Wednesday, 13 February 2013


One bright sunny day I was shopping in Nerja when I paused in front of a shoe shop to check if there was anything of interest. A tall man in a flat cap, tweed jacket, white trousers, the stub of a cigar stuck in his mouth, stooped next to me to study a pair of leather boots on display. His reflection in the window looked remarkably like John Huston. I turned and was astounded to see that it was John Huston, director, of The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen. etc.
 I smiled at him nervously, he grinned back, and walked off.
 I thought of following him, but instead settled down at a café to read a newspaper and saw, sitting two tables away George C.Scott - The Hustler, The List of Adrian Messenger, Patton. etc. 
 The waiter enlightened me. A major feature film was going to be shot in the town, an American production with Spanish crew. I obviously wouldn’t know anyone involved, so I reluctantly left it at that.  
 A few days later I was again walking around Nerja, this time with little Matthew, when we chanced upon the film unit setting up to shoot George C.Scott driving an open car down a narrow street and John Huston  sitting close by in the director’s chair. Though it was midday and sunny, the car’s headlights were blazing. 
'Daddy,' said Matthew concerned, 'The car’s headlights are on'.
 'So they are,' said I, 'why don’t you tell that man sitting in the chair. He’s the director, probably hasn’t noticed and should be told.' 
 Matthew, never one to be shy, went straight up to Huston, tapped him on the arm and said something pointing at the car. 
 To my excessive joy John Huston placed his arm round my little boy’s shoulders and puffed out a cloud of cigar smoke. 
 I sneaked up behind them. 
 'It’s called day-for-night,' the gravel voice explained gently. 'We put special filters on the camera lens that's over there, and when the film comes out it looks like night time.' 
 I stepped forward ready to apologize for my son bothering him, but the continuity girl got to him before me with a problem, so I backed away. 
 A few evenings after that when I was in a bar with Eve and a group of her flower power friends, a small, excitable, bright eyed crew-cut character, neatly dressed in pink shirt and sky blue trousers, joined us. He had met one of the American hippies on the beach earlier and introduced himself as Jack Martin, London based gossip columnist and European stringer for the Rhona Barrett Show in Los Angeles, a TV programme that reported the lives, loves, divorces and disasters of Hollywood celebrities. He was tailing George C.Scott wherever as rumour had it that the star was about to leave his wife. 
 I learned from him that the film, The Last Run, was a thriller supposedly set in Portugal, and that an unknown young actress would be playing opposite Scott.  He learned from me, after plying me with endless questions as columnists do,  that I wrote books, that Eve had been a fashion model and that, among other things, she had been presented at Court. 
 'Bobby has to meet her,' he piped up. 'Bobby loves anything to do with the British Royals.'
 'Who is Bobby ? ? I asked. 
 'Bobby De Haven,' he replied. 'Carter De Haven’s fabulously rich wife, heiress to the Firestone Tyre fortune. Carter, Gloria De Haven’s nephew is the producer.'
 'Princess Margaret’s husband once sat on my knee,' I said to excite him even more. 'We were in a taxi on our way to a pyjama party, He was wearing a nightdress.' 
 'Oh, Bobby will love you for that.  She will just love you. She must meet you as soon as possible.' 
 A few days later Eve and I were invited to dinner by Jack Martin to meet the De Haven’s. . Bobby was glamorous, but so worried about showing signs of growing old that she had a small piece of Sellotape stuck to the middle of her forehead to remind her not to frown.  
 I sang for my supper recounting details of the garden party I had attended at Buckingham Palace, elaborating a little on the Royals I hadn’t met and the debutante scene with its rigid etiquette. Carter, a rather worried man, did not take me too seriously but was entertained enough by my storytelling to suggest I should send him my new novel when it was finished.
 I was through the Hollywood door ! It wasn’t brilliant literature that got you anywhere, but frivolous gossip.  
 A few days later I ventured into an area of Nerja I had not frequented before and, feeling peckish, found a little bar tucked away down a narrow lane where the overweight, rather morose owner poured me a huge glass of red wine and served me a tapas of chick peas. The place was dimly lit but, when I got used to the darkness, I spotted a couple smooching in a corner. She was young and blonde, he old enough to be her father, and it was only after rudely peering at them for a bit longer that I recognized George C.Scott and his leading actress Trish Van DeVere. Surprised, but happy for them, I left the bar and went home.
 The next morning I was, by chance, joined at a café table by Jack Martin. I casually mentioned that I had perceived the two stars in a passionate embrace, and his jaw dropped. 
 Was I sure it was them ? Where exactly ? When exactly ? What were they doing exactly ? He wanted every detail. He then raced back to his hotel phone and, that evening, in Los Angeles, on the Rhona Barret Show, the news broke that Trish and George C were in the throes of a frantic affair, spotted in a romantic clinch in a dingy Spanish bar by a Barret ace reporter. Scott would shortly be divorcing his wife.  
 The outcome of my snitching on the lovers proved fairly traumatic for them, though they eventually married, but amazingly beneficial to me. A year later Jack Martin, ever grateful, let me his luxurious flat in one of the most sought after Kensington squares for an unbelievably low rent. I lived there happilly for ten years - but more of what happened there another day.

 John Huston.   George C. Scott.    Trish Van Devere. 

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