Friday 18 May 2012

"Denisa, Lady Newborough, who has died aged 79, was many things: wire-walker, nightclub girl, nude dancer, air pilot."

I have lived in Romania since 1998 and an Englishman told me several years ago 'there are no characters any more in England. In the old days every pub had its character, but that's all gone.' Is this because of PC and New Labour or Thatcherism and careerism? 

Lady Newborough was a character of the old school and probably also a femme fatale. Romania does not have nearly as many characters as England used to have but it has a very strong line in femmes fatales. Her obituary in the Daily Telegraph began:
"Denisa, Lady Newborough, who has died aged 79, was many things: wire-walker, nightclub girl, nude dancer, air pilot. She said that she only refused to be two things - a whore and a spy - 'and there were attempts to make me both'.

 She spoke 14 languages and designed a hat covered in half-smoking cigarettes.
 Her admirers included the Kings of Spain and Bulgaria, Adolf Hitler…Benito Mussolini…and Sheikh ben Ghana, who gave her 500 sheep. By conventional standards, her morality matched her flaming red hair but she remained as proud of one as the other."

That's all I can find on the net. My yellow cutting of the original is in some box in England and even when included in a book of Telegraph obituaries it was condensed. It gets better after that though....

Lord 'Tommy' Newborough began proceedings to dissolve the marriage less than twenty-four hours after it took place, which it did the morning after a night spent playing cards at Monte Carlo.

I remember word for word:
".....she published her memoirs, the character of which can be gleaned from such chapter headings as 'Down and Out in Sofia' and 'Elegant Sin in Bucharest' "
I did not know when I pinned this obituary to my otherwise empty noticeboard in my civil service office in Queen Anne's Gate and watched it slowly turn yellow that my destiny would lie in Bucharest, which in those days sounded the most obscure and exotic possible location.

The obituary ended, sublimely: 

Lady Newborough is survived by a daughter, June, who is married to a dentist and lives in Brentwood.

By an accident that was I realise now predestined I got interviewed by the Daily Telegraph in 1989 and I met the legendary Hugh Montgomery-Massingbird, the Daily Telegraph obituaries editor who revolutionised and subverted the genre.  I complimented him on the obituary but he disclaimed the credit and introduced me to the author whom he called 'the man Jones. and I solemnly shook hands with the genius. 

I met several people who worked on my childhood favourite the Peterborough column who are now famous including Damien Thompson whom these days I always read and agree with and Quentin Letts. Thompson asked me what religion I was. 'Papist', I said, though alas in those days I did not practise, and he replied. 'Good. We are all Papist here and we want to keep it that way.' I ought certainly to have made my career there but I resisted my destiny as I have done before and since and am doing now.

1 comment:

  1. Can anybody remember who said 'the social position of a dentist is uncertain, but is definitely lower than that of a doctor?'