Dinner with Khrushchev


“Khrushchev said that he had read somewhere that I had been offered a Franco-Russian coproduction deal to play Madame Bovary. I answered that a few months earlier I had been made an offer of this kind, which I had politely turned down. In my opinion, the only valid reason for coproductions is to tell stories dealing with characters of different nationalities. In this case, I couldn’t be an Emma Bovary married to a Russian Dr. Bovary. Everything had to be French– even the cows, I added archly, which produced howls of laughter in my audience, with the exception of my husband, who smiled politely. He was well acquainted with my number on coproductions. Mr. Culture raised his head, took a deep breath, and sighed, ‘Ah, Bovary.… Balzac!’

I looked at Nadia. She was crimson.  But her eyes were begging, ‘Please say nothing, please, please say nothing.’ I think she was more frightened at that moment then she had been while she was translating the far more dangerous  exchanges a few minutes before. Nadia, who knew pages and pages of Stendahl by heart, as well as Victor Hugo and, what’s more to the point, Balzac, and especially Flaubert; Nadia was a knowledgeable nuisance. The only person who seemed to react, strangely enough, was Molotov. He gazed for a long moment at his minister of culture, and then, for the first time, he really looked at me…

It was late. Only the sweets were left on the table. I have no memory of what was served between the borscht and the sugared cherries and cinnamon marzipan at the end. Khrushchev rose to propose a toast. It was a toast to the divergencies between our points of view–which would certainly dwindle and vanish– and also to the pleasures it had given him to confront those divergencies of points of view elsewhere than in conference halls or through official emissaries. We were cheloveks, and he thanked us. He was as warm as Jean Renoir, as malicious as Popov the clown.”

Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used to Be, Simone Signoret, Penguin Books, 1978

“I was there on D-Day” Eddie Izzard on Question Time

Screenshot (1662)Multi-hyphenate entertainer Eddie Izzard appeared on the June 9th episode of Question Time to discuss the EU referendum, alongside the MPs Hilary Benn, Chris Grayling, the Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, and UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Izzard argued in defense of Britain staying a member of the European Union.

“If we pull out we become Norway. Norway still has to have the free movement of people in. So are we going to become Norway or are we going to become Albania, the problem is, if we become Albania the parameters of Albania, wants to join the EU. Are we going to become Canada?”

“No country has ever done this before– this is not the American model. Two and a half thousand years of murder from Alexander the Great to World War Two. Then, we said, let’s not do it again. And it’s not scaremongering because World War One was not called World War One it was called the Great War, the war to end all wars, and then there was another one, so that’s why we set up the European Union in the first place.
Whatever the name it was, we’re reaching out like this (gestures out ) and not like this (gestures in) I feel the Brexiters are all doing this (gestures in) and I’m doing this (extends arms). That’s why I’m running marathons, that’s why I’m transgender, I came out thirty-one years ago. I’m trying to be brave. I’m touring France in French, I’m touring Germany in German. These are positive things. I was there on D-Day, celebrating seventy-two years of peace and commemorating people who fell.”
David Dimblebey: And what do you say to the question Dean Onslough asked? 

David Dimblebey: Will Brexit lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom?
“Yes. Yes, I think so. Nicola Sturgeon said she wouldn’t immediately do a referendum, but just look, look. I was up there, I was campaigning, I said to the Scottish people: ‘Please don’t go.’ I got a lot of hatred for it, but I said ‘Please don’t go.’ But if they, they’re very positive on Europe, so, if there is an exit, they will work out their time and then they will leave. And Wales could do that as well. And I mean, the north of England could split up as well.
I mean, there is no logic, if you think about the logic of the direction of Brexit, I’m trying to say, we’ve got to go forward and try and make Europe work. We’ve got to stay in to try to make it work. It’s for the future of humanity.
Now exit, if you exit, you cut it down and then Scotland could well go, and then Wales might be there but then the north of England would say. There’s no, where do you go in the future? There’s no future except getting smaller in the Little Englander. The Nigel Farage Little Englander, ex-immigrant coming in. I don’t know where that goes.”(audience applauds).

Question Time, 09/06/2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1UUCDFZlBk

Brexit Referendum Poem

Screenshot (1663)

Powerless Hoovers, limp toast
Millions of Brits on the Spanish coast
Nigel’s anti-EU bus
Europe won’t stop trading with us
Cheap roaming on your phone
We’re not in the Schengen Zone
Think of all the money we’ll save!
Don’t listen to Boris,
Don’t listen to Dave


The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs in Childhood, Youth, Adult Age, and Advanced Life Considered in their Physiological, Social, and Moral Relations, 1857

Dr. WIlliam Acton“The best mothers, wives, and managers of households, know little or nothing of sexual indulgences. Love of home, children, and domestic duties are the only passions they feel.

As a general rule, a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself. She submits to her husband, but only to please him; and, but for the desire of maternity, would far rather be relieved from his attentions. No nervous or feeble young man need, therefore, be deterred from marriage by any exaggerated notion of the duties required from him. The married woman has no wish to be treated on the footing of a mistress.”

The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs in Childhood, Youth, Adult Age, and Advanced Life Considered in their Physiological, Social, and Moral Relations, by William Acton, M.R.C.S, John Churchill, New Burlington Street, London, 1857.

Karel Gott Performs in Las Vegas, 1967

Screenshot (1616) Screenshot (1615)Karel Gott is known as the “Sinatra of the East.” In 1967, Czechoslovakia’s Ministry of Culture allowed him to perform a six-month residency at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. 

“I objected to the way they announced me: ‘Ladies and gentlemen we proudly present straight from behind the Iron Curtain Mr. Karel Gott.’ I said it wasn’t nice and asked them not to introduce me that way. The American organizers said I should leave these decisions to them as they knew what they were doing. I should understand that I was the first communist to sing in Las Vegas. I said, ‘But I am not one, I have never had anything to do with the party.’ After my performance the women in the audience were standing there saying, ‘Look at him,’ as if I were a monkey.

When I went for my first interview on a radio station in Las Vegas, the presenter told me at the beginning that I was in a free country and that I could say whatever I wanted. I thanked him for the information and then he asked me the first question. ‘Mr. Gott, we know you like American music, who are your favourite American singers?’ I answered, naming all black singers. The presenter said, ‘Mr. Gott, I heard you want to sing in Las Vegas for half a year. It’s a long time. I would recommend that you say Frank Sinatra.’ I liked him but he was not exactly my kind of voice. And the presenter said, ‘He helped a lot of people here.’ It was a kind of Don Corleone, Godfather-type answer.”

Interview from, The Lost World of Communism: An Oral History of Daily Life Behind the Iron Curtain, Peter Molloy, BBC Books, 2009.