Saturday, 29 September 2012

'Place Pigalle' - at the LSE

"Allan Kingsbury, Entertainments Officer ... plotted a coup in the Michaelmas Term of 1949, a coup which he called a 'Smoking Concert',  and because I drew funny cartoons, he assumed I could write funny material.  It just so happened that from the age of 16, with a guitar bought for me by my mother, who encouraged everything I ever did, I had been composing awful tunes.  And in cahoots with an old friend, Maurice Bentley, I had moved on to writing parochial point numbers on the sexual proclivities of the Grange Park bourgeoisie.  So I submitted a few ideas.   Allan decided I should perform in them, and I cannot remember my reaction to that at all. Except perhaps, fear?  But somehow it all went ahead.  The smoking concert grew into a full scale revue, and I suggested it be called 'Place Pigalle', because that summer I had made my first trip to Paris and had still to recover from the breathless excitement, the vibrant magic, of my introduction to Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, and Pigalle!  I had made a vow that one day I would grow a beard, go back to Montmartre, and paint -- for the time being I stayed clean-shaven, and daubed the scenery for the show.

I was, of course, quite mad!  With nine months to go before Finals, I plunged impetuously into the all the time-consuming, life-involving, wildly fascinating activities that go into putting on a show.   John Hutchinson and Len Freedman were to do their brilliant double act at the piano; Al Bermel, then Editor of CMR was to write and perform; Cyril Wiseman, a law student who should have been a concert pianist, was to compose and accompany; and Bernard Levin was to impersonate Harold Laski and compere.  I first met Levin one evening, as he was walking ahead of me towards Holborn station.  I caught him up and said, for no reason whatsoever: 'Did you know that Finsbury Park, spelt backwards, is Y-RUB-SNIF-KRAP?  He pointed out that KRAP-Y-RUB-SNIF might be more accurate, and I had found a fellow lunatic."

Ron Moody, in My LSE  edited Joan Abse

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