphere than Romano’s. The founder was Nicolino Alfonso Romano, affectionately called The Roman who died in 1901. He had been head waiter at the Café Royal in 1870s and out of his savings he bought a fried fish shop in the Strand and converted it into his restaurant. Romano’s has become a London institution and famous throughout the bohemian world as a resort of characters, literary journalist and theatrical and sporting notables. It has a façade of butter coloured magolica tiles and the bright and comfortable dining room is handsomely decorated in Moorish style. One side of the room is covered with a series of painted panels beneath glass and framed in Moorish shape showing a series of views of the Bosphorus all very blue and sunny looking. Sofa seats and wide arm chairs stand beneath the paintings and on another side of the room is a great alcove with Moorish arches

Romano's Restaurant

The cuisine prides itself on its specials of chicken curry, sauté de beuf and two key dishes filet de sole tabarin and chicken a la Lombarde. The menu tonight consists of Germany (a soup made by adding yolk of egg to white consommé), Mousseline de Homard Grand Duc (Lobster mousseline), Becasse au fumer (woodcock) with Salade Japonaise, biscuit Glace aux Avelines (iced sweet brought to the table on the back of a swan cut out of a block of ice is a pretty conceit). We also partake in the 1875 brandy which is famous.

‘Just so you know’ I say ‘King Edward when the Prince of Wales had his own private room and cutlery here…’

We are still feeling frisky so decide to pop into the Embassy for a spot of socialising and hoofin it. As we arrive there are squeals of delight as Eva runs over and gives me a big hug. She is with Aubrey who is very chatty too. They soon run off to dance. Then Priscilla arrives with a crowd. She comes over, kisses me on both cheeks and says we should meet soon. Peggy Marsh is also here surrounding by admirers and she too comes to visit and whispers in my ear.

‘Well Fynes my dear’ says Lorenzo with a smirk ‘looks like you have acquired a harem.’

Saturday 28th July

After a lazy day we meet Priscilla and a friend called Dora at the Criterion for cocktails. They are both looking divine in gowns by Isobel Couture of Maddox Street, who they tell us is becoming very much de rigueur. Priscilla is wearing a beaded net gown with silver tissue and pink ribbon and Dora has a frock of shot blue and silver tissue with the ceinture (waist band) relieved with pearls. Later, we make our way to the Metropole Hotel in Northumberland Avenue. We go straight to the Restaurant des Ambassadeurs which has an atmosphere of sombre hotel stateliness. The roof is painted to resemble a gorgeous torquoise blue sunset with scudding golden clouds and the lights are encased in enormous pink silk flowers that glow. We dine excellently and for some reason all feast on the same thing: a Filets de Sole Calypso, one of the masterpieces of the chef M. Graillot. The filet is cooked in fish stock and Chablis along the parsley, tarragon and paprika and topped with peeled prawns.

After dinner we take our seats in the ballroom. I have seen the cabaret here many times before but we thought it would be good to let Lorenzo see one of the best cabarets in town. I have forgotten to mention before that the ballroom area has been decorated by Ashley Tabb and comprises jade green pillars that sweep upwards to a great cream roof picked out in jade lace. The orchestra sit in a deep blue alcove flanked by two pale orange lamps. Extreme decorum and the austereness of unemotional Britain seem the keynote. I still love the Chinese lanterns made of hand painted silk that swing across the room and add a lovely flourish to the décor.

The ‘Midnight Follies’ programme, produced by Carl Hyson, is still the same and the numbers Paradise Lane, Hawaiieen, China Love, Pinkie, Cutie, The Follies Derby, Zwadir and Gipsy Night in June are still fresh and invigorating and a pot-pourri of excellent dancing, songs, costumes, lighting and effects.

Sunday 29th July

Lorenzo has hired a car and a driver and we take a late afternoon drive into the country and with Priscilla and Dora visit the area around Maidenhead. We take boat rides on the Thames and have a lovely picnic which the ladies arranged. Later, when it is getting dark we head off to Murray’s River Club near Maidenhead bridge on the edge of the river. It is a magnificent old Georgian building that has been transformed into a glamorous rendevous of ragtime and romance by Jack May who owns and runs Murray’s club in Beak Street.

‘The club is in what was the old Manor house of Maidenhead, inhabited by a generation of staid gentlemen called Herring.’ I tell them all ‘you can see their sign – a fish – still turning slowly on the house weathercock above.’

We forgo the boat rides from a mooring at the end of the lawn and instead take cocktails outside on the lawn. Strings of fairy lanterns and little lights pop up everywhere in the flowers and trees and white coated waiters wizz about with amazing dexterity.

We walk into the house and take a dance in a blue-ceilinged Japanese ballroom before taking dinner on the verandah overlooking the green sloping lawn and the river. Albert, the maitre d’hotel insinuates himself into the foreground with a pencil, dropping gentle hints which develop into our dinner.

‘I am told he was a trusted waiter on King Edward’s staff at Biarritz in 1906’ I mention.

As the evening progresses the place is hopping. No surprise really since it is only a short drive from London and always attracts a lively crowd. It is also particularly popular with the theatrical contingent and we notice several stars of the stage.

Murray's River Club at Maidenhead

The dance band is wonderful and plays such delightful songs as ‘The Dancing Honeymoon’, the alluring fox trot ‘Chicago’ and ‘Come On and Dance.’ We alternate dancing in the ballroom or outside on a crystal floor open to the sky.

Monday 30th July

We visit a strange place on Dora’s recommendation for a quiet night out. The Riviera Dance Club is located in splendid isolation in Grosvenor Road on the river and is a mock Roman Villa originally designed by one of the Stanleys.

‘It’s chief attraction is that it is unlike any other dance club anywhere. It has a much more refined and soothing atmosphere and is far less frenetic than West End Clubs’
Dora explains in the taxi.

It is in fact a private club and Dora is a member. We have to ring the front doorbell as at a private house to gain admission. It is not a large venue but has a very chic air and the décor divine. The main dining room has oyster grey stone pillars and the dance floor is flanked by black and silver brocade walls. At dinner, the windows are open to the river and there is a luscious light breeze. One dines in peace. Later, a small band plays rather subdued music but people do dance. The words ‘awefully nice’ describe the people and the place.

We have a long conversation about this ‘n’ that and both ladies quiz Lorenzo about the purchase of his apartment and his plans for the future. It is decided that when Millie has finished decorating and furnishing, the ladies will help Lorenzo arrange a welcome party. They are awfully nice.

‘Hmm this interesting’ I say at last ‘it is very seldom that you find a dance club that is content to remain just itself; that does not rely on gourmetic cuisine, the presence of celebrity, the glamour of a crowd, exhibition dancers, the lure of a late night and unlimited bubbly.’

‘What you mean is it is dull’ says Dora with a laugh.

I think she might be right. We leave early and head off to dance at the Embassy.

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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.

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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.

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