Chapter Twelve: Deodar Road, Putney.
|Part of the legacy Ted left
was a set of about fifty tape recordings. On one of them, from 1986, he is talking
with a group of friends that includes his daughter, Julie, and his friend, Stanley
Mann. In the background are heard the words "political, sociological discussion..."
The story being told is about Ted working with John Berry on Secret of the World.
In the foreground Ted clarifies: "We were discussing this particular scene
- he, Sam, is a trade union leader - we were discussing..." Stanley continues,
"These two fellows, who are workmen, Cockneys, whatever they are, they were
listening. So, after a day or so they start to question..." |
The two Cockney workmen were painting Ted's Putney apartment. They were working in the living room which functioned as a study and as John Berry's bedroom during his stay. In the conversation on the tape Ted and Stanley are constantly interrupting each other. Now it's Ted's turn. "No," says Ted. "They started saying, "No union leader would talk like that," We said, "What?" Anyway, to make a long story short, they began to get in on the play, and we began to make notes, and we wrote, we wrote the whole scene based on what these guys were telling us."
Stanley. "They were painting and they would saying, "That's not how it would work." And John and Ted were totally insane at this time. Totally insane. Nice, but totally mad. I would listen to them, and make notes..."
One of the other listeners, Julie perhaps, asks "What?" and says "That sounds right," and Stanley continues, "And I'm watching them. First of all, I'm a compulsive cleaner."
Ted asked obtusely, "That includes (when we were) living together?" There was talk in the background and hoops of laughter. "The artist," says someone, as Stanley continues, "I'm a compulsive cleaner and Ted's a slob. John Berry is a worse slob... Oh, much worse. So they are... Ted is cooking and John is cooking. I wasn't cooking back then, but then I would serve, you see, and they would eat and everything on the floor."
"Not everything," Ted interjected.
"Not everything. They're eating and the floors are covered in papers, notes, and the house, the flat is becoming like a garbage dump. And I'm washing... I'm washing, cleaning up, trying to write too in that little room in which I used to stay, and these guys are doing this "Secret of the World", and it was hysterical because the painters were there; they're involved. I'm cleaning. These two guys are totally insane. They're arguing about... how it should be done, who should play in it... should they let Joan Littlewood see the rehearsals..."
And Ted continued, "You've forgotten, I don't know if you were there, but I used to give John injections of... monkey gland. So he'd take his pants down and he'd bend over the sink and I would give him an injection. One day we hired," Ted starts to laugh and repeats, "we hired," over the interruptions, "we hired this new English secretary, and she was typing, and as she went to the bathroom she had to pass the kitchen while I was doing this. When I came back she was sitting there and she had her coat on. I said, "What? Where are you going?" "I did not realise that you had this problem, Mr Allan, and I don't wish to be here anymore." I said, "What, what are you talking about?" And she said, "I saw you inject him.""
Ted laughed. "I said, "Please sit here. Please sit here. He never gets violent. You have nothing to worry about." I go back. I forget what I was doing, and "And listen, she thinks I've been giving you heroin or something." "Great" And anyway, she went back. She started typing. He comes in and says, "I've, I've gotta get a shot. Gotta get it now," and he starts to do a terrible... so we lost a secretary."
Stanley stuttered. "...Funny... these two guys were totally mad. I mean I think..."
"We weren't totally mad."
"Well, pretty close."
"Why was he injecting monkey gland, or whatever," asked a younger male voice (probably Julie's colleague, Peter).
"Jack keeps i..." Ted started. "You know, Jack is my age. He looks forty."
"He doesn't look forty," said Julie.
"Oh, forty two," said Ted, and from a muffle of contending voices Stanley asserted, "John Berry looks like you... and he's nearing eighty, and he's strong as a horse... He's an impossible man. Well, when you put him with what's his name, it became this, because neither would ever accept what the other was saying, never, because you both knew everything. He knew, you knew, or..."
"Oh, I really knew," said Ted.
And the tape devolved into a gaggle of voices and giggles...
After the year at Sandy Road on Hampstead Heath and a few months renting in Kensington,
Ted bought an apartment comprising the top floor of a three-story house at 69
Deodar Rd. on the Thames. Branson O'Casey, a friend of Tana Sayers, converted
the dwellings - (Sean O'Casey's wife, remarked Ted. "Nonsense," said
Kate. That's just like him!"...
Ted bought an apartment on the third
floor. It had a large room facing the north with a high ceiling and a studio window
overlooked the back garden and the River Thames. Fulham is north across the river
here with dark brick low-rise (six story?) apartments. A little to the west to
the left in our prospect, is the Railway bridge (for the "Underground")
with a footpath leading to the north side to Putney Bridge Station. (The Underground
is overground in the suburbs.)
Ted's apartment in Putney was much loved both by Ted and by his friends. Ted spoke several times about how all his friends came to stay with him when they the were breaking up with their spouses - it was a halfway house. And here Ted would begin one of his lists starting with Stanley Mann and including, of note, Sean Connery, Rod Stieger, Edna O'Brien... Other long-term visitors (not necessarily breaking up with their spouses) included, Jack Berry, and memorably Zero Mostel, and Sadie, but that's a story, a drama in itself.
Mostel, the actor, is best known for his role on Broadway in "A Funny Thing
Happened on the Way to the Forum" and for film roles such as in "The
Producers" and "Rhinoceros". Zero stayed with Ted whenever he was
in London. They were close. The first time would be when he came over to London
to play "Bloom in Nighttown".
Now for reasons that have
nothing to do with him, I developed mononucleosis. Have you ever had mono? It
is unbelievable. You're lying there. You have no strength. You're weak, wretched.
I quote from "My Sister's Keeper" (1):
London flat of Robert Walker, a Canadian university lecturer. The place is tastefully,
if Spartanly, furnished. A large studio window overlooks the Thames from where
we occasionally hear tugs and gulls. The sun floods the room with dazzling light.
(But Ted's prospect was North. When
the sky was bright, through the studio window, the room was bright.)
later, some way into the play
ROBERT (Ted): Susan Cooper. I didn't write you about her because I never know how long these things are going to last. But Sue and I have been seeing each other for almost a year now. I hadn't expected her back from Africa for another few weeks. She's an anthropologist.
SARAH: When do I get to meet her?
ROBERT: She just got back or I'd have suggested tonight. Tomorrow? You'll like her. She's funny.
SARAH: We're all funny.
SARAH: I said we were all funny.
ROBERT: I meant witty. She's very witty.
ROBERT: I'd better go.
SARAH: You've come over me.
SARAH: I'm being witty and you're not noticing.
ROBERT: Hilarious. Are you all right?
SARAH: I am not all right! I was all right. But I am no longer all right. That seems obvious. Any further questions? First night you're back and you're having dinner with Susan! Thank you!
SARAH: She approaches
one of the vases containing the flowers
ROBERT: There must be some way I can help you. There must be some way - without us living together.
To assuage your guilt, or because you love me? You didn't even notice them.
ROBERT: Are you hungry?
SARAH: No. I want to go to sleep now. Is it all right?
ROBERT: If you're sleepy.
SARAH: I'm very tired. Tell Susan I'm sorry. She starts to move across the room and stops. She touches his head. Do you mind if I touch your head?
SARAH: Mother touched you quite a bit, didn't she? ... Didn't she?
No more than any mother touches, caresses her son.
ROBERT: She liked
to hug me, yes.
ROBERT: Yes, I suppose so. It was harmless.
SARAH: Was it?
ROBERT: What harm did it do?
SARAH: Did you ever want to have sex with mother?
ROBERT: Oh come on. You've been reading too many text books! We all know the myth about sons wanting their mothers.
SARAH: You and Mrs. Annie. She dug you and you
dug her. While he made us feel sex was dirty. He made us feel guilty about every
nice sexy feeling we had. So you felt guilty about your feelings towards her,
and then you transferred those feelings to me. That felt safer: you thought. And
then that petrified you.
SARAH: I know how we can help each other. We should we make love.
ROBERT: Do you really want that?
ROBERT: Please... go away...
I feel sick. He is nauseated. She is concerned and watches him, looking completely
rational now. You should examine that fantasy you have - of wanting to sleep
ROBERT: Put your clothes on.
SARAH: You can't make it. You'll never make it.
If that's making it, not making it is just fine.
ROBERT: I'm going down for some milk. I'll be right back.
SARAH: Have to keep running, eh?
ROBERT: We need some milk.
SARAH: Go down once and buy bread. Come back. Go down again and buy eggs. Come back. Go down and buy milk. Come back. Good exercise.
ROBERT: Or phone. Everybody, any body. Keep phoning. Yes!
SARAH: In the mood for some truth? She removes the wig that she is wearing and waits. Would you please tell me the truth about something? He waits. Did you ever want to make love to me, ever?
ROBERT: I suppose I did. Yes.
SARAH: Is it possible your wanting me made me want you?
ROBERT: It is possible, I suppose. But I didn't think I ever showed it. I was ashamed. I hid it.
SARAH: You didn't hide it! I knew!
ROBERT: And that's why you want to make love to me?
SARAH: I'm not sure of that. No. I'm not sure of that. I loved you all my life. I grew up loving you - and when I was sixteen I wanted to go to bed with you... and nobody else. And every other man was you from then on.
I thought of it. Maybe every brother and sister has that fantasy. It's one thing
to have the fantasy, another to do it.
ROBERT: We're trying to.
SARAH: Never! I knew! I know every time you want me! And you want me
SARAH: You do and you're afraid.
ROBERT: It isn't true!
SARAH: Then why are you shouting? Tell me something else. She waits. Would you have been happy had I become successful?
ROBERT: What's that supposed to mean?
SARAH: Didn't it always give you a secret pleasure that you were the one who was well and successful and I was the one who was sick a failure - that it was me, not you?
SARAH: And haven't you often put me down, even when
I was well? In a crowd, at a party, when you thought I was getting too much attention,
that I was being very witty - taking the limelight away from you?
ROBERT: No, it is true.
SARAH: And whenever I was well - and it looked as if I'd paint well and make a successful career, you always, somehow, someway, said something which destroyed me?
Yes. I wasn't consciously doing that, but yes, I can see that now. It's true.
SARAH: Because I didn't feel I could.
If I felt I could I probably would have tried.
SARAH: It isn't true. I've been happy for you, but eaten with envy - and hating you. My God! She cries. Forgive me.
Robert returns with the milk. I've come to a decision. I didn't give you
the month you asked for. My guilt's still... I can't get that night out of my
mind. All the way to the hospital, you were so sleepy from the knockout drops,
but you kept waking up, telling me how good it was to be with me, you felt so
safe. I held you, singing you lullabies. God! Then they took you away screaming.
SARAH: There was more. Face it! Finally face it!
ROBERT: Yes, all right! Yes. I was in love with you. Yes. And it terrified me. I felt... dirty.
SARAH: You felt all women were dirty. Mother. Sister. Women.
SARAH: And you stopped yourself from loving me.
ROBERT: Yes. Yes. It's true. And there was another reason I felt guilty. He pauses. She waits. I thought you became sick because of the way I felt about you.
SARAH: So now it's all out. I hope you feel better for it.
ROBERT with a stifled laugh: Better? No. There is only one way to stop feeling guilty. That's the decision I came to. It isn't a matter of thirty days. I must give myself to you completely. Do what I was incapable of before. We should sleep together. It's the only way I can get rid of my guilt. You're right. We should do it now. It's the only way we can both be cured. Sarah moves towards her suitcase and starts putting her clothes in. What are you doing?
If you think that that's sane, I want to be with the nuts.
SARAH: Make love to me so you can get rid of your guilt? Make
love to me so you can prove what a man you are! You don't want to make love. You
don't even want to fuck! You want to fuck me over! It is not because I'm your
sister that you couldn't love me. Agnes was your wife. Were you any different
with her? And all the girl friends? Didn't you always run the minute they needed
you or the minute you started to feel anything? You can't make love. You
can make the right sounds but you're afraid. You're terrified of feeling and that
makes you the cruellest man I know.
ROBERT: I do try.
ROBERT: I don't know. I hope so.
SARAH: Hurrah! The so called sane are listening. There's hope.
ROBERT: Wait. I'll take you to the hospital.
SARAH: No. I have to learn to do things on my own. Goodbye. And Robert, get your shit together! (3) She leaves.
Robert sits there... stunned, thinking...
Ted and Sadie: who tried to sleep with who? and when? Can I remember what Ted said as he ruminated chasing the truth? the psychological truth, the dramatic truth. Sadie had tried to seduce Ted and he had responded negatively and awkwardly. But that didn't satisfy him. The play required a deeper search.
(first written in long hand)
Beginnings are best
first years in the flat, the early sixties, was an era of many women, but few
for very long and few of note. Ted was still in psychotherapy with Claire Russell,
and Claire and Bill Russell had indeed become "friends". I recall calling
in on Ted on several occasions when the Russells were visiting. The feeling of
those encounters was "urbane", but more academic then "civilized".
It was in this era that Jerry Raffles
asked Ted to work on what would become "Oh What a Lovely War". Jerry
Raffles was Joan Littlewood's mate and he was the manager of the East Stratford
Theatre. Joan Littlewood at this time had "retired" from the theatre
and was living in Paris trying to make movies. Jerry Raffles and Charles Chiltern
(who worked with music in radio) had the idea to produce a musical around first
World War songs - "It's A Long Way To Tipperary" and other tunes that
everyone knew. Jerry Raffles commissioned Ted to write the musical's libretto.
I was there when Ted read his first draft of "Oh What a Lovely War"
at Jerry and Joan's house in Black Heath in south east London - Raffles, Chiltern,
Joan Littlewood, Ted and I were there, Joan back for a few days from her Paris
life. There was a palpable excitement in the room as Ted read. Already on this
initial hearing Joan Littlewood wondered what-if-maybe she might come out of "retirement"
to direct the piece.
Ted was in New York, Georgia Brown introduced him to her Reichian therapist, a
Dr. Rothenberg, and to her friend (and fellow patient) Martie. Martie was a feisty
New York "Moll". She had been married to, and divorced from, Marco Sacco
and was mother and guardian of Sacco's four year old daughter, Harmony.
(From a tape cassette labelled Nov. 7th. '93) "Next story. Florence
reminding me about the raising of the floor. When I brought Martie to London and
Martie came in to my marvellous front room that overlooked the river, she could
not see the river from half way across the room. She felt that was terrible and
she said that the way to solve this problem was simple, you raise the floor a
foot and then you'd be able to see the river from any position on the floor. I
said that's going to cost a fortune. She said "Ah, it's not going to cost
very much." She said, "I'll get it done, don't worry about it."
I said, "That's ridiculous - why don't you raise the river?"
the floor was raised a little more than a foot you entered the room into a small
stairwell and then there were two steps to the raised floor and indeed you could
see the river from anywhere in the room. As you entered the room to the left of
the door (and the new little stairwell) there was a bed, functioning as a sofa,
running lengthways away from you against the south wall. In my memory its a double
bed with bolsters, and it was covered in a white and green "casa pupo"
rug which lent a coolness and a brightness to the whole room. Over by the window,
the north wall, Ted had his desk to the right of the windows against the east
wall, so that working he could turn his head to the left to watch the river flow.