No 39 in our great series:
A Mother Teresa Impersonator
A YEAR ago three very wonderful people died over the same weekend: Princess Diana of Wales, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Jeffrey Bernard of Soho. They are all mourned universally. Or are they? No, not quite. For in the case of Mother Teresa, there is at least one exception, and that is Elsie Worthington of Brighton. She would never say so, but deep inside Mrs Elsie Worthington must be ever so slightly glad that Mother Teresa is dead. For Elsie Worthington is the spitting image of Mother Teresa, and ever since Mother Teresa died she has been much in demand as a Mother Teresa impersonator.
"You'd think it would be the other way round, wouldn't you?" said Mrs Worthington, when I visited her in her homely but austere house, "Aux Cieux", in Brighton. "Look at all the Princess Diana lookalikes. Desperately in demand in her lifetime, and now thrown on the rubbish heap, poor things. They're going to grow older and older looking more and more like Princess Diana would have looked when she got older, and nobody wants that. But you can't imagine Mother Teresa looking any older than she did in life anyway."
When did Elsie first realise she looked like Mother Teresa ?
"Well, to be honest, I don't know that I do look that much like her. It's very hard to say what exactly Mother Teresa really looked like. She was just sort of old and wrinkled and very twinkly, like W H Auden's mum. Actually, quite a lot of people at my age have that general air of decrepitude, but not many of use decide to dress like her as well, and to be honest it's that that people remember - the sort of nun-like way she dressed. Of course, people remember the way Princess Diana dressed as well, but the trouble with Diana was, she kept changing her clothes. Mother Teresa never made that mistake. Mother Teresa had style, you see. She found her look and stuck to it. Princess Diana never really discovered how to do that. She only had fashion. Mark you, an auction of Mother Teresa's dresses wouldn't have fetched very much..."
What first made her decided to become a Mother Teresa impersonator ?
"You won't believe this, but it all came about when I was taken to the Edinburgh Festival once and saw a show called Mother Teresa's World Tour. Silly billy that I was, I had never been to the Fringe before, and I thought it really was Mother Teresa on stage, but it wasn't. It wasn't even a woman; it was a man.
"He was called Graham Norton. I've seen him on TV since. I like him. And he was very good as Mother Teresa - and the amazing thing was that the costume he dressed up in as her, to give that nun-like impression, was all tea cloths! Just tea cloths stitched together! And it was just right! And I remember thinking, if you got someone who did look like Mother Teresa, she could dress the part very easily. I never thought it would turn out to be me. In those days I looked a lot younger, more like a senile Vera Lynn..."
Mrs Worthington doesn't work every night of the week, but she is quite in demand at business conferences, seminars, presentations etc. She is presented as a motivational, inspirational figure, with a light touch.
"Most people don't know whether to smile, frown or cringe, so I try to lighten the mood straightaway. For instance, I like to say that I am Mother Teresa, hopefully soon to be sanctified, and then I say, `Of course, to become a saint, you have to prove you can do miracles first. Well, here I am at a business conference, talking plain English that everyone can understand. Isn't that a miracle to start with?' That always goes down well."
Does she ever get involved with events that Mother Teresa herself would have approved of? Catholic gatherings, for instance?
"I've done one or two priests' enclaves," said Mrs Worthington, her lips tightening, "but believe me, those all-male gatherings get pretty hairy. I wouldn't do another in a hurry."
"I mean nothing."
One supposes that Mrs Worthington has to look after herself to keep looking like Mother Teresa...
"Oh, no! Not at all! If I looked after myself, I would never look like the old dear! Benign neglect, that's the way."
Oh. Well, finally, does she ever feel like imitating Mother Teresa in other, more humanitarian ways?
"Cherish the poor, you mean. Oh, not at all," she says. "Why should I? Can you show me a Princess Diana look-alike who campaigns against land mines?"
She may have a point there.Reuse content