Monthly Archives: October 2012

Victor’s Memorial

In an earlier blog, World Faiths & A Day in Wales for Victor Spinetti, I wrote  about taking Victor’s funeral in Wales, a private, family affair back in July. A memorial that they called A Life Crowded with Incident, a Salute to Victor Spinetti was then arranged photofor a wider gathering of his friends and fans in the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden for October 2nd. And for that, determined to be there if it was the last thing I did, I raised myself from my sick bed and went. And I’m so glad I did. It was a cracking afternoon. I was made so welcome by Victor’s family and sat with them in their reserved pews. Looking through the programme while we waited for it to begin – a delay we were told later that was caused by Ronnie Corbett getting locked in the lavatory – I saw that tributes were to be read by Ron Pickup who I’d worked with in my years at the National. At first, looking round, I couldn’t locate him but then I suddenly realised that that old man over there was him! I forget that I’m getting on a bit myself and some friends of my youth are even older. After that I was peering carefully at the elderly around me trying to see if behind their old masks there was someone I’d once known. Just across the aisle from me was an empty seat into which soon after it all began was ushered Sir Paul McCartney. Later on he had a nice story about Victor and his talent for making clouds disappear. I remember Victor telling me about the book, ‘How to Make Clouds Disappear’, he’d once found in a second-hand bookshop. Basically you just choose your cloud and stare at it. Sir Paul said that as he’d come out that morning he’d thought of Victor making clouds disappear and tried it, he’d selected his cloud and he looked at it, and looked at it, and looked at it – and it had got bigger, and bigger, and bigger! Another contributor was Barbara Windsor who told how she’d leapt to Victor’s defence when Joan Littlewood was having a go at him when they were in America with ‘Oh What a Lovely War!’ Hers was the first f word of the afternoon and at the end the clergyman hosting the show commented he’d never before heard so many f words in one afternoon in his church. Actors! When it was all over I had a word with Paul McCartney and asked him if he remembered me. Well, of course he didn’t but he was very nice and a bit later on before he left he came over and had another chat with me. I also had a word with Barbara Windsor who said to me, ‘Victor’s told us all about you.’ She, of course, had been to see Victor just a few days before he died when it had already been decided to ask me to take his funeral. Luckily the word had been put round for the ladies not to touch me – actors are very affectionate – so I didn’t have to avoid any hugs and kisses. Being back amongst a crowd of actors like that for the first time in over forty years I was struck by the camaraderie, the warmth and friendliness of everyone. The other thing that impressed me was that no one was recording it. I’m so used these days to seeing people videoing and photographing everything, anxious to store it all up for later and not living it as it’s happening! I don’t know whether it’s a generational thing, or the effect of a life in live theatre or what but at a tribute to a man who lived for the moment it was fitting – and a relief. Victor was proud of never having owned a watch and one chap who spoke said he could never understand how Victor knew what time it was. When he asked him, Victor’s reply, if I heard it correctly, was, ‘ the time is NOW – and I am in it!