Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Like a tree trunk!"

A few years ago interviewed South African singer-pianist Renee Raff about her years of performing in London in the early 1960s while she was attending the Royal College of Music in that world capitol. One of the London spots she played was known as Hutch’s Casanova. Could that locale have been owned, I wondered, by the legendary British entertainer commonly known far-and wide as simply Hutch? In 1924 the 24-year-old Grenada-born singer-pianist had left for Europe, where he became a “pet” of the international set and various members of the Royal Family. Now long-forgotten, he became the highest paid performer in Britain and one of the biggest stars during the twenties and thirties in the UK (he died in 1969).

“By any chance,” I ask Ms. Raff, “was the Casanova operated by---I can only call him--- the legendary Leslie Hutchinson”?

“Yes, in fact it was.”

“He was something of an historic figure!,” I offer.

“A monument,” she says.

“A great artist,” I add.

“Absolutely!,” Raff emphatically agrees.

In case you are unfamiliar with the person we are talking about---a kind of Bobby Short avant la lettre---take a look at this clip from youtube, part of a somewhat larger collection of Hutch on that site. This is from an hour-long documentary that was shown on British TV a couple of years ago. Curiously, the narration makes no mention of the fact that in addition to bestowing his sexual favours on Lady Mountbatten, and also on Merle Oberon, Tallulah Bankhead and a multitude of other women, He also had affairs with LORD Mountbatten, Ivor Novello, Cole Porter and (reportedly, presumably, allegedly --- take your pick) Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. . .and many more. Good heavens, didn't he never sleep? And by that, I
mean. . .SLEEP. A Monument indeed!

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