Monday, 10 October 2011

Going Po-Mo at the V&A

Naturally we were delighted and not a little relieved when the Earl of Bedlam blog was considered to have passed muster and be deemed a component worth carrying over to the new V&A website when they relaunched a few months back. It made us feel even more special, yes, special, when we were invited to the top drawer bash to celebrate the opening of the Post-Modernism exhibition at the museum. I would suggest reading this over-view by its co-curator, Glenn Adamson in the Daily Telegraph -
Suitably enthused you can book tickets here:

The moral of this episode in design history, Mr Adamson concludes, is that encounters with masses of money can prove fatal to artistic fertility. If this is true, Earl of Bedlam is yet safe in the rudest of health. As this V&A film deftly describes, the post-modernist world is one where spirit trumps order, in which case we are fully paid up proponents:

So we got spruced for the event, Mr Wesley donning the Green Indian outfit completed by Maria P-K's high top pheasant feather titfer, while I requisitioned the cranberry "Chic Secret Agent" hat I found at the Southbank vintage fair. This I secured with a pair of pearl and rhinestone pins from the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market. I confess it unlikely now that said bonnet will ever go back on the "For Sale" shelf.

Some weeks ago, I had been asked by the museum to facilitate the invitation of two sterling characters to this night's revels - my beloved Antony Price - - and Philip Sallon, unrivalled puppeteer of the London club scene, maestro unparalleled of night's beguiling masquerade. On the day of the event I called Antony to confirm we'd see him there. He treated me to his trade-mark harrassed routine, explaining with pained deliberation that as and when he had personally delivered John (Duran Duran) Taylor's jacket to Heathrow for a flight to LA he would do his best to appear. He did not. Next I called Philip. Philip asked for reassurance that he could bring a +1 and that there would be food. Beginning to regret my intermediary status I duly telephoned Kate Brier in the events department. As if I was describing some embarrassing downstairs symptoms I protested to be calling on behalf of a friend to know if one might hope to expect any nibbles of substance. So having foraged for information from this patient and polite lady, I rejoined Philip with the bulletin "guest fine, finger food affirmative. And the canap├ęs should be quite good," I assured him, "As Barclays are sponsoring the do."
"Oh I wish I'd known," huffed this legend now, "I would have come dressed as a bank. Well there's no time now to make the outfit."
I am quietly confident that no one felt short-changed by Philip's get-up.

The entrance to the museum

 Philip asked if I liked his Esso attendant coat. "As long as no one tells you you look gassy," I hicced.
Social commentator Peter Wallis aka Peter York, who co-authored "The Sloane Ranger's Handbook" with Philip Sallon, who tore up the manual on etiquette to make clubland a benevolent dictatorship of style over society.
From L to R in an up-down zig zag: Philip Sallon; the debonair Damien Whitmore, Director of Programming at the V&A; Philip's niece Miriam; himself; Andrea Carr from the V&A's digital team.

The finest serving of all was a performance by Annie Lennox. She accompanied herself on a grand piano and worked the crowd like an old hand at the panto. All I have for you is a photo of the chandelier hanging above the action, having been told off by a guard when I so much as raised my camera. Peter Wallis / York then tried the same and likewise was rebuked. Meanwhile some woman next to us recorded half the bleedin' set on her i-phone with not a word of telling off. We considered ratting on her but let it go. Anyway, feast your eyes on this Medusa-esque light fitting without fear of petrification:

While other peeps may collects beer mats and postage stamps, we are amassing a rare collection of Mayors. Our first was Councillor Christiana Valcarcel, Lady Mayoress of Lambeth who so graciously declared Bedlam abroad when she opened our shop back in May; more recently, during the latest Fashion Week, we added the Rt. Hon Michael Bear, Lord Mayor of London to our cabinet of curiosities; and at the Po-Mo party we bagged the glamourous Lady Mayoress of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, Councillor Julie Mills. I think Mr Wesley might even have patted her on the bottom. He is such a naughty man. Anyway, bring on Boris and we'll have a flush.

Councillor Julie Mills, Lady Mayoress of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, making the third in our hand now - all we need is Boris for a flush

One interesting chap we conversed with, Tomas, only turned out, he certainly did, to live in the flat above Tim Balmain-to-Bedlam-Oval-Area-Manager (I felt it was too long since I had need to type that attenuated title). Tomas duly presented himself at the shop a few days after the party. He said he had looked us up and that he had very much enjoyed reading this blog, particularly the episode regarding the tax man. Vanity found me warmly disposed towards him. Then he said "You don't really keep it up do you?" which made me want to hit him hard because I am once again in the throes of a VAT return (our second already) and if it's not that there's something else. Really, I do the best I can. Harrumph.

Too soon it was turning out time and I was merry as a Lord, not having driven us for once. All of a tout d'un coup, Philip hailed a cab and had us bundled from pavement to the arches under Waterloo Station. His niece Miriam had been invited to an exhibition party connected in some way with MIND, the mental health charity that my godmother Elisabeth helped establish and for which Mr Wesley used to do volunteer work. I am aware I should have a firmer grasp of what it was all about but I was really quite sloshed by then, sorry.

Leaving the V&A party
Arrived and granted access to the warren of arches under Waterloo, we found a delightful scene populated with those beautiful, special children of the night such as took me right slap back to those days when I was the VIP room door lady at Heaven, finest nightclub in the world, under the arches at Charing Cross. McCrikey, my life has come full circle, it might seem, cue Flanagan & Allen:

Mr Wesley was so delighted he did a happy little dance, finding a self-contained contentment, always a useful gift to possess:

We explored the tunnels and inspected the artwork on display. I had taken off my shoes and less danced than shuffled along in stockinged feet.

Back in the music room, where a DJ was spinning, I arranged myself upon a red velvet sofa and that is where my friend the suede-head poet of note Mr Tim Wells caught me losing the battle to stay upright:

In a moment of focus I managed to switch my camera to video to follow the sweet scene before me. It included Philip leading a group in the Mash Potato and some odd fella in a tall hat with a pheasant feather who drifted in and out of the action. Here is the clip, that I hope captures something of that special otherworldly party quality that might, I dare suggest, have been found in Venice in the 00's, Harlem in the 20's, Berlin in the 30's, Paris in the 50's, London in the 60's or New York in the 70's:

It was a most marvy mix up of a good time not least as Mr Whitmore said we are now on his "Core List" of invitees (or could that possibly have been "Corrrrr! List") and if I am not smiling in the photo below it is only because I had put my shoes back on as we tottered up the cobblestones and my feet hurt v v bad.


Yes, quite. And good night.