LONDON Weekend Television's presentation of the Gala Night of One Hundred Stars, with Princess Margaret in the audience and all the other trimmings besides really did have the stars. It was bewildering down at the National Theatre, which itself is so architecturally bewildering that I'm told Sir Laurence Olivier entered the wrong stage in front of the wrong audience one night.
On this particular night I didn't watch the show, I just stood in the market-place that was known euphemistically as the Assembly Room and felt my jaw go slack as I stared and stared and stared.
Stewart Granger. Anna Neagle, Dinah Sheridan, Patricia Roc, Margaret Lockwood, Claire Bloom, all indestructible and indefinably glamorous.
The television world was a bit more earthy; Alfie Bass leering at Peggy Mount, asking her for a kiss, Bi I Fraser of the popping eyes and army beret. Decorum restored by Andrew Cruickshank, for ever Dr Cameron.
Norman Wisdom, David Jacobs, Bernie Winters, everywhere I turned, there was someone I couldn't switch off. Barbara Kelly and I kept stiff upper lips when we saw ourselves heading a chalked up board in the wings that said EARLY TV. As
we went on, hand in hand, representing What's My My Line?. I believe. I whispered that if we had a couple of medals we could look like survivors from Arnhem. If you happened to see our momentous appearance, that's what we were laughing at.
Recycling the stars
MIXING with stars and pretending to be a star was soon to have its come uppance. Invited — nay pressed — to take part in what is known as a pilot show (i.e. one that costs a lot of money but that you may never see), I presented this obviously desired star spangled body to Thames Television at Teddington Studios and was directed to my dressing room.
I noted the famous names in the identity plaques on the doors as I passed, purring to number 60. (I didn't really expect number one.) There was the name-card
carefully inserted. I tried not to notice that it had bean used before. I took it out when no one was looking, on the back it said Kenny Everett and turned over for economic re-use, it became Tessa Wyatt. Refolded carefully, someone had added "Sid Snot". Sic transeunt all sorts of starry illusions.
All quiet on the food front
THE FOOD FRONT never ceases to amaze me. One of the familiar and, indeed. welcome ploys is the set lunch, the executive fare, directors' choice, etc, etc.
It means you pick from certain set choices and are guaranteed to come out with a certain set price. I would say most of these range from five pounds to ten. Fair enough, assuming you can trust your guest and you don't add liquid, you know where you stand, or should know where you stand.
However. even innocent trips outside the walls of the set piece can be tricky. if not disastrous. In one distinguished Dublin emporium. where you should come out with your feathers intact under eight quid. I noticed turbot dumplings on the set piece
these same being included as beginners, to be followed by beef or lamb or whatever, a swipe at the sweet trolley and a coffee.
My guest dallied for a while in the Elysium of A la Carte and spotted Quenelle of Turbot and thought these might well be lighter than dumpling. Perhaps I could have one and she the other?
An honest but friendly waiter confided that, although he hadn't seen the secret formula, he could detect no difference. I could. The quenelle was three pounds, the dumpling was part of the caravanserai that reached port at less than eight. The mathematics didn't quite figure for me and the dictionary said.
DUMPLING— a kind of thick pudding or a mass of paste.
QUENELLE— forcemeat ball of chicken. veal or the like.
So, you pays your money and you takes your paste. Or — to coin yet another brilliant epigram — ask before you eat.
Surplice to requirements
I'M SURE Teddy Bear Donal Foley of the Irish Times won't charge me for his story about the travelling Irish bishop diverted to Paris and housed overnight by Aer Lingus in a hotel there. Only a double room was available. Returning from a stroll, he found his pyjamas neatly folded on one pillow. On the other — his surplice.
I DON'T know why it's always funnier when a bishop says it, but .it is, The scene is London. Two sacerdotal drivers set off from Westminster for a ceremony several miles away.
One car is loaded with the riffraff, the other contains the bishop. Traffic snarls them back off the main road and, with time running out. they dodge from 'me side-street to another.
First. one Reverend James Hunt in front, then the other. The pace accelerates, the bishop's driver snatches the lead. His Lordship, not even showing one bead of sweat or even sounding a tremor in the well-known voice turned to his minor reverence and said in best laconic, Gary Cooper, style.
-Why don't you fellows just pull up and shoot it out."
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My absolutely favourite Wedding Anniversary quote -Familiarity breeds content".