The Columnist
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Richard Ingrams
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Richard Ingrams
May 1998

Dear Richard

The normal bland tenor of my days was whipped up to a frenzy the other day when on two successive dates I was a) taken to an evening meet at the Bath Races and b) bidden to speak at a seminar at the Bath and West Show and I would tell you all about it except that I intend to spin the straw of experience into solid gold for the Oldie. I fear I am in danger of drifting into a rural nightmare, in which the conversation round the dinner table is all about sustainable soil renewal and organic farming. Luckily, I still have a few books I can sneak off to and read when the going gets hard, such as Margaret Drabble’s Oxford Companion to Eng. Lit, which I noticed the other day ended an entry on Wyndham Lewis with the note “Not to be confused with DB Wyndham Lewis, the Catholic biographer”. A strange way to dismiss the man who started life by creating Beachcomber, went on to be Timothy Shy and ended up writing the only St Trinians novel with Ronald Searle.

I am writing an Edinburgh Fringe show based on the death of Tchaikovsky called “The Death of Tchaikovsky, a Sherlock Holmes Mystery”, which trades on two indubitable ‘facts’. One is that nobody knows why Tchaikovsky died (cholera? suicide because of his homosexuality? -poor chap, Tchaikovsky was gay by nature and hated being so) and the other is that at the very moment of his death Sherlock Holmes was in the area, and could have been called in to investigate… But I have said enough. I have had lunch twice now with Anthony Holden, who wrote the most recent life of Tchaikovsky, and most illuminating they were too, even if I cannot remember much of what he said. The only thing I keep remembering from our conversation is a story he reported from Harry Evans who apparently was dealing with Marlon Brando about his autobiography. Brando’s first draft was all about ecology and Native American rights and was unreadable. Evans sent it back, asking for much more kiss ‘n’ tell material. Following which, Brando rang all the ladies he had been connected with to find out how far they had gone – he rang Ursula Andress and said ”Ursula, you remember we made a film together, and I just wanted to know, when we were making the film together, did we ever… you know…?”