Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beingtwenty-two #2

My twenty-second birthday was for me, as it is today for my daughter, the first birthday I was obliged to celebrate alone. I had made the decision to leave the United States in November 1961 in order to try my luck in not-yet-swinging London.

During the following winter and spring I worked as a stage hand, at first in the fly gallery of the Victoria Palace Theatre, where I looked down from a great height on the vaudeville antics of The Crazy Gang.

Her Majesty's on Haymarket, the Comedy on Panton Street, the Palace and the Royal Opera House were all theatres where I shifted scenery and bumped into famous actors in the wings. I took pub breaks with the nuns chorus of "The Sound Of Music" between matinee and evening performances. Working as a stage hand often involved being at one venue for the week's evening shows but picking up jobs at other houses for afternoon shows.

I was, I guess a part timer, with plenty of opportunity to explore sinful Soho. I was earning enough to pay for my tiny South Kensington bed-sit which cost three guineas a week. (To my amazement I learn that based on the increase in average earnings over the years that is the equivalent of EUR 135 today!)

Some time in the early spring of 1962 I not only had my birthday but also found a theatre where performances were scheduled six days a week from early afternoon. This meant, of course, increased earnings. And, as my readers may well surmise, I found that working at the Windmill Theatre well suited my conviction... even then... that the erotic was a central component of the kind of entertainment I believed in. The theatre was famous for its nude tableaux vivants. Many prominent British comedians and comedy acts of the 1950s and 1960s started their careers working at this theatre, the unforgettable Peter Sellers was just one.

The program illustrations below are from 1934!
 So aged twenty-two I was far from unhappy. Could things get better?

They did! The stage-door keeper at the Windmill had a telegram for me one afternoon. I had been successful in my application for a job as publicist for MGM. Days later I took my first ever flight, on a de Havilland Comet to Germany. In Düsseldorf there was a change of planes for the final leg through the Corridor to land at Tempelhof.

My office at the UFA Studios overlooked that legendary airfield. And the months in Berlin in 1962 were a huge adventure for a curious young man.

Fate so had it that thirty years later I again had an office on that studio lot.

The upshot, dearest daughter, is no single message. But my own experience inclines me to believe that it's not the worst thing in the world to turn twenty-two far from home... that at twenty-two one can find oneself suddenly aware of priorities which will shape all the years that follow... that wonderful surprises are possible... and that there can even be falls of the dice which only make sense many, many years later.

1 comment:

jessimay said...

feuchte augen...