Miles Kington: Dorothy Squires was a fan of mine, I recall...

Larry Adler was such a compulsive raconteur he even used his answering machine to inflict a story on you

Share
Related Topics

It was even more of a shock to look at the photo accompanying the article and see how much he had changed. No longer dark, he was now chubby and round-faced, bespectacled and grinning owlishly. I hardly recognised him at all.

The reason for which, I swiftly realised with some relief, was that it was not a picture of Pinter at all. It was a picture of Michael Billington, who was writing the article. But why (apart from cock-ups in The Guardian's photo department) would the paper use a picture of Billington instead of Pinter ?

It must be the Dorothy Squires effect.

Dorothy Squires was the Welsh-born singer who was married for a time to Roger Moore. What I most remember about her was that when Elvis Presley died, she was one of the singers asked by the Melody Maker to give them a quote on the King's death.

"Poor Elvis," she said. "He was my greatest fan."

You see how it works? In a situation where there is a big star and a lesser star, the proportions are changed so that, for whatever reason, the lesser star appears in the foreground and the megastar in the background.

It happened with Clive James, in the days when he was thought to be more important than any TV programme he ever reviewed. It happens every time an interviewer is deemed to be more interesting and amusing than the subject of the interview. "The Lynn Barber Interview", the heading will say, and you have to scratch around for a moment to see which insignificant star the great Lynn Barber is interviewing this week.

The same inverse mirror effect applies to the world of book reviews. Look at any book pages, or the contents list of a magazine like the Literary Review and you will see that the name of the reviewer is always in bigger print and more capitals than the name of the book's writer. ALISON LEFTWOOD (big big letters) reviews the new novel by (smaller and smaller) John le Carré.

Shall we also mention the merry world of restaurant reviews, where the critic is the star and the poor chef merely a straight man who feeds the star reviewer the chance to shine? No, we shall not. We shall go straight to Larry Adler, who was for me the master of the Dorothy Squires effect. I used to know Larry in the days when I was literary editor of Punch and he liked writing book reviews, so one day I phoned to ask him to do a piece.

It must have been a long time ago, because it was the first time I had ever encountered a telephone answering machine.

"Hi," said a voice, "Larry Adler here, except I'm not here, only this machine is here, with my pre-recorded voice on it."

In those days, children, you actually had to explain to people what was happening.

"If you want to leave a message, just record it after I've finished speaking. Meanwhile, I wonder if you have heard this story about the time I worked with George Gershwin ..."

Yes, Larry Adler was such a compulsive raconteur that he would even use his telephone answering machine to inflict a story on you. I cannot now remember the details of that particular yarn, though you had to listen to it all the way through if you wanted to leave a message, but I do remember that Larry Adler and Gershwin were the two main figures in it, and that at the end Larry Adler said something to Gershwin, and the punch-line was that Gershwin said admiringly to Larry Adler, "Larry - only you could have thought of that !"

It's then that you realise that it wasn't a story about Gershwin at all. It was a Larry Adler story in which Gershwin played a bit part.

Dorothy Squires effect, or what ?

Miles Kington's book 'Someone Like Me: Tales From a Borrowed Childhood', is published by Headline at £16.99. To order a copy at the special price of £15.50 (free p&p) call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897, or order online at www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before