The Feral Beast: Farewell to a loved and Foxy lady
It's only a little scratch
Edward Fox is among those mourning Tracy Reed, who has died aged 70. The actress, who appeared in 30 films, and played the only female role in Dr Strangelove, was Fox's first wife, and the mother of his first child, Lucy. He later married Joanna David and had two more children, the actors Emilia and Freddie Fox, while Reed went on to marry three more times.
"She was beautiful, and very funny, and very naughty," says Lucy, now Viscountess Gormanston. "Most of her husbands are dead, but she remained close to my father. The marriage was doomed from the start, but they never stopped being close friends. They really loved each other so much."
Reed lived in Cork, on the west coast of Ireland, where the funeral took place. Many members of the Fox clan attended, including Edward, who read a poem by Anno Birkin, the musician and poet who died tragically young.
Reed retired from acting in 1975, but will be remembered by fans of Dr Strangelove for playing Miss Scott, mistress of General Buck Turgidson. She can also be seen as the Playboy centrefold, "Miss Foreign Affairs", with a Henry Kissinger essay, "Strains on the Alliance", draped over her derrière.
We don't know if he uses green ink, but we do know that Marc Sinden, son of plummy-voiced luvvy Sir Donald, is a prolific letter-writer. His latest, to the actors' newspaper The Stage, bemoans the fact actors are charged more by insurance companies. He recalls how, as a jeweller in the Seventies, his car insurance was very low, although he often drove valuable gems around. But when he returned to acting, his premium immediately rose by 117 per cent.
"When I questioned the reason for the hike, I was informed that 'as actors are more likely to be carrying famous people in their cars, the amount of any claim as a result of serious injury would be much greater'... I frequently used to collect my father, Judi Dench and Michael Williams from the Albery [now Noel Coward] Theatre, where they were all in London Assurance, and deliver them to their homes in Hampstead. And yet my risk factor had more than doubled, because I was now an actor." Sinden Jnr was once approached by MI6 to be a spy. Try getting insurance as a spook.
Boris Johnson's re-election as Mayor of London in May was tainted by the loss of two apparent allies, Richard Barnes and Brian Coleman, who lost their seats as councillors. Now Coleman is planning to write a tell-all book. I understand he plans to explain how Boris has "marginalised" other members of the Assembly, and has devoted a chapter to attacking the London Olympics, which he believes was excessively expensive. According to a source, "he will leave nothing on the cutting-room floor", and the book could be out by December.
"The Assembly now is just full of people asking 'sucky' questions," he moans. The former mayor of Barnet could ruffle feathers, and used to wear the gold chain of the Eighties chairman of the Greater London Council. Hardly a man of the people then, and dissing the Olympics may make few friends. Not one for the Christmas stocking.
Foam at last
Time was a BBC radio presenter wore evening dress to speak to the nation. Now, it seems, anything goes. A recent guest on the Today programme reports that James Naughtie arrived in the studio with his face coated in white foam. Tactful colleagues hinted that he might like to wipe off the shaving cream, and asked if he had cut himself. Jim replied that it wasn't lather. It was toothpaste. Which he left untouched, for the rest of the programme.
Mark his words
Stories about Mark Price, the boss of Waitrose, always refer to him as "larger than life", on account of his comfortable girth.
Is that polite? Well, we'll soon find out, as his book on "modern manners" will mark the 75th anniversary of Waitrose joining the John Lewis partnership.
The book is "expected to provoke lively debate", says my source, and a lavish party will be thrown at Tate Modern. Price, who refers to himself as "the chubby grocer", is largely credited with making Waitrose a success. He is also in a good position to know about manners, having appeared in the royal box during the jubilee celebrations. Might he persuade the Queen to pop out of a chopper for his party?
An anthology of Private Eye's literary parodies, called What You Didn't Miss, is out next month. Edited by my colleague D J Taylor, it is dedicated to Ian Hislop. Kind thought, but is he at risk of appearing in the Order of the Brown Nose column?
"It just seemed a way of acknowledging a debt," he says. "I've been writing for the Eye for half my life.... Ian is a really great editor. He is immensely hands-on, effusive, and he'll come up with really good ideas and advice about the way to approach subjects …. Oh dear, this does sound like brown-nosing…" Let Ian be the judge of that!
Has The Times's Simon Barnes been muzzled from writing about Jessica Ennis? I only ask because the ever readable sports writer, who was as swept up in the nation's Jessmania as anyone ("We love Jess because Jess is Jerusalem: beautiful, talented, vulnerable, a perfect emblem of the green and pleasant land we long to live in. She is us. She is the people we would like to be, the place we would like to live in...") was diverted to other duties in the paper's mag yesterday.
Perhaps it was because he called Ennis "the girl in the bubble – the Zen queen – the one still point in the tumult of the Olympic stadium across two days of perfect madness," and said she "always had the look of the Mona Lisa: a Mona Lisa who has stripped off her demure robes to reveal sprayed-on running gear, but with something of the same serenity. She looked as Mona-esque as ever... yesterday but it was a Mona Lisa about to do her A-levels."
And he has had an unhappy tendency to ascribe to Jessica "mongrel" qualities, viz, on 27 July: "Ennis had an appalling javelin; she called on the inner mongrel again and this time the inner mongrel slept." Again, on 3 August: "She will go out there as a female Gulliver into Brobdingnag, the land of giants where majestic Amazonian women seem to have an altogether unfair advantage. But that's a bit like modern Britain... eminently capable of living on its wits, its various talents, and its mongrel relish for a fight." A day later, he wrote, "She began with a disappointing... 13.85 metres, but she has always been a Mona Lisa with a touch of the mongrel." Simon, have a holiday.
Pussy Riot call-out service
Acts at the Edinburgh Fringe are being urged to stage a mass demonstration against the jailing of Pussy Riot on Friday for their punk "prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Now the Australian writer Van Badham is urging actors and directors to take a bow and call out "Free Pussy Riot!" at all shows tomorrow.
"You can shout it, you can write it on your head, wear it on a T-shirt, display it on a sign," she says.
"Do anything, just let your audience know that you are backing this cause."
Let's just hope audiences don't think it's all part of the show.
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