Design lines: Three Popes, some dope and a drink

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The Independent Culture
Extract from The Orton Diaries edited by John Lahr, to be reissued by Methuen in the autumn (pounds 8.99)

ON 20 MAY 1967 Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell were at a louche dinner-party in Tangiers when they met an opium-smoking, toupee-wearing Marquis who took them home. Joe Orton recalls the event in his diary:

"The Marquis' home was crammed with junk. It looked like a Chelsea antique shop. Rubbish from the rag-bag of 18th-century culture. Mirrors with the original glass - so cracked that to see one's self in them was to have a vision of what one's face might look like on the Day of Judgement, the marks of the grave on it.

`What shall you have to drink?' the Marquis said, leading me away from a monstrous, over-sized, headless nude statue of a man.

`Coca-Cola,' I said, feeling the mere pronouncing of the word would dispel the mucky grandeur of the past.

The Marquis looked put out.

`Would you not prefer ... ?' and he said the name of some unsavoury drink to match the furniture.

We sat drinking and he told us of `the Princess Marina' and `What do you think of the Earl of Snowdon? Do you not think he is an unhappy man?'

`The Royal Family is a noose,' I said. `You don't have to put your head in it. If a man does so, he must expect to be unhappy.'

`Ah, oui,' said the Marquis, shrugging his shoulders and trying to look like a character in Proust.

We were sitting in the most uncomfortable chairs I have ever bummed. Near me was a table and most conspicuous on it were three photographs, a coloured one of Paul VI (unsigned), a small block of John XXIII with something written on it in the Holy Father's own fair hand, and a large, obviously Forties studio portrait of the wartime Pope which said, across the white robe, `Yours very sincerely, Pius XII'."

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