03 October 2006

Francis Bacon

Interesting article on Francis Bacon reminds me of another unlikely name-dripping tale from back in my 1970s publishing days when the likes of me and Gwyn Headley (whom God preserve) bestrode the universe as Masters of the booksy PR scene.

Muriel's: The Secker office was in Soho's Carlisle Place, a mere stumble down to the French pub and the Colony Room Club, better known as Muriel's after the razor-tongued owner (God rest her soul, where'er it be perched in some celestial dive).

Serious imbibing and the clientele was a Qui C'est Qui of the louche and famous.

Of whom two were Tom "Doctor Who" Baker (of the voluminous scarf) and Francis.

First off, I may have been a thrusting young hackery turk commanding the publicity destinies of such worthy scribblers as Melvyn Bragg (Lord Bragg to you), Saul Bellow, David Lodge et co, but I never presumed to hobnob with the Bacon coterie.

So one evening Francis was tottering around with his usual bouteille of champers (Have I told this before? Stop me if you've heard it), generously offering to one and all. When he came to me, tilting it towards my half pint of lager, I said without thinking, "Thanks but no. I won't sponge off you, Francis."

Francis stopped mid pour and went over to Muriel:

"Do you know what this divine boy just said to me?"

"Leave him alone, you randy c**t (Muriel spoke only the refinedest U English), he's all right."

"No, you don't understand. He said he wouldn't sponge off me.

Ever after, he was always v friendly when we met.

Baker's 23 million dozen: For some reason, Muriel's sported an incongruous ceiling-dangling TV that no one watched, of course, because we were too busy sponging and assignating and poncing around in our sideburns and kipper ties and Harilela suits.

One evening, Francis pointed out to Tom that the bloke on the box with the Medusa locks and swathing scarf bore a bizarre resemblance.

"Of course it looks like me, you daft c**t - haven't you heard of f****ng Doctor Who?" Shake of head.

"See that up there? Twenty-three *million* people watch that. Do even 23 *hundred* know what a f****ng* 'Francis Bacon' looks like?"

I forget the reply.

And isn't there some story about someone preaching the tax-free virtues of Switzerland, to which Francis snorted in derision that he'd go mad looking at "all those effing views".

Prolly apocryphal

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