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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 28 November 2008
Cafe Royal furnishings are going to auctionCafe Royal furnishings are going to auction
Café to go under hammer

A PLAYGROUND for the rich and famous, the Café Royal has been a hub of glamour and scandal for decades.
Some of the world’s most celebrated film stars, writers, artists, politicians and royals chose the venue to host raucous parties, seal trysts and spark high-society gossip. With its impending closure on December 22, part of the Café’s history can be yours, when a job lot of former furnishings go under the hammer at Bonhams.
Up for grabs are everything from humidors to brandy caskets, Venetian chandeliers to a whole boxing ring – the scene of many a bruising black-tie bout.
Established in 1865, regulars over the years have included Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, Noel Coward, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana and Muhammad Ali.
To the bohemians of Victorian England, the Café Royal was an oasis of French charm – the reason why it became so beloved by Oscar Wilde and his friends. It was the backdrop to so many dramatic events in his life including his decision to sue the Marquess of Queensbury.
Viewing for the sale will take place at the Café on December 21 and 22, with the auction date set for January 20.

Dangers of being too open on relationships

WHAT’S all this fuss in the tabloids over the open relationships of the actress
Tilda Swinton?

The fact that she is part of a foursome ­sharing the same house with her chil­dren, she with a younger lover, while her long-term partner is involved with a woman 16 years younger than him, well, all I can ask myself is: So, what’s new?
Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so smug ­reading the papers last week if I hadn’t sat on the only chair ­available at the London Review bookshop in Bloomsbury, entranced by a PowerPoint talk given by the famous ­scientist, author and thinker, Carl Djerassi. Now in his mid-80s, Djerassi’s mittel-European accent, slightly ­disguised by a thin layer of Americanese, floated across the store, packed with an audience of nearly 100 devotees.
What did all that have to do with open ­relationships?
Djerassi’s talk had been billed as an exploration of the Jewish identity, publicising his latest book, Four Jews on Parnassus (Columbia University Press, £17.50). But, in fact, it really explored the lives of four great Jewish intellectuals – Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Gershom Scholem and the composer Arnold Schonberg, who dominated intellectual life in Germany in the first half of the last century.
And this is where open relationships came into his talk. It turned out that both Walter Benjamin, who tragically died escaping from the Nazis, and his wife Dora, lived through an “open” marriage with other lovers, as did Adorno and his wife Gretel. Adorno, a tireless womaniser, kept no secrets from his wife.
Once, under his dictation, his wife typed a passionate love letter to his latest flame because the “other woman” couldn’t read his terrible handwriting! I suppose it’s possible to get more open than that but I can’t imagine how.
A frightening ­polymath, Djerassi, a Jewish refugee from Vienna in the 1930s, is one of America’s most eminent chemists – he created the first contraceptive pill – as well as becoming a successful novelist and playwright.

All Souls Clubhouse marks its 50th

A Fitzrovia community centre that has helped turn around the lives of hundreds of youngsters and vulnerable pensioners is marking its 50th anniversary this weekend with some big celebrations.
All Souls Clubhouse in Cleveland Street was founded in 1958 by the Reverend Dr John Scott when he was looking for a sports hall to house the church football team.
All it took was a warden and the Clubhouse was born, running youth clubs, prayer groups and even a creche, and fast becoming a beloved Fitzrovia institution.
Highlights of the packed weekend programme include a football ­tournament in Regent’s Park, an entertainment evening on Saturday night and a number of services at All Souls Church in Langham Place.

Cartoons draw record visitors

DIARY hears that the exhibition of the former Daily Express cartoonist Osbert Lancaster is breaking visitor records.
So much for the old saying that newspaper cartoons are the most perishable of art forms. More than 25,000 people have visited the ­exhibition, Cartoons and Coronets, the Genius of Osbert Lancaster, at the Wallace Collection in six weeks.
But why this sudden interest in a man who lampooned the ­politicians of 1960s and 70s? Well it probably has something to do with his timeless sense of the topical.
As the recession bites, has it ever been more obvious that what goes around comes around? Cartoons poking fun at the 1970s US economic slump, the Munich Olympics and our spending prescription in the face of a financial crisis are all too ­familiar.
Osbert Lancaster produced around 100,000 cartoons in his 40 years with the Express – most famously his pictures of the socialite Maudie ­Littlehampton.
The exhibition ­celebrates the centenary of his birth and runs until January 11.

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