Liberty has covered another few indoor acres with flowers and trellis and the acres are acres of tiles made by Fired Earth. Refreshingly pretty as might be expected, with fabrics to match exactly or very nearly. The _project was initiated by the late Blair Pride, co-ordinated by Susan Collier, Liberty’s design consultant, who with Sarah Campbell produced the designs. Here they are in situ.
‘The great thing about an Arab meal is its variety’
Thea Porter, painter and dress designer, whose shop in Soho and flat off Piccadilly are ports of call for the international set, writes about cooking Arab food.
I love my kitchen – from the neatly stacked Margaux (Brane Cantenac is a current favourite) to the painted Louis XIV cherubs smiling innocently from the shiny brown wall into the mirror shelves opposite, lined with Damascus spices and French herbs. Even late at night I enjoy boiling up an anti-hangover drink, and gazing at my cookery books before carrying one up to bed to plan some future meal.
But I also get inspiration in restaurants. Sitting in the ordered splendour of the Orangerie in the Ile Saint Louis (where the waiters all look like jeunes premiers among the flowers) I think of my kitchen, and wonder how to re-create the delicious sauces without bothering the chef. How do people con recipes out of restaurant owners ? I try to guess the ingredients, and then have to keep going back to make sure the proportions are right.
At the Orangerie they have enormous baskets of crudités – like cornucopias by Tiepolo – overflowing with mush-rooms, avocados, grapelike tomatoes and black radishes to go with smoked ham, and two different sauces. One, I think, is made with thin cream cheese (Gervita from Roche, 14 Old Compton Street, W1 will do) mixed with cream or yoghourt and chives. Their vinaigrette is also excellent – the herbs are so finely chopped it breaks my heart. This type of hors d’oeuvres is my favourite start to a meal. I quite often add tarama to go with the avocado, or a mixture of cream, finely chopped shallots and artificial caviar. Smoked salmon is an alternative : it rather depends on what one can find.
I never have time to shop in London, and usually send someone out with a list. This system breaks down when smoked trout instead of fresh trout is discovered sitting in the kitchen -but it is also fun to improvise at the last moment. I always have a supply of tins from Roche to fall back on, and a packet of paper-thin Greek pastry from the Hellenic Provision Stores to make burreks . These can be layered and stuffed with practically anything, then rolled into thin cigars and baked.
The best thing about raw vegetables, apart from their crisp texture with the melting sauces, is that they are so pretty. Nothing is so exquisite as plumed sliced fennel or cauliflower. (Edna O’Brien says she finds even sliced leeks that tendril round her fingers beautiful.) I pile them into a motley collection of Japanese bowls and plates and arrange them with bowls of flowers, although not as ambitiously as they do at Parkes, where roses nestle expensively by the melon. I think I must spend as much on flowers as on food. (If I’m cooking something really smelly, I find even lilies aren’t enough, so I light one of those Rigaud candles on the stairs.)
But if you have crudites for starters, and have to peel mushrooms and clip radishes, there is very little time left for preparing the main course. So it has to be something easy like sirloin, very rare with horseradish, served with tinned flageolets from Roche – either heated up with cream, or cooked the way Arabs cook broad beans, with fried onion and pounded coriander – delicious.
Arab food is ideal for the hard-pressed woman, torn between trying to call New York and attend to her guests, as it is always better the next day. I’m very fond of a Lebanese Lenten dish: spinach leaves stuffed and slowly cooked in oil and water. This is a delicate dish and should melt in the mouth if cooked long enough. Another Lenten dish is artichoke hearts fried in oil with onions and then simmered in water and lemon. Lebanese food has a lot in common with Provençal cooking, which means that I can start with an aioli with cod, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and salsify, and then go on to sfeeha – a kind of Arab pizza, spread with mincemeat and pome-granate seeds, and served with thick yoghourt and a sharp lemony salad of green tomatoes and cos lettuce. As a child I used to watch black-visored Muslim women on a Friday clustered round a waterfall, greedily stripping and eating cos lettuces the way people here eat chocolates at the theatre.
The great thing about an Arab meal is that there is always a large variety of things to eat – often all plonked on the table at the same time. So you can choose a spoonful of this and a taste of that – excellent when you want to talk and drink in a leisurely way, and easier than coping with a large plateful of the one thing you perhaps can’t stomach. It certainly takes quite a lot longer to prepare ten or fifteen small dishes, but to my mind it makes for a more exciting meal.
I try not to give food that I myself adore (like brandade de morue) to guests who may not happen to enjoy that very earthy taste, unless there’s another choice. Brandade de morue is rather a soothing thing to cook with the music programme full on : you slowly heat oil in one saucepan, and milk in another, then beat minute quantities of each in turn into the desalted and poached salt cod. Some people add mashed potato for instant smoothness.
As I’m extremely greedy, I find cooking soothing and enjoyable after working and thinking all day, and I enjoy every stage – breaking eggs and beating them into a smooth hollandaise to go with a pearly bass cooked with tarragon in champagne dregs, or chopping up cuttlefish and stewing it a la libanaise in its beautiful sepia ink to make a thick, wicked-looking sauce with an intoxicating smell.
French cooking is undeniably far more subtle than anything oriental can ever be, but you do need time the same day. I find the sauce cracks when I try and heat up a poulet en demi deuil , while Circassian chicken is just as good heated up.
These are two extremes of taste, and it’s difficult to find a wine that will stand up to highly flavoured food, but that still goes well with a subtle flavour. I do my wine tasting at the Jardin des Gourmets when I eat there, and can then usually find the same wines at a cut-price wine store, Milroy’s in Greek Street.
There are so many exciting things to eat, it’s difficult to choose – though it’s easier to prepare something you like enormously than to experiment. I sometimes regret not living in France because the matieres premigres are so good there: the first white truffles to make into a salad or to roast on skewers ; fresh, white, shelled and skinned walnuts soaked in salt water ; the endless herbs that are always around and that you do not have to hunt for. Alas, the herbs in my window boxes wither and die regularly, but I shall doubtless go on re-stocking them hopefully until I wither and die too.
One in my now very, very sporadic ‘Mensday’ series. This one doubles up as an interiors post as well, with Mr Freedom-influenced stars and stripes bedding (it might take you a while to focus properly).
Scanned from The Telegraph Magazine, March 17th 1972.
They say you can’t miss what you’ve never had, but you can. And, you can be very misguided about it. Take the time when you’re on that twilight trudge home from work and you pause, for a fraction of a second, in front of a lighted window to envy a couple immersed in conversation. It’s a moment of exquisite, self-indulgent, single-girl melancholy. A very wise person once said: “Be careful of what you want in life. You may get it.” Living in tandem comes to most of us in the end — but spend the intervening time merely waiting for this state and you’ll miss out on a period of absolutely justifiable, selfish please-yourself that is the unique bonus for being single, when you can choose, unfettered by any taste other than your own. You can paint the bathroom puce or lettuce green and have only your own hangover to tell you you’ve boobed. You can work out your own furnishing priorities — like a good, thick carpet to sit/lie on and some decent sound equipment — and cut down your food consumption drastically for a few weeks, or months, to achieve them. You can use the time you might have spent cooking doing something sensational to jumble sale jetsam. You can be poor in style, because time and energy can make a pretty good substitute for money. None of the single women on these pages has money. What they do share is a strong, single-minded sense of their own individuality .. . It’s something they take for granted, but it shows in their lives and in their homes.
Wonderful to get an insight into the home of the slightly mysterious Rae Spencer Cullen, and what a home! Then again, magpie that I am, I would happily live in any of these beautiful pads.
Interviews by Penny Ragord.
Photographed by Tim Street-Porter.
Scanned from Over 21 Magazine, October 1976.
Rae Mouse should be prescribed in small doses to anyone with single-woman blues. Small doses because what she gives out is strong stuff, and it’s not sympathy. “People make far too much fuss about their own per-sonal aggravations,” she says. “And they expect someone else to come along and rescue them. But no man, woman or child can do that, and the sooner they realise this, the sooner they’ll be able to get on with life and stop letting their hang-ups get in the way of having a good time.” This would be hard to take from someone who’d had it easy. Rae hasn’t. She is ‘Miss Mouse’, a fashion designer who, with one colleague, started her own design/ manufacture business from one room in 1970. For four years they managed to keep going, making everything themselves in the early days, and the ‘Miss Mouse’ label became very well known. Then came the slump, the bank manager lost his nerve and the business folded. But Rae didn’t give up. She got herself, and her name, bought up by a big manufacturer and carried on, in a posi-tion of considerably greater security and with her design free-dom very little diminished. But it’s still hard work. When we met, she’d been up since five for the umpteenth morning, working against a deadline to get 60 prototype designs completed. She works from her own home in Putney, just south of the Thames, in an amazing room that is sombre, rich and fantastical. It’s furnished with plum velvet sofa and chairs, dominated by a vast black tulip sculpture by Andrew Logan and crammed with religious statuary and knick-knacks, including an old harmonium hung with macabre, artificial arum lilies. “It’s not that I’m particularly religious,” she explains, “they’re simply beautiful in themselves as objects.” Her taste is obviously and totally individual — “although I’m very influenced by my friends, especially the creative ones. But,” she adds, “I’ve never found that having pretty strong ideas about what one likes causes any conflict. In fact, people rather like it. They know just where they are.”
“People who only see me at parties think I do nothing,” says Luciana Martinez della Rosa. This, in a roundabout way, is because she’s an extremist. Predominantly a painter (so far she’s exhibited in mixed shows in New York and Rotterdam), she also makes extraordinary and beauti-ful bead wigs on commission. And the reason people think she’s a very decorative do-nothing is because she buries herself at home, working for days and sometimes weeks on end, and then explodes into the much needed relief of a short, sharp, burst of social life. Her finances tend to be extremist too: long periods of scraping by on an over-draft until she suddenly sells a painting, pays back the bank and the rent — and spends the rest. It’s a very deliberately chosen way of life, and in some ways it’s a lot tougher than a stultifying but secure, nine-to-five job. “I could do things that would earn me a lot more money,” she says, “but then I wouldn’t have time for the most important thing, which is my work. Even a part-time job would break up my day and my concentration.” For the same reasons, anyone with whom she becomes involved, on an emotional level, must be as independent as she is herself. So she shares a house with another painter, Kevin Whitney. And she points out that being single and living alone are two separate concepts: it’s obviously good to have a friend around to sympathise with successes and disasters. But her part of the house has her own character and taste written large and uncom-promisingly across it. “People who work away from home, and then probably go out quite a lot in the evenings, seem to need less personal surroundings. But I spend a lot of time here, so it has to be very me.” Her bedroom says it all: scarlet, and over-flowing with Art Nouveau pieces, old fabrics and furs. She’s been a jumble sale addict since she was 12, and they’re still the major source of her wardrobe. “But they never look like old clothes,” she says. “Because of what I do to them. If I could, I’d have every-thing, clothes and furniture, made specially for me.” It was as a child that she started buying up all the Victoriana that no one else wanted. “My mother thought I was mad.” Not so mad now, because, although she swears that nothing in the room was expensive when she bought it (“Except the bed. That cost £40”), its contents would make a market stallholder weep with avarice. “I suppose some people might find it all a bit overpowering,” she says. “Especially a guy. Not too good for his ego. But I think you tend to gravitate towards people who like the same sort of things as you do. And anyway, I get a lot of pleasure from seeing other people’s places. I hope that it works both ways.”
Prudence Walters is Welsh, an only child with a convent up-bringing. At 18, she left home for art college in London, and she hasn’t really looked back since. In her time, she’s been a magazine fashion editor. Currently, she works as a stylist, freelancing for photographers who need the right look for a session. It’s hard work, and quite well paid — if and when people get round to paying. The big advantage is the free-dom, finance permitting, to organise your own working life: deciding to work every day for four months and then take two months off. Prudence lives in a basement flat, complete with cocktail bar, that is uncomprisingly set in the 1950s, a style that she genuinely loves. She obviously treasures her independence, seems to know exactly what she wants in life and to be very contented with what she’s got. This doesn’t preclude men, but they have to accept that her way of life is as important as their own. “I’m a bit ruthless,” she admits. “I have lived with people and I do like it. But I tend to get bored with people quickly and I don’t really like getting to know anyone too well.” The bit that gives her the real horrors is the extra housework that dual domesticity inevitably brings with it. “I probably wouldn’t mind doing it all if there were compensations, such as someone else keeping me in the standard of living I’ve been able to achieve for myself.” But since she can, if she chooses, earn as much as most of the men she meets, or more, the idea of being breadwinner, cook and bottle-washer doesn’t appeal to Prudence Walters at all.
Ursula Yeardye has been through two marriages and out the other side. At the moment, she’s very much biased towards the single life. “Somewhere,” she says, “there may be a man who doesn’t simply want to be looked after, and it would be nice to find one, but both my husbands merely wanted mothers. I tried to fulfil that role, modelling myself on my own mother. But it’s no good to either of you if you become a martyr. I’ve always needed my independence and there simply wasn’t enough of it. I had to get my conditioning about marriage through my system and then get out before I got too damaged and lost sight of my own potential.” Before her first marriage, she studied mime with Marcel Marceau in Paris and toured the States for two years with the company. Now she’s running a small commercial firm in London, but she’s started retraining as a keep-fit leader, studying modern movement and yoga, with the aim of teaching some time in the future. She knows the disadvantages of single life: “I like going to places by myself, but people still look at you strangely if you’re on your own in a restaurant or a cinema. They either steer clear of you or approach you, and both for the wrong reasons. The social structure is still against you. You’re swimming against the stream!” But the advantages are there too: “You have complete freedom. You go home, sit down and think, ‘What do I want to do next?’ And if you don’t want to go home, you don’t have to. There’s no one sitting in front of the ‘fridge, waiting for you to cook them a meal.” Since she’s been single, she cooks far less —except for entertaining, “and that’s cooking for fun, it’s really great”. She lives mostly on fruit and vegetables, and the money she used to spend on what she calls `man’s food’, she spends mostly on her home, which has become something of a symbol of independence. After rent, her salary leaves her enough to do a little more each week. She paints, sews, upholsters, renovates, and what she’s done to the top two floors of a rather dilapidated terraced building is quite remarkable. “It took me a long time,” she says, “to learn that it’s no good living for the past, or the future —always hoping that it’s going to get better. You must live for the present, and enjoy it as much as you can.”
I couldn’t help but share these amazing images of Joan Collins, in what is definitely the best era of her style. Interview text is underneath the images.
Photographer is uncredited.
Scanned from Photoplay, July 1972.
JOAN COLLINS AND HER SECRET WEDDING
Joan Collins is now Mrs. Ron Kass. The American music producer became Joan’s third husband in a wedding, kept secret by the couple, which took place in Ocho Rios in Jamaica some weeks ago.
Why such a quiet wedding?
“We didn’t want a lot of people mak-ing a fuss, so no one was there except for the hotel staff,” explained Joan. “We all drank champagne and afterwards they all left. It was marvellous. Then we went walking on the beach.”
Joan however, did make one telephone call to announce the marriage. She rang her daughter Tara and son Sacha in London.
“I talked to Tara and she said she was very happy,” said Joan. “Sacha was watching television, but Tara said she would tell him. It’s terribly difficult talking to children long-distance on the telephone.”
The children’s father is Anthony Newley, Joan’s former husband. Her first husband was Maxwell Reed, whom she divorced back in the Fifties.
Ron Kass has been a close friend of hers for over two years. Joan admitted that she and Ron had been planning to marry for a long time. “But there were complications,” she added. “He had to wait for his divorce. And we were in no hurry.” Ron Kass has three sons by his first wife. They live with their mother.
It seems hard to believe that Joan started making movies twenty years ago. She made her debut in I Believe In You back in 1952.
Shortly after her marriage to Ron Kass, she was in New York helping to publicise one of her latest movies, Tales From The Crypt, her first horror movie. In one of the film’s five episodes, narrated by Sir Ralph Richardson, she plays a woman who has just murdered her husband in their own home and while she’s disposing of the body, a homicidal man-iac comes rapping at the window.
“It seems dreadful to say I’ve done a ‘horror’ film. It sounds like one of those things where one woman sinks her teeth into another’s breast. But it isn’t like that at all,” she told writer David Dugas. “It is frightening, though. I saw a bit of it and it scared the hell out of me.”
In the past two years, Joan has worked busily on several movie projects which have included Revenge, Quest For Love, Fear In The Night and Tales From The Crypt.
“I’ve worked a lot lately, but I’m going to take it easy for a while,” she smiled. “I’d just like to be a wife for a bit.”
She lives in a splendid house in Highgate, near London which she has decorated. She and Ron have also furnished a holiday house at Marbella on Spain’s south coast. She has sold her house in Hollywood.
“I lived in Hollywood for quite a while and the worst part was that it was so far away from everywhere else I wanted to go — Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany, wherever. I do love to travel, especially in Europe. I love get-ting on a plane and being in a different culture an hour or two later. I don’t feel especially British. More European. Of course it will all be the same soon.”
Joan is also a compulsive shopper. “I love to buy things — antiques and such. I’m always buying things when I travel.” She is also an excellent designer. The white fringed caftan she wore, an unusual print of white blurred into mauve, was designed by her. “I can’t sew, but I love designing my own clothes. I designed this and had it made,” she said. “I almost became a designer once before I decided on acting.”
Just because we spend around one-third of our lives asleep there’s no reason to design a bedroom principally for this purpose — after all, you can’t see, feel or appreciate your decorating skill while you’re dead to the world. I under-stand people do still use their bedrooms to love in — all the propaganda promoting white sand beaches, railway carriages or kitchen tables as suitable venues can’t entirely finish the bedroom as an erotic play area; at times it’s too cold for the beach, the trains are on strike and the kitchen table is littered with Meccano.
So this is a room to love in —whether you care to sleep in it as well is your own affair. The alternative methods of post-coital entertainment are well catered for — the stereo and tape deck are built in, as is a projector for blue movies or slide-shows. Food and drink can be stored within handy grabbing distance of the orgy-size velvet-upholstered bed which incorporates the practical features of an oriental divan — ie it’s low, large, firm and on two levels.
Lighting is from below — two ordinary recessed ceiling lights are recessed into the floor instead to give a flattering and romantic effect. How you’re supposed to read those book-cases full of erotic literature in the resulting gloom is not explained but perhaps that’s what the candles are for. If you ever need pure daylight the window is hidden behind that black-and-white chevroned blind. I can only think of two changes I personally would make to this perfect love environment — and they would be a lock on the door and the absence of the telephone.
Michael Szell is the Hungarian fabric designer who is introducing Iran to London via a new collection of designs, taken up by Thea Porter for her romantic and ravishing evening dresses. His own bedroom, opposite, is in rich emerald, turquoise and brown arabesqued linen, cool and grand by day but rich and warm by electric light, with 18th-century Eng-lish paintings and mirrors. His drawing-room, below, is turquoise with brilliant Persian prayer mats colouring the walls, 18th-century English botanical china, and a mixed forest of hyacinth and growing orchids, later bluebells and orchids. Iran runs through Michael Szell’s life like a thread. He began to visit friends and connections there while he was still a child, used every possible holiday to get there while he studied economics at Aberystwyth University, and later when he worked with Sir Nicholas Sekers. His love for Persian ceramics, buildings and woven carpets developed into a passion for early Islamic art in its formal, random, asymmetric period before it came to represent life in the 19th-century : a passion culminating in his opening his own furnishing fabric showrooms at 47 Sloane Avenue. He began selling silk signature scarves to Henri Bendel of New York in 1969 and has just produced his new Persian collection of fabrics. Thea Porter asked him to print his designs onto silk chiffon for her and made them in flowing evening dresses with yards of floating sleeve and skirt.
For the coronation of the Shahanshah and the Empress of Iran, Michael Szell designed curtains, chair-fabrics and an entire state banquet for the Golestan Palace. He has been asked again to help with the decorations for the great October celebrations—the twenty-fifth centenary of the founding of the Persian Empire. He will contribute designs for the interiors of houses and for some of the 500 tents that are planned, with their own marble bathrooms, for the royal and distinguished guests who will take part in the celebrations at Persepolis, the ruined city and ancient capital.
Mr Szell has also been asked to provide the fabrics for all the palace sets in the new Universal film Mary, Queen of Scots, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth. He has an unrealised ambition to produce an absolutely modern collection of very cheap fabrics “from chair covers to plastic shower curtains”.