Where it all began: has the swing lost its zing?
MORDE CAl RICHLER
LONDON: When I first came to live in London, in 1954, it was, to my astonishment, not to be dazzled by a foreign culture that was new to me, but instead to be confronted by variations on the theme of the recent American past. I had collided with a cultural-cum-class uprising that was ineptly tagged by Fleet Street as the time of the Angry Young Men. For someone of my generation, brought up on the protest literature of the American 1930s, it all smacked of the second time round.
That, however, was 1954. Those figures who made such a splash in the 1950s are still working, some better than ever, but they are no longer really the stuff of newspaper gossip columns. They have been supplanted by a spill of fresh names. Peripheral people, mostly. Fashion photographers, singers, models, actors, actresses, hairdressers, cartoonists, satirists, dress designers, tailors, and TV personalities.
Briefly, if I put down here 12 years ago to witness the American 1930s’ Second Coming, then today, traveling backward through inner space, I’ve seen London arrive at a station uncomfortably close in spirit to the American 1920s.
This is the time of the Bright Young Things. Say, Jean Shrimpton or Vanessa Redgrave. People who share, as the London critic Francis Wyndham has observed, “a bright brittle quality, the more appealing because it tarnishes so soon"—John Lennon, Lord Snowdon, Mick Jagger, Cecil Beaton. People, Wyndham writes, who “have gone all out for the immediate rewards of success: quick money, quick fame, quick sex— a brave thing to do." But, just as the celebrated jazz figures of the American 1920s concealed a deep social malaise that led, ultimately, to an all but ruinous depression, so today’s British cutíes seem to be the just-visible tip of a crumbling society. England, Dean Acheson said a few years ago, has lost an empire and failed to find a new role.
ITEM: In recent years the economies of Germany, France, Italy, and many other countries have been advancing twice as fast as Great Britain’s. In fact, by 1964 the U.K. had sunk to 11th place. Her income per capita is lower than that of the U.S., Canada, / continued on page 26
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WHERE IT ALL STARTED continued from page 14
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“Swinging orgies? Where? Nobody I know has been to one”
Sweden, Switzerland. France, West Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, or Norway.
ITEM: Furthermore, from 1951 to 1965 the cost-of-living index in the U.K. rose by 63 percent, against 21 percent for the U.S., and 22 percent for Canada.
ITEM: Britain’s share of world trade has fallen from 10.1 percent in 1951 to 8.4 percent in 1964.
This island, which, satirist Peter Cook once wrote, seems bound to sink giggling into the sea, now appears more likely to drown of economic stagnation.
Meanwhile, the island is going pop. Pop with a vengeance.
John Crosby, the former New York Herald-Tribune columnist now resident in London, must be credited with sounding the first loud trumpet, appropriately enough in one of the new color supplements, The Weekend Telegraph. London, Crosby wrote in an altogether extravagant piece, is now the world’s most swinging city, with the world’s most swinging girls and nightly swinging orgies, which he described as refreshingly innocent.
Orgies? Where? 1 haven't been to one and nobody I know has been to one either, which is far from conclusive, but . . . Richard Ingrams, one of the editors of the satirical biweekly, Private Eye, says, “This whole idea of London as a ‘swinging city’ is a myth invented largely by American journalists.”
The New Age, glossy as it is, is not the invention of American journalists, but it is journalistic in origin and can be traced back nine years to the day when Jocelyn Stevens, a young ex-Etonian, bought the Queen magazine. “What we present our audiences with,” Stevens said recently, “is a picture of Life at the lop.” The Queen caters to “a new class, a new youthful aristocracy for whom talent, and not inherited privilege, is the leading light.” Ehe old society, Stevens says, will never be the same again.
To begin with, Stevens assembled a small but singularly gifted, young editorial staff around him: Mark Boxer, Beatrix Miller, Francis Wyndham.
Beatrix Miller went on to edit Vogue and last year to introduce the ultimate in new quarterlies, Men In Vogue. Mark Boxer and Francis Wyndham, under the auspices of Roy Thomson, commenced the first of the new color supplements: The Sunday Times Magazine.
"The color supplements,” thrillerwriter Len Deighton recently told Newsweek magazine, “were the Pravda and Izvestia of the revolution.” Maybe. But if that's the case then Lord Thomson of Fleet must be accounted the movement’s Karl Marx —or more appropriately, perhaps, the swingers’ Big Daddy — for it was Lord Thomson who introduced the first color supplement in England. At the time, all of Fleet Street prophesied disaster — bankruptcy — but after a faltering start The Sunday Times Magazine was such an enormous success that it quickly brought two imitations into the field: the Ob-
server Magazine and The Weekend Telegraph.
The Sunday Times Magazine was successful not only because a newly affluent society was ready for David Bailey’s photographs of Jean Shrimpton, pop art, and Robert Carrier on food, but also because it was exceedingly well produced and occasionally something rather more than that. Francis Wyndham, for instance, is a brilliant journalist with an enviable eye for the absurd, and his articles on Hammer horror films, the new pop idols, and other glittering transients, add up to an acute documentary of London life in the 60s.
But the vintage days of The Sunday Times Magazine are over. In fact, it could be argued that London’s swinging, with-it group — what Private Eye calls the Trendies — has already seen its best days and is now in decline, done in by overexposure.
In dealing with the rise and fall of the Trendies, it is, perhaps, best to pause here and break the phenomenon down into its journals, demigods, and holy places.
I have already dealt with the founding Oueun and the popularizing Sunday Times Magazine. Last year, even as the run on the pound had begun and a sombre-minded Labor government was returned to office, two new magazines were started, Men In Vogue and London Life.
Men In Vogue must be accounted an offshoot of the men’s-clothing revolution hatched on Carnaby Street, where, in shops called HIS or LORD JOHN, a chap can buy dreamy ruffled shirts in “voile and batiste,” trousers with built-in codpieces, and other yummy items. Carnaby Street, I should add, is far from a joke. John Stephen, the resident designing genius, will go public next year and there is no doubt that his stock issue will be oversubscribed. An even more In (though less accessible) tailor is Douglas Hayward, an ex-Savile Row man with a small shop in stylishly unstylish Fulham. Hayward makes suits for Dirk Bogarde, Terence Stamp, Mi-
chael Caine, and other such demigods.
Clothes by John Stephen and Douglas Hayward were naturally featured in Men In Vogue's opening piece. The Best Dressed Men In The World. The first issue also ran a gallery of David Bailey photographs. The Most Bailey Girls In The World, which included studies of Monica Vitti, Françoise Dorléac, Jeanne Moreau, and Jean Shrimpton.
London Life, a new weekly incorporating the staid Tatter, first appeared last October. Yet another Thomson venture, it was edited, to begin with, by Mark Boxer and Francis Wyndham, who left The Sunday Times Magazine to start the new magazine. Introducing London Life, Boxer wrote, “It will not be the sort of patronizing glossy which is designed to be flipped through rather than read; it will not subscribe to the idea that there is only one sliver of society worth attention; it will not be political; it will not be full of mandarin reviews. London Life will be essentially an ‘in-touch’ magazine ...”
But even before the first issue of London Life appeared. Fleet Street gossip columnists retailed stories of imminent disaster, and as early as June 1965 Private Lye ran a singularly malicious profile of Boxer. “A number of foreign observers,” the story began, “have recently commented in awe on the extraordinary revolution that has taken place over the past ten years in the social life of Britain. ‘London,’ they remark, ‘has become the most switched-on city in the world.’ . . . The values of Matthew and Thomas Arnold have been replaced in the New Britain by those of the Ad Lib Club and Carnaby Street . . . A new aristocracy has arisen in Britain, that of the smart parasites, the photographers and model girls . . . Imagine then the image of the Perfect Englishman of 1965, the Man Who We Most Admire ... He is young ... He always dresses immaculately, in dark, tapered suits, with the right John Michael shirt in pastel pink or blue. That he is immensely successful and makes at least ,£10,000 a year from some glossy
WHERE IT ALL STARTED continued
England created the New Age, but Canadians help sell it
and parasitical activity, goes without saying. He mixes socially with all the right members of the New Aristocracy. is seen at restaurants with David Bailey or Jean Shrimpton. has the Rolling Stones to parties in his West London drawing room ... He professes all the r i -7 h t 'irreverent' opinions . . . voted Labor at the last election . . . and is known to gossip columnists as 'friend of the Snowdons.' This is the kind of thing which deeply impresses employers, particularly if they be immensely susceptible, snobbish, self-made Canadian newspaper proprietors ...”
All of which was more nasty than accurate Boxer, in fact, is an old friend of Lord Snowdon, and worked with him when he was plain Tony Armstrong-Jones, photographer. He is also a talented editor, though London Life, it must be said, was his least inspired effort. Boxer and Wyndham resigned after eight issues. Boxer, to return to The Sunday Times, Wyndham, to free-lance.
DAVID BAILEY, photographer: He
is fascinated by tinsel, says Francis Wyndham. who wrote the text for Bailey's Box Of Pin-ups. Those in the lavishly produced box include Mick J agger (“Just as, a few years ago. girls discovered that they had always looked like Brigitte Bardot without realizing it, so today's boys’ mouths
have most mysteriously filled to reproduce the J agger lips. When he breaks away from the Rolling Stones, he could be a great individual star"). Lord Snowdon ("He likes people who like him, but only if they do for the right reason — himself”), Michael Caine ("An anti-actor: like his mate Terence Stamp, he wants to be a star or nothing . . . He conveys a potent mixture of human fallibility and understated elegance — Bogart from Battersea”), P. J. Proby, American rock'n’roller (“ '1 want,' Proby says, 'to star in a movie called The Greatest Story Never Told. About a pop star who thinks he's Jesus Christ and the group who accompany him are his disciples' ").
"Bailey's standards,” Wyndham wrote in his introduction to the Box. “are so rigorous that only four girls qualify, all of whom are professional models. But in the age of Mick Jagger. it is the boys who are the pinups: and Bailey's pictures give them all the inward, self-sufficient look of Narcissus . . . Glamour dates fast, and it is its ephemeral nature which both attracts Bailey and challenges him. He has tried to capture it on the wing, and his pin-ups have a heroic look: isolated, invulnerable, lost."
JEAN SHRIMPTON, model: “I only work one day a fortnight.” she said recently. “1 charge high prices.” She is, in fact, the most successful, highest-paid model in the world.
Would she like to be in films?
“1 can't act." she says. “Only if I'm handled well. Truffaut, perhaps.”
"No. I don't want to be a sex symbol."
Every day. Miss Shrimpton sees —
TERENCE STAMP, the actor: Term Of Trial with Olivier, Billy Budd with Ustinov, and. latterly. The Collector. "While he sleeps." Wyndham writes, "a gramophone plays a subliminal French lesson so that Stamp may one day converse with his idol. François Truffaut.” Stamp, unusually talented, now lives in the most exclusive block of flats in London's West End. The Albany. He has just finished what can only be called a High Camp film with Joseph l.osey, the American director ( The Servant). It is Modesty Blaise, based on a very popular, very In, Evening Standard comic strip. Stamp's co-star is Monica Vitti.
VIDAL SASSOON. hairdresser, or — as he prefers it — hair cutter: “I'm a Turk from Shepherd's Bush.” he says. “Sephardic Jewish. I was a shampoo boy at 14 but couldn’t get into Mayfair because I looked too young. In 1954 I started on my own in a third-floor place in Bond Street He has not only been enormously successful, with salons in New York and Paris as well as London, but is one of the most flamboyant and publicized figures of this in - touch
era. Sassoon, in his late thirties, occasionally retreats to a “health centre” to meditate. He reads Proust. “I do not cut hair,” he has said. “Each time I make a statement.” Statements he has made have been written on some of the most glamorous scalps in London.
DICK LESTER, film director: Help!, The Knack, and the soon-to-be-released A Tunny Thing Happened On The Way To The Torum. American. 34, started out by making TV commercials. 350 in all. and applying that technique to films, including The Knack, 1965 first-prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival. “It is ironic,” a recent Private Eye protile begins, “that, at a time when England is supposed to be setting the cultural style for the world, it should take an American, Richard Lester, to be the first man to capture and reflect the mood of the New England on film . . . Lester is the first British film-maker of the age of Pop Art and the Color Section."
Other Americans and Canadians, incidentally, are active either deep inside or on the fringes of the New Age group. There's that legendary hipster, Thomson of Fleet, of course, hut it is not so well known — at least here in London — that the producer of the James Bond films. Harry Saltzman. is also a Canadian. So is Sidney Furie, who directed Len Deighton's The Ipcress File, which lifted Michael Caine to stardom. The script for The Collector. Terence Stamp’s first major film, was co-written by Stanley Mann, formerly of Toronto.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Mann was nominated for an Academy Award for 1965’s best screenplay.
The Trattoria Terrazza, a Soho restaurant. Proprietors Mario and Franco reserve a special basement room, where “ordinary people” are not allowed. Regulars in the exclusive Positano Room include Stamp, Jagger, Sean Connery, Bailey, Shrimpton, Deighton, and Roman Polanski, the talented Polis-h film director living in London (Knife In The Water, Repulsion ).
The Ad Lib, a club first celebrated in the Queen, and once the regular meeting place of just about everybody in Bailey’s Box Of Pin-ups. “Members,” Francis Wyndham writes, “could judge their status not only by the position of their table, but also by the warmth of manager Brian Morris’s greeting, which could graduate from a condescending pat, through
a friendly squeeze, to a passionate kiss for Sybil Burton or the Beatles.” Lately it has become too popular to remain In. According to David Bailey, “the crimpers moved in: next
came the chinless wonders, and soon the starers outnumbered the stared-at, who began to look for somewhere else . . .”
And “somewhere else" is mostly discothèques. Dolly’s, with a membership limited to 600; Annabel’s, very expensive and debby; and something actually called The In-Place.
Finally, to end at the beginning. “1966,” Jocelyn Stevens, editor of the Queen, says, “will be the real test, the shakedown, in which we will really see who has got the follow-up to the initial display of talent that brought them to the top.”
Maybe yes, maybe no. But not many will be waiting in fear and trembling. Outside the small, carnivorous world of glossy magazines, most people are bored with the With-Its.
Of course many of today’s In-places and names will be shorn of their glit-
ter tomorrow. The world of Jocelyn Stevens is not so much characterized by staying power as by a manic need for fresh names, fresh excitements. The Ad Lib Club has already closed its doors and other holy places are swiftly becoming too popular to still be favored. The action, such as it is, is nervy, always on the move.
This season’s hot, indispensable names are not without warnings and examples. Colin Wilson, for instance, is hardly ever heard from today and is not taken seriously any more. David Frost, something of an In-figure himself only last season (for Not So Much A Program, More A Way Of Life, successor to That Was The Week That Was), has taken a bad fall. His most recent TV show, The Frost Report, has been universally panned.
On the other hand, Jocelyn Stevens is not the only one who considers 1966 the real test. Harold Wilson has also called it make-or-break year for England. But for different reasons.
Very different reasons. ★