Potter was no sex pest, says object of desire

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The Independent Online
DENNIS POTTER, who enjoyed stirring up controversy with his television dramas, continues to cause ructions among the literati after his death with allegations about his sexually predatory behaviour towards women writers.

The novelist Caroline Seebohm is reported to have claimed that the playwright wanted to establish a "threesome " with him and his wife, and she was forced to go to America to get away from his "terrifying pestering".

But Margaret Forster, another writer who became the object of Mr Pinter's endearments, believes he was basically a fantasist and his behaviour may have been misunderstood.

The sexuality of the author of The Singing Detective and Pennies From Heaven is expected to be examined in detail in an official biography by Humphrey Carpenter due out in September. It will reveal that Mr Potter was strongly attracted to Gina Bellman, whom he cast in Blackeyes, and also include claims about his relationship with his agent Judy Daish, although Ms Daish denies there was ever an affair.

Ms Seebohm, who wrote The Last Romantics, a 1987 novel about Oxford undergraduates, is reported in a Sunday newspaper as saying she was relentlessly pursued by Mr Potter in the mid 1960s. The playwright, who had married his childhood sweetheart Margaret, became so demanding that she fled to the US to be followed by a stream of passionate letters.

Mr Potter began to suffer from a crippling arthritic disease, and said Ms Seebohm was curing him in "some kind of religious way". She, however, felt it was "emotional blackmail", she was being "psychologically damaged" and needed to get away, the report claims.

Margaret Forster, the author of the novel Georgy Girl and the biographer of Daphne Du Maurier, also received a long letter from Pinter in l977 in which he talked about how he had been besotted with her since appearing together in The Caucasian Chalk Circle in Oxford in the l960s. The letter had the drawing of a heart next to her name. He wrote "The past is not just a foreign country, it's an enchanted land".

But Ms Forster, who is married to the writer Hunter Davies, told The Independent yesterday: "I think it would be a misunderstanding to think this was a love letter. Don't forget Dennis Potter was a writer, and writers and artists do sometimes send letters and use phrases which other people wouldn't. There was the drawing of the heart, but one shouldn't read everything into it. May be he was just being sarcastic when he talked about my looks.

"I don't think Dennis Potter was this great philanderer he is being made out to be, and his plays reflected his personal life. I think he was actually a fantasist and the whole thing got blown out of all proportions."

"I don't recall him being much of a philanderer at Oxford, he certainly did not try anything with me. His fiancee, Margaret, was with him almost all the time and I spent more time talking to her than him. Dennis seemed more interested in politics than sex."