Wednesday 10 June 2009
Tom Vallance's obituary of Anne Brown (17 April) covers the contours of her career in fine detail,
writes Martin Anderson, but misses some of the spark of mischievous fun that became evident on personal acquaintance. I got to know her in her late eighties and was delighted to find she was an enthusiastic e-mailer. But in her 90th year the e-mails suddenly dried up and so, fearing the worst, I wrote to ask if she was all right. I had a note a few days later, apologising for her silence and explaining that she had been in hospital for cancer of the colon, which required the removal of 18 feet of intestine – "But don't worry: I don't need that end of it".
Although in old age she still radiated the sexual electricity that Gershwin had felt in the mid-1930s, she was afflicted by an essential tremor in the arms that made eating difficult; it was, she said, inherited from her father whose career as a surgeon had had to be abandoned as a result. Initially she had kept it under control with yoga, which she dropped during a period of illness: "The two dumbest things I ever did: give up yoga, and marry the three men I married".
She enjoyed the status that her celebrity brought her but it didn't cloud her judgement, as she reported in an e-mail in September 2001: "I was the Patroness for a Cultural Festival of UNESCO on Saturday and Sunday, held an opening speech and had to smile and talk to a lot of people from Cuba, Africa, etc. about the Slave trade, in which the Norwegians and Danes took a very active part, tho those self-rightous bastards claim to have had 'clean hands' where Slavery was concerned. Ha, ha! Their Slave ship, The Fredensborg, sank off the Norwegian coast and was dug up not so many years ago. So you see, your evil deeds live after you!! Careful now!"
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