The publicity surrounding Clive James’s recent publication of his poetry and the sad story of his illness reminds me of a time when I got infected with what I can only describe as ‘the impresario bug’. I was suffering from a disease that is very expensive to cure.
I agreed to put up the funds for Russell Davies, Pamela Stephenson and Clive James to give a recital performance of James’s ‘facetious epic’ (as the Evening Standard called it), Charles Charming’s Challenges on the Way to the Throne, at the Apollo Theatre in June 1981.
It seemed I must be a glutton for punishment, having been stung in 1975 with the ill-fated collaboration with Robert Stigwood on the Brecht-Weill Happy End at the Lyric Theatre. My motivation, I blithely told the press, was that ‘the theatre is so rejuvenating’.
‘Dangerous words!’ as some reporter retorted. Perhaps! Needless to say, Clive James’s offering bombed, both critically and financially.
Private Eye could not resist lampooning me as was its wont, though this time they managed to give their ‘Grovel’ column a humorous tone:
Magwitch look-alike Clive James, who has gone into hiding following a critical slaughtering, has a good review for his poem at last. The ‘Literary Review’ says of the Apollo Theatre rubbish: ‘A pleasant evening . . . all told a good night out.’
fact one: The ‘LR’ is owned by Palestinian wide boy Naim Attullah.
fact two: Attullah put up the money for Clive’s show.
The deliberate misspelling of surnames was one of the magazine’s favourite ploys for giving maximum irritation in its squibs against its victims.
Never content to lick my wounds, when I discovered that the actor Patrick Ryecart had acquired stage rights from J. P. Donleavy for his novel The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, and was looking for a backer, I agreed to finance the West End staging.