LIONEL BLAIR LAUGHS TEARS OF SADNESS – AND DELIGHT
Gyles Brandreth, our Master of Ceremonies, recalled being with our premier winner, Lionel Blair, on the day Fred Astaire died. ‘He was inconsolable - in floods of tears,’ said Gyles.
On receiving his Lionel d’Or Oldie of the Year Award, Lionel, 90, was again in floods, as he recalled his career – going all the way back to entertaining people sheltering on the Tube during the War. ‘My first tour with my sister was on the Piccadilly Line,’ he remembered, welling up.
He brought the audience to their feet when he burst into tears again, saying, ‘This is the best day of my life!’
AMANDA BARRIE’S CLEOPATRA HOTTER THAN ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S – SAYS RICHARD BURTON
As Amanda Barrie received her Oldie Keep Calm and Carry On Award for her role as Cleopatra in Carry On Cleo, Gyles Brandreth remembered meeting Richard Burton at Oxford in the 1960s.
‘My God, the girl who plays Cleopatra in Carry On Cleo is sexier than her,’ said Burton, pointing in the direction of Elizabeth Taylor.
THE OLDIE FIGHTS BACK AGAINST HITLER
Judith Kerr, the 95-year-old children’s author, won the Oldie’s Tigress We’d Like to Have to Tea award for a lifetime’s work that includes the autobiographical novel When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, about a girl escaping Nazi Germany. Receiving the prize, Kerr remarked: “That’s one in the eye for Hitler, isn’t it?”
As Gyles Brandreth said, “That’s not the sort of thing you hear at any other award ceremonies. Wonderful."
SIR JOHN MILLS ON THE DOLE
Peter Bowles won the Oldie Silver Screen Star of the Year. He told a deeply moving tale of working with the great Sir John Mills towards the end of his life.
‘Was I any good?’ asked Sir Johnny after their scene was over.
‘You were marvellous, Johnny!’ said Bowles.
‘Oh good. Such a relief,’ said Mills, ‘You see, I haven’t been offered any work in two years.’
‘He was 82,’ said Bowles, ‘My age now.’
VOICE FROM THE GRAVE - HAROLD PINTER ATTACKS EDWARD FOX
As the Times reported, Peter Bowles reminisced about his youth at Rada, where he was taught to walk like an old man by hunching his shoulders and hobbling. Bowles was reminded of his classical training when he appeared in The Old Masters, one of Simon Gray’s last plays, with Edward Fox, directed by Harold Pinter. As Fox did the hunch-and-hobble act, Pinter asked why he was walking in such a ridiculous fashion. “It’s because the character is old,” Fox explained. “For God’s sake, Edward,” Pinter exploded. “He’s the same age as you!”
SHEILA HANCOCK REMEMBERS HER CARRY ON DAYS
On receiving her award as Oldie Silver Screen Star of the Year, Sheila Hancock said how weird it was playing a leading lady, in Edie, at the age of 85.
‘The last time I came close to playing a leading lady was as Senna Pod in Carry On Cleo,’ she said.
ROAD SIGNS GO TRANSGENDER
Margaret Calvert, the genius who designed our road signs, won the Oldie Signwriter of the Times award. She sported a charming handbag, emblazoned with her famous Men at Work sign – the one that looks like a man opening an umbrella.
Calvert didn’t just design our signs; she appears in them. The girl in her ‘Children Crossing’ sign was a self-portrait. In that sign, she dispensed with the school caps because they were too elitist and showed a big sister leading her little brother across the road, rather than the other way round.
Gyles Brandreth said they were even more progressive than that: ‘They’ve both got short hair. They are in fact gender fluid. The girl is, in fact, a trans boy, and the boy is a trans girl.’
THE SUEZ CANAL FLOWS THROUGH SIMPSON’S IN THE STRAND
Gyles Brandreth awarded the Oldie Who Has Seen It All Before and Worse prize to Lady Avon, the 98-year-old widow of Anthony Eden. He recalled her 1957 comment, ‘I have really felt as if the Suez Canal was flowing through my drawing room.’
Lady Avon was sadly unable to collect her prize but her niece Lady Ashburton accepted it on her behalf, saying, ‘She’ll be absolutely thrilled with it.’
WHEN JIM DAVIDSON MET MARGARET DRABBLE
The Oldie awards provide a unique chance for the great and the good of the land to bump into each other. Among the luminaries were Jilly Cooper, Brough Scott, Lynn Barber, John Sergeant, Kate Adie and Sir Michael Jackson.
Gyles Brandreth recalled the most extraordinary celebrity meeting he’d ever engineered – between Margaret Drabble and Jim Davidson. ‘They actually got on extremely well – because neither knew who the other one was.’
Gyles admitted to being trumped by Sir Tim Rice, who introduced Salvador Dali to Frankie Howerd. And then Lionel Blair trumped the whole room by telling the story of Errol Flynn introducing him to Ernest Hemingway.
IN PRAISE OF FACELIFTS, BY NICKY HASLAM
Nicky Haslam says that more men should have facelifts. ‘I had a full facelift in 1999 and I haven’t had anything done since,’ the 79-year-old interior designer told the Daily Mail at the awards. ‘All men should have it done as it will change their life. Vanity is when you think you’re perfect. Not vain is when you want to change it because you don’t think you look good. A lot of people say, “I wouldn’t dream of having anything done” — they’re the ones that think they’re perfect.’